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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Carrot Cake Cupcakes with a Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

If you read the blog, you know that I love to cook. 
 I post a few different recipes, but not a whole not of baking.  
Well... that is because I am a terrible baker.  
Precision and accuracy has never been my strong point.  

I forget to read through the directions, 
I don't have the right tools or ingredients, 
or I don't measure accurately enough.  
Lots of room to go wrong, and it usually does.

Well, you know what they say, 
Practice Makes Perfect
So Practice I Shall...

It was a friends birthday over the weekend, a 50th surprise party to be exact.  
I wanted something that screamed fall, and did some fall dessert research.  
I stumbled upon Smitten Kitchen blog and her recipe. 

I went with a Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting. 

Cakes are hard to cut and messy so I decided to go with the cupcake form. 
I wanted to do everything by scratch, shred my own carrots, 
make my own frosting... the whole nine yards. 

I called over my friend Stacie for some baking assistance 
and we produced these beauties.

Baking SUCCESS
See my beautiful little cakes below :)



The cakes came out SO moist.  
I used the walnuts but no raisins (where do they hide raisins in the grocery store?)

I used some Halloween sprinkles (bats and pumpkins) to top off my cakes and made my own caramel candies to top the cupcakes.  

My only complaint was I used light maple syrup instead of the real kind.  Make sure you use the real syrup for your frosting!  

ENJOY!

Smitten Kitchen 

Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes 24 cupcakes 

(or one two-layer cake, instructions at end)

2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups canola oil
4 large eggs
3 cups grated peeled carrots
1 cups coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)
1/2 cup raisins (optional)


Preheat oven to 350°F.

Line 24 cupcake molds with papers, or butter and flour them.

Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in medium

 bowl to blend. Whisk sugar and oil in large bowl until well blended. Whisk 

in eggs 1 at a time. Add flour mixture and stir until blended. Stir in 

carrots, walnuts and raisins, if using them. Divide batter among cupcake 

molds, filling 3/4 of each.


Bake cupcakes 14 to 18 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center 

of one comes out clean. Let cool in pans for five minutes or so, then transfer 

cakes to a cooling rack. Let cool completely before icing them.


To make a carrot layer cake: 

Butter two 9-inch-diameter cake pans instead 

of cupcake molds. Line bottom of pans with parchment paper. Butter 

and flour paper; tap out excess flour. Divide the batter between the 

prepared pans, and bake the layers for about 40 minutes each, or until a 

tester inserted into center comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans 15 minutes.

Turn out onto racks. Peel off paper; cool cakes completely.



Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Two (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup


In a stand mixer beat all the ingredients on medium until fluffy. Chill the

 frosting for 10 to 20 minutes, until it has set up enough to spread 

smoothly.

The spazzy star decorations were created by putting the maple cream 

cheese frosting into a piping bag fitted with a large star tip and dolloping 

away. An extra layer of dollops were piped nearer to the center, to create a

domed effect.

To assemble a carrot layer cake, frost the top of one cake, place the other

 cake on top. Frost the sides and top, swirling decoratively. Refrigerate the 

cake for 30 minutes to set up frosting.


For the layer cake scenario, you will probably have a bit of leftover 

frosting, which you can tint and use for decorating, or save to smear on 

gingersnaps. What, you don’t do that too?


Monday, October 28, 2013

Marine Corps Marathon: Spectator Review by Liz B.

Hello everyone!  
Sorry it's been a bit.. busy week working in the field has not left much time for blogging.  This was a fun weekend for the running world though!  I ran the "Run of the Dead" Zombie 5k (details later) while my good friend Liz watched her uncle run the Marine Corps Marathon in DC. 

I was really excited when she wanted to write a guest post for the blog about the marathon this weekend.  Liz is one of my best freinds and fellow runners and blogs over at Holbrook Ceramics.
Take it away, Liz! 



      mcm-2012-logo.jpg

This past weekend over 30,000 runners participated in the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington DC. I was incredibly lucky to cheer on my uncle and cousin who were running it for their first time and friend for her third.


My uncle was a Marine so when he decided he was going to run a marathon, he didn't think twice about which race to run. 
He called up his son Rick to run it with him and the training began. 





