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RSBC Week 3: Squash That Chocolate Craving

I feel a little bit like I cheated on this week’s cooking challenge. It’s a silly thing, really, but I bought butternut squash that had already been peeled, seeded and chopped. Does that disqualify me? For some reason, I feel like the “honest” thing to do in the RSBC Challenge is took cook with the whole-est of whole ingredients. And this butternut squash was in pieces when I bought it. Forgive me, please.

As penance, I submit to you my offering for the week. Please do not confuse it with a health food, even if there is a shocking lack of butter. It is a cake. A butternut squash cake, rolled around a cushion of whipped chocolate ganache. It is both tasty and delicious. More so than I expected and I expect a lot from my baked goods.

In other news I, well, ran a lot this week. I didn’t think I’d be able to since Manchild was out of school and I’d have to wake up early to go running. But, as luck would have it, it’s much easier to get out of bed at 6:00am when there is a small person kicking you in the face and you’re not getting any sleep anyway. Credit goes to Little Miss for the fact that I ran every day this week and am currently — including this morning’s 19+ miler — sitting on 143 miles for the month. So, yeah. Ironman completed!

But there’s still next week’s cooking challenge! And the challenge ingredients are . . . honey and cherries. Two of my favorite things. I hope it’s a fun way to end this year’s RSBC challenge!

Now that the business is all out of the way, let’s get to the pleasure. Here’s the butternut squash roll cake recipe. Make it and love it.

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Butternut-Chocolate Roll Cake adapted from *sigh* The Food Network

For the cake:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/4 teaspoons fine sea salt

1 cup sugar

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup butternut squash puree (I steamed my butternut squash until tender and then put it in the blender)

powdered sugar

For the filling:

1 cup heavy cream

8 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

sprinkle of salt

splash of vanilla extract


Prep an 11×17 pan by buttering it, lining it with parchment paper, and then buttering the parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 375.

Prep a clean kitchen towel by sprinkling it generously with powdered sugar. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt and set aside. In a large bowl or the bowl of a mixer, mix the eggs and sugar at high speed until thick and pale yellow — a couple of minutes. Add in the squash puree and beat until blended. Gradually add the flour mixture and stir until combined. Pour into the prepared pan and bake until the cake springs back when touched, about 12 minutes. Turn the cake out onto the powder dish towel, peal off the parchment paper, and roll the cakeup tightly, starting from the short end. Place the rolled up cake on a cooling rack to cool completely.

While that is cooling, make the ganache: Place the chocolate in a heat proof bowl. Heat the cream until it just begins to bubble around the edges. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate, and stir until the chocolate is all melted and it is smooth. Stir in the salt and vanilla, then let cool completely — first to room temperature, then in the fridge.

To assemble the cake, use a hand-mixer to whip the ganache until light and fluffy. Unroll the cake and spread the ganache evenly over the entire cake. Then roll it back up. You *may* want to let it chill in the fridge for a couple of hours after that. Or you may just want to slice off a piece and eat it, which was what we did. We didn’t regret it. Not even a little bit.

What Happens When You Try to Be a Good Mom


I decided to be a good mom today, after nearly a week of being a lazy mom who takes 4 hours naps and let’s her 4-year-old play on the iPad while she sleeps.

But today, with temperatures in the 40s, I was ready to turn over a new leaf and to try, once again, to be a good mom. And this is how I was going to do it: I was going to take my children outside. It had been half a week since they’d seen the light of the sun, unfiltered through panes of glass and curtains. Four days since they’d left the apartment.

And boy did it show. Temper tantrums. Whininess. Selective hearing. Boy oh boy. Call it cabin fever. Call it snow rage. Call it mid-winter break blues. Whatever it is, we were all pretty cranky. Something clearly needed to change. We needed some fresh air.

