How to fuel a long run

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Recently, I ran the Ottawa Race Weekend Half Marathon.  I had spent the days leading up to it with a serious stomach bug and the runs and on the actual day, the weather was so hot and humid, they almost had to cancel the race.  Despite all that, I decided to go for it and just try to finish (which I did, slowly) and in the end, it seemed a fitting culmination of my training.

Let me explain.  The past few months have not been easy.  I signed up for the race last fall, shortly after running my first marathon.  And so, come February, I was ready to start my training plan.  I was planning on improving my fitness and hopefully getting a PR.  Life, however, happened, and I sunk into depression along the way.  Running has always been my “get up and go” time, the first thing I do in the morning, the thing that gets me out the door and full of energy.  But this year, I was finding that I would worry so much about getting up to run in the morning that I would barely sleep all night.  I might fall asleep for a few minutes or even an hour, just to wake up again, panicked and upset.  I spent a lot of nights crying, watching TV on the couch, hoping it would put me to sleep.  I finally had to admit to myself that something was wrong and that I needed to rearrange some things in my life.

The first thing to rearrange was my running time.  I decided to try running in the afternoons, so that if I actually fell asleep at night, I could stay asleep until the last possible moment before work.  That meant spending less after-school time with my daughter (although it meant we made time to run together afterward).  And it meant me being more relaxed about meals.  I had to let myself off the hook from cooking amazing dinners eat night.  We have had a lot more bacon and eggs for dinner, or take-out, so that I can get the rest I need.

Thankfully, my family, friends and coworkers have been super supportive along the way.  I had to give up a lot of little things at work and my coworkers had to pick up the slack. My husband and daughter have been so understanding of whatever food I can manage to feed them, and of whatever time I have to give them.

Even with really changing things around, I have still had a lot of down moments.  While we were in Boston, I could barely get through a 4K run because I just wanted to cry.  Before a 5K race in April, I only slept a couple hours, and so struggled to the finish, and through the 8K home afterward.  And I got incredibly sick before the half marathon.

Despite all that, I have proven to myself that I can persevere.  And that I have a crazy amount of determination.  I can get through whatever life throws my way.  And I can keep running through it all.  It’s not always fast, or pretty, and yet, I’ll get through.  And along the way, there will be little moments of joy – training my daughter to run a 2K, seeing a lone duck on the water, watching the sun break through the clouds.

Running hasn’t fixed me, but it certainly has helped.

How to fuel a long run or race

One of the biggest questions in long distance running is how do you eat?  What do you eat?  How on earth do you make it through?

There are so many different products on the market, so really, you just have to figure out what works best for you.  I got into using energy gels because my husband had been using them for cycling long distances and they were his favourite.  I haven’t tried blocks (basically gummies that are packed with the sugars and salts you need), but I have tried different kinds of candy and drinks.  What I have discovered works best for me is to use Gu gels (and occasionally Honey Stinger) every 7K.  For runs and races over 10K, I’ll take a gel before I head out, and then every 7km after that.  I drink a TON of water while I run and if it’s particularly hot or long, I will also drink some Gatorade.  I tried Nuun at my most recent race and found that it was perfect for my tummy every 3K or so.  I will also eat a banana along the way if possible (i.e. if my hubby brings me one).  I’m considering trying orange slices in the future.

Gels do not look appetizing and they certainly don’t taste great the first time you try them, but they work wonders when you’re running for a few hours.  They are definitely my go-to running fuel.  My favourite flavours are Espresso Love, Chocolate Peanut Butter and Root Beer.

Chicken Tetrazzini

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This weekend, I had a happy accident when cooking.  Generally, I don’t just make up recipes.  I spend at least one evening a week looking up recipes online or finding new cookbooks and reading them through, trying to find some new and exciting recipes to try.  I’ll change one small thing here or there to make the meal even better, but I typically don’t stray too far from the original.

Last week, I was looking for casserole recipes to try something new and I found one for chicken tetrazzini.  I must admit that I didn’t know what it was, but anything with pasta in a creamy sauce and chicken works for me!  I looked over the ingredient list, added the items to my shopping list and got ready to make it.

There was only one small problem: I thought the recipe called for a can of mushroom soup, when it actually called for just a can of mushrooms.  When I went to make the recipe Saturday night and I realized the mistake, I decided to just make due, switch some things around and make it work.

