Kelly the Culinarian: November 2014

Friday, November 28, 2014

What Finishing an Ironman and Being Married Have in Common

Tomorrow, my best training buddy will walk down the aisle and I have the pleasure of being part of it. I trekked to Iowa today with my sister in tow to gleefully participate in this wonderful event. Leading up to the big day, Alyssa's bridesmaid asked all of us to write her a letter to include in a book of advice.

I'm the blind leading the blind at this point, when it comes to relationship advice, but here's what I came up with. On the eve of Alyssa's wedding, here's what I've got to share:

Dear Alyssa,
On the occasion of your wedding, I wasn’t sure what wisdom I have to offer. That’s like asking a smoker about willpower or gleaning hairstyle tips from a bald man. I thought of what sage insights I could possibly share on the institution of marriage, working together or managing the ups and downs in life. Eventually, I settled on something we both share – the pursuit of the Ironman dream. I was married for five years, three of which were consumed by something only you could possibly understand. While we have very different lives and interests, we have bonded over what it takes to compel yourself to a finish line 140.6 miles away. That lust for accomplishment gives us a unique perspective on life and a bevy of life lessons learned along the way. It’s funny how much Ironman can teach you about life, and how much translational knowledge you’ll find in your marriage. Marriage is very much like our 140.6 journey:

You get what you put in. Slack on your training and you’ll feel it. Never think you’re in a 50-50 relationship. If you gave 50 percent on a ride, you’d be wasting your time and eroding away at your training. Give 110% or pay for it down the road.

You can’t rely on your base alone. There’s no way to amble through 140 miles or a lifetime together. Ironman takes constant work. So will your relationship. Don’t rely on what’s already been built. Keep dating, keep pursuing each other and keep growing together.

Continually assess for continued improvement. There’s a reason the training plan calls for long rides and benchmark workouts. You have to know where you stand. You need these tough moments to get better. It’s in those tough brick workouts that you think, maybe I need to add speedwork or yoga so this is easier later. In marriage, if you’re not looking at your baseline, steady state relationship and thinking, how can I improve, what can I do to make sure we’re better in a year, you can expect to keep besting your previous records

It’s an investment. IMWI isn’t a decision we took on lightly. We made choices to start triathlons and eased into it, building a base and acquiring skills and gear along the way. Your marriage in the greatest investment you make in your future happiness. You wouldn’t cheap out on a bike, and you shouldn’t scrimp on the time, emotions and experiences you share together.

Talk about it with friends, but with care. I never ever talked about my marriage. I wish I had, but with selected, trusted friends. I was afraid it’d be like trying to talk bikes with my sister – no one cares. In much the way your best training buddy will be the only person who understands and cares about this awesome aero water bottle you found, only a few people in your life will have a genuine interest in your relationship in a non-gossipy, supportive way. Find a confidant and decide who will be your go-to ear to bend when you need that kind of friend.

It can be lonely. We spent hours and hours alone baking in the sun biking remote areas and running in the dark when our friends were sleeping or partying. I was surprised at how lonely marriage could be simply because of opposite schedules or the need to be around and not out with friends. Find a way to make time for each other in the same way we somehow managed to train for 15 hours a week while working full time.

You will have moments of doubt. On race day, there were times when I wanted to drop out. Fuck it, who am I doing this for, what do I have to prove kind of moments. I addressed them and made a choice to soldier on. There will be tough moments in your relationship. Make a choice to continue and make the adjustments needed to be happy in the pursuit.

It is worth the effort. The moment they put that medal on our necks and draped those little space blankets around our shoulders, I was absolved of any pain and absolutely elated over what we’d done. Every sacrifice was worth it. I didn’t feel that way all through race day, granted, but any relationship or race has its ups and downs and moments of doubt and even tears. Embrace it.

