Kelly the Culinarian: April 2012

Monday, April 30, 2012

Introducing the Meatless May Challenge

One of my 12 goals for 2012 is to try being a vegetarian for one month. I have many reasons I've wanted to try a plant-based diet and I already don't eat that much meat. I joke often that if it wasn't for Taco Bell, I'd probably already be a vegetarian. I thought I'd give this whole not eating meat thing a try and see how I feel after the month of May.

There are lots of vegetarian, pescatarian, vegan and flexitarian food and running bloggers out there where I've learned the basics, but I'd love any support or advice anyone has to offer. I'm most concerned about social and work situations where I don't always have control over the menu, nor do I want to offend any hosts.  I'm looking forward to trying a ton of vegetarian dish and experimenting in my kitchen, though, so follow me this month as I whip up vegetarian entrees and navigate a meat-free May.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Stand Mixer Sunday: Flourless Chocolate Crinkle Cookie Recipe

A life of balance is a life worth living. I kicked off my Sunday with a five mile run with my gym buddy MacKenna, followed by some vigorous gardening. Then, I practiced my favorite reason for working out: baking! 

I love spending time in my kitchen, trying new recipes and perfecting family favorites. This new cookie recipe was absolutely heavenly: a creamy chocolate center that's reminiscent of brownies, but in a convenient cookie package. This is a messy recipe, but the results are well-worth the chaos my kitchen endured.

Every Easter, Valentine's Day and Halloween, I stock up on clearance candy. Once those bunnies, hearts and ghosts are chopped up, no one knows that they were holiday candy. How else can I get a pound of chocolate for $.17? I keep it in the freezer and use it within two months ... which is really a struggle, of course (note the sarcasm here).

Flourless Chocolate Crinkle Cookie Recipe (Inspired by Epicurious)
10 ounces chocolate (I used chopped milk chocolate Easter bunnies)
3 large room temperature egg whites
2 cups powdered sugar, plus more for dusting
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
Melt five ounces of chocolate (that's roughly one cup) in the microwave in 45-second bursts, pausing to stir the chocolate until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.

Mix together 1 cup of powdered sugar, the cocoa powder, cornstarch and salt. Set aside.

Using your stand mixer with the whisk attachment, add the egg whites and beat until soft peaks form. Add the other 1 cup of powdered sugar and beat until combined, scraping the bowl as needed.
Holy kitchen chaos!
Switch to the paddle attachment on your mixer, then add the dry ingredients gradually, scraping the bowl as needed. Next, add the melted chocolate slowly, then the remaining chopped chocolate.

Add a bit of powdered sugar to a dish, then use a scoop or spoon to create 1 Tablespoon portions of the cookie dough. Drop into the powdered sugar, then swirl to coat. Place on a prepared cookie sheet that's lined with parchment paper.

Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees, then allow to cool on the cookie sheet for 15 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

This recipe makes about 36 cookies.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Sick ... Again

I'm not sure if I ate something bad or caught the flu AGAIN, but the last 24 hours have been unpleasant. I actually left work a half hour early yesterday (not how I roll at all), and tucked myself into bed immediately.  I was running a fever and my stomach was killing me.  My stomach still feels funky today, but oddly, only when I move. I got a flu shot this year for the first time, and have had the sickest year of my life. Thanks, modern medicine.

So today, I took it easy, but Napoleon had a grooming appointment.  He's a very pretty boy now.

Yep, really excited
While he was at the groomer, I continued my tour of gyms that are included with my nationwide membership. The location near his groomer is the nicest I've been to so far. The locker room was new and clean, the layout was spacious and airy and I had the pool almost entirely to myself. I swam the distance I'll have to complete for my triathlon, then alternated between 100 yards of a drill and 100 yard sprints. It worked out pretty well.

I was scheduled to do a 45-minute run, but I could only complete one mile before my stomach reminded me that I'm still ill. I went back into the gym and did the rowing machine instead, which was harder than I expected. I'll have to visit that machine more often to help augment the muscles I use while swimming. Tim and I also took a short bike ride, but the motion did not agree with my tummy.

One thing that did agree with me was winning a contest Kim hosted. I scored an underarmor running shirt and it is adorable! It's almost too cute to run in, actually. The back says "Rain. Snow. Sleet. Wind. Brave the Run."

Right now, I think I'm going to celebrate by braving the nap. Better luck tomorrow.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday Fashion

Oh hey, I finally took photos of all my outfits this week. Imagine that!
It was nicer on Monday than it was on Friday. This is what happens when you have 80-degree days in March, I guess. This dress is from Target via Goodwill and is a mock wrap dress. With black boots and a pendant from Forever 21.

