Kelly the Culinarian: November 2012

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Three Thing Thursday

1. Napoleon was a very, very bad boy today. People who don't have dogs probably don't want to hear about this unpleasantness, but it required that I give him a bath and clean up lots of surfaces in my home. I am so very, very annoyed.
He's lucky he's cute.
2. I'm not putting up Christmas decorations this year. Call me a scrooge, but I'll be busy this holiday season, so I might a well let it go.
Last Christmas
3. I got a mention on DailyBuzz this week! They chose to highlight my post about 7 lessons I learned in CrossFit Foundations. Thanks, DailyBuzz!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

Thank you, Jenny!
I love my new gloves.  It was a pleasure running the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon with Jenny, and she got me these gloves that I could have really used during the run.I can't help but think she's trying to butter me up to run The Huff with her.  These are some heavy duty insulating gloves, but I'd need a hell of a lot more to run a 50K.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Training Tuesday: Race Plans

Add running shoes and this is what I'm wearing
On Saturday, I'm tackling my last race of 2012. Jenny and her friend Barb will join me for the Reindeer Run in Wheaton. This is the first time I'll actually race in a long time. I'm nervous as I haven't logged my typical miles, certainly nowhere near the training I was doing during my last 5K PR this June. I don't anticipate setting a new personal record, but I do want to put forth my best effort for my last 2012 race.

At the very least, I intend to be the fastest costumed person there.  I will be dressed as a bag of coal, which is also what I wore for Halloween this year.

I may not PR, but I hope I'll have better results than the last time I raced in Wheaton.  The Cosley Zoo 10K I ran during the summer was a huge fail since I didn't get an official time, didn't get my money back and received not a damn thing for a race I paid for but didn't feel like I even raced without a time.

Here's hoping I get at least a time, and hopefully a decent time.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Strangest Athletic Injury?

So this isn't really a running injury like a torn ligament or plantar faciitis, but I did get a fun new injury I didn't anticipate at CrossFit. That thing on my collarbone is not a shadow (or a hickey, because I'm sure someone will ask), but a giant spreading bruise from this morning's workout.  It included using a weighted bar in an overhead position, leaving my poor little collarbone square in the path of gravity.

So what has been your strangest athletic injury?
In not-even-closely related news, I registered for my first big goal race of 2013: The Egg Shell Shuffle Half Marathon at the end of March. I'm itching for a PR!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Running With Friends

People ask me often why I include my athletic pursuits on what started as a food and recipe blog. I don't blog about running to toot my own horn or because I'm some sort of awesome athlete (HA! That would be hilarious). The main reason is that the running community is amazingly welcoming and a huge resource that I'm happy to enrich.  I blogged for years and felt like I operated in a vacuum. I started including mentions of races and running two years ago when I took up a healthier lifestyle. Now, I have a huge community of people I can rely on when I have a question about a new pain or need feedback on a potential training plan. I would have never met so many people had I not started included race reports or training insights on my blog.
Sorry, mom, I'm still wearing the sunglasses you hate

I did my second-annual Waterfall Glen Black Friday Run. Last year, I did 9.35-miles in about an hour and a half. This year, I did nine miles in 1:28. I also had a great chat with Susan, who is one of the founding members of the Frankfort-New Lenox Running Club. It was a blast.  It's so much easier to keep pushing my butt up hills when I'm mid-sentence with someone.  Thank, Susan!

And yes, I finally wore the lululemon knock off jacket.  It was really cold and did the trick in keeping me toasty.  I'll see how it holds up in the laundry and report back.

Next up, I met Jenny, her friend Barb and Irina for a run this morning at my beloved Busse Woods. We met at the elk pasture and Irina and I knocked out four miles in no time. She's as lovely in person as she is on her blog and I hope she'll run with me again.

An interesting aspect of running is its ability to bridge gaps.  Susan is older than me and Irina is younger. Both have different professions than myself and live in different suburbs, but we had plenty to talk about.  It's hard to make friends as an adult, especially without kids. 

