Friday, July 29, 2011

Best of the Week #30

This week has been a crazy series of ups and downs. I may or may not be running in a race tomorrow morning. We'll see how that all shakes out...but in the meantime Best of the Week!

My most popular post this week was Cookie Dough Fudge Cheesecake, thanks to its inclusion in Love From the Oven's "Cheesecake Recipe Collection - Bites From Other Blogs." Oooh those cheesecakes will make you drool!

This series of pictures is pretty cool! Though I don't know if I'd want post-sprint pictures of me posted on the internet..."Last summer, Sacha Goldberger decided he would take on a very interesting project...He stopped joggers, asking them for a favor - would they sprint for him and then pose right after for his camera? Many obliged. Out of breath, these joggers showed an overwhelming amount of fatigue on their faces. Goldberger then asked these same people to come into his professional studio exactly one week later. Using the same light, he asked them to pose the same way they had before." (source)

"I wanted to show the difference between our natural and brute side versus how we represent ourselves to society," Goldberger tells us. "The difference was very surprising."

That blog led me to the even cooler “Secret Life of Swimmers” (kinda like my Pool People post, but waaaayyy more sophisticated).
"The public pool is a sacred space for many. In this "great equalizer" of the modern city, you can cast aside workday anxieties for the calming, repetitive act of swimming laps. Plus, you can get almost naked in public." (source)

I straight-up don’t believe this. “Sheep: Barnyard Brainiacs.” I raised and showed sheep in 4-H growing up, and as cute as lambs are…the species is NOT smart. (source
"It turns out that sheep are far more intelligent than their reputation for barnyard slowness would lead one to believe. In recent research...Professor Jenny Morton of the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Cambridge and her colleague Laura Avanzo reported that domestic sheep can perform extremely well on tests of designed to measure cognitive abilities, possibly as well as any animal other than primates."
From LLC, who knows me far too well, via email: 
haha, this is you -- "In short, my pie superstitions could be summed up as, 'Shh. The pie can hear you.'"also, lets take a moment. why is it 1 am and I am reading pie recipes online? what is wrong with me.
This is crazy/gross. "Tourists play in algae mats along the Quingdao, China coastline on July 17." (source)

"For the first time, a team of Russian students won the National Geographic World Championship, which is hosted by Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek." I may or may not have been the Associate Producer on the US version of this show...just saying...(source

My Black and White Whoopie Pies reminded 6x6 of a certain Seinfeld video - "Nothing mixes better than vanilla and chocolate! And yet, still somehow racial harmony eludes us...Look to the cookie!"

I suppose that's all I have for you this Friday, hope you have an awesome weekend!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Best Pool Running/Aqua-Jogging Workouts

When done right, pooling/pool running/aqua-jogging is an extremely effective cross-training option. The following workouts are designed to build and maintain fitness (and sanity) while in the water.

My days in the pool are numbered, and I’m sure you’re as sick of hearing about it as I am of doing it...but in case you’re looking for some swim-spiration (see what I did there? I’m sorry.), these workouts will keep you in shape and ensure that your transition out of the pool and back to running goes as smoothly as possible. 

And if you regularly pool run as a part of your training program, these workouts are guaranteed to work you out - anyone who thinks the pool is for sissies should spend a week with this list and then reconsider.

Go here for more info on the benefits of aqua-jogging. And here for a list of DC's public pools

I like to use a flotation device (aka “floaty belt”) because it allows me to focus on my form. If you don’t have a floaty belt, your pool time will be more of an upper body workout, so try to be conscious of maintaining a good upright running  posture.

These workouts range from 60 minutes to 2 hours. You can easily adjust them if you’re looking for shorter (or longer? yikes!) workouts. You only really need 5 minutes warm up/cool down in the pool. Or you could do fewer reps of each interval.

(Occasionally I do a simple steady pool-running for recovery, but even on easier days I tend to do some sort of workout for my sanity's sake. It can be booooring to stead-run in the pool!)

Long Run Pool Workout – 120 minutes total, 36 minutes hard running
(Tired-face. Much like a long run, you may need to lounge on your couch and have people bring you food after this workout.)
  • Warm up 30 minutes.
  • 3 minutes hard, 2 minutes recovery. Repeat this 5-minute interval 6 times.
  • 5 minutes recovery “jog.”
  • 3 minutes hard, 2 minutes recovery. Repeat this 5-minute interval 6 times.
  • Cool down 25 minutes.

