Kelly the Culinarian: March 2012

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Mother Load

Tim is in class all day today, but my parents stopped by to pick up a few items and visit an RV store down the street. My mom also brought me some prizes. Observe, the clearance jewelry mother load!

I can't wait to wear all this cute stuff. My mom asked me why I thought she bought these. I said because I'm cute. She said because she wants a mention on the blog. So here's your very own post, Mom. Thanks for prizes!

They also took me out for lunch at one of my favorite Mexican places, then we went clubbing ... Sam's Clubbing. If you have a Sam's membership, check out the running shorts there. For $10, I picked up a pair of lined running shorts that has a generous fuel pocket. That's a pretty good deal, so watch out for them.

Cooking with Kelly: Double Caramel Fudge Brownie Recipe

Chocolate is one of my favorite foods. I only started running so I could eat more, so I enjoy chocolate quite frequently. Becca's birthday was a few weeks ago, but I was traveling, so I recently made her a belated birthday treat. Now that she's in her second trimester of pregnancy, she said chocolate is back on the list of foods she enjoys. That, and caramel. Instantly, I knew what I would make.

These brownies turned out delicious - a hint of caramel encased in a decadently dark cloud of chocolate brownie and milk chocolate icing. The key here is adding mini Rolo candies to the batter, then adding a layer of caramel in between the brownie and the frosting. And a hint of salt really brings out the sweetness of the chocolate.

Double Caramel Fudge Brownie Recipe
1 box of fudge brownies, plus the ingredients to prepare it
2-4 packages of mini Rolos (your call on how decadent to make this)
1 package of chewy caramels (I used Werthers, but pick your poison)
1 Tablespoon milk
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1 package milk or dark chocolate icing

Start by mixing up the brownies as directed, then adding the Rolos. Spoon batter into a 13 by 9 inch pan and bake as directed.

Remove the brownies and allow to cool completely. Meanwhile, mix the caramels, milk and half of the salt in a microwave-proof bowl. Heat in the microwave in 45-second segments or until smooth.

When the brownies are cool, smooth the caramel coating on top. While it's still warm, top with the remaining salt. Allow to cool completely again.

I like to take store-bought icing and make it fluffier by placing in in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment and whisking on medium for about two minutes. I think it makes the frosting extra light and delicious, but you can skip this. Finish icing the brownies, then refrigerate for one hour. This makes it easier to slice.

Use a very sharp knife to cut the brownies into portions.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Fashion Friday

Again, I managed to miss some of the outfits this week. Oh well. Here's my best shot.
Black skirt from Target (thanks mom!), white company logo dress shirt and sweater vest from Goodwill for $1.49. Flat Dr. Scholl's shoes.

This dress was a gift from my mom from the Old Navy clearance rack. My mom is a deal ninja. The necklace is also from my mom. The belt is from Forever 21 and the shoes are Payless. I debated whether this was too short for work, but what the hell, blue is my color and I have runner's legs now, so I went for it.

I'm undecided on this top. It's from French Connection via the thrift store, so it's one of my $.33 beauties. But I think the Asian-inspired kimono styling looks slightly maternity. What can you expect for $.33? Also, Banana Republic pants, Payless shoes and JCP necklace.

Yay for the thrift store! This is my $1.95 J. Crew jacket, paired with a clearance shirt from the Gap and my Banana Republic skirt. I remember debating buying this skirt when Tim took me shopping for my birthday because it was more than I usually spend on a single item of clothing, but I wear it all the time.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Three Things Thursday

1. I did my first swim to run brick workout today, which included 20 minutes in the pool and a 25-minute run. While the swim was so much easier today now that I've had my swim lesson, I didn't anticipate how difficult it would be to get clothes over my damp skin. Plus, it was a little chilly out, so by the time I finished my run and made it back to the gym, my legs were bright red from the cold. From now on, I'll do swimming last in my bricks. For the actual triathlon, I'm going to have to buy either a tri suit or tri top and shorts. Whatever I go into the water wearing is what I'll wear throughout.
One tri suit option