Running makes it easy to make friends. Blogging about running makes it even easier.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Race Report: Beverly Hills Turkey Trot

This will likely be my shortest race report ever. My sister and I got a deal on the Beverly Hills Turkey Trot and decided to meet up for a fun walk/run as part of our Thanksgiving festivities.

I got up early to drive the hour-ish to Beverly, a Chicago neighborhood.  I picked up our packet around 7:45 a.m. without incident, then drove 10 minutes to the El station to pick up Mandy.
Notice the sticker on her bib
We cut it pretty close at the start time because the parking was a bit confusing and hard to come by.  Mandy wanted to hit the bathrooms, which she reported were not acceptably clean.  Plus, there were no bathrooms on the course.  We ended up reaching the start line about three minutes after the race actually started.

Mandy and I walked and tried to enjoy it as much as possible.  It was a little cold for my sister's lungs, so we had to take it easy.  I also wore basically every item of running clothes I owned to keep warm, including a homemade neck and matching ear warmer I whipped up last night for the occasion  The course was nice, featuring some pretty houses and only two or three baby hills.

We also met up with one of my former coworkers on the course, which was highlight.  There were houses hosting their own music stations, so Mandy and I had to bust out some Gangnam Style, naturally.  There were also several water stations that we partook in.

After we finished, there were bagels, hot cocoa, apples and cereal bars.  The goodie bag for this race was nice, too, featuring a nicer-than-average cinch backpack, a long-sleeve cotton T-shirt, snacks and a raffle ticket.  I think we missed the raffle.

Overall, I thought this was a great race, especially since we paid $15 to enter it via Schwaggle. However, Mandy and I agreed no more Southside races. It was not easy for either of us to get to, and, well, Mandy doesn't run.  She did this just for sisterly bonding.  I am simultaneously flattered and guilty that she did this just for little 'ol me. I'm super proud of her for trying something new and stepping out of her comfort zone.  Running might not be her thing, but she gave it a go for my sake, and I appreciate that.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012: Just the facts, ma'am

Fact: Thanksgiving is the most popular running day of the year.  Yay, guilt run! I ran a 5K loop around my house, which doesn't even begin to make a dent on what I ate today.
Fact: I wish my turkey trot was today instead of Saturday. It's going to be a cold one.
Fact: The average American consumes 4,500 calories today. I pride myself on being above average.
Fact: My parents have liquor that's older than me. It perfectly matches the '70s-tastic wet bar in their rental home.
Fact: Many of these fact are not entirely true.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What It's Like to Finish Last

We spend our whole lives ranking ourselves and working to improve our standings. Moms worry about the babies in their lamaze classes who are rolling over and crawling while their kid only coos. As soon as we're old enough to take the training wheels off our bikes, we start identifying ourselves in competitive terms - the cool kids and the nerds, the winners and losers, the corner offices and cubicles, the Maseratis and the Kias.

Look at any race Web site and you'll see the photo of last year's winner breaking through the tape, surrounded by people cheering, timing companies carefully documenting their progress and volunteers ready to hand out bottles of water and snacks.

But what happens later on? After the crowds are gone, the signs have been removed and the volunteers are tired from an early wake up call and hours of standing outside with their best smiley face? What's left for the last runner across the finish line? I firmly believe all runners owe it themselves and the running community to find out.

When I ran the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon last month, I wasn't there for me. Jenny enlisted my assistance to help her get across the finish line, and I got her there. She tried to warn me that I was in for a different experience. I mentioned I was looking forward to a post-race massage from one of the sponsors and that I was going to eat the fuel and snacks advertised on the course. Jenny gave me a knowing look and told me to pack my own snacks.

You see, when you're at the back of the pack, the aid stations are wiped out by the time you come along. Towards the end, aid stations are being broken down and volunteers have already fulfilled their duties.  Medics get worried when they see you, knowing that much time on your feet is a strain regardless of your speed. Runners who have long since finished, showered drive past you on their way out of town.

