Homemade Sushi

I love sushi, but since it usually requires us to go out (I’m not much of a fan of the pre-packaged kinds at the grocery store), it can get a little pricy. So, I decided to try and make my own. I’ve never tried to make sushi before in my life, so it was definitely an interesting experience. I figured it couldn’t be that hard, though, since all I needed was some short grain rice, nori, and veggies to fill it with.

Before the sushi making extravaganza, though, I had to get in a long run. My poor left leg has been plagued with injuries since October. It first started out with pulled ankle and Achilles muscles due to going to fast and furious with my Vibram Five Fingers. Once that had finally cleared up, I developed shin splints in November from ramping up the mileage too quickly after coming back from the original injury. Then, during the Disney Half, I managed to fracture (or at least severely sprain, but I wouldn’t know because I refused to go to a doctor, duh) a metatarsal bone in my foot. Finally, after all that, I was ready to start running mid-March. Up to this point I had only done 4 miles, so Sunday marked my first “long” run, of 8 miles. My left shin has been bothering me a little, but I’ve been icing like crazy to hopefully keep it at bay. My goal was to stay under 9;30 minute miles, and I did that without problem, finishing in 1:14:20. I got to be a little “hardcore,” though, as I bled through my sock. This seems to be a somewhat regular occurrence for me, though and it doesn’t hurt. I’ll spare you the picture (yes, I took one).

I’m still planning to run/walk the RU Unite Half April 17th, so we’ll see. I wasn’t 100% sure if I could mentally handle just doing a run/walk, but after reading Caitlin’s More Half Recap (who is also injured) I know I can do it! And I also have officially signed the fiancé and myself up to run the Philadelphia Marathon this November 20th!

But back to the sushi. For our roll, I threw in some avocado (finally ripe from last week), cucumber, and smoked salmon. I was a bit nervous about the whole rolling technique, but it’s actually really easy! We grabbed a sushi kit that had the bamboo mat in it along with the nori, short-grain “sushi” rice, sushi vinegar, and also soy sauce and wasabi. I’m glad that it came with so much, so next time we just need to get our filling and the rice and nori. I had a ton of fun making it, and can’t wait to try it again with some different goodies inside.

Homemade Sushi
– Makes 4 full rolls –

1 4oz. package of smoked salmon
2 cups sushi rice (short grain white rice)
1/4 cup sushi vinegar
4 slices of nori (dried seaweed)
1/2 cucumber, peeled and sliced (long ways)
1/2 avocado, sliced

1. Cook rice in boiling salted water, about 15-20 minutes. Add sushi vinegar and allow to cool.
2. Once rice is cooled, lay a nori sheet on top of the bamboo mat. Moisten your hands, and spread about a 1/4 cup of the rice on the nori in a thin layer, leaving about 2 inches at the edge of the far side of the nori.
3. Layer the cucumber, avocado, and salmon across the middle of the nori. Using the bamboo mat, starting at the edge closest to you, begin to roll away from you, until the nori is completely rolled.
4. Remove the mat, and slice the roll in 1/2 inch to 1 inch pieces.

A Running Foodie’s Revelation

I’ve mentioned here and there on this blog that I run. However, I ususally stick to food when it comes to my posts. I know that there are a ton of fellow foodie runners or runner foodies (whichever you prefer) also in the blogging world. I’m still working on the best way to meld the two together.

A little over three weeks ago I injured myself running in my new Vibram Five Fingers. I thought I was easing in to them – two miles one day, four the next, and five later in the week. However, by mile 4ish on that five miler, my ankles started to hurt like never before. Being stubborn, I powered through the last mile, only stopping because I physically couldn’t run anymore. I walked myself back to the car, and felt okay. As soon as I got home and stepped out of the car, though, I could barely walk. I spent the rest of the evening and the next day at work hobbling around in pain. Not to mention my little ankles had swollen to be a giant lump of cankle (not the most attractive). The pain would come and go in intensity over the next two weeks, so I didn’t do any physical activity and wore sneakers every day.

It was during this period that I had a revalation. I am a runner. The overwhelming feelings I had when the end of the day hit and I realized I wouldn’t be heading out for a post-work run was torture. Just ask my fiancé; I’ve now broken down over it about three times. It’s amazing what running can do for you (physically and mentally). Sure, when I’m in the middle of my run, do I love it? Not usually. But the second it’s over, do I think about how I can’t wait till my next one? Always. I’m competitive by nature, and as someone that has always participated in individual sports (hello, swimming!) I found myself gravitating towards running.