2. I joined a gym this week. It's not nearly as fancy as the gym I went to for in February, but it's a lot cheaper. This place is $40 a month and has a pool, but if you want towel service, you have to pay another $10 a month. You also have to bring your own lock and they don't have all the toiletries the fancy gym had. Suddenly, $70 a month for a gym doesn't sound so outrageous when that includes towels, toiletries, locking lockers, lots of classes and coffee in the lobby.
I would love to swim here every day
3. While I've already crossed one goal off of my 12 in 2012 list, I'm already planning my "I fell short of my goal weight" post that is inevitable. I wanted to reach 124 by March 31, however, I think I'm still at where I started. I got within two pounds, but that might be the closest my body can get without losing a limb. Or my mind.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Cooking with Kelly: No-Bake Black Bean Energy Bar Recipe

Mmm, "healthy" bars. I love them, but only when they come from my kitchen. I already have one chocolate protein bar recipe that I make pretty regularly, but I wanted to expand my horizons and try something that didn't require protein powder. Plus, these bars are gluten free and very tasty. Because of the cocoa powder and raisins, they do turn out tasting quite a bit like a fudge brownie. If you're into cycling, these would be easy enough to pack on a long bike ride.

When cut into nine bars, these are about 120 calories each and have six grams of protein. Not bad at all, for a brownie impostor.

No-Bake Black Bean Energy Bar Recipe
1/2 oats (use certified GF if you're avoiding gluten)
1/3 cup raisins, packed
1 15-ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed
Scant 1/2 cup mashed bananas
Scant 1/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/4 cup Splenda (Can omit or swap for regular sugar, if you're sensitive)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup flaxseed meal

Using a food processor, grind the oats until powdery. Next, pulse the raisins, black beans, bananas and pumpkin until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse until incorporated.

Spoon the batter into an 8x8 baking pan lined with foil and smooth over to fill evenly. Freeze for one hour or until firm but not frozen solid. Remove from the pan and using a sharp knife, cut into nine squares. Individually package in plastic wrap or bags, then store in the freezer.

I'll tell you this: Napoleon loved this recipe, mostly because of the can that the pumpkin comes in that he gets to enjoy. I've created a monster because now anytime I open a can, he comes running. At least he likes healthy treats.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Training Tuesday: Triathlon Training is On

Now that I'm 54 days away from my first triathlon (insert freak out here), I am officially in training. I love training plans and having something concrete to do each day. It's empowering to know if I follow the plan and give it 100 percent every day, I'll have all the tools I need to finish the race strong.

The Hal Higdon half marathon plan worked out really well for my first half marathon last fall, so I'm following his novice 2 triathlon training plan, which technically kicked off yesterday. I went for a swim instead of strength, but I'll be following his general guides for training during the next few weeks to get ready for the Niles Tower Tri.

I'm really excited about my first triathlon, mostly because this is a step towards my ultimate goal of becoming an Ironman. I feel like after my lesson yesterday, I have a better understanding of the swim, but it is my weakest sport. Putting it all together will be tough, but I'm looking forward to a new challenge and quality cross training.

My next question is what to wear for a sprint triathlon. Should I get a tri suit or separate tri shorts and a tri top? It actually works out cheaper to get the one piece, but I'm not sure of the brands (Garneau for the one-piece, Orca for the two pieces) and such. Any advice, Internet strangers?

Monday, March 26, 2012

One Goal Off the List: My First Swim Lesson

I'm sexy and I know it.
One of my 12 goals for 2012 was to take a swim class. The reason I wanted to tackle this goal is that I want to complete an Ironman one day by 2015, so swimming without wearing myself out is important to successfully completing triathlons. Except right now, that's exactly what I'm doing: exhausting myself in just a few laps.

