Iowa raised

This week I went home to Iowa to hang out and visit family. I didn’t have much planned, so it was a nice, relaxing time hanging out with friends and family in great weather. I came back refreshed; it was a really great trip.

While I was home some last-minute exciting things happened:

  • One night, the Northern Lights were supposed to be visible. So my mom and I jumped in the car and drove around away from city lights for a while looking for them. Unfortunately, we didn’t spot them. Viewing the Northern Lights has been on my bucket list since learning about them, probably in middle school, so I was bummed I didn’t see them. If they were visible, I think we went to bed too early, as the best show was after midnight until 4 a.m.
  • I was leaving Iowa to come back to Florida the same time as President Obama. He made a quick trip to the University of Iowa during his two-day university tour to talk about student-loan rates, and flew out of the Eastern Iowa Airport the same time as me. Because of the timing, I saw the motorcade as I was on the road waiting to enter the airport and saw Air Force One take off once inside the terminal. It was a pretty cool site.

The motorcade entering the Eastern Iowa Airport

Air Force One takes off. I saw it a lot closer but due to excitement and poor window placement, I couldn't get a better picture.

Other than that, I hung out with my family and friends, enjoying the weather and activities of my hometown. And, if you know me or this blog, you know some of my favorite things to do when traveling is sample local food and beer.

I read in my hometown newspaper (and my first job) about a cute cheese shop, The Cheesehead Cheese Haus in Vinton, so I stopped by. It has more than 100 different cheeses, most from Wisconsin. Kris owns it with her husband, and she was very knowledgeable and helpful while we were shopping. She said she has tried all the cheeses (lucky lady!).

My mom, brother and I each picked a cheese: Buffalo wing cheddar (my brother), Farmers horseradish and chive (my mom) and cranberry white cheddar (me). They were a great variety, and all were really good, especially when sampled with our Midwest beers variety 6-pack I picked up.

Not a great picture, but great Midwest beer, cheese and crackers.

If you haven’t heard me say it before, I make a point when I travel somewhere to try to eat and drink as local as possible. And when I go home, it means sampling Midwest beers that are not available in Florida. Why travel to get something from the same chain restaurant you can find on every corner of the U.S. and wash it down with a basic anybeer? To me, a huge joy of travel is to experience new things and try something local not widely available.

This trip, my favorite beers sampled were Boulevard Single-Wide I.P.A., Potosi Steamboat Shandy and Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat Ale.

Friday links

I haven’t blogged since last Friday Links, and I’m bummed, but I was out of town. I will share some highlights of my trip in my next blog post! Since I’ve been gone I haven’t read as much as usual. However it gave me time to start reading Thrive, a book about vegan health and how food relates to performance in sports and life. What have you been reading this week?

I still did come across some interesting things to share:

  • One of my Top 3 popular blog posts is my Meatball Shop vegetarian meatballs recipe. I love The Meatball Shop and this recipe and I love that so many people find my site by searching for this recipe. If you found my blog via that recipe and are reading this, Hiiii!! So when I saw video about the Meatball Shop guys on Jay Leno, I was excited. It gets a little out of hand when Jack Black enters the picture.
  • If, like me, you love breakfast but hate mornings, overnight breakfast prep might be for you. There are recipes that can easily start the night before and be finished in the morning, making a great breakfast without all the A.M. prep. NPR’s Overnight Breakfast 
  • Learn what spring vegetables are popular right now and how to prepare them. This is a good list if you are walking around a farmer’s market and want to try something new and fresh. How to cook spring vegetables
  • As a new runner, I found Getting to the Root of Runners High interesting. One line was especially interesting: “Liking to run, it seems, may have helped to make humans what they are.” And the comments were actually good to read, telling about people’s specific reasons and feelings. Like many comments, I actually enjoy my runs more when I put less pressure on myself and remember I’m doing it because how I feel at the end as opposed to viewing it as exercise or something I have to do.
  • And, although I’m not a fan of the word foodie, this is a fun read with some good tips (6. Befriend a Farmer) and a few that might make you chuckle (13. Take Your Leftovers to Work in a Mason Jar). Pretend you are a foodie

Friday links

As a lover of journalism, reading, food, health and fitness and travel, I’m always coming across great links that I want to share. Sometimes I send the links along to people who might appreciate them, sometimes I post them on Facebook or Twitter. But often I think they go unnoticed or get lost in the shuffle. So I decided I’m going to post links I find worthy of passing along that go with the tone of my blog.

I’ll probably do this every week or two as I see fit, without forcing links upon anyone, and probably on Friday, collecting the best stories, lists, articles, blogs, etc. for your weekend reading pleasure. And if you ever find anything worth showcasing, please leave them in the comments section or let me know on Twitter @ValPass.