Regardless of your race plan, you might find yourself in this position one day, too. Around mile 20, we encountered a woman who experienced knee pain, but kept going on.  It's hard to keep moving forward when the mile markers have already been removed and you have no idea how much longer you'll be out there.  The only thing that keeps you moving forward hours into a race is fear. The fear that all this work will be for nothing. The fear that you'll get pulled off the course with just 5K to go because you're going too slow. The fear that your gear check bag won't be there anymore because everything gets donated after so many hours. The fear that you will cross the finish line, but won't get a medal because you didn't make the time cut offs.

After more than six and a half hours of running, there is no fame. There are no prizes. There are no screaming fans (except for people telling us our tutus were awesome or that we were almost there ...liars). There's no hot food, no massages and no goody bags or champagne. There are no finisher photos, either, as we saw the photographers leaving when we rounded the corner for the last quarter mile.

All that's left is satisfaction. In yourself, in your performance and in your training. Because regardless of when you finish, you're still doing something that .001 percent of people can and have accomplished.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Training Tuesday: Planning and Plotting for 2013

I'm a planner.  I like lists, calendars, appointments and goals. I mean, I create strategies and schedules for a living, so it's only natural that part of this spills over into my off time.  Even though I've accomplished roughly 3/4 of what I set out to do in 2012, I'm already plotting 2013.  The thing is, I don't like to race unless I'm completely prepared and trained up to perform my best. I'm not a race-every-weekend kind of athlete because my body just can't take it.  Instead, I'm very deliberate and meticulous about my racing. It's not that I don't have fun; on the contrary, I have a lot more fun at a race knowing that I've done everything I can to prepare for the race.

So I printed out a calendar and started adding races and counting weeks. I wanted to make sure I had enough time in between weeks to rest and then train up to the next thing. Tentatively, here's what I have on tap:

March 30 - Egg Shell Shuffle Half Marathon, Schaumburg
June 7-8 - Ragnar Relay, Madison to Chicago
July 21 - Ironman 70.3, Racine, Wis.
Sept. 22 - Fox Valley Marathon (distance TBD, probably the half), St. Charles
Nov. 23 - Route 66 Marathon, Tulsa, Okla.

Also, I'll be participating the Fort2Base Race again next year, with the date pending there.

So tell me, is this too ambitious?

Monday, November 19, 2012

For the Hostess with the Mostest

I love this time of year. There's so many reasons to get together with family, friends and colleagues to share the spirit of the season. I love throwing parties, but I like attending parties just as much.  I'm of the opinion that if it's a gathering of more than four people, it's smart to come with a gift in hand.  But I like to do something a bit more meaningful than a bottle of a mid-range bottle of wine picked up on my way over.  Here are my tips for making an impression this holiday season.

Buy me chocolate. Always.
1. Know your host. Find out if they have any allergies or restrictions (like vegan or gluten intolerant) or specific interests (like chocolate or red wines).  With these things in mind, you can narrow down your selection to perhaps an assortment of teas or spicy mustard collection for the enthusiasts in your life.

2. If you're going to a dinner party, don't bring cut flowers. Why? The 20 minutes before and immediately after guests arrive are most likely tempered with panic and last-minute preparations. The last thing a host wants to do is fish out a vase, trim the flowers and find a spot for them while figuring out how to slice up a 25-pound bird and the rolls are burning in the oven.

3. If you're staying for the weekend, consider sending a gift after the fact with a nice note. It's a great way to thank someone for their extended hospitality and give them something to enjoy in the wake of your visit. I recently received a 2-pound coffee cake from that I think would fit the bill perfectly. I opted for the chocolate chip flavor, which is the chef's personal favorite and I know why. It had a ton of chocolate and was delivered fresh to my doorstep in a cute little package.  The bakery also serves up a blueberry flavor and a cinnamon walnut flavor, in addition to a variety of pastries, candies and QR code cookies. The nerd in me swoons.
You can order two coffee cakes for $39.90 using the code "freeshipping." Use the code "THANKS10" to get 10 percent off, too. This deal tastes delicious.

