Custard Cruising on a Monday Night

Mondays are not normally anything special, except on Custard Cruise night. Finally a Monday that is a little sweeter.

65 people showed up for this year’s Custard Cruise. 65 icy cold sweet treats with an equal number of sweet bikes. Thanks to Axletree for hosting.

Ollie's Frozen Custard

Surly Crosscheck and Salsa Dos Niner

Custard Cruise Sunset

Custard Toast

Cheers.

Categories: Cycling | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beloit and Beyond Bike Tour Ride Report

This weekend we drove up to Beloit, Wisconsin to ride in the 2nd Annual Beloit and Beyond Bike Tour. I had only found out about this ride 3 days prior, when a friend emailed me a link she discovered in Paddle & Trail’s email newsletter.

Severe thunderstorms were originally predicted but thankfully the system was pushed back later in the day. The new forecast predicted highs were to reach 96 degrees with abundant sunshine, giving way to clouds and wind preceding an afternoon storm.

We got a late start to our morning, leaving home 40 minutes later than intended. Sketchy GPS navigation combined with unfamiliarity of the city of Beloit had us lost for a brief time, but we soon spotted cyclists and followed them into the Paddle & Trail‘s parking lot where registration was set up.

Paddle and Trail Beloit Wisconsin

This ride was intriguing because it had many options to accommodate all levels of bicyclists.

  • 4 Miles – Local Loop
  • 8 Miles – Beckman Mill One-Way ($5 shuttle fee)
  • 16 Miles – Beckman Mill Loop
  • 25 Miles – Brodhead One-Way ($10 shuttle fee)
  • 50 Miles – Brodhead Loop
  • 50 Miles – New Glarus Roads One-Way ($15 shuttle fee)
  • 50 Miles – New Glarus Roads + Trail One-Way ($15 shuttle fee)
  • 100 Miles – New Glarus Loop

We opted for the 50 mile one-way route. The concept of a one-way ride to New Glarus that shuttles riders home reminded me of a shorter version of The Eleventy. Since I don’t ride a sustained pace of 2omph – and I am not a guy – I’ll most likely never experience The Eleventy for myself. This Beloit ride was a good opportunity to ride something of a similar nature with about half the distance and half the testosterone.

The ride itself was free, but if you wanted to take advantage of the one-way routes there was a fee to take a shuttle back. Later we would learn that the shuttle was really a crowded minivan, not a bus as one might have imagined.

I had some initial hesitation with this ride. Although the website is designed attractively, there were some gaps in the information presented including the shuttle schedule. I had asked about the shuttle on social media and even sent them a message to which none of my efforts were responded to. My fear was that we would not make it to New Glarus in time to catch the shuttle (especially with our late start) and would be stranded many miles from home or forced to ride the full century which I was not physically or mentally prepared.

Thankfully the volunteers at registration were helpful and patient and addressed all my concerns. However I wish this would have been done beforehand, as the lack of response to my messages in days prior almost had be throw in the towel and not go. If you are going to use social media to promote your event, use it to communicate! Communication leading up to an event is key in getting riders engaged.

We were given a route map, a detour map, reserved seating wristbands for the shuttle, numbers of whom to call when we were ready to be picked up and a goodie bag. The goodie bag contained literature from the Beloit Chamber of Commerce “Visit Beloit” tourism campaign, a pen, bottle opener (which nearly broke upon first use), post-it notepad and perfume sample (a not-so-subtle hint for sweaty cyclists?). Instead of giving away things that will most likely get thrown out, it would be nice to have just one useful item such as a bandana, visor, drink koozie, pint glass or carabiner (just a few ideas) with the Beloit and Beyond logo (which is nicely designed). I understood that it was a free event so there were no complaints.

After popping our wheels on and filling our jersey pockets with Honey Stinger waffles, we were off.

Beloit and Beyond Bike Tour Route Markings

The course was smartly marked with spray-painted arrows on the pavement, in addition to a few signs at main turns. Spray-paint or ground decals are the way to go as ill-intentioned individuals often tamper with signage at events, an unfortunate reality of society. The route had us traveling straight west through some neighborhoods with a few stop signs. A few miles later the roads became more rural with less homes and more farmland. A combination of minimal traffic and gentle rolling hills made for a smooth and fun ride. There were some roads that I’d describe as pebbly, a bit rougher than the roads I am use to riding but still enjoyable.

The first water stop was around mile 8, too soon for us so we rolled on past. The next water stop was placed outside of a cemetery around mile 18. They had small granola bars, fruit snacks, fruit, and individual drink enhancer packets (Gatorade? Crystal Light? I wasn’t sure). I opted for a Smores-flavored granola bar, filled one of my bottles and then we rolled out towards Brodhead. Along the way was a suggested detour because of some freshly poured gravel that caused some last minute route changes, although volunteer Larry said that a few cyclists had already gone through and said it was fine. We decided to risk the gravel and so just past the Sand Burr restaurant on County T we turned onto the original route of Halfway Tree Road. Indeed there was fresh gravel all along Halfway Tree and most of Airport Road, about a 1.75 mile stretch, but it was doable on road bikes.

Brodhead Wisconsin Train Depot

Once we reached Brodhead, we stopped at the Brodhead Depot Museum next to Veterans Memorial Park for a saddle adjustment. While off the bike, an ant had gotten into my sock which resulted in me hopping around with my shoe off. Brodhead looked like a cute town and I wished we had a little more time to explore and get some coffee but we wanted to get to continue on to New Glarus.

Only a half mile after our saddle adjustment stop we had to stop again as we approached Exchange & 3rd ave. – the road vs. trail juncture approximately 26 miles into the ride. From here you had the option to take the roads which are described as hilly and challenging or the mild-mannered Sugar River Trail. The road option included two category 5 climbs, one nearly a mile long. My lack of hill training combined with rising temps contributed to my decision to choose the trail option. I’m well aware of the hills that Southwestern Wisconsin has to offer and was not feeling like I was properly trained to attempt it this year. I also had a ride planned for the following day and did not want to trash my quads on those hills and have jello legs the rest of the weekend. This juncture had another water stop and self-registration for those deciding to use the trail. It cost $4 a person for a daily trail pass, exact cash placed into an envelope and deposited into a mailbox slot at the park shelter. After filling out the form and depositing our $8 we pedaled north along 3rd Avenue, past 4th (the turn-off for the road riders) towards the trailhead. Little did I know this would be a decision that I’d soon come to regret.

