This was supposed to be the post about the “perfect” apple pie. Instead, it will be the post about the the perfect day and the “very-almost-perfect” apple pie. It will be the post about being thankful, about digging deep, about finding out who you really are. This will be the post about the 2014 Philadelphia Marathon and the amazing gift of self-revelation.
When I was a kid, I was a jackrabbit. I loved running, jumping, racing, and I was damn good at it, too. Then my family moved and my new state had new requirements for phys ed: I was in third grade, and we had to run the mile. This eight-year-old had no idea what to do, so she went out the way she did for a 50-yard dash: fast. At the end, I finished with a pretty impressive time, but I paid for it when I puked on the side of the field after it was all said and done. That was my initiation into distance running, and I was no longer a fan. I slowed down in the following years and entered into each mile with resentment. It took me nearly 20 years before I finally rediscovered my love for running — when no one told me I had to do it. I just finally wanted to do it again.
Still, for years after I started running again I wasn’t a racer. I gave up when the going got tough. I hated it. I hated worrying about waking up early, getting to the start line. I hated the pressure I put on myself and the little devil on my shoulder who I knew would tell me to walk. But then I joined a running team. From my very first workout on the track, they believed in me. They believed in me before I did. Continue reading →
We are one week away from Thanksgiving and I am giving you…. gnocchi. I know, I know. You probably won’t be serving this to your family along with turkey and cranberries, but, well, actually, it’d probably be a nice change from the typical potato dish if you were so inclined. Plus, there are a week’s worth of dinners that still need to be made and eaten, and we can’t just eat failed pie every night. Okay, that’s debatable too.
But if you’ve been following this blog over the last couple of months you’ll know that I have my very first full marathon coming up in just three days, and it’s time now to go even heavier on the carbs than ever before. For a normal person, that is. And while I’m not sick of all my typical pasta dishes, I also want to throw in some vitamins. Despite the bad rep the lowly potato has earned, it’s chock full of them. I need some extra vitamin C right now after running in this polar vortex. Time to make some little potato dumplings.
We are less than nine days away from the Philadelphia Marathon start line, and along with the nightly marathon-based dreams (some of the nightmare variety) comes the depressive restlessness, the feeling of helplessness in the face of the marathon taper. We curtail our miles and our intensity in the last few weeks to rest and repair our micro-torn muscles, catch up on sleep, and get our twitchy legs itching to go on race day. It’s a necessary evil; evil only because the nerves that we baste with long tempo runs are dried out and frayed by the forced hiatus of intensity. When something stressful completely unrelated to running creeps into my comfort zone, I’m now thrown into disarray, reduced to tears by the tiniest infraction (like, say, a torn pie crust). When they say that running is a drug they’re really not joking.
Enter the candy monster. Or, more specifically, these chocolate pumpkin spice clusters. Truth be told, I spent a good many hours the other day/night working on what I hoped would be the perfect apple pie, and just couldn’t get myself to do it all over again the very next day when I realized it still needed modifications. Well, that, and there’s still one more slice of pie that needs to be eaten before I can use the pie plate again. That’s where simplicity comes into play. Continue reading →
When I lived in Paris my junior year of college, I probably ate a crêpe every other day, if not every single day. My fillings of choice were simple: Nutella and banana. It wasn’t breakfast, and it wasn’t dessert. Usually it was lunch. I would eat it as I walked from my favorite outdoor crêperie (off rue de Passy) back to class, or to the Métro, pieces of just-warmed banana falling onto the cobblestone street as I would hurry across a small intersection while taking a bite, hot Nutella oozing onto my fingertips. Along with the pains au chocolat and other delectable pastries, I definitely had a problem. But it’s a problem that, almost a decade and a half later, I still can’t seem to shake.
Exhibit A: this blog. See, I ran out of apple oatmeal cookies, so I had to make something new last night. Forget the fact that I have chocolate chip cookie dough in the freezer. I also had leftover pizza dough that needed to be used up before going bad. Aha, see, there’s another dirty little secret I haven’t yet let on. I make pizza. And bread. And calzones. We’ll get to the first two at some point, I promise. But first let’s hit the latter, and hit it hard. Forget savory dinnertime calzones (for now). We’re making Nutella-banana calzones. Which, according to my inner 20-year-old’s logic, would also make an excellent lunch. Continue reading →
When I sprint around the track during a speed workout, or towards the finish line of a race, I imagine that I look like Meb Keflezighi, or Deena Kastor, or Kara Goucher at their best in the long stretch of a marathon. Feet barely whipping the ground as they cycle behind me, propelling me forward in a controlled fall. In truth, even when I’m sprinting I probably look like the brave masses chugging along up the tortuously subtle hill of Fifth Avenue in the 23rd mile of the New York City Marathon, quads burning, feet shuffling. Or hopefully somewhere in between. When I set out to make cookies, too, I often imagine them to be spectacular, show-stopping. But sometimes the humble truth of the rest of the pack, the tens of thousands only gunning for personal victory in the form of a finish after 26.2 miles, is even more heart-warming, more inspiring. These apple oatmeal cookies are like that: kind of imperfect, they’re spectacular because they have heart.
When I decided to make these, I wanted them to taste like the tops of the oatmeal blueberry banana muffins: pops of sweet flavor set off by cinnamon, nuts, and salt. I’d made apple oatmeal cookies before, but only once or twice, always wanting to be impressed but never fully satisfied. There are so many oatmeal cookies out there that are just sweet. There’s nothing more to them, despite the teaspoons of cinnamon added. And here’s one thing we should discuss: removing sugar isn’t always the answer. Remember now that while sugar is usually your main sweetener, it also is an ingredient that helps set the consistency of your baked goods, just as eggs and flour and fats do. That’s not to say that absurd amounts of sugar in a cookie or cake shouldn’t be questioned. Often they should. But sometimes the answer is the other white, granulated item in the pantry: salt.