Quinoa carrot cake cookies (and Pikes Peak Ultra 30K)

I’d almost forgotten how much I love trail running. Not just on my own, but as a participant in an official group event, competitive or not. I’d just about forgotten too, how much I enjoy these gluten-free, vegan, oil-free (or not, if you prefer), lightly and naturally sweetened, easy on the digestive system cookies. That is the loose stretch of a connection between the recipe and narrative of this post. Sorry the record of the race experience is the dominating presence by far. It was my first official run event in two years after all.

carrot cake cookies (1 of 1)
First, about those “cookies”. They’re more like breakfast bars, but cookie shaped. I love them. They’re currently one of my favorite portable on-the-go breakfasts/snacks/lunches, and little F likes them too. They may taste a little more cookie-like and less like energy bites with the inclusion of coconut oil, but I prefer them without. You could totally give them a sweet treat lift with a bit of glaze if you wanted to. And the race connection? They’re good pre-run fuel. Generally, I prefer to go on empty. Even my former fave of banana and peanut butter was too much for the odd long run I tested it on in this last build up. But race day, I wanted to have a little bite beforehand, and carrot cake for breakfast works a treat. (Here’s where you skip the rambling race record to recipe below.*)

Living in Boulder County, perspective can become a little (a lot) warped. It’s not uncommon for people to ask questions along the lines of “How many ironman distance triathlons are you doing this year? How many ultras? ” within a minute of being introduced. When I tell people here that “these days I am only doing a 50K or two a year” the immediate response is often nods of understanding, if not a questioningly raised eyebrow confirming I’m a slacker. So it’s easy to feel hesitant when it comes to logging race memories for “just” 30K, especially when coupled with average ability. But it was such a beautiful, perfectly challenging course, and kind of a breakthrough mentally, in its way. Besides that, I had the best cowbell crew I could have ever wished for.

When I originally signed up for the Pikes Peak Ultra 30K, held in Colorado Springs from Bear Creek Regional Park, I intended to run the 50K. Typically, the longer I go the more competitive I can be, and to a point the less nervous too. But early on I realized too well how unprepared I would be for the 9000 feet of elevation gain in that event, let alone the altitude. Little F is a stellar household helper, but without family nearby Dave and I continually alternate to accomplish a number of things, workouts in particular. There just isn’t time to get into the hills or up high the way I’d like to, and training efforts need to be efficient even when sustained. For that reason, the week approaching this event I started to take on a few more jitters than I expected, become a little crankier, clouded by feelings of niggling aches and fatigue.

But it’s hard to drown in anxious anticipation the way I used to when a little person keeps you laughing and on your toes. Heading down to the Springs the afternoon preceding, we were caught in a pounding freak storm on the highway in a 50 minute delay caused by a crash. It would have been frustrating–it was, for Dave as generous driver both ways–only little F and all “the guys” (stuffed animals who comprise ‘the class’ when playing school) were so wowed and gleeful we couldn’t help but be a little bit delighted, too.

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Race morning, and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect. Lightly misting, but temperate. Just right for running. Not too chilly for a singlet, but not hot, just pleasant. The previous day’s rain had the effect of making the trails feel firm and grippy, not muddy or loosely gravelly. Dave had prepared me for mentally taking the course in thirds. Side note–my amazing husband solves problems, assesses situations, and prepares ahead of time so very exceptionally. Sometimes I wonder idly by how much his skills are superior to mine, and whether I’m secretly far more crafty and opportunistic than I am willfully conscious of when it comes to taking shortcuts in letting him dig in so well on my behalf. (Thank you, thank you, darling Davy!)

Pikes 30K (4 of 4)
The first segment was a solid 5.5 mile climb of about 1600 feet right out of the gate. Competitors weren’t as chatty as my experience in 50Ks; I guess the distance being that much shorter really made a difference. Still, the trail running vibe has a different intensity to road, one that feels more laid back and friendly even as everyone strains and suffers. Nearing the close of the ascent, I started talking with an older guy who it turns out is clearly related to mountain goats. “Your walk-run strategy is working great for you,” I said to him, striking up conversation after miles of leap frogging. He was a modest, convivial man. Not talkative, but not reserved either. I don’t know what his background is, but just from the mile or so we ran together I was impressed by his genuine appreciation for being out there and for the way he without doubt plugs away with passion and keeps on showing up.