Sugar River State Trail Trailhead in Brodhead Wisconsin

We stopped at the trailhead at Decatur & Pierce Road to take a mini break to eat a Honey Stinger and then began the last half of our ride. The Sugar River Trail is a rails-to-trails project and I assumed it would be much like my rails-to-trails back home which I often take my road bike on. Incorrect assumption. It was obvious right away that this trail does not see much use. Weeds were sprouting up in the middle of the trail like a suburban boulevard. Large branches and debris littered the path, and some areas were so soft and sandy that my skinny tires sank along with my spirits. Wish I would have read Tracy Doyle’s review which largely echoed my own. This trail may be fine for mountain or hybrids but it was not as hard-packed and smooth as the trails we are use to. The scenery diminished as both sides of the trail were bordered by trees and brush, making it impossible to see any of the country landscape. I became mentally bogged down by the thought of riding a full 25 miles (it later turned out to be 22) on this and missed the wide-open roads with views of spotted cows, weathered barns and rolls of hay on the horizon. The only benefit I saw to the trail was that it was partly shaded which was relief on a hot day and there was a neat covered bridge that was fun to ride through. Each mile felt like 10, and it wasn’t until we crossed paths with the Badger Trail and approached Monticello that I perked up a little.

Monticello Train Railroad Depot Along Sugar River Trail in Wisconsin

In Monticello just north of County EE there is a restored train depot along the trail which is painted a bright and lovely shade of orange. We stopped here for another Honey Stinger and finished off the rest of our water. While there were 3 water stops in the first 26 miles of the route, there were 0 water stops out here on the trail. In fact we did not see any other cyclists from our ride while on the trail and we barely saw a soul at all. I had a feeling that 99% of the riders took the road option. At least we get points for being different, eh?

We had about 7 or so miles left to New Glarus and these last miles were tolerable. The trail seemed to get more use in this stretch so it was better maintained and we actually saw a few things besides trees and brush. We saw lovely white and brown birch trees with bright yellow goldenrod. We saw the manicured golf course of the Edelweiss Chalet Country Club. We saw open views of a farm with spotted cows. We saw a 4′ long snake spread across the path, a snake which we both nearly ran over. We began to see more people, mostly walkers, and could sense that we were close to town.

All of a sudden we popped out onto Route 69, crossed the road and continued behind Chalet Landhaus Inn and arrived at the finish (turn around for the century riders) on the deck of Fat Cat Coffee Works. I was surprised we arrived so quickly, my Garmin read just a hair over 48 miles, approximately 2 miles short of 50.

The volunteers seemed genuinely friendly and happy to see us. They said that a shuttle would be on its way and another rider was waiting at a local pub. We left our phone number with them and they said they’d call when the shuttle arrived. They suggested we leave the bikes under their supervision while we walked into town for lunch. Mr. Nine admired a Surly Moonlander that was parked outside of the coffee shop and then we headed off in search of food and drink. Walking on sidewalks in bike shoes is not an easy task and Mr. Nine was worried that he’d wear out his new cleats. We walked into one of the first pubs we found, only to see it packed with a biker crowd – the motorcycle kind. Leather & lycra don’t mix so we opted to walk a bit further until we found a place that seemed bicyclist friendly. We ended up going to Toffler’s Pub & Grill which had outdoor seating and New Glarus beer on tap. The waitress was very friendly and the food arrived quickly. I would say that it was the best burger with pepper-jack cheese and homemade chips that I’ve ever had, but truth be told I was so hungry that anything would have tasted incredible. It was washed down with my current NG fave – Moon Man. I wondered if the owner of the above-mentioned Moonlander enjoyed a Moon Man while in town…

Toffler's Pub New Glarus Wisconsin

We walked through town and listened to bells from the Swiss United Church and peeked into the windows of shops but didn’t stop in because we didn’t have appropriate shoes. It would have been ideal for the ride to offer a drop-bag service where cyclists could bring a bag with a change of clothes, shoes, food or other essentials and drop it off at registration. Then the first shuttle could bring it into New Glarus where it would be waiting for cyclists. This would have made it possible for us to change shoes and clothes and spend the afternoon in New Glarus.

Swiss Church New Glarus

Beloit and Beyond Map and Fat Cat Scone

After a short walking tour of downtown NG we walked back to Fat Cat and the volunteers said it would be another 2 hours before the shuttle was to arrive, and then another half hour before we’d depart. I wouldn’t mind if they had a drop-bag system as I’ve mentioned, but sitting around in sweaty bike clothes for another 2 1/2 hours was not ideal. I rode around the block a few times to make up my lost 2 miles to try to get to an even 50 (OCD behavior), got Americanos and a scone (the Americanos were excellent, the scone was horrible). Thankfully moments later a volunteer in a minivan arrived and offered to take us and 2 other cyclists, 2 hours ahead of the projected time. He had a 4-bike rack but it was not on the hitch. Turned out that he was missing a bolt, so another volunteer left to go to the hardware store to buy one. Meanwhile, we are now sitting in a gas station parking lot waiting for said part to arrive. Some time later, the bike rack is finally on the hitch and our bikes are loaded. There are only 3 seats in the vehicle, so one of the guys volunteered to sit in the back. The minivan was quite cluttered with everything from flowery glass trivets to spools of wire to shopping bags and it was very cramped amongst the clutter. Not really what I was expecting for our $15 shuttle, but it was a ride and we needed one so I kept quiet. On our 50 mile ride back the skies darkened and became ominous as the storm loomed not far away. I was glad we were not stuck in New Glarus waiting or worse – on the roads with our bikes.

