A Quick Look Back at 2014 in Running

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I had been planning a ‘year in review’ post which will come at the year end, but the other day Amanda at Miss Zippy challenged everyone to do a quick ‘how was your year in running’ post … so here it goes!

Before I answer her questions, I look at the year in a few ways:
– I started the year and ended the year healthy and without injury.
– I ran more miles this year than any other year … again. In fact, since I ‘got serious’ about running in April 2012 I have run well over 8000 miles. (whew!)
– I didn’t run a marathon, half-marathon or ultra … all of which I planned but scheduling, activities with the kids, and family vacations all are higher priority. The final chance at a half was Nov 2nd … and I was sick!
– Unlike 2013, work has had me local all year (5 miles from home!) – Yay for family time!
– I think I became a Saucony lover this year between the Kinvara 4, Virrata 2 and especially the Kinvara 5.

Best race experience? That is easy – I only ran ONE race. But still the ‘Selfless Elf 5K’ was an amazing race because I ran it full of fun and joy, and also got my fastest recorded pace … like, ever. 7:21/mile … I still can’t associate those numbers with ME.

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Best run? 2014 was an odd year because I ran pretty much alone all year, and almost always on the same half-dozen routes. But there were two runs that stand out – the 5K and my first run on the Catharine Valley Trail. The 5K I mentioned above, but I will still go back to the first trail run for me this year. It was a goal to hit the trails more … and I only did a few, and they were on ‘groomed’ trails so it wasn’t too hard. But when I did it, the 12 miles on the Catharine Valley trail were just perfect – I appreciated the change and the trails were awesome!

Best new piece of gear? I would have to go with the Garmin VivoSmart. I get notifications on my wrist (which stopped being useful once the average daily run temperature dropped below 25F last month), so I can see what is coming in. I also get daily tracking, and the ‘goal’ increases based on you surpassing it … so now I am pressed harder and harder to make the goal. Review coming soon 🙂 Also loved? The Magellan Echo and Garmin Forerunner 15. So no matter what it is something on my wrist!

Best piece of running advice you received? It was a question from last year, : ‘where do you see yourself as a runner in 5, 10 and 20 years.’ My answer is that in 2014 I crossed the 25 year mark as a runner, starting in 1989 at nearly 400lbs. In 25 years I will be 73 – and I would love if I could still be showing up to run local 5K events and maybe even longer wherever we are then! That self-advice put all of my other goals in perspective.

Most inspirational runner? Tough call, so I am naming two:

Danielle the T-Rex Runner. Here is a woman who has struggled with eating disorders that were literally destroying her, has other health issues she has shared, ended up with surgery last year on her digestive track … and again this year had surgery on her back … and has just run her second marathon within a month.

Laura Parson from TheGlutenFreeTreadmill: Laura has picked up her life after dealing with some awful treatment at her previous job, is pursuing a doctorate in women’s studies in North Dakota, and has taken her passion as an ultra-runner and turned it into a quest that will have her running across the country next summer. That’s right … running. across. the. country. As in San Francisco to NYC. All to support RAINN and an awareness of violence against women. Amazing and inspirational.

If you could sum up your year in a couple of words, what would they be? (same as last year, boring I know – but it is my mantra). Nothing about running matters more to me than getting up tomorrow for my 5+ mile run.

How was YOUR year in running?

Music Notation that Tells You All You Need to Know About Modern Pop

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My post yesterday was a bit heavy – and the comments were AWESOME! But what I had scheduled for today was ALSO heavy … so I decided to step back and set that one up for Monday and put something a bit lighter up instead.

Do you have friends who can’t just enjoy something as entertainment? You know what I mean – because of what they study and how they look at things, they immediately dissect things in that area and can’t help saying it out loud, robbing you of your ability to just ‘think it was fun’? Maybe it is movies, or books or architecture or pizza or whatever … chances you know someone like that.

