Kelly the Culinarian: August 2013

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Cooking with Kelly: Chipotle Lime Chicken Kabob Recipe

Look, people, it's still summer. The department stores have carried Christmas crap for weeks now, pumpkin spice everything is at the coffee shops and I've spied coats on sale at the mall.

Fight it.

It was 95 degrees yesterday. There's so much I wanted to do this summer that I haven't gotten to. Going to the drive-in theater, taking Napoleon to the dog beach and planning a picnic, for starters, have not been checked off the summer bucket list.
So we are savoring every ounce of summer that's left in my household, because before long, we'll be complaining about how much clothing we have to wear to take a jog or contemplating if we'll have to take a snow day. But knowing Chicagoland, that could happen tomorrow, too.

I present a perfect summer meal: chicken marinated in a perfect combination or spicy chipotle in adobo sauce paired with the tart flavor of fresh lime juice, then skewered and grilled to perfection. I paired this with homemade pico de gallo with tomatoes and peppers from my garden.

It tastes like summer, and I love it. Tim said it was the best chicken I've ever made and that he would gladly eat it again and again and again. That's a ringing endorsement if I ever heard one.

Chipotle Lime Chicken Kabob Recipe

4 medium-sized chicken breast, cut into cubes
2 limes zested and juiced
2 Tablespoons adobo sauce (from the can of peppers - look for it in the Mexican foods aisle)
2 Chipotle peppers from the can, chopped
2 Tablespoons olive oil (not extra virgin, it will burn)
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
2 minced garlic gloves
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients together and allow the chicken to marinate for about an hour, stirring occasionally. Skewer the pieces and preheat your grill to high.

Place the kabobs on the grill, close the lid and turn down the heat to medium. Cook for 7-12 minutes, turning as needed until they're deliciously cooked through.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Three Things Thursday

1. I feel like a crap puppy mom today. I took Napoleon for his annual shots this morning and found out he has a slight heart murmur and really needs his teeth cleaned again. He will likely lose some more teeth this time, too, because his gums aren't looking great. Then, he had a reaction to the shots and I had to take him back to the vet. They gave him another injection, this time with Benadryl and a mild pain killer. He's been sleeping on and off since, but appears to be better. This strip of photos perfectly illustrates how our day went.

2. The winner of my Plated giveaway is Alyssa! Rafflecopter selected her from more than 110 entries. She'll score four plates and a month-long membership. But don't fret, I have another tasty giveaway right around the corner.

3. I have what polite people call a "gentle stomach," which makes endurance sports a little risky. I've found a lot of relief in probiotics and kombucha, so much so that it's part of my race-week prep. However, kombucha is really expensive! Instead of paying $4, Lauren and I are going to attempt to make our own. Laima generously acquired a pair of mothers for our brewing experience and dropped them off today. They look like jellyfish in the jar and already making a kombucha baby. This could be interesting ...

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Cooking with Kelly: Three-Ingredient Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Recipe

The crock pot is my favorite tool for beating the heat. It makes delicious, hearty meals without heating up the house, all while I'm off working or training. I saw this recipe on Pinterest and tucked it in my mental folder to try one day, so when Littles and Lydees Foods sent me their Zoe's Sauce, I knew how I'd use it.

A little about Littles and Lydees (I'm so funny): the company is powered by a husband-wife team that raises money to send disadvantaged young people to culinary school. They eventually want to use the profits to open a fully functioning cafe to employ the graduates of this initiative. I love this mission, and the sauce is really awesome, too. The sauce name, Zoe, means "life" in Greek, which is a nod to the fact that the sauce goes well on everything - pizza, fish, veggies, meats and more.

It really went well with the pork here. Since there are only three ingredients for this recipe, the quality of your sauce really matters in this recipe and is what you taste in the end. Choose wisely!

Crock Pot Slow Cooker Pork Recipe 
2 pounds of pork tenderloin
12 ounces of root beer
1 bottle of sauce

Place the pork in the slow cooker and cover with the root beer. Cook on low for eight hours. Drain the crock pot, shred the pork with forks and return to the crock pot. Add the sauce and cook on low for another half an hour.

We ate these on Hawaiian rolls, sourdough rolls and onion buns. It's best to toast the bread first, though. You can also top nachos with this or use it for tacos.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Take Time Tuesday

Live Half Full
Yay, it's time to be grateful again. Despite the kind of crap week I had, I still have much to be thankful for.

