Crisis Averted

With all of the new houses going in around the neighborhood, Emily and I decided that we would smoke a brisket this weekend and invite our neighbors and some friends over for an afternoon barbecue.

Yesterday morning, I took the brisket out and put together my rub.  It looked great.  I was really excited to get it on the smoker and more importantly to eat it.

This morning, I woke up at 5 to put the meat on the smoker.  Once on, I set a timer on my phone so that I would remember to check the brisket.  I have in the past forgotten about it and dried it out.

About 30 minutes before my timer went off, I decided to get a new cup of coffee.  I noticed that the smoker was producing a significant amount of smoke.  That’s great, the more smoke, the more flavor.  I hadn’t ever seen my Traeger produce that much smoke, so I wanted to investigate.  When I opened the pit I was greeted with:



Emily and I sprung to action.  Emily grabbed a pan, I grabbed tongs and removed the brisket.  I waited to take the picture above to save the meat.

Crisis AvertedWith the brisket in the oven, we pulled the smoker apart.  The fire appears to have started from a build up of grease on the grease tray from previous cooking which then stopped the grease from this meat from leaving the tray and thus catching fire.

We took about 10 minutes to clean everything up and then we re-fired the pit.  Once at temperature, we removed the brisket from the oven and re-applied it to the smoker.

Lessons Learned:
1. Pay close attention to your smoking meat
2. Clean the Traeger with relative frequency
3. A little fire won’t kill your food
4. Good teamwork makes quick and easy work of a crisis



Gardening Workout

For Christmas 2013, I gave Emily a raised garden structure made of cedar to put in our yard.  It was something that she had wanted since we moved in and we had never gotten around to it.  As summer rolled around, we both grew tired of our jobs and we were spending a lot of time searching for new opportunities.  Since we were so focused on finding something new that summer, we decided it wasn’t the best time to put the garden together.  As it turns out as we rolled into the heat of summer, I was offered my new job and we were hell bent on getting everything in the house updated to have it ready to sell quickly.

As summer approaches here in Wisconsin, and as we clean out the garage and storage areas, we decided to put the garden structure together and get vegetables planted.  I am happy with the construction of the garden, the manufacturer has done a great job assembling an easy to put-together kit.

This year we have planted squash, broccoli, tomatoes, jalepenos, mixed peppers, and okra.

Backyard Vegetable Garden

In addition to the vegetable garden, Emily also planted a little herb garden.  Her dad built this and gave it to us before we left Texas.  We have had it on our front porch since we moved in and are very happy to finally be able to use it.

In the herb garden we planted cilantro, basil, oregano, and green onions.

Front Porch Herb Garden

If all works out this will be a wonderful summer here in Wisconsin to eat fresh vegetables.  Hopefully we can post progress pictures as some of this starts to sprout.  If it all dies, I may just never bring it up again.

Chocolate Sticky Bites

Recently, I began searching for recipes for homemade nutrition to eat on the go.  I’m not a fan of Gu, something about the texture gags me.  I typically eat Honey Stinger Chews.  They are portable and kind of melt in your mouth, but the longer workouts have me wanting a variety.  Plus, my body is sensitive to too much sugar, as in I crash and burn.  I have to pair sugar with protein, otherwise I have a meltdown (similar to that of a toddler).  I also don’t particularly like sweets (probably because of the aftereffects), I prefer more of a salty, savory foods.  All of the on-the-go nutrition supplements seem to be really sweet and made of only sugars (i.e. – honey, molasses, sugar, syrup).  Thus began my search for recipes that are high in carbs, but not necessarily high in sugar.

USAT recently posted a Feed Zone Portable recipe for Bitter Chocolate & Sea Salt Sticky Bites.  I made them last week and tried them on our run Saturday.  The recipe made approximately two dozen bites, one ounce each.  It was easy to follow, and I had most of the ingredients in the house, with the exception of sticky rice.

To be honest, I was a bit disappointed.

Chocolate Sticky Bites, Endurance Nutrition

First of all, when I made these bites, I tasted them.  They were a little sweet with a hint of chocolate.  On the run, I didn’t taste any of the sugar or chocolate.  They were pretty much flavorless, picture eating a bite of plain rice.  And the bites were sticky, like really sticky.  I wiped my hands on my pants, but was left with a film of sugar on my hands for the remainder of the run.