Well, despite a lifetime of trying NOT to be … that is me when it comes to music. I hear music with a dissecting ear – when a new song comes on (say, as we listened to the new Taylor Swift album, for example) I immediately hear the way that the rhythm section was construction, the way the beats and baselines were shaped according to what will sound familiar but not immediately reductive … the way that the harmonic structure borrows enough from existing Top 40 and something from the 80s to tweak that part of your brain that says “I like this, but I don’t know why”.

Through the years it might seem to an observer that I have gotten better about this, that I am not the music snob that I was in high school and college. That would be untrue, but two things HAVE happened:
– I have learned to let those voices have their chats inside my head since almost no one really wants to hear about it.
– Most music is really meant to just be entertainment, and so I have become much better at discussing highlighting little elements of familiarity (something like “hear how that line kinda sounds like that Police song?”), which is a much more fun discussion.

ANYWAY … I found this little comic amusing!

Happy Friday – and thanks again so much for the incredible insights and comments on yesterday’s post!

Source: Medium.com

Why Not Everyone Should Run a Marathon

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The other day one of my favorite bloggers, Lisa at Running Out of Wine, posted about “Why Everyone Should Run A Marathon” … and since I was apparently feeling rather contrary, I had to disagree – at least in part. Not that I don’t LOVE the marathon and running long distances … just that I think it isn’t for everyone – not even all runners.

Actually one of the motivations for me to write about this and take an opposing view was that I felt like “everyone else is falling over themselves to agree”, and typically that means either an obvious truth or a bad case of ‘hive mind’. And apologies to the commenters, but I think it is the latter. As runners we so often just can’t see outside of our bizarre little cult! More on that later …

Anyway let’s jump right into things!

How I Agree:

Lisa made some really good points about the process – here are just a couple:

3. You will learn to push through when things hurt or get hard.
5. You will overcome self-doubt time and time again.

These are things I agree with, along with much of the basic reasoning she stated, and think that stepping outside your comfort zone is important, as is pushing yourself (basically the same thing) … and also setting and working towards audacious goals.

Where I Become Unsure:

2. The process takes a whole lot of dedication.

I loved this article about marathon running and what happens to you:

In the weeks leading up to the race, you will undoubtedly find yourself in the pub on a Friday night, talking to a friend with intense zeal about how you “really need to work on speeding up your splits”, or you’ve “been experimenting with a combination of electrolytes and gels”. STOP. Take a breath. Go and take a long, hard look in the mirror. And ask yourself why you have turned into a wanker.

That cracks me up, but the reality is that things like putting in a couple of 20 mile runs takes TIME. If you are working full time, are in a relationship, have pets and/or kids … then it is no longer about just YOU. Suddenly there are multiple people involved – and the ‘required dedication’ goes beyond you. Again, more on that in a bit …

How I DISagree: Here are 10 reasons you should NOT run a marathon:

1. You just aren’t THAT into running: if you managed one 5K on a ‘Couch to 5K’ program and thought it was OK, but suddenly have loads of people saying ‘you HAVE to run a marathon now!’ … and all you can think is ‘ugh, I thought I was done!’. Then you get registered and take a look at a training plan and realize ‘this sucks … I HATE running!’

2. You can’t afford to pay your rent: marathons are EXPENSIVE. In general you can plan at least $100 for registration alone. And unless it is local, plan extra money for food and travel and someplace to stay. Also plan to add money to your weekly grocery bill for the added fuel you’ll need … as well as new running shoes, more clothes, higher laundry expenses, and …well, if you get really into it the costs can quickly spiral out of control!

3. You can’t or won’t allocate the training time: maybe you have a job with long hours and a longer commute, maybe you’re in a new relationship, maybe you are addicted to Skyrim or Minecraft or quilting or origami or whatever … regardless the reason, unless you can plan to set aside at least a dozen hours a week strictly for running – as well as added time for stretching, icing, rolling and whatever else you need – you might be training for an injury rather than a race!

4. You have been injured running before: if you know anyone who has been injured in the past, you know that once your body is weakened in a certain spot it is more likely to get re-injured in that same spot. The saying I heard ages ago “bad breath can be cured with a Tic-Tac, bad knees are for life” comes to mind.

