Apple Cinnamon Granola with Roasted Almonds and Pepitas

Yesterday, I ran 41 miles. Then I came home, slept, watched the World Cup and ate delivery pizza, and pretty much called it a day. Today, I’m a little more ambitious. I toasted an English muffin and spread peanut butter on it. I got my sneakers on my feet. I walked up and down the stairs and didn’t cry. Also, I made a batch of this super-delicious granola because it is unbelievably easy to make, is perfect over Greek yogurt, and it doesn’t require more than a few minutes of standing to produce it. Also, it’s pretty good for you, which is a nice thing when your body is trying to recover from running 41 miles.

I dry my apples in a dehydrator, but if you don’t have access to one and want to dry your own apple slices, try my oven-drying method.

Apple Cinnamon Granola with Roasted Almonds and Pepitas

Yield: about 6 cups

  • 3 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup almonds, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup pepitas
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup dehydrated apple slices, chopped
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, nuts, pepitas, brown sugar, honey, coconut oil, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and salt. Toss to coat all ingredients.
  2. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Grease a large rimmed baking sheet with the tablespoon of butter. Pour oat mixture out onto baking sheet and use a spatula to smooth it down, covering the entire sheet. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes at 250 degrees F, stirring the oat mixture every 15 minutes. The mixture will turn golden brown and dry out as it bakes. It will firm up as it cools.
  3. Leave on baking sheet until completely cool, then sprinkle with dried apple pieces. Pour cooled granola into a large container with a tightly fitting lid. Will keep for at least a week at room temperature.

Rainy Run

“I always like walking in the rain, so no one can see me crying.”
― Charles Chaplin

Today it rained in Las Vegas, which is something that happens approximately every other blue moon. The first dime-size drops began hitting the ground as I was halfway through mile 1 of a 6-mile run. By the start of mile 2, there were sheets of rain slicing sideways through the warm air and I’d stopped trying to clear water from my eyes. My daughter took off her glasses, as the rain-streaked lenses were more hazard than help. We ran on happily. 

I just love rain runs. When I lived on the East Coast, summertime rain was my absolute favorite weather to run in. New York summers can be beastly hot, augmented by oppressive humidity that sometimes makes running feel more like swimming. Rain cuts the mugginess, drives away the droves of midsummer insects, and ensures that there will be very few runners competing for trail or shoulder space. Heavenly.

Here in Vegas, where the relentless sun makes running anytime from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. feel like working out in a kiln, rain to run in feels celebratory to me. I couldn’t believe we were three of only a small handful of people running on the paved loop around the soccer fields. Where was everyone? Didn’t they know it was raining?

When I was a kid, barring lightning, fist-sized hail, or frogs falling from the sky, my mother would send us outside to play, year-round. She’d invariably answer our plaintive whining about rain or cold with, “Go get some fresh air. You’re not made of sugar.”

To be honest, this made me feel a combination of self-pity and righteous indignation back then, when I would have rather spent every waking minute with a book and a cookie. But now, it makes sense. Human skin is surprisingly water resistant, wet clothing dries, and splashing around in the rain is just fun.

Thanks, Mom.

Heading out for a wet one? Here are some tips on running in the rain:

  • Protect your skin. Wet skin chafes easily, so lube your hot spots (feet, inner thighs, etc.) with something before you head out. My favorite lube is Trail Toes anti-friction cream. I smear it over my feet to prevent blisters from running in wet socks and shoes.  
  • Wear a hat with a visor to keep the rain out of your eyes.
  • If you wear glasses, consider wearing contacts for rainy runs. 
  • Vehicles may not be looking for runners in inclement weather, so exercise extra caution if running anywhere near traffic.
  • Wear reflectors to be extra visible, even in daylight.
  • If it’s cold out, pay attention to layering. A water-resistant jacket can help you stay warm. (Make sure it has vents to release body heat, though, or you’ll end up in your own personal sauna.)
  • Don’t run if there’s a chance of lightning. Being electrocuted is no one’s idea of a good time.
  • Have fun, puddle jumper!

What’s your take? Do you love or hate rainy runs?

