Kelly the Culinarian: September 2013

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Injury Report: Hamstrings are horrible

 So I've had a little nagging pain since the Udder Century Ride earlier this summer. The day after the ride, it hurt to fully straighten my leg. It also hurt to bring my heel to my butt. It felt tight, like a rubber band was stretched completely behind my knee.

I iced the next day, foam rolled and used a lacrosse ball to roll it out. It hurt for a few days, but honestly, most of me hurts a lot of the time. It was just another one of my aches and pains that came and went.
Last week it became apparent that this pain was not going, though. I did a run focusing on quarter-mile repeats with two-minutes of rest in between. At the end, I was happy, but my leg was achy. At the Cubs game later that night, my knee really bothered me and my heel was numb.

So it was time to get serious about getting this fixed. I only get one body, and it's going to be a long road to Ironman Wisconsin. So now would be the best time to address any weaknesses in my body or training.

I started with a sports medicine doctor who assessed my leg and said my problem wasn't my knee, it was my hamstring. It turns out I wasn't just sore earlier this summer. I had a series of small tears in the muscle that resulted in scar tissue, which is causing my issues.

The good news is I can continue to workout to my comfort level.

The bad news is that I need physical therapy three times a week for the next month, at least.

I went to my first appointment today, which was brutally painful.  It started with another assessment, then time with a heating pad, a bit of ultrasound therapy and some uncomfortable breaking up of the scar tissue using the Graston technique. If you are considering physical therapy, don't click that link, it's just frightening. I ended with an ice pack and a treatment plan.

Here's hoping I'm back to 110 percent in four weeks and ready to train for the next thing.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Stand Mixer Sunday: Chobani Coffee Chocolate Pound Cake Recipe

My coworkers really disappointed me on this. I brought in a beautiful, deliciously moist bundt cake flavored with coffee Chobani Greek yogurt that sported dark chocolate chips throughout. It was beautiful, especially once I drizzled it with a cinnamon Biscoff glaze.

I'm disappointed because at the end of the week, there was still about 1/4 of the bundt cake. A fairy dies every time you waste chocolate, but I do only have 10 coworkers, so I suppose they get a pass. This time.

I was inspired to make this cake because I had a fridge full of Chobani bites courtesy of their social media people. The coffee and dark chocolate chip flavor is awesome frozen, but I wanted to try baking with it. I remember my mom used to make a sour cream cake, so I decided to swap out the sour cream for Chobani and see what happens.

And what happened was amazing - the bundt cake turned out dense and moist with layers of chocolate flavor, thanks to the yogurt and cocoa powder. I topped my cake with a Biscoff glaze, but I could have just eaten this plain.

And next time, I will, so our office doesn't leave anything to waste.

Chobani Coffee Chocolate Pound Cake Recipe
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup coconut oil at room temperature
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup water
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 room-temperature eggs
2 coffee Chobani bites containers
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Start by greasing up your bundt pan and preheating the oven to 350 degrees. Make sure you have a rack positioned in the middle of the oven, too.

Place the butter, oil, cocoa powder, salt and water in a microwave-safe bowl and heat in 30-second intervals until warmed and combined. Set aside and move on to the next delicious step.

Using your stand mixer's whisk attachment, beat together the flour, sugar and baking soda until combined. Add half of the butter chocolate mixture and continue to whisk until combined, scraping the bowl as needed. Add the other half, then the eggs one at a time. Mix the whole thing until everything is incorporated, then add the Chobani and mix until integrated before adding the extract.

Pour the batter into the bundt pan and tap it on the counter to ensure it settles completely. Place in the oven and bake until set, which takes about 40 minutes, then rotate 180 degrees to make sure it cooks evenly. Keep baking until a skewer or toothpick comes out clean, which took me about an hour.

Remove from oven and cool on a rack for 15 minutes, then invert the cake and let it completely cool.
You can stop right here, or you can dust it with powdered sugar. Or, you can take it another step and add my Biscoff glaze.