4. If you're completely at a loss, a potted herb makes a gift your host will remember.  Try rosemary, which is fairly sturdy and smells awesome.  My rosemary plant has been going strong for three years.

5. A board game is also a great gift. I firmly believe a house is not a home without an edition of Apples to Apples. If you want to discover how truly misanthropic your friends and family are, try Cards Against Humanity. Don't say I didn't warn you, though.

I received a cake from for this post, but these are all my ideas.  Read my disclosures for more info. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Chicago Food and Wine Show

Some days, I can't believe this is my life. After the sheer joy of the Chicago Fine Chocolate Show yesterday, today Tim and I ventured to the Chicago Wine and Food Festival in St. Charles.

Through the glory of the Yelp Elite Squad, Tim and I got VIP tickets for free. Valued at $250, this pair of tickets entitled us to early entry and unlimited food and booze tastings. I am one lucky, lucky gal.
I'm very glad I didn't pay the face value of these tickets as they were not worth that. From what I read on Facebook and Yelp, yesterday's event was a complete disaster. Today wasn't a ton better. We never received the etched wine glasses that were promised in the promotional materials, and many of the vendors were still setting up when the doors opened at 11. I'm glad we did the early admission as it was crazy crowded when we left at 12:30, but I don't think that the VIP experience offered any other discernible benefits. I even heard from a vendor there that the wine he left overnight for today's event was not there this morning. Seems fishy to me. Another weird thing was that it wasn't all food vendors - there was a home improvement referral service, a bank, Cutco knives and some other gimmicky type businesses on hand.

However, there were some awesome food finds. Tim loved a barbecue vendor and a local hot sauce purveyor, and I found a plethora of tasty bites. My love of rieslings continues as I found yet another bottle that I'll have to pick up during my next shopping trip. This was only the first year of this event, so perhaps they underestimated the popularity of it and oversold tickets.

Highlights? This Key Lime Pie from Chinn's and the proliferation of celebrity chefs from Hell's Kitchen. I also tried some delicious dishes from a caterer in Naperville and am officially chocolated out for at least the next 24 hours.  I'm going to go have a salad or something to try and counteract all this amazing food I've eaten. I would go to this again next year, but I would only pay a maximum of $40 per ticket.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Non-Running Recap: The Chicago Fine Chocolate Show

Is this heaven?  It might be.

MacKenna picked me up this morning and we headed to the Chicago Fine Chocolate Show at Navy Pier. We got there just as the place opened up at 10 a.m., but the crowds picked up pretty promptly.

I got my tickets through a Living Social deal, which means I paid $2 out of pocket for a morning packed with more chocolate than I could handle. Parking was $19.  You receive 10 tickets for product tasting with this deal, which was quite generous and I didn't end up using them all. MacKenna upgraded her ticket when we arrived for $11.50 to include 10 alcoholic drink tastings, which we didn't use all of between the two of us.  Chocolate wine, vodka and cocktails abounded, of course. This chocolate vodka was too delicious for words.
What I loved even more than the chocolate were the stories behind the treats. We met a man who left his job at age 45 without a clue what he would do and started a toffee bakery. We met a husband and wife who live  in Wheaton and started a sweets company called Four Brothers Chocolate for their sons (I bought some of their drinking chocolate, it's what angels drink, I'm sure of it). 

We met another husband and wife team who created Chocolate for the Spirit after the wife was forced out of a corporate job. The husband dresses up as the chocolate doctor and writes prescriptions, which include taking chocolate three times a day and Facebooking him in the morning. Side effects will include extreme happiness and the prescription never expires. Good for us, too, because their products were a-mazing.
We met a 19-year-old chocolatier who two years ago started making these beautifully crafted artisan chocolates that are rich and whimsical. I wish I had that kind of vision as a teenager.
A sampling of the samples
This is a rooster made of chocolate.
And we ate. We ate and we ate and we ate some more.  We drank chocolate and we chewed it, we smelled it and we nibbled it. There was chocolate fudge, toffee, cake pops, trail mix and mousse.