Filed under: Las Vegas, Road Running, Trail Running Tagged: training, Weather

Better Banana Bread

Everyone and his or her mother (and her mother) has a go-to banana bread recipe. If you purchase bananas with any regularity, at some point you’ll need one because bananas are in a race against humanity and start browning the moment you look at them in the store. 
I have perhaps 10 banana bread recipes–all of them different, and all of them delicious. This version is distinguished by its virtues, namely Greek yogurt and whole wheat flour. The fat I’ve chosen is coconut oil, which gives this bread a come-hither aroma and a subtly exotic flavor. Coconut oil lends richness and moisture to the crumb.  
I’ve kept my bread simple, but you can add toasted walnuts, pecans, or chocolate chips if you favor mix-ins. Try a slice with cream cheese or peanut butter. Or Nutella, if you’re a libertine like me.

Better Banana Bread

Yield: One 9×5-inch loaf
2 large eggs
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup Greek yogurt or sour cream
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3 very ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 cup)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, optional but recommended
¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

Pinch salt

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 9×5-inch loaf pan with nonstick baking spray.
  2. In a large bowl combine the eggs, coconut oil, yogurt, sugars, vanilla extract, and mashed bananas. Beat on medium speed to combine. Add the flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, fresh nutmeg, and salt; stir just till all the dry ingredients are incorporated.
  3. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until top is golden and set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If bread browns before the center is set, you can tent the pan loosely with foil.
  4. Let bread cool in pan 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. 
  5. Bread will keep in an air-tight container (I use a resealable gallon-size plastic bag) in the refrigerator for up to a week. Wrap tightly and freeze for longer storage. 

Keep Your Cool

red rock trail vista Running a hot-weather race is no joke, and here in Las Vegas, pretty much every race between May and October has the potential to be a broiler. So what to do? Don’t let the heat melt your resolve to enjoy racing regardless of the climate. Here are 10 things you can do to keep your cool during a race where the temps and/or humidity combine to make for challenging racing conditions.

  1. Dress for success. It may seem counterintuitive to wear long sleeves when it’s hotter than a griddle at a truck stop, but the intensity of the sun will convince you pretty quickly that it’s a good idea. Loose long sleeves in light colors and moisture-wicking material are best. Investigate heat gear at your local running or outdoor supply store to see what’s comfortable for you.
  2. Protect your neck. And your ears, top of the head (including bald spots), nose, throat, front of the neckline, etc.–all those body parts that you might not typically pay attention to will require anointing with sunblock to keep from burning.
  3. Heads up. Wear a hat with a brim and a drape to cover the back of the neck. If you don’t have a shrouded hat, consider wearing a bandanna or a buff around your neck. Keep in mind that visors will shade the face but leave the top of the head open to sun exposure.
  4. Cool it. Pay attention to the body’s hot spots to help regulate your temperature. Pour cold water over your head at aid stations; mist yourself with ice water; cover your head with a hat or bandanna and wet it down periodically; roll ice into your buff and wear it around your neck. Note: Being wet will increase your risk of chafing, so be sure to compensate by wearing plenty of body lube.
  5. Block those rays. Get a quality sunblock with the highest SPF you can find and apply it liberally, then reapply it during your race if you are sweating heavily or spraying yourself down. I like Coppertone Water Babies Pure and Simple–it’s zinc-based, has an SPF of 50, and holds up nicely.
  6. Bottoms up. Hydration is obviously critical in staying comfortable. Have a hydration plan in place before your race so you know what works best for you. For example, I know that I require a lot of hydration in hot weather. I accommodate for this by muling a hydration pack even when there are aid stations on the course. Sip your water, don’t chug it–that will prevent “sloshy gut,” which is no one’s idea of a good time. Monitor what you’re taking in: if you’re consuming sports gels or chews, read the package: most should be taken with water and not electrolyte beverages.Red Rock Canyon Trail
  7. But think before you drink. Don’t make the mistake of over-hydrating, which can cause a dangerous and potentially fatal condition known as hyponatremia. Be sure that your hydration plan includes a way to monitor your sodium and electrolyte intake. Experiment with electrolyte or salt tablets, specially formulated hydration beverages, or salty snacks such as potato chips or pretzels to find what works best and doesn’t upset your stomach.
  8. Revise your expectations. If it’s hot as blazes, don’t expect to run hell for leather during the race. Run the easy parts and jog/walk/shuffle the more challenging parts.  Concentrate on enjoying the race and keeping yourself safe and reasonably comfortable.
  9. Treat your feet. Heat and sand are two things that will wreck your feet–and your race–if you don’t prepare for them. Wear gaiters to keep sand and gravel out of your shoes. Tape any potential problem areas with breathable (not duct) tape. If you use lube (Aquaphor, A&D ointment, etc.), know that any sand that gets into your shoes will likely stick to your lube. Be prepared to wipe down your feet and relube them periodically. Wear moisture-wicking socks and change them if they get sweat- or sand-logged.
  10. Pay attention. Know the signs of both heat sickness and hyponatremia and take care of any symptoms as soon as they appear. Don’t just “gut it out.” Be smart, race well, and finish happy.

