Month: June 2013

Finding my Mantra

Words can be such a powerful thing.

Anyone who has trained for endurance sports knows that it is just as much a mental as physical challenge, and it seems every endurance athlete has a mantra that keeps them going through the really tough miles. Even shorter distances have their challenges and pushing your body to its limit for even one or two hours requires some serious mental focus, but I never managed to find a saying that would make me want to push myself just a little faster when every muscle is screaming at me to stop; usually I just think about how much I want that new PB or remind myself that it’s going to hurt no matter what, but the faster I run the faster it’s over.

i didn’t count on the power of the heat training run. It’s one of those mental challenges that’s more about refusing to quit than trying to go fast because no one is setting PBs in 40 degree weather anyway, but it’s the type of run that provides a mental clarity that few people ever experience.

I’ve had some words floating around in my head all week, and in mid-heat-training-run delirium they managed to arrange themselves into a cohesive saying that made me keep going:

“Every moment matters. Make it count.”

Moments are the building blocks of our lives. If I can make every moment count for something than I know that whatever I’m doing has purpose and focus, and that I have done everything I can to make it a success.

The best part is that it’s a great reminder for the rest of my life too. Anytime I start feeling frustrated or as if I’m not accomplishing anything, I ask myself if I’m making this moment count. If every moment counts towards something then I’m making progress, and real progress comes not from all the big milestones but from all the little steps that contribute towards transformation and growth.

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I’m always interested to hear what other people use to keep themselves going when it gets really tough. What’s your mantra?

Raspberry Lemon Layer Cake

June has been a wonderful month for cakes. It started with an angel food cake with strawberries for my Nana’s birthday at the beginning of the month, followed by carrot cupcakes with maple-cream cheese frosting (from Smitten Kitchen) for my Mom’s birthday in mid-June.

Cakes aren’t something I get to bake very often, so having a lot of birthdays in a month has been a real treat – for everyone I assume, since my Mom asked me if I would like to bake the cake for my Grandpa’s birthday party this weekend.

In my family it’s tradition to have the birthday boy or girl choose their cake, so last night I asked my Grandpa what kind of cake he would like. He picked a white cake and specified no chocolate frosting, but a simple white cake just seems so boring! The result was that I got a little creative and decided to use some local in-season fruit to spice it up a little: a light lemon layer cake with raspberry filling. Hold the chocolate frosting!

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This recipe uses beaten egg whites to make a nice fluffy and moist cake, not too sweet and quite lemony. Feel free to adjust the amount of lemon zest if you want a stronger or weaker taste of lemon – I really like how the rich lemon flavours in the cake interact with the raspberry filling and tart, creamy frosting.

Lemon Cake
Adapted from Fine Cooking
2 1/3 c. cake flour; more for the pans
2 3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. table salt
1 3/4 c. granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. lightly packed finely grated lemon zest
3/4 c. unsalted butter, completely softened at room temperature; more for the pans
1 c. whole milk, at room temperature
5 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F and make sure the baking rack is in the middle position. Grease and flour two round cake pans.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine 1/4 cup of the sugar with the lemon zest. Add butter and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy (about a minute and a half). Add the remaining 1-1/2 cups sugar and beat until smooth.
  4. Add 1/4 of the milk and beat on low speed just until blended. Add the flour mixture and remaining milk alternately in three batches, beating on low speed just until blended.
  5. In a large bowl, beat the egg whites on medium speed until foamy, then add the cream of tartar and beat on high until stiff peaks form. Gradually fold whites into the batter, one quarter at a time, being careful not to deflate the mixture.
  6. Pour batter into prepared pans and smooth the tops with a spatula. Bake until a toothpick inserted at the centre comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes (adjust accordingly if you are using 8″ or 9″ pans). Let cool in pans for 10 minutes, then gently remove from pans and let cool completely.

Raspberry Filling
1 1/2 c. fresh raspberries
1 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar

Instructions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and slowly bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring continuously until slightly thickened.
  2. Let cool completely.

Lemon Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting
1 1/2 c. whipping cream
1 (8oz) package cream cheese, at room temperature
1 c. confectioners sugar, to taste (use less for a tart frosting, more for a sweet frosting)
2 Tbsp. finely grated lemon zest
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp cornstarch

Instructions:

  1. In a medium bowl, beat whipping cream with an electric mixer on high until stiff peaks form.
  2. In a large bowl cream together cream cheese, lemon zest and lemon juice. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy, then sift confectioners sugar and cornstarch over mixture and beat by hand until combined, scraping sides of the bowl to make sure all sugar is combined.
  3. Fold in whipped cream.

Assembling the cake

  1. Use a string or knife to cut round layers in half horizontally so you have four round cakes.
  2. Starting with the bottom layer, spread 1/3 of the raspberry filling over the top of the layer just to the edges. Place the next cake on top and repeat until all four layers are stacked with filling in between.
  3. Frost the sides and top of the cake, and garnish with lemon peel and fresh raspberries.

Making my Way Back

Several months ago I decided to start journaling every night because I found I slept better if I spent a few minutes writing before bed.  It doesn’t have to be anything deep and profound, and often it’s just a recap of my day along with anything I feel I need to discuss with myself and then once I start falling asleep on my notebook, I turn off the light and go to bed.

Expanding on that idea, in the past month I’ve also had several people tell me I should have a blog.  It’s not something I thought of recently, until I realized that I keep having ideas that would make wonderful blog posts (I’ve got a few posts in mind already) and that blogging would be a great replacement for the journaling I haven’t really been keeping up with lately.  The result is that I am reviving my Tri Sport Girl blog and had a chance to read through some of my older blog posts from several years ago.  Now I’m itching for a vacation outside of North America.

Stay tuned for some delicious and healthy recipes, as well as some of my recent thoughts on my running and triathlon training!