The weather was getting cooler, so I needed more layers. I went with a purple sheath dress from my mom, a button up cardigan from H&M and shoes from Nordstrom Rack. I actually took this cardigan in a couple of months ago when I started losing weight. All the tailoring I learned out of necessity. It's actually really easy to alter a sweater or cardigan - just try it on inside out, pin it to fit and sew along the lines.  Cardigans are way more streamlined that way, too.

Oh, the suit. My sad, sad little suit. This predates my weight loss and is looking pretty matronly on me. I had a meeting this week that I had to dress up for and I realized it's time to go suit shopping! 

This is the top Erin taught me how to wear. I wore it with an old cardigan that came with another dress, Banana Republic pants and clothing swap shoes.
This is today's outfit. It was pretty cold, so I went with a gray cowl-neck sweater, my belt from The Limited, black leggings and my awesome brown boots.

It's a flashback! This is the outfit my phone ate last week. I was told I was looking very Parisian that day. It's a clothing swap top and shoes, Banana Republic pants, a Nordstrom Rack cardigan and a belt from The Limited. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Three Things Thursday

1. My tri suit arrived yesterday and it was too small, just as Amanda predicted. It fit everywhere except the legs. There are bands on the legs to prevent it from riding up on while cycling. But on my chubby legs, it just created very unattractive rolls that I imagine would create chafing, which is not hot.
The tri suit is so tiny!
2. I started building my square foot garden over the weekend. I have it built and about half full of soil, which has been surprisingly expensive. I don't know where the phrase "dirt cheap" comes from, but I've already spent $50 filling this thing with dirt and I'm not done yet. I better have some fantastic tomatoes at the end of this.

Carpenter, I am not
3. Alissa and I went to a pottery class on Sunday to make a lace plate. It was a lot of fun, until the class was almost over and I dropped my plate. The teacher mentioned that clay has a memory and if we torque the plate, the bend will be exaggerated in the kiln. I'm interested to see in two weeks what this train wreck looks like.
Masterpiece, or hot mess?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Cooking with Kelly: Overnight Oats in a Jar

I've made overnight oats in a jar before, but I tried a slightly different recipe this morning after the gym. Last night, I took an empty peanut butter jar and filled it with a few items, then added a banana this morning. Bonus: my coworkers think I ate peanut butter for breakfast. It's not too far from the truth, some days.

Overnight Oats in a Jar Recipe
1/4 cup cooked quinoa
1/3 cup old fashioned oats
1 Tablespoon chia seeds
1/2 cup water
1 Tablespoon almond milk
1 banana

Add all the ingredients to the jar the night before and seal, then refrigerate. When you're ready to eat it, add the chopped up banana.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Cooking with Kelly: Gluten-Free Vegan Pumpkin Cookie Recipe

Mmm, pumpkin. It never goes out of season in this house because I stockpile pumpkin every fall for pancakes, muffins and bread.  My friend Alissa was recently diagnosed with Celiac Disease, so I've been trying gluten-free baking so I have something to take to our next get together.

The secret ingredient in these cookies is garbanzo beans. It keeps the cookie moist and replaces the flour that usually accompanies cookie recipes. Because these cookies don't leaven like your standard Tollhouse cookies, make sure to slightly flatten the cookies before baking. Bonus: these are vegan!

Gluten-Free Vegan Pumpkin Cookie Recipe
1 15-ounce can of chickpeas
1/2 cup pumpkin (not pie filling)
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Drain and rinse the chickpeas, then pat dry. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.

Using a 1-Tablespoon scoop, dish out the cookies onto a baking sheet. This will make about 30 small (Tablespoon-sized) cookies, or about a dozen larger cookies.

Bake the cookies at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until the edges are slightly brown. I added frosting, these are delicious enough on their own, too.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Runner Photo Challenge: Memorabilia From Your Favorite Race

Maggie put together a Runner Photo Challenge, and I'm really excited to participate! She wants us all to share a photo of memorabilia from our favorite race.  I saw that Kim enlisted her cat to model, so I made Napoleon follow suit. He was displeased by his new station in life.

After several treats, we got a keeper photo of the medal from the Big Hit Half Marathon, which I ran last fall with Rachael. This was a meaningful and fun race, with Rachael and I enjoyed a ton of delicious food on our little road trip to Louisville. At this race, I proved to myself that I am a runner. I followed a training plan, I fought through the pain and I met my goal. No one else could have done the work for me. I earned this medal, and I wore it all day.

