Kelly the Culinarian: December 2013

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Superlatives

Welcome to the last day of 2013! I've had a busy, happy, satisfying year filled with some of the most amazing vistas and meals. I already did a 2013 overview, but I thought I'd take a look at the notable and memorable moments of the previous year.  Take a trip down memory lane with me!

Most popular post
My favorite foods on Weight Watchers: Readers loved this recap of delicious foods I enjoy and their corresponding point value.

Most popular recipeZero Weight Watchers Points Plus soup recipe: An easy, low-calorie way to stay on track.

Most popular dessert
Healthier peanut butter chocolate fudge: This delicious fudge recipe leaves out the butter and refined sugar in favor of coconut oil and honey, which have myriad health benefits. The end result is still a decadent, delicious dessert.

Most popular crock pot recipe
Three-ingredient pulled pork: So easy, so fast, so delicious, so popular!

Most helpful post
Ragnar Relay reflections and tips: I combined all the lessons I learned during my first Ragnar Relay to pass on the knowledge for future Ragnarians. Enjoy!

Most personal post
Why I chose an IUD: I don't mind evangelizing about my IUD, because it's been a great choice for me, my lifestyle and my five-year plan. It's still some of the best money I've ever spent.

Favorite race
April Fools 5K: This is my current 5K PR and was such a vindicating, validating experience. It was a nice little local race, too.

Favorite triathlon
Ironman 70.3 Racine: There's a reason Ironman races are the gold standard in the tri world. They put on a good show where everything is thought out. The whole community comes out and there are tons of volunteers. I worked so hard to get to the start line of this race and enjoyed every minute of it.

Best race shirt
Esprit de She Chicago 5K: This was a hot, sweaty race with an awesome post-race party. The race shirt was a cute tank from Athleta that I wear all the time.
Best post-race party
Venus de Miles Illinois Ride: So. Much. Food. The aid stations were stuffed with goodies from Whole Foods and the post-race party featured music, massages (we weren't there in time to get it), ice cream, a catered meal, vendors and giveaways.

Best race swag
Iron Girl Triathlon Lake Zurich: This was the biggest race packet I've ever picked up. There was a shirt, a custom swim cap, a personalized race bib, a ton of snacks and toiletry samples and Biscoff!

Best finishers' medal
Run River City (Peoria) Marathon Relay: This medal was so cool - it included an inset stained glass panel and 3D design on a custom ribbon. Very cool.

Favorite couples trip
Mexico: The resort needs a bit of work, but we had a great time. Lots of drinks, sites and bites made for a memorable week that fulfilled all my expectations for the honeymoon we never had.

Favorite solo trip
Sister trip to Seattle and Portland: Our first sister trip was a game changer. Mandy and I spent four glorious days tasting some of the best foods and drinks while seeing what makes the Pacific Northwest tick. I loved every minute of our excursion and hope to get back soon.
I'm looking forward to another year of races and places! Join me in 2014 as I tackle Ironman Wisconsin. Stick around, it's going to be quite a ride.

Monday, December 30, 2013

'Tis but a flesh wound

If you can't stand the cuts, stand out of the kitchen, right? I cut my finger when slicing some homemade no-knead bread this Christmas. I didn't think anything of it, because frankly, I burn or cut myself in the kitchen on a sadly regular basis. It looked fine until yesterday.

After my run with the Western Cook Running Club, I took off my gloves and commented that I thought my finger might be getting infected. Everyone looked at it and was horrified, so I took that as a sign. I tried to clean it up yesterday, but it got worse overnight. I'm now on a 10-day course of antibiotics to try and stop it from spreading.

Glamorous, right?

I'll spare you the photos, but check out the size of the pills I'm taking!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013 in Review

Healthier fudge
It's been an amazing year. I've traveled to some beautiful places, posted some stellar PRs and created some new and delicious bites. Here's a snapshot of the past year on this blog.