I met with Coach Judie of Experience Triathlon, who Erin recommended and is related to Maggie. She was a fantastic teacher. In my first lap at the pool, she immediately identified one of my problems: my kick was rather "exuberant," meaning I was wasting energy just kicking. Rather than taking these large, sweeping kicks, Judie explained that I should focus on quick turn over in the kick, but smaller movements. She also showed me how to more effectively move my arms through the water to take advantage of the full range of movement. She showed me how to keep my elbows out and push through the whole stroke to use all my upper body muscles, which you don't need for the remaining triathlon sports.

Within a half an hour, I could tell the difference in my swim. She emphasized the idea of making yourself a long, skinny boat in the water, and I'm happy to be a long, skinny anything. Judie told me to think about trying to take up the least amount of space in a tube to glide through the water, rather than crashing about the surface. She showed me three drills to try to improve my stroke: the fingertip drill, the fist drill and a balance drill. While I watched the videos on YouTube and read about these before, it's so much easier when someone explains it to you.

After our lesson, I did a few laps and the difference between my laps before the lesson were noticeable. I can actually hear the difference in my stroke. Judie said some elite swimmers train to be as silent as possible. When my hands aren't entering the water correctly or I'm not rotating my body properly, I can hear my body striking the water with an unattractive "plopping" noise.

In my opinion, this was money well-spent. I wish I had done this sooner, because it makes swimming much more enjoyable now that I'm not completely wiped in just a few minutes. It's my hope that after this lesson and some time spent practicing, I'll be ready to join a masters swim class soon and get a six-pack like Dara Torres. Or just become a better swimmer. Either of those would be great.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Run, Fun, Eats

I got some new running shoes from the Amazon fairy - Asics Gel -Strike 2. They're similar to my current pair and were on clearance for $37. I thought they were a little tight, but I took them out for a run today and they were just fabulous. I did five miles with negative splits, which was a  little tougher than I thought it would be. My overall pace was 9:05, but it felt much harder than that.

I celebrated with my new favorite treat, a broiled grapefruit. Just slice it and place it under the broiler for four minutes, then add Splenda and a pinch of cinnamon and broil for another minute.

Alissa came over today to go to my favorite thrift store. They had the 3 for $1 sale again today and I made out like a bandit. All brand names, for a total of $4.28. My big spend was a J. Crew jacket for $1.95, otherwise, everything else was part of sale.

Finally, we went to my parents house for dinner. We celebrated Easter early because my parents live a free-roaming lifestyle now with their trailer and they're not sure if they'll be here for Easter. My mom had an Easter egg hunt and I thought Amanda was going to clothesline me to get more eggs.

My mom made an awesome spread - burgers, brats, potato salad, tuna salad, baked beans. I had to roll myself out of there. Does running five miles this morning offset eating like all the food might disappear?

Now, I'm headed back to bed. I don't know what my issue is, but I went straight to bed when we got home from my mom's. I only got out of bed so I wouldn't wake up at 4 a.m., ready to go. After a few loads of laundry and making my food for tomorrow, I'm all tuckered out again. Good night!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Food Find: A Polish Food Extravaganza!

This morning, Tim and I had to get blood drawn for medical insurance tests. Super lame. Even worse, I had to fast for the test. When we finally left, I was starving and hangry. We were close to two Polish places I'd been meaning to try. First, we went to Hanna's Bakery, which has all sorts of treats that I couldn't even identify. We walked out with a box of kolaches, a Polish cookie that's made of a tender pastry wrapped around fruit preserves and topped with sugar. These were apricot and plum kolaches, and were topped with granulated sugar instead of the powdered sugar that I've seen before. Tim commented that these were authentic and better than most. I really enjoyed the plum - it was sweet and a bit tart.