We made it back to Paddle & Trail just minutes before the rain started. A few volunteers remained and they congratulated us on a great ride. We packed up the bikes and headed out just as the winds really picked up and the strong downpour began.

Overall I thought it was worth the trip. While I would have preferred better pre-ride communication, a real shuttle and a drop-bag option – we ended up managing just fine. Next time I would rather use my triple crankset to its full ability and burn my quads on those “demon hills” than to take the Sugar River State Recreation Trail again. While the ride is “free”, in the end it cost $19 each with the shuttle and trail fee. This ride is only in its second year and there is room for improvement. I overheard a volunteer say that around 120 people came out for this ride which was an increase in attendance from their first year. It is a good idea, run by friendly volunteers and has real potential to become a solid annual ride if they ask for feedback from the riders and listen. I’d encourage others to come out next year and try this versatile ride, there is something for the whole family.

Categories: Cycling, Travels | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Freeda Roam Honey Bee Cycling Jersey Review

Being both a designer and cyclist, I’ve always been frustrated with women’s bike jersey designs. Apparently most cycling clothing manufacturers believe that women want one of the following: swirls or flowers. Occasionally they’ll throw in a geometric pattern or two but for the most part floral and swirls dominate the female cycling jersey design scene. Oh, and lots of pink.

I’ve often thought about designing my own, but single-run custom printing can be expensive, and honestly I haven’t found the time to create my own. If I have any spare time, I prefer to be riding out on the roads or trails.

A few years ago I discovered Twin Six. T6 knows good design. I quickly became enamored with them but like with all new things, the newness wore off. Don’t get me wrong I still think they are a great company and love their clothes, but they seem to neglect the female market by offering more designs for men. Another problem I have is that all their designs look-alike with similar color palettes that are dominated by black. Black is a great color. I love black. I also love to be seen by motorists on the road and safety outweighs the “cool” factor. I’m not talking neon colors here (although I do own a few safety orange and yellow items) but some color would be nice. I always feel invisible when wearing my black and dark red T6 jersey and invisible is not a feeling you want to have when riding down a road with cars whizzing by.

It seemed that all of my cycling clothing problems were solved when I stumbled upon a new company called Freeda Roam. Wow! Designs that are truly beautiful and unique without swirls or flowers! And oh look, simple color palettes that use only 2-3 colors! Colors that stand out and that are safe without being obnoxious!

I knew that I had to order one and without a doubt the Honey Bee was my favorite design, Speedway and Freeda a close second. Lucky for me Honey Bee was the only design in-stock to ship immediately. All other designs are on a 2-week lead time as they are printed to order.

The checkout process was quick and easy, and within a few days my jersey arrived.

Freeda Roam Honey Bee Women's Cycling Jersey Front

Front View – Fitted but not overly tight.

Freeda Roam Honey Bee Women's Cycling Jersey Sleeve

Sleeve View – The stretchy material allows for a perfect fit in the arms without cutting off circulation or feeling restrictive.

Freeda Roam Honey Bee Women's Cycling Jersey Back

Back View – Simple design with the traditional 3-pockets.

I had ordered a size small, which is the same size that I wear in Twin Six and Pactimo, so I feel it is true to size. My initial excitement over aesthetics quickly were replaced my some quality concerns. I am use to a slightly better quality jersey, and the sewing and finishing were a bit of a disappointment.

To demonstrate this, I have compared it to my all-time favorite jersey from the Dairyland Dare which is made by Pactimo.

Freeda Roam on the left, Pactimo on the right.

Freeda Roam VS Pactimo Quality Comparison Collars

The collar of the Freeda Roam jersey was a bit scratchy as the seams are exposed which could rub and irritate skin.

Freeda Roam VS Pactimo Quality Comparison Pocket Stitching

This is an inside view of both jerseys to showing the sewing on the back pockets. As you can see, the Freeda Roam only has a single stitch, while Pactimo goes with a more durable double stitching. The tops are also enforced and over-stitched, making it more durable. The single stitch could be a problem over time with taking gels and phones and route maps in and out of the back pockets countless times.

Freeda Roam VS Pactimo Quality Comparison Waist Band

Here we have the bottom hem. Freeda Roam states on their website that they do not use elastic. From their FAQ page:

Some ladies like it, some don’t. Our jerseys do not have elastic in the arms or waist. Our pattern is designed to keep the jersey in place without the uncomfortable constraints of elastic. However there is elastic in the back pockets hem to help keep your essentials in place.

I knew that before purchasing it but I have to say that I am a lady who does like elastic. Having wider hips, I find the elastic holds my jersey in place and I don’t find it uncomfortable or constraining.

After trying on the jersey the scratchy neck was certainly bothering me and I immediately thought about returning it. I even contacted the company asking about their return policy (they were very polite and the return process was easy, by the way). Then I decided that I really loved the design and the price wasn’t too bad (cycling jerseys are notorious for costing a fortune) and it wouldn’t be worth it to ship it back. I figured that I could just use it on short rides.

I ended up wearing it on 2 rides this week – a 36 miler and a 50 miler. After riding almost 100 miles in it, I have to say I am glad that I didn’t send it back. The collar ended up being fine after a few miles (to the point where I forgot about it) and the jersey stayed down despite the elastic.

I do admit that I still have some concerns about it holding up over time, but hope to get enough miles out of it before needing to put it under my own sewing machine. It’s only been washed it once so time will tell how it holds up to laundering. (Always wash in cold water and line-dry to ensure garment longevity.)

I’ve gotten a few compliments on the Honey Bee jersey so far and I like that it is unique. As far as I know I’m the only girl in the county with this jersey. From a design standpoint it is spot on – they created a bee theme design without going overboard. My husband even said, “They could have gone with the obvious and added a honeycomb pattern, but they didn’t”. I salute the Freeda Roam designers for that. Simple, clean design with a nice 2-color palette. Cheerful and feminine without being pink or flowery. Bright and visible without being neon. Chic without being all black.

