Kelly the Culinarian: April 2013

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Zooma Chicago Kick Off Event

Last night, I had a fun night with some of my blogging besties. We met up at Universal Sole downtown for the Chicago Area Runners Association half marathon training kick off. Zooma Chicago is one of their race options for the training, so we double dipped and celebrated our first event as Zooma ambassadors.

First, Sierra and I went for a lovely 3.3-mile jaunt around the lake with the other runners. Sierra is running her first marathon this weekend, so we chatted strategy and last-minute considerations. She's going to kill it!
Then, Lauren, Katie and Sarah to learn more about the training program, foam rolling and the mental aspect of running.  We also met up with our Muscle Milk hook up. Thanks, ladies, for keeping the protein flowing! You can still enter my Muscle Milk giveaway, by the way.

I'm so pleased with my self control. I didn't take home a single pair of shoes ... this time. The manager there, Joel, invited me back for the store's signature beer and burger runs.  As someone who only started running to eat more, I'm really excited about this. And these shoes, too.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Motivational Monday: Lea Anne's Weight Loss Story, Part 1

Today I have a special treat from my former coworker, Lea Anne. We worked together while I watched her transform herself with the assistance of weight loss surgery (WLS). I asked her if she could share her story because I think there are lots of common misconceptions about WLS being "the easy way" or some other such nonsense. If food was simply about nourishing ourselves and stopping when we're full, we'd all be skinny minnies. But that's not the case. What happens, then, when one of the common ways we connect with each other, our past and our heritage is removed for the sake of improving one's health?  Lea Anne is such an inspiration and a beautiful person inside and out, so I am honored to share her story.

After years of struggling with obesity, I chose weight loss surgery (WLS) because I knew that I needed more help than common weight loss programs could offer. My health was diminishing at only 31 years old. Diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol were at the forefront of doctors’ concerns for me but my infertility was what finally pushed me to seek the help I desperately needed.
3 months before WLS
Because of my weight, I was no longer menstruating naturally and not ovulating when I took hormones to menstruate. I watched my best friend and her husband struggle for years to get pregnant. I didn’t want that struggle for my future marriage; I was going to make sure I did everything in my power to get my body healthy so that when my husband and I eventually tried to conceive, we’d have better chances of a good outcome. I understand that nothing in life is guaranteed and since we haven’t started trying to have a child, our future is still unknown.  But I do know that I had to do this so that my obesity and poor health were not going to keep my husband from his dream of becoming a father.
In October 2011, I went to a WLS informational seminar. After 2 hours of mind-numbing information about the differences between the lap bad, vertical sleeve gastrectomy (“the sleeve”) and gastric bypass, I spoke with the nurse coordinator about my options. He looked at me and bluntly asked how much weight I wanted to loose. I said at least 100 pounds and he explained that the lap band would not be my best option because most band patients see weight loss numbers much less than 100 pounds. He recommended that I consider the sleeve or bypass, but reminded me that the surgeon would help me decide what was best for me and that the decision was ultimately my own.
I met with my surgeon in November 2011 and at that point I had already decided on the sleeve. I researched online, spoke with bypass patients and I knew I could not handle something called dumping syndrome, commonly associated with bypass. No one likes to vomit but I have a particular affliction with it and am the biggest baby when I throw up. I’m not saying that it’s a given and every bypass patient has it, but I knew I couldn’t live with that chance. During the meeting, the surgeon first suggested that I consider bypass because it has an even better weight loss result than the sleeve and at close to 350 pounds, I needed to lose a lot of weight. Then we talked about my future and the fact that I did not yet have children. He felt that the sleeve would be best for me because proper maternal nutrition can be harder to regulate with bypass. I asked a lot of questions and I left satisfied that I had made the right decision.