Next up, we decided to stop at St. Andrew's Ukranian Church. We pass all the time and have been meaning to stop in because the place sells periogies from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday as a fundraiser. They sell sauerkraut, potato and cheese pierogi $5 per dozen. We got the cheese and potato, then headed home. The pierogi was served warm in a butter sauce and they were actually really good. I prefer the potato pierogi, which had a hint of onion. I wasn't a big fan of the cheese pierogi, which was some kind of ricotta mix.

A Night at the Drive In

Last night, we went to Napoleon's favorite place in the whole world: Cascade Drive In. It's nearby, cheaper than the theater and had The Hunger Games. It was a double feature with another movie that we didn't stay for because it was so ridiculously terrible.
I've never read the books, but I loved the movie. It was a surprisingly smart social commentary. I think I'll read the books now, and I look forward to the other movies.

Napoleon loved all the smells.
But was all tuckered out before the end of the movie.

Here he thought The Hunger Games were what he did when we don't feed him fast enough.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Fashion Friday

I skipped last week because I was traveling, so here are a few outfits from last week and a few from this week.
St. Patrick's Day outfit. Green shirt from the thrift store ($.33!), black cardigan from Nordstrom Rack, shamrock scarf my mom gave me and thrift store jeans.

I just wanted to mention that this trench came from Forever 21 and the scarf from Pier 1 Imports. It's my favorite scarf, so soft and velvety.

Live, from the bathroom of the Met! Blue T-shirt from Target, cardigan from Old Navy via the thrift store, belt from the Limited and dangly earrings from JCPenney (maybe?).
Pants and top from Banana Republic, cardigan making an appearance again and a belt that came attached to another outfit. 

I love this dress so much, partly because it was the first size 6 I ever bought. It's also really flattering and I always get a lot of compliments about it. It's from Macy's, the belt is from The Limited, the shoes are from Payless and the necklace is from JCPenney.

Fun note: my company's logo is gold and blue. I managed to wear both colors, in about the right shade, in one week. Yay for company pride.
The shirt is from JCPenney, the necklace was a gift from my mom, the skirt is from The Gap via Goodwill and the shoes are from Ross.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Three Things Thursday

1. Last night, I met Maggie for a run in Oak Brook. It was lovely, but I felt like I was dragging ass. We finished just a little more than five miles, but I had to walk the last .75. Sorry Maggie! The weather was wonderful and I'm glad I didn't waste it.

2. I got a new kitchen item last night from the Amazon fairy - stainless steel drinking straws. It may be silly, but I like my protein shakes with a straw. It feels more dessert-like with a straw. I've been eyeing these on Amazon for a while and I was so excited they arrived. My chocolate PB2 protein shake was extra special with my new straws. And yes, I enjoyed my protein shake in a frosted mug.

3. I am doubting my ability to reach my New Year's Resolution of 124 pounds. It doesn't help that I spent the last week eating smores and pasta. Oh well, I gotta just keep kicking ass and hope that my ass reduces in turn.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What I Read

During the past two weeks, I've spent a lot of time in cars, on planes and waiting for all sorts of things. I've probably read more in this time period than I have in the past several months. Here's what I've been reading

This book has been by albatross for a while. A coworker read this in preparation for our trip to Seattle for work and then let me borrow it ... last July. I moved it from my nightstand to the dryer to my car and back. I finally cracked it open last week and finished it in two days. It's the story of a family traveling through major changes as seen through the eyes of a dog. Enzo saw a documentary once that said some religions believe that dogs who are excellent in their lives are reincarnated as humans, and seeks to be the best companion and protector he can be. I cried, but then again, I have a dog, so it might be a different kind of read if you've never shared your home and heart with a four-legged companion.

This was another quick read. I think I finished it on the way back from North Carolina. It was a refreshing book with each chapter starting with a personal story from Kara, then her tips and pointers on all things running. I had no idea that she ran her first marathon (the fastest debut ever by an American woman) after only training for eight weeks after the Olympics. She still thought everything went wrong. It's so humanizing to know that she struggles with self-doubt, as well as overeating. I highly recommend this book to all female runners; even if you don't glean anything from her tips, her story is still very interesting.