Now it hangs on my homemade medal hanger on my ego wall, where I'll be adding my triathlon medal later next month, my marathon medal later this summer and, eventually, my Ironman medal.

Napoleon will have a long and fruitful modeling career, whether he likes it or not. Unrelated: we're out of dog biscuits.

Cooking with Kelly: Quick Roasted Chickpea Snack

I've been trying to find new snacks that area easy to make, portable and not chips or carrots. I think I've had enough of the carrots, so I wanted to try a roasted chickpea treat. I enjoyed this because it was like eating peanuts, except without the fat and with the protein. Plus, this was easy.

Roasted Chickpeas
1 16-ounce can of chickpeas
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Drain and rinse the chickpeas, then dry them well with a kitchen towel. Peel the chickpeas. The easiest way to do it is pinch the chickpea until the skin comes off.

Place the dried, peeled chickpeas in a bowl with the remaining ingredients and toss to combine.

Roast the chickpeas in a 400-degree oven for about 40 minutes, turning every 10 to 15 minutes to prevent burning, or until the chickpeas are brown.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Did I Capture a Ghost?

Last night, Mandy and her boyfriend and I went on a ghost tour of Chicago conducted by Chicago Haunting Tours. It was a Groupon deal  and was $45 for Mandy and I. I drove downtown, parked at her old apartment building ($5 for the night!) and got Thai food. Then, we took the CTA to the Rock n' Rock McDonald's, where we met the bus.

Initially, we weren't sure which bus was ours. Our concerns were unfounded, it turns out.

The tour guide was Adam Selzer, a ghost hunter, young adult novelist and historian. We had a great time. The tour guide focused on only researched, confirmed tales of crime, corruption, death and dismemberment in the city. The bus took us past places where showgirls were thrown out windows, where Chicago used to hang its criminals and where they fished a homemade submarine complete with corpses (a man and his dog) out of the Chicago River. We stopped at the Oriental Theatre, which was once the Iroquois Theatre, where children and adults were trampled to death or fell out of a fifth-story fire escape during a holiday performance.

This is the site of the Eastland disaster, where 845 people on a company picnic died before the ship ever left the dock. Most people didn't know how to swim, and those who did were dragged down by people below the surface and heavy Victorian garb. They say you can occasionally see faces and arms in the water.

We also stopped at a place that might have been HH Holmes's body dump. If you read The Devil in the White City (and if you live in Chicago, you must), it's the true story of America's first and perhaps most prolific serial killer who used the World's Columbian Exposition to lure people to his mansion to never be seen again. He might have used a glass-bending factory at this site for killing and disposing of bodies, since there wasn't any glass bending going on here.

We also stopped at the Hull House, which even in her day, Jane Addams thought was haunted. There was a room she tried to sleep in once, but didn't make it through the night because a woman in a full skirt was at the foot of her bed, watching her. So here's the big question: Is this a ghost on the stairs, or a reflection? Weigh in in the comments.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Fashion Friday

Here are a few outfits from the week!
Cardigan from Goodwill, dress shirt from the $.33 thrift store sale, skirt from Banana Republic, shoes from Payless.
Sweater from my sister, skirt from Nordstrom Rack, belt from Goodwill, shoes from the clothing swap and necklace/earring combo from Sears via my mom.
Shirt from JCPenney's petite section, pants from Sam's Club (What, they're cute) and necklace from my mom. Earrings are from my college study abroad in Egypt - I bought them at a market in Cairo.

I had another couple outfits in there, but my phone refuses to upload them.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Three Things Thursday

1. I ordered my triathlon suit today. After much back and forth, I went with a one piece. It should be here by April 30, which will give me plenty of time to practice all of the sports before the event. I was in between sizes and went with the smaller of the two, so I'm crossing my fingers that it fits. I'll be giving a full review once it arrives and I've given it a few test go arounds.
2. I won a prize in the Jelly Bean Virtual Race! I won an assortment of Gu products, including gel, chomps and brew. It's all flavors I haven't tried, so I should be well-stocked for a while.

3. I did an interval workout tonight that totally sucked. My first .25-mile interval was at a 6:15 pace (waaay too fast). As a result, my seventh .25-mile interval was at a 8:09 pace. Bad, bad Kelly. Also, I was a hot mess at the end of that thing. They say that if you look cute at the end of a workout, you did it wrong. I prove that it doesn't mean you did it right, either.
And a bonus No. 4 and 5:
4. I've had a snacky day. I can't help it, I'm really damn hungry.
5. My sister and I are going on a ghost tour tomorrow. I can't wait to pretend to be Zac Bagans. Except I'm a better actor than him, simply by having facial expressions.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cooking with Kelly: Crockpot Risotto Recipe

The crock pot is my best friend. While I'm at work, running errand or running my butt off, it's busy making my next meal. It's silent, efficient and doesn't mess up the kitchen. This crockpot risotto is amazing because it takes a traditionally long-cooking meal that requires a ton of babysitting and work and transforms it into an effortless meal.

