Kelly the Culinarian: July 2013

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Win it Wednesday: Zone 8 Drinks

I've got a really tasty giveaway today from a local company. Chris from Zone 8 contacted me last month. He's in Oakbrook Terrace and is in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to bring his line of beverages to market. Zone 8 is all natural, GMO-free and has no preservatives. The ingredient list on my sample pack of honey lemon tea was surprisingly short and quite familiar.

And it was surprisingly good. In fact, I drank it so quickly I was sad that it was all gone.  The flavor is delicious and sweet without being overpowering, and it's great to know what I'm drinking is a hell of a lot healthier than my afternoon diet Pepsi habit.

Zone 8 needs help to bring these real juices and spices brewed according to Chris's grandma's recipe to grocery stores. You can learn more about the products, Chris's vision and their campaign at Zone 8's Kickstart Campaign page.

In the meantime, if you want to try Zone 8 for yourself, enter the contest below.

Required: Watch the Kickstarter video and leave a comment: Which of the products are you most excited to try?

This giveaway will end next Wednesday, Aug. 8. I'll announced a winner here the following day.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, July 29, 2013

Motivational Monday

Because I will always set a bigger, more challenging goal. It's out there - go get it.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

2013 Illinois Venus de Miles Ride Recap

I've had a truly blissful weekend. Shall we pick up where I left off?

Last night, Jenny came over and we went bike shopping before meeting Alyssa for Pho in Schaumburg. We went to a new place and it was fabulous. We tried spring rolls and I had beef ball and sliced beef loin pho. It was the perfect pre-ride food.

Next, Jenny brought me this shadowbox for my 70.3 Ironman Racine mementos. I think it turned out really nice! I'm going to eventually buy all the official photos, too, but that will be a battle for another day.

Jenny bunked at my house and we got up at 4:45 a.m. to leave the house by 5:15. We made the hour-long drive to Lake Forest and had no issue snagging a great spot. We racked the bikes, picked up our packets and shirts without incident and met up with the Chicago Running Bloggers for a photo.

I also met with my fellow Venus de Miles ambassadors. While I received a comped entry for my involvement with the ride, the opinions are 100 percent all this kid. I did the inaugural Illinois Venus de Miles ride last year and loved it so much that I started working with the organizers to improve upon the event.
Jess, Erin, Alyssa, me, Lauren and Amanda
After photos, we had breakfast at the event - mini muffins, peanut butter, chashew butter, coffee and fruit. If you leave this ride hungry, you did something wrong. We also hit up the bathrooms - this ride has the cleanest port-o-potties you'll find at an event. They're also fully stocked with odds and ends you end up needing at these types of events.

The ride started a few minutes late because Trek was negotiating a trailer near the start line. No biggie, it's a ride, not a race, so I was raring to go. Jenny, Lauren, Erin and I set out for our 60-mile jaunt and found ourselves at the first of four rest stops. The rest stops were catered by Whole Foods and had amazing food. I actually overheard a woman say, "I actually gained weight on this ride last year." True, true. We had a few snacks and hit the road again.

There were a few bumpy patches and certainly a few hills. My Garmin told me I hit 29.4 miles per hour, but the bike computer topped off at more than 30! I didn't even crash ... except for at one of the aid stations. A rider stopped suddenly and I veered off, righted myself, then fell on the other side. Sigh. It's not a ride without a new bruise, I suppose. We also got yelled and honked at near Lake Zurich, which was annoying. I wore my hydration pack, which was nice to have water on demand, as well as a place to stash all the goodies I collected on my ride.

We made it back into Lake Forest College just after 1 p.m. for a total ride time of 4:30. The morning was chilly and I was glad I had arm warmers, but when we got back, it was quite toasty. The finish line this year was a bit strange - we looped around past the bathrooms and there wasn't any fanfair, which is fine, but a bit anticlimactic after 64 miles of pedaling.