If you're looking for a marathon to train for, I've heard this is a must run. Rick who ran the Philadelphia marathon a few years ago was astonished with the amount of support. "Literally every inch of the race is lined with people cheering - it was awesome!" 


When I asked him about the hill at the end that the Marines are notorious for finishing races and training with, he responded, "Hah! That was the easiest part. The finish was in site!"



When I asked my friend Mel if she was ready to run the race for the 3rd year in a row she said, "Nope. But when you see how many people are running for people who can't because they are deployed or have passed serving our country or when you're running next to a Marine in full combat gear, it's so motivating!  You can't quit then!"


                           (Credit Marine Corps Marathon Facebook Page)


If you're just looking for an excuse to visit DC, come during race weekend. Sure you're months past the Cherry Blossoms and sure the museums are a bit over crowded from the influx of visitors but this is a very special time for the city. 

Everyone is supporting. 
No one is protesting. 
Everyone is cheering. 
Everyone is in this together:
 Republicans, democrats, tea party supporters, 
independents alike all running together and cheering each other on to reach the finish line. 

(When else will you ever see that in DC). 
I've never seen so many service men and women and American flags in one race before.
 It's really incredible. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Night stand makeover


Good Morning! 
I hope everyone had a great weekend!  
I did some hiking, diving, and relaxing with my pup.  

No running this weekend but I am aiming to make up for it this week.  I can't wait to share all of my great pictures about the weekend.  Until I get all of those pictures uploaded, let me share with you my latest DIY project!



Once upon a time there lived an ugly nightstand.  I mean, not the ugliest night stand you ever saw, but just the most boring plane jane wooden night stand you ever saw.  It was sitting in Goodwill, all lonely and ugly, until it gravitated to my car, made its way to Essex, lived next to my bed for two years, gravitated to Chester, and lived next to my couch for five months.



Yep- typical Katie DIY prospect.  Buy ugly piece, look at it for a few years until you can''t stand it and then go on a rampage and redo all of the furniture in your apartment. Well after my Chevron End Table nightmare/success, I decided to keep up the good work while I still had my supplies out.  I decided I didn't want to buy more paint to stick with my grey and white theme.

Two coats of primer, three coats of paint - Same drill as the laminate end tables from hell.  Except this was real wood (except for the backing) and cooperated easily.

I eventually got them to their stark white boring state.




I saw LiveLoveDIY's table makeover and let it inspire me.  
How To Paint & Stencil Furniture: Great tutorial!



So I went on over to Michaels, which ended up being AC Moore (same difference)  and bought a stencil- Why are they so damn expensive.  The one big stencil I liked was $20, while Martha had a set of 6 smaller stencils for $15.   I went with the 6 for $15 figuring I could reuse them.  I however did not buy the spray adhesive for the stencil because I   a.  think I am invinceable and b.  am cheap.  That stuff was like 6 bucks.





I should have stopped being stupid and cheap bevause it was impossible to keep the stencil on the table and get clean neat lines.  It was smudgey and I hated it. I half finished it.  Stopped, Looked at it.  Stopped.  Finished it.  Let it dry.  And went to sand it off.

But then, I reallllly liked the sanded worn effect.



Fail turned to a success. 
See-  laziness pays off sometimes 




Ta Da!   Turned out so pretty.  

Let me share a little trick I found out after I finished this piece.  After a TON of layers or primer and paint, the drawer was really sticky and I had a really hard time opening and closing it.  I did a little research and found the simplest fix.  I took a bar of soap and rubbed it along the edges of the drawer and the track.   Stuck the drawer back in and it glides in and out like butter.  

Really great tip to know! 




Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Wednesday



I started the day off right with one packet of cinnamon roll oatmeal (so much YUM) and added in three strawberries and a half a banana.  I enjoyed this while watching the morning news in front of the tellie, a new tradition.
I was too lazy to set the coffee maker so I opted for a caramel coffee from the Kuerig (sp?)  at work.  



For lunch I had a shrimpy cesar salad with a slice of leftover home made shrimp pizza.  There is something about a caear salad that is so simple and delicious.  I used Kens Light options Caesar dressing for a total of 80 cals per serving.  I added in a dash of Parmesan cheese, a few croutons and about 10 shrimp that I had cooked Monday night.  Great and satisfying lunch.  

