Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Drug-Dealers & Hawaiian Weddings

A few years ago I was on a business trip to Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. A colleague of mine was also a runner. We had some spare time and we both wanted to go for a run. The problem was that he really wanted to go outside and I really wanted to use one of the hotel's treadmills. He thought I was nuts and teased me a little. So he went out alone and I watched something, probably a Mexican soap opera, on TV while I ran on the treadmill. But I enjoyed it nonetheless.

For one thing, even though it is much worse now, Ciudad Juárez was not the safest place in the world to be an unarmed blond guy (I guess I do feel a little guilty for letting him go out alone). For another, I really don't mind a treadmill. For yet another, I'm not a very social runner. I'm always worried that I'm holding them back and it's usually too much of a hassle to arrange times with others.

There seems to be a prevailing thought in the world of running that we're all supposed to love going out in packs and loathe those terrible weather days that force us into the basement on the 'mill.

I say live and let live! I have other interests in life besides running. Among other things I love reading and watching a little TV. One of the ways that I can fit running into what I feel is a well rounded life is by combining some of my interests. When I'm on the treadmill, I can also watch TV. When there's good running weather I get to listen to audio books while I run outside. (It's hard to chat with a running buddy while concentrating on the latest Grisham.)

The moral of this story is to run whichever way gives you the most pleasure and fits the best into your life circumstance. That, and don't get kidnapped by drug-dealers.


I'm not sure how authentically Hawaiian this cake is since I first had it in Michigan (not exactly a hotbed of Hawaiian culture), or what it has to do with weddings, but it sure is tasty.

Hawaiian Wedding Cake

1 cup margarine
2 cup sugar
5 eggs
2 tsp baking powder
1 lb graham cracker crumbs
1 (#2) can crushed pineapple, drained
6 oz (½ bag) coconut
1 cup milk
1 cup walnuts (optional)

Cream the butter & sugar, add eggs and baking powder. Mix together. Slowly add milk and the rest of the ingredients. Pour into a 9x13 pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 40-50 minutes. Frost with cream cheese frosting.

Friday, November 26, 2010

PRs (Personal Record & Pumpkin Roll)

The traditional thing for runners to do on Thanksgiving morning is to do a turkey trot. Detroit has a really nice one that I've never done. I had looked into it this year but missed the sign up deadline.

So I decided to have my own little turkey trot and since it was raining outside I decided to do it on my treadmill in the basement. (Okay, I realize that it is sounding less and less like a turkey trot. Oh well.) I had been thinking of doing a 10K in the real race so that's what I decided to on the treadmill.

While I was at it, I decided to go for a personal record. I've only run two 10Ks before, but I've done 6 miles or more dozens of times while training for other things. My previous PR was about 54 minutes (I forgot the seconds). Yesterday I set the speed at 7 miles an hour and went after it. I was watching Man v. Food of course.

I was doing fine until mile 4. I seriously considered stopping at 5 miles but kept trucking along. I was nearly dead by the time it hit 6.2 miles. It wasn't pretty, but I set a new PR by about a minute.

I stumbled around the basement a few times in a feeble attempt at a cool down. The recovery shake helped and then there was the ice bath. I don't know if it helped, but it was cold.

I walked a little gingerly the rest of the day but felt good knowing that I had preemptively countered a small portion of the calories that ate later in the day. A very small portion.


In honor of Thanksgiving, I am posting one of my favorite pumpkin recipes. It tastes great and looks cool.

Pumpkin Roll

3 eggs
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup pumpkin
1 tsp lemon juice
¾ cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
½ tsp nutmeg

1 cup powdered sugar
8 oz cream cheese at room temperature
4 Tbs butter
½ tsp vanilla

Beat eggs for 5 minutes. Add sugar. Stir in pumpkin and lemon juice and set aside. In separate bowl, stir together dry cake ingredients. Mix wet and dry ingredients and spread into greased and heavily floured 11X16 baking pan (1/2 flat baking sheet. Make sure it has sides. Tip: lay wax paper in bottom). Top with 1 cup walnuts (optional). Bake at 370 degrees for 15 minutes. Put lots of powdered sugar on a clean towel. Take cake from oven and immediately turn on to towel. Roll up and let cool for one hour.

