Two Lefts Don’t Make a Right

Immediately after I hit Publish this morning we were off for a homeschooling meet up with some friends at a playground.

Tube Crawlin'

Do you remember being a kid and running without wondering when it was time to stop? Running to try and catch a bird or running like you were being chased by a monster in the basement that was going to pull you back down if you didn’t get to the top of the basement stairs before the door closed at the bottom of the stairs behind you?

Run Ava Run!

(See her out there running like it’s nobody’s business?)

No?  I guess that last one was only me.

Watching Ava run like she was being chased by a swarm of bees after her honey reminded that kids don’t worry about their form, their stride, their pace or their heart rate. They run just to RUN.  Too bad she won’t appreciate it until she’s 30.

Despite a chilly and windy day, we managed to spend the whole afternoon at the playground.  This was the perfect set up for another soupy dinner, so it was worth it.

Tonight I made Black Bean and Salsa Soup, one of my all time favorites. Not only is this soup fast and easy but it’s delicious too.

I made some changes tonight to my usual recipe for Black Bean and Salsa Soup, but the changes made even it easier.

I sauteed a little garlic in extra virgin olive oil and added two 15 oz cans of rinsed and drained black beans with a couple cups of water, a cup of vegetable broth and a 16 oz container of medium salsa.

I brought everything to a boil and reduced it to a simmer. I ladled out about half into the food processor (instead of the blender, which is harder to scrape out) and pureed it until smooth.  I poured the pureed beans, broth and salsa it back into the pot with the unpureed soup. This is my absolutely FAVORITE way to make a base for soup!

Black Bean and Salsa Soup

With the base ready to go, I added about 8oz of frozen corn. I took a cue from my new best friend Brendan and decided to replace white rice with quinoa. I love to add rice because it makes it feel more like a meal. But the addition of rice means I have to cook the rice in a separate pot, dirtying another pan (BOO!) and more time too. To add quinoa I just rinsed it and then added it to the pot with everything else.  it cooks up in 15 minutes or so and VOILA. Ready to go, extra protein to boot. (YAY!)

The quinoa was perfect and honestly seemed no different than it does when I make with rice.

I added a couple shakes of cilantro, cumin and a smidgen of roasted red pepper for a little spice.

Why does soup taste better out of a mug? And why does soup taste better with big chunks of avocado on top? Why does anything taste better with big chunks of avocado on top?

Soup in a Mug

I’m going to leave you tonight with a special post from the first runner I ever knew. My dad. But a little background first.

For as long as I can remember, my dad has run on his lunch hour at work. He runs every day, with out fail. Like a mailman, he braves all kinds of weather. People say “You’re not going out TODAY?!” and look at him incredulously as he heads out to run on a 100 degree day with 99% humidity or 30 below and it’s snowing so hard you can’t see your hand in front of your face.

He runs Every. Day.

The other day he calls to tell me a story.  A story that gives new meaning to the word dedication.  A story that had me wiping tears from my eyes.  I asked him to write it down so I could share it on the blog. This was too good not to share.

Like most runners, I have a closet with more than a few pairs of running shoes in it. Some still in service, some awaiting the end of the road as lawn mowers or painters. We feel good about squeezing the last bit of toothpaste out of ’em.

So a couple of dark Monday mornings ago, I was too rushed to simply hit the light and see what I was grabbing. After all, I know where my bag and trusty Nike summer trainers are. Feeling around, I grab my shoes, shove ’em in the bag, load in the togs and towel, out the door.

Now, I run at lunch. Have for 30-plus years. You can forget a thing here or there but you are not getting it done without shorts or shoes. Open the locker, start getting ready, shorts on, shirt on, pull out the shoes. You idiot. Two different shoes. Two different LEFT shoes. One Nike summer, one Asics trail. Both lefts.

Panic.

But wait, I can always just go to the weight room, shoeless, but at least I can get that in anyway.

Hold on here, I muse. How bad can it be? I mean, what if I were getting my shoes out of a dumpster?  It could be worse.

OK, let’s see. I try the left Asics trail shoe on the right foot. My foot looks like it was caught in an elevator door. It feels like walking in a brick. But now the left Nike on the right foot…hmmm, kind of unstructured, a little softer. I unlace the whole thing, slap it on. It actually looks believable, feels a tick weird, but OK. I figure to hit the weight room for twenty minutes and see where I come out with this idea. Oh, the idea? Why running in two lefts, of course.

Nobody has noticed at this point. Maybe it’s just that we are all so used to each other. Maybe it’s because they wouldn’t DARE say anything. Well, I assure you that I have running companions who live to torture, deride and insult each other, me included. But they are nowhere in sight.

By now I’m actually comfy! I decide not to look down. If I can get even a paltry three miles in, I’ll be happy. Off I go. Past the bank, out the front door. State Street. Noon. Nobody notices that I look like I play in Green Day.