I also have a APPLE CIDER DONUT for later.  
Pop him in the oven for a little bit until its warm and fragrant and it is like fall in your mouth.  These aren't a fancy brand, 
BIG Y brand to be exact, but oh boy are they delicious.  



I had one last night after dinner when the oven was still warm from cooking.  Last nights dinner was a slice of Spinach Quiche and a side Caesar salad.  I stuck the donuts in the oven after it was turned off and was in apple cinnamon heaven after dinner.  


Well that's my Wednesday in the Foodie world.  But let's stop talking about donuts because I may start drooling on my keyboard. 

 If you follow along you know that it's SCUBA WEDNESDAY.  

Well, It is officially too cold for Scuba Wednesday.
Sure the water is still warm, and it isn't too sucky for the first 20 minutes under water.  But running out of the water in a wet suit, trying to change with the cold October wind whipping, just isn't fun anymore. 

All of my friends have a dry suit which keeps them completely dry under their suit- so you can basically dive in your warm fleecy pajamas.  The only thing that gets wet is your head.  You still experience that cold brain freeze wet hair effect, but much better than the whole body freezing effect. 

Sure I too could have a dry suit, for about 2g.  
Unless I win the lotto, that just isn't going to happen. 

Instead of diving on my Wednesday afternoon, 
I am going to go for a run after work and finish clipping the beast.  
I am hoping to do a longer run today because hey... why not!  
By longer I mean between 5-10 miles.
Don't get too pumped for me. 


                      

As for clipping the best, basically I am shaving my horse.  Normal practice here in New England.  Horses get insanely furry winter coats.  These winter coats trap dirt hair and grime and give an overall naggish appearance to the handsome Bradley.  

Even more importantly, that thick heavy coat produces a hot sweaty beast when I try to ride and show him.  So off with the winter coat and on with the winter blankets.  I still have to finish his head, legs and belly.  
That shall be fun.  
Said no one ever. 


'
Okay - that's my Wednesday folks- 
a run, a horse, some shrimp and donuts.  
This Wednesday isn't looking so shabby after all .

Hope you all get out for a run today.  

Tell me all about it.
Low and slow?
Speed workout?
Hills?
Training for a race?




Tuesday, October 15, 2013

3 Miles and a Lucky Tuesday


Unfortunately it is pitch dark at 6:30 
when I have our Tuesday Thursday scheduled girls run.
 Until the clocks get changed, we are going to have to meet at another time of day.
Running at 6:30 in the dark while everyone is tired and on their way to work
does not sound safe to me.  

When I can't run in the morning I TRY to do it before lunch.

Today's lunch


Mixed greens with Gorgonzola  avocado, mushrooms, strawberries, walnuts, dressed with lite honey mustard, and a piece of shrimp pizza from last nights dinner (shrimp, mozzarella  roasted garlic, caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, mushrooms, spinach).

Here is the pizza from last nights dinner- 
 three slices of pizza and almost half of the wine-  

I really need to work on portion control-  

I got in three miles today during my lunch break and decided to do some Fartleks (Sprinting small distances and jogging in between- for me it was telephone poles).  

I felt really overdressed- I was freezing this morning (high 40s on the thermometer) so I threw on my capris and long sleeve tech shirt.  By 12 it had warmed up and I was HOT.  



It was a great little speed workout crammed into 26 minutes.  It felt pretty good which is exciting considering I ran 13.1 on Sunday.
I am hoping to do speed workouts Tuesday, hills Thursday, 
a slow run one day and a long run on the weekends.

If I say it out loud maybe I will hold myself to it.

I also got my Stridebox in so I am pumped to try everything and review it all.  
Looks like a good box-  

Now for the super fun news...

YAY!
  I won something!  I won my first item in the blog world and I am SO excited about it!  I won a 8x10 print of my choice from Love Life Prints - Click here to visit her shop!

I love to support Etsy shoppers so go take a look at her prints!  