IMG_7135Here are some helpful links for info on running in extreme heat conditions:

Filed under: Heat training, Las Vegas, Trail Running Tagged: desert running, heat training, Las Vegas, racing, trail running, training

Five Ways to Celebrate National Running Day

Today, June 4, is National Running Day! To help you make the most of your celebration, I’ve put together a list of ways you can participate in the festivities.

  1. Run long(er). If you typically go out for 3 miles on your run, push forward to 4 or 5. You don’t know how far you can go till you just keep going!50b19680de0634b78865614edb4d7ebd
  2. Try a trail. If you’re usually a road runner, try a trail. There’s something celebratory about running wild. You might fall in love with a whole new facet of the sport! If you’re already a trail runner, try running a trail you’ve maybe heard about but never run before. If two paths diverge in a yellow wood, take the less traveled one (but don’t blaze your own unless your wildlife survival skills are on point).
  3. Register for a race. You’ve had an eye on that race for a long time now. You fantasize about adding the medal (or buckle) to your collection. Or maybe you’re new to running and haven’t worked up the courage to enter a race yet. Today is the day! Visit UltraSignup and Active to find and register for races from 5K fun runs to 100-plus-mile ultramarathons.  It’s a great time to face your Goliath–go forth and register!
  4. Treat yourself. New shoes? New shorts? New bling? Yes, please. If you haven’t already, now is a great time to head to your local running store and have your foot/stride/gait evaluated in a professional fitting.41458b382daee578d683aaa162895a09
  5. Just go. No second thoughts today. You have time. Lace up and head out. Give whatever you can to your run. Just enjoy the process. Fall back in love with running.

How are you going to celebrate? Leave a comment and share!

Filed under: Holidays, National Running Day, Races, Trail Running, Ultramarathons, Uncategorized Tagged: National Running Day, racing, trail running

Friday Five: What’s in My Gym Bag

I’m loving DC Trifecta’s Friday Five linkup. Thanks Courtney, Mar, and Cynthia for hosting this fun linkup!

Today, a sneak peak into the inner lives of our gym bags! Without further ado, here are Five Things in My Gym Bag:

1. My iPod. Can’t do without this for treadmill runs. It has the magic power to make time on dreadmill go by much more (but not entirely) painlessly. I like Metallica, Pink, Drowning Pool, Beastie Boys, DevilDriver, In This Moment, Excision, et al. for workouts and speedwork; audiobooks for long runs.

2. Snacks. What can I say? This girl likes to eat. I’m typically packing a homemade energy bar or a banana. Or nuts. Or blackberries. Or a peanut butter and bacon sandwich.

3. Water. I have the hydration needs of a camel when I work out. No lie. I need a liter to get me though a 5k. My favorite water bottle is the Camelbak Chute.

4. My heart-rate monitor. For HIIT workouts at the gym, not for running. I don’t love the feeling of it around my ribs (ICAN’TBREATHEITELLYOU), so I wear it only when I’m doing something unpleasant/difficult enough to be distracted: box jumps, Jacob’s ladder, mountain climbers–I’m looking at you. I link up with the Polar app.

5. Lip balm. Because I can’t have a good workout if my lips are uncomfortable, not because I’m vain. (I’m a little vain, but not vain/ambitious enough to wear makeup to the gym.) I like Aquaphor’s spf 30 lip balm for outside runs; Burt’s Bees (any flavor) for inside workouts.

What’s in your gym bag? Do tell!

How much fun is this!?

Filed under: At the Gym, Friday Five Tagged: Friday five, gym, Running, workouts

Review: Energems

20140528_150912

In every ultramarathon, there is that moment–the cris de fois, the “dark night of the soul,” whatever you want to call it–when everything collapses and you feel you just can’t take one. more. step. If the marathon has a “wall,” then the ultramarathon has an abyss.

