Kelly the Culinarian: January 2014

Friday, January 31, 2014

Full of Win!

Career Kelly is having a big day, but that's not what my blog is about. What it is about is this:
I won the Chicago Area Running Association's Athlete of the Month! How awesome is that? I'm so humbled that more than 225 people voted for me. I don't even know that many people! And so many people had nice things to say about me, too. At this rate, I'm going to develop a huge head. Is there a division for that in triathlon?

My big head will go well with my big butt: I was recently appointed to Cabot Creamery's Cheese Board. Pun intended, I'm sure. It's a group of social media movers and shakers offering their perspectives on Cabot's products and packaging. My stomach says "want," my pants say "don't need." That horseradish cheddar is destined to top by lunchtime chili.

I'm going to need one of these, STAT:
A huge thank you to everyone who supported me, and to Cabot for taking me aboard. Have a very happy Friday, Internet!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Three Things Thursday

1. The bad: My car died. Again. This the second battery I've purchased inside a year. Plus, I had to get the stupid thing towed. Triathlon wagon, it's time to man up.
The wagon in action
2. The good: My coworker gave me a ride home, yesterday was my work from home day and my parents were around to lend me a spare car for a few days. So in all, it could have been a lot worse.
My new temporary ride. Thanks, mom!
3. The amazing: The support I've received for CARA's Athlete of the Month! I am blown away by how many people have voted for me, shared the image and said nice things about me on Facebook. I really had no idea I even knew 200 people, let alone that many who would support me in this crazy contest. Thank you so much for voting for me! I really hope I win.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Yelp Elite Party at Italio Orland Park

What a fun event! This was totally worth the drive out to Orland Park to meet BRF (best running friend) Jenny. We waited all week to find out if we'd make the cut to this totally booked Yelp Elite party at the newly minted Italio. Because it's five minutes from Jenny's house, we were so psyched to make the cut. Who wouldn't want our witty conversation and healthy appetites, after all?
Italian stick

Anyhow, we made the trek out there in somewhat questionable weather Sunday night. Once inside, we were immediately greeted with an array of passed appetizers, including Italian sticks in three different varieties. They were a bit like rolled up quesadillas - the basil pest was my favorite. We also sample Italian sodas and the wine selection there while calamari was distributed to all the packed tables. The calamari was awesome - it included deep-fried jalapenos, which was a tasty surprise.

The best way to describe Italio is as an Italian Chipotle. You pick your base - a salad, whole wheat or regular pasta or a wrap. Then, you pick a protein (shrimp, fried chicken, grilled chicken, steak or shrimp) and add toppings, sauce, cheese or dressings.

Mmmm, salad. Everything was fresh and made to order, with lots of options for different diets. I went with a salad with shrimp and the in-house basil dressing, which rocked my socks off. I am quite sad this place isn't closer to my home.

Once we finished our entrees and learned more about the establishment, we were sent home with an entree for the next day, a cannoli chip dessert and coupons for free entrees.
The place is open to the public now and I would highly recommend stopping by. Try the basil dressing!

Want to join me at the next shindig? Read my tips for getting invited to Yelp parties.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Shameless Beg for Votes

This post is full of selfies
Hi friends! Coming at you live from #Chiberia where my only goal for the day is to PR in hot drink consumption and not have my hair freeze to my head. Tuesdays are usually my CrossFit days, but I decided against driving out there today and instead opted for a long ride in my little pain cave with some Dance Moms on my kindle. It was a slow grind, but at least I could feel my toes for the duration in this -30 degree weather.

running in snow shoesI needed the cycling anyways after this weekend's training. I went for a half marathon run Sunday and needed my homemade screw shoes with all the snow and crap. They worked out really well in terms of traction, but left my calf a bit tore up since it changed my gait.

It simply meant I realllly earned my massage last night. My boss has a subscription to a spa nearby and wasn't able to use her appointment this month. So for the low, low price of a $10 transfer fee, I enjoyed a lovely and only slightly painful massage at a swanky spa. Every time I get a rub down, I lament the fact that I can't keep a masseuse on retainer for the duration of my training.
Spa selfie
It's well below freezing today, but I saw something on Facebook this morning that really warmed my heart:

Someone out there nominated me for CARA's Athlete of the Month! I'm so honored just to be nominated! CARA's program honors runners who are "out there giving it their all, inspiring others and being a great representative for the running community." If you wouldn't mind voting for me, I'd be super psyched to win it all! To vote, just like the photo on CARA's Facebook page. That's it!