Speed Work Pool Workout – 75 minutes total, 30 minutes hard running.
(This is the hardest pool workout I’ve done – like difficult-to-walk-up-stairs kind of hard.)
  • Warm up 20 minutes.
  • 2:30 hard, :30 recovery. Repeat this 3-minute interval 6 times.
  • 5 minutes recovery “jog.”
  • 2:30 hard, :30 recovery. Repeat this 3-minute interval 6 times.
  • Cool down 15 minutes.

Steady Interval Workout  - 64 minutes total, 18 minutes hard running
(This workout is inspired by my favorite track workout: 6x800m.)
  • Warm up 20 minutes.
  • 3 minutes hard, 1 minute recovery. Repeat this 4-minute interval 6 times.
  • Cool down 20 minutes.

Ladder Pool Workout – 65 minutes total, 25 minutes hard running
(This workout is deceptively difficult. At the beginning it feels like no-problemo, but by the time you get up to the 4’s and 5’s and have only 1 minute to recover…oof it will work you!)
  • Warm up 20 minutes.
  • Ladder up and back down from 1 minute to 5 minutes, with 1 minute recovery between each. (So that’s 1hard, 1 easy, 2h/1e, 3h/1e, 4h/1e, 5h/1e, 4h/1e, 3h/1e, 2h/1e, 1h/1e)
  • Cool down 10 minutes.

1’s and 2’s Interval Workout  - 76 minutes total, 18 minutes hard running
(This is a pretty moderate workout, for those days when you want to do something, but maybe aren’t quite up to the ladder or speed options.)
  • Warm up 20 minutes.
  • 2 minutes hard, 2 minute recovery. Repeat this 3-minute interval 6 times.
  • 1 minute hard, 1 minute recovery. Repeat this 2-minute interval 6 times.
  • 20 minutes cool-down.
Extended Recovery Tempo Run – 80 minutes, 20 minutes hard running.
(This is a moderate workout, a good one to do the day after speed work.)
  • Warm up 20 minutes.
  • 5 minutes hard, 5 minutes recovery. Repeat this 10-minute interval 4 times.
  • Cool Down 20 minutes.

Downhill Ladder - 60 minutes total, 28 minutes hard
  • Warm up 10 minutes.
  • Ladder down from 7 minutes with half-time recovery (i.e. run hard for 7 minutes, then easy for 3:30, then hard for 6, then easy for 3, etc.).
  • Cool down 10 minutes

1’s and 3’s Speed Workout – 65 minutes total, 16 minutes hard
(This is similar to the 1’s and 2’s workout, but it’s harder because the intervals are longer and the recovery is shorter. Make sure you run hard to make this worth it.)
  • Warm up 20 minutes.
  • 3 minutes hard, 1 minute easy, 1 minute sprint, 1 minute easy. Do this 6-minute interval 4 times (or more if you’re looking for a longer workout).
  • Cool down 20 minutes

What are your favorite pool workouts? Share in the comments!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Cake of the Week: Black and White Whoopie Pies

This recipe takes your standard whoopie! to a whole new level. Lightly almond-y cake, bitter dark chocolate, and creamy sweet frosting with a hint of cream cheese tanginess. Yup, I’m in love. And they’re so conveniently portable!

I brainstormed these babies while in the pool on Sunday. It was a debate between layer cake and whoopie pies…but as SpeedyKate said, “Whoopie pies sound easier to transport..." with a look in her eyes that screamed transport them to me! in a hungry desperation that only a pool-runner can understand.

If you want to go for the pretentious title, call these babies Vanilla Almond Whoopie Pies with Dark Chocolate Ganache and Cream Cheese Frosting (sounds impressive, right?) Well these little treats are actually super easy! I happened to have leftover dark chocolate ganache in my fridge from the Red Velvet Cake. I’d been slowly chipping my way through the block of ganache for far too long…it needed to not be a snacking option for me anymore. 

I found a vanilla whoopie pie recipe and added almond extract in addition to the vanilla. You can easily make new ganache for this recipe (I know, ganache isn’t a lying-around-in-your-fridge staple for most people) – just equal parts chocolate and heavy cream.

The cakey part doesn’t look as puffy as perhaps it should, but they’re not actually super-dense, just dense-looking. 