There is a fatigue that goes beyond anything we might experience anywhere else in our lives (except perhaps one of those nightmarish protracted labor-and-delivery experiences). It’s physical, mental, emotional, even spiritual.20140528_150948

A good percentage of runners who go on to complete the race will do so by turning to caffeine to help build a (tenuous) bridge across that chasm of exhaustion. It’s amazing what a little caffeine can do for the human spirit–and central nervous system.

I haven’t experimented much with caffeine pills (since college, anyway), but what I recall is that a pleasant little buzz can suddenly escalate to heart-thumping, eye-popping, jittery mayhem. And I can say that coffee just doesn’t do it for me. I can shoot a double espresso and be in dreamland thirty minutes later. That being the case, I was pretty excited to have the opportunity to sample and review Energems. And I was even more excited to find that they actually work for me!

Energems are essentially over-sized M&M-type candies boosted with caffeine and B vitamins. They come in three flavors–milk chocolate, mint, and peanut butter–and there are 3 servings in each little box.m-and-ms-and-energems

Each serving of 3 Energems contains 75mg of caffeine, comparable to what you’d get from a shot of espresso. I don’t know whether it’s the sugar or the vitamins or the “proprietary energy blend” of D-glucuronolactone, taurine, caffeine, and Suntheanine, but these turbo-charged candies are an effective pick-me-up. And they get bonus points for being a lot easier to carry and consume on the run than either coffee or energy drinks.

The flavors are pretty enjoyable, definitely palatable, although there is a subtle bitterness that regular candy-coated chocolate pieces don’t have. To me, this is no big deal because the bitterness dissipates quickly and doesn’t linger in your mouth.

My next race will be a 12-hour overnight ultra, and I’ll definitely be packing Energems (mint!).

Where to get them: 

You can purchase Energems in packs of 3, 6, 12, and 36 from the Energems Web site, here, or find them on Amazon.

You can also find them in convenience stores and gas station shops like 7-Eleven, Pilot, and Circle K. Click here to find a retail location near you.

Have you tried Energems? If so, what did you think of them?

 

Filed under: Races, Reviews, Runner Fuel, Supplements and Caffeine, Ultramarathons, Uncategorized Tagged: caffeine supplements, Energems, Running, ultramarathons

5 Foods That Changed the Way I Think About Food

We all have them–foods that flicked the switch for our personal culinary lightbulb and made us suddenly contemplate the possibility of food. They made us see food not just for nourishment or convenience, but for enjoyment, edification, and maybe even art. Here are mine, and it’s not an all-inclusive list.



  1. Butter. I grew up spreading my toast with a variety of synthetic butter spreads that came in plastic tubs and melted down to a watery mess that ruined popcorn. Not to blame my mom; we were led to believe that butter was the devil and margarine was the angel of light that would save us from heart disease. Now we know better. And I’ve fallen hard for butter–the lemon-yellow sunshine of Kerrygold melting on an English muffin; the unapologetically unctuous, superfatted Plugra for baking; the dizzying heaven of browned butter in anything.
  2. Roasted vegetables.

    From kale chips to cauliflower, roasting has changed my relationship with vegetables. I’ve always loved my veggies, but when I discovered the alchemy a little olive oil and some time in the oven can create, my love turned to obsession. Broccoli, beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach…I can’t get enough. 

  3. Olives. I’ve always been a salt-over-sweet girl, so it’s not surprising that I prefer the concentrated saltiness of briny olives. I can happily consume alarming amounts of even the humblest of olives–pimento-stuffed Manzanillas, I’m looking at you–but I’m simply transported by Kalamatas, Picholines, Cerignolas, Arbequinas, Bitettos…. A dish of olives, a piece of good bread, and a glass of wine and I’m good.
  4. Fresh raspberries.

    Eaten sunwarmed, straight from the canes…or crushed and stirred into plain Greek yogurt with a drizzle of honey…or bubbling beneath a perfect golden cap of buttery pastry…perfection.

  5. Artisan bread. Loaves, batards, boules, or baguettes, there is little that can comfort and satisfy as well as a piece of quality artisan-style bread. Cheap, simple, elegant. With cold salted butter; bitter, fruity olive oil and kosher salt; or the drippings from a broiled steak, good bread is practically a meal unto itself. 
Which 5 foods brought about a culinary epiphany for you?

