Friday, December 21, 2012

Food Friday: I want naan of it

Leave it to my culinary husband to offer an incredibly thought-provoking, astute review of dinner.

"It tastes just like the stuff at Taj but it's different. Like, crunchy."


Wow. Thanks. ... I think.

Mark is usually pretty heavy on the compliments when I cook (I think it's because he wants to keep eating) so anything that's not "Oh my gosh, this dinner is excellent. The chicken is moist. I love the complex flavors in the pasta. I am so glad I married you" is cause for concern.

And clarification. Thankfully, he liked it. A lot.

By the way, "it" happened to be the naan of our Chicken Tikka Masala Naan Pizza. Inspired by our favorite Indian dish and courtesy of the kind folks at Stonefire, it features tikka masala simmer sauce (thank you, Target), grilled chicken, sauteed red onions, mozzarella cheese and peas. Yes, peas. They're awesome. I swear. I put it all on the naan, baked it for 12 minutes at 400 degrees, taking it out when the cheese was melty and the crust was crisp.

Hence, Mark's observation of "crunchiness."

I could give you more of a recipe but that would insult your culinary stylings and make me write more about this delicious meal, the lovely flavor of the naan and welcome break from heavy holiday meals. The latter not necessarily a bad thing but I'm completely ravenous after an early a.m. Turbo Fire session and a mid-morning Real Ryder class, and I might start scavenging soon.

Or driving to my house for naan.

If you'd like to try Stonefire, the company is hosting a giveaway on Facebook that ends Dec. 24. The winner will receive a Calphalon Stainless Steel Cookware Set and a variety pack of Stonefire authentic flatbreads. Share with friends for extra entries!

Three things Thursday: Somebody is trying to kill me


1. Holiday work luncheon


2. Christmas gift from my boss


3. Association-wide famous cookies from my neighbor

All of that came to me in one day. A day full of so much sugar. For someone who has sworn off sugar for the Healthy Holiday Challenge.

Yeah. I entered the Garden of Temptation.

I normally don't have a tremendously difficult time during the holidays. I indulge the day of, eating things that I couldn't have any other time or are particularly special. I am sure I have a treat here or there but it's not something I remember feeling insanely drawn to or guilty about.

Until this year. I am not sure whether it's because I have the mind set of "I can't have it" rather than "I don't want it" or the bombardment of treats in such a short time. But I'm pretty sure it's not normal that I sniffed those sugar cookies for a full 3 minutes after delivery, trying to decide whether to forgo the challenge for one sweet, melt-in-you-mouth cookie.

It's only because I'm stubborn that I didn't. Well that, and dreams of Brownie Peppermint Ice Cream Cake, which I'm making Christmas Day. If I've gone this long without sugar, it's dang well going to be worth it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

French connection: A Laughing Cow challenge

I've had a can of white beans in my pantry for about 126 days.

Or something like that.


I'm not sure what I had intended to do with them but rest assured the dish never got made. And neither did the subsequent ideas that floated through my brain (bean dip, white chicken chili).

This poor can might have been destined for the next food drive at Mark's school had a mystery box not arrived at my door.

The folks at Laughing Cow had reached out to me a couple weeks ago with a challenge. They would send me a box with an unknown Laughing Cow item, and it would be up to me to come up with a creative way to use it.


Surprise me they did because inside the mystery box I found Laughing Cow French Onion wedges -- one of the few, if only, flavors I have not had the pleasure of trying. Ideas were slow at first. Sure, it tastes great on a wheat cracker and, oh, how I love French onion dip but nothing seemed worthy of the challenge.

Until I saw the beans.

What transpired can only be called a product of my "fat" brain (a term coined by my beloved grandma) - just without the fat. Or most of it.


A twist on the traditional seven-layer salad, this dish combines European flavors and my love of Ball jars. It's a delightful take-to-work lunch or an inspired idea for a holiday brunch. The flavors of the artichokes, olives and French Onion dressing are complemented by the red pepper, creamy white beans and spring mix.