Vanilla Almond Whoopie Pies
 (adapted from Annie’s Eats)
Yield: about 24-30 sandwich cookies

Cake Ingredients:
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup sugar
1 large egg plus 1 large egg white
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1½ tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. salt
½ cup milk

Ganache Ingredients:
4 oz dark chocolate
4 oz heavy cream

Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:
4 oz cream cheese (1/2 block)
4 oz butter (1/2 stick)
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons milk (as needed)


To make the cookies, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.  In the bowl of an electric mixer combine the butter and sugar.  Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.  Blend in the egg and egg white, scraping down the bowl between additions.  Blend in the vanilla and almond extract.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; whisk to blend.  With the mixer on low speed, beat in half of the dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated.  Mix in the milk.  Beat in the remaining dry ingredients, just until incorporated.

Use a medium-sized spoon to scoop rounded spoonfuls onto the sheets. (I did about 2 tablespoon-sized scoops). Bake 10-12 minutes, just until set.  Let cool on the pan at least 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the ganache:
In a small saucepan heat the cream on medium heat until hot but not boiling. Pour cream over dark chocolate and let sit for 3 minutes. Stir until smooth, then cool for 10 minutes until it’s a spreadable consistency.

To make the frosting:
Use a hand mixer to blend all the ingredients. Add milk as needed until it reaches a spreadable consistency (but not too thin! You don’t want all the frosting to ooze out the sides). 

To assemble the whoopie pies:
Match your cookies in pairs by size.  
Spread the ganache in a thin layer on the flat side of each cookie.
Pipe (or scoop) a dollop of filling onto the ganache of one cookie of each pair, and sandwich the cookies together, pushing the filling to the edges.  

Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes to set. 


Monday, July 25, 2011

Weekend Report: Heat, Peace in Sudan Rally, and a Movie

Considering this was the hottest weekend of the summer, I spent way too much time outside. 

On Saturday, post-GREs (woot woot! I’m done!), I went to the Peace in Sudan rally in front of the White House. This month marks the 7-year anniversary of the date the U.S. declared the conflict in Darfur a genocide, so a group of Sudanese and other supporters gathered in the heat to demonstrate. Rallies generally aren’t my thing, but there is something inspiring about standing up for something you believe in. It was extremely uncomfortably hot (hotter in DC than the Sudan - yes, I checked), but my problems seem pretty minimal when put into that kind of perspective…

When I left the rally (2 hours was all I could handle), SpeedyKate and I opted to escape the sun and do an indoor pool workout at Wilson.

Our pool “long runs” are intense, but in a good way. I actually think I’m getting better workouts in the pool than I would be running outside in this dog’s mouth of a climate. Post-pool I was tired, but that didn’t stop me from making the trek up 15th street to attend LOTR-Emily’s bar-b-q. We alternated between the back patio and her kitchen, both equally hot and sweaty locations. The good news is that when everyone is the same degree of soaked-in-sweat it really doesn't matter.

Sunday was a pleasant high-90s (oxymoron? Yes. But accurate.), so Kate and I tanned our shoulders and noses pool running outside at East Potomac Pool on Hains Point. We spent 90 minutes running, then a few more lounging in the water.

By Sunday evening I was exhausted and ready for a relaxing movie experience. Months ago I bought a Living Social coupon for West End Cinema in Foggy Bottom. I met a few friends to see The Trip, a movie that walked the fine line between funny and weird/boring, and luckily managed to stay on the funny side of that line.

I’m hesitant to recommend this movie, since I imagine a lot of people might hate it. But I can say that I laughed and enjoyed it – I like dry British humor.

The movie is cut together from a six-episode, semi-improvised BBC2 series, the premise of which is that Coogan, commissioned to act as food critic by the Observer newspaper, and actor Rob Brydon, allegedly the last choice among his mates for a traveling companion, embark on a voyage to the north of England to sample the fare at various high-end restaurants. Over several days, doleful Coogan and chipper, long-faced Brydon banter, mock-insult each other (or is it so mock?), recite Wordsworth and Coleridge, and compete to do the best imitations of sundry movie stars." (more info here)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Best of the Week #29

I may melt any second. Literally. DC is the hottest place in the US today.

In light of this most uncomfortable fact, my Best of the Week is brief...blame it on my overheated brain.

Last Friday I made South Sudan independence cupcakes, modeled after the new country's flag:

They’re vegan chocolate and red velvet, all with cream cheese frosting, and were well received at my weekly staff meeting.

My most popular post this week was Cherry Cupcakes with Cherry Frosting. Oh yeah those were delish!