Second, the recipe says, “On your next ride, try bitter chocolate and sea salt sticky bites, a delicious portable snack made from real food.”  Well, I should have listened to their advice.  Even though these were bite-size portions, it is extremely difficult to breathe and chew these rice bites while running.  I think these would have been much easier to handle on a bike ride.

Finally, I wrapped the bites individually in plastic wrap.  The recipe does not state how to store these, other than in an airtight container.  So I put the wrapped bites in a Ziplock bag and stored them in the pantry.  I made these on Thursday, and by Sunday they had molded.  I considered storing them in the refrigerator, but typically rice doesn’t keep well in there.  Next time, I may try freezing any extras that won’t be consumed within a day or two.

Overall, I was happy to try something new.  I like the idea of using complex carbs as nutrition for longer rides and runs.  I just need to find the right recipe.  What’s your nutrition on longer workouts?  Do you make your own or just stick to gels and chews?

Fall is in the Air, Pumpkin Muffins are in the Oven

With the temperatures dropping and the color of the leaves changing, it’s beginning to feel like fall.  Which means, I’m ready to make my Pumpkin Bread Muffins.  We went to the store this weekend and I bought all of the ingredients, except pumpkin seeds.  While out Monday, I finally found those little suckers and made muffins that afternoon.


I use this Pumpkin Bread Recipe from Better Homes & Gardens with a few modifications.  I reduce the sugar by half, add vanilla, fill in muffin tins instead of loaf pans, and sprinkle pumpkin seeds on top before baking.  They are great for breakfast!  I usually put a couple of them in the microwave for a few seconds and serve with butter.  My modified recipe is below:

Pumpkin Bread Muffins


1 1/2 cups Sugar

1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

1 cup Cooking Oil

4 Eggs

3 1/3 cups All-Purpose Flour

2 teaspoons Baking Soda

1 1/2 teaspoons Salt

1 teaspoon Cinnamon

1 teaspoon Nutmeg

2/3 cup Water

15-ounce can Pumpkin

1 package Raw Pumpkin Seeds (Pepitas)



Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease muffin tins or line cups with paper liners.  In a large mixing bowl, beat sugar, vanilla, and oil with an electric mixer on medium speed. Add eggs and beat well; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Alternate adding flour mixture and water to sugar/oil/egg mixture, beating on low speed until combined. Beat in pumpkin. Use a large spoon to fill muffin cups about 3/4 full.  Sprinkle a few pumpkin seeds on the muffins and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 15-18 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove muffins from tins and allow to cool.  Once they are at room temperature, I typically store in a ziplock bag.

Makes approximately 2 dozen muffins (give or take a few for the chef).

I typically store the muffins in a ziplock bag on the counter; they will keep for several days.  The muffins can also be frozen and reheated at a later date.  Enjoy!

Sunday Fun Day and Spring Gardening

When Nick is out of town, I try to keep myself as busy as possible.  I dropped him off at the airport Saturday afternoon and headed straight to the store.  I browsed the shoe department for a while, then decided to head over to Home Depot.  My goal for Sunday was to cleanup our two flower beds.  While perusing the garden section of Home Depot, I found the plants I wanted, but would have to return Sunday to get them because I needed Nick’s truck to be able to haul everything.  After that, I went to a friend’s house for dinner and a few glasses of wine.

Before and After

Before and After

Sunday morning I was up bright and early.  I had a full day ahead of me.  I wanted to try a new recipe, Cuban Lechon Asado, so I put a pork shoulder on the smoker.  Then I drove to Home Depot, arriving just as the doors opened at 8am.  I picked up some shrubs, a few flowering plants, potting soil, several bags of mulch, and concrete edging.  I got home and began working in the garden.  I pulled the weeds, planted the flowers and shrubs, added the edging around the two trees in the yard, and mulched the garden.   I didn’t finish working in the yard until almost 2pm.

Once inside, I ate lunch then took a short nap.  I woke up around 4pm and walked the dogs around the neighborhood.  When I returned home, I did my strength training dvd (more on that next week).  I took the pork off of the smoker, let it rest, and then pulled it.  Next, I made arepas.  This is only the second time I’ve made arepas, so I don’t have this recipe perfected yet.  Nonetheless, dinner was quite tasty.

Cuban Lechon Asado ArepasAfter cleaning the kitchen and doing some housework, around 8pm I was finally able to sit down and relax.  Sunday was a fun, yet very productive day.