Maybe the best $8 I spent last week
First, special thanks to the genius who invented these waterproof transparent films. They're the perfect fix for my CrossFit injury and hold long enough for me to get in a long swim workout.

Thanks to Alyssa for putting up with my bike breakdown (the first one) and walking with me to our cars, drive to the bike shop and then refuel with Mexican food. And also for the super sweet silicone swim cap. I'm going to get spoiled with these fancy swim caps.

I'm also thankful that I'm fit enough that it was no big deal to bike the 15 miles home last week when I had to take my car into the shop.

And a special thank you to the stranger that picked me up while I was pushing my bike down a road without a sidewalk in the heat of the afternoon in cycle shoes. And thanks for actually taking me to the bike shop rather than an underground dungeon. Thanks, dude.
And thanks to my biggest cheerleader, Jenny, for this trainer
And thanks to Fort2Base for keeping me on the team for three years to help promote and grow this fantastic event. Through this job, I learned about social media, managing teams and working with brands.
And got some sweet swag
Also, my garden makes me smile every day. Thanks little patch of earth for providing delicious tomatoes and basil day after day.
Bruschetta, anyone?
Don't judge.

Those geniuses at Taco Bell also give me something to be thankful for. After the 2013 Fort2Base Race Sunday, I debated what I really wanted to eat to celebrate. When I stopped at a rest stop that had a TB and I saw the advertisements, I was totally sold. The firey Doritos taco is where it's at. Best post-race treat ever.

What are you thankful for this week?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Sunday, August 25, 2013

2013 Fort2Base Race Recap

It's so strange to me to be writing about Fort2Base again - I have so much invested in this race now and can't believe I've been involved with the program for three years! When I first ran the 10 Nautical Mile race in 2011, it was the furthest I had ever run and took me all summer to train for. Last year, my dad and I ran the 3 Nautical Mile race together as our first joint event. And now, I tackled the 10NM again - and won.

You may recall that I run the event's ambassador program and blogger outreach initiative. This means my race was free, but the opinions are, as always, all mine.

My sister picked up my packet downtown, so that was easy for me ... This morning, I roused at 3:30 and made the hour drive north to the parking lot before boarding the first bus to the start line. I was at the start line with an hour to spare and was the first to use the port-o-potties. Already winning, in my opinion. I met up with Erin and Valerie and started the race with them promptly at 7 a.m.

The first two miles were tough, so I chatted with the ladies for distraction. Then, at mile two, I experienced "flow" for the first time. It's a state in which you're totally engrossed in an activity and feel like you could go on forever. My pace picked up, my breathing slowed and I passed the 9:30 pace group like it's hot. I chased down runner after runner and felt awesome. I caught up to and then passed the 9:00 pace group around the ninth mile and tried to stay ahead. There were aid stations every two miles with bathrooms, gatorade and water.

The flow broke down somewhere around 10 miles, right before hitting Hero Hill. I had to walk part of it and felt gassed, even though I had been eating my homemade running fuel throughout. I think the 8:30 miles in 80-degree heat caught up with me.

The finish line felt awesome. Two years later, the thrill of my accomplishment is still there. I clocked a 1:42:41, which is a PR over my time two years ago (ever so slightly). I feel OK about this because I didn't train in the same way I did the first go around. It's amazing for me to think how far I've come in two years. I remember that bus ride over to the start line the first year and the anxiety I felt rising in the middle of my chest - would I finish? What would I do if I had to wimp out? I push through pain and a bonk in 2011, but the exhilaration at the end was just as intense this year as in the beginning. Pure pride, pure joy.

At the finish line, we got our medals, water bottles, bananas, Gatorade, PowerBar sampes and Sports Beans. There were Muscle Milk and Cabot cheese samples, too.

I hung around for a while and eventually got lost on the way back to our cars with Nicole. She was a good sport about it, though, as we took a cab back.

Overall, I think this race keeps getting better each year. The course is well marked and everything moved smoothly throughout the day. I liked the shirts the previous years better, because they were quarter-zip pull overs, but that's not really practical in August. I wish the date didn't move every year because it's difficult to plan for, but the Navy calls the shots there, so it is what it is.  The medal is BALLER though, and super heavy. Napoleon needed a little assistance in modeling it today, but the fake bacon helps.