The result was SO delicious.  I definitely would not make the recipe the way it was actually written.  I ended up frying up onions with a little white wine, frying chicken and deglazing the pan with more wine, all of which was added to the sauce.  I thickened some chicken broth and added in the mushroom soup with a splash of milk for the sauce.  The result is amazing, even if it isn’t technically a tetrazzini.  Definitely worth trying this week.

Chicken Tetrazzini serves 4-6

Note: This recipe is a little more salty than the food I usually make (and we found it so delicious), but you could reduce the salt by using reduced sodium (or sodium free) chicken broth and mushroom soup.

What you need:

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, halved (or 4 thighs)
  • 1-2 onions, thinly sliced or diced
  • a few splashes white wine (optional)
  • 2Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 can condensed mushroom soup
  • splash of milk
  • 1/2 – 3/4 pound of spaghetti, broken into smaller pieces
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan

 

What to do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9×13 pan.
  2. Heat some oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat.  Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper.  Sear the chicken for 6-8 minutes per side (or until crispy on the outside and cooked through).  Remove the chicken from the pan and deglaze the yummy bits with about 2 Tbsp of wine.  Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and set everything to the side.
  3. Meanwhile, heat some more oil in another frying pan over medium heat.  Add the onions and fry until soft and even brown (to whatever point you like your onions cooked).  At the end, add a few splashes of wine and boil off a bit of the liquid.  Set this aside.
  4. Set a pot of water on the stove to boil.  Cook the spaghetti according to the package directions.
  5. Meanwhile, make the sauce.  Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the flour and cook for one minute.  Slowly pour in the chicken broth and cook, while stirring most of the time, until it thickens and starts to boil.  Then pour in the condensed soup and stir until smooth.  Add some milk, until you like the taste / texture.
  6. Add the onions, chicken and wine from the chicken to the sauce.  Add the spaghetti to the sauce.  I started with adding only some of the noodles and gradually added more until I liked how it looked (depends on how saucy you like your food).
  7. Pour everything in the 9×13 pan and sprinkle with Parmesan.
  8. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the top is browned and the sauce is bubbly.

French Toast Bagel with Caramelized Apples (or My First Marathon)

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Two weeks ago, on a chilly Sunday morning in Toronto, I ran a marathon.  That is one sentence I never thought I’d write.  I. Ran. A. Marathon.

Two years ago, I decided it was time to do something new.  I had broken my arm cycling and had spent the summer doing anything but exercise.  I realized I needed a change and so I took up a couch to 5K program.  Realizing I could run a whole 5K was exhilarating.  I slowly moved up to trying 10K and even half marathons.  But the whole time I said I would never run a marathon.  Run for over 4 hours?!?!?!? That seems just crazy.

And then, I found myself registering for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.  I trained for what seemed like an eternity (5 months) and then one cold Sunday morning, found myself at the start line of the marathon.  I could hardly believe I was there.

They say a marathon is one of the ultimate tests of human strength and limits.  Running 42.2km pushes you past the point of what your body can regularly handle.  It’s a distance you have to respect.  I knew this going into it and yet, it still overwhelmed me.  Throughout the race, I went through a gamut of emotions.  The first 21.1km were through the streets and along beautiful sections of Lake Ontario.  There were so many half marathon runners running along with us.  Spectators lined the streets.  The sun was shining.  I was happy, alive, encouraging others, enjoying myself.  Things went a little downhill after that.  There were significantly fewer people, the streets we ran through seemed mostly industrial, the sun hid behind a cloud.  I was just in pain and no amount of counting up or down the kilometers seemed to help.

But in the end, I made it.  My amazing husband was a huge part of it, encouraging me through all the training and riding his bike through the streets of Toronto to meet up with me every few kilometers as my support crew.  The random person handing out bananas at 34K also gave me the strength I needed to push on.  Seeing the people behind me pushing on while injured made me keep going.  And all the people who sent me text messages as encouragement helped me hold on.

I cried (or welled up because I refused to use up the energy it required to cry) three times that morning.  Once, when they sang O Canada (I was so proud of my country).  Once, when I crossed the starting line (I’m finally here! I’m doing it!).  And once as I approached the finish line (I’m doing it!  OMG! I’m doing it!).  It took me more time than I was hoping and it hurt way more than I thought possible, but finishing made me realize there’s nothing I can’t do.  I am a marathoner now and nothing will take that away.