When I started the process, my insurance had a 6 month WLS schedule that I needed to follow before they’d approve the procedure. I’d need to see a cardiologist, pulmonologist, psychiatrist, and nutritionist and have a battery of tests performed before I was physically cleared for surgery. I felt like I was going to wait forever. Would I chicken out by the time the surgery happened? What if I went through all of these appointments and was denied? I was worried that one of these doctors would find something wrong with me and I wouldn’t be able to have the surgery. Then I realized that if they did find something wrong, this whole process was meant to be.
In February 2012, a miracle happened when the insurance company dropped the 6 month condition and I was free to schedule the surgery as soon as I was medically cleared. I scrambled to get the remaining appointments because I’d felt emotionally ready for the surgery since sometime in December.  The ball was rolling so fast but I was excited! I was ready. In early March 2012, I called the hospital to schedule the surgery and was scheduled for April 26, 2012: the first day of the rest of my new life or the day that I’d die on the operating table.
Come back next week to read the rest of Lea Anne's journey, along with her current photos. It's worth the wait.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Flip Crepes Class Review

I like to pretend I'm fancy, and crepes are a great way to do so. How else can you eat nutella wrapped in a pancake for lunch and call it a fancy French treat?

Kelsey posted on Instagram about this class a while back and I made a mental note to snap up this deal the next time it rolled around. I found this deal at FliP Crepes for a BYOB crepe-making class with brunch for $35 for two on Living Social. Tim already had to be downtown for a study group, so we made a day of it. Unfortunately, we initially went to the location in the French Market and were thus late for the class at the location on Fulton (learn from my mistake!).

By the time we rolled in, the class was almost done with the batter, save for the final whisking. Fine by me! We missed the boring part.

So whisk away we did, then we started assembling crepe after luscious crepe. The key to a great crepe is a very hot nonstick pan, a generous slathering of butter and a watchful eye. You only flip the crepe once the first side is quite set and bubbly. The second side on cooks for 30ish seconds until the whole thing is toasty brown and still tender.

The company laid out coffee with all the fixings along with scrambled eggs, bacon, mixed sauteed vegetables, fruits, jams, nutella, marscapone and dolce de leche cream.

So we tried some crepes filled with eggs and veggies and many, many crepes with nutella. My favorite combo was probably strawberries with marscapone and cinnamon sugar.  Nom.

Parking was free, and we would have spent around that for lunch alone, so it was worth the $35 we paid. Plus, we have leftovers for tomorrow, too.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Yelp's Spring Awakening at Fresco 21

I am so lucky to be part of the Yelp Elite Chicago 'Burbs community. What this means is that about once a month, I get invited to "insider" events at local businesses (see my past Yelp Elite events). This month's event was a bit different because I wasn't allowed to bring a guest. I had to be social with strangers!

It all turned out OK, though. This was one of the fancier events I've been to, and it started with the valet parking at the Intercontinental in Rosemont, which houses Fresco 21. We were greeted with a folk guitarist, a chef hand-making pasta and an assortment of Yelp Elite gear. This year's new swag includes knee socks!

There was, of course, wine and beer.

And a cornucopia of food! We tried: Moroccan harissa-rubbed hanger steak with goat cheese, farro tabouleh salad (in the white spoon), chorizo puff pastry bites, English pea & cumin puree, manchego empanada  with romesco sauce and curried chicken, artichoke, yogurt, feta, & cilantro pizza. My favorite item was a fried goat cheese appetizer in tomato sauce. We were also served a hazelnut cake dessert and freshly made pasta and ravioli.
Everything was delicious, but I was still a bit hungry. Good thing I left with a goody bag that included chocolates and nuts crafted by the chef.

Another awesome Yelp event!

Friday, April 26, 2013

What You Really Need on Your Bridal Registry

At my bridal shower
Carly posted on Facebook a few days asking for advice for registering for wedding gifts. I've been married for four years next month and have a pretty good idea of what we've used and haven't, so here's my advice on what to register for when you get married. Fun note: I met Carly at book club and only realized much later that she and my sister went to high school together ... which means, we went to the same high school and likely know the same people. It's a small world.