Since my little ankle mishap, I’ve gotten back to running – kind of. Two weeks ago I started with a slow one mile run to not push it. The next day, I bumped it up to two successfully. Two days later, I decided to tackle three miles, and kept a much quicker pace. While I usually try to ignore nagging pains and “suck it up,” I’ve done my best over the past few weeks to be as conscious of what my body is telling me as I possibly can. So, the second the discomfort grows, I stop. I attempted a treadmill run after my 3 mile success, but it was a giant failure. I had tears welling up in my eyes at the gym, and the thought of someone seeing me in the corner crying over not being able to run made me immediately suck it up and walk as fast as I could. All I want to do is run – is that so much to ask?

I decided to give it another try this past weekend, and finished 3 miles in an 8:45/mile pace. The pain was definitely less than before, but I could feel it a little the next day. On top of that, I headed to cheer on my fiancé at a local 5k. It was definitely hard to be on the sidelines and not in the race. However, I was happy to see him cross the finish, since he always finishes before me. Plus, it was a great race to see him finish as he came in 11th overall and PR’ed by over 2 minutes to finish in 20:29!

I was planning to run a 5k next Saturday (10/9), but I think I’m going to pull out of it. Even if I’m completely healed by then, I know my lack of training will make a PR nearly impossible, and I’ll only frustrate myself more. So, I’ll still get my t-shirt and then cheer for my fiancé again as he runs through the park we visit nearly every day after work. Hopefully by November, though, I can run in the few “Turkey Trot” races that are around, and pump up my milage for our Disney Half Marathon. For my last halfie (and the first one I ever did), I only trained for a little over two months. So, as long as I’m back to myself by the middle of this month, I think I’ll be okay.

Until this injury, I never really thought of myself as a runner. Nor did I realize how big a part of my life it has become. I make my schedule around running; doing homework, what I’ll have time to cook for dinner, when I’ll make plans to go out, etc. Does this make me a little insane? Probably. But you can’t tell me that anyone who willingly runs for hours at a time isn’t just a little off their rocker. I’m proud to be a part of that group, and hopefully one day that half insanity will go full Mary.

I realize in the grand scheme of things it isn’t so bad. However, in my little world, not being able to run is all I can think about. But have no fear – I’ll slowly but surely get back to it!

In the meantime, on my road to recovery, I’ll whip up some deliciousness to keep your palates entertained. And as always, any suggestions on how to help my ankles along in the healing process would be greatly appreciated!

Anoter Meatless Monday: Balsamic Roasted Veggies with Cous Cous

This particular recipe I saw on Cate’s World Kitchen, and knew it’d be a great beginning of fall dish. My fiancé and I are both big fans of balsamic vinegar, to the point where sometimes we use just that as our salad dressing. I wound up omitting the mushrooms because he isn’t a big fan, and instead of Japanese eggplant, I just used regular. Of course I threw some spices on it as well to warm it up a bit!

I’ve been spending more time in the kitchen the past week and a half thanks to my latest and greatest running injury. I somehow managed to out-do myself, and have had trouble walking since last Thursday (the 9th). While running in our Vibram Five Fingers, at about mile 5 I felt pain in my achilies and ankles, so I stopped. Walking helped a lot, and I didn’t feel too awful on the drive home. However, as soon as I got out of the car, I could barely walk – that 20 minute drive gave my muscles and tendons the perfect amount of time to tighten up, and swell. The next day I could barely walk; I shuffled myself through the office awkwardly. I’ve been icing it daily, and my canckles are slowly going down. I’m anxious to get back to running, but realize I need to wait until I have absolutely no pain when walking before doing so. I had a little breakdown on Saturday night from sheer frustration and discomfort, as I have a 5k race in just 3 weeks that I was hoping to PR at. I’m hoping to get in a mile or two today, as I’m slowly feeling better. But we’ll see.

But back to the food! The recipe was straightforward and easy; it was nice to chop up the veggies, coat them in the balsamic vinegar, throw them in the oven, and leave them for a bit to do homework. I always appreciate meals that don’t require constant attention. I decided to use a package of cous cous that my parents actually gave me over the weekend. I have no idea why they even have cous cous in the house, because my dad loathes it. Cous cous and ginger are on his hate list, which I think is so weird, because other than that, he loves pretty much everything. Oh, and he hates chocolate and mint combined, but so do I so I’m okay with it! It was a pine nut cous cous, which was a nice change of pace from our regular whole weat cous cous. I’d recommend getting some flavored cous cous every so often just to jazz it up.

Balsamic Vegetables with Cous Cous
(adapted from Veggie Belly)

Balsamic Dressing
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic minced
salt and pepper

Roasted Vegetables
1 medium Japanese eggplant, cut into 1″ cubes
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1″ cubes
1 small red onion, cut into wedges
3/4 cup cherry tomatoes
10 button mushrooms, halved

1 3/4 cups water
1 cup couscous
1/4 cup basil leaves, cut chiffonade

1. Preheat the oven to 475 F.
2. Whisk the dressing ingredients together.
3. Toss all the vegetables in a large bowl, and add half the dressing. Mix so that all the vegetables are coated, then spread onto a rimmed sheet pan and roast for 25-30 minutes, or until everything is tender.
4. While the vegetables are roasting, bring the water to a boil in a medium covered saucepan. When it boils, turn off the heat and stir in the couscous. Let stand, covered, for about ten minutes. Transfer the couscous to a large bowl and fluff with a fork.
5. Add the roasted vegetables, remaining dressing, and basil, and mix well before serving.