Biscoff Glaze Recipe
1/4 cup Biscoff spread
1 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons maple syrup
3 Tablespoons milk (I used almond milk)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix together until smooth. You may need to add addition powdered sugar or milk to achieve the right consistency. It should be thick but still pour-able.

One the cake has cooled completed, spoon the glaze over the cake. You an add chopped nuts, shredded coconut or shaved chocolate on top, too.

Friday, September 27, 2013

How to Make Homemade Kombucha

My first homebrew made
with green tea
I am such a hippie. I don't know how this happened. I like to shower and all, but I have a lot of habits that would brand me as a tree huger in any other circumstance: shopping at specialty markets, line-drying my clothes, growing my own food and now, brewing my own kombucha.

For the uninitiated, kombucha is a fermented tea that's choc full of probiotics and good bacteria. It's fizzy and slightly vinegary, but can be flavored with fruits or other additives.  Again, something I never imagined myself voluntarily consuming, but times change. After my crippling digestive issues this summer, I was seriously doubting my ability to continue running and racing. I was desperate for any remedy. Desperate enough to try a $4 bottle of fermented tea.

Once I realized this magical snake oil was the key to being able to race without embarrassing side effects, I was hooked. However, I needed a cheaper fix, so I googled around to figure out what to do next.

My youngest sister makes kombucha in a lab for research purposes, so she gave me the basics. Then, Laima mentioned that her sister brewed her own, so she procured a starter for me, otherwise known as a Mother or SCOBY.

I'll be honest, it was kind of like having a chunk of placenta in a jar. The first time I brewed with Lauren, it was hard to get over the grossness of it all. But the end result is hard to pass up: It costs $2 for enough tea and sugar to make roughly eight batches of kombucha, and each batch makes about seven single-serving bottles. I'm not great with math, but this is an awesome value. It's also a very passive process and involves basically boiling water, then watching it ferment.

Here's my method for kombucha brewing. If you're a kombucha fan, please let me know your secrets and tried-and-true strategies.

Here's what you'll need:
A kombucha starter (if you're in Chicago and need one, let me know. Every batch creates another baby SCOBY)
A 1-gallon glass jar, vase or pitcher (here's the one I bought it was $6 at WalMart)
1 cup of sugar (you must use sugar, this is what the kombucha eats to make it fizzy)
10 tea bags (green or black, but not herbal)
A large sauce pot
A funnel
A fine-mesh strainer
Six to eight bottles with lids (recycle, yo)
1 mason jar

Start with boiling one gallon of water. Let it boil for five minutes, then add the sugar and tea bags.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely to room temp. You can leave it overnight or place the pot in your sink with cold water and ice to speed the process.

Pour the sweet tea into your kombucha using the fine mesh strainer to remove the loose tea, then add your starter and whatever liquid it was stored with into the jar. If you're going to touch the SCOBY, make sure your hands are clean and soap-free. Don't use any anti-bacterial stuff around the tea because duh, this whole thing is about growing bacteria.

Cover the jar loosely with a paper towel or rag and add a rubber band to keep out anything gross or unpalatable, then place in a cool, dark place for seven to 10 day to let your pet grow and feast on that sugar. I put my brew under the guest bathroom cabinet. So if you need toilet paper in my house, sorry.

My second batch made with black tea
After a week, taste the tea. Use a straw to pipe out a sample (don't drink right from the brew, that's icky). If it's sweet, it probably needs another few days. If it's slightly acidic, you're ready for the second brew.

It's easiest to bottle this stuff if you strain your freshly brewed kombucha into a pitcher first. Then, start pouring your tea into your bottles using a clean funnel. Don't leave much air in the bottles because it will take forever to get it fizzy. Secure the caps tightly, then place in that cool dark place again for another three to five days. Once you refrigerate it, the brewing stops and you're ready to drink up. Each batch makes about seven bottles, because you should retain roughly 10 percent of the brew to keep the Mother moving forward until you brew the next batch.