A few things to note: I cook and bake frequently, but don't entertain that much. We have a very casual household and live in a townhouse with limited storage. We ended up registering at JC Penney (used to be my favorite store before they CEO screwed it up) and Bed Bath and Beyond. I had a small wedding and one bridal shower. Nonetheless, here's my two cents:

Meal Prep

Metal scoops (couple of sizes)
Silicone baking sheet (get the nice, Silpat kind, not a knock off)
Silicone cupcake liners
Lots of scrappers
A really nice, high-quality knife set
Two sets of measuring spoons and cups
Two sets of bowls
Three cutting boards
Digital food scale
Nice, airtight food storage containers that you can buy more of in different sizes

I use my knives every day, and my one-Tablespoon scoop is another kitchen VIP. You have no idea how many scrappers you'll use while baking, and a decent whisk is very important.  Also, get two nice sets of nesting bowls, preferably with lids.


Crock pot
Stand mixer
Egg cooker
Toaster oven

I have two crock pots: a small model for overnight oats and a large, digital model that automatically switches to warming when the cook time is over. It was important for me to have a model that automatically switches off because I'm frequently at work for more than eight hours, which is the standard cook time for these things. I have a Kitchenaid stand mixer that Tim bought me when we were dating, which I love and use frequently. We registered for a food processor, but I wish I would have registered for a Vitamix. I think I'd get more use out of it. I use my egg cooker a few times a week and I love my toaster oven lots.


Muffin tins, 3
A very well-seasoned
baking stone
Baking sheets, 3
Cast iron skillet
Baking stone
8x8 baking pan
9x13 baking dish
Two circular cake pans

A baking stone is awesome for pizzas and breads. And if you're going to get into baking, it's nice to have identical baking equipment to make sure everything cooks at the same rate.

Serving Stuff

Drink server (here's my typical party drink set up)
Two drink pitchers
24 wine glasses
1 set of nice linens
1 warming tray
2-3 serving dishes (see an example of a party table I put together here or here)

My giant drink jug gets a surprising amount of use and you need two pitchers to go along with that - for example, at brunch you want one for orange juice and one for water, etc.  Wine glasses can be used for more than wine. I registered for an received a black faux silk tablecloth with matching napkins and it's perfect for every occasion. We we do entertain, I often serve food buffet style and a warming platform helps keep everything hot.  You'll want to register for two or three different kinds of serving trays for different occasion. I'd recommend not registering for serving flatware because this is easy to pick up at thrift shops. Also, random item I registered for that I love: the nice ice cooler. It's a little mold that makes a ring of ice for your beverage bottle to sit in. I use it for parties because I think it's a classy way to keep wine or booze cold, and people always ask me about it.

Soft stuff

High thread-count sheets
Down or down alternative comforter
Plush blankets

People love to buy towels. I don't know why. Register for these for sure.  Register for a few sets of 800- or higher-count sheets as these are amazing.  And a decent comforter will last a long time. We got a high-quality down alternative because it's washable and can be used year round.

Or course, if you need plates/silverware/glasses/etc, throw it on there. We have some nicer china that we purchased on our own and use once or twice a year, but that's our particular lifestyle. The plain white plates we registered for and received get used every day, as does the silverware. I tried to think of it this way: If I were to move next year, would I want to take all of this with me? I may not use everything our guests so generously gave us everyday, but if I'm OK with moving it the next time we do, it's worth it.

We did register for a few decor items as we were new to our house, but I would say skip that unless you're positive about what you want. For example, my sisters bought us these beautiful rugs. This winter, we changed it up and redid our floors, which means we didn't need the rugs anymore, so they're being stored away.

What wedding gift do you get the most use out of? What should you have omitted from your registry?