Pikes 30K (2 of 4)The middle third of the course, began with a descent on singletrack, sharp in spots, where my running companion dusted me for many miles and where I internally berated myself a bit for how my descent can let me down. At least when it comes to anything close to technical. But the trail was shadowy and beautiful, with mist hugging the peaks all around us. And I knew (from Dave’s preparation, not mine again), I just needed to focus on getting to mile 12 and the top of the next big hill before a major boost in momentum. While on a stretch of steep road connecting trails, Dave and Little F happened to pass by in the car on their way to a hike. “Go Mommy!” I could hear little F whooping even as they rolled down the hill behind me. “Mommy’s fast!” No caffeine infused gel could have possibly given a better, more lasting lift than knowing my little boy was proud of his mama in that moment.

The final section was mainly the beginning in reverse. As cautiously as I approached the middle descent, my legs were all about letting it rip and pounding down the 5.5 mile (mostly) descent to the finish. I knew my quads would pay the price–they were already sore–but it was fun to try to fly. Especially knowing my fast little sprinter was waiting to jump in on the finishing stretch.

About that “breakthrough”–there were two things. One, the biggest hurdle was definitely getting to the starting line but not in terms of training. That part I loved and looked forward to. It wasn’t the actual signing up, either (because Dave , ever supportive, did that for me, too–thank you, honey!!). The challenge was getting over the guilt and the fear that has been present in my mind since Dave’s injuries forced him to give up something that has been so special to share. Even as he has found the same kind of satisfaction in mountain biking, I still feel the shadow of what might be, if I do too much. At this point I’m guessing that won’t ever go away. Because, aging/practical reality/a number of things. But it’s so liberating to be able to relish getting out there again, owning the joy of just showing up.

Another notable aspect came from a semi awkward moment of irony strangely freeing, in the final ½ mile or less. A woman had passed me on the ascent early on, about ⅓ of the way in. We were cordial, greeting each other with breathless nods of “good job” and minimal eye contact. I didn’t expect to see her again, but in the final mile I found myself closing in on her. By the time we were 800 yds from the finish, I had to pass her, and in my head I felt conflicted. On the one hand, she’d managed to be ahead of me for all those tough miles. It seemed kind of unfair somehow, in a laid back event like this, to go by her. On the other, I did pull her back on my own efforts, so why not? When I pulled alongside her, I couldn’t help myself. “I don’t really want to pass you,” I said. “Want to finish strong together?” “Let’s,” she responded, surprised. “Thank you.”

Pikes 30K (1 of 4)The story could have ended there with some nice warm fuzz. Only what actually happened is that she took off at a strong clip I didn’t feel up for trying to match. I was happy with my performance, busy looking out for little F and his promised sprint to the finish together, and totally in touch with internal gratification and contentment. That was the breakthrough. I’ve always done my best in all areas when I can focus on finding out what the best is I can do on the day, without thought of others. This was no exception. Admittedly, I secretly knew I probably wasn’t in her age group, something she couldn’t have been sure of. Who knows but I would put more mojo in had I not had that knowledge. But  it was strangely liberating not to, and not at all like losing. The feeling was validated all the more when, to my surprise, I was handed the prize for first place Master’s female at the finish. That felt amazing. Big hugs from my two stalwart supporters, even better. Can’t help but admit, I can’t wait to pick the next one and go again. But I can choose smart, thinking long-term healthfulness, and wait, too.