I even took a ton home and gave away a few tickets before we called it a day. This was a fantastic way to spend a Saturday and meet some small business owners who are making beautiful treats that taste even better than they appear. This show continues tomorrow, and I highly recommend you stop by.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Three Things Thursday

1. Sigh. Being an adult is arduous.  I added a Disclosures and Giveaways tab at the top of my blog to be all official and legal-like. As always, if you have any questions about my blog, its content, the meaning of life and what it's like to be owned by a nine-pound yorkie, feel free to e-mail me. I like fan mail as much as Napoleon likes naps and this blanket.
2. I'm ready for the new year. The next few months will be busy and exciting, but I'm ready to wipe the slate clean and tackle some new goals. I'm working on my 2013 race schedule and am excited about what the year will hold, personally and professionally.
3. Who's started Christmas shopping? Ha, suckers, I'm almost done. We're traveling near the holidays so I wanted to get done early so I won't stress. I feel smug right now.
More room for me!

PS - If you're looking for a laugh, may I recommend:
29 Fun Things to do When Salespeople Call - When I worked in newspapers, I had a coworker that did this sort of stuff.  It was awesome.
The Hater's Guide to the Williams-Sonoma Catalog - Cannot. Stop. Laughing. This is profane, so it's not for the delicate souls out there.
Guy Fieri's Times Square Restaurant must really suck - Like a ton. This review is both hilarious and scathing.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

My Thoughts on My First Year of Gardening

Now that there's snow on the ground, it might be an appropriate time to revisit my first attempt at square foot gardening.

When all was said and done, I believe I invested roughly $120 in this little experiment. That includes building supplies, plants, dirt and gardening tools.

Mmmm, salad
I don't think I harvested enough produce to offset the costs in the first year. However, I believe next year when I only have to worry about the cost of the seedlings and a bag or two of replacement compost, I should come out ahead on this endeavor.

Once I built the square foot garden and planted all the seedlings, it was incredibly low maintenance.  I only watered it during the height of our heat wave and didn't need to weed or fertilize (although I might have gotten better yields with some worm tea). Despite living near a nature preserve, the animals left this alone all summer. A few weeks ago, I pulled all the planted, removed the dividers and tilled the dirt so it's ready to go for next year.  Time wise, I believe it took me about two hours to build it, two hours to plant and fill it and then another half an hour to remove it at the end of the season.

For size comparison
During the height of the summer, I had a salad every day from my garden. It's surprising how much food a 4 by 9 garden bed can produce.  What I appreciated about growing it myself was that the lettuce was a better quality than what I could buy at the store and I wasn't throwing away a ton of stuff that spoiled before I could eat it. I'd just go outside and pick what I would eat that day.

Baby garden, back in May
I also had a few squash and zucchinis, as well as a healthy amount of tomatoes and herbs. The peppers, both green and jalapeno, did not do very well.

Next year, I intend to do the following things differently:

  • Plant the zucchini and squash outside of the garden grid to make them easier to manage.
  • Plant more tomatoes in different varieties.
  • Use tomato cages, for goodness sake. By the time I realized I needed these, it was too late.
  • Stagger the planting of the lettuce.  I had an explosion of lettuce one week. I love a good salad, but I don't really want a salad at every meal to avoid wasting the produce.
  • Omit the soda bottle irrigation system. I didn't need to water all that often and it turned out to be an eyesore and a waste of space.
  • Plant jalapenos only and plant them near the tomatoes. Green peppers just don't work with my soil or climate. Or maybe it's just me. 
  • Spread out the tomato plants throughout the planter rather than just in the row closest to the house. Otherwise it gets a little wild back there.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Perfect Turkey