I've got lots of opinions and I love spending other people's money. If you want my advice, you can always e-mail me.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Three Things Thursday

1. I am getting super excited for the Run for Boston 5K! It's totally dominating my life presently, but we'll have some sponsorship announcements in the next few days. Sponsors make it possible for us to donate 100 percent of the fees collected to charity, so this is all gets me pumped up. There's always room for more sponsors, though, so e-mail me for details.
Cute logo, right?
2. I'm going to another Yelp Elite event tonight, and this one is at Fresco 21. This will be my first solo Yelp event, so I'm putting on my social hat and getting ready to talk it up with strangers. Also, this place looks super fancy, so I hope I'll fit in.
Yelp Elemental Experience at the Castle Chicago
3. I'm very close to 1,000 blog posts. I can't believe I've been blogging since 2007! Crazy how much things change in a few years. When I started blogging, I was overweight, unmarried and living in graduate school housing while attending Medill full time. Now, I'm a married, homeowning professional with a yorkie and a running habit. I still make a mean dessert, though, so some things never change.
2007 Kelly in the kitchen

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Win it Wednesday: Prize Pack from Cytomax and Muscle Milk

I'm busy, you're busy, and we're all in desperate need of a bit of levity. Luckily, I've got something fun to share.
Not part of the raffle, part of my running wardrobe now

If you follow me in Instagram, you may have seen that I got a huge shipment of goodies last week. I turned the corner into my house and saw a stack of boxes as tall as I am. I did not recall ordering a lifetime supply of peanut butter or anything, so I was excited to crack into this shipment. It was my Zooma ambassador welcome package from Muscle Milk and Cytomax!

Because I'm as generous as they are, I'd like the share the bounty with you. This will be my first Rafflecopter giveaway, so if you have any problems, please e-mail me so I can fix it!

One lucky winner will receive an assortment of nutritional items, including bars, drinks and water bottles!
See all those goodies? They could be yours! 
There are two flavors of Muscle Milk bars in the snack and regular sizes, Cytomax drops and powder to go in those new sports bottles.

This contest will close on Wednesday, May 1 and the winner will be announced here. The winner has 24 hours to e-mail me and claim their prizes.
Good luck!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Take Time Tuesday

Live Half Full
And boy, could I really use some time! Ever feel like adulthood is just plain exhausting?

I tried to nap Sunday to shake this fatigue, but my brain wouldn't shut off. And every morning, that 5 a.m. alarm seems to startle me a bit more. It's hard for me to imagine at this point in time what training for a full Ironman will look like. I should invest in my own coffee factory now.

Between the Run for Boston 5K, working and training for Racine, I'm feeling a little worn out. But, I am thankful nonetheless for my health, my ability to run, my supportive family and the wonderful sponsors who will make our race possible.

This Take Time Tuesday, I'm grateful for my siblings. Mandy scored us tickets to Big Fish and it was a fantastic sisterly outing.

I'm also thankful that both my sisters are older than 21 now (remember the epic Harry Potter party for Katie's birthday?), so we can go to Wine Riot next weekend! I'm ridiculously excited about this event, especially since both of my sisters and are coming. Girls weekend!
It will be like this, except with wine instead of butter beer
I'm thankful that CrossFit Rise let my Ragnar Relay team sell snacks at its event Saturday. We didn't raise as much as we had hoped, but Kelly and I had a great time watching kids half our size clean and split jerk ridiculous amounts of weight.
And I'm thankful that I can afford the luxury of a pet. Napoleon might be an unnecessary expense, but he's priceless in our household. I think he need to at least empty the dishwasher, though.
What are you thankful for this week?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Motivational Monday

I've learned so much in the past week about people, running and races. And I still have so much to learn.
What I've learned could fill books. But the crux of this is that runners do not give up. We move relentlessly forward. And we do it together.

Since I started running two years ago, I wondered what it would be like to run fast enough to race the Boston Marathon. I'm more motivated than ever to qualify for Boston one day. It will take me years to lop an hour off of my current marathon time, but I am determined to run Boston some day.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

New to Me Running Places and Faces

I took a technology break yesterday to get some things done. First, Kelly and I met up at CrossFit Rise to sell treats during the Illinois Weightlifting Championship and Open.  More panorama photo fun!