Thank you to all you friends and anonymous readers out there for your support. This was such a welcome surprise that I have a hard time articulating how excited and honored I am.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Scones and a Spot of Tea for My Mom's Birthday

Soup du jour was a delight
Yay January! First, we celebrated Mandy's birthday at Revolution Brewing. Now, in sharp contrast, my mom and I honored her special day with a tea party. It was actually quite lovely!

My sisters and I joke that Antioch is about an hour away from anything worth going to. So when Infini-Tea popped up on Living Social, I was skeptical. I knew Antioch had a downtown, but I had no idea what happened there.

Turns out, quite a lot. We headed downtown Saturday and had a hard time finding a parking spot behind the restaurant. Inside, we found an eclectic little cafe decorated in the manner your grandma might have found pleasing: little knick nacks, fancy hats, frilly aprons, and shelves stacked with identical jars of loose-leaf tea. I was glad we made a reservation because it was a bustling little shop.
Egg pot pie

We're not huge tea drinkers and split a pot of chocolate truffle tea. It was perfect for the cold weather and quite delicious. We were served a taster of bread, and proceeded to order a few nibbles. I got a turkey sandwich with mushroom brie soup, and my mom got the chicken, feta and spinach quiche.

I might be British
Both entrees were excellent. The soup in particular was a great find. The brie was subtle and the mushrooms surprisingly filling. My mom loved her quiche and said the crust was fantastic.

We ended our afternoon together with raspberry scones, which was the meal highlight for me. They were served warm and ever so undercooked in the middle with sides of clotted cream, lemon curd and raspberry jam. Antioch may not be a destination, but these scones are. They were chewy and memorable, with a hint of crunchy sugar crust atop a dark-color dough infused with the scent of fresh fruit. We ordered two, which I could have eaten by myself. So. Good.

I hope my mom had a birthday that's as awesome as she is!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Cooking with Kelly: The Ultimate Oreo Brownie Recipe

Oreos do not belong in my kitchen. And brownies are not welcome in my pantry. Because, you see, those calories are not needed in my diet. My ass has had enough of both during the holidays, and I've been slowly getting back to my post-Mexico eating and training routine.

Except, my mom's birthday was this weekend, and she said she didn't much care what I made as long as I only brought her one. So I had to ensure it was the best dessert ever, if she was only going to eat one. Plus, a friend fixed my broken laptop for free, so I told him I owed him a baked good of his choice. He told me he was into oreos, so I was inspired.

I wasn't quite sure how I would incorporate oreos. I kept going back to my oreo truffle recipe, which I love, but man is it a lot of work and mess. And I'm pretty sure I made those for my mom one year.
So I wondered, can you combine a truffle with a brownie? And how else could I bring the oreos into the brownies?

Well first, I started with a boxed brownie mix that I improved upon by using coconut oil instead of vegetable oil. I also stirred in chopped white and milk chocolate to ensure the batter stayed moist and chocolately. And why not layer in a few whole oreos?

Once the brownies came out of the oven, I topped them with what would normally be the middle of my oreo truffles. Instead of rolling it up into balls and then coating it in melted chocolate, I simply poured melted dark chocolate onto the truffle layer to complete the total package, which is totally delicious.
These brownies are thick, fudgey and decadent,  which is offset by the crunch of the oreo layer. The dark-chocolate ganache literally holds the brownies together, and creates a delicious crackle when you bite through it.

A word of caution: It's best to line the pan with parchment, then complete all the toppings and refrigerate to set. Then, use the parchment paper to pull the brownies out of the pan, and slice using a very large, very sharp knife.

And share, because this is not diet food, ya'll.

Ultimate Oreo Brownie Recipe
1 box fudge brownies, with the ingredients to make it
1/2 cup milk chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup white chocolate, chopped
1 bag oreo cookies
4 ounces cream cheese
1 1/2 cups dark chocolate (I used a large dark chocolate bar)

Spray a 9x9 baking sheet with oil and line with parchment paper. Make the brownie batter according to the package directions, adding the milk and white chocolate. Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan, then press 9 to 12 oreos into the batter before topping with the remaining batter.

Bake for 35 minutes or until set. Don't overbake, because brownies should be gooey, not crunchy.

While that's baking, place the dark chocolate bar in a glass bowl and leave near the heat of the oven so it can melt.