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French Toast Bagels with Caramelized Apples

Running and training so much basically means I’m ravenous ALL THE TIME.  Eating a filling, nutritious and well-balanced breakfast keeps me from snacking on ridiculous amounts of candy and cookies throughout the day.  This recipe is from Runner’s World magazine, and was made by a Montrealer JP Desjardins (Go Canada!).  The only real change I made is that I didn’t have bourbon on hand, so I didn’t use any.  Also, I found you can make way more than 2 bagels with the batter.  So I make as many as 4 and then just toast up the bagels later while caramelizing another apple.

What you need:IMG_2213
2-4 bagels
2 eggs
⅔ cup milk
1 tablespoon honey (or maple syrup or sugar)
1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt

For the caramelized apples (if you’re making more than two bagels, then adjust this part of the recipe accordingly):
1 or 2 apples, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon butter
1 tablespoon honey (or maple syrup or sugar)
1 ounce bourbon (optional)

What to do:IMG_2212
1. In a small bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt.

2. Cut bagel in half and soak for a few minutes until softened.

3. In a small pan, sauté apple with 1 teaspoon butter and 1 tablespoon honey. When apples are golden brown, add bourbon and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan.

4. Pan-sear the soaked bagel with 1 teaspoon butter and cook on medium heat until one side is golden brown. Flip bagel, and cook until second side is golden brown.

5. Place the bagel slices on a plate and top with caramelized apples. Serves two or more.

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Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

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It is already mid-October and I still haven’t gotten myself a Pumpkin Spice Latte.  I am not sure exactly what has kept me away, but I suspect it might be the discovery of these cinnamon buns from Smitten Kitchen.  They have all the pumpkin and spice that I need for fall, without costing me $5 plus the time it would take to drive up to Starbucks.  They come together in an afternoon (or the evening before you want them for breakfast) and they make my family so happy I get extra hugs.  All in all, these are the perfect pumpkin spice treat for me. (I will willingly take a latte if anyone offers, however).

Note: I find these cinnamon buns quite amazing on their own, but you can add a glaze or icing if that’s your thing.  Just head over to Smitten Kitchen’s website to get all the details.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls (from Smitten Kitchen)

What you need:

Dough
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, to be divided
1/2 cup \whole milk, warmedIMG_2156
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling out
1/4 cup (packed) light or dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2/3 cups pumpkin puree, canned or homemade
1 large egg
Oil for coating rising bowl

Filling
3/4 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon

What to do:

Make the dough:
1. Melt the butter.  If you like to brown butter, this is a great time to do it!  Melt the butter in a small pan.  Once melted, keep cooking it over medium heat for a few minutes.  It will start to sizzle and foam and then smell nutty as the solids on the bottom of the pan brown.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.

2. Combine the warmed milk and yeast in a small bowl and set aside.  It should start to get foamy after a bit.IMG_2157

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine flour, both sugars, salt and spices.

4. Add just 1/4 cup of the browned butter and stir to combine.

5. Add yeast-milk mixture, pumpkin and egg and mix until combined.

6. Switch mixer to a dough hook and run on low for 5 minutes.

7. Scrape mixture into a large oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Set aside of 1 hour or until just about double.

Assemble buns:

1. Spray a 9×13 or 2 8-inch pans with non stick spray.

2. Scoop dough onto a very well floured surface and then sprinkle flour on top of the dough.

3. With a rolling pin, roll the dough to a 16×11 inch rectangle (mine is never perfect – just make it sort of work).

4. Brush reserved butter over dough.

5. Stir together filling ingredients in a small bowl and sprinkle over the dough.

6. Starting on a longer side, roll the dough in a tight spiral.  It never works out perfectly, but not to worry! It’ll still taste great!IMG_2159

7. Use a serrated knife to carefully cut one-inch segments of the “log”.  You will get 16 or more segments.

8. Place each little roll in the pan(s).

9. Cover the pan(s) with plastic wrap and let rise for another 45 minutes.

*If you’re making these ahead of time, put them in the fridge now.  In the morning, leave them out for about an hour to warm and finish rising.