However, the post-ride party delivered again this year. We had adult beverages, a catered lunch and ice cream. I had a blueberry basil lemonade that was lovely, along with a lunch of pesto smoked turkey on ciabatta with a side of house-made parmesan potato chips. It hit the spot. We also got facials from beauty school students, which was lovely. I hear there were massages, too, but that they left at 1 p.m., so we just missed out. I was disappointed and drown my sorrows in Luna bars and salty caramel ice cream.

We actually spent a great deal of time visiting vendors, snacking and chatting. Again this year, we were the last people to leave, which was fine by us.

In all, we had a lovely ride even in unseasonably cold weather. We had great food again this year and made the most of the pre- and post-race party and enjoyed every minute. If you're in Illinois, I highly recommend this ladies-only race, which raises money for the Greenhouse Scholars. This fab program sends talented but underprivileged kids to college. Riders have a fundraising minimum and can keep collecting donations until Aug. 31. Come hungry and enjoy the ride!

Time: 4:30:59 for 64 miles

Cost: $79 for early registration with a $75 fundraising minimum (free for me)

Pros: Fully supported ladies-only ride with clean and plentiful bathrooms, great food at the aid stations, fun post-ride party with a catered lunch and cocktails

Cons: Massage people cut out early, there is a fundraising component to entry, it's not timed, if you're into that sort of thing, I liked last year's shirt better

Would I do this again? Yes! I hope to do it every year.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Drive-by Blogging

I'm in the midst of a busy Saturday. First, we have a furry houseguest. I'm watching MacKenna's dog Annabelle while she's out of town this weekend.
Tim is a regular dog whisperer. I'm pretty sure he sneaks them steak when I'm not looking.
I got up early to take the furkids out, then headed downtown to run with some lovely ladies. These girls are taking on the Zooma Chicago Half Marathon Challenge and will run their first half marathon on Aug. 10 with Zooma (if you haven't registered, the price increased July 28 - use code CHIAMB3 to save 10 percent). 

I'm super proud to serve as their program manager. I basically work to support them and keep them on track, which isn't hard because these ladies are pretty amazing. We ran 10-12 miles along the lakefront, which is where the course will take us. It was the perfect day for running - in the 60s and overcast. I wish every run could have this weather.
Now, I'm cleaning and organizing because we're having a human houseguest tonight - Jenny is staying with me because we're tackling our second Illinois Venus de Miles Ride in the morning. But first, we're doing a little bike shopping and pho-eating with Alyssa.

PS- Here are my Venus de Miles tips, advice and insights. Hope to see you tomorrow at the ride!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Cooking with Kelly: Cherry Crunch Cobbler Recipe

Wish I had a better pic,
but it was gone too quick
I still have an abundance of cherries from a generous client gift and have been crafting different ways to use these bad boys. Related: I feel like Dexter when pitting cherries. I use a stainless steel straw to pop out the pits and it's slow going, but it works.

I pitted them all and froze some whole. I used another batch to make cherry pie filling with the aim of making a delicious cobbler with a little something extra. I froze half of the cherry pie filling and look forward to using it in another application - maybe some bars or a nice cake?

In the meantime, I set out to make a cherry cobbler that didn't just crumble away and had a bit of bite left. What I came up with was pretty tasty - the crust was chewy thanks to the oatmeal, and the rice krispies lent a bit of crunch to the whole concoction, too.

In conclusion, when you give Kelly 24 bags of cherries, expect platters and pie tins filled with cherries. Sorry I'm not sorry.

Cherry Pie Filling Recipe
6 cups pitted cherries
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2/3 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in a pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. I cut the heat and let the combo cool on the counter for  few minutes, then divided it. You'll need half for the cobbler and can use the other half another day.

Cherry Crunch Cobbler Recipe
1/2 of the above cherry pie filling
1/2 cup instant oats
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
3/4 cups brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup rice krispies, divided

Cut the butter into squares, then combine all the remaining ingredients except the cereal. Mash the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles wet sand. Press half of the mixture into the bottom of a 9x9 pan. Top with 1/4 cup of the cereal, then top with the cherry pie mixture.

Sprinkle the remaining oat mixture over the cherries, then add the cereal.