I won this awesome Hot Air Balloon print in Pink and Grey
Hot Air Balloon- Tribal- Hand drawn art- pink, yellow, gray

It is going to look so cute framed up and hung on my wall-  would be adorable in a little girls room but I don't have one of those-  Maybe in the bedroom or the bathroom?

 I won this adorable print on Hanna's blog Bouffe e Bambini   Runner, mother to three little ones, blogger turned paleo check out her blog for it all!  

Can't wait to do a give away of my own soon!  
Everyone enjoy your Tuesday and hop on over to Hanna's blog. 

UHC Newport Half Marathon Recap - aka the race I signed up for the night before

Remember reading my Hogsback half marathon race review when I said it was my last race?

Well... I lied.   Just two weeks ago, I claimed
 "Bah Humbug training takes so much time, this is probably my last half". Silly me, those were the tired legs talking.   And I realized-  I like the race, its the training that kinda stinks.  Saturday I watched my uncle run his first marathon- the ING Hartford Marathon.  
You can't sit at the finish line for an hour and not be inspired by the amazing people crossing that finish line after 26.2 miles.   

Watching other people complete their goals really made me want to complete mine.
I want to run a marathon.
I will run a marathon.  

Just as I was walking back to my car after congratulating my uncle at the finish line, a text came through from from Chelsea and Vanessa, my friends running the Newport Half Marathon on Sunday.   Chelsea and Vanessa were both running their first half marathon.  
We had all trained together so I was planning on taking the day to go watch them cross the finish line.  Then I got a message about joining last minute. 

It was just over 12 hours before the race,  I had not been training for it (although I did run my half two weeks ago)  and I decided heck, why not- I had run Tuesday Thursday 3 miles, and Friday 5 mile run so I knew mentally I had been running and I was good to go.
I did a little bit of research on line to see what I was getting myself into.



When I saw the course I was officially SOLD. 
A 13 mile loop around Newport, along the coasts, pasts rocky cliffs, long stretches of beaches, and mansions.  

5am Sunday morning my alarm went off.  
This felt inhumane.  
I sucked it up, got dressed, and got in the car.  
I convinced Thatcher to come along and take pictures, bribing him with the ideas of Newport on a Sunday afternoon and a Brewfest.  I was very glad to have someone take pictures and hang out with Olive while I ran.  

The drive is about 1 hour and 45 minutes from my apartment in Chester.  We were on the road by 5:45 , hoping to get to the race by 7:15 to have time before the 8:00 am start.  

The drive along the coast of Rhode Island on the way to Newport is gorgeous.
The best part?  The bridges

                                    (4 dollar toll to get over this beautiful bridge, each way- crazy)

I had done my last minute research and read that timing, the start, and parking tends to be an issue.  The race starts on this long stretch of beach with NO parking.  That means you have to get to the race super early to park off site and take a shuttle to the race.  As you can imagine, this can be quite chaotic so I decided to have Thatcher drop me off at the start while he parked the car and walked to the start with the dog.  


During my research I also read that is is HIGHLY reccomended to use the bathroom before you get to the race as the lines can be long.  I took this advice and stopped at a rest area before the race to use the facilities.  Lovely picture of me running to the bathroom in my even lovelier boots/pre-race shoes.  


Of course this bathroom was not open yet so I just had to head to the race and stand in line like everyone else.  I had packed everything I needed in a bag the night before, but was feeling really rushed when I got to the start (we had just pulled over on the side to let me out).  
I frantically dug out the necessities (running shoes, sun glasses)  and decided I was going to leave my phone and music behind and really play cheerleader.   I had a frantic panicky few minutes when I could not find my anti chafe stick that I KNEW I had packed in the car.

If anyone has suffered chafing while running, you KNOW the sheer panic I was feeling.  
13.1 miles in shorts with chafing thighs... I CAN"T LET THIS HAPPEN!  


Thankfully after tearing through the car for 5 minutes, the stick was recovered and the world was a better place.  I quickly put on my sneakers and sent Thatcher to park the car while I headed to the start.



Once at the start I realized.  I forgot my Garmin.  No garmin, no phone, this really is a naked run.  
Because my entry was F R E E, I didn't have my Garmin, and I was there to support the girls, I decided I was going to run with them, stick with their pace, and be a cheerleader, not a racer.  