Also, unless you have experience or a coach or fitness partners it can be nearly impossible to find that line between GOOD pushing and BAD pushing. Another old saying “turn the screw until it snaps, then back off a half-turn” … translates pretty much into ‘keep pushing until you have a stress fracture … then back off’.

5. Your primary goal for running is weight loss: sure you MIGHT lose weight training for a marathon – but really only if you are very much overweight. The reality is that once you are close to your ‘correct’ weight (whatever THAT is) you are at least as likely to GAIN weight as to lose it. And for many … that is a total cause to freak out!

6. It will deplete your immune system: regular exercise helps keep you healthy. But like a few other things on this list, once you go past the 10 or so mile point and particularly up to the 20+ mile level for marathons, you are depleting your immune system. THIS is why rest and recovery are so important … and why with a busy non-marathon schedule it is so easy to end up sick and subsequently injured.

7. Your REAL goal is to go faster or do shorter distances: we have been sold on believing that races are progressive – a 10K is ‘better’ than 5K, half-marathon is more ‘real’ than 10K … and marathon is the pinnacle (ultras are just for crazy people 🙂 ). News Flash: It is NONSENSE! No race or distance is ‘better’ than the others – they are all different. What you need for each one is different and as we are all different people some of us will excel at shorter, faster races while others can plod along forever.

8. Because everyone else is doing it: good old peer pressure! I’ve known people who have done some running even though it wasn’t their thing, just because someone else was – one even tried to train for a race because they are very competitive with their significant other! Marathon training is a significant commitment that should really be internally motivated.

9. You Just Want to BQ!: this might seem weird, but I have heard and read about people who really weren’t runners but who were motivated to try to push for a marathon based solely on the Boston Marathon … and this goes all the way back to the 80s! The problem is that with THAT as a singular goal, unless you have significant natural running skill, you are likely in for a much longer and harder path than you imagined. And if you tick off any of the OTHER items on the list … maybe you should start with a 5K or 10K and see if you catch the ‘running bug’.

10. Your Heart isn’t healthy enough: we all know that exercise is good for your cardio-vascular system. But we have also learned that distance running such as marathons can damage your heart a little bit, especially if you have not put in the time to build up your fitness level. It is another good reason to know your risk factors and get yourself checked out before embarking on something like marathon training.

OK, so given that I do at least one run longer than a half-marathon most weeks all year long, and this summer seemed to have a 20+ miler at least every other week … I might sound like a hypocrite. But here’s the thing – I LOVE running, and for me running and marathoning have been some of the greatest things in my life. Running has been a constant companion for nearly 26 years, and I hope to still be running in another 26 years!

But perhaps the BIGGEST reason why not everyone should run a marathon is that they haven’t considered the impact that marathon training can have on their lives and relationships.

Understanding The Context of Your Running – It is NOT All About You!

Last May I posted about ‘Helping Your Non-Running Family Understand’ … and the swift, strong and negative reaction from non-runners in my real and virtual life led to me posting ‘The Other Side of the Finish Line’. The bottom line is this – these things are never so simple as they seem, and individual activities really don’t exist for anyone with attachments and responsibilities outside of themselves (which is pretty much everyone to varying degrees … and those with significant others and kids even more so).

There is a term used mostly jokingly called a ‘running widow’, basically talking about the impact of long training seasons on pretty much everything else in life. It wasn’t something I was really aware of for most of my life … until last year. During 2012 I was losing weight, on a great pursuit of getting fit and healthy and eventually running a marathon. Lisa was the most supportive person in the world, but worried about my restricted eating and constantly told me to ‘not do something stupid’. That is because she is smart – I WAS being stupid.

But in 2013 I was traveling a lot for work to Kentucky (pretty Mon-Fri much every week for 6 months), and also ran two marathons and a half marathon. It was a bit much, really – but again, my family was there for me every step of the way. But another thing I did in 2013 was to start taking rest days whenever Lisa and I both had a day off. And into this year Lisa would still feel odd when her schedule changed and we’d be together and it was obvious I had planned a long run – and to be fair it took me some time to let go of all of that – and talking it through with her (surprise – it all comes back to fear of getting fat again!).