Bake at 375 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until the top is golden. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then slice and serve warm. A la mode for me, please.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Three Things Thursday

1. Congrats to Samira, who won a free registration to my Pretty Muddy giveaway!

2. If you haven't tried grilled cauliflower, you're missing out. This was so good. I cut a head of cauliflower into large chunks, then added 2 Tablespoons of olive oil, salt, pepper and a dusting of paprika. I put these guys on skewers and grilled them on high for about 10 minutes, turning frequently. The extra charred bits were the best.

3. I have great friends. Jenny and her kids dropped by yesterday and brought me congratulatory cake, picture frame and card. They're way too nice to me. I want to fill the picture frame she bought me with the official race photos - do these ever go on sale, or should I bite the bullet and buy them now?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Take Time Tuesday: Ironman 70.3 Racine Edition

Live Half FullThis weekend really reminded me how much I have to be thankful for. First, let's talk about Amanda, who split the costs of a questionable motel with me and made it possible for me to sleep in that hole because at least we were together. Then, Lauren and her husband for helping me to navigate the utterly overwhelming nature of this process. Lauren even helped me put on my swim cap, and her husband held on to some of the seemingly endless crap triathlons require. Thanks, guys!

As always, big kudos to my work for being understanding of this whole athletic pursuit, along with my inability to discuss anything other than the Ironman 70.3 Racine.

Big shout out to my parents, sister and Tim, who drove to Racine and sat in the sun for more than six hours while I traveled around. My mom bought me a super sweet finisher's gift and also brought me an ice cold beer. Tim snapped pictures of me throughout, too.

I owe a big thanks to Jenny, who set her alarm Sunday to track me online. She updated my Facebook friends regularly with my progress and might be the only person on the planet more proud of me than myself. She also made me the sweet decals for my trisuit, which came in handy on the course.

Thank you to Katie, who made me a little care package of fuel.

Thank you to my sister, Mandy, who made this awesome poster of me.

Thank you to all you Internet friends who have sent me heartfelt messages of congratulations. It has meant the world to me to read your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and blog comments, along with all the texts I've received in the past few days. It renews my zest for blogging.

Thank you to CrossFit for building a fitter me. I went back to working out this morning and have no lasting effects of the weekend's expedition.

Thank you to Finisher's Pix for taking decent photos of me, which is a refreshing break from the troll-like pictures I usually get from races.

Thank you to this little body of mine. It might not be cut or toned or flawless, but it carried me 70+ miles without hesitation or protest. And for that, I am truly grateful.
What are you thankful for this week?

Monday, July 22, 2013

2013 Ironman 70.3 Racine Race Recap

What a journey this has been. I've been training for this race consistently since the beginning of the year, imaging what it would be like to swim 1.2 miles in Lake Michigan, bike 56 miles around Racine and run 13.1 miles to the finish line of my first 1/2 Ironman triathlon. I envisioned what I would do and how it would feel.

And it feels awesome.

For the most part, I felt good throughout this race. I never hit a wall and knew with almost certainty I would finish the full 70.3. I had the kind of race I had dreamed of - my stomach cooperated, my body did what I told it and my equipment behaved appropriately.

This whole process actually started Friday with a massage to prime my muscles. It wasn't all that relaxing, but it worked. I also packed the car, went through all my lists and visualized all the steps of the race to ensure I had everything.

Saturday morning, I made the painfully long drive to Racine and then picked up all my stuff, signed over my life and went to the athlete's briefing. I managed to not buy anything, which isn't really my style, but I was on a mission to drop off my bike. I ran into Lauren on site, then joined Amanda for the festivities. We bunked up at a "quaint" local establishment that made me grateful we were together. We walked around Racine, had a few beverages and met up for dinner with Lauren's tri team at another non-memorable place. Upside: my dinner was free because they forgot to put the order in. Lame.

I slept well in our strange little room, and we roused at 4:45 a.m. to eat and change. We were parked by 5:20 and moving into transition. This was the first moment I wanted to cry - I was overwhelmed at the sheer volume of it all. I laid out all my stuff, said a little pep talk and took my swim gear over to wait in the port-0-potty line.