Recipes - Healthy
Healthier chocolate peanut butter fudge
Homemade peanut butter running fuel
Chipotle lime chicken kabobs
Healthy banana bread
Pumpkin marmalade
Sugar free crock pot apple butter
Quinoa-crusted chicken with Brussels sprout slaw

Double chocolate chip cookies
Recipes - Indulgent
Snowball cookies
Double chocolate chip cookie
Salty and sweet chocolate cowboy cookie
Cherry crunch cobbler
Pumpkin pie crumble oat bars
Greek yogurt pound cake
Biscoff stuffed angel food cake
Candy cane crunch fudge
Chobani coffee chocolate pound cake

In action at Ragnar
Fort2Base Race (1:42:41 for 11.5 miles)
Mmm, tastes like victory
I Run Because ___ 5k, Oak Brook (24:18)
Venus de Miles 64-mile ride, Lake Forest
Ironman 70.3 Half Ironman Racine (6:14:42)
Gull Lake Olympic Triathlon, Hickory Corners, Mich. (2:52:38)
Iron Girl Sprint Triathlon, Lake Zurich (1:22:26)
Ragnar Relay, Madison to Chicago (Read my Ragnar Relay Tips and Tricks here)
Udder Century, Union (3:17 for a 50-mile ride)
Run River City Marathon Relay, Peoria (4:06:34 total, 1:09 for my 7.7-mile leg)
Aurora Fox Valley Trail Half Marathon (1:51:07)
April Fools 5K, Bloomingdale (23:37)
Egg Shell Shuffle Half Marathon, Schaumburg (1:56:12)

Peoria - May
San Francisco - May
Austin - July
Baltimore - October
Sister trip - November (Seattle, Portland part 1, Portland part 2)
Mexico - December

Saturday, December 28, 2013

What We Saw in Mexico

Picking back up on my review of the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya, I wanted to highlight the amazing experiences we had in Mexico. With our reservations, we had $1,500 in resort credits. This credit could be used at the spa or salon, for a romantic dinner on the beach, for a wine or tequila tasting or for excursions.
This photo, however, was not included.
We got a couples massage, pedicures, manicures and facials. I loved the massage, but I would suggest forgoing the couples thing. You pay a $25 upcharge to have your massages together, which doesn't net you anything other than a shared room. We thought we'd get champagne or something, so it wasn't really worth it. The manicure/pedicure was also underwhelming, but the facial was great.
Our first excursion was to Chichen Itza, which is about three hours away from the resort. 
Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya
The tour included a stop off at a tourist knick knack store where I picked up a new friend.

We also stopped at a cafeteria-style place for lunch before reaching the ruins. It was amazing. No wonder this place is one of the new seven wonders of the world. It was expansive and wonderful. We spent three hours there before heading back to the resort.
Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya
The next day, we took a half day excursion to Tulum, a smaller, closer Mayan ruins that has an amazing beach.
We spent a few hours there checking out the buildings, the sites and the scenery. The beach was so amazing, but quite tiny. It was totally worth going out there just to see the beach.
Our final excursion was swimming with dolphins. I don't have any pictures because I wasn't sure how I felt about it. It was so cool to pet the dolphins and such, but I just hope they're nice to the animals and they're treated well. I clearly have issues.

If I had it to do all over again, I'd skip the manicures and pedicures and get our massages separate. That way, we might be able to squeeze another massage out of the experience. We saw the most we could with the credits we were given, though, so it turned out well.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Back on Track with Mariano's Health Key System

Disclosure: I am a member of the Collective Bias® Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias and their client.

The past two weeks have been a total whirlwind. Between beaching it up in Mexico and celebrating the holidays multiple times with our families, my healthy eating resolve has been a little less resolute. So I was pretty psyched to get invited to try Mariano's health key system this month. Basically, I need to cut back on this:
#MyMarianos #cbias #shop

And increase this:
#MyMarianos #cbias #shop
Because the Ironman waits for no one. I treated December as a bit of an off season, doing my workouts and enjoying the best treats of the season. But now it's time for dedication and focus. I gained roughly eight pounds during my self-prescribed down time, so I'm ready to get back to business and peel this weight off before the training gets hot and heavy. Every pound I can lose now is weight I don't have to carry 140.6 miles come September. Enter, the Mariano's health key.