Last year I also came across a couple of blog posts about the potential for training (running, triathlon, etc) to ruin your relationship, here and here. There was also an article in the Wall Street Journal back in 2011 on the subject.

I had thought about this more than a few times this year as I was reading about training, and also when I felt pressure that I HAD to go out for a run, or comments from friends or family or the boys. I am definitely fortunate to have moderating forces in my life to ‘keep me real’. Not that I am saying I see too much ‘not real’ on the internet … well, I guess I actually am.

A couple of other links to ‘running widow’ posts I’ve stashed in a couple of drafts over the last year or so (I’ve told you guys I am a ‘draft junkie’!) – The Running Widow, Losing a Spouse to His Hobby, The Non-Running Spouse, Confessions of a Running Widow, It’s Me or the London Marathon, Marine Corps Marathon Leads to Divorce … and OH so many more! Here are a few quotes:

… He was taking this running far more serious than I ever wanted to and at that moment, I remember looking at him and saying “I am done running with you. You just sucked all of the fun out of this.” And that is the day when I became a “running widow”.

It’s a common affliction, being a widow to a spouse’s hobby. My father was a golf fanatic and as a result, my mother was a golf widow, and I grew up a golf orphan. …

… These people, they are driven. You don’t try to shape the experience. You just accept them and support them and get out of their way, because they’re going to run. They’ll find the hour. They’ll work it in however they have to. You can stay in bed.

So if you read on and are nodding in agreement or perhaps sympathy then the chances are, you too are a Running Widow. And a Running Widow knows that the support doesn’t start and end on race day, but somehow (and none of us can exactly pin point when it happened) you turned into a one woman cheer squad/ exercise nutrition expert/cook/chauffeur/masseuse and nurse.

Now don’t get me wrong, you may like running. Indeed I am quite partial to jog along the beach on a sunny morning, and have even been known to take part in City2Surf, voluntarily. But a Running Widow knows another world of running. It isn’t a charity fun run, or just a way of keeping fit, it’s a world with words like Hoka, Garmin, S-Labs, Kilian, Skins and Glide, and where the North Face isn’t just somewhere you shop for a ski jacket. …

… Sporting widowhood spans all disciplines, from golf to football, but marathon running is by far the most all-consuming. It seems that jogging 30 to 55 miles a week is fundamentally incompatible with socialising, dating and basic conversation – unless, of course, it’s to do with the marathon. And I’m not the only one who’s struggling to cope. …

… Marriages across this great nation are being torn asunder due to excessive exercise.

Experts are calling it “exercise divorce.” The out-of-shape partner left on the sidelines calls it irreconcilable differences with someone devoted first and foremost to a great set of calves and the daily endorphine rush. …

Nicole wrote a great post (that referenced a great post from Michele that I couldn’t find anymore) called “Does life get in the way of running? Or running in the way of life?” … and it fully addresses the reality of the challenges of trying to have a full life AND be fully engaged with marathon training. Spoiler alert: it is NOT easy!

And that is OK – and the struggle those ladies express is natural and felt by many people trying to juggle too much and adding yet another demanding activity to the pile. THAT is not the problem … the problem is when you DON’T ask yourself that question … when you start saying “I have a long run, guess missing that dance recital is OK”, and of course your kids will say ‘sure, it is fine’. And then it gets easier … and easier … and suddenly you are easily missing birthdays, anniversaries, school events – and pretty much deserting your life FOR A HOBBY.

Am I making too big a deal of this? Probably – we are all a product of our likes and interests, and in a relationship we have interests that overlap, those that conflict and still others that are separate. But there is a significant difference between a 5K and a marathon in terms of the scope and time and length of training investment. If you are not in it together … then it is something that is between you. That doesn’t mean it is – it is just something you need to deal with, otherwise it can become a serious issue as noted in many places around the internet.