I got to quiz Kelly on all things pregnancy and she gave me my running outfits from our Ragnar Relay sponsors, Oiselle and Haeleum. I love the Oiselle running shirt (especially the ultra line!) and the Haeleum shirt is mosquito repellent. Technology these days is pretty awesome.

After that, I pedaled 40 boring miles on the trainer in the basement in just a little more than two hours. Tim and I had a date night and went to Brazil Express Churassco Grill in Schaumburg. If you haven't been, it's awesome - very similar to another Brazilian steakhouse in Schaumburg, but better service, no wait and way cheaper. It's really classy on the inside and is only $25 per person. You can't beat that for all-you-can-eat meat.

To work off all that steak, I got up this morning to meet up with a new running group, the Western Cook Running Club. I drove out to the much-discussed Swallow Cliff recreation area, which features running trails and 125 stairs just ready to work your quads. I haven't seen this many stairs since I climbed the Great Wall of China. I only did the stairs once, then set out for my training plan-scheduled 60-minute run.
I actually had a great run. It's fun to meet new runners/walkers/athletes because you always have a common topic to talk about. I talk about this frequently, but I've been blogging since 2007 and initially wrote exclusively about food. It was only when I started writing about my running 2.5 years ago that I started meeting people and making great running blogger friends.

Runners are a special breed, which was evident today as I ran past a make-shift memorial for Boston victims. We trekked through mud and mini rivers thanks to this week's earlier flooding, and I ended up getting filthy as I tried to scale a hill to avoid a flooded underpass.

If you're in suburban Cook County, you have to check out this run club - they're inclusive of all paces and abilities and have a lively discussion group on Facebook. They meet in all sorts of places I haven't run in yet, but I'm looking forward to varying my training.

And now, there's meal prep, laundry and a small brown dog that would like my undivided attention.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Cooking with Kelly: Healthier Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge Recipe

Sometimes, you just need a treat. I a few items from Erica's blogiversary giveaway, including several varieties of Wild Friends Nut Butter. As if I wasn't already obsessed with peanut butter, this just brought my addiction to a whole new level. I found a new dealer.

It started innocently enough - after dinner, I thought I'd have a frozen banana with some peanut butter and broke into the Honey Pretzel Peanut Butter. I fell in love. It was crunchy, it was creamy, it was salty, it was sweet. It was the perfect taste experience.

I came home thinking of how I could use the peanut butter in a baked item that would showcase the unique textures. I was afraid if I mixed it, it would break down the crunchy pretzels that I so enjoyed within the nut butter. Instead, I started looking at options that would preserve the crunchiness.

I decided I wanted to try a no-bake fudge recipe and see how it goes. And while I was at it, I might as well try a healthier chocolate fudge that incorporates all my favorite flavors: coconut, chocolate and peanut butter.

What I came up with is an easy, no-bake chocolate fudge recipe that's packed with healthy fats, creamy, sweet textures and a crunchy and salty finish.

I present to you a healthier fudge option that anyone can make quickly with a few simple ingredients.

Healthier Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge Recipe
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons baking cocoa
3 Tablespoons peanut butter, separated
Dash of sea salt (optional)

First, gather your ingredients.

Next, melt the coconut oil and honey together in the microwave, cooking for 30 seconds and then removing it to stir.

Next, add the cocoa and whisk until smooth.

Then, fold in 2 Tablespoons of the peanut butter.

And pour into a loaf pan lined with parchment.

Let the fudge set for about 30 minutes, then spoon 1/2 teaspoon portions of peanut butter on top.

Use a butter knife to swirl the peanut butter, then add the sea salt on top, if you're a salty and sweet treat person like me.

Refridgerate the fudge for 30 minutes or until set. Then, remove from the pan, peel off the parchment and cut into squares using a sharp knife.