I'm a too young to remember the 1973 book and later, the 1976 movie that started the firestorm that was multiple personalities in the '80s and '90s. I do remember watching made-for-TV movies on Lifetime about people who claimed, under hypnosis, that they were abused by satanic cults at daycares. I really enjoyed the book "Victims of Memory," so I couldn't wait to read this. Nathan discovered after reviewing records, interviewing people and examining resources the real story behind Sybil, a book that purported to be a nonfiction novel about a woman with many, many multiple personalities created by a childhood filled with horrific abuse. Nathan systematically follows Shirley Mason, also known as Sybil, through her "treatment." With hindsight, we see how two power- and fame-hungry women manipulated an ill woman into becoming a sideshow. This was a great read, but I almost like "Victims of Memory" more.

"Off On Our Own" by Ted Carns
This was a very strange book. It's written by Ted Carns, who at age 17, crawls into a run-down home while on LSD. He then starts renting the hunting lodge from a widow for $5 a month, with the understanding that he could make any improvements he wants. Now, he lives completely off the grid, generating his own power, inventing elaborate ways to recycle all waste and growing all of the food for his mostly vegan diet. While I found the book fascinating and insightful, I didn't read the whole thing, skipping to to the parts I found interesting. This book isn't so much a how-to, but rather, a book about creating your own goals and desires in a consumer-driven world.

"Bike Touring" by the Sierra Club
Another one of my way-out-there goals: bike across America, camping under the stars and seeing all the sights I can. Sigh. One day, I'll eventually retire and I'll have lots of plans. This book is gigantic with tiny type and minimal photos, so it's just packed with tips for all kinds of bike tours, from weekend jaunts to cross-country excursions.

So what should I read next?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Big Recap from the Big Apple

What a whirlwind! I arrived in New York on Wednesday, then met up with Erin and Kim for dinner.
At the Natural History Museum
Taking a walk at The High Line

On Thursday, I wasted no time taking a run in Central Park. we started the day at the Museum of Natural History. In the afternoon, we visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I spent my time in the new America wing. I could have spent all day there. They had portraits, landscapes, historic paintings, furniture arranged by period and all types of pewter, glass and ceramic dishes. My favorite part there was the visible storage area, which was just rows and rows of stuff arranged by categories. Think anyone would notice if I borrowed a tea set?
Temple of Dendur

I also checked out the Egyptian wing, because I love all things Egypt. The Met has the Temple of Dendur, which is amazing simply because of the scale and detail of the temple, which was reconstructed as accurately as possible.

On Friday, we got down to business and went over to the United Nations for the work event that brought me to New York. It was a long day with fantastic food. We ended Friday in Times Square, which is always better by night.
Saturday was St. Patrick's Day and started with a trip to see the parade. We then headed to the 9/11 Memorial and also saw the Statue of Liberty from Battery Park. On Sunday, I finished up some work stuff before I had a little picnic at Bryant Park and communed with my inner Project Runway star by visiting the Parsons New School for Design.

 Before I headed out of town, I saw Newsies: The Musical. It's getting a ton of buzz. I thought the music, character development and choreography was awesome, but there was a love story plot line that seemed very forced. The '80s kid in me loved it, but the cynic adult in me wondered what will happen when it comes out of previews.

All in all, it was a great trip, but I'm glad to be home. Some puppy face went on a hunger strike while I was gone and I have a ton of stuff to do at work and around the house. So today, it's back to the grind, but at least I have amazing weather to welcome me home.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

We Will Never Forget

I've been in New York since Wednesday, and since then, I've hung out with some blogging buddies and ran Central Park, but that's not all!  I went to the American Museum of Natural History and hung out with some dinosaurs.

Don't you think Napoleon would have loved to play with these now extinct miniature camels? 