Today is like Sept. 8, registration day. We joked we were signing our lives away, but were exhilarated to know what we were getting into. Instead of a year-long training period with and sprint to a finish, you’ve signed up for a lifetime of training together, supporting one another and encountering the adventures that cross your paths. It will be an amazing journey filled with highs and lows that I know you’ll both attack with enthusiasm, grace and understanding. There is no medal for marriage, but there are plenty rewards along the way. Here’s to a lifetime of happiness in the journey.

With love,

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Starting Over: Time to Get Back to Goal Weight

Time to rise from the ashes
 First, thank you to everyone for the supportive comments, tweets, messages and sentiments on my weighty post yesterday. Summary: divorce and dating have made me gain weight. I ate when I was sad, then wasn't about to order a salad on a first date. Shit has settled down a bit in my life and I need to focus on me again (hence my single me manifesto).


I know as a long-time healthy living blogger what I'm supposed to write next is that I love myself at any size and embrace the changes in life knowing that I'm doing the best for my body.

But this is my blog and that sentiment does not resonate with me.

This number defines me. Haunts me. Depresses me immensely.

Cold comfort
I have not done what's right for my body, nor nourished myself appropriately. I've only comforted myself in the most indulgent and unhealthy ways possible. The fact that I could finish an Ironman is purely out of stubbornness, not because I adequately trained and fueled my body.

New me is saucy
It took me four months to put this on, and I can only hope that I can take it off in four months. I'd like to get back to 127 for the Circular Logic Marathon, which is at the end of March. This is a big goal, and at the worst possible time of year (hello turkey, Christmas cookies, holiday munchies and a wedding in there for good measure), but if I want to PR that thing, I need to give myself a fighting chance. Also, I've been able to keep up a decent speed, PRing a half marathon a month ago. If I dropped all this weight, I wonder how fast I could get.

So I rejoined Weight Watchers. It's worked for me in the past in that it gives me concrete rules to follow and a system of accountability. I get 26 points per day, 49 flex points per week and can earn activity points for running.

The first goal WW gives you is to lose 10 percent of your body weight. Personally, I'd like to be down to 138 by New Year's Eve. It'll be my first NYE hitting the town and I'd like to buy something cute to wear for the occasion. I don't think it's out of reach - back in the day, I lost four pounds the first week I started dieting, and that was long before I was running on top of cutting back on beer and chocolate and froyo.

So here's to new beginning and losing some baggage in the form of weight, guilt and the past.

Monday, November 24, 2014

How I Gained 20 Pounds in Five Months

Sigh, this post was a long time coming. Time to fess up.
I'm now at my highest weight ever. Like more than I was when I got married.
May 2009

More than when I hit my "breaking point."
July 2010
Twenty over what I was at when I ran my PR marathon this spring.
May 2014
And way more than the last time I wore a bikini.
I'd like to be her again
I'm not going to make excuses. My life got out of hand and I should have been able to at least control what I put in my mouth, but when shit is crazy, sometimes you can only focus on so much. It's not that much incrementally, when you think about it, just a pound a week. But it adds up and keeps building if you don't get in front of it, which is exactly what happened to me.

1. Went on vacation. At the end of June, I was in Mexico for a week, after which I never really got back on track. Typically I'll be super good about food for two weeks before a vacation, then two weeks after. Instead, I batted for the fences and enjoy all the drinks and all the food I could, and worked out rarely during that week because I also fell the first day and scraped my knee open so significantly I couldn't get in the water.

2. Moved cross country ... twice. So that was fun. Moving is really stressful, and took far more energy, effort and attention that I ever thought possible.
When they say they unpack your stuff, this is what they really mean
3. Lived out of a suitcase for six weeks. No kitchen, no control. Lots of stretchy clothes.
A new take on minimalism
4. Trained for an Ironman. And when you work out twice a day and all day every weekend, you can eat anything, right? (Answer: nope).
Weight gain is hard to hide in a wetsuit
5. Got lazy with what I was eating. I like carbs a lot. And chocolate. And froyo. I also ate my feelings more than once ... I distinctly remember sitting on my kitchen counter eating peanut butter with a spoon and crying. I'm not the only person who's ever done that.

