Archive for December, 2011

No-Fail Molasses Cookies
December 12, 2011

When given the opportunity to participate in the Food Blogger Cookie Swap, I jumped on it!  I decided to finally share one of my closely guarded recipes.  And although it is a very simple recipe, it is always a crowd pleaser.  It is also one of my no-fail recipes.  It is really hard to mess up these cookies.  They come out looking perfect every time!

Molasses Cookies
Adapted from “A Taste of Heaven” (Westview Baptist Church Cookbook, Kingston Springs, TN)
Makes about 7-8 dozen

4 cups flour
2 cups sugar (plus extra in a bowl or plate for rolling)
1 1/3 cup oil
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup molasses
4 tsp baking soda
1+ tsp (plus a pinch or two*) salt
2 tsp cinnamon (plus extra to taste*)
2 tsp ginger (plus extra if you prefer more of a gingerbread cookie*)

Preheat oven to 300°.

Mix all ingredients until fully incorporated.  It will all stick together in clumps in the bowl.  Scoop out a chunk of dough and roll into a 1″ ball in your hands.  Then roll the dough ball in sugar, coating evenly.  Place on cookie sheet covered with parchment paper about 2″ apart.

Bake for 10-12 minutes (12-14 for airbake cookie sheets).  After about 1/2 time, rotate cookie sheet and sprinkle extra sugar on top of cookies.  Do not overbake the cookies, they will get really hard if you do.  Bake until the tops just start to crack open.  Remove immediately and transfer to wire cooling rack.

*TIPS:

  • I like to add extra salt, cinnamon, and ginger to the recipe to taste.  An extra pinch of salt or two gives it a nice sweet and salty taste.
  • This is easily cut in half for about 3-4 dozen cookies.
  • If you overbake, the cookies will get hard like gingersnaps, which you may prefer that texture.  But if they get too hard, put them in a container with a slice of apple for a day or so to rehydrate them.
  • The cookies will continue to bake a while on the cookie sheet after you remove from the oven.  Keep this in mind since you take them out a little underdone, but also don’t leave them on too long or they will get crispy.
  • Let the cookie sheet cool a little between batches for a more even batch.  I alternate cookie sheets to allow for this.
  • Your palms will get a nice exfoliation and moisturizing from the oil and sugar as you wash off the cookie from your hands.
  • Church cookbooks are incredible gems for recipe inspiration.  They are usually collections of recipes from the church members for tried and true recipes.  It’s like digging into someone’s recipe box.

P.S. If you need a Gluten Free version, you can find it here!

Sally’s Helpful Hints – for athletes!
December 2, 2011

If you’re new to this blog (hey runners and triathletes!), you may not be familiar with Sally’s Helpful Hints. (take a look, you might find something cool)  The Helpful Hints are regular posts that help you find a natural or inexpensive way to tackle an everyday issue or time saving solutions for example.  I don’t know where I learned all these tips, they exist somewhere in the recesses of my often-bizarre mind, and some have come about because I’m too cheap or lazy to pay for the commercialized solution.

So, I thought, why not have a Helpful Hints for all my athlete readers!  We all know I love to find cheap and easy ways to get my exercise on, and if you’re a triathlete you know how obscenely expensive it can get quickly.  Here are a few ways to make your lives easier and maybe save a little cash for that next race registration. (sorry I haven’t found a way to make those easier!)

Warm-up clothes
We are all familiar with the that long, dark, cold walk to the start line of a race.  The sun hasn’t risen, but you’ve  stretched and want to keep your muscles warm, but you also know as soon as the race gets going and the sun comes up it’s going to get warmer quickly.  You hate to overdress, you hate to let your muscles freeze (and risk injury) before the race, and you don’t want to leave behind your favorite jacket or track pants.  Go to Goodwill.  Pick up a pair of $4-5 pants and a sweatshirt.  While it may not be the most stylish, who cares, you’re not keeping it or wearing it again. (BONUS: if you look like a crazy homeless person you’ll psych out your competition!)  Then just before race start, discard the clothes and most large races collect the throwaway clothes and donate to needy charities!