So we got ourselves all ready. We were out of practice, so it took a little bit longer than normal. But we did it. We got out the door. And as we walked down the street, before we even made it to the corner . . . it started to rain. Still, we persevered and walked all the way to the playground — which was, of course, covered in snow. But the children humored me and clomped around in it before the rain started to really come down and we gave up and went home. 20140219-230543.jpg

It was lunch time by then, and Manchild had specially requested deviled eggs. And because I was going to be a good mom today, I made the extra effort. Squish and Little Miss got some leftover cauliflower mac to eat while I deviled the eggs because they weren’t interested in that sort of thing. Manchild devoured the eggs and I patted myself on the back for being such a good mom. Right up until I sat down on the couch and noticed all the cauliflower mac fingerprints all over the upholstery, which Little Miss had so lovingly placed there while I slaved over the eggs.

See if I ever try to do anything nice again.

I would have been pretty discouraged about my attempts at being a good mom and having it blow up in my face. But then this night at bedtime Manchild said the prayer and thanked Heavenly Father that he was able to play on the iPad and on the Wii U and watch some Shaun the Sheep today. And that’s when I thought, “Well, at least I’m doing something right . . . ”

Maybe it doesn’t take any special effort to be a good mom after all.

RSBC 2014 Week 2 Roundup: Carrot-tops and Gingers

As promised, the round up for Week 2 of the Run Swim Bike Cook Challenge. Although I don’t know if I can really call it a “roundup” if I only have one other competitor to report on. Can I? Well tough. I’m doing it anyway. Here’s the roundup of one:

Our good friend Kara Wheeler submitted a delicious sounding carrot-ginger soup which, also happens to be a “secret” family recipe. It’s for sure on my list. She’s also killing it in the Run-Swim-Bike portion of the competition with 16.5 miles running, 1.3 in the pool, and 70.3 on the bike.


Way to go Kara!

I’ll update with additional information — including week 3′s challenge ingredients — as it comes!

UPDATE: The culinary challenge of the week is squash + chocolate. I think I can get behind that. :)

UPDATE 2: Justin and Brianna submitted an absolutely mouthwatering recipe for carrot-ginger scones. Check it out!20140219-215644.jpg Definitely something to try.

UPDATE 3: My good friend Rachel has submitted her carrot-ginger goodness, as well as her mileage. Rachel is training for a triathlon in May (which I’m totally jealous of), so she’s getting some good training in this month. Last week she ran 4 miles, swam 600 meters, and did a yoga workout as well. Oh, and she cooked up some Thai Orange Chicken. Mmmmm.

thaiorangechickenI’m having a little dinner envy in addition to triathlon envy.

RSBC Week 2: Don’t You Carrot (and Ginger) All About Your Body?

I’m going to go ahead and be grateful that my annual bout of the flu hit relatively early in the month, and that it appears to be relatively mild. A day or so of achy-ness, a mild fever, some coughing. (Little Miss is slightly worse off that I am, but not so badly off that she can’t continue in her paper-shredding, table-climbing ways.)

It does, unfortunately, mean that I missed a couple of days of running. Boo. My total mileage for the first half of the month: 73.6. And even though I’m more than half way to my 140.6 Ironman goal, I’m feeling a little behind. I also got a little bored with my normal running route and did this one day instead:


I may sound a little bit like an overachiever here, but I didn’t do all the cooking/baking I wanted to do. Yes, I did make a carrot/ginger dish for dinner this week. But I wanted to make some carrot-ginger muffins as well, and instead of doing that, I took 7 hours worth of naps in two days. Time well-spent, no doubt, but still. The carrot-ginger muffins didn’t get made. Yet. Maybe next week.

This dish is actually a quick-and-easy family favorite. Soba noodles. Sauce. Stir-fried veggies. Squish asked for seconds, and the next day when I served myself a bowl of leftovers, he and Little Miss begged for me to share and I ended up having to get myself something else for lunch because they didn’t leave any for me. :/

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And all you do is cook your package of soba noodles according to package directions, and while that is happening make the sauce (from Eat Live Run) by blending these ingredients in your blender until smooth:

1/2 cup tahini

1/4 cup canola oil

about 1/2 cup hot water

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

2 tsp fresh minced ginger (I used at least a tablespoon

1 tsp minced garlic

When that is done and your noodles are drained and rinsed, heat some oil in a skillet. Peel and cut up some carrots and sugar snap peas (and/or any other vegetables you want) and toss them in the skillet (I added some chopped fresh ginger as well) and sprinkle with some salt. Cook until slightly tender — 5-7 minutes, probably. Then pile some noodles on your plate, top it with the veggies, and drizzle some sauce on top. You should have plenty of sauce left over to dip vegetables in or as a salad dressing for the next week or so. You’re welcome.