10. Just before you’re ready to bake them, preheat the oven to 350F.

11. Remove the plastic wrap and bake for 25 minutes.

12. Transfer pans to wire cooling racks and then enjoy!

Upside-Down Pear Gingerbread

photo(1)I can hardly believe fall has come on us!  For so long, we are just roasting in our house, paying exorbitant amounts on the electricity bill due to air conditioning, and then suddenly we’re pulling out sweaters from the closet and finding real shoes to wear.

The best part about fall, however, is the desire to bake and cook.  I will admit that I do bake all summer long (hence the high electricity bills!) but when it’s 35C and above, it’s hard to be motivated to turn on the oven.  But as soon as the nights get cooler and tree fruit comes in season, I get very excited to bake.

This recipe is perfect when you want a taste of fall.  It has warm pears and gingerbread and smells like a cozy evening in.  You can warm it up to serve with buttermilk or vanilla ice cream or leave it as is and call it breakfast.  No matter how you serve it, you should definitely do it soon.

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Upside-Down Pear Gingerbread (from Starting Out)

What you need:
For the topping:
    1 Tbsp butter
    1-2 Tbsp corn syrup
    1/3 cup packed brown sugar
    2 ripe but firm pears or tart apples, thinly sliced

For the cake:
 1/4 cup butter, softened
    1/2 cup packed brown sugar
    1 large egg
    1/2 cup buttermilk
    1/4 cup dark molasses
    1-2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger or 1 tsp powdered ginger
    1 cup all purpose flour
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon allspice
    1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

What to do:
Preheat the oven to 350F and grease a 8- or 9-inch pan.

To make the topping, melt the butter, corn syrup and brown sugar in the microwave or in a small pot on the stove until it’s smooth.  Pour the mixture into the prepared pan (it’s okay if it doesn’t cover the whole bottom because the mixture will be very reluctant to pour well).  Arrange the pear slices on top, overlapping them a bit (they will shrink when cooked).

To make the cake batter, beat the butter and brown sugar in a medium bowl until well blended.  Add the egg, buttermilk, molasses and ginger and beat until thoroughly combined.

In a small bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, allspice and nutmeg.  Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and stir by hand just until combined.  Pour the batter over the pear slices.

Bake the cake for about 40  minutes, until the top is springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Let stand for 5 minutes, run a knife around the edge, and invert it onto a cooling rack.  If some of the pear slices remain in the pan, use a fork to pick them out and place them back on the cake.

Serve with whipped cream, buttermilk ice cream or just warmed.

Fancy Cinnamon Bread

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Note: I wrote this post in April and forgot to publish it… But the dessert is so good that I’m posting it now anyway!

I joined the Daring Bakers last spring, fully intending to do every single challenge.  And so far, I have done one, the Savarin bread. It’s not for lack of intentions!  Each month, I check out the challenge, think, “I can do that!” and then proceed to run out of time.

In March, I decided to get into it again, but once I discovered it was to make nougats, I decided against it.  Nougats and I are not friends.  However, the February challenge looked AMAZING and not too difficult, so that’s what I did.  This recipe comes from chef in disguise Sawsan, who says that making beautiful bread can be a way of life.

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Everyone in my house LOVED the end result.  We are all cinnamon bun fanatics, so it wasn’t hard to fall in love with these.  And they were honestly about the same amount of work as making cinnamon buns.  If you want to try this at home, I suggest following the directions about assembly, but using your own recipe for the dough and filling if you have one that you love.  I think next time I’ll try smitten kitchen’s pumpkin cinnamon bun recipe, because it’s a favourite in my house.  Despite what you may think, you can definitely achieve a dessert this beautiful!