Overall I would recommend this jersey to other women cyclists who are tired of the design options out there and are looking for unique cycling clothing. While not as comfortable as other jerseys I’ve owned, it was comfortable enough for me to pedal out a 50 mile ride in with no major complaints.

Looking forward to their new fall 2012 designs. With the 2-week lead time on most designs, I hope they come out with their fall designs soon before it gets too cold.

Categories: Cycling | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Removing Spoke Reflectors

I’ve been meaning to remove my spoke reflectors but haven’t gotten around to it. The topic of spoke/wheel reflectors came up today while on a 30 mile group ride and I learned that a friend just removed hers. I can’t look like the only rookie of the group! 😉 Time to remove these ugly “useless” things.

Stock Spoke Reflectors

Of course safety is of extreme importance to me, so I wasn’t going to remove them without installing a new safety feature. Enter Lightweights. Step 1: Remove the heavy, old wheel reflectors with a screwdriver.

Step 1 Remove Spoke Reflectors

I used a coin for my front wheel and it came off easily. The back wheel was a little tight and needed a screwdriver.

Removing Spoke Reflectors

They are a simple two-piece construction and were easy to remove.

Spoke Reflectors Removed

Now that I had my dorky spoke reflectors off, it was time to install my super lightweight, super cool reflector tape. For each reflector that I removed, I dropped 16 grams. Adding the wheel reflector tape only added 2 grams. That is a total savings of 28 grams! I’m not too concerned with the weight of my bike. Let’s be serious, losing the reflectors is not going to make me ride any faster, but it is nice to have a sleek bike.

Installing Spoke Tape

Let me be clear, it is not just about appearance, these pre-cut Lightweights for Wheels Power Reflectors are 400% more reflective than plain wheel reflectors! It really seems like a no-brainer – your bike looks better and is safer.

I first cleaned the spoked with Simple Green. Then I used the application guide ruler in the instruction booklet to perfectly position each pre-cut reflective rectangle. With a little rubbing and burnishing with your fingernail, you can wrap each spoke super tight. There is a white paper backing that is removed and while a straight-forward process, it is a bit time-consuming. Sitting outside enjoying the summer weather and listening to Pandora makes the process more enjoyable.

Wrapping Spoke Tape

My wheels have 36 spokes. My wheel is tilted in this picture, but they are indeed all lined up perfectly.

Finished Spokes

I didn’t want to wait until night to take a photo so this was taking during the day with a flashlight shining on it. My basic point and shoot lacks a slow shutter speed so I couldn’t capture the perfect spinning effect the way I wanted, but in person it appears as a continuous circle of light and is very noticeable even during the day. This reflective spoke tape, along with a good front and rear light, is far more effective than the stock plastic spoke reflectors. Don’t forget to add some reflective tape to your helmet or clothing!

My bike is lighter, brighter, safer and looks better. Why did I wait so long to remove them?

Here are some common reasons why people remove the stock wheel reflectors that come on their bikes.

  • They are “heavy”.
  • They make your bike look slower.
  • They can loosen up and slide around making noise.
  • They can make your wheels wobble.
  • They can fall off and litter the road.
  • Most people ride during the day, and if you are riding at night you should have lights anyway!

Do you have anything to add to this list?

Can’t wait to go on a night ride and try out my new 400% more reflective spokes. 🙂

 

 

Categories: Cycling | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Difference Between Blanched and Unblanched Almond Flour

This year I began baking with almond flour. Most recipes will call for non-specific regular “almond flour” while others specify “blanched almond flour”. This intrigued me, was there really a difference? My local grocery store only sells Bob’s Red Mill and that has been what I’ve been buying and using and have found it to work well but I had nothing to compare it to. I was surprised to read that Elana, from Elana’s Pantry and author of the book The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook, does not recommend Bob’s Red Mill (see what she says here) and instead favors Honeyville Farms.

Several years ago Mr. Nine & I had the pleasure of visiting Bob’s Red Mill in Milwaukie, Oregon. I love his vision of the company, their products and facility! His almond flour has been working fine in my recipes, but it is really expensive so I decided to look into alternatives.

A family member recommended Trader Joe’s for having the best prices on almond flour and indeed they do! Too good to be true? I decided to grab a bag at TJ’s this weekend, and ordered a bag from Honeyville online to compare all three.

Almond Flour Brands

Here we have Honeyville Farms, Trader Joe’s and Bob’s Red Mill (in the container, unfortunately I do not have the original bag). Let’s take a look at all three compared side by side.

Almond Flour Comparison

Honeyville Farms Blanched Almond Flour – $6 lb.*
view on Honeyville Farm’s website

Bob’s Red Mill Finely Ground Almond Meal/Flour From Blanched Whole Almonds – $10.99 lb.
view on Bob’s Red Mill website

Trader Joe’s Nuts Just Almond Meal – $3.99 lb.
view on Trader Joe’s website 

* Based upon purchase price of $29.99 for a 5 lb. bag since 5 lbs. is the minimum purchase. Please note that I did not include the cost of shipping or sales tax, if applicable. Prices will also vary depending on where you live and shop. I’ve seen Bob’s Red Mill for as high as $12.99 at Super Target down the road!

Bob's Red Mill Almond Meal Flour Blanched

Shown above is Bob’s Red Mill. A nice light golden color (obviously blanched, even though that word doesn’t stand out on the product packaging) and is a fine texture. The packaging describes this as a meal/flour.

Honeyville Farms Blanched Almond Flour

This is Honeyville Farm’s almond flour. Very similar to Bob’s, just a touch lighter in color and is ground just ever so slightly finer. It would be hard for me to tell the difference if I was not directly comparing the two. I did notice that Honeyville was more fragrant in smell (a fresher almond aroma).

Trader Joe's Almond Meal

Trader Joe’s almond meal is darker in color and you can see the pieces of skin. This is a tell-tale sign that it is not blanched.

