Sunday, December 29, 2013

Baby It's Cold Outside!

But that doesn't stop me from getting out there and running!  Even when temps drop into the single digits, the snow is falling, and the wind is blowing I still layer up and run outdoors.  Sure you could bore yourself to death on the treadmill or indoor track but, once you learn how to dress appropriately, you'll want to be out in the fresh air, too.  It wasn't until this winter that I finally felt I had all the proper gear. I used to come home from my runs in tears with numb body parts, unable to move my fingers to even untie my shoes.  That didn't make for an enjoyable run nor was it a great way to start my day.

Here are some tips and suggestions for cold weather running, along with some gear that works for me:
  • 20 Degree Rule - Always remember to dress for temps that are 15-20 degrees warmer because you will heat up but take the windchill into account, as well.  That can make a huge difference especially if you're running when the sun isn't out to help warm you up.
  • Layer on top - I find wearing something tight against my body, like a lined moisture-wicking top with thumbholes, helps keep me warmer.  If it's extra cold, sometimes I'll wear two shirts, but always a jacket over the top.  I have two different thicknesses of jackets, depending on how cold it is.  My favorite is this Avalanche one that I found at Marshall's for $15!
  • Running tights - I used to wear whatever pants I had but this year I invested in running tights.  Go for some good lined ones for colder temps (below 20 degrees).  I highly recommend the Brooks Utopia running tights.  They keep me cozy warm even on the coldest days. These are by far my favorite addition to my winter running gear collection!
  • Gloves - Keep those fingers warm!  I had the hardest time with gloves. Finally I started wearing a glove/mitten combo.  Mine are actually leather (gasp!) on the outside.  I know, I know.  Not vegan.  I've had them for years, however, and they do keep my hands incredibly warm. And because my hands are ice cold as I sit here typing, I think my other option is frostbite.  If you're interested, the mittens I use are similar to these.  You could also try a thinner base layer glove with a warmer glove or mitten over the top.
  • Buff - A Buff is nice because you can wear it as a neck warmer (my choice) or pull it up over your mouth or face to keep the wind off on extra cold days.  Another option is a balaclava but I don't have one of those.
  • Hat or ear warmer - I love my Athleta headband (seen in pic above).  I should probably move to a hat on colder days but as long as my ears are covered I'm usually good.
  • Socks - You might want to double up on socks if it doesn't feel strange to run in two layers.  So far I've been ok with one layer.  In the winter I wear socks that are a little taller and go up over my tights, ensuring no ankle gap between my socks and tights.  This is not the time to show any skin!
  • Yaktrax - If you're getting out and running in the snow and ice, you might want to consider something to give you some traction and help prevent slippage.  I have Yaktrax Pro.  I used mine for the first time last week and loved them!  I felt like a kid again running though the snow! Just be sure to use them on a good layer of snow or ice - not for use on cleared pavement.
  • Reflective Clothing/Lights - Because there are fewer hours of daylight, be sure you're wearing as much reflective clothing as possible.  I have some Brooks Nightlife arm bands, a Nathan armband light (I wear it on my thigh), and a Brooks Nightlife jacket.  Plus any reflective strips on your running clothes help.  Be safe, be seen!  

These are the things that have worked for me.  Granted, we've been lucky to have somewhat mild winters lately here in Michigan without too much snow but they've been winters nonetheless.  

What is some of your favorite winter running gear?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Stuffed Sweet Dumpling Squash

I reached for an acorn squash the other day at the market as I usually do when I'm going to make this favorite fall recipe.  Sitting right next to the acorn, however, was a different kind of squash that caught my eye.  It was the shape of an acorn squash but the color of a delicata (my favorite!).  What could this be? I wondered. When I saw the name I knew I had to get it.  Sweet dumpling.  How cute is that?!? A sweet dumpling squash! And I hoped since it looked comparable to the delicata it would have a similar sweet taste, which it did.  yay!

You can make this recipe using any winter squash.  We've made it many times with acorn and it's turned out great.  If you do find a sweet dumpling or delicata, I recommend choosing that for it's sweet flavor.

Stuffed Sweet Dumpling Squash

1 sweet dumpling squash
1/4 cup couscous
1/4 cup boiling water
1/2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 Vidalia onion, finely chopped
1/2 green pepper, finely chopped
2 tbsp. dried cranberries


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Cut the squash in half and remove seeds.  Place cut sides down in a baking dish.  Add enough water to cover the bottom of the pan. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes.  Turn cut sides up.  Bake, covered, for 20 to 25 minutes more or until tender.

2. While the squash is cooking, prepare the couscous by pouring the boiling water over the couscous.  Set aside while the water absorbs.  Chop the onion and pepper.  
3. When there is about 10 minutes left on the squash, preheat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the olive oil; heat.  Add the onion and green pepper; sauté until softened and fragrant.

4. Add the BOCA crumbles and cook until heated, about 2-3 minutes.  If things start to stick add a little bit of water.  Add the couscous and stir to combine.  Heat through.  Add the cranberries at the end and stir.

5. Remove the squash from the pan and evenly divide the couscous mixture between halves.  Serve immediately.

Serves 2.