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What you need (for the dough)
1/4 cup (60 ml) warm water
3/4 cup (180 ml) warm milk
1 large egg
1/4 cup (60 ml) (60 gm) (2 oz) butter, softened
1/4 cup (60 ml) (50 gm) (1-3/4 oz) white sugar
1/2 teaspoon (3 gm) salt
3-1/4 cups (780 ml) (450 gm) (16 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour, approximately
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (8 gm) dry yeast
1/4 teaspoon (1 gm) cardamom, optional

For topping
1/4 cup (60 ml) of milk


1 tablespoon (15 gm) (1/2 oz) sugar

Between the layers
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter


4 tablespoons (60 ml) (25 gm) (1 oz) cinnamon


1/2 cup (120 ml) (100 gm) (3-1/2 oz) sugar

For drizzling
1 can (400 gm) (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk

What to do:

1. In a bowl whisk the egg with milk, water, sugar, butter and yeast. Set aside.

2. In another bowl sift the flour with the salt and the optional cardamom.

3. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and knead until you get a smooth dough.
Note: This recipe requires between 3-1/4 and 3-1/2 cups of flour depending on the weather, humidity and the flour brand. Start with 3-1/4 cups and if you feel that the dough is too soft, add the extra 1/4 cup

4. Place the dough in a bowl you have brushed with some oil and cover it with a wet cloth and leave it in a warm place to double
(If you are tight on time you can heat your oven to 390°F/200°C then turn it off and place your dough in a glass bowl and place it in the warm oven with the wet cloth covering the bowl)

5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface

6. Divide the dough into 4 parts

7. Roll each part into a circle at least 20 cm (8 inch) in diameter

8. Brush the first layer with butter then sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon

9. Place the second layer on the first layer repeat the brushing and sprinkling and then do the same with the third layer.

10. Top with the fourth layer, this time only brush it with butter.

11. Using a knife make cuts that divide the dough circles into 8 triangles.  Then make cuts that go 2/3 of the way in the middle of each triangle. The cuts should not reach the base of the triangle nor the tip.

12. Take the tip of each triangle and insert it into the cut you made and pull it from the underside.

13. Arrange the triangles on your baking sheet

14. Pinch the two angles at the base of the triangle together

15. Brush the dough with milk

16. Allow to rest for 15 minutes during which you would heat your oven to very hot 500°F/240°C/gas mark 9 (rack in the middle). (Go for the hottest your oven will do).

17. Bake for 5 minutes on very hot 460°F/240°C/gas mark 9, then lower the temperature to moderately hot 390°F/200°C/gas mark 6 and bake for 15-20 more minutes
Note: ovens do differ greatly, so the time may differ,what you want is to bake it until the under side is golden brown and the bread is baked all the way to the center. If the top of the bread is not golden brown by that time and you have a broiler (grill) in your oven. Turn on the broiler (grill) for a couple of minutes until the bread is golden brown on top. If on the other hand the top is getting too dark, consider lowering the oven temperature and covering the top of the bread with foil to stop it from over browning.
18. Take it out of the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rick and drizzle with sweetened condensed milk while it is still warm.

Weeknight Meatloaf

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Meatloaf – it’s not a particularly exciting dish.  It’s one of those meals that has the potential be amazingly delicious or just plain boring.  It’s basically ground meat, mixed with some spices, some liquid, maybe a starch, and then pressed into a pan to be baked for a while.  It is so simple to make, which makes meatloaf a great weeknight meal, for those days when you have a lot on the go.

The key to making an amazing (and not a blah) meatloaf, is the flavouring you put in.  The one that I make is a recipe I grew up eating, with one small change.  You can add any liquid you enjoy (the recipe suggests milk or tomato sauce).  But my “secret ingredient” is salsa.  Most salsas that you buy have lots of spice and flavour.  It saves you time – not chopping up extra vegetables to add into the meatloaf.  And the smell that wafts through the house while it’s baking, well, you’ll just have to make it to see for yourself how awesome that is.

Now, the other somewhat critical tastebud-explosion-inducing part of this meatloaf is that I use a ground beef that has a bit of fat still in it.  You can definitely use extra lean ground beef, but I like the moisture of lean ground beef.  However, I’m sure it would still be beyond boring if you use a less fatty meat.

In our house, we always pair meatloaf with hash brown casserole.  I’ve written an approximate recipe for it below – I never really measure how much I’m putting in, so you’ll have to play around with amounts of ingredients for that one.

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Meatloaf and Hash Brown Casserole

What you need:
(for the hash brown casserole)
a package of frozen hash browns
1 can condensed cheddar cheese soup
1/2 cup milk

(for the meatloaf)
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 cup salsa
3/4 cup oats
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

What to do:
Turn the oven on to 350F.  While it is preheating, take out 2 loaf pans.  Spray with cooking spray.