Oui, Oui Laughing Cow Layer Salad

Spring mix
Canned white beans, rinsed and drained
Chopped tomatoes
Marinated artichokes
Red onion, sliced
Red bell pepper, sliced or chopped
Laughing Cow French Onion dressing (below)
Chopped olives (I used garlic-stuffed Spanish olives that I picked up at a nearby international market)


In a Ball jar, add about a cup of spring mix. On top, layer white beans (I used about a quarter-cup), chopped tomatoes, artichokes, red onion and bell pepper. Drizzle dressing on top. Garnish with olives.

Laughing Cow French Onion dressing (for one):
1 Laughing Cow French Onion Wedge
1 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1-2 tablespoons unsweetened almond milk
Pinch dry mustard
Pinch salt
Pinch ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl, adding more almond milk to reach preferred consistency.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sick workout

In the spirit that I might one day be a fitness professional, I offer you this resistance workout:

Procure a 24-pound or heavier toddler, preferably sick and cranky, and carry said toddler everywhere you go. This includes holding him while you do activities that seemingly require two hands such as making your lunch, doing dishes and going to the bathroom. Repeat every day until the first day of kindergarten.

After a trip to urgent care and an epic 3-hour nap on Sunday, you would have never known he was sick. He terrorized the aisle of Target (had to get wipes for daycare) and entertained customers at Marshall's by telling them he found "Thomas" as I picked up a $5.99 resistance band for my Turbo Fire workouts. He smiled and laughed and had a good ole time.

And the came the night.

As the moon rose big in the sky, so did the terrible pangs of sickness. Fever. Thirst. Crankiness. We were up from 2 to 3:30 a.m., leaving us all a little bit worse for the wear come Monday morning.

I can make do with a cup (or three) of coffee but it seems the only thing that can help Miles is being close to his mama. I know there will be a day when I will miss it but lord have mercy on me, I was not up for the challenge yesterday. It wasn't just the whining or the inability to do things. No. It's the fact that he gets heavy after a while. I am constantly shifting him side to side to help even out the work, sometimes even holding him in front to use the strength of both my arms. It really is a mystery for the ages as to why I can't lift heavier weights for the bicep track during BODYPUMP.

Actually, that last part is a bit of a lie. I have been frustrated that I'm not seeing more gains in bicep weight/strength and did a little "research" as Mark would call it. According to some weight lifting forums, the biceps are a small muscle group (this I knew) and it takes a long time to see even small changes. You have to focus on the percentage of increase in relationship to the size of the muscle group. And that's your lesson of the day.

Of course, I don't think carrying a baby is a true strength workout. You have to work your muscles to fatigue, if not failure, to burn calories and build muscle whether it's high reps and low weights or high weights and fewer reps. However, one can't deny after a day with a sick child that lifting and holding is not work.

Physically and mentally.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Best face forward

The smell. The silky texture. The thin, pink liquid. The elegantly shaped bottle. The black cap.


I can remember everything about the Oil of Olay lotion that my grandma Dupps would wear. To an 8-year-old, it was the epitome of sophistication. I loved to run into her apartment, a huge space in a weathered part of Cincinnati, and grab the bottle off her dresser. A dresser with beautiful glass knobs that I still have today. Grandma would squirt the tiniest amount into my hand, and I would rub it judiciously over my hands and face, taking the time to slowly breathe in the perfumey scent.

Grandma Dupps didn't have a picture-perfect life - she grew up in an orphanage, only made it through the third grade and worked long hours after husband died in his 40s. Money didn't come by easy. I knew that even as a child as I'd sit at her kitchen table and slurp Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup.

And that's why I knew that Oil of Olay had to be a great product. Expensive looking as it was, she made it  a priority in a tight budget.