Don’t forget to send me your week 2 tragedies and triumphs! I’ll post them here, along with Christy’s week 3 cooking-combo challenge, next Monday.

RSBC 2014 Week 1: Get Yourself an Egg and Beet It!

So, beet greens. And eggs. I thought I could probably do something with that. And I did. Something that looked like this:

This is how I did it: First, I cooked some quinoa. Then I took a few beets (3), peeled and chopped them into 1/2 inch dice and a couple (2) sweet potatoes and did the same. I tossed them together with some olive oil and and salt. Spread them on a baking sheet, slide it into a 425 degree oven, and let the heat have its way with them for about 30 minutes — until the beets were soft enough that a fork went right in.

While the veggies were roasting, I cleaned the greens and stacked them up so I could cut them to ribbons with minimal effort. I heated some olive oil in a skillet and added some pressed garlic (if you don’t have a garlic press, let me recommend investing in one), and after the garlic sizzled for a minute or so, I added the beet greens. It only took a minute or two (during which I added a light sprinkling of salt) for the greens to wilt a bit after which I took them out and put them on a plate.

I cracked some eggs into the hot skillet and let them sit, undisturbed, for a few minutes until the whites appeared to be set (but the yolks were definitely still runny). Then I turned off the heat.

To serve, I tossed the greens and veggies together. Then I spooned some quinoa on our plates and scooped the veggies/greens on top. An egg went on top of that. And it was, in all honesty, absolutely delicious. I had no idea about beet greens. But now I do and I will repent of all those times I just tossed them. Plus roasted veggies . . . people, they just all taste good. All of them.

So that’s what I cooked. I also ran 39.4 miles. Even though there was snow and ice piled up all over. And even though I had to push a fully loaded double-stroller through it. This marathon isn’t going to train for itself, so I’m going to have to do it. But, as you can see, there are perks to running in the winter. Such beauty that I would have missed if I’d stayed in.

My goal, of course, is to run all 140.6 miles of the Ironman, and with nearly 40 miles in the first week, I think I’m in good position to achieve the goal, but it is still early. Anything could happen! If you want to join in but you’re feeling like it is too late, remember the half-Ironman option that is new this year. You can totally do 70 miles in 3 weeks.

For week 2, your cooking challenge is to combine two delicious roots: ginger and carrots. Send me your updates so I can post them next week. (You should be sending weeks 1 and 3 to Christy at christy.spackman at gmail dot com.)

Happy Ironmanning!

RSBC 2014!!

20140201-211058.jpgFebruary is here! You know what that means … Run! Swim! Bike! Cook! Christy and I are excited to get started and hope you are too.

Quick re-cap: Ironman meets Ironchef during the month of February. That’s 4 cooking challenges and 140.6 miles.

More details on Christy’s blog! (This week’s cooking challenge: beet greens with eggs. Soooo good.)

And more from me next week.

I Nearly Lost My Thumbs at the Brrrooklyn Hot Chocolate Half


All I could think about in the days leading up to this race was what a bad idea it was to have even signed up. It was so cold. I was so tired. My legs – they ached. And I was going to race? What had I been thinking? (Aside from that I had missed signing up for another half the month before . . . .)

But I had “trained” for it. I knew I could do it. And, in fact, I would have been out for a long marathon-training run anyway, so I might as well get a shirt and a mug out of it.

The course itself was almost exactly what I would have been doing on my long run: 4 laps around Prospect Park. Which meant 4 times up that hill that has been giving me trouble. As we toed the start line, I tried not to think too much about it. I was going to treat it as a training run. I would ignore the clock as much as I could – even if I have told myself that I would do my long runs at an 8:00min/mile pace.