You'll also want to crush the remaining oreos and mix them in with the cream cheese until combined.

Once the brownies are finished baking, allow to cool completely, then top with the truffle mixture. If you like salty/sweet like I do, you may wish to top this layer with a pinch of sea salt before pouring the melted chocolate on top.

I added a few mini chocolate chips and oreo segments, but that's your call.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Celebrating Mandy's Birthday at Revolution Brewing

It's been almost a week since Mandy's birthday. I can't believe my baby sister is now well into her 20s. I remember the day she came home from the hospital vividly. And now, we're drinking and carousing in states halfway across the country. Weird how time flies.

After our epic sister trip to the Pacific Northwest, we knew celebrating Mandy's birthday would have to involve a beer component, preferably of the microbrew variety. She suggested Logan Square's Revolution Brewing as I'd never been, but have many times purchased their Anti-Hero IPA from my local liquor store.

I also ran 14 miles that morning and was convinced I wanted to drink all the beers. And I sort of did. We planned to have a late brunch at Revolution and rolled in around 2:15. It was insanely packed with hipster types and Sons of Anarchy look alikes. It was quite the motley crew.
We were quoted a 45-minute wait, so we found four barstools and proceeded to dig into tasting samples. At Revolution, you can taste all their brews in 5-ounce portions for $2. I started with the Eugene and Cross of Gold. I eventually added a Willie, which was a smoked stout that I super loved.

When we finally got our table, we realized we had missed the cutoff for brunch. We drowned our sorrows about that sad fact in bacon fat popcorn. I'm nonplussed about bacon, but everyone else liked it. Just don't look at the bottom of the dish when you're done.
I agonized over what to order, because I was damn hungry by then after the running and the drinking. I contemplated a healthy choice ... but instead went with the workman burger. Best choice ever. It was delicious - well-seasoned, complemented nicely by cheese and some delicately fried potatoes that seriously hit the spot.
Definitely hit this place up when you're in the city. You'll have to park a ways away, but you'll need the walk after a lunch like this.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Three Things Thursday

Have you voted for me for the ZOOMA blogger contest? You can do it every day.

1. Anyone else super impressed by ALDI's new marketing? I'm loving the recipe booklets they're giving away in stores. The photography, layout and recipes are really innovative. And I love ALDI already, so this is just icing on the Baker's Corner cake.

2. I proclaimed on my Facebook page that I would be returning to the pool today. Even though I forgot a towel. And I already went to CrossFit this morning. I left work, drove to the gym, parked a block away, changed quickly and headed out to the pool deck. I was then informed that water aerobics was starting soon and the pool would be unavailable. That's right, they close the entire pool to accommodate the one person who showed up for water aerobics during the busiest time for this facility. I left in a huff.
Another day, my precious
3. I do not care for my new iPhone. I got the 5C and would like my Galaxy S4 back thankyouverymuch. I don't find the iPhone apps to be as dynamic as droid apps, and I thought the camera was better on my galaxy.
Exactly how I feel about this phone

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Win it Wednesday: Customized PB Lean from

Have you voted for me for the ZOOMA blogger contest? You can do it every day.

As anyone who's met me for even a nanosecond could tell you, I love peanut butter. I eat it daily and must measure out my servings so I don't get cray cray and suddenly start hitting the jar like the cookie monster with oreos. I enjoy peanut butter on toast and in desserts, as part of sauces and atop muffins. However, I have found a way to sneak more peanutty goodness into my daily diet without going overboard with the calories. 

You might recall my giveaway of customized oats from Another item Anthony offers is customized PB Lean, which is a powdered peanut butter alternative. Basically, it takes the flavor of peanut butter and removes the fat. Better yet, you can add all sorts of flavors and textures to it on like dolce de leche, tiramisu, peaches and cream, flax and chia seeds. You can even add fruit or seasonal flavors like smores or eggnog. Nom.

Anthony sent me two bags of my own custom creations to try in anticipation of this lovely giveaway. I tried both the light and dark roast versions, one with banana bread flavoring and the other horchata. The flavors are subtle enough to let the peanut flavor shine, but interesting enough to make me want to try more flavors. So far, I've tried the concoctions in protein shakes, stirring into Greek yogurt and in my overnight oats in a jar. A two-Tablespoon serving size is about 70 calories, so it's a great addition without a lot of calories.