Then, I made my way the mile to the beach and found Lauren again, who helped me into my swim cap and fastened my wetsuit.  I waded into the water just to get my suit adjusted, then had another moment. I was really glad to see my dad at the start just because the whole thing started to feel crazy.

By the time my wave moved to the beach, I was feeling OK ... until we hit the water.  The trip out to the first turn buoy made me consider a DNF. The waves were insane. The swells were at least as tall as me, and it felt like I was swimming up and down instead of forward. This was the only point in the day that I wondered if I'd make it.

Beyond being terrified, I was also bored. When I got out of the water, I felt like the day was already half over. The wet suit strippers were awesomely efficient and I was jogging to my bike in no time. I saw all my family this time, which was great. I threw all my stuff down, put on my socks, bike shoes, glasses and helmet, then started shuffling to the bike out. My spot was just inside the swim in arch, so it was quite a jog to the next stage.
The bike, much like the swim, was bumpy. I felt like I should have been going faster, but I just kept grinding it out. I took a mini Luna bar every 10 miles and switched out water bottles at every aid station. Again, I was mostly struck by the boredom of this whole process. The only exciting part of the process was seeing my family and reading the spectator signs. My favorite: "PR or ER."

When I got back to transition, I was so excited to get on to the running. I saw my family again, and because my bike was racked so close to the edge of transition, I had a bit of a chat with them while I changed my socks and got ready for the next phase. This time, I took my handheld, my race belt, a hat and new shoes. In retrospect, I should have skipped the handheld but sprayed on a coat of sunscreen. I put on sport sunscreen at the beginning of the day, but it wasn't enough.

On to the run I went. My goal was to shuffle through the miles at a slow jog and not walk, but I did end up walking through a few of the aid stations. I dumped water on myself and ran through the sprinklers, and took snacks and drinks at some of the aid stations. I enjoyed the chips and pretzels, along with the flat coke. My tummy started to rumble a bit, so I quit at nine-ish miles.

Quite honestly, I felt fantastic at this point. I knew I could have pushed harder, but I didn't want to hate it. I wanted to finish it.

This run is a two-loop course, so it did really suck to come within yards of the finish only to loop back out on the same course. It was boring, but the end was in sight at this point.

The sun really started to beat down on me at this point, but I kept shuffling. As I started to barrel down the finish shoot, I was feeling great. Hearing my name get announced just felt surreal. It was the culmination of months of training, fretting and worrying. I tried to remember throughout the day that the race is the reward, and I had the song "I love it" by Icona Pop stuck in my head. I think that's what helped me persevere.

Immediately at the finish, I got my medal, chugged a small bottle of water and then got my finisher's hat. I waited there so my sister, parents and Tim could find me, then grabbed food at the athlete's tent. They were already out of cookies, and I heard later on they ran out of all food. I got a small veggie sub, a small bagel with peanut butter, a handful of chips, a diet soda and more orange slices. It was lovely.

After that, I had Tim buy me a sticker from my car and then my parents helped me cart all my gear back to my car. My mom brought me a beer, along with a finisher's gift - a Christmas ornament of Tinkerbell with a note that was quite thoughtful.

It took me forever to get home, mostly because I had to stop so frequently to use the bathroom. At least my stomach stayed settled throughout the race.

Right now, I feel great. I really accomplished something, and I'm very proud. I was very happy to have my family there to support me, even though it was an early and long day for them. I actually feel a bit guilty that I feel so good right now, because it means I could have pushed myself harder. But that's OK, I finished with a smile.

And I can't wait to do this again.

Cost: $280 (gulp)

Time: 6:14:42 (48th in my age group, 1,163 overall) Swim: 41:06, T1: 4:37, Bike: 3:17:30, T2: 2:43, Run: 2:08:56

Pros: It's an Ironman-branded race, which means there's a ton of support and volunteers and the whole town comes out for the race. There are plentiful, fully stocked aid stations, a great expo and tons of branded gear available for purchase. Everyone gets a shirt, a bag, a finisher's hat, a finisher's medal and a commemorative bib.