And then I also gave myself as many outs as I could: When was the last time I got more than 6 hours of sleep in a stretch? Didn’t I just come off my first intense speedwork (5 800s) 36 hours ago? And didn’t I run 5 miles just yesterday?

That thought, of course, led to the next one which was this: part of marathon training is learning to run on tired legs, push through pain, and keep up the pace.

Great, so this was going to be a physical and a mental training run. Perfect.

And, actually, it was.

Micah and I ran together (he did the “minimalist” training plan) and, as always, he pulled me through the tough parts. I gave it all I had that last mile, and when we crossed the line, I was pretty sure I’d done it: run a sub-8:00 average. My Nike app confirmed what we suspected, although the race timing didn’t factor in the late start Micah and I got (we were near the back of the starting corral), so our “official” time had us at an 8:02 pace.

I am more than a little surprised at how good I felt about it. This was 8 minutes slower than my PR. Certainly I should be feeling slow and disappointed? But no. I feel really good about running so well on tired legs. I feel great about keeping my pace. And I feel awesome that my last couple of miles were my fastest.

I’ve never run a “tune-up” race in the midst of training for another race before, but now that I’ve done it, I can see the benefit. Even if it was slow and even if it was hard, it gave me a lot of confidence that I can run well when I’m tired, that my legs are getting stronger, and that I can run in poor conditions (so cold, lots of ice).

So, two nearly-frozen thumbs up for the Hot Chocolate Half. I might even do it again someday – just not any day soon.


A Mile In Her Shoes: Kristi Templeton

I’ve decided it’s my new favorite thing when someone says, “Hey, I have a friend I think you should meet.” That’s how I was introduced to Kristi Templeton, a mother/runner living in Boston, and her life was touched by the Boston Marathon bombing last year. This year – because of her experience – she’ll be running the race. I wish her the best and hope we get to meet up after the race!

Thanks so much for letting me share your story, Kristi! And best wishes with your training!

Who are you?

My name is Kristi Templeton and I am currently a stay at home mom. I taught 3rd grade for 7 years and then decided to stay home with my kids after Abigail (my 2nd child who is almost 2) was born. I also have a son, Andrew who is almost 4.  We moved to the Boston area last year from Texas and are currently living in Woburn. My husband is Todd Templeton and he works for a start up company in the solar energy industry. We are high school sweethearts and have been together for half my life.

Can you walk us through your typical day? 

I have been blessed with 2 kiddos that like to sleep pretty late (7:30-8 pretty much every morning). We have breakfast and then will head to our gym for a workout (the kids and I both have a class on Wednesday mornings), or play around the house until Andrew goes to school. On school days we have lunch and then take Andrew to school at 11:30. I come home with Abby and have “mommy time” while she takes a nap (this is my mommy time as I type). We pick Andrew up from school at 2:20 and then usually either run errands, play with friends at the park, or go home to finish up house chores. On Wednesdays (or the days we didn’t get a morning workout in), we head to the gym around 4 (those are the days I have usually prepared a crock pot meal because we are busy) and get home around 6 just in time for dinner. My husband usually doesn’t get home until after 6:30, so we try to wait to have dinner when daddy gets home. We bathe the kids and get ready for bed around 7:15 (some nights are movie nights in mommy and daddy’s bed and some nights are book nights in their rooms). Bedtime is at 8 and they both usually go down pretty easily.

What is your perfect day? 

My perfect day would be having breakfast at a cafe with my family (my favorite breakfast is pancakes, eggs, bacon, and coffee! I LOVE any breakfast really). Spending the day either at a beach, pool, park, or a place where the kids are free to run around and enjoy some fresh air. We would do a little local shopping for knick knacks, toys, and clothes, have some ice cream, and then my husband and I could have a night out with dinner and wine while the kids spend time with their grandparents (this doesn’t happen now that we live in Massachusetts, but maybe one day we will be close to family again). Our 5-year anniversary was almost this exact explanation at a resort in Grapevine, Texas. It was one of the best days we have ever had.