It is important to know that almond meal is not the same as almond flour. Almond meal is simply ground up whole almonds with their skins, while almond flour is blanched and processed into a finely ground flour. Trader Joe’s says “meal” right on the bag, and you tell an immediate difference by color.

I’ve used both Bob’s and Honeyville in baking and both perform as well as I’d expect. I’ve yet to try Trader Joe’s in a baking application (just bought it this past weekend), but I think it would be better suited for applications as breading chicken, or mixed into something where you wouldn’t mind the little pieces of almond skin. It might also work in a recipe where flour is not one of the main ingredients, or where the end result has a dense texture.

To me, Bob’s and Honeyville are virtually the same. Bob’s is easier for me to purchase since I can just go down to my local store and buy a bag. However, even with shipping ($4.49), Honeyville Farm’s almond flour is a heck of a lot cheaper. Depending on where you shop the savings could be 50%! The downfall to Honeyville is that you do have to buy it in bulk  (minimum 5 lbs.) but I will definitely use it up so I didn’t mind buying such a large bag.

In conclusion Honeyville Farms is the winner in my book because of price, color, freshness and how it performs. I wouldn’t hesitate to use Bob’s either, especially if you don’t plan on making a lot of recipes with it and don’t want to commit to a 5 lb. bag.

What brand of almond flour do you use? Have you tried Trader Joe’s Almond Meal in baking? How did it turn out? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Looking for where to buy almond flour? Most stores like Jewel, Trader Joe’s, Super Target, Woodman’s, Whole Foods & Hy-Vee (to name a few) carry it in the gluten-free section or in the aisle with specialty flours and baking mixes. The most popular brand in my area is Bob’s Red Mill and it comes in a clear plastic 1 lb. bag. You can also order it online on websites like Honeyville (see link in post above) or King Arthur Flour. You could also make your own, but I’ll save that for another post. 😉

Categories: Food | Tags: , , , , | 24 Comments

A Healthy Food Community is Growing

Living in a community plagued an abundance of fast food restaurants and more greasy bar food than one could imagine, it is refreshing to see some healthy and creative women in our community combating that.

Rural Girl Soups

Rural Girl Soup to Go

Rural Girl Salad to Go

Last month, I had the opportunity to sample some soups & salads at a special event from a new soup delivery business called Rural Girl Soups. The concept is a weekly soup service that will deliver soup to your front door. The owner, Gail, makes all the soups from scratch and her husband Joe makes the deliveries. You leave a cooler with ice on your front step, similar to an old-fashioned milk delivery service. Rural Girl also sells colorful salads, cookies and resells hand pies from Over The Top Sweets in Elgin, Illinois and Potter’s Crackers from Madison, Wisconsin. (I just wrote about Potter’s in my last blog post, I picked up a package of their Rhubarb Graham Crackers at the Dane County Farmer’s Market!)

Jo Cessna Natural Cook

Then there is Jo Cessna, a lady who is helping us eat healthier one dish at a time. She calls herself A Natural Cook, and focuses on clean eating principles. Jo makes appearances a local events (I first saw her at a Progressive Wine Tasting last year), and does workshops and private or small-group cooking lessons. She also sells recipe cards and has a blog with more good stuff!

It is refreshing to these smart, beautiful, entrepreneurial women leaving their mark to help this community get back to real food. I’m inspired by these women and I want to be part of this real food movement and help to inspire others.

I’ve been busy in my own kitchen trying lots of new recipes. Most of the recipes I have been trying have been Paleo-ish or at least clean eating and gluten-free.

Mustard Lime Chicken

Elana’s Pantry Mustard Lime Chicken on the grill with a side of cauliflower puree. This marinade rocks and is so simple! Lime juice, cilantro, dijon mustard, olive oil, chili powder, salt and pepper all mixed up in the Vitamix. I only had time to marinate it for 20 minutes (just long enough for the charcoal to get hot) and it was plenty of time! Loads of flavor here. The best part? I have a leftover breast that I plan on slicing up for a salad for lunch today!

Almond Cheddar Crackers

From the Almond Flour Cookbook, I made these Cheddar Cheese Crackers. They are made from almond flour, salt, baking soda, cheddar cheese, grapeseed oil and eggs. They were super easy to make (the oils from the cheese keep the dough nice and easy to form and roll), using parchment paper keeps things clean and pre-scoring them made it a cinch to snap after baking. I had to increase my bake time by 10 minutes to get them golden brown. They taste very similar to Cheez-Its only much better for you. I used a sharp cheddar from Wisconsin that I grated fresh (way better than the pre-shredded cheese!) and the flavor was great. The only thing I am not thrilled about is the texture which is a bit soft. It kind of reminds me of eating a stale cracker that has softened. 😦 I still like them enough to eat them, but wish they were crisper. This recipe makes A LOT of crackers so I may smash some and use it as a “breading” for baked chicken!

Paleo Breakfast Cake

Paleo Breakfast Bread. Wow. Super simple and quick to make! These contain only almond butter, eggs, honey, vanilla extract, salt, baking soda and cinnamon. The recipe also calls for stevia, but I left that out as I find it too bitter in baked goods. I mixed it in my Kitchen-Aid and then into the oven it went for 15 minutes (quick!). This “cake” has a mild sweetness and is really addicting!

Paleo Breakfast Cake

Moist, not overly sweet with a beautiful nuttiness. I usually wait for a cake to cool before cutting it, but I cut into this within minutes of it coming out of the oven. It tastes great warm, and sliced up fine. It also tastes good room temp. I had to stop myself from eating the whole pan.

I am in a baking mood this week, but a friend reminded me to focus more on eating vegetables and other healthy, clean, natural foods, and not just making Paleo-fied desserts and treats. I don’t always get into the baking mood though, so I am just enjoying it while I’m on a roll. However I will have to pay extra attention to adding more veggies into next week’s meal plan because I wholeheartedly agree with her (right after I make these Primal Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies). 😉

I almost forgot, I won Tales from an Average Runner’s Cryocup Giveaway! Mr. Nine made a ice massager from a Dixie Cup filled with water, but this looks better and more durable. I’ll let you know how it works once I get to try it.