And per usual, here are some random stories to amuse you this Friday:

BBC reported a "500kg shark 'lands in boat'"! Listen to the story here, talk about a risky internship!!!
“Luckily the intern stepped towards me…the shark landed with all of its body in the boat…and started panicking…so all my interns made their way to the front of the boat.”
Though I complain about DC being hot, running Badwater would be worse. Check out this post for pictures. And has anyone else seen Running On The Sun? "Considered by many to be the most extreme running race in the world, the Badwater  Ultramarathon covers 135 miles from Death Valley to Mt. Whitney, CA in temperatures up to 130F." (source)

From Popular Science, “Mice Engineered to Lack Muscle Contraction Gene Have Superior Endurance (and Humans Might, Too).”  You know that feeling towards the end of a race when your muscules tighten up? Well, it might be genetic! This study shows that “Mice that lack this gene, which is related to muscle contraction, can run much farther than their counterparts…suggesting a genetic predisposition to endurance in some athletes.”

Good news and great pictures: “Snow Leopards Rebounding in Afghanistan.” (source)

And this video is beyond adorable! Toddlers + Track = Cuteness (source)

For those of you on the West Coast (dare I say…the best coast?), Wharf to Wharf is this weekend! My family (this year minus me and Sister2) runs it every summer, so everyone wish them luck!

I will be spending a lovely morning tomorrow taking the GREs. I wouldn't go so far as to say I'm "prepared"...but nor am I egregiously* unprepared...So think me some smart thoughts at 9am tomorrow! YIKES!

*Egregiously - adj - extraordinary in some bad way; glaring; flagrant.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Literary Bite: Tender is the Night

Tender is the Night is my favorite book club book to date. It’s romance and drama and tragedy all combined and told in the most beautiful and sometimes heartbreaking way. (Plus more GRE words than We Need to Talk About Kevin…oof!).  

F. Scott Fitzgerald is far more famous for The Great Gatsby (which I haven’t read…I know, I know). Tender is the Night was published in 1934 and was a commercial failure, but I thought it was great!

"This disturbing tale of the turbulent relationship of wealthy expatriate couple Dick and Nicole Diver and their blithe existence on the French Riviera illustrates, among many things, images of Americans abroad, corruption by money, mental disintegration, atavistic attraction to charm and sexual jealousy, and loss of the father." (source)

So basically that’s everything 1920s and Freudian all at once.

From a brief googling venture, I suspect that Tender is the Night is at least semi-autobiographical. Much like his character Dick Divers, Fitzgerald was married to a woman suffering from mental illness and lived in Europe for years. Plus, both men served in WWI, but neither saw the front lines. In the novel, Dick cheated on his wife with a Hollywood starlet (Rosemary), while in real life Fitzgerald left his for a Hollywood columnist. Both men were alcoholics.

The prose, like I said, is gorgeous. Fitzgerald fits a lot into the 300 pages, and I especially admire his ability to really capture something (an emotion, a moment, a person) in the exactly right words.

"You're the only girl I've seen for a very long time that actually did look like something blooming."
- F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night, Book 1, Ch. 4

"the moment when the guests had been daringly lifted above conviviality into the rarer atmosphere of sentiment, was over before it could be irreverently breathed, before they had half realized it was there."
- F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night, Book 1, Ch. 7

"She illustrated very simple principles, containing in herself her own doom, but illustrated them so accurately that there was grace in the procedure, and presently Rosemary would try to imitate it."
- F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night, Book 1, Ch. 12

Clearly I have nothing on Fitzgerald, so you should probably just read the book and get back to me on what you think!

This site has some really good discussion questions.

And a bonus Fun Fact: The title comes from Keats’ poem, "Ode to a Nightengale."

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Pool People

They’re a slightly quirky, spandex-clad, early-to-bed/early-to-rise bunch. They shamelessly strip in the locker room, flaunt flotation belts, and “lift” water weights. You know I’ve blogged about the people you run into, but now let’s delve into a potentially deeper degree of workout crazy. Pool people.

Running and swimming are both generally accepted and recognized as "normal," but pool running is in its very own league of odd.
From what I can tell, pool people fall into 5 major categories. (And when I say “pool people,” I’m referring to non-swimmers who use the pool).