What is one of your biggest challenges as a parent/person?

My biggest challenges are my emotions and my lack of taking care of my needs.  I can get very sad and lonely easily (especially in the winter) and have to find a way to get in some “mommy time” so I don’t lose who I am because I am so focused on my children. I’m also a big worrier (always have been), and need to learn when to let things that I can’t control go.  It’s important for busy moms to find something that makes them happy and something that defines who they are as a person. We care so much about our babies and want nothing but the best for them but have to remember to keep ourselves happy as well.

What is a story you always tell?

It’s not a story I always tell, but explains how I am able to run the Boston Marathon in 2014. We moved here last year, and I was very fascinated by the Boston Marathon (as any runner would be). I applied to run for Boston Children’s Hospital last year but wasn’t accepted (they expect you to raise a very large amount of money which would have been challenging in itself). I am a firm believer in God’s ability to place us exactly where we need to be and around those people who influence us the most at certain times in life. We went to the Boston Marathon last year to watch. My 1 year old daughter (at the time) and I were right across the street from where the 2nd bomb went off (and were right there when it happened). I am now able to recall a lot of details from that day and that moment, but have always felt that God had his arms wrapped around us in that very moment. We lived on MIT campus when officer Sean Collier was shot and killed and the manhunt for the 2 men was underway. It was a very scary moment in our lives, but we are very blessed to be safe and sound. Because of this experience, I was able to get an invitational acceptance into the Boston Marathon for 2014. God definitely had a plan, and I am currently training to run in what is expected to be the largest Boston Marathon in history. I feel very blessed and motivated to do my very best!

Do you like to run alone or in groups?

I usually run by myself, but discovered about 2 years ago that I LOVE running with a buddy. While living in Texas, I met a neighbor who likes to run and we had the same pace and could talk the entire time. We ran 7 miles without even noticing! The same thing happened last year – I found a friend in the dorm that I ran with and she and I really enjoyed those talks while getting in a good run. I am in the process of starting scheduled runs with a lady I met a few months ago.

What is your best running moment? 

It was one of the 5K’s I ran a few years ago. I had been running next to a man for about a mile and a half (he would pass me and then I would pass him). We were motivating each other to go faster and he even said, “What? Are you slowing down on me??” anytime I would slow my pace. At the end of the 5K, I hit it into high gear, passed him, he sped up really fast but I ended up crossing the finish line before he did. I ended up getting 2nd place in my age group and got a medal (it was my fastest 5K to date).

If you could do anything over, what would it be?

I would have studied abroad while in college. There was a program in the education field that went abroad to Costa Rica. They learned Spanish, taught the children English, and even learned to scuba dive! I really wanted to go, but it cost a lot of money. I should have gone because I would have earned some credits for my degree and had a once in a lifetime experience! Don’t ever let money get in the way of your dreams. There is always time to pay off debt.

What is your favorite mantra?  

Matthew 7:12: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

I believe that you will be treated how you treat others and that your good deeds on earth will definitely be rewarded.

Do you have a power song? What is it and why does that motivate you? I have 2 right now: I Lived by One Republic (the lyrics help me focus on accomplishing my runs so I am prepared for the marathon and to keep going even if it hurts!) the other one is instrumental and gets me in my “runner zone.” It’s The Revolution Will be Streaming by Saxon Shore.

What is your favorite book? I really enjoy reading Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life around the table with recipesby: Shauna Niequist It’s a book filled with great recipes and she talks about her experience and enjoyment with cooking and having friends and family around the table for meals.

What’s for dinner tonight? I made a “fauxtisserie Chicken” last night and am using the remainder of the chicken to make chicken stock for chicken and rice soup. It’s one of the easiest things to make and is so delicious!!


Just Doing My Best

I’m in my 4th week of Boston Marathon training and I’ve hardly said a word about it. Huh. Let’s fix that, shall we? 20140121-224028.jpg

As I near the end of the first quarter of training these are my thoughts:

I’m totally killing this . . . except when I’m not.