Just as divorce and breakups and other problems can lead someone to pursue a marathon … so too can the pursuit of a marathon lead to problems in relationships that you weren’t expecting.

What are YOUR thoughts on all of this?

Video Games – A Winner, and Another Freebie!

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Well, last week I posted offering a free copy of The Witcher 2 Assassins of Kings – and today I am announcing a winner!

I had to REALLY dig deep for this one … joking, there was only one person who commented, so Darlin’ Rae wins! Yay! 🙂 I have sent an email with the code. I really enjoy her site, she just got married and her posts are loads of fun – check it out!

While I am at it I have ANOTHER freebie! Age of Wonders, a classic 1999 turn-based strategy game! Here is the description:

Welcome to Age of Wonders, the authentic turn-based fantasy strategy classic that started the hit series. Age of Wonders’ intimate atmosphere with painterly graphics still shines today. The game’s fully patched up, start building your fantasy empire today!

The Age of Wonders, once a time of magic and peace. An age swept into the ravaging gale of chaos by the arrival of a single, uninvited race: the Humans. The fragile balance that existed between the ancient races, Elves, Dwarves, Orcs and others, has changed into a struggle for power and survival in the wake of the turmoil the Humans have brought to the land. Prepare for a strategy adventure where you will uncover wondrous ancient artifacts, awesome magical power, and the secrets of a shattered empire. Ally with the forces of light or darkness to determine the fate of the world in the Age of Wonders!

* Age of Wonders is a turn-based game combining the best elements of strategy, adventure and role-playing.
* Forge strategic alliances with compatible races to leverage each race’s unique skills and abilities.
* Experience captivating single player campaign playable from the light and dark side.
* Play multi-player games against your friends through hotseat play, play-by-email, or over LAN or the Internet. The latter two modes feature an additional game play mode of simultaneous turns for a fast game pace.
12 unique fantasy races, over 50 different heroes with upgradable abilities, dozens of spells and scores of locations to explore
Employ strategic and tactical skills to command troops in capturing vital locations and defeating enemies
Battle your way through vast open lands, breach the outer wall in city sieges and explore deadly dungeons

The rules? You comment, you’re entered. I’ll select a winner on Friday the 12th.

Creationism? Evolution? Matthew Inman (The Oatmeal) Has Another Idea!

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At this time of the year there seems to be as much discord – over shopping, rampant commercialism, the ‘war on Christmas’, whatever else – as there is ‘peace and love’ that the holidays celebrated would suggest.

So instead … how about something howlingly funny?

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I am an unabashed fan of ‘The Oatmeal’, and recently he was doing a keynote talk at BAHFest (FESTIVAL of BAD AD HOC HYPOTHESES) which has been released on Youtube and gotten a ton of views. It is about his view of the universe, and his deity that he calls Jibbers Crabst … for the rest, just watch and listen (oh, and watch the sign language interpreter as well!)

Note: everything about this is disrespectful and irreverent towards organized religion, but is meant purely as humor. If you cannot find humor in such things, I suggest you skip the video. Also, rampant profanity.

Selfless Elf 5K Race Summary! 22:48 total, 7:21/mile, 7 Minute PR!

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While I was all ready to have a faceless 2014, an opportunity came up to run an inaugural 5K charity race that Lisa had heard about. She had hoped we both could do it, but her work schedule wouldn’t allow for it … so I signed up on my own!

Downtown Corning holds a Sparkle festival each year as the culmination of a week of holiday events starting with the tree lighting at the Centerway. This year they added a 5K, sponsored by Wegman’s and benefitting the Food Bank of the Southern Tier (our local food pantry). And when Wegman’s ‘sponsored it’, it wasn’t just the usual ‘throw a few dollars’ at it … they paid for everything so that all money collected went to the charity!