Time: 1:42:41 for 11.5 miles

Cost: Free for me, as low as $45 for the 10NM and $25 for the 3NM

Pros: Access to a place civilians normally don't go, well-run race, great post-race goodies, really nice medals

Cons: A long day with the off-site parking, floating race date each year, spectators have to take a bus on base from a nearby parking lot

Saturday, August 24, 2013

That Time I Hitchhiked Because my Luck Still Sucks

I cannot win. There was the CrossFit injury, the car troubles, and my broken bike chain. And now this.

I slept 12 hours last night, solid. I was exhausted and skipped my second workout last night in favor of rest. My company's summer outing was awesome, but I was strangely wiped out.

This morning, I biked to meet my sister and pick up my packet for tomorrow's Fort2Base Race. I'm running the 10-Nautical Mile race, just like I did in 2011. I cycled the 20 miles and picked up everything for tomorrow (Thanks Scott and Mandy for saving me a trip into the city) then set out for the reverse trip.

I pulled into a forest preserve to use the toilet, then realized my rear tire went flat. I still don't know how to change a tire and don't keep a tube around as a result. I didn't have anyone to call, either, so I googled the closest bike shop on my phone and started walking that way with my bike, in cycling shoes. It was 3.3 miles away, and halfway there, a guy stopped and asked if I needed help. He had two very expensive mountain bikes on the back of his car and was wearing a full cycle kit, so I decided he probably wasn't going to chop me into bits. He also knew how to take apart my bike and where the shop was, so I felt pretty safe in taking a ride from a stranger. The bike shop knew him by name and I was ready to go in about a half an hour. Unfortunately, my tire was dry rotting, so it was another $50 repair.

When I finally got home, I decided to try a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the waffle iron since I've been obsessing about it since I saw this article about 16 ways to improve your PB&J on BuzzFeed.

Verdict? Meh. Didn't do much for me.

Please oh please let my luck improve soon.

Friday, August 23, 2013

How to Save Money on Triathlon Expenses

Lauren sent me an article from the RedEye in which a Chicago woman taking on this weekend's Chicago triathlon estimates she's spent $5,000-$6,000 preparing for the feat. I've heard people joke that triathlon is the sport of the 1 percent because it requires so much stuff and practice perfecting all three sports, but there is a bit of truth to it. Triathlon is not a cheap pursuit. That said, I am a cheap person, so I've found ways to save, as well as what's worth splurging on. Here's what the Red Eye laid out:
For the swim, you must have goggles and a swim cap. There's no substitute for good goggles and I spent $15 on my speedo vanquishers on Amazon. I've initially bought two cheapo swim caps on Amazon and have collected many, many more because most races will provide one with your packet. Alyssa just bought me a fancy silicone swim cap, though, so I might get all spoiled.

You also need an athletic swimsuit to train in. I have purchased these all on Amazon so far, most recently for $23. I search and read the reviews, then carefully select a size based on the sizing chart.

Optional (sort of): I personally think a trisuit is worth purchasing, but you can do without if you're not sure you'll stay with it.  Here's why: It's easier to trim time off of your race by saving in transition than trying to take time off of your bike or run. I have three trisuits, all purchased on Amazon. The most expensive was $54, the cheapest was $22. Search for clearance deals and keep an eye out.
Best $22 I spent so far
Optional: A wetsuit. I didn't buy one the first year I did tris but invested this spring since I knew it would help me swim faster and stay warm in longer-distance triathlons. I purchased my Huub triathlon wetsuit on ActiveGearUp for $125 (that's an affiliate link, but you really should join these sites. Super cheap gear delivered daily a la Groupon).

For the bike, you obviously need a bike. This is the most expensive aspect of triathlon by far - you'll see a few people with $200 WalMart cruisers, along with people rocking bikes that should make you dinner and wash your car for the price they cost.

I bought Belle the bike on Craigslist for $550. This was a steal as triathletes can spend the price of a car on their two-wheeled chariots. In addition to the price of the bike, I spend about $50 a season on tune ups, and I recently invested $100 in a complete bike fitting. I've also purchased handlebar tape, a saddle, a snack box, a bike computer, a tire and various repairs, probably totaling at another $250. I also added clipless pedals and shoes this season, which cost another $70. There is a Pear Izumi Outlet store near me, which is where I got the shoes. I save on the other items by buying online and comparison shopping. I use a bike trainer to put on miles and do intervals inside. Jenny gave me her trainer, but you can find these for about $50 on Craigslist. Finally, a lot of the cycling accessories are straight forward purchases that I would be comfortable putting on a holiday wishlist.