Do you have any real food activists in your community? How are they making positive changes? Any tips on baking crackers that stay crispy?

Categories: Food, Health | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Craving Quiche

Spent a fun-filled weekend in Madison.

Giraffe at Henry Vilas Zoo

Went to the zoo.

Pier on Lake Mendota

Walked along the Lake Mendota.

Stones Throw Madison

Did some bargain shopping ($10 clearance Lole top!).

Hopalicious and New Glarus

Stocked the fridge with some fave Wisconsin brews and my favorite preserves from the Dane County Farmers’ Market.

Potter's Crackers

And a few more Farmers’ Market finds like Stella’s Hot & Spicy Cheese Bread and these Rhubarb Graham Crackers from Potter’s Crackers.

There was also lots of eating, wandering around, a trip to Olbrich Botanical Gardens and we even went over to Sundance to see the film Salmon Fishing in Yemen.

Today I stayed home and got caught up on things like laundry and mowing the lawn. After attending to the fun domestic stuff, I took a little trip to Barnes & Noble and treated myself to a new cookbook. After a week of eating out (between my Door County and Madison travels) I wanted to jumpstart some healthy eating and be inspired with some new recipes.

The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook

I’ve been making many of Elana’s recipes from her website and thought it was time that I bought her book. While in Madison, I had some of the best quiche ever from La Baguette. Authentic French bakery, the quiche and pastries taste just like I remember from Paris. Swoon. While the quiche was sinful, it was also most likely made with butter and heavy cream (that is why it tastes so darn good!). I was happy to see a healthier version of quiche in the cookbook and decided that I’d make it for dinner tonight.

Quiche Crust

Here is the Savory Pie Crust (I did a sloppy job pressing it in the pan) made with just almond flour, baking soda, salt, green oniongrape seed oil and water. I did have to bake it about 12 minutes longer than the recipe stated, but it came out perfectly golden and made the house smell like almond cookies.

While the crust was cooling, I cooked the onion, broccoli, mushroomssun-dried tomatoes and garlic. I let the veggie mixture cool and went to water some plants in the garden. A half hour later and I was ready to prepare the quiche. I whisked 3 eggs and gently stirred in goat cheese & salt. I folded in the veggies and poured it into the prepared crust. Baked for 35 minutes and then let it sit for another half hour (while I did some more gardening).

Savory Quiche

The completed Savory Vegetable Quiche cooling on the table.

Quiche Closeup

Sliced and plated, ready to eat. Mr. Nine added lots of hot sauce to his, and admittedly the quiche was rather bland. I decided to forgo the hot sauce and just enjoy the mild veggie flavors. The crust was a bit crumbly, like a graham cracker crust. Next time I’d add another egg or two (my egg to veggie ratio seemed off, but I just eyeballed my measurements) but this was a good “healthy quiche” recipe. Of course it wasn’t as indulgent and creamy as La Baguette, but I won’t have to spend an extra hour (or two, or three) in the gym because of it. 😉

As I am writing this blog post, I smelled something burning. My Peanut Butter Chocolate Protein Bars! It wasn’t quite ready at 25 minutes, so I left it in for a few more but forgot to set the timer. 😦 I hope they are not too ruined… they look okay, but do smell a little overdone. I have no idea how long they’ve been in there… but longer than they should have been. Boo. I really wanted these to snack on this week and do not feel like making another batch tonight.

It is amazing how you can sit down at the computer for “just a few minutes” blogging, reading emails, catching up on Facebook and suddenly a huge chunk of time is gone.

Do you ever lose track of time while on the computer? Do you ever set a timer for yourself to limit your online time? What is your favorite quiche recipe? Rich and indulgent or light and healthy?

Update: The Peanut Butter Chocolate Protein Bars ended up being edible. A little on the dry side, but not burnt. They were probably in there 10-15 minutes longer than they were suppose to so that says a lot to how fool-proof this recipe is. 🙂

Categories: Food, Travels | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Nicolet Bay 5k Race Weekend Recap

Back from my girls weekend in Door County!

Door County Country Chalet

Our charming rental “chalet” in the woods. After dropping off our luggage we went to the Ephraim Town Hall for packet pick-up. The sun was out and there was an excitement in the air (along with lots of bugs). That evening we stayed in and cooked since it was the night before the race. Roasted vegetable lasagna was the star, and a garden salad, spinach cake, garlic bread were the supporting acts. We also had a festive taco dip, fresh fruit, and other little snacks. I made up a batch of cranberry apricot truffles for something sweet. We had so much food that we forgot to take some out of the fridge. While most people like to super hydrate with water the night before a race, I like to have a glass of wine with my dinner to relax. 🙂 Dinner was wonderful and we went to bed early to get a good night of rest.

This was my first race coming back from my ITB injury, and as much as I wanted to run the half marathon with the girls, I played it safe and stuck to the 5k race option. Check out the course:

Nicolet Bay 5k Course Map

The course runs on park roads that hug the two bays. I was so excited!

The race didn’t start until 10:35 so we were able to sleep in, have breakfast and take our time getting ready.

Costco Running Outfit

My race outfit from Costco! Yes, Costco makes decent running clothes and I love them. The pants are Kirkland yoga crop pants for $16.99 and the space-dye racer-back tank was $12.99. There is a rumor that some of Costco’s workout clothes are made in the same place where they make Lululemon. I own a pair of Lululemon capri pants and I can say that I think the Costco ones are just as good if not better quality. The fit and fabric are both perfect and the price is right. I actually bought a pair of these pants last summer and after a few dozen washes they are still great and don’t pill like Lululemon. The amount of money I saved covered the cost of my race entry, my portion of the chalet rental and a few bottles of cherry wine! 😉 Check out these other discussions on Costco’s Kirkland workout clothes here, here and here.