It's a wellness program aimed at streamlining your shopping process to make it easy to make healthy choices. There are color-coded tags throughout the store identifying options for a variety of specialized dietary needs, like vegan, gluten free, organic and lean. I relied on the tags as I zipped through the store.
#MyMarianos #cbias #shop

It's a shame I was working on posting a PR for grocery shopping speed, because I feel like I could waste an afternoon here. It's like my Candyland - there's a build your own trail mix bar, a huge array of spices, a salad bar, a sweet microbrew selection and the most amazing bakery case. Be still, my heart, and look away.
#MyMarianos #cbias #shop
 #MyMarianos #cbias #shop

But not before the samples. Always, samples.
#MyMarianos #cbias #shop
 #MyMarianos #cbias #shop

I set out to create a healthy, protein-packed dinner with enough leftovers for the next day. I ended up with a chicken breast entree with a crunchy quinoa crust held in place by a dijon mustard and dill glaze. The quinoa provides and awesome texture and holds in the moisture of the chicken.
#MyMarianos #cbias #shop

#MyMarianos #cbias #shopI paired it with a Brussel sprout slaw, which let me tell you, was damn adventurous for me. I have never, ever had a Brussel sprout. But when I saw them in the store for $2 a pound, I figured now was the time to try it.

I shredded the sprouts in the food processor, then threw in toasted walnuts from the bulk bins and fresh Parmesan I bought at the cheese counter. I made a little vinaigrette to go with it and I'm pretty impressed with my culinary prowess on this one. It's crunchy and tangy, thanks to the dressing, and held up well for leftovers, too.
#MyMarianos #cbias #shop
Ta-Da, it's dinner

I was actually really impressed with Mariano's and the health key. For whatever reason, I've never ventured into one of their stores, despite the fervent loyalty the establishment garners here in suburbia. I think I was under the impression it was an expensive option, but my dinner ingredients cost less than $20 with plenty leftover for lunches and perhaps another chicken dish.

Thanks to Mariano's and Collective Bias for this opportunity!

On to the recipes:

healthy chicken recipe with quinoaQuinoa Crusted Chicken Recipe
1 cup cooked quinoa
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon dried dill
4 chicken breasts, pounded to flatten
Cooking spray

Start by spread out the cooked quinoa in a baking dish and toasting in a 300-degree oven for 20 minutes or until dried and brown. While that bakes, combine the mustard and dill in a shallow dish and flatten out the chicken breasts. You don't need to make them completely flat, just a uniform thickness to aid in even cooking.

Once the quinoa is toasted, spread the mustard mixture evenly over the chicken, then roll in the quinoa and place on a baking sheet. Cook for 25 minutes at 425 degrees or until cooked through and browned on the outside.
Healthy brussels sprout salad with dijon mustard dressing

Brussel Sprout Slaw Recipe
1 1/2 pounds Brussel sprouts
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
5 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

After washing the sprouts, shred using a food processor. Mix in the walnuts and Parmesan. Place remaining ingredients in a jar and shake to combine. Top the slaw with the dressing and add salt and pepper per your taste buds.

Want more recipes like mine? Connect with Mariano's on Twitter and Facebook, or check out their community page, which has new content weekly.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Three Things Thursday

1. I woke up the other day and my phone alerted me that Google+ completed my year in review video. It's actually pretty cool. Thanks, phone, for crafting this message for me. It was actually really cool to see all the things I did this year: Fort2Base Race, Chicago Wine Riot, our trip to Austin, the Peoria Marathon Relay, Ragnar and a few work things, too.
2. Santa spoiled me. As always. He must not know I wasn't that good. I love that Santa knows that running gear and Taco Bell gift cards will always go over well in my book.
That spatula says "Life is Short. Eat Cookies"
3. My parents are too cute. In addition to inadvertently dressing in coordinating outfits for Christmas, they also bought each other matching slippers from the same company, unplanned. These crazy kids are meant to be.
Doggy photo bomb

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas 2013!

Here's hoping your family shin dig doesn't require a wine sippy cup.
Thanks, Mom! You know us too well
And you're just as excited about your presents as Napoleon was about his new toy.
Look at my tongue!
And your holiday treats are plentiful, made with love and calorie-free.

Have a safe and festive holiday!