You also cannot bike without a helmet. I bought mine at WalMart. I'm not going to win a race, so I might as well go for the $25 model rather than the $200 aero model. I also recently purchased a pair of sports sunglasses for $12 on Amazon, but this is optional.

I might have a pair of shoes or two.
For the run, you need shoes. I bought my latest pair of Saucony Kinvaras at a race expo for $50. These are worth investing in, but once you find a pair that works, shop online and keep and eye out for clearance pairs at your local running store or race expos. You also need a race belt to quickly attach your number to your body. I got mine for $7 on Amazon. I wear a hat while running, which was a freebie at a race expo.

For your transition area, you need an old towel to lay everything out.

Optional: I also dust my shoes with baby powder and use copious amounts of sunscreen and Tri Slide before putting on my wetsuit. Instead of Tri Slide, some people use WalMart brand Pam because it's much cheaper, but I went with the pricier stuff because it's thicker and wetsuit safe. All of these items cost probably $20.

There's also nutrition to think about. I get my favorite brands as giveaways at expos or make my own running fuel. You also need water bottles for your bike, which I frequently get as giveaway items.

There's race fees, too. Racine was $280, Gull Lake was $75 and I received a comped entry for Iron Girl. Watch for early-bird specials for races to save money.
Gimme that race swag
Many races you have to travel for, and I have yet to stay in a nice hotel for a triathlon. The best way to save on accommodations are to do a name-your-own price move on one of the travel Web sites, if available, or check the Web site to see if the race has worked out any deals. I also split the hotel with another athlete as often as possible (and because there's safety in numbers).

Dexter Inn ... It's to die for
Before the race, though, there are a few training costs to consider. I only joined a gym when I got into triathlons because I needed a place to swim. Our village-owned pool facilities cost $9 a day to use the pool. My gym membership is $40 per month, so it makes sense to join a gym instead of paying per swim. To save here, negotiate your gym membership rate, see if your employer or health insurance offers a discounted rate and check and see if your local YMCA or park district pool has a punch card system that would be more cost effective.
I've only taken one swim lesson so far and it was $40. This was well worth the money and I'd do it again. It's so much easier to enjoy swimming when you're using proper form. Spend the money here - it's an investment.

I've also purchased a few swimming aids to help me with drills. I got a giftcard for these from a blog contest from Steve in a Speedo. I highly recommend Aquagear for these - they're constantly running sales and the customer service is top-notch. I had no idea what to buy and e-mailed a customer service representative. Lizzy recommended a few items that I've used ever since, so it must be working.

So yes, I've spent a lot of money on this pursuit. But I've invested wisely and it's not a waste of money if I enjoy wasting it. It's also a hell of a lot healthier than my previous pursuit of the perfect chocolate chip cookie.

And it's all worth it to sport this.

How have you saved on triathlon-related expenses?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Three Things Thursday

1. My car broke down Tuesday night. I couldn't get it to shift from park to drive, then it wouldn't start at all. I ended up needing a new brake sensor and battery, plus I got it detailed. Then it rained all day today.  Such is life. Pro tip: Really get your money's worth by only detailing your car once a decade.
My car recently turned 130,000 miles
2. Alyssa and I met for a ride tonight. We got six miles in before the chain broke on my bike. Such is life, again. We walked back to our cars, went to the bike shop and got Mexican food instead. Because six miles on a bike definitely deserved a Mexican food feast.
Not where the chain should be
3. Despite my gimpy leg, I still completed this morning's CrossFit workout as it was written, and I finished first. The WOD was three rounds containing a 400-mete run, 30 jumps over the bar, 20 lunges with 65 pounds in the front rack position and 10 deadlifts with a 65-pound weight. I completed it in 15:16, but my lunges could use some work.

Unrelated, but too good not to share. I took Napoleon to work today. He was bad, but my coworkers didn't seem to mind.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Win it Wednesday: Meals by Plated

Plated approached me a few weeks ago about their meal service and it caught my eye. At a Yelp party, fellow blogger/Yelp husband Andrew of Bachelor Basics mentioned that he was also working with Plated, and he eventually hosted a Plated dinner party at my crib featuring shrimp and grits and chicken sliders. It was a pretty epic night.