TIPS:
* If you’re small like me, you can get away with buying girls or boys clothes in L or XL.  They’re about a $1-2 cheaper.  Kids are so much bigger nowadays that you’d be surprised what fits!
* Go on the first Saturday of anymonth.  The ENTIRE store is 50% off.  Hint: Go this Saturday and stock up for your next race!
* Look around at the signs.  The price tags are color coded and each day has a specific color associated with it that is 50% off.  So, if today is an orange day, go and ahead and get picky and look only at the orange tagged clothes.

Keeping your bike dry
You’re ready to head to the triathlon and it looks like rain.  Or you’ve racked your bike in transition and you hate morning dew on your seat and drivetrain.  You can get a special cover or try to finagle a sheet (that will only soak through) or plastic grocery bags that aren’t big enough.  Or you can use a dry cleaning bag or those plastic bags that UPS uses to leave boxes on your porch so they don’t get wet.  Usually they are clear, long and very large, so they cover a lot of area and you can still see (and recognize) your bike underneath.  They aren’t very thick so if you need to rip them to fit around something they will.  And you’re recycling!  You don’t have to waste a brand new trash bag that is opaque and too think to rip on its own.  I save these bags as I get them and fold them up really small and store them in my transition bag for that you-never-know situation.  Then you also have them in there if you need them to take home muddy, sweaty, wet, etc clothes or gear after the race.  Also see Space Blanket below for another tip.

Keep yourself dry
This one is a well-known tip, but you can use those same bags above to keep yourself dry before or during  a running race.  These bags are clear so race officials can see your bib number.  Always keep these on hand, you never know.

Salt
Do you use salt during a race?  I’ve only discovered this year as I was training for Philly just how helpful salt can be if you get dehydrated easily, or get GI distress during a race or training.  You can buy the really expensive salt tablets, or risk carrying pretzels with you and hope they don’t upset your stomach further.  Or you can just take the little salt packets from restaurants.  You know the salt/pepper paper packets that come with your to-go order?  Snag a few of those the next time you’re out.  Stuff them in your shorts, your Spi-Belt, or inside your Sport Beans bag (like I do).  Rip one open and either dump it into your mouth or a little bit on your hand and lick it off like a tequila shot.

Space Blanket/Heat Sheet
However you like to call it, these bizarre foil sheets can be your best friend after a race.  But don’t toss it once you’ve regulated your body temperature, they have a lot of uses even after you got that awesome PR!  Use it as a drop cloth for painting.  Use it to cover plants outside during a frost.  Lay it across your back seat or trunk of your car to protect the interior from dirt, pets, or bike grease.  Use it with rubber bands to cover your bike to keep it from getting wet (see above).  Save it for after a smaller local race that may not have the extra funds to provide them.

Wet Shoes
I have run my fair share of races in pouring rain and massive thunderstorms.  (Thanks crazyass unpredictable Nashville weather!)  Waiting for shoes to dry on their own is an enormous hassle, and you really don’t want to toss those expensive neutral-cushioned, lightweight, performance trainers (or whatever) into the dryer to bounce around and warp the lasts.  You can either buy one of these products, or you can just take some good old fashioned newspaper and stuff it into your shoes.  Newspaper is incredibly absorbent and will pull that dampness right out.  Just be sure to check your shoes and change out the paper as it gets saturated until your shoes have dried.

Icing injuries
You really put in some awesome speedwork on the track tonight.  Or maybe this morning’s ride had some crazy hills.  Or maybe you took a tumble getting out of the pool and bruised your tailbone.  Whatever the reason, we all know that ice is our best friend to help sore muscles and injuries.  But it’s really hard to get a baggy of ice to comfortably sit on an injury or mold around a joint.  Enter frozen veggies.  Buy the cheapest bag of corn (kernels only!) or peas.  The tiny veggies mold perfectly around your intended icing area for a more comfortable recovery.  Also, you can refreeze these bags for use over and over.  I think my bag of frozen corn that I use is several years old, still works!  Just be sure to inform others in your household that THAT bag of veggies is NOT to be used for dinner!

What are some cool, easy tips that you use?