I should be happy just to get to the finish line . . . but I think I could totally PR!

My legs are so tired . . . which means they’re getting stronger, right?

And finally, I think this may just be my last marathon for a couple of years.

I am so grateful to be able to run Boston this year. I am so grateful that I have friends to train with. I am so glad I don’t have to wake up early in the morning to run – even if I do have to take my kids with me instead. Running is my play. It’s where I find the energy to do all those other things I find joy in. And I am so grateful that I get to do this.20140121-224047.jpg

But it’s hard to be doing this and thinking that I could be doing it better. I could be running faster if I didn’t have the stroller. I could be putting in more miles if I didn’t have to schedule nap time for Little Miss. I could ignore that niggle in my knee if I wasn’t worried that it could sideline me during my peak training weeks. And when I think about the miles I am missing because I can’t push the stroller through the snow, or the speed work that didn’t get done because my legs are too tired from riding the bike over the bridge, or the number of times I had to walk up the hill last week because my legs and lungs just couldn’t do it – I just have to remind myself that I’m doing the best I can.

My heart is in it. I’m trying. I’m working hard.

And three months from today, when I’m standing at the start line in Hopkinton, I’ll remember that. And then I’ll just do my best. It may be my last chance. At least for a little while.

Why You Should Never Read Books About Food During the Holidays

This is the mistake that I made: over the past couple of months I read Cooked by Michael Pollan and Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss.

These books are about food. The former about how good, essential, and elemental home-cooked food is to the health of our bodies, our families, and our society, the latter about how unhealthful and unnatural processed food is for our bodies, our families, and our society. When I started reading them I thought they would basically reinforce my own thoughts and feelings about cooking and buying food. After all, as much as I can, I cook in my own kitchen and avoid, as much as I can, foods that are made by the food-industrial complex. I expected to give myself a high five and be on my merry way.

And to a degree, that is what I did. I high-fived myself that at least I am on the right track. I told myself (and Micah), “See! I told you so!” many, many times. I read passages to my sister and asked for her validation that yes, indeed, these were the exact words that describe my philosophy of eating.

But there is always room for improvement, and the indulgences of the holidays highlighted my own capacity to do just that. And now, despite the fact that it is a new year and there are all sorts of “resolutions” going around, seems like a good time to start.

In my search for ways to improve I took stock of my cupboards and noticed this: too many crackers. Crackers, I have told myself, are one of the few conveniences I will allow myself. I tried making them from scratch a couple of times and decided it wasn’t worth the effort. But I think the time has come for me to try again – either to make them myself from more wholesome ingredients, or to replace them with something that is at least not entirely stripped of nutritional value.

And then there are salads. I think I mentioned having a revelation regarding salads, and the revelation is this: I don’t like weak leaves. Green leaf, romaine, red leaf – those lettuces that get all brown and wilty after a day or two? They make eating my vegetables a chore. But kale? And cabbage? Leaves that can stand up to a splash of vinaigrette for days at a time? Yes please. More please. All the time, please.

So my goal is to integrate some new eating habits into my life over the next little while: a container of sturdy salad in the fridge at all/most times is one of them. And right next to that container of salad is the container of chopped fresh veggies – things like carrots and celery, bell peppers and cucumbers – ready to be dipped and snacked on or added to the salad at a moment’s notice. I’m also hoping to wean myself away from crackers as a quick, portable snack and steer more toward home-tossed trail mix or homemade crackers. And finally, though it pains me to say it, I’m hoping to give fewer dollars to Breyer’s and Edy’s and Turkey Hill and Blue Bunny. This is not to say I will necessarily be cutting down on my ice cream consumption. But if I want a tasty treat, I’m going to have to make it myself.

And that’s that. I don’t expect to be perfect at it – right now or ever – but I think it’s worth making the effort.

And you? Do you have any thoughts or suggestions? Things that have worked for you? Things that you are hoping to change? I’d love to hear.

(This is my current favorite simple, sturdy cabbage salad. If you ask nicely and are very patient with me, I may remember to share the reicpe.)

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