Kelly the Culinarian: October 2014

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween 2014!

It's a pretty quiet night around here. Just celebrating with some of my favorite treats:
Thanks, Cabot! 
My favorite puppy:
Donning my Cabot Legacy medal
And contemplating why the village of Addison things this is a good idea for a display. It gives me nightmares just to see it.
In the village rotunda. Wut?
How are you celebrating Halloween?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Three Things Thursday

1. First thing's first: I'm the realest. Second, I'm back to Mahoney as of today. I'm choosing to think of this as the beginning of Kelly 3.0 rather than the end of an era. Moving on ...
2. My birthday was Sunday and our office went out to celebrate today. My birthday treat included an entire plastic pumpkin full of these guys. My coworkers know the path to my heart is paved in peanut butter and chocolate.
I don't want to share
3. Napoleon had to get his shots yesterday and it was heartbreaking. Because he's so little, they give him benadryl first, then he acts all high and sad and sleepy after. It's so pathetic, but it's for his own good, right?
All those needles aren't for me, right?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Win it Wednesday: Slim Lizzy's Prize Pack Giveaway

When I was at Go Blog Social Chicago, I was fortunate enough to hook up with the reps from Slim Lizzy's, a low-cal cocktail option that's damn tasty, too.  The product's hook is pretty simple - they produce pre-mixed canned or bottled cocktails that are low in calories, malt free, gluten-free and guilt-free, and are a great base for mixing. I like these cocktails because they're wine based and sugar free, which is nice, plus the company is based just down the street in Westmont. Yay for supporting a local company!
They had a table in the back and served up samples, and also sent me home with two bottles to try. While the product was free, my opinions can't be bought.

They served up a cucumber cranberry gimlet at the shin dig that was so tasty I made it again at home. Admittedly, I'm not a huge fan of gin. I always thought of it as something Santa might drink because of all that pinesol flavor. I've always been one to order vodka gimlets, but the herbal notes of the gin really play off the cucumber and cranberry, so I was game. And look how classy these turn out, too:

As I wrote about in my 30 lessons in 30 years post, you need a drink. A cocktail you order everywhere. Time to start experimenting and deciding if this will be your one and only. If you want to be a classy chick with a signature drink, Slim Lizzy's is ready to hook it up. They want to give one of my lucky readers a prize pack that includes two cans of each flavors, a glass, cuzzi, coasters and a key chain. Plus, you can check out all sorts of Slim Lizzy's recipes online and get down to the very serious business of creating your own signature cocktail.

Rafflecopter will pick a random winner in a week, so good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

30 Lessons in my First 30 Years

I like lattes, stout beer,
sparkling white wine
and long islands
My birthday was a bit of a blur this year between working and recovering and trying to get back from LA to Chicago. At this age, I'm supposed to have acquired life lessons or wisdom or something. Most days I'm still pretending to be an adult and hoping no one notices. I have gleaned some insights from my own stories of triumph and heartache.
  1. Find a coffee, beer, wine and cocktail you like that's uniquely you and you can order most places so when someone wants to buy you a drink, you know what you want.
  2. Let people buy you drinks.
  3. Just because someone buys you a drink doesn't mean you're obligated to talk to them any more than saying thank you.
  4. Get comfortable with saying no. Listen to your inner voice and know that it may be painful today, but it's worse to have regrets tomorrow.
  5. Saying yes today doesn't preclude you from saying no tomorrow.
  6. If your job makes you cry, find a new one. While it may feel exponentially longer when at a job you hate, life is short. Too short to be humiliated, belittled or scapegoated. Related: Career Advice for my Sister
  7. Working Kelly works
  8. Get the absolute best education you can. It will always pay you back. It doesn't matter what you get it in, an advanced degree is buying you contacts and choices for the rest of your life.
  9. Think of yourself as a brand. How do you want people to remember you? That is the reputation you craft.
  10. Learn how to make one dish very well. You only need one signature dish (mine is chocolate chip cookies), but if you're ambitious, craft yourself one killer dinner and one dessert that can travel, and you're set for life. It will actually become part of your brand, too.
  11. Save. Save now, save as much as you can. Money doesn't buy you happiness. It buys you choices.
  12. Take your very first paycheck and put it in the bank. This is your "go to hell fund." It's much easier to go to work knowing you could grab your purse and go home if it gets too much.
  13. Never leave anything on your desk you wouldn't be OK with never seeing again, or having everyone on planet earth seeing.
  14. Social media lasts forever. Be careful out there, kids.
  15. Online dating is creepy but kind of exhilarating. Use at your own risk.
  16. Chapstick is always lost before empty.
  17. You don't have to have kids, ever. Don't let anyone tell you differently.
  18. Throw out your title at work. Your number one job is to make your boss look good. You make yourself indispensable by solving your boss's problems.
  19. Your clients, coworkers and supervisors are not your friends. Guard what you share.
  20. Your family will always be there. You may annoy each other, you will fight. You will always love.
  21. Spend money on the things you will enjoy and savor. I will sleep on my mattress for the next decade, but the shoes I bought this week will last a few months and the dress I'll wear tonight will collect dust tomorrow.
  22. Travel. Go to new places often. It's the only thing you buy that makes you richer. Even the cheapest vacations give you better stories to tell at parties than that time you bought a really big TV or a very nice car.  
  23. Everything in life is negotiable. Learn theses skills early and use them often.
  24. Every choice you make is subject to judgment and gossip by small-minded people. Pick the choice that makes you happy, because some days, that's the only person who you can please.
  25. All anyone wants is to feel good about themselves. How you make friends and win business is listening to a person, affirming their goals and your interest in helping them with it. That's it. That's the secret.
  26. Take the toiletries in your hotel room, they just get thrown away anyhow.
  27. Don't compromise who you are for a job or another person. If you want to wear red lipstick and a dress, don't stop doing it because your department wears pants. 
  28. Business travel sounds awesome. It is not. Sign up for rewards points, carry all the chargers you can, pack snacks and wear comfortable shoes. A Holiday Inn in LA looks the same as one in Youngstown, Pennsylvania, so don't expect the Ritz on a business budget.
  29. Take lots of pictures of the mundane and the daily. Those are the memories you'll want.
    My mundane little life is pretty awesome
  30. It is easier to maintain something than to rebuild it, and anything worth having requires maintenance - relationships, your health, your home, pets. Learn what it takes to keep these things moving forward and do them regularly.
  31. ALDI is where it's at.
What do you wish you knew at 30?