6. Got stressed at work. It wouldn't be called work if it wasn't work, right? This spring, I was super diligent about pre-work training sessions and running at lunch. Now, not so much. I really wish that working my ass off meant I really was removing portions of my ass in the process.
7. Stopped weighing myself. I knew I couldn't handle the truth, but I wish I had stopped at five or 10 pounds rather than letting this go on and on.
8. Discovered beer. And not just any beer - really great, amazing craft beer. Which is not low calorie.
9. Went out. A lot. I'm not about to order a salad on a date, so that did not help my cause at all.
So, honest moment over, time to move on. Time to get back to black.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Strategizing for my First Friendsgiving

New me, new traditions. This year, I'm hosting a Thanksgiving friendsgiving for six to eight people and am already deep into the planning stages. I do this because I enjoy it, and when I plan in advance, it's not much more work than making our Sunday family dinner that we've settled into over time.  I'll be using three crock pots and disposable cookware so I can enjoy the holiday rather than stress and sweat and clean and muss.

1. The turkey is purchased. A grocery store near here offers turkeys for $.69 per pound if you make a separate purchase of $30 ... before coupons. Time to cash in all those coupons for free stuff! So I bought an 18-pound bird because I LOVE leftover turkey.

2. I'm going to try spatchcocking my turkey this year. It seems legit - crispy skin, moist meat and less time in the oven.

3. Additionally, I'm going to brine my turkey in a cooler on my porch for 24 hours. It's cold enough here the meat will be fine, and it frees up room in the kitchen. So tomorrow, I'll unwrapped the thawed turkey, remove all the nasty parts and get it in the brine in an oven bag to reduce any mess or cross contamination concerns. Monday night, I'll remove it from the brine, then butcher it and salt the skin. The whole thing will go in the fridge until Thursday morning so the skin can dry out.

3. My sisters are each bringing a pie, which frees up the oven.

4. I'm going to chop veggies, make the brussel sprout salad with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and brown the sausage for the dressing and set the table Wednesday night.

5. Thursday morning, I'll start the mashed potatoes in one crock pot and the stuffing in another before heading out to run a half marathon. A girl's gotta run to eat. I'm using crock pot liners to keep the mess down.

6. When I get back, I'll start the cranberry sauce in my small crock pot, then get cleaned up.

7. We're having dinner at four, so I will likely nap and relax until 1, then get the turkey in the oven (in a disposable pan for clean up) and wrap up the rolls.

8. I want the turkey to come out of the oven by 3:30, then put the rolls and pies in the oven to warm. I'll mash the potatoes at this point, too.

9. Pour myself a glass of wine and carve the turkey at the very last minute.

10. I'm going to set up a buffet style serve-yourself deal on the kitchen pass through window so everyone can get what they want and the crock pots stay warm. I also have a warming tray, which I'll set the turkey and rolls on to stay warm.

11. Eat, drink, enjoy pie and get to bed to head out early for Miss Alyssa's big day! I'm going to miss my traditional Black Friday Waterfall Glen loop, but I can't wait to see my Ironman mate to say I do.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

6 Reasons to Sign up for the Circular Logic Marathon

And no, they did not pay me to write this. I've already paid my way for the Circular Logic Marathon at the end of March. I've told so many people about this race and encouraged them to sign up that I figured I should collate all my responses in a single place. Yes, it's a marathon consisting of 26 one-mile loops. And yeah, it was cold last year. But, the benefits of this race have me convinced it's worth going for a repeat.

1. It's cheap. I've run 5Ks before that are more than the $45 registration fee for this marathon. You really can't beat the value (for reference, the Chicago Marathon is like $185. Ironman is $700).
2. It's easy to get to. West Lafayette, Ind., is two hours from Chicago. If you didn't want to stay the night before, you could get up at about the same time as you'd have to get up for a city marathon and still get there in time.
3. It's flat. It's a circle with absolutely no incline. It's also a Boston Qualifier, if you're into that sort of thing.
4. Great swag. Last year's shirt was personalized with all the attendees names (the same name shirt on the Ironman website costs about the same as registration for this race). The medal is really cute, and I hear this year will include a custom ribbon, and repeat racers get a little charm on their medals. Also, you get to choose your bib number and you get two custom bibs, one for your front and one for your back. Or one for your desk and one for your medal collection later.