In the first pan, pour some hash browns.  This part is not exact – just put in a good amount.  Then dump in the cheddar cheese soup and some milk.  Mix it up.  You can add more hash browns and milk until it looks somewhat moist and all the potatoes are coated.  Put this in the oven (even if the oven isn’t finished preheating).

In a large bowl, mix all the meatloaf ingredients together – using your hands usually works best.  Put the mixture into the second loaf pan and press it down.  Once the oven has finished preheating, stick this in the oven.

Bake the meatloaf for 1 hour (the hash brown casserole stays in the oven the whole time).  Near the end of the cooking time, I usually like to steam some vegetables to go with the meal.

To serve, scoop out the casserole and serve beside a slice of meatloaf.

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July Daring Baker’s Challenge – Surprise!

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For the July Daring Baker’s Challenge, Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to bake a cake. But not just any cake; she asked us to add in a special surprise for our eyes as well as our taste buds! (Note: Daring Baker’s challenges are supposed to be posted on the 27th, but I totally forgot to post it! So here it is:)

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I have missed about a year and a half of Daring Baker’s Challenges, but last Thursday night, while sitting in front of my computer, bored, I decided to check up on what this month’s challenge was.  And when I saw that it was making a cake, using whatever recipe we wanted to, I knew I could do it.  The idea was to make a surprise cake – one that looked like a completely normal cake on the outside, but had something daring on the inside.  I decided to go for the rainbow cake.  My daughter loves to recite the colours of the rainbow, so I figured she’d get a kick out of this one.

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After looking up different recipes for making a rainbow cake, I decided to go with my white cake recipe that I love from Starting Out.  The cake batter is quite simple to make (but if you like boxed cakes, you could use one of those too).  Once you’ve mixed the batter, divide it up between 6 bowls (or the number of colours that you want to use).  Add about 1/2 teaspoon food colouring to each bowl and mix.  It does over-mix the batter a bit, but the effect is so beautiful!

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Then, to create the rainbow effect, butter / spray 2 8- or 9-inch cake rounds.  Add about half of the first colour to the middle of each pan.  Then add half of the second colour right in the middle of the first one.  Continue on with each colour until they’re all used.  It might be a good idea to spread it out a bit at the end – mine were really domed once I finished because I just left them as is.  Also, I wanted to experiment a little with the colours, so I started with red in the first pan and went through to purple, but then started with purple in the second pan to end with red.

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Once I took the layers out of the oven, I just couldn’t bring myself to cover both with icing.  They just looked so beautiful the way they were!  So I ended up leaving one layer as-is and frosting the other one, as a true surprise-inside cake.  I wasn’t sure at first how to ice the second cake layer, as there were no birthdays that weekend.  But I just recently ran a 10K race and I was pretty proud of it, so that’s how I ended up decorating the cake.

Of course, after doing all that work, I remembered that I needed to bring some treats to church on Sunday.  So, even though I said I’d never make the cake again, I promptly made it on Saturday night.  This time my daughter helped me put it together.  We still used the 6 colours, but I layered them in a Bundt cake pan – creating sections of red, yellow, blue and orange, green, purple. You can see that the bottom of the cake was quite psychedelic  while the top looked like a normal cake.  I just drizzled the top with some glaze and then cut into it.

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The effect was amazing!  Everyone was mesmerized by the cake and wanted to know how to make it.  No matter how you try the rainbow cake, it’s definitely a show-stopper.  I have a feeling I may get some requests for kids’ birthday parties in the next few months!

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Fried Egg Sandwich

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This winter, I started running again, after injuring my tailbone in December, and I have managed to keep it up!  I’m not sure if it’s because I still can’t ride my bike, but I genuinely love running and have been doing a lot of it.  In the beginning, I would make sure to go 3 days a week, building up to 5km runs.  Now that it’s summer and I have time, I have been able to go at least 5 mornings a week, bumping up my longer runs to 10km and more.  I have even signed up to run a half-marathon this fall!

With all this early morning exercise, I realized I needed to step up my breakfasts.  While I love cereal, toast and waffles, they just don’t cut it after running for an hour or more.  So I’ve been finding a lot of ways to eat eggs that don’t take too much time but are still interesting and delicious.