Cons: It's expensive. It's also a big race, which means parking sucks. There weren't enough port-o-potties or post-race food, and it's intimidating with all those pros.

Would I race this again? Maybe, if my schedule permits.

Do you have any specific questions about this race that I didn't cover? Curious about my training, accommodations or how much ice cream I killed after this race? I'm happy to answer questions - tweet me at @KellyCulinarian or e-mail me at

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Friday, July 19, 2013

Chicago Esprit de She 5k Race Recap

What a hot and sweaty race! Yesterday was not the ideal weather for a run, but I did have a great time at the inaugural Esprit de She race in Chicago. The race was supposed to offer a 10k and 5k, but the organizers pulled the 10k option and rerouted the 5k course because of the heat. I hadn't planned to race this anyways because of my impending 70.3 debut. I am an Esprit de She ambassador and ran for free, but all opinions are 100 percent mine.

I worked from downtown yesterday and met Katie right after work, then drove over to Lincoln Park. We circled the block for a while before finding a spot that she helped me navigate into, then we walked over to the expo to pick up our gear. The packet was really nice - a huge custom tote, an Athleta tank, a few magazines and some product samples. I'm looking forward to wearing this tank, it's pretty nice!

We walked around the expo for and checked out the vendors - it was quite impressive for an inaugural race. There were a few samples to try and a spa tent I made a note to visit later.

I also met up with the other Chicago Running Bloggers for a photo and a chat. It's always great to see these ladies. We eventually lined up right before 7 for announcements and notes, which included "slow down, don't push yourself.

The race started on time at a balmy 89 degrees, too. The first mile was fine, the second mile sucked and the final mile felt like a death march. I finished in 26:26 and was immediately draped with a frozen towel, handed gatorade and given a popsicle. Nice touch.

I made a beeline for the spa tent and got a quick rub down that felt heavenly. The ladies there were also doing polish changes and braids, but my nails and hair were both gross by then.  I felt bad enough making someone rub my shoulders, but I would have felt really terrible making someone touch my hair. Ick.

The post-race food was awesome. It was catered by Centered Chef and featured on-site grilled flatbreads with a smoky hummus and chocolate avocado pudding with berries. I went back for seconds on both accounts. They were mobbed by the time I went for round two, so this place could have used more food, especially since every participant received three (3!) drink tickets.

I found Katie and the other bloggers and we headed for the drink table. The drinks area was roped off for runners only, so the spectators and supporters had to wait elsewhere. The line moved quickly when I got my drink, but it filled in quickly. I'm sure they'll make the drink area larger next year as a result. We had our choice of several wine options and I went with the sparkling beverage. It tasted great on such a hot day, but we eventually ditched the drinks to start heading back to the car. I have never seen bugs so big and was terrified, so it was time to call it a night.

All in all, I had a great time at this race hanging out with friends. It was certainly more of a run than a race for me - I'm taking it easy and it was hot. That said, there were some seriously fast ladies on site. The overall winner clocked at 20-minute 5k, and my respectable 26:56 only snagged me 8th in my age group. Impressive!

Time: 26:56

Cost: Mine was comped, but it was roughly $30 for the 5k in advance

Pros: Awesome swag from Athleta, great pre- and post-race party, massages on site, scenic course, thoughtful responses to the extreme weather, tasty post-race food, ample drink tickets

Cons: Not enough food, crowded drink area, kind of awkward drink area situation if you brought non-runners with you

Would I run this again?: Yes, and I hope to try the tri series this race offers, too.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Three Things Thursday

1. I made my own iced coffee this morning using a recipe Kate forwarded me.  It was OK, but the recipe needs work to be phenomenal. I will make it my mission to craft the perfect iced coffee before the summer is out.

2. I'm running the Esprit de She tonight in Lincoln Park. Notice that I said running, not racing. I'm saving my strength for this weekend, naturally.

3. Jenny sent me this super sweet card and T-shirt to wish me luck for this weekend. I'm grateful for all the support I'm getting for this weekend, and I don't want to let anyone down. Here's to finishing the damn thing, even if it's roughly the temperature of the surface of the sun right now.