We decided to drive to the race instead of taking the trolley. There were tents set up with clothing and shoe vendors, food, drinks and music playing on the speakers. We had quite a bit of a wait until the start (I had about an hour and a half) so we just chatted and the time flew by.

Get Outdoors Wisconsin

The weather was PERFECT for running. It started out cloudy and cool, a few rain drops, then the sun came out. My friends left to go head to their half marathon start and I decided to walk around Nicolet Bay and take some photos. Pretty soon it was time for me to follow the signs to the starting line.

5k Start

There were lots of people with fun signs like this one:

Race Sign

I did a mile warm-up run 10 minutes before the start and then lined up with about 500 other runners.

Starting Line

I started in the back of the front third of the pack, although I soon realized that I should have started closer to the front. Many people in front of me walked right from the start and I landed on my ankle funny trying to get around them. The first mile flew by and I was really in a good groove. Much of the race is on tree-lined paved roads but every once in awhile you’d see views of the bay.

Door County Green Bay

Could the scenery be any better? The water was so blue and the sun had come out and made everything sparkle.

Around Mile 2

This was around mile 2. The trees were so green and although there were other runners on the course it wasn’t too crowded.

Horseshoe Island

Another view of the water, between miles 2 and 3. That is Horseshoe Island in the background.

Park Road

A typical view of the course, smooth winding roads in the park. Most of the route was flat but there were a few slight hills. I heard the half marathon course had many more hills.

I was in awe of the views, and just the feeling of being alive and healthy enough to run through the park that I started talking aloud sharing my excitement with whomever was next to me. I kept snapping pics like these as I was running and wasn’t taking the race too seriously. I wanted to finish in a decent time but also knew that I haven’t been back running long and my pace hasn’t been the greatest. I saw the finish line and sprinted into the chute and was surprised with my time of 28:20.

7 out of 51 Age Group43 out of 315 Gender104 out of 479 Overall

I’ll take that. Honestly the time didn’t matter, just finishing without feeling any knee pain was my goal. Sometimes people get so hung up on their times that they forget to enjoy the course. I wanted to soak it all in and be “aware” and present in the moment.

I ran down to the food tent for a cookie, banana and water and then headed to the beach to do a little yoga and stretching. I knew I wasn’t getting an age group award but I stuck around to hear most of the runners be called up to the awards table. It was just before noon and I wanted to go back out on the course and cheer and wait for my friends who were doing the half. I walked up to mile 12 which had a perfect view of the bay and I cheered for a half hour straight until my hands felt numb from clapping.

Soon I heard my friends come charging down the course and I ran with them to the finish. It was amazing to see Mandy cross the finish line of her first half marathon! I started to cry a little! There was hugging, laughing, and smiling until our faces hurt.

After heading back to clean up, we went to Husby’s for our free beer and some greasy bar food. The Kentucky Derby came on and that was fun to watch another kind of race. I’ll Have Another won!

Husby's Kentucky Derby

They had a band outside and they played one of my favorite songs – Wilco’s “Heavy Metal Drummer” – so we stayed to listen to a few songs. We tried to stay up late drinking and celebrating, but truth be told we were so exhausted that we turned in early. I needed toothpicks for my eyelids to keep them open!

My friend who organized this weekend gave us Etsy swag bags on our pillows that contained this thoughtful “sole sister” charm.

Sole Sister Charm

Photo by Ilona M.

As someone who loves Etsy and use to sell on there, it made me happy to see that she got everything from there. I like that this charm has a bare foot, too because I’ve been running semi-barefoot (minimalist) lately.

The following morning we went to White Gull Inn for breakfast, picked up wine, stopped for coffee, shopping, etc. and then headed home. There were so many other moments in between that I am leaving out for the sake of keeping this post fairly short.

The race was well organized, had a small town feel (despite a decent number of runners), an amazing course and accurate mile markers (which is rare). It was perfect and I’d do it again! It was a great weekend and I am happy to be back running.

What is your favorite race? Do you ever travel to do races with friends, or do you prefer to keep it local?

Categories: Running, Travels | Tags: , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

A Week of Food Highlights

This week may have gotten away from me, but I haven’t forgotten to snap photos of FOOD! 🙂 Here are some highlights from the past few days.

Butternut Squash Burger

Burgers with Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onions from Paleo Table. Served with Sweets & Beets and sliced strawberries. Loved a bun-less burger topped with butternut squash! However I could do without the sausage. Next time I’ll stick with 100% grass-fed ground beef and leave the ground sausage out. She has a method for doing caramelized onions, but I was short on time and just sauteed a Vidalia until soft and sweet. This was a great combo worth trying.

Vitamix Broccoli Soup

Broccoli Soup from Elana’s Pantry. So simple, just olive oil, onion, broccoli, water and salt. That’s right, no broth! I was worried it would not be flavorful, but it was. A good little soup to mix up in the Vitamix, however it was very watery and was more of a sipping soup than a soup you’d eat with a spoon.

Clean Eating Tarragon Chicken

Chicken Fricassee with Tarragon from Clean Eating Magazine. Great, classic flavor. The leeks loose their bright, light green color in the cooking process but the taste is wonderful. Mild yet flavorful.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Squares

Peanut Butter Chocolate Protein Bars from Little B’s Healthy Habits. I made these with Truvia instead of Stevia in the Raw (which is too bitter for me). The peanut butter flavor is mild and it is not too sweet. A dense chocolate cake that is perfect for a post-gym treat. Very moist and healthy and a good starter protein cake recipe that you can tweak to your liking. Store these in the fridge since they are all natural!

Berry Tart

An early birthday cake from my sweet Mom – a fresh berry tart from Whole Foods! SO GOOD! Hands down, the best birthday “cake” I’ve had. Raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries & kiwi atop a vanilla custard nestled in a shortbread-style crust. This was unbelievable people, gone in less than a day. I went to the fridge looking for more tonight, hoping another would magically appear. It sure is a good thing that Whole Foods is an hour drive from us or else I’d be there now in my pajamas with fork in hand.