With this particular recipe, you don't leave it all day to cook. Instead, I threw the stuff in the slow cooker when I got home, then took out Napoleon, went shopping and did some house work. I made this in a 4-quart slow cooker, which I would recommend. This recipe can also been made vegetarian (or even vegan, if you omit the cheese or use an alternative).

Crockpot Risotto Recipe
1 cup arborio rice
2 Tablespoons extra virgin oil
1/2 onion, grated
1 1/2 cups stock (I used turkey, use vegetable for vegetarian)
1 can Italian-style diced tomatoes
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (or vegan alternative)

Place the rice in the slow cooker, then grate the onion into the crock pot. Pour the oil over the rice, then stir to coat. Add the stock and tomatoes, then cover and set the crock pot on high for two hours.

At the end of the two hours, stir in the Parmesan cheese, then cook on high for another 30 to 40 minutes or until the rice is cooked and creamy. Serve with extra cheese.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Training Tuesday

Scary thought: I'm roughly half way through my triathlon training program. I feel strong, prepared and fast, but I also still feel mildly hungry, always. I've completed a number of brick workouts, which I'm really enjoying. Sunday morning, Tim dropped me off at the gym where I swam for 30 minutes, then completed the five(ish) mile run home in about 45 minutes. Today, I did a 45-minute bike ride (which I have no clue the stats for, damn Garmin didn't lock onto the satellite), followed by a 10-minute run where I tried to encourage my brick-like legs to move faster.  I finished a mile in 7:51, which I'm really happy about. Rachael asked me if I'm enjoying this more than distance running, and I daresay I am. I like doing something different every day.

Now that I'm just more than a month away from the triathlon, I'm spending a good amount of time visualizing the race. There's been a ton written about the power of affirmations and visualization, and in Kara Goucher's book, she writes about how she mentally repeats the word "fighter," when she's running. Running and triathlon are mental sports - I know my body can do the work, I just need to concentrate on not letting self-defeating thoughts get to me.

This week's mantra: my body has the ability, my mind has the will.

Cool articles to check out:

Monday, April 16, 2012

You're Not Going to Find it Here ...

Today's top search term to my blog is "hot thin sexy asian legs." It redirects the hapless searcher to this photo.
Sorry, buddy. While Napoleon does have some great legs, he's not Asian. And probably not what you're looking for, either.

Other fun searches that bring people here:
  • "taco bell oreo brownie" Do tell me more ... if it exists, I want two.
  • "naf naf grill nutrition info" Naf Naf has delicious food, but I'm guessing it's not all that healthy. 
  • "coffee and flowers and breakfast with pita bread hummus and falafel mages" Sounds complicated. Invite me, please.
  • "rachael ray lose 47 pounds" Good for her.
  • "21st birthday taco bell sauce costume" Excellent. We should be friends, searcher.
  • "a picture of the inside of an airplane bathroom" Gross. I do love a good bathroom self portrait, though.
  • "baby cupcake costume" Cute! I bet that's adorable.
  • "borrowed awesome boots" I own my boots and they are awesome, thanks for noticing.
  • "braless office" Oops.
  • "homemade dr scholls" Uh, weird.
  • "how many calories in white castle fudge cheesecake" We got these free on Valentine's Day and I'm guessing it was just one of many not-healthy food choices I made that day.
  • "is a black eye hot" Probably not.
  • "miller lite 5K" I will run for beer.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Cooking with Kelly: Banana Raisin Baked Oatmeal Recipe

While I love oatmeal, it's not particularly practical to take a bowl of oatmeal with me to the gym. Instead, I make baked oatmeal, which is portable, doesn't need to be heated and I can make in advanced for the week.  My favorite version is peanut butter baked oatmeal, I had a few leftover fruits that I wanted to bake into this week's oatmeal.