Two miles. OK, I’m a little crampy. I look down. Even I have to start laughing. What am I DOING? Should I turn back, heck it’s going to be four miles!  No way. Point of no return straight ahead. I vow for six. I mean hey, there’s this guy who runs mega in bare feet.

At mile five, I’m almost home free – well on the way back. No. Can’t be. The King of Insults, Mikey with Paul and John in tow. I decide to just act natural as we pass on the venerable river trail. Mikey spots the two misfit shoes immediately and starts to heckle…then I stop, hands on hips, posed like black and white TV Superman. Then they realize that it’s two lefties.

After they get Mikey back on his feet and stop him from convulsing in laughter we are off on our separate ways, echoes of “idiot! moron!…” fading.

I can’t wait to tell my daughter, I call her right away…basically repeating the story you have so kindly indulged me in telling. She is such a good sport, and nothing is as sweet to me as the sound of her giggles or uncontrollable, stomach holding laughter…which I assure you, she provided.

I told her that NEVER again will I tell my granddaughters that they have their shoes on the wrong feet.

Two Left Feet

I don’t know about you, but if I showed up at the gym with two left shoes, that would totally would have been my sign that it was a day to go out to lunch – not my sign to figure out which left shoe was a better fit on my right foot! Chipotle here I come!

The Marathons are Over

A whirlwind day yesterday with so much going on, thank you all for all the birthday wishes for my baby girl!

After Maxine opened her gifts from us in the morning I got started on her cake. I used a chocolate cake recipe I’ve used in the past.

Dark Chocolate Cake
2 c boiling water
1 c unsweetened cocoa powder
2 3/4 c flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 c butter, softened
2 1/4 c white sugar
4 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line bottoms of cake pans with parchment paper and grease sides. In medium bowl, pour boiling water over cocoa powder and whisk until smooth. Let mixture cool and set aside. In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in vanilla. Slowly add flour and cocoa mixture to batter, alternating flour and cocoa until completely combined.

I greased two cake pans with coconut oil (forgot about parchment paper until I was writing this post!) and lined cupcake pans with muffin tins.

Two Cake Pans Cake Batter

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 – 20 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. (20 – 22 minutes for cupcakes.)

I cooled the cakes in their pans for about 15 minutes, then removed from pans and let finish cooling on a rack. This recipe made two 9 inch cakes and 16 cupcakes.

Once completely cool, I used a serrated knife to level the cakes and cut off the top layer to make them flat.

Leveling Leveled

For the filling I made a chocolate butter cream frosting.

1/2 c butter, softened
2 c powdered sugar
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 oz heavy whipping cream

Cream butter until fluffy. Add sugar and cocoa powder and continuing creaming until well blended. Add vanilla and whipping cream. Blend on low until moistened and well combined. Add more cream if necessary, beat at high speed until frosting is fluffy.

Filling Filled

I used a wide frosting blade to cover the leveled side of one cake, and then laid the top layer leveled side down so I would have a nice flat surface to frost later.

Two Layers

Cake in the fridge to set, I whipped up two sun dried tomato hummus sandwiches for me and Zak and we were out the door to take Ava to her homeschooling class in the city.

Two Sandwiches

After dropping Ava off the three of us spent some time at a park waiting for Ava to be done with her class.

Playground Birthday

We got home with an hour to spare to decorate the cake and finish getting the house ready for visitors! I used the same buttercream frosting recipe for decorating, without the cocoa powder. I tripled the recipe and had MORE than enough for the cake and cupcakes.

The birthday gal got some fun gifts and then it was time for CAKE!

Dolly

My cake decorating skills are amateur at best, but I was still pleased with the way it turned out. Maxine was delighted and that’s all that mattered.

Maxine's 3rd Birthday Cake

I had very specific instructions for “An Ariel cake, but no fish and no crab”. OK kid, your wish is my command.

Lesson learned from Ava’s 5th birthday: make lots of cupcakes, just in case. I made Ava a Backyardigans cake for her 5th birthday in March and she loved it SO much that she absolutely screamed like I was cutting into her flesh when I tried to cut and serve it. I had to cut the few extra cupcakes I’d made into tiny portions served with big scoops of ice cream. Fortunately everyone laughed and were good sports but I wasn’t going to risk that happening for two birthday parties in a row!

Cupcakes

Maxine had no problem cutting into her cake – I’ve got lots of cupcakes left over. Want one?

It was right about this time that I realized I was having cake and ice cream for dinner! Oops! Oh well, at least it was real butter and sugar instead of partially hydrogenated goodness and high fructose corn fun.

Dinner

Green juice was most definitely in order for this morning after my 4 mile run. I need to detox the sugar and butter from my cells! (But it was totally worth it!)

Green Juice For Sure!

The two big events that were on the calendar are now behind us! The half marathon and Maxine’s birthday and celebration – and I feel like I’ve run two marathons back to back. How is it Wednesday already?