Combine filling ingredients and beat until smooth. Unroll cake and spread filling evenly over top. Roll up and let chill for several hours. Cut into ¾ - 1 inch slices.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Smell of Success & Molasses Cookies

I've made my decision. I'm going to play it safe and run the half marathon at the Martian Marathon in April. (I began this train of thought in the posting titled "Irony & Lemon Blossoms".)

I've completed 2 full marathons and neither went very well. I followed my training plans religiously but when it came to the actual races, everything seemed to fall apart. I went out way too fast for both, but especially the first, and later bonked early and hard. The second was on a very warm day for a marathon and I didn't slow down to compensate. In the end I finished both races more than a half hour behind my goal. I'll admit I was dicouraged and a big part of me wants to try again to redeem myself.

There are a few considerations though:
  • Time. More specifically, my lack of it and anyone that has trained for a marathon can attest to the fact that it takes a lot of time. Most of the Saturday long runs are hours long and it seems to eat up most of the day, not to mention the many days that I got out of bed at 4 am or earlier to run.

  • Physiology. I'm a big guy. I'm 6'2" and at the top end of the healthy BMI. At the peak of marathon training my body gets really broken down from that much pounding. What's really weird is that my body starts to rebel and I gain some weight even though I'm running 35+ a week.

  • Need to feel successful. While training for my second marathon, I discovered that the Martian Half Marathon fit perfectly into my training plan. I signed up and just viewed it as a fun workout. I had a soft goal in mind of 2 hours. I didn't want to kill myself and ruin the upcoming full marathon. I went out and felt good. I ended up finishing in 1:54 including a potty break. It felt really good to surpass my goal. (In fact, I finished so early that my family hadn't yet arrived to see me finish.)

I'm sure all you Tony Robbins types out there are saying, "Cameron, you shouldn't lower your goals to meet your ability. You should shoot for the moon..." Blah, blah, blah. I've already proven to myself that I can finish a marathon. For now I want to see how good I can do at a distance that better fits my current circumstance in life. So take that, Tony.


I know some of you bravely endure my ramblings about running in order to get to the good stuff; dessert. These cookies are more spiced than many molasses cookies, something I really enjoy. They are perfect with a nice glass of ice cold milk.

Soft Molasses Cookies

¾ cup shortening
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
½ cup molasses
2 ½ cups flour
½ tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp nutmeg

Cream together shortening and brown sugar. Stir in egg and molasses and mix well. Fold in dry ingredients and stir. Cover and chill until firm (1-2 hours). Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough into small balls and roll in white sugar. Place on lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake for 9-10 minutes. Leave on sheet for minute to set.

Recipe by Jan Badovinac

Photo by sheenbean

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Don't Call Them Monkey Nuts

When I was a missionary in south Texas there was a nice little retired couple that would often invite us over for meals. They probably felt sorry for us, and I don't blame them. My meals at our apartment usually consisted of peanut butter and jelly tortillas.

The nice woman made many wonderful things, but one of them stands out. She called them "Monkey Nuts". My fellow missionary and I would always snigger whenever she said it because we were still technically teenagers, and teenagers are supposed to snigger at things like that.

I guess the "Nuts" part of the name came from the pecans. I later found out that the rest of the world calls it "Monkey Bread", but that's not quite as snigger-worthy. To this day it is one of my favorite desserts.


Monkey Bread

• About 30 oz refrigerated tubed biscuit dough
• 1 cup white sugar
• 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
• 1/2 cup margarine
• 1 cup packed brown sugar
• 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
• 1/2 cup raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease one 9 or 10 inch Bundt pan.
Mix white sugar and cinnamon in a plastic bag. Cut biscuits into quarters. Shake 6 to 8 biscuit pieces in the sugar cinnamon mix. (Or you can just mix the cinammon-sugar in a bowl and roll the dough in it until completely coated.) Arrange pieces in the bottom of the prepared pan. Continue until all biscuits are coated and placed in pan. If using nuts and raisins, arrange them in and among the biscuit pieces as you go along.

In a small saucepan, melt the margarine with the brown sugar over medium heat. Boil for 1 minute. Pour over the biscuits.

Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 30 minutes. Let bread cool in pan for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a plate. Do not cut! The bread just pulls apart.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Strollers and Liquid Gold

Yesterday was jam packed and I had a hard time figuring out when I was going to cram in my run. In the end the only time available was while my wife was away and I was watching the three kiddies. I could run on the treadmill, but it seemed like such a waste of a beautiful fall day.