Vanessa and I headed to the start line (behind the row of what looked like hundreds of port o lets )  and waited for our third runner, Chelsea, who was running VERY late.  Biggest problem?  She had my number, the number of a girl who I had no idea who she was but I was running her paid non refundable race.  

Chelsea shows up at about 8:04, four minutes late.  But thankfully, the race was delayed about 15 minutes for unknown reasons (my guess is bathrooms and shuttles).  
The other issue? 
 She shows up with a white bib.  
The white bib is an entry into the FULL marathon.  
Oh lordy. 
Here I am running the half marathon on a full marathon number registered to someone else. 

I slapped on my number, waited for the gun, and off we went.  
The course started at this access way along a beautiful beach.  


The course had some good hills throughout, but I was amazed at how good I felt the entire race.  I don't know if it was the much slower pace than I am used to, or the fact that I didn't have my electronics or watch, that I was unplugged, but I felt great the entire race.  
The entire race I never even planned on running.
  
I chatted with the girls and the miles flew by.  At some point Chelsea went ahead and I stuck back with Vanessa to keep her company throughout the race.

My jaw kept dropping at how beautiful the course was.  We had to make a few stops along the way for water and gatorade, and of course, to pose for a few pictures.  Vanessa's boyfriends followed us around the course on his bicycle, taking any extra clothing and lots of pictures.  




It was amazing to watch the "sea" of runners, running along the windy beach roads.  A sea of neon by the sea if you will.   Just when you thought the views couldn't get any better, it did.

Beautiful sunny day, cool breeze by the water, cliffs, beaches, mansions, 
Newport is a beautiful place to run.  

I was really happy to see lots of supporters on the first half of the race, cheering on the marathoners and half marathoners.  Signs, cow bells, and cheering always helps the tired runners move along.



(Chelsea at the finish) 

Vanessa and I were running along fine when she started to be fatigued around mile 8.  We stopped for water, had a few stretch breaks and continued on.  Miles 10 11 and 12 were hard for her with some serious knee pain and shoulder pain. Luckily for her, the end of the race was the downhill version of the climb in the beginning.  I stuck with her through all of the stops, and we crossed the finish line together, 13.1 miles later. 






I like to ham it up for the camera.  




I was so excited to come around the corner and see my little Olive waiting for me.  I rounded the corner, called her name, and to say she freaked out was an understatement ;)

We caught up with some friends who were also running the race (Audrey and one of Vanessa's co workers)  and snapped a few photos. 









Vanessa's boyfriend and sister were there on bikes along the path, and her mom met us at the finish line.  Her mom brought a long this little mat to unfold and stretch in the parking lot-  GENIUS! 



I was so happy to finish another 13.1 and snuggle up with my pooch for some victory kisses.  



After the race, we walked back the 2 miles to the car, and headed for some food.  After getting stuck behind road detours in Westerly Rhode Island,  a very Hangry Katie finally made it to the Dogwatch Cafe in Stonington for a big ol pile of nachos.


A big ole pile of hard earned nachos.

Overall-  the race was beautiful and I was so happy to support the ladies.

Pros:   Beautiful course, lots of water and Gatorade stops, GU at a few stations- nice loop, challenging hills.

Cons:  Shuttle system,  parking, unorganized start (no one told us about the delay or why), oddly set up finish line (never found the finish line food if there was any).

If you are thinking of running this for your half, I highly recommend it because the course was beautiful and the hills were a nice challenge.  If you are thinking about running this as a full marathon.

Don't.

The second half of the course is a 13.1 mile out and back. You follow the same course as the half marathon course, and then have to pass their finish line and head out for an un-scenic boring out and back for another 13.1   There is hardly any one cheering the marathoners on at this point and they had to pass all of the half marathoners who had finished and were eating and heading to their car.  Sounded like torture to me!  I also heard the second half was a hilly challenging course.  

I am so excited to add a sixth half marathon to my "resume"  and really enjoyed my scenic run through Newport.  



The shins were feeling a little tired so I whipped out the ice packs-  Ice sure can't hurt.
I am hoping to stick with my long runs and keep this "10 mile base".
We shall see.
I know to never say never now ;)