1. Intense Runners

These people are in the pool for a specific purpose – to get a workout. Runners usually aqua-jog only when absolutely necessary (read: injured), but there are a growing number of people who incorporate pooling into their weekly training schedules to avoid overuse and pounding problems.  
In general, runners tend to be polite, aware of those around them, and friendly (I might be biased, since I count myself a member of this group).
Silly-looking? Yes.But don't be fooled, below that bobbing head an intense workout is occurring. 

2. Casual Runners

These people are understand the dynamics of aqua-jogging, they just do it slower and more leisurely than the “intense runners” out there.

There’s a nice sense of community when runners encounter members of their species in the same unfortunate predicament. What are you in here for? is a common question, as if the pool is a penitentiary. You can meet great people, but beware of the Chatty Cathys! Unfortunately, the very nature of a pool  dictates that there is no escape – your only option is to adjust your pace so that you don’t end up next to an unwanted friend. 

3. Water Aerobicizers

Yes, despite the fact that 80s babies are now well into their 20s, water aerobics is still a thing. And a lot of people do it!

Water aerobicizers are friendly and welcoming. They are clearly the matriarchs and patriarchs of the “water walking” lane, but happy to share with any polite person who comes along.
The demographic tends to be older, heavier, and most likely wearing some sort of colored/printed swim cap. It’s mostly women, but you’d be surprised by the number of men who get in on the action.
They bob in the shallow end, lifting their arms above their head in various languid ways. (I often wonder how much aerobics is involved this workout...but to each her/his own!)

4. Floppers

I can’t quite figure these people out. They’re in the water. Sometimes they wear flotation belts, and sometimes they carry water weights. But I can’t tell what they’re doing. They’re not quite swimming, but not quite pool running. Imagine a little kid playing in the pool. Now play the mental video back in slow motion. That is what these people look  like. Maybe they just like being in the water?

5. Beginning Swimmers

This category is the gray area between poolers and swimmers. I understand that beginners aren’t good enough to go in the swimming lanes, and I do support everyone learning how to swim...I just prefer they do it when I’m not around. I think of them as aggressive and especially splashy floppers. 

And there you have it, the people of the pool. Next time you're in any kind of aquatic facility, take a glance at the periphery lanes to see what I mean. 

And for those poolers out there, am I missing anything major? 

More from me on pools:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cake of the Week: Peach Cobbler

Peach cobbler cooking creates one of the most pleasantly pungent perfumes my kitchen has had the kismet* to know. Peeling and paring your peaches can be a bit of a pain, but the result is totally worth any and all effort expended!

 (I apologize – the alliteration bug bit me this morning and I can’t control the consonance.*)

Summertime is stone fruit-time, and if you’ve taken a peek at my sidebar you know I’m thinking peachy. This cobbler recipe comes from Brown Eyed Baker, and blows away the Betty Crocker version we baked back home (sorry Mama – yours was good but this recipe is remarkable).

The cobbler part (Crust? Biscuit topping? Whatever you want to call it!) is light and buttery and nicely crunchy on the outside. I halved the topping and kept the number of peaches the same, making my cobbler the perfect ratio of peach to crust. (The following recipe is exactly what I made, for the original go here.) 

And if you happen to have heavy whipped cream on hand, you don’t have to whip it up to top your cobbler, but I strongly suggest you take the extra time and consume the extra calories…it’s worth it!

(Useful sidenote: If you have extra whipped cream, you can keep it in a tupperware in the freezer!)

Peach Cobbler
Prep Time: 30 minutes | Bake Time: 50 to 60 minutes
For the Peach Filling:
6 peaches, peeled, pitted & sliced into ¼- to ½-inch slices
1 tablespoon lemon juice (optional)
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt

For the Cobbler Topping:
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup cake flour
1 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup (4 tablespoons/½ stick ) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
1/3 cup buttermilk
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Combine the slices peaches, lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a 9-inch round baking dish (or 8x8 pan, or 9x9 pan); set aside for 10-15 minutes.
3. In the meantime, make the cobbler topping. Whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt in another large bowl. Toss the butter pieces with your fingers, and work them into the flour mixture until it is the texture of coarse meal, with little pea-size pieces. Pour the buttermilk on top and, using a fork, mix until just combined. (You could also use a food processor for this part.)

4. Drop the cobbler topping dough by the spoonful all over the peach filling.
5. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

6. Call your preferred peach-eating partners and chill on your couch consuming cobbler.  

*Kismet - n. luck or fate
*Consonance - n. accord or agreement/correspondence of sounds; harmony of sounds.