So I bundled up the kids and loaded the two youngest in the double stroller. I made my eldest daughter hop on her bike and away we went.

Whenever I try something like this with the kids I keep my expectations very low. For some reason they have the tendency to go into cosmic meltdowns whenever I have the audacity to hope they'll just chill out for any period of time.

I thoroughly expected the outing to turn into a nightmare but it actually went well. My oldest on the bike didn't complain too much and the two in the stroller stayed put for the most part.

One small portion of the run took us through a bustling shopping center. The stroller kids started waving to the cars as they passed and even if the people didn't wave back they at least smiled. It was pretty cute.

All in all. it was a good run. I'd prefer to run without pushing a stroller, but sometimes you just do what you can. Maybe it's time to have a higher hopes for my kids, or maybe waiting until they're in their thirties would be safer.


This time of year I always feel like having long, filling breakfasts, then I make a note to run extra the next day. There's a restaurant we used to go to all of the time before we moved that had the best syrup to go with all-you-can-eat french toast. It's not maple syrup. It's a golden concoction of buttery, creamy and sweet goodness. Most of the time I wished they'd skip the french toast and just let me drink the syrup.

Buttermilk Syrup

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 T corn syrup
1 cube butter or margarine
1/2 tea vanilla
1/2 tea baking soda

1. Boil sugar, buttermilk, corn syrup, and butter for 3 minutes in medium saucepan.
2. Let the mixture simmer for another 3 minutes.
3. Remove from heat and mix in vanilla.
4. Stir in baking soda.
5. Serve over french toast, waffles or pancakes.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Irony & Lemon Blossoms

In an uncommon moment of thought I realized that I often eat junk food while watching The Biggest Loser and work out while watching Man vs. Food. Kind of ironic.

So, while watching Man vs. Food last night I ran 4 miles on the treadmill. We've had a lot of company lately so my workouts have been very sporadic. I have my eyes on the Martian Marathon in early April. It's a fun local race that I've done the last couple of years. My only problem is deciding between a half marathon or a full.

After finishing my second marathon in May in near dead condition I vowed I'd stick to half marathons. I reasoned that I just have too much mass to run that far without doing damage.

However, the last few weeks I've started considering it again. I think it's generally the same phenomenon that happens to women after giving birth to a child. After seeing my wife give birth to our first child naturally I'll never understand how she brought herself to have another. It's like we get amnesia after doing something that is supremely unpleasant but ultimately good for us.

I'll let you know what I decide. I just hope I don't end up deciding to have another kid.


I'm back on the treadmill because Detroit is awful... in the winter. Today's recipe is like eating a little bite of sunshine. Somehow I always end up eating 15 bites of sunshine before my wife manages to pull me away from the plate.

Lemon Blossoms

18 1/2-ounce package yellow cake mix
3 1/2-ounce package instant lemon pudding mix
4 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray miniature muffin tins with vegetable oil cooking spray. Combine the cake mix, pudding mix, eggs and oil and blend well with an electric mixer until smooth, about 2 minutes. Pour a small amount of batter, filling each muffin tin half way. Bake for 12 minutes. Turn out onto a tea towel.

4 cups confectioners' sugar
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 lemon, zested
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons water

To make the glaze, sift the sugar into a mixing bowl. Add the lemon juice, zest, oil, and 3 tablespoons water. Mix with a spoon until smooth.

With fingers, dip the cupcakes into the glaze while they're still warm, covering as much of the cake as possible, or spoon the glaze over the warm cupcakes, turning them to completely coat. Place on wire racks with waxed paper underneath to catch any drips. Let the glaze set thoroughly, about 1 hour, before storing in containers with tight-fitting lids.

From Paula Dean

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Squishy Shoes and Candied Nuts

I had a lot of fun last night running with my wife and a couple of friends of ours. We did a local 8K to see the lighting of a community holiday lights display… while pushing 6 kids in 4 strollers… in near freezing temperatures… in the pouring rain.

By the time we were done we were all soaked to the bone. With every step came the squish, squish noise of saturated footwear. My fingers had turned into deathly pale raisins inside of the gloves. Surprisingly, there was very little complaining from the kids. I think a combination of hand warmers, glow sticks and the promise of post-race goodies kept them (slightly) above the meltdown threshold.