For every batch, the mother splits, hence why I have starters to share. You don't want the starter to hang out too long before brewing again, but if you have to store it, put it in a mason jar, cover it loosely with a paper towel and rubber band and place it in the fridge. Allow it to sit overnight at room temp before adding it to a brew again.
The end result of the black tea saga
Questions? Let me know in the comments and I'll answer to the best of my brewing abilities.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Three Things Thursday

1. Today was our quarterly massage date at work and it was awesome. I feel refreshed, and it must be catching, because Napoleon even cuddled with me at work. This never happens. He pretended to be the lap dog I've always wanted!

2. My second batch of kombucha is brewing as I type! I'm attending the Chicago Food Swap in two weeks and this is what I'm bringing, so I'm perfecting my method. Is it weird that I'm super nervous for the swap? What if people don't like my goodies? Gah, this is the same feeling I get around the holidays because I'm concerned people won't like my gifts.

3. I'm taking myself to a sports medicine doctor tomorrow. The pain behind my knee that I first felt during the Udder Century Ride is back and now features heel numbness as well. I found a place that takes my insurance that's nearby, so we'll see how it goes.
Not my only memento from the day
Congratulations to Amanda on winning my Sleepy's giveaway!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Few Great Reads

I'm wrapping up a busy 48 hours that started with 4.68 miles of speedwork Monday morning, followed by a lovely lunch with Rachael at Native Foods:

And a fun night at Wrigley Field with my sister and uncle. Our Uncle Jeff is in town for the week for a convention and got us the best seats I've ever had the privileged to occupy in the friendly confines. We could catcall the umpire, that's how close we were.
Not cropped, not zoomed. Aisle 2!
While I catch up on life and work and such, here are a few interesting reads from around the web.

Seven Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Running: Crosstrain and take aches and pains seriously, your body is trying to tell you something.

How to Care for Cast Iron: I have one cast iron pan and it's heavy as hell, but will last me forever. Love it.

12 Truths About Intensity and Training: My favorite being that mental focus is more important than physical ability.

28 Ways to Eat Apples This Fall: You're welcome.

This Whimsical Pop Up Party Had 4,000 Guests: Diner en Blanc exists in Chicago and I want to go. I need an outfit, a partner in crime and a sense of adventure.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Motivational Monday

I love my medals and display them with pride. They're not just a cheap trinket. They're symbolic of everything it took to get there.

Sunday, September 22, 2013


That smile is hiding a lot
One year ago today, I was a bundle of nerves. I got up early, and added a timing chip and bib to my tried and true running outfit.

It all came down to this. A summer packed with early mornings, abbreviated social engagements and long miles ticked off to the silence of my own thoughts. I wasn't just heading out for another unimaginably hot training run that day.

I was running my first marathon.

The was determined to finish the Fox Valley Marathon, but I didn't know if I could. I failed to train mentally for the mind games your body starts to play on you. Although I'd run two separate 20-mile runs, I ended up run-walking after only nine miles.

It was tough. So tough. I was hot, my foot hurt (I later learned that pain was not, in fact, normal. I had plantar facitiis) and my stomach was angry at best.
Heading to the finish

Somewhere after the 20-mile mark, it hurt more to walk than to keep running. My family was there to cheer me on, along with MacKenna, Kim, Jenny and several other awesome buddies. And it was their support that kept me going as the miles seemed to keep stretching in front of me.

When I finally finished, I cried. It was all I could do to get my medal, choke down some food and retrieve my gear bag. I was weak and unsteady, but I was a marathon finisher.

Today, I'm thinking about all the runners out there chasing down their dreams along the Fox River. I hope their races go well and they feel nothing but pride and accomplishment.