Quinoa carrot cake breakfast cookies
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup quinoa flour
  2. 1/2 cup quinoa flakes
  3. 1/2 cup gluten free rolled oats
  4. 1/4 cup ground flaxseed/flax meal
  5. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  6. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  7. 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  8. 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  9. 1/2 cup raisins
  10. 1 1/2 cups grated or shredded carrots (lightly packed)
  11. 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  12. 1 ripe banana, mashed
  13. 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce OR ½ cup applesauce and OMIT coconut oil, below
  14. 2 tablespoons liquid coconut oil *optional
  15. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  16. 1/4 cup pure maple syrup (optional but recommended)
Happy Apple Natural Kitchen http://www.happyapplekitchen.com/

Sweet potato trail fuel cum baby dessert

Would a rose by any other name smell just as sweet? That’s debatable. Because, baby food called something else (like soup, for instance) tastes a whole lot better. Unless you’re a baby, in which case the reverse is true.

We’ve hit an exciting time as a family, and it features *FAMILY DINNER*. How rife with oxymoron can a daily routine be? It’s nothing less than relaxed chaos, magical mess, giggling screams, and loving frustration. It’s edible paintball, and I love it.

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Little Monkey’s developing palate is thus far exhibiting boldness, flexibility, and a penchant for greens…for now. For now, it makes my heart sing. He eats curry, spice, lentils, quinoa, turnip, parsnips; loves peas, green beans, broccoli. He does have a sweet tooth–nothing can outrank the likes of watermelon, apple, banana, and especially pear.

20140613_134259What with eating all together at the table with minimal prep time, we’re eating a lot of adapted baby food recipes these days. This week, it caught me by surprise when one of Dave’s Leadville prep portables became a hit on the baby tray, and I just had to share. The short and sweet: another Allen Lim recipe, Sweet Potato cakes, only I used 2 tablespoons olive oil instead of butter, and made more than double by baking in regular muffin tins as opposed to tart. The result? Easily one of Dave’s top picks for trail fuel (tested twice this week) and baby rice- sweet potato pie in one. Bonus, very little effort to make. Feels like Thanksgiving.

Daddy Kiss2Why is this portable so super fantastic in baby’s estimation? Lots of reasons, I suspect: appealing orange color, soft form that can still be grabbed and smushed, and the sweet-but-not-too-sweet chewiness of it. And besides all that, it’s one of an infinite span of things, large and small, he’s going to want to do just like Daddy. Happy first Father’s Day to my Sweethearts! xo

 

Sweet Potato Cakes (trail and bonus baby food)
Adapted slightly from Allen Lim’s Feed Zone Portables

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup brown rice flour
  • liberal shake cinnamon
  • dash sea salt
  • 1 cup cooked rice
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a regular 12- muffin tin with cooking spray.
  2. In a saucepan or skillet, cover the sweet potatoes with water. Bring to boiling, reduce heat, cover and simmer until fork tender.
  3. Place sweet potatoes, eggs, oil and maple syrup in a food processor and pulse until smooth.
  4. Add flour, cinnamon and salt and pulse to combine.
  5. Transfer mixture to a bowl and stir in rice.
  6. Spoon mixture into muffin tin, filling each about 2/3 full. Bake approximately 20 minutes, until centers are set.

Vegan hemp protein brownies/trail fuel

20140329_170132Life is change, but this year’s carrying a lit up, blazing shock of it. Above all, there’s the BIG, all encompassing one that is our sweet love-him-more-than-life-itself baby, already more boy than babe. Every day his gleaming eyes declare new, lively awareness; that kissable rosebud mouth announces rocketing learning with greater decisiveness; and those peals, squeals and giggles that delight and melt my heart (along with the rest of him) are increasingly distinctly him.

He, Little Monkey, is the blanketing, beautiful, BIG change that has become my world, and thank goodness for that. Because otherwise, I’d allow my mind to continuously occupy itself with another big milestone– that I am now officially a Master’s runner. You know what that means. (But you can’t make me say it.)

Recently, I’ve had a slight knee issue which has been impacting me psychologically more than anything. Noise rather than ache. I’ve been reassured not to worry for now. That’s sage advice I frequently dispense on others and rarely take myself. Why would I, when instead I can indulge in a dark, buzzing  cloud of paranoid fretting: Is this the beginning of the end? How numbered are my running days? Will my baby be embarrassed of his creaky crone of a mom when she picks him up from school…four years from now?