I love this sandwich.  I have posted it more than once on Instagram and every time I eat it, I exclaim about how good it is.  The part that takes the longest is cooking the bacon, but if you chop it up before frying it, I find it takes 5-10 minutes on medium-high heat, and then the rest of the sandwich comes together rather quickly.  It’s basically a wilted spinach salad on a bun, with a fried egg and blue cheese.  The original recipe can be found here at SmittenKitchen.com.  I’ve modified it a little bit to make it for 1 serving because no one in my family wants to have that much spinach at breakfast.  I also usually fry up an extra egg to eat on the side – one egg isn’t enough for a post-run meal.  And although I usually make it for breakfast, it’s also great for lunch or even dinner!

Fried Egg Sandwich

Makes 1 sandwich

What you need:
a couple of handfuls of baby spinach leaves
1 slice bacon
1 Tablespoon diced red onion or shallot
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese (or cheddar)
1 large egg
1 bun or 2 slices of bread

What to do:
Place the baby spinach in a bowl.  It may seem like way to much to fit in a sandwich, but it will, I promise.  You can always eat the extra if it doesn’t.

Heat a small frying pan on medium-high heat.  Chop the bacon into matchsticks (I use scissors to do this part).  Cook the bacon until it is crispy and has rendered its fat.  Remove the bacon carefully with a fork onto a paper towel and leave the fat in the frying pan.

Add the red onion to the pan and cook for a minute or two.  Then add the red wine vinegar and let it sputter for about 30 seconds.  Remove from heat and whisk in the mustard.  Pour this over the spinach and toss to coat.  The spinach will wilt slightly.

Add some butter or oil into the frying pan and fry up the egg the way you like it.  While it’s frying, toast your bun or bread and then butter the bread.

To assemble the sandwich, place half the spinach on the bottom bun.  Put on half of the crumbled bacon and cheese, then the egg, more bacon and cheese and the rest of the spinach.  Top with the bun top.

Almond Butter Apple Sandwich

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Our air conditioner has broken.  This may not seem like the end of the world for some, but it’s been quite the problem for us.  We like to keep the house at 22C or lower when we’re home.  And since I’m off for the summer, we’re home all the time.

The biggest problem is that I like to cook.  And cooking unfortunately requires heat (unless you are into the raw food movement, which I am definitely not!).  I know that most people just change up what they make in the summer, preferring to eat salads or use the barbecue to avoid heating up the house.  But I like to eat what I want to eat when I want it.  It may sound selfish (and really not energy efficient) but that’s just how I am.  It means that I will be outside barbecuing at -30C and inside baking a casserole at soaring temperatures.  However, to ensure that my family can sleep at night without having the house at overly high temperatures, I decided to try making meals with the weather in mind.  Other than the fish sticks and cookies we had last night, I think I’ve done pretty well, and have even managed to find a few new recipes.

One thing I’ve been making more of is sandwiches.  I was never really into sandwiches as a kid (probably because I made Cheez Whiz sandwiches every day for lunch for a year) but I have started really getting into them.  There’s a whole smorgasbord of fillings you can use, different types of bread to place the fillings on and even different temperatures (grilled, toasted, room temperature) you can serve them at.  So when I saw Great Sandwiches for Runners on RunnersWorld, I decided I should try some out.

I didn’t have any pears, so I’ve used apple instead.  And if you want to add extra dried apricots (because you have been eating them by the handful out of the bag), they only add more flavour.  You can even make the almond butter spread, use half of it and save the other half for the next day.  The spread gets a little stiff, but it’s still manageable.  The original suggests using whole grain bread, which is a good idea, but it also tastes amazing on toasted white bread.  Use the recipe below as a starter and then change it up to fit what you like best!

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Almond Butter Apple Sandwich (adapted, barely, from Runners World Magazine)

Makes 2 sandwiches

What you need:
3 tablespoons almond butter
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
4 slices of bread (toasted or not)
1/2 – 1 whole apple, cored and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped dried apricots
2 tablespoons crumbled goat cheese

What to do:
In a small bowl, whisk together the almond butter, honey, cinnamon and vanilla (I did it with a fork).  Spread the mixture on two of the slices of bread.  Top bread with the sliced apple, dried apricots and goat cheese.  Put the last slices of bread on top and enjoy!