As I tried to connect this with some sort of sugary concoction for purposes of this blog I started thinking about a couple of times in grad school when I sat through football games in absolutely miserable weather, in many cases long after the result of the game was no longer in question (because I refuse to be one of those pansies that leaves early).

I'm still trying to decide which I liked more, watching the game (even in the rain) or smelling the cinnamon almonds. Turns out they are super easy to make yourself, and much cheaper.

Candied Almonds


½ cup water
1 cup white sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg (optional)
¼ tsp ground ginger (optional)
2 cups whole roasted, but not salted, almonds (other types of nuts or cuts such sliced or slivered will work)


Combine the water, sugar, and spices in a saucepan over medium heat; bring to a boil; add the almonds. Cook and stir the mixture until the liquid evaporates and leaves a syrup-like coating on the almonds. Pour the almonds onto a baking sheet lined with waxed paper. Separate almonds using forks. Allow to cool about 15 minutes.

These are great for a snack by themselves or as a topping for ice cream or salads, especially when using sliced almonds. Spices can be omitted, or changed based upon your preferences. If I'm going to use them on salads I reduce the amount of spices by about half.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Chocolates from the Sky, Literally (Including Recipe for Almond Joys)

Well, yesterday I had a fantastic time with my sisters completing the Veterans Half Marathon in Columbia City, IN. It was great to take it easy and just enjoy the time together since we all had complications with our training that stopped us from going all out.

So I bet you are wondering what that has to do with chocolates falling from the sky. Well, I’ll tell you. Last night, to reward ourselves for the run we decided to make homemade Almond Joys. When we were done we couldn’t find room in the fridge so we put them on top of the van in the cool garage to have them set. (Some of you may already see where this is going.)

Early this morning I got up to take my mom to the airport. When I got home my wife asked me where I had put the chocolates. I said I didn’t know anything about them. A minute later she asked again, “No, really, where did you put the chocolates that were on top of the car?” I told her, “I’m serious, I don’t know anything about them”.

I quickly got into the van and retraced the route to the airport looking for a tray full of chocolates scattered over the interstate, with no luck. After church we gave it one more shot. (Okay, if you know my wife you’ll know that she gets a little obsessed when she loses something, but in addition to the chocolates and the pan, we had used our new silicone baking mat.)

There, rolled up on the side of the freeway entrance was our baking mat and a bit further on were a dozen or so Almond Joys mixed with the roadside debris. The pan was nowhere to be found. It must of taken off like a kite when I began to pick up speed.

I can just imagine some poor unsuspecting motorist, minding their own business early on a Sunday morning, suddenly getting pelted with Almond Joys. That'd wake you up!

Almond Joys:

5 oz. sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
1 ¾ cups powdered sugar (not packed)
14 ounces shredded coconut (can use flaked as well)
¾ cup roasted slivered almonds
Almonds to top chocolates- slivered or whole
Chocolate for dipping
¼ cup milk

Blend the condensed milk and vanilla. Add the powdered sugar a little at a time, stirring until smooth. Stir in the coconut and almonds. Mixture should be firm. When you stop mixing, you see some slight settling but it should not be too sticky or runny. Add a little milk if needed to get it to the right consistency. Pat the mixture in a greased 9x13 pan and chill until firm. Cut into 1x2 inch bars to dip. OR roll chilled mixture into walnut sized balls and then chill (chilling before making balls makes it less sticky to hands.) A cookie scoop is helpful for getting uniform ball sizes. Chill again if necessary, the colder, the better. Use a double boiler to melt chocolate. Dip chilled bars or balls. Top with almonds. Chill on wax paper. Recipe makes 25 balls with medium scoop.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Freak Bowling Accident

The setting: mid-August, just 5 weeks before the Run Woodstock trail half-marathon. A man, his pretty wife and three cute kids walk into a 70s era bowling alley (somehow, all bowling alleys are 70s era).

Important fact: the man is a horrible bowler.

The man miraculously begins the game with a turkey, then the law of averages kicks in. The game is no longer going well. He stands with the bowling ball poised for action. He visualizes the perfect throw, begins his approach, takes a deep breath and swings the ball back. Then, disaster… and pain. Somehow his knee managed to insert itself into the forward trajectory of the ball.

The ball gives a hearty chuckle as it rolls down the gutter.