20140316_142433Some days I need to remind myself, my post-baby body is not even 8-months back to being on its own again. The issues I over-think repeatedly are just as much to do with rebuilding strength, alignment, and navigating a whole new world that includes a chunky monkey on the hip, the front, or the floor in front of my bent knees.

Funny, thinking about that post-baby body, and the baby that was in it, I end up coming to the same conclusions as when I let myself loiter in time-wasting distress about aging.I want my baby to know me as a runner, an active person who embraces the outdoors and physical challenges. One day even a runner who does triathlons again, when a little more time opens up for the bike and the pool. I want to share these things with him for the long haul. I know that means getting over intimidation of the technical and taking to the trails; focusing on core work; accepting less is more; and prioritizing recovery as a crucial part of training…so much harder than it sounds, right?

So it might sound hypocritical to be gearing up for a 50K, my first official ultra since pregnancy. I wonder why I didn’t take into  account when signing up the cramped scheduling our little +1 brings when it comes to training opportunities, or the fact that I’d be having to stop to nurse/pump on the day. Ironically, though, turning to a year sprinkled with fewer races including an ultra or two feels more in line with the long-haul goals than concentrating on road marathons or even shorter races. The pounding is less intense. In the new mommy-mode of “get out and do it/no dawdling” when a window of opportunity to get out there presents itself, out I go to enjoy the trail. It’s unexpectedly less stressful than it sounds (so far).

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Another thing about ultra training, it goes well with real food fuel.  I may miss taking long runs as an opportunity to stuff my face with candy  fuel with certain tasty products, but we’ve been enjoying exploring the potential of homemade real food. This is especially the case when it comes to prepping Dave for Leadville this summer. So far our main trials have been  great portables from Allen Lim. This week, though, the experiment feels a little guiltily decadent. For my birthday, Dave surprised me with some alluring special ingredients, including coconut flour and hemp protein powder. So, I made him run fuel-brownies.

Typically I steer away from protein powders, but hemp could be an exception. Hemp has been increasingly touted as a super food.  Its protein powder is upheld as an excellent plant-based protein source, easily digestible, and  containing all essential amino acids as well as the ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 essential fatty acids. Producing the powder doesn’t seem an exhaustive, eyebrow raising process: whole hemp seeds are cold-pressed to expel the oil; the resulting dry cake is milled at low temps to produce a concentrated form of protein. Certainly not exceeding the task of churning out a box of bran flakes.  I think sprinkling whole hemp seeds over oatmeal is likely more cost-effective, but the powder has appeal, not least because of how I get to bake with it.

hemp_brownies

For these brownies, I used this recipe from Fitness treats, only I used almond meal, was liberal with the cocoa powder, and just had to throw in some chocolate chips. Allen Lim includes some in several of his portables, so I figured, what’s the harm? At least the hemp protein powder won’t go to waste with chocolate chip insurance. I also doubled the recipe. Good thing, because even doubling I was hard pressed to evenly spread the batter (thick and sticky…and good) across a small-for-an 8 X 8 baking pan. I used every ounce of that batter, too except for part I couldn’t help licking.

I baked on the longer side because the intention was that they’d handle being wrapped and bounced a little on Dave’s run. They turned out tasting  (and this will be a turnoff for some, but to me it’s only positive) healthfully fudgy. Snack or long run fuel, these aren’t lean on calories, but they’re made with some good stuff. Wholesome burst of chocolatey energy. Mmm.

Vegan hemp protein brownies/trail fuel
Makes approx 9 brownies

  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 1/2 cup hemp protein powder
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 bananas, mashed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4  to 1/3 cup chocolate chips

Blend all ingredients in a food processor or mix well in a bowl. Bake in an 8 X 8 baking pan (or smaller, for thicker brownies) at 375 for 15-20 minutes.

 

Paleo coconut date cookies/energy bars

This week I baked two batches of cookies: one, a healthier-than-average chocolate chip cookie I loved. This is the other batch. It could possibly be appropriate to label “cookie” with quotes.