Each week, Plated offers a menu of five entrees. Members pick their poison, selecting at least two plates of each dish by noon Monday. Everything need to prepare the meal, except for oil, salt and pepper, are shipped to your address overnight in these portable coolers. Meats are separated from everything else (duh) and all the ingredients are measured, labeled and grouped together. It takes the guess work out of shopping and preparing the meals.

The meals come with step-by-step photo instructions and support is on the Web in the form of videos and tutorials. Each meal is designed to take about 30 minutes to prepare.

I started with the eggplant tabbouleh with grilled chicken.  I realized I should have read the directions all the way through before I started. This was the first time I worked with eggplant and I probably should have cooked it more, but oh well. Also, this meal was scarce of veggies, so I added a few for my leftovers.  I was impressed with the quality of all the ingredients and loved that everything was labeled and measured.  This was supposed to be two portions, but it was more like three, so I had leftovers for lunch.

The next meal was catfish kabobs with cabbage slaw. This was the first time I ever cooked fresh fish - I usually cook frozen fillets. However, it's not that intimidating when you have instructions with pictures. I ended up using my own skewers for the kabobs and cooking this on the real grill instead of a grill pan. I must have cut the bread too generously because I didn't have enough to stack the skewers as indicated. No worries, the fish was still awesome. Again, I paired the leftovers with more veggies.

Overall, I think this would be a great service for people who like to cook but don't like shopping. I'm sure I could have purchased the ingredients cheaper, but they wouldn't have come pre-packaged. I thought it was a nice way to try new flavors, too. The tabbouleh, for example, called for tahini and harissa, ingredients I don't have on hand and might not want to commit to buying an entire container of. I also split up the meals into three portions because they were each about 700 calories a pop, which is a bit much for me. Plated also made making fresh fish less scary.

If you want to give Plated a try, today could be your lucky day. You could win four plates (valued at $60) along with a one-month membership. This contest will last one week and I'll announce the winner here next Thursday. Check out the Rafflecopter to see how to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Training Tuesday: Two Strikes

Rest day things: Pizza, beer, conversation
Triathlon training is the perfect analogy for life: you get out what you put in. Some days are great, some days aren't. We all get the same amount of time, it's just a matter of what you do with it.

This week has given me some very high highs and very low lows.

I took a rest day Friday to get a bunch of stuff around the house done. Then Saturday, I took off for a long brick workout. I had a lovely 46-mile bike ride out to and back to where I did my first marathon. I kept an overall speed of 14.5 miles per hour, which is fine since I had to slow down for lights. I immediately went out for a 3.5-mile run at a 9:16 pace. It was hot and I was parched, but otherwise felt good.

Brunch at Yolk
On Sunday, I met Lauren and Katie at Ohio Street Beach for an open water swim. It was the first time I had to wait for a locker, but it was considerably more pleasant than my last swim there June 1. We had a post-swim brunch at Yolk. Learn from my mistakes: the pancakes are meh ... the red velvet French toast is dreamy.
Ohio Street Beach

My Monday morning trainer ride was nothing to write home about - 35 miles on the trainer with 16 rounds of 2 minutes of high effort followed by 45 seconds of recovery.
Insert badass scar here

Then the wheels came off last night.

If I'm honest with myself, it started yesterday afternoon. I took a brief walk at lunch and felt a bit dizzy, but it passed. In the evening I set out for a six-mile run and immediately felt off. I tried to convince myself it was some kind of runner's high. It wasn't. I was dizzy, discombobulated and felt like I was watching myself through a first-person video game. I was also slow as molasses. I made it less than two miles before I called Tim to come and retrieve me, then ate all the foods and drank a ton before going to bed early.

Then this morning, I earned my first CrossFit injury. The workout involved pushing a weighted sled, then jumping onto a 20-inch plywood box. My legs felt dead after pushing the sled, but I made it a few rounds before I fell short on the box and crashed my shin into the side. I was wearing tall socks, but my skin came off when I peeled off the socks. It hurt when it happened, but I stuck a paper towel on it and finished the workout. Then promptly googled "Do I need stitches?"

So tonight, I'm forgoing the second workout. Alyssa and I will eat sushi and I will not think about the training I should be doing. Because homegirl needs a break. Two strikes and I'm out.