The man stifles walrus-like moans of pain while his wife ponders whether or not what just happened is physically possible unless the swing had actually been aimed at the snack bar. He shakes it off. His knee is tender to the touch and occasionally sends a shot of pain, probably to remind him of the extent of his suckiness. Game over. The mostly happy family exits the building.

Two days later he goes for a long training run. The side of his knee starts aching, then hurts in earnest at around mile seven. He toughs it out, because he's way too manly to give in to something so trivial.

Diagnosis: IT Band Syndrome (irritation leading to inflammation of the iliotibial band, a tendon that runs on the side of the leg from the hip to just below the knee)

Recommended treatment: A little bit of this, a little bit of that. Mostly rest, ice, ibuprofen. Maybe an occasional visit to a local voodoo practitioner. Nothing works. The man is frustrated. Weeks pass, and so does Run Woodstock, with no improvement. Every time he runs his knee starts hurting after a mile and a half. It doesn't hurt him except when he runs, which on the one hand is better than being in constant pain, but on the other, serves to repeatedly trick him into getting his hopes up until they come crashing down as the pain mounts during the same stretch of Snow St.

He's come to his wits end and contemplates the uncontemplateable; going to see the doctor. He knows that the doctor is going to tell him to stop running, and he can tell himself that without having to pay a deductible, and that would mean missing the next race, the Veterans Half Marathon. He returns to the internet to dig deeper, like Columbo with broadband. There, tucked into some of the shadier running injury sites are claims that some people find relief of IT Band Syndrome with a certain type of knee brace. He immediately orders one, tentatively tries it out and, to the sweet music imagined choirs of angels, feels no pain.

He's back in the game, baby.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Toffee Scones

These scones have been a real hit every time that I have made them. Scones are a lot like cookies, but more fluffy in texture and normally less sweet. They are perfect with hot chocolate.

Toffee Scones

Makes 8 big scones or 16 little scones . Preheat oven to 400°.

• 3 C. Flour
• 1/3 C. Sugar
• 2 1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
• 3/4 tsp. Salt
• 1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
• 1 C. Chilled Butter in tablespoon-sized chunks
• 1 C. Chilled Sour Cream
• 1/2 C. Toffee Chips

• Glaze (preferred): Mix 2 cups powdered sugar with ¼ cup milk (after baking)
• Sugar Crust: small amount of milk and sugar (before baking)

Combine all of the dry ingredients in a mixer or food processor and mix until combined. With the machine running, add the chunks of butter until mealy. Add all of the sour cream and mix but do not over mix. Remove from machine and place on floured surface. Knead in toffee chips using dustings flour to moderate the stickiness. Divide in two equal balls of dough make discs of each about 1 inch thick. Cut into 8 small wedges each for a total of 16 (or one big disc cut into 8 big pieces). If using Sugar Crust topping: brush the wedges with milk and sprinkle with sugar before baking - use plenty of sugar, it makes a wonderful crust on top.

Put foil on a cookie sheet and spray coat it, spread out the wedges (about 8 small ones to a cookie sheet). Bake until lightly golden on top about 12-15 minutes. If using glaze topping: Using a pastry brush, coat top and sides of scones. Repeat until desired amount of glaze is achieved (2 coats recommended). Let sit until glaze is dry.

TIP: These freeze really well. Follow the recipe up to the point where you would bake them and pop them in the freezer instead. After they are frozen put them in a freezer bag. When you are ready to bake them, put them in the oven frozen - increase the cooking time by a few minutes.

Adapted from Steever House Bed & Breakfast

In the beginning...

In the beginning there was food, and then there was sugar, and food became totally awesome. And then people got fat.

I was one of those people. I have always struggled with my weight, mostly because I love eating. I like all good food, but especially sweets. In the years before getting married I had worked (and I mean WORKED) my weight down to the very top end of the normal range of the BMI (we'll save the discussion about the accuracy of the BMI index for another day. Is it okay to refer to myself as 'we'?) but then as happens in most marriages I put on some weight. About 50 pounds to be exact.

There were a couple of diets that took off 40 pounds before it came back on. Then about 3 years ago I found a diet system that worked for me and came to love running. I ran a half-marathon and followed that with 2 full marathons in the last year.

With the running and moderate eating I have found that I can still eat good food and keep shedding the pounds. So far I have lost 55 pounds and have kept it off.

This blog will chronicle my running and provide some of my most loved recipes, usually on the sweet side.