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Aside from registering for the race which also got you a shirt and socks, they were selling elf ears and jingle bracelets with all of THAT money going to charity – so we bought two each. Above is a picture of all my gear laid out – and Lisa wore her ears and bracelet to work. This is what I looked like all decked out to go:

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For a bit of history, I have run THREE 5K races, all in 2012:
– My first was a 32:02 … but a HUGE personal victory!
– My second was two weeks later and 29.46, which stands as my PR
– My third was two more weeks later, and it was over 90F, and I still broke 30 minutes with 29:51

I have expressed my ‘fear’ of the 5K – it is more of a sprint than an endurance challenge. I was all nerves getting ready to go. But in my head I had three goals:
C goal: beat my PR
B goal: break 25 minutes
A goal: hit 8 minute/mile average
A+ goal: while breaking 8min/mile, why not break 24 minutes?!?

Honestly if I broke 25 minutes I would have been ecstatic – everything else was ‘gravy’. Also honestly, if I did NOT break 25 minutes I’d have been disappointed … which was definitely part of my fear.

The race start was at the Corning High School stadium, but finished in downtown Corning at the Centerway. So I parked over in the garage by the finish (brought my badge because it is normally restricted access) and walked back over the bridge. Since we’d been to that stadium many times (marching band competitions, also for the GlassFest 5 miler) – I assumed things would be open so I could use the rest room before the start. Nope. Ugh – fortunately it wasn’t urgent!

Here is a picture I took waiting at the start – I didn’t notice at the time, but the guy in the sweatshirt moved right in front as I gook the shot … there was a guy dressed like ‘Buddy the Elf’ from the movie Elf that I was trying to get in the frame.

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I lined up a bit back from the start – I didn’t want to be TOO far back, but also wanted to let the ‘speedy elves’, as the announcer called them, go out first. I did a selfie to show how the crowd was starting to assemble. There ended up being more than 750 people registered – they accepted registrations for 750 and let people pay $20 at the race to join in with a tag.

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Here is the course map:

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It was a bit of a weird course, and totally depended on the volunteers! You might notice that the course took us to the same intersections more than once – which gets confusing unless you have someone directing you! Fortunately there were volunteers all over the course!

I went out strong, wearing my Garmin to help keep track of my pace and make sure I didn’t lag at all. I was asking people fairly consistently, and for the first quarter mile or so had the usual congestion – but people were actually pretty good about lining up according to their intended run/walk status. The biggest issue for me were the groups who were several across and not really pushing the pace – or getting out of the way!

While I knew I was doing more than a casual pace, it also wasn’t a hard pace – I wasn’t sprinting, and it felt like a pretty sustainable pace. When I heard the first mile go off I was a bit surprised – I thought I’d gone further and just missed the chime. I definitely slowed a bit then, but kicked myself in the butt and got moving again.

There were a bunch of times I wish I had more pictures – the outfits were great! I was just past the two mile mark when a couple of really young kids blew by me – it is just always awesome for me to see kids who aren’t even teenagers running so gracefully and effortlessly, chatting as they went.

I was worried about doing the underpass and heading over the bridge if I would sustain things – but I did! As I was crossing the pedestrian bridge I passed someone who looked familiar … who then just edged me at the finish. You can see his name listed above mine on the results below – it ended up being the boys middle school history teacher (and advisor for some activities and all around great guy). We chatted for a bit and it was nice to catch up on kids and life.

I grabbed a picture of the finish time board – I had no idea how quickly they would get things online (answer was very quickly!) The placement had no meaning at that point as it had to do with how many were finished when they printed.

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When I approached the finish line the ‘minute’ numbers were obscured, so I had no clue on my time until I was within about 10 meters of the finish. When I saw 22 minutes? I couldn’t believe it! I was going to easily break 23 minutes … who WAS this guy running this race? A 7:21 pace? I NEVER do that! That is a *7* Minute PR!

I came in #77 out of 692 recorded finishers (they had to close the course at 5PM to kick off Sparkle), 49th man, 11th in my age group (the winner was in my age group as well!).

I am terribly proud of myself – no humble-brag here, I have cut 3 minutes per mile off my first 5K pace, and my per mile pace is about 50% lower than what I first recorded back in April 2012 (my first GPS run ever). I couldn’t be happier – and I have gotten some amazing comments on Facebook and Instagram from all of my awesome friends!