I've been thinking a lot about that first marathon and what I could have done differently. A year later, the accomplishment is still as astounding and fresh in my mind. I'm proud of my time and finishing at all, but I'm never satisfied. I'm ready for more.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Bike to Beer

Today my alarm clock came in the form of a nine-pound yorkie. I roused when he got so anxious I knew he had to go out because he was pacing our bedroom and jumping off of the bed. He's lucky he's cute. After I took him on his walk, gave him his food and meds (still taking antibiotics from his tooth cleaning) and then packed up my car. Alyssa and I met up to take on the Fox River Trail via bike.

I've been on parts of the trail before for my first marathon and then my current PR half marathon, but this ride was actually really tough.  The gravel of most of the path made it feel like I was biking in a sinkhole. I thought we were moving forward at a decent clip, but the data didn't not support that.

Once we finally wrapped up nearly 50 miles, we decided to refuel at Emmit's, a microbrewery that was super cute inside and had a menu packed with things I wanted to eat.

After much discussion, I tried the honey ale with the slider trio. I got a mini burger topped with brie, a tiny tenderloin burger and pulled pork burger. I guess my favorite was the brie burger, but I really loved the sweet potato fries. I also tried their smoke hallis beer, which was super weird and unexpected. It was like drinking a barbecue.

In all, I kind of realized I need to do another organized ride to get in more miles. It's hard when you just make up your own route to know it's safe and a decent loop. It's nice to just follow the arrows and stop when there are places to do so.

Any suggestions for rides yet this season?

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Birth of Ironbitch

I got a mysterious package today. I ripped it open to find this inside:
I didn't even had to ask, I knew that Jenny sent it. She knew I had a tough week and wanted to cheer me up. It worked.
It's funny how little gestures mean all the world.
Ignore the creeping yorkie
I'm going to be an Ironman on Sept. 7, 2014. Welcome to the year of the Ironbitch.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Three Things Thursday

1. The winner of the 53x11 Coffee is Chris! Congratulations and thank you everyone who entered my giveaway. If you're one of the 103 people who didn't win, don't despair. I have a another giveaway going on right now for a Sleepy's Slumber Pack.  Ha, we went from coffee to pillows! Maybe I should have done this in reverse.
Homemade pumpkin spice latte!
2. Tomorrow is Run@Work Day! I hadn't planned on having a running lunch, but why not? I'm a big runch fan and already did so earlier this week, so it's time to pack my bags for a mid-day jaunt.
This is where I run at work
3. Napoleon finally went to the groomer today.  The before and after is hilarious, as always.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Win it Wednesday: Sleep Soundly Pack from Sleepy's Chicago

Ah, sleep. What a fickle friend you are. I really wish I saw more of you, but you know how it goes - I have to wedge you in between workouts, social engagements and working hard.

Sleep is quite important to recovery, so ideally, I'd like to be getting eight hours a night. In reality, I get more like six to seven hours of sleep a night. Because this is less than a perfect arrangement, I like to ensure I get the best-quality sleep in my limited amount of time. I eliminate all distractions and have a little pre-bed routine to make sure I'm relaxed and my mind is not still fixated on work. I usually turn off the TV a half hour before, do a little foam rolling and maybe journal or read a few pages of a book.

Sleepy's, which just hit the Chicago scene, recently sent me this gift pack to help me with my goal of sleeping better. It includes a cooling pad for my pillow (no more sweaty hair), a neck pillow for traveling and a bag of spa toiletries for the ultimate in relaxation. Tim and I have both enjoyed the cooling pad, even though it make the pillow kind of flat. I particularly like the linen spray Sleepy's sent me because it does seem to have a calming affect, even if it's a placebo.

A little about Sleepy's:

"Sleepy's, the Mattress Professionals, a privately-owned, fourth-generation company approaches 1,000 retail locations in 17 states up and down the east coast. Its expansion into the midwest is a key milestone in its accelerated growth trajectory. Sleepy's is committed to making the world a
better place to sleep while bringing an economic boost and job creation to every market it enters."