5. It's green. There's no bulky race packet full of crap you'll never use. They even recycle the envelopes your bib comes in and forego cups and crap at the aid station. This means you bring your own bottles with your own special potion and volunteers will refill them.
6. You can split it up. This is the easiest relay ever. If you want to run a half and have three friends who aren't quite there yet, you can split up all the miles in the way you wish. I even saw a kids' track team  running laps as they could to finish the race. It was adorable, and made me think anyone could tackle this race.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Three Things Thursday

1. I had my first bout with insomnia since I returned to Chicago. It was the most productive night ever. I, in order, filed a report for work, did research, put up my medals, cleaned the stove, emptied the dishwasher, scrubbed my crock pot and took my dog out. At 3 a.m. Napoleon was very confused. Here's hoping for a less productive night tonight.
At least someone looks crazier than me at 2 a.m.
2. In my cleaning craze I was putting away keepsakes and filing papers and found this gem. It turns out I was always the life of the party, even at 7.
3. Napoleon also got his first Klout Perk! He received a box of breakfast treats from Hill's Science nutrition, and he's pretty thrilled about it. Well, mostly that all his blogging work/medal modeling is finally paying off.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Yelp Elite Party at Peet's Coffee and Tea in Wheaton

Sweet samples
Eggnog blended ice drink thingy
There's nothing quite like downing 482 samples of coffee right before bedtime. After this party, I went grocery shopping, watched TV, put away laundry and organized my closet. I was a buzzed, productive little hot mess.

Anyhow, I scored an invite to the Yelp Elite event at Peet's Coffee and made my way to Wheaton in order to fulfill all my caffeinated dreams. The store was shut down for the shin dig, which featured samples, demos and a photo booth.

First off, employees were all over the sample game, hooking us up with tiny tastes of the sea salt caramel mocha and eggnog blended coffee drink. The samples just kept coming - cowboy cookies and brownies and sandwiches and cheese. I actually ordered myself a full sandwich because I skipped dinner - the turkey flatbread sandwich was pretty tasty, and helped soak up at least some of the coffee I was consuming.

Show me the ways to delicious coffees please
This party was all about learning about coffee, though, including the finer points of bean selection, grading, roasting and brewing. What Peet's wants to be known for is quality above all else - they want the flavors of their coffees to speak for themselves. The people here are passionate about the perfect cup of joe, providing samples of all their beans and sending us home with care packages and enough samples to keep me moderately caffeinated for the balance of 2014.

Pssssst: Follow me on Yelp or learn more about how to get invited to Yelp parties.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Three Things Thursday

1. I had a birthday party a week ago for my long-past 30th. I was traveling for my actual birthday, so I missed it entirely. This very subtle M-dot sweatshirt was a generous gift from college roommate and GFBF Alissa. I do love purple lots, and strive to own a wardrobe packed with Ironman gear.

2. I completed the Cabot Legacy Virtual Race and they sent me a super cute medal. Napoleon dearly misses being my medal model, even if you can't really tell ... 

3. I need to find the time to sit down and write about my second-annual sister retreat. Mandy and I went to Seattle and Portland last year, and this year, we went to Phoenix and Sedona. I'll get around to it this weekend, because it really was an adventure, complete with beauty

and mishaps.
Stay tuned .... 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Cooking with Kelly: Light Crock Pot Peanut Thai Chicken Recipe

Crock pots are electrically powered magical devices. So little work, so much reward. This Light Peanut Thai Chicken Recipe was a recent experiment that went so well I plan to repeat it again and again. Because the crock pot does all the work, I find it faster than carry out. When I came home, the house smelled delicious and with the help of instant brown rice, I was ready to eat in five minutes. It's my kind of meal.