It is also a reminder that to paraphrase Tip O’Neill “all achievements are personal”.

Recipe Sharing: Ultimate Stuffed Acorn Squash (Vegetarian, Vegan Options Included)

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Happy Friday everyone! I have a couple of posts that are incubating but not quite ready, so I wanted to share a recipe instead!

This is a vegetarian (i.e. not vegan) meal that stands alone and is quite filling. The ingredients we bought for a pre-Thanksgiving meal when we planned for my brother to join us with his kids … but when he wasn’t able to make it we ended up with a snack-dinner instead. I had made this before, and it is based on a recipe from Vegetarian Times from a couple of years ago. We were all so done with turkey and needed a day off and had all of the stuff, so Lisa pulled it together for us on her day off.

When I made it the first time I used the Chile powder in the quantity stated as well as sprinkled on the squash (something I removed) but it was too spicy for my family (I have to be careful … I can handle just about anything, they can not). The next time I made it I partially pre-cooked the squash, because I love roasted squash – and it was good but a little overcooked by the time the center set.

This time the squash was well cooked, and the filling was moist – and it was all delicious. Lisa ended up with extra filling so we cooked it by itself and it ended up a lot like corn bread you’d make to go with a pot of chili.

Here goes – and don’t be intimidated by the seemingly large ingredient list … it is pretty easy to make!

Vegan Modification:
– You create vegan butter milk similar to normal ‘home-made buttermilk’ – 1 tbsp vinegar into 1 cup of milk. Only now – non-dairy milk. Works great!
– You can also use a non-dairy cheese, or whatever you normally substitute for cheddar cheese and cream cheese substitutes
– Also – typical vegan egg substitute.

Ingredients:
3 tbsp Olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced (4 tsp.), divided
2 acorn squash, halved and seeded
½ tsp. Ancho Chile powder
½ tsp. ground coriander
3 cups fresh or frozen organic corn kernels
⅔ cup yellow cornmeal
1 tsp. sugar
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
⅛ tsp. cayenne pepper, optional
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
2 large eggs
4 Tbs. melted butter or olive oil
3 oz. soft goat cheese or low-fat cream cheese (⅓ cup)
3 oz. grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese (¾ cup), plus more for sprinkling tops, optional
1 ½ cups cooked black beans or 1 15-oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 large poblano chile or 1 small red bell pepper, diced (1 cup)
8 green onions, white and green parts thinly sliced (1 cup), plus more for sprinkling tops

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine oil and 2 tsp. minced garlic in small bowl. Brush squash halves with garlic oil, and sprinkle lightly with Ancho Chile powder (skip to make it milder) and coriander. Season with salt and pepper, if desired, and place on large baking sheet.

2. Pulse 2 cups corn kernels in food processor (we used the Nutribullet) until finely chopped and milky. Set aside.

3. Whisk 1/2 tsp. each coriander and Ancho Chile powder into cornmeal, along with sugar, baking soda, salt, and cayenne (if using) in medium bowl. Set aside.

4. Whisk together buttermilk and eggs in separate bowl. Whisk in butter, then puréed corn, remaining 1 cup corn kernels, goat cheese, Cheddar, and remaining 2 tsp. garlic. Fold in cornmeal mixture with spatula, then fold in black beans, poblano chile, and green onions.

5. Divide filling among squash halves. Sprinkle each squash with extra Cheddar (if using).

6. Bake squash halves 30 to 45 minutes, or until squash are tender and filling is set. Sprinkle with green onions. Squash can be prepared 24 hours ahead, then reheated 20 minutes at 325°F.

Serve right away – you really shouldn’t even need a knife (though you’ll look more civilized if you use one!). One half-squash feeds one person, so this recipe serves 4 people. If you have more, you should be OK with this recipe up to a 3rd squash without scaling (as I say we had a bunch of extra filling).

Do you love stuffed squash? Favorite recipes?