If you want an identical set of sleep swag PLUS a $100 giftcard, enter the giveaway below. It will end in one week with the winner announced here.

To get started, enter below.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Savory Spice Shop and Chocolate Tour

My sister and I had a lovely little day in the city on Sunday. First, we headed over to Savory Spice Shop in Lincoln Square, which had just opened the day before. Owner David invited me to check it out and I'm glad I did. The entire store belongs on Pinterest - it's adorably homey and cute with every spice, salt, extract and exotic ingredient a gourmet foodie could ever want. Many and I spent some time checking out the wares and tasting our way through some amazing treats before making our purchases. I got some black garlic for a dip they were offering samples of, along with ingredients for a dill dip. Mandy picked up cinnamon sticks for an autumn party and we both got samples of a ghost chili curry that I am simultaneously terrified and excited to try. I signed up for the Chicago Food Swap meet next month, which will be hosted there. I can't wait to go back and fill up on a few items that I am sure I cannot live without.

We picked up a quick lunch across the street from the shop at Garcia's. I had a fish taco and an al pastor taco, both of which were delicious. Love me some tacos.

Then off we went to the Wrigley Building to meet up with our group for the main event. We snagged discount tickets to a chocolate tour of Chicago hosted by Great Food Tours months ago and have been waiting to cash in. First stop was Vosges, which is mostly known for its bacon-chocolate combos. We actually tried two truffles, one containing paprika and the other yams. Both we quite delicious and the yams were unexpectedly savory.

We then headed to Leonidas, a shop that only sells imported Belgium chocolates. The cases were beautifully bestowed with all sorts of specialties I couldn't pronounce. We tried two pieces here - a white chocolate encrusted milk chocolate nougat and the Great Alexander, which was dark chocolate encapsulating a salted caramel. That might have been my favorite item all day.

The next stop was the Goddess and the Grocer where we sampled a triple chocolate cookie and a peanut butter bar.  As a connoisseur of all things peanut butter, I felt like the bar was not nearly everything I expected. Same with the cookie.

Chocolate cupcake cheers!
Our final stop was More Cupcakes where we sampled the Valronha and the triple chocolate cupcake. My Valronha was the better of the pair - a chocolate cake with a chocolate pudding center and dark chocolate ganache. That said, the cake was a bit dry.

All said, it was a cool tour of the city that featured a few dessert places I wouldn't have otherwise visited. I did think the tour group was too large for some of the smaller boutique eateries, however.  But I love chocolate, and chocolate was delivered in spades.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Motivational Monday

If this doesn't get me up every damn morning from now until Sept. 7, I don't know what will.

Ironman Wisconsin, I'm coming for you.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Nice Little Saturday

We left the house Saturday morning at 9 a.m. and didn't get home until midnight! Here's what we were up to.
I dropped Tim off for a long run, then headed to Essential Fitness to get my ass kicked by Kim. She recently got her certification and I knew she'd be an awesome trainer. Her class was tough, but not unmanageable, and I was sore before I left the gym.
Next up, we showered at an LA Fitness and headed up north for my niece's birthday party! She turned four this week and we were so excited to see her growing into a little adult.

She in case you're curious, this is the proper way to eat a cupcake.
Then we headed to the land of purple pride for a Northwestern football game. We had perfect weather and it was an awesome game.

Now, I'm tired and sore, so I'm taking a rest day. Tomorrow, I'm starting training in earnest for my next athletic pursuit, an Olympic triathlon Oct. 5. But first, coffee.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Happy National Peanut Day!

Peanut butter is my lifeblood. I cannot live without it, I am sure. I eat enough peanut butter that I have a preferred brand (Krema, smooth). I certainly could not run without peanut butter, because it's the perfect balance of protein, carbs and fat to get me going. Every now and then, I can manage to not eat it right out of the jar and add it to other recipes. In honor of National Peanut Day, here are my favorite recipes featuring peanuts!