Chili Garlic Baby Bok Choy

Bok choy. I’m not convinced it’s a vegetable I’ll ever truly cozy up to. I mean, I love me some leafy greens ~ kale, collards, chard ~ but . . . bok choy. I don’t know. There’s just too much stalk and not enough leafy green for me.

So that begs the obvious questions: why prepare it and why post the recipe on the blog? I blame my son. He’s a bottle-a-week Sriracha fan and he likes this dish. He asks for it now and then, and what parent in her right mind would say no when her kid asks her to make bok choy?

To be totally honest, it’s not too bad. But the key ~ and I mean this ~ is to use baby bok choy. Do not buy the bulbous, thick-cankled, fully grown bok choy. You must be intrepid about searching out the tiny, adorable heads of baby bok choy, which might mean rubbing shoulders with hipsters at Whole Foods or neo-hippies at the co-op. The smaller the bok choy, the more favorable the leaf-to-stem ratio. Grab your reusable shopping bags and go.

I typically make this with Sriracha, same amount, but this time I used Chili Garlic Sauce (made by Huy Fong, just like Sriracha) and it was really good ~ spicier and not as sweet. I like it better, but you decide.

Just remember, baby bok choy. Size matters.

Chili Garlic Baby Bok Choy

Yield: 2 servings

  • 2 large heads or 4 small heads baby bok choy
  • 1 tablespoon oil (olive, peanut, or canola)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Chili Garlic Sauce or Sriracha
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Chop about an inch off the stem end of each head. Cut heads into 1/2″ slices. Place in colander and rinse with cold water to remove any sand or grit. Shake out or spin to remove excess water.
  2. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add chopped bok choy and saute one minute, until just tender and leaves are bright green. Add minced garlic and saute briefly, 30-60 seconds, until garlic just turns golden. Stir frequently so garlic doesn’t burn.
  3. Remove from heat; stir in Chili Garlic Sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

Make-Your-Own Spinach Dip

Spinach dip is my answer to getting vegetable haters to eat their veggies in a nonsneaky, totally unmanipulative way. It’s dip, for crying out loud! Who doesn’t like dip? Not only is it loaded with vegetables, but it’s perfect for serving with cut vegetables, which is win-win. You can also use it as a condiment on sandwiches and burgers. And ~ toddler moms, hear this ~ it’s also a super dip for chicken fingers.

Of course you can buy spinach dip mixes, but they’re packed with those wacky, complicated chemicals that mystical creatures make in underground laboratories. If you hie yourself over to the spice aisle in the grocery store, you can make an initial investment in a few bottles of dried herbs and spices, spend an hour portioning out some dip packets, and have MYO dip mix for a year or more. Or less, if you get asked constantly to bring your “Famous Insanely Delicious Spinach Dip” to every gathering you attend. If you are very hardcore and grow and dry your own herbs, this is a perfect way to use them. And please invite me over for lunch sometime.

BTW, I like to buy little 2×3-inch plastic bags at the craft store for this purpose. Just slap a label on the outside and you’re good to go.

[Disclaimer: I know, I know. Here on Eat Real I usually have nothing good to say about dried herbs. This would obviously be an exception. While you can use fresh herbs in this recipe (remember the ratio is 3:1 fresh to dry), you can’t make a year’s worth of dip mixes in an hour using fresh herbs! And it’s not a nutritional sacrifice. So I’m completely, 100% on board with dried herbs here. Even parsley. And you know how I feel about dried parsley.]

MYO Spinach Dip*

  • 1 tablespoon dried vegetable flakes 
  • 1 tablespoon dried chives 
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried parsley 
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil 
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried dill 
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder 
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder 
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper 
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon celery seed
  • 2 cups sour cream or 1 cup sour cream and 1 cup plain Greek-style yogurt**
  • 4 cups fresh spinach, chopped
  1. Combine all ingredients except for spinach and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow vegetables and herbs to rehydrate and flavors to blend. 
  2. While the dip base is chilling, spray a nonstick skillet with pan spray or oil lightly with olive oil and heat over medium heat. Cook spinach, stirring frequently, until wilted and soft. If the spinach begins to stick to the pan, add a little water, a teaspoon at a time. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
  3. When the spinach is cool, stir into the dip base. Serve with chips, toasted pita wedges, or cut veggies.

*This is dedicated to my sister, Ande, Queen of All Spinach Dip.
**Bonus nutritional points for using yogurt.