We all know I don't eat a ton of meat.  However, when I do eat meat, I want to make sure that it's worth eating, meaning it's prepared thoughtfully and tastes great.  I also prefer lean cuts of meat, and 'tis the season for turkey.
Chilling turkey

With a little help from Snazzy Gourmet, I know this year's bird is going to be awesome. I used their Gourmet Gobbler kit to brine a turkey breast as a dress rehearsal for the holidays (and also because it was on sale and Tim likes turkey sandwiches).
Brining meat produces a juicy end result every time. It's science. Really, it is, Alton Brown says so:

(This clip is so old school that it references pagers!)

This particular kit gives a flavor double-whammy with a brining mix and a flavor rub.  For all the complexity of the end result, the preparation is simple.

If you want to wow your Thanksgiving guests, you can use the discount code "culinarian" when you purchase the kit from Snazzy Gourmet.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary Gourmet Gobbler Kit as part of this post. As always, the opinions are 100 percent mine.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Health, Health Baby

Another lovely yet whirlwind weekend! After I signed off yesterday, I met Rachael and Brian for lunch at Seasons 52. They drove all the way out to the suburbs to see little old me. I am honored.

Seasons 52 was awesome and I love the concept.  The food there is super fresh and dictated by what is available seasonally, and every dish is 475 calories or less. I'm totally sold. I love that I can order anything on the menu absolutely guilt free.  Plus, the place is really classy and has a sophisticated, modern feel without a super pricey menu.  I got the roasted vegetable sandwich, which I think was $10ish.  It was so tasty. Any time I can get goat cheese on my sandwich for less than 500 calories, I'm all in.

After a morning run today and several hours of shopping (my husband is a patient saint), we went for a second health-focused meal. I checked GrouponNow and saw that Muscle Maker Grill had a special on there.  Even though something marketed as "healthy comfort food" sounds disasterous, I was quite happy with how it turned out. I feel bad for this joint, because I think it would thrive in a more affluent area as it's pretty pricey. For an appetizer, two entrees and two sodas, it was about $20 with the Groupon and would have been close to $40 otherwise. Yikes.

Anyhow, the honey barbecue chicken appetizer had a great sauce, but the chicken was a tad tough.  My El Mexicana dish of brown rice, beans, cheese, salsa and tomatoes was awesome and filling, and Tim's premium burger was quite tasty and featured lean beef. His burger came with western-style potatoes, which were really spicy.  I'd go back to the place, but only if there's another Groupon for it.

We ended our afternoon with some deliciously unhealthy choices at whole paycheck. Raw goat cheese with cranberries and a side of black mission figs, coming right up ... And curses to Sierra for exposing me to this life-changing combination!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Bites and Bevs

We discovered last night that my favorite Cuban place was closed for remodeling. I could have cried.  So we went to La Magdalena instead.  Strangely, Tim's burrito came with fries.  My chicken in mole sauce was fine (and Tim really loved it), but I like the mole sauce at Quesa Brosa much better.
To help sweat out those margaritas, I went to CrossFit this morning for a cardio-focused team workout.  It included rowing and running, as well as a bit of lifting. It's surprisingly hot today - I think it's going to top out at around 70. At the end of my session, I was seriously sweating and needed a drink STAT. The people who represent Coca-Cola Freestyle contact me a while back, and I remembered that there was one of these machines near my CrossFit gym.

It's pretty cool - It looks like a stainless steel fridge and has every coke product you can imagine within the same machine.  This is the future, folks! I eyed the cherry vanilla diet coke, but went with a Powerade Zero grape instead to help replace the electrolytes I sweated out.  The fruit punch flavor is my favorite post runs and I downed at least three of them after the Fox Valley Marathon

Now, I'm off to have lunch with Rachael at a new place!

As always, vendors might be able to buy my time, but my opinions are priceless. I will be compensated for including this information on my blog, but the thoughts here are all my own. Always.