Baked Goods and (Vibram) Five Fingers!

For quite awhile now, both myself and my fiancé have been eyeing up Vibram Five Fingers. It seems like they’ve become a hit over night. I realize they’ve been around for awhile, as a lot of the running blogs I read have been jockeying them for quite some time, but the craze has definitely hit a high. My fiancé in particular has been interested in barefoot running for quite some time now. I myself, however, remember seeing a woman running through the park about two years ago barefoot and thinking to myself that she was crazy. After reading more, though, I was willing to give them a shot.

Apparently these bad boys are hard to come by. Luckily, one of the shoe stores in my hometown has been selling them for awhile, and even though they’ve been going like hotcakes (mmm, hot cakes), they just so happened to have a pair for both my fiancé and I! So, on our very last summer hours of the year this past Friday, we headed to pick up a pair for ourselves. We wound up getting the KSO’s in black, since they were listed to be good for everything; running, light hiking, water sports, every day use, etc. I expected to have a difficult time getting my toes into their individual pockets, but it was pretty easy. Maybe it’s because I’ve worn toe socks before, or maybe it was because I had an audience and felt like I had to succeed at the first try. Either way, they weren’t nearly as difficult to get on as I had imagined.

So, we set out for a short, easy, two mile run this morning to try them out. I had read on a lot of blogs to ease into them – no more than a mile or so was advised just to get yourself used to them. I had heard you’d feel muscles in your legs working you never knew you had. Needless to say I was a little intimidated by them. We decided to just feel the run out, and we wouldn’t do any more than two miles, even if we were feeling great. The first mile was a bit awkward – you could feel everything, so I really felt like I needed to watch where I was going. It also sounded weird, as though I was slamming my entire foot down with every step. I know that’s not what I was doing, though, because if there was one thing my mother taught me, it was not to slam my feet when I walked.

When the first mile marker popped up through my MapMyFitness, I was shocked that we did it in a 9:10/mile pace. It honestly felt SO slow. Granted, for a lot of runners out there that is slow. But last time I was training for my first half marathon, most runs were at a 9:40-10:40/mile pace, and that felt far from slow. After getting through the initial awkwardness of the first mile, our second mile felt even better. We ran it sub-9, and it seemed as though our legs and feet were finally communicating with one another and getting into the swing of things. I definitely think we could have kept going, probably for another 2+ miles. Being cautious, though, we decided to call it quits for the day, but we’ll be back out for a 4 miler tomorrow! So far, so good.

After the run, I got back to my second love – the kitchen. I quickly started whipping up Chocolate Chip Pretzel Bars from Baking Serendipity, to bring to a pool party. Of course I’ve started to make a name for myself in bringing baked goods to parties, so I always have to make sure I’ve got something with me. These seemed different, and pretty straight forward. Since I was pressed for time (as always) the simplicity was much appreciated.

I think I’m finally getting the hang of creaming things, too. I still cringe when I see that listed as part of the directions, but I’m a little more confident. Up until recently every time I turned on my hand mixer, bits and pieces of butter and other ingredients would go flying. So today I decided to hold the bowl in the middle of the kitchen (or as far as the cord would reach) so that way it would only go on the floor, or me. Of course I got it on both, but it was definitely a lot less than usual. I really just need to get married so I can get myself  a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer.

The bars have a brownie-like consistency (and shape), but are essentially chocolate chip cookies with pieces of pretzels in them. I for one am a huge fan of the salty and sweet combo, so this was right up my alley. Everyone at the pool party seemed to feel the same way too! Unfortunately they were a little difficult to cut (the pieces of pretzel were hard to get through, some spots were crumbly) so they weren’t cut evenly. No one seemed to notice, though, and they were pretty much all devoured. They would probably be great with different chips too – white chocolate, peanut butter, butterscotch, etc… the possibilities are endless! We have some leftovers, and I’m looking forward to enjoying them as a snack this week.

Chocolate Chip Pretzel Bars

2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 (heaping) cup broken pretzel rods

1. Break pretzel rods and set aside.
2. Cream butter, sugars and vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt. Add gradually to wet ingredients, mixing well.
3. Fold in chocolate chips first, then pretzels, being careful to stir the pretzels gently to keep from breaking them.
4. Spread batter evenly into a greased 9×11″ baking dish and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.