  • My favorite link of the week is 7 Foods You Really Should Eat Before You Die. When I saw this link in my Google Reader, I assumed it was specific dishes in specific locations, and wouldn’t be vegetarian friendly. I’m glad I clicked and read the list! It includes specific foods you can’t miss, including one entry listed as “Georgia peaches, New Jersey corn, California melons, Oregon morels, New England blackberries. You get the point.” While other entries are some of the best food I’ve had, this really hit me. Before I moved to Georgia I didn’t like peaches. Once I got to Georgia and had a peach, it was such a sweet, juicy food, unlike any other peach I had before and better than every other people I had until that point combined. The lesson is, if you say you don’t like something and you are where it is “the best” give it a try. If you don’t like it there, you probably won’t like it, but you may have just tried a new great food. And the rest of the list is simple pleasure foods.


  • And for the weekend and as the weather heats up, I think it would be so fun to try a watermelon keg of punch! Makes me want to fill up a glass and grab a spot in the sun.

Have a great weekend!

Shortcut cinnamon rolls

I’m not a huge fan of sweets, but when the mood hits, I need to make something that is quick and easy. And although I try to eat few processed foods, I keep returning in the dairy aisle to the tube of pre-made crescent rolls. So bad yet so buttery, flaky and good. And they make a quick breakfast, side dish or dessert so darn easy.

I’m sure it’s very easy to make crescent rolls. I’ve seen recipes and every other bread item I’ve made is simple and minimal hands-on time, it just needs time (and planning) to rise. But when I want crescent rolls, I want them NOW, so the pre-made variety always wins. Call it my guilty, processed pleasure (and why the easy chocolate croissants and apple brie bites are awesome)!

I came up with the idea to make cinnamon rolls but replace the frosting with peanut butter frosting. Much more my style. I modified the original recipe, which makes the rolls from scratch, if you want to do that. Or if you want to take it up a notch, April’s Bon Appetit features a huge, gooey sticky bun on it’s cover, with a few recipes from the same dough.

Anyway, back to my recipe. I’ve had some success modifying crescent rolls before, so I figured this cinnamon roll recipe would work well. They did and it’s super easy to make.

Roll out one tube cinnamon rolls on a flat nonstick surface. Press the seams together so it’s one big sheet. Stir together one tablespoon melted butter, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 3/4 teaspoon sugar. Brush it around the crescent roll sheet, leaving about an inch clear on all sides.

Take one shorter end and roll tight toward the other shorter end. Cut into eight pinwheel rolls. Place on a greased sheet or pan. Bake at 375° for about 15 minutes, until golden brown.

While the roll is cooking, make the frosting put 1/2 cup powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon peanut butter and 2-3 tablespoons milk into a bowl. Mix until smooth.

When the rolls are done, let them cool for a few minutes and then frost.

And if you have extra frosting (or make more to have extra) like I did, you can make another treat. I used mine to make apple nachos! Slice apples and put them on a plate. Pour the frosting over them and sprinkle whatever extras you might like. I used cocoa nibs but you could use nuts, sprinkles, dry fruit or marshmallows, to name a few.

Running and drinking

Now that I would consider myself a “runner” (if I don’t get out after a few days off, my legs aren’t happy with me) and I’ve gotten myself working out on a regular basis, I would say my biggest vices are salt (specifically popcorn and nachos) and coffee and beer. I jokingly tell myself I need to drink as much water as I do just to clear all the caffeine, alcohol and salt out of my system. Not that I’m going to give these things up. I have to live a little.

I was excited to see Dunkin’ Donuts giving out coffee with it’s carby treats following my Race for the Cure run. And my next planned run is sponsored by and ends at a brewery, so a beer will be in order. Registration for the Warrior Dash includes a beer. Running and caffeine or beer seem logical.

I’ve seen a few pleasantly surprising articles regarding running and hydration, each saying the praises of caffeine or beer after a good run. I’ve also heard that both beer and coffee aren’t very dehydrating and are good since they both contain a lot of water.


Caffeine can be used for different reasons before, during and after a run. The article says it boosts leg and brain power. And there is a recipe for a recovery smoothie that uses coffee that I plan to make this week!


There are many articles out there saying beer is good (in moderation) before a run for the carbs or after a run for recovery and helping to prevent respiratory infections. I don’t need the details, just hand me a beer after a run, tell me it’s good for me and I’ll drink it. However, since I’m not as spry as I once was, I’ve learned to lay off the stuff for a few days before my race. But to each his or her own.

What is your post-run food or drink of choice?