Banana Raisin Baked Oatmeal Recipe
1 cup quick oats
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup Splenda
1 Tablespoon flaxseed meal
1/3 cup raisins, packed
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 egg whites

Mix the oats, Splenda, flax, baking soda, cinnamon and raisins. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites, then add the banana and applesauce. Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, then mix. Pour into an oiled 8x8 pan and bake in a 350-degree oven for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Photos from the Day, April 14

 We went out for Chinese food.
I made Napoleon a new toy.
And I have some very exciting recipes to share this week.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Fashion Friday

Another week, another outfit missing. Meh. Here's most of what I wore this week.
Khaki dress and scarf from Goodwill, cardigan from Nordstrom Rack and shoes from the clothing swap.
Pants from the Banana Republic outlet, sweater from The Limited via the clothing swap. Necklace from my mom.
Necklace from my mom, red pumps from when I was a bridesmaid for Alissa, dress from the clothing swap and belt from Forever 21. I'm unsure about this dress ... it's a little '80s for me.
Skirt from Banana Republic, Lands' End cardigan from Sears (thanks, mom) and white dress shirt from H&M. The work clothes there suck, but I was stuck in New York last year without a dress shirt and needed the cheapest, closest option.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Three Things Thursday

1. I tried chia seeds for the first time today. I kept hearing about how chia seeds are a superfood known for their ability to help your body detox as well as power the Tarahumara runners of Mexico, best known as the tribe portrayed in Born to Run. I mixed one Tablespoon in with my overnight oats and it was really tasty. I hope these chia seeds are busy detoxing my insides.
2. Today, I saw this dog hanging out on my way from the gym to work. I resolved to be as happy as that dog and have as great of a day as that dog was having on the ride. Happiness and contentment are both choices, because we choose our reality.
3. I recently learned my HOA doesn't care if I want to start planting a garden. I've been meaning to do this since we moved in three years ago so we could grow some veggies and herbs. I am obsessed with the idea of building a square foot garden, which requires compost. My parents composted for years and in college, I was convinced that compost bin ate better than I did. Now, I'd like to tackle composting because it would further reduce our garbage output and make me feel less guilty about the odds and ends of food that I throw out. Not sure the HOA's opinion on that topic, but it's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.
This would be perfect

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Training Tuesday

Napoleon belongs in the emergency bag
I'm in the midst of my third week of training for my first triathlon. I think everything is going well, and I appreciate the required cross training of doing all the sports on different days, for different lengths of time and in different orders. This morning, I did a 20-minute run followed by a 30-minute swim. I can't say I loved every second, but it was a great change of pace. I keep my training schedule at my desk and take great pleasure in checking off each day.

Here's my current challenge: I can't seem to remember all the things I need for three sports, plus work clothes, plus all my little mini meals for the day. Example: yesterday, I forgot shoes to wear for work. Today, I forgot underwear. I'm a hot mess.

My solution for this is my Oh Shit Bag. As in, Oh Shit, I forgot socks. Or Oh Shit, I forgot a bra. Here's hoping that with a solid stock pile of all the odds and ends I seem to forget, I'll have less days that start with a run to CVS or a "Can someone tell I'm not wearing a bra with this?" internal speak. I've stowed it in my car for safe keeping and hope it will make mornings a bit less stressful.

I'm still working on getting my ridiculous hunger under control, though, which is problematic. While I'm guessing my training helps me burn about an extra 1,000 calories per day, maybe more on the days I work out twice, I shouldn't feel like that gives me license to eat what I want. Otherwise, I'll pay for it in decreased performance or increased weight. For every action, there's an equal reaction.

This week's mantra: Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Cooking with Kelly: Iced Rice Krispie Treat Cupcake Recipe

Today was another birthday at the office. Tara saw this on Pinterest and wanted me to give it a try. Mine didn't end up looking like the photo, but I think it tasted just fine. However, if I were to make this again, I'd use Rice Krispies, not the off-brand puffed rice stuff. It's just not the same texture, although it does taste all the same to me.

Another thing you might find helpful when making these in cupcake form is a soup ladle. Rice Krispie treats are extremely sticky as they're setting up. The easiest way to portion these out is to use a large scoop, then use the backside of the soup ladle to press the mixture into the cupcake pans.

Iced Rice Krispie Treat Cupcake Recipe
3 Tablespoons butter
1 package mini marshmallows
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 cups Rice Krispies
1 contained icing (Tara likes the strawberry kind, but it's your call)

In a saucepan, melt together the marshmallow and butter until almost smooth, then add the vanilla and remove from the heat, stirring to combine. Pour the mixture over the cereal and fold to combine.
Working quickly, portion the treats into a well-oiled cupcake pan. This recipe will make about two dozen "cupcakes."

When they're completely cooled, remove from the muffin tins and add icing. I used a piping bag to try my hand at a few designs. Some turned out pretty, some did not.

Consume these within a day or two, because the moist icing makes the treats soft over time.