Homemade Tomato Sauces

My MIL stopped by today and brought all these containers of homemade pasta sauces. An entire shelf in the freezer is loaded! Any suggestions on what to make with these sauces? I am trying to stay away from too many grains today, so a gluten-free or paleo-friendly option would be ideal.

Finally Running

In other news, I ran my first 5k distance since mid-December! It has been over 4 1/2 months and it has been tough. I went from running 15 miles to zero due to my IT Band injury. I have lost some speed, but I almost hit a sub-30 and I wasn’t even trying for that, I was just having fun running in the cold rain on a cloudy day. I have a race coming up this weekend (I signed up in early January when I was still optimistic and didn’t think I’d be injured so long!) and can’t wait to pin on a bib number and hear the shotgun start. I am not going to try for a PR of course, just want to finish and have fun! A few months ago I was depressed and honestly felt like I’d NEVER run again. I’d run 500 feet and be in so much pain, even after taking weeks off from running. Looking down at my Garmin and seeing that beautiful 3.10 number really made my day. Hopefully I’ll be back to running half marathons again by this fall, but for now I’m taking it one day at a time.

What have you been cooking this week? Have you ever had to take an extended period of time off from running for an injury?

Categories: Food, Running | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Starting LiveFit Phase 3

After a morning of watching Yard Crashers and drinking the best coffee ever, we decided to hit the gym before the morning got away from us. I started  Phase 3 of Jamie Eason’s LiveFit 12 Week Trainer today. I am about 2 weeks behind in the program because I repeated a week during Phase 2 and then took a week off for a mental break to clear my head before continuing on. The first day of Phase 3 (Day 57) kicked things off with quads & calves. I love leg days and this was no exception. I did calf presses on the leg press machine for the first time ever. I really liked that compared to seated calf raises or using the smith machine with block. Have you ever done calf raises on the leg press?

I also JUST learned (over two months into the program) that there is a female version of each exercise video! On the LiveFit Trainer daily workout page, each exercise name is a link that opens a pop-up box with the exercise performed by a male.

LiveFit Video 1

From that pop-up box, if you click the name of the exercise again (or click the blue “View Full Details” button), it will open in a new browser tab (or window). Then, if you look closely, there is a small tab that says “Female”. Click on that and most of the videos are performed by Jamie herself.

LiveFit Video Female

I wish that this was the default view when clicking on the links from the LiveFit workout pages because it is a bit annoying to have to click 3 times to get to this.

While watching the male version of the video if sufficient, it is more helpful to watch the female version even though both genders are doing the exact same exercise. I feel that the body of a woman looks different when performing certain exercises, and it helps me know how my form is suppose to be.

I had to modify today’s workout because the plan calls for combining weights with plyometric exercises (like rope jumping) for supersets.

Here is what she says about this:

“You’ll quickly notice that these workouts combine traditional weight moves with plyometric exercises – for example, you follow-up leg presses with jump squats. Combining strength moves with explosive movements allows you to train for hypertrophy (the fancy word for muscle growth) and strength gains at the same time that you increase power – another important quality for fitness enthusiasts and athletes alike.

By hitting both fast- and slow-twitch muscle fibers, these moves also will stoke your fat-burning furnace. Picture the marbling in a steak. Our bodies have intra-muscular fat like that. Plyometric exercises help “squeeze” the fat from those areas.”

My gym doesn’t have a jump rope, nor does it even have the space to really do any of these long jumps and lateral bounds. It is a small gym, that is overcrowded with people and equipment, and is lacking many things that I need. In addition, nobody does supersets or any sort of these moves and I’d definitely draw attention to myself if I got off the leg press and started to jump around. 😦 We are thinking of switching gyms, not just because of this, but for many other reasons. I feel now is the time we have outgrown it and am looking for a place that is more suited to our current fitness needs.

I may give the whole plyometric + strength superset a try next time if it isn’t crowded because I bet it is a fantastic workout.

After the gym, I made Chocolate Protein Shakes to tide us over until lunch. We didn’t have much in the house for lunch because I haven’t made it to the store. Thank goodness I picked up some Costco frozen turkey burgers last week! These burgers can be grilled from frozen, which means no need to preplan and thaw. While I like to make my own turkey burgers, these come in handy for days like today when you have nothing planned and need something quick and easy. They also have a very clean ingredient list: white turkey, kosher salt, rosemary extract and black pepper and run 200 calories per patty.

We had some blackberries and blueberries, as well as Food Should Taste Good Sweet Potato Tortilla Chips. A little salsa and avocado, and we had a fast and healthy lunch.

Costco Frozen Turkey Burgers

That is my turkey burger, sans-bun.

Costco Turkey Burger

Mr. Nine enjoyed his on a bakery bun. He also put his berries in a fancy dish. :-p

After lunch, I pulled some weeds in the garden and did miscellaneous yard work before deciding to try to squeeze in a run. Since I skipped the plyometrics part of my leg workout, I felt the need to do something extra to make up for it. I know my legs will be too sore tomorrow to run so now was the time to get one in before the DOMS set in.

For a change of pace, I headed out to the track.

Running On The Track

Besides some people playing tennis nearby, I had the entire place to myself. It is much to early to even think about incorporating speed work (I just want to be able to run pain-free regardless of pace), so I repeated  1 lap walks, 2 laps running for a total of just over 4 miles. Twice during my run/walk combo I hit the bleachers for some stair work. The bleachers are pretty short, only 29 steps, so I tried to do sets of 10. The result was a total of 580 steps (290 up, 290 down) per set.

Running On Bleachers

It was an overcast day but the sun peeked out for a few fleeting moments here and there.

My track and bleacher work, combined with a solid lifting session at the gym, made today a solid fitness day. Balanced with some therapeutic gardening and a nice dinner and evening with Mr. Nine, it was the perfect laid-back Saturday.

Do you ever go to the track (or other public place) to do bleachers/stairs? Do you watch videos online to learn how or brush up on certain exercises?

Categories: Fitness, Food, Running | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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