If you want to get creative and see what kind of combo you can dream up, enter now to win a $20 credit to Depending on how loaded you make your combos, this will net you around two bags of PB Lean. Enter using Rafflecopter below, which will pick a winner at midnight Jan. 29.
Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Training Tuesday: You're Doing it Wrong

Have you voted for me for the ZOOMA blogger contest? You can do it every day.

Ah, the Internet. Teacher of so many life lessons. Like did you know, I've been training for my spring marathon incorrectly?

I suppose there's no wrong way to train for a marathon (save not training at all), but I have not been following the FIRST training plan protocol as it was intended. The FIRST method, for the uninitiated, is a three-run per week marathon training plan consisting of an interval run, a tempo run and a long run, all of which should be performed at very specific paces. The pace is determined by a recent 10K race. I PRed my 10K time at the Gobbler Hobbler in November and used this as the basis for my training.

Except, I suck at math. As I learned from the generous comments on yesterday's post, I'm supposed to be doing my interval runs at a pace that feels hard enough that one more round would completely exhaust me. And I should be able to do each interval at the same level of effort.


I've been doing the intervals on the treadmill at the gym and I usually have to slow down the pace in the later intervals or break it into smaller chunks (like three .10 intervals instead of a single .25-mile interval at the end).

So when Kim suggested the pace should be attainable, I went back and read the instructions for the interval runs. I've been doing my tempos at 8-minute miles and intervals at 7-minute miles. Except according to my 10K pace, I should be doing my intervals at 7:11 and my tempo 8:11 to 8:26.


No wonder these things were feeling impossible. I'm not sure if 11 seconds makes a huge difference, but now I know and will adjust accordingly.

What training mistakes have you made?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Running Interval Question

I accidentally matched my shoes today
Running has been HARD lately. My 14-mile run yesterday had me doubting my sanity. I bundled up, but layers don't do much when it's windy. I even said to my training partners "I'm not sure if I'm man enough for this run" as 22-mile-per-hour winds whipped into my face. It wasn't pretty, and now my face really hurts. I can't decide if I'm sunburned or windburned, but it hurts nonetheless.

This morning's workout included intervals in my run per the FIRST training program. It was very specific: four quarter-mile segments with 1:30 minute rest in between, then 2:30 rest and repeat the program.  It was tough! My legs are tired and the sweating made my face hurt more.  Here's the big question:

What's more important in running intervals: speed versus distance?

I can't always complete every interval. So is it better to slow down in order to get in the distance, or keep the speed and just go for as long as I can? Sage runners out there, please bestow your wisdom!

PS - I entered a contest for bloggers from ZOOMA. Would you mind voting for me? If I win, I get to give away a trip to Napa, so we all win.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Stand Mixer Sunday: Chocolate Chip Crumb Cupcake Recipe

A very special happy birthday to baby sister Mandy! She's twenty-ISH today. A lady never tells.
Her request for birthday treats was very specific: muffins, either blueberry or coffee cake. Upon further questioning, it was determined that chocolate chip coffee cake would be the best bet.

I scoured the Internet and my person collection before melding a few recipes for what I hope will be a crumb cupcake winner. I went with a tender crumb cake recipe coupled with a cinnamon sugar ribbon accompanied by a sprinkle of mini semi-sweet chocolate chips. Another layer of sour cream-moistened crumb cake tops the ribbon, with a generous topping of cinnamon sugar and more baby chips.
This would be great with a morning coffee or a big glass of milk. Or a mimosa, because hell, it's Mandy's birthday!

Chocolate Chip Crumb Cupcake Recipe
1/4 cup brown or turbinado sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick room-temperature butter
2 room-temperate eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup mini chocolate chips

Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside. In another large bowl, combine the dry ingredients and set aside.

Using the paddle attachment on your stand mixer, beat together the sugar and butter until light in color and fluffy. This takes a few minutes, so give it some time. Then, add the eggs one at a time and allow to combine before adding the sour cream and vanilla. Mix until just combined, then add the dry ingredients slowly until just mixed.

To assemble, start with a lined muffin tin and place about three Tablespoons of the batter in the bottom of each well. Use a spoon to flatten and make a small well in each cup, then fill with a generous sprinkle of the cinnamon sugar and chips. Top with another two Tablespoons of dough and finish it with more cinnamon sugar and chips.

Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from the muffin tin when cool enough to handle and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Logging a Few for #megsmiles

Today was not a run day for me for a variety of reasons. It's bitter cold, and I was without a car today. But I wanted to participated in Meg's Miles and show my support for this fallen runner. Meg Menzies was killed by a drunk driver during her morning run on Jan. 13. Today, runners across the country set out to log some time on the road in her memory.

Since I was homebound, I got on Jenny's bike trainer for the first time in longer than I care to admit. It took me an embarrassingly long amount of time to pedal 25 miles, but I don't care. At least I have the privilege of being alive today to log the miles. My thoughts wandered to Meg's family often. I hope all these runners coming together offer some small moment of solace for the family.

This afternoon was a huge time suck because we switched service providers for our phones, meaning we got new phones and spent h-o-u-r-s at the store doing it. I switch from the Galaxy S4 to the iPhone 5c. We'll see how that goes.

I did the grocery shopping today and came home to make muffins for Mandy for her birthday tomorrow. By request, I made coffee cake muffins. Here's hoping the crowds like it tomorrow.

And now, we're watching Spring Breakers for reasons beyond my comprehension. Have a nice evening, all, and be safe on your runs tomorrow.

Friday, January 17, 2014

How to Pack the Perfect Gym Bag

I basically live out of my gym bag. For at least 18 months now, I'm such a regular fixture at various gyms that I keep everything ready to go so I'm prepared for my next training session. Ironman training requires a lot of sessions at the gym, so I think I have my process down to a science. First, I have a giant gym bag.
This is actually probably a bit too big, as I could fit three Napoleons in it, but I still end up filling it to the brim regularly. So what goes in the bag?

The main compartment has the following items, starting at the top: My make up bag, moisturizer and deodorant, two pairs of headphones, a bag of miscellaneous items, homemade dry shampoo (1/4 cup cornstarch, 1 Tablespoon baking soda, 1 Tablespoon cocoa powder in an clean Parmesan cheese container), a jewelry bag, a towel and washcloth, a giant plastic bag for wet clothes, shower shoes and a lock.

I bring the zipper topped bag (the same I used for Ragnar) because not every gym has a swimsuit extractor. Also, if it's a two-training session day, I don't want my second set of clothes to be soggy from the first set of nasty clothes. None of the gyms I go to have towel service, and I always have a washcloth in case I have to Kesha shower. That's what the dry shampoo is for, too.

The bag of bits and bobs contains:
Tweezers, contact lens solution and a case, spare contacts, toothpaste and floss. These are just odds and ends I need on occasion.

Next up, I keep all the shower stuff in one pouch on the side of the bag.

The swim cap and goggles go here because it's a lined pocket that I can store wet stuff in. I also have tiny shampoo, conditioner and lotion bottles from hotels, a disposable razor and face wipes. The gyms I frequent have soap that's sufficient, and I usually use conditioner instead of shaving cream at the gym.

Finally, there's a super large pouch in this bag where I keep all the hair styling stuff. For this particular haircut, it includes:
Root volumizer, pomeade, a wide-tooth comb, a hair dryer and a straightener.

Together, all these items make me presentable for work every morning in the most streamlined fashion. This is just the tip of the iceberg, though, because my car certainly contains more goodies required for an active lifestyle.

What's in your gym bag?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Three Things Thursday

1. Remember when I was in San Francisco Tim and I went out for toast at The Mill? Fancy toast is now a thing. This article starts with my "meh" attitude on this artisan food trend and gets to the source of this movement while also acknowledging that it's a bit ridiculous.
Josey Baker Bread
2. I'm easing back into two-a-day training sessions to get mentally in the game for Ironman Wisconsin. Somehow, I forgot exactly how much coordination this requires. I had my pre-work session at CrossFit Rise, then commuted, had meetings all day and left for my second session, a tempo run at the gym. So. Much. Stuff. Two pairs of shoes, three outfits, my purse, my meals, my gym bag. It's a good thing I have an SUV. Also, can I outsource laundry?
So much laundry
3. Through my partnership with the lovely ladies behind Esprit de She, I got hooked up with this lotion from Amlactin. I am already obsessed. Remember how I tore a callous at CrossFit last week? Dry skin contributes to rips, so I've been more diligent about moisturizing. This lotion must be loaded with magic and pixie dust because even though it's super thick and creamy, it absorbs quickly enough that I can use it at my computer and keep typing. I think this will be my solution to winter skin, as I not-so-affectionately call it.