Another bonus feature of this meal is its versatility. The first night, I had the shredded chicken over rice with cilantro and crushed peanuts. The next day, I wrapped the chicken in a flatout wrap with lettuce and hot sauce for a fast lunch, and then followed that up with lettuce wraps for a side dish with dinner the next night.

A word on the peanut sauce: I love, love natural peanut butter, but regular peanut butter works just the same in this context because it's cooked. I tried to use up the last of some peanut butter I had hanging around and it worked out just fine. I only wish I made a touch more to use as dipping sauce for the lettuce wraps.

Light Crock Pot Peanut Thai Chicken Recipe

4 chicken breasts (frozen is fine)
1 red pepper chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
1/2 cup peanut butter
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 cup broth (vegetable or chicken, it's all the same here)
1/4 cup light soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 Tablespoon sriracha
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Lime wedges
Chopped cilantro
chopped peanuts

Place the chicken in a single layer on the bottom of your crock pot, then cover with the chopped peppers and onions. Mix together the peanut butter, lime juice, broth, soy sauce, cumin, sriracha cilantro, then pour over the remaining ingredients. Cook on low for eight hours, then shred the chicken and serve over rice with chopped peanuts, cilantro and a spritz of fresh lime juice.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Suddenly Single: New Me Manifesto

New me
I've danced around what's going on and flat out dodged it by not updating my blog at.all. I don't like it. I've never been exactly transparent but it's time to come clean and face this all with a little bit of grace.

I'm divorced.

I'm not about to get ashamed. Despite the fact that the majority of marriages end, we don't ever talk about it. I refuse to accept this as part of my identity. It's something that happened that was unpleasant but is over.

So moving on, it's time to recalibrate. Heal. Focus on me and what I want. We all get so caught up in setting resolutions at the beginning of the year. How about resolutions for the beginning of a new me. I've thought long and hard about what I'm going to need to do to be happy move forward, and here are the things I want to change about me and my life.

1. Lose the divorce weight. I haven't weighed myself for months but I know I wouldn't be happy with the results. I want to go back to Weight Watchers and drop the 20ish pounds I packed on through this process.
2. Appreciate me. Even at my thinnest, I didn't like the way I look. At 30, I'm sick of being that person.

3. Be closer with my family. I now live within miles of both my sisters. My mom always told us that once they're gone, we're all each other has. They've helped me immensely through this unimaginably rough period and I want to ensure that continues.
Sisters do silly things together
4. Blog more. Through the darkest days of this I had nothing to write. My life was one big churn of change and decisions, but nothing I wanted to share. I'm re-emerging and ready to share again.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Granite City Brewery Opening in Naperville

 I snagged an invite this week to a really fun event - Granite City Brewery is opened in Naperville this weekend and hosted a number of events to show the community what they have to offer and get their staff battle ready for dealing with huge crowds.  I rolled in Monday both thirsty and hungry, so it was a great combo.

First off, this place is a great space - there's a gigantic custom bar, lots of cozy booths and a covered outdoor area with a generously sized fireplace. So of course, my first stop was the bar. They had several friendly waiters making the rounds with samples, which I tried all of. Research people, research.  Of course, as a dark beer, fan, I quickly snapped up with porter and got myself some snackies. The pretzels at this place are amazing, as is the ahi tuna bite with wasabi avocado sauce and the scallop shooter. I'm not a big meatloaf fan, but word on the street was this was pretty good.

In addition to the bar's signature homebrews, there was a selection of local guest taps and their favorite house cocktails, including the perfect patron margarita and the flying monkey (pink drink, yes please).

After enjoying a few beverages, you'd better believe I hit the mini desserts. The best by far was this smores dessert that was a dark chocolate pudding with toasted marshmallow fluff on top and graham crackers on the side. Swoon.

The place was packed!
So if you're in Naperville this weekend, check it out. My favorite food was the pretzel appetizer, the stout was delicious and the flying monkey cocktail was top notch. Go get it!