In addition, I visited the 9/11 Memorial, which is still under construction. It currently features two gigantic fountains in the footprints of where the towers once stood. The fountains are framed with the names of all of those who perished in both the 1993 and 2001 attacks on the buildings. Water cascades 32 feet from down into the foundation of the fountain, symbolizing the fall of the building. It's the largest such waterfall in the United States. The water disappears into a void in the middle of the fountain, indicative of the void we all feel in a post 9/11-world.

I remember 9/11 like it was yesterday and being at the site was an experience for me. There isn't a ton to see right now other than the fountains, but it was moving to be in the same location where events transpired that change the course of history. It is most certainly the defining moment of my generation. The events at Ground Zero changed every facet of American life and international dialogue.

I'll be heading back tonight and will put together more of a recap when I return and can retrieve more photos from another camera. I also went to the St. Patrick's Day Parade, spent a day at the United Nations, went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and visited the Statue of Liberty, so check back for a full report!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Cooking with Kelly: The Take Your Time Stove-Cooked Oatmeal Recipe

Oatmeal is a constant in my life, but it's usually something I make as quickly as possible. It's so easy to make overnight oats in a jar and or make a pan of baked oatmeal that I pre-portion for the week, then grab it and go. Every now and then, I get the chance to make breakfast on the stove and take my time doing it. On those days, this is the oatmeal recipe I enjoy making and eating.

Take Your Time Oatmeal Recipe

1 cup water
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1 egg white, beaten
1 Tablespoon Splenda
2 Tablespoons raisins
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 ounce walnuts
1/2 ounce slivered almonds
1 teaspoon brown sugar

Bring the water and salt to a boil. Add oats, Splenda raisins, cinnamon and the egg white, stirring to combine. Allow to boil for about five minutes, or until the oats are done to your preferences.

The egg white will just melt into the oatmeal, adding protein for staying power. Top the mixture with the nuts and sugar, then serve.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

I Can Cross This One Off the Bucket List

Ever since I started running about 1 1/2 years ago, I wanted to run in Central Park. When I was in New York for work last year, I didn't have the opportunity. It was warm last year, too, but the schedule didn't work out in my favor. This year, I made it a priority and hit the road first thing this morning before my work duties became urgent.

I even got the chance to test out my new-to-me Nathan's handheld, which perfect stowed my hotel key, ATM card and emergency cash, in case I got so hopelessly off course that I needed to hail a cab. Unfortunately, it did not match my outfit, and my shoes did not match anything, either. Functional, yes; fashionable, not so much.

However, it all worked out. I jogged the blocks over to the park and made a quick loop before heading back for work. I got in 4.5 miles with an overall pace of 9:27 per mile. I decided this gave me license to really enjoy the breakfast buffet. And when I paid $30 for breakfast (only in New York!), I wanted to make sure to get my money's worth.

Oh What a Night!

After checking into my hotel yesterday, I walked to roughly two miles to meet up with Erin at the hotel she was sharing with Kim. Kim mapped out a lovely walk, and the three of us hit up The High Line for a leisurely stroll.

Then, we took a walking tour of some cool neighborhoods. We checked out some residential areas along with a few places just teeming with students, tourists and diners. We had great weather, which certainly makes any outing better. 

We had a great dinner at Caffe Napoli in Little Italy. It was carbalicious and amazing. The focaccia they brought out as an appetizer was just to die for. It was fluffy, which is unlike any other I've tried. It was dusted with salt and liberally treated with rosemary, one of my favorite herbs. I had a super heavy pasta dish that really hit the spot, but we walked at least four miles together, so I think all the calories were negated.
I had a great time! It was fun to see Erin again and finally meet Kim in person. And if it wasn't for Kim's excellent planning, I wouldn't have seen nearly as much of the city as we ended up touring. Thank you, ladies, for letting me crash your vacation! Now it's off to another day seeing the Big Apple.