Oil of Olay has since graduated from that bottle. They have award-winning products that help you look younger, have softer, better smelling skin and present your best face to the world - all at a fraction of department store prices. (Trust me on this - I nearly dropped $60 on an eye serum but finally came to my senses.)

Procter & Gamble, maker of Oil of Olay and a Cincinnati company (hometown pride), has recently launched an eStore so you can explore the fabulous and reliable products without leaving the comfort of your couch. Especially great if you have a sick toddler who won't let you put him down to go to the bathroom much less go shopping.

What is the P&G eStore?

The P&G eStore has been created with shoppers for shoppers to be a premier online retail site with new and better ways to shop online. The eStore strives to inspire confidence in purchasing household and beauty products online, with continual development of new services, features and tools to help customers through their online shopping journey.

It's easy to say, "I'm just going to buy it at the drug store. I have a coupon from Sunday's paper and it's on sale." Which might be true but P&G has its own eCoupons on the site, in addition to mail-in rebates and special offers. It also has a wide selection of goods that your store might not carry or require multiple stops on your Sunday afternoon errands.

If the nail tech doing your pedicure on Saturday said that you looked tired (true story), you can try the Olay Regenerist Microsculpting Cream free with $79 purchase (OLAY79); or the Olay ProX Advanced Cleaning System free with $99 purchase (OLAY99).

In addition, P&G is offering readers and non-readers alike some incentives to check out the store.

  • Free shipping with $25 purchase
  • 15 percent off first order (use code A9Z-MN5-KY3-ISA)
  • Free samples with every order

I am betting the ever frugal Grandma Dupps wouldn't complain about that - and she'd probably make those samples last 6 months while she was at it.

I was compensated for this post but all stories and opinions are my own.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The year, in running

Another December morning, another run in shorts.


Not that I'm complaining.

It was a short outing - just 4 miles - rather than 6 or 7 that I had initially planned. Alas, Miles is sick again and Mark and I decided that the wee one needed to go to urgent care this morning. Another fever, another damn ear infection. Plus croup.


Miss Zippy recently posted a year in review on her blog, and she was kind enough to invite other bloggers to play along. It was a lot of fun to read about her experiences as well as some of the other runners I follow so I thought I'd do the same.

Best race experience. I'm definitely a quality over quantity racer. You won't find me running every local 5K just for giggles; it's cumbersome and expensive. That said, the races in which I do participate are often great experiences in their own right.

I loved the Fanny Freezer 5K because it was a great way to test speed, and it was a race I did with a bunch of friends. I got to do RnR NOLA with my best friend and enjoy a girls weekend in the city of my birth. I loved the Martian Invasion half-marathon - it had a beautiful course, fun medal and I ran dangerously close to a sub-2.

But, I guess, my best race was the Columbus Marathon. Nothing beats the pride of finishing 26.2 miles.

Best run. I'm on course to run 1,100 miles this year, and it's hard to remember runs. The miles all seem to blur together outside of race experiences. I did enjoy the few times that Mark was able to join me on the bike while Miles hung out with Nana and Papa.

Best new piece of gear. My Spibelt. I've always held onto my fuel, keys and other goods (or thrown them in the stroller) but marathon long runs required something different. The Spibelt was comfortable, deceptively roomy and oh so cute with all its polka dots.

Best piece of running advice. "Enjoy it and smile" was what Bobbi told me ahead of the marathon. I really took those words to heart and thought of them often in the first part of Cbus. It helped me to soak in the experience, and it's probably why I remember so much of the course.

Most inspirational runner. I am not going to pick one person but one group: the mother runners. Everyone is in different places - location-wise, pace-wise, training-wise, parenting-wise - but they all face the same challenges and struggles. Seeing how they are able to overcome those things helps me to see that I can as well.

Sum up your year in a couple of words. Comeback. Epic. Precursor.

How was your year in running? Did you take Miss Zippy's lead? Be sure to share links.