Don’t balk, though. I like the cookie. Really like it. A lot. It’s clean, it’s paleo, and it tastes just like what it’s made of, a pleasing meld of dates, coconut and banana. It makes for a great after-school snack, and I’m certain will make a super swap for an energy bar on the trails.

I used this recipe from Weelicious, and tweaked just slightly. Instead of using straight sesame seeds, I combined chia seeds, flax seeds, and sesame seeds. The result was that delicious, crunchy-chewy combination so many cookies delight in.

These are a healthy cookie, and as such they do taste like they’re healthy…but seriously in a seriously good way. But even if you’re not specifically seeking ‘healthy’, these breakfast/snack/trail fuel/bike fuel cookie bites may very well take you by surprise regardless.

Next time I make these, I will do one thing I will do differently. I’m going to double the recipe (to the quantities below), at least. I was skeptical to begin with that 5 dates could generously spread to 20 cookies, even with the magnanimous assistance of one banana. And they didn’t. I got  a mere 9 grown-up/”big kid” sized cookies. So unless you’re baking for Lilliputions,the updated amounts will probably work for you, too. Chances you’ll regret it are slim, promise.

Paleo coconut date cookies

Makes 18-20 cookies

Slightly adapted from Weelicious

  • 2 bananas, chopped
  • 10 medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 2 tablespoons flax seeds

*Or, try any combination for about 1/3 to 1/2 cup worth of chia, flax, and sesame seeds. Ground nuts would work great, too!

1. Preheat oven to 275° F.
2. Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until smooth.
3. Using a tablespoon measure, form the dough into balls and then press down to form cookies.
4. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until golden and serve.

 

Chia Trial #3: Chia vanilla pudding (dairy free)

I was so prepared to dislike this recipe. More than dislike. Loathe, really, or despise even. I was pretty sure, in fact, I was going to use the word “hate”. It’s a wonder my premature antipathy wasn’t self-fulfilling prophesy, in the end. But that would be ridiculous, over something as pedestrian as pudding.

Even chia pudding…boasting the power of once ubiquitous Chia Pet fame turned “It” fuel chia seeds, rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, and containing healthy doses of  fiber, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, niacin, molybdenum and zinc.

It turns out, happily, I didn’t hate the pudding. I won’t pretend I loved it.  But I liked it. I was pleasantly surprised. Perhaps I might have loved it, had I followed Martha’s directions properly. Instead, I went cheap, swapping almonds for cashews, coconut oil for butter, and extra vanilla extract for the vanilla pod.

As I prepared it, this chia pudding isn’t what you’d call dessert, but it could be breakfast, sweetened by a handful of dates, or a nice power snack. It’s got a texture and taste that’s slightly nutty (from the nuts), and also a bit bubbly, like tapioca. The dates and vanilla lend a pleasing, mild sweetness that isn’t overdone, but if you wanted a bit more indulgence, a drizzle of maple syrup, as suggested by Martha’s original recipe, would be nice, too. We served with blueberries, but the fruitful possibilities abound. 😉

Being so dubious from the onset, I took the original recipe, altered and halved it, and that was plenty. Although if you do stick to the Martha plan, maybe you’ll want more indeed. Who knows, I may find out. I’m not head over heels, but I do think that I will make this again.

Chia Vanilla Pudding adapted from this recipe from Martha Stewart

Serves 4

  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1/2  cup almonds, soaked in water for 2 hours to overnight
  • 2 cups water
  • 3-4  dates, pitted
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • berries or sliced fruit to serve, as topping (about 1 cup)
  • Optional: maple syrup, for drizzling
  1. Set chia seeds aside in a medium mixing bowl.
  2. Drain and rinse almonds. Add almonds, water, dates, cinnamon, coconut oil,  and vanilla extract to a blender or food processor. Process until well mixed, about two minutes, and pour into bowl with chia seeds; whisk well. Let mixture stand for 10 to 15 minutes, whisking every few minutes to prevent chia seeds from clumping (pudding will thicken quickly). Refrigerate until cold, about 3 hours.
  3. Whisk pudding and divide into four bowls. Top with berries, and drizzle with maple syrup if desired.

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