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Thoughts on the Final Day of my 20s

Tomorrow I turn 30. Thirty. Three oh. Three decades. One third(ish) of my life is behind me.
I'm running around like a crazy person on a mission for work, but I wanted to make sure I marked this moment. This is more for me than you, dear reader, so bear with me.

My 20s were incredible. I finished college and graduate school, got my first job and then several more, bought a house, got married, adopted a dog and traveled the world.

I discovered running.

I discovered I was a badass.

I found an iron core.

I became IronBitch.

I finished my first marathon, then went on to chip away at my marathon time, time and time again.

I also moved cross country ... twice.

I've loved, I've lost, I've gained, I've won, I've learned and I've grown.

Not all change is good, and it's never easy.

Tomorrow, I shall quietly fly back home and ease into bed, spending the afternoon napping and cuddling with my puppy.

Next weekend, I'm celebrating with my friends and reinventing myself. It's time for Kelly 3.0.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Race Recap: 2014 Grand Rapids Half Marathon

Six word recap: A new PR, by a hair.
I got the opportunity to run the Grand Rapids Half Marathon this weekend, and thought, what the hell. My new philosophy to running and racing is if it's free, it's for me.

I rolled into Grand Rapids Saturday after, er, carbloading? BTW, Bell's is awesome, if you're curious. This lovely assortment cost me all of $15, so it was money well-spent. Sweet potato stout? Yes, please.

But this isn't a what I drank recap, so moving on. The expo was small, but respectable, and I picked up a caramel macchiato Gu and did some light shopping but didn't buy anything. Except this. Not sorry.

Anyhow, the race morning was a little stressful. The whole run club carpooled there and I was having a hell of a time manuvering the truck through a parking deck. But, parking was free. Bathrooms at the start were not plentiful so I kind of decided, meh, what will be will be.

I was freezing at the start - it was 34 degrees and I didn't bring throw aways. I found some mittens in my truck, and I wore a zip up I planned to sleep in. I lined up with the George W. Bush pace group - the paces were based on the finish times of various celebrities, and GW ran a 3:44 marathon once. Once the gun went off, I settled in fairly easily. I kept telling myself I ran a half almost every weekend this year, time to buck up and put your head down.

Except chafing is strange. I never used to chafe. But evidently I need new sports bras because for the second week in a row, my rib cage is chafed raw. Attractive, right?

Anyhow, I just cruised along until the marathon/half split right before nine, and that's when things got dicey for me. I dropped my caramel macchiato Gu and had to take what was on the course, which was mocha. It used to be my favorite until it caused my stomach to turn inside out two years ago, but I had no choice. I sipped and hoped for the best.

A word about this course: It's hilly. It's lonely. It's empty. In short, after the Chicago Marathon last weekend, this was a little disappointing.

Forgot to stop my watch
I won't lie, the last two miles were surprisingly tough. I just kept trying to catch this woman in a neon green shirt in front of me. When I crossed the finish line I was quite confused. The clock said 1:51, but I knew I started a ways back so it might have been a PR. Then I found out the computer broke and I technically had a DNF for a while. Womp womp.

After finally getting my time of 1:50:04, I was really psyched and celebrated with some of the best post-race snackies I've ever seen. They had Muscle Milk, water, gatorade, chips, bananas, honeycrisp apples, oranges, bagels, string cheese, yogurt and ice cream. Culver's ice cream!

But that's not all. The beer tent at this place was something to behold. It was sponsored by New Holland Brewery, which I frequented when I did a consulting project there in grad school. It was a deliciously carbed up buffer of beverages that I enjoyed immensely.

Time: 1:50:04 for a half marathon
Pros: Amazing post-race accommodations, funny pace teams, Grand Rapids is a fun town if you don't have to run
Cons: Course is boring, support is sparse, it's surprisingly hilly, expensive
Would I do this race again? I don't think so. Too many other runs to try.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Saturday Sound Off

It's been another devastatingly busy week. Like I have done nothing meal prep wise, my laundry is half started and Napoleon went to to groomer for the first time in an embarrassingly long time. So here are a few musings from this week in the trenches.

1.I got this awesome prize pack from the Klout perk program celebrating free trade products. So far, Dang foods is the clear winner. So so tasty. I would like more coconut chips please.
 2. I am a sucker for cute-looking lattes. Make me a picture in my coffee and I am 100 percent in all the time, no questions asked.

3. I am leaving for a conference for work on Wednesday. I have zero items packed because nothing fits. Womp womp.
4. My dog is so lazy he does not even emerge from bed to drink. I want his life.
5. I stopped at Bell's today and it was amazing. Drink the sweet potato stout and send you regards my way anytime.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Win it Wednesday: Amazing Cheese Jackpot from Cabot

(yes I know it's Thursday ....)

Cabot and I happen to be BCF (best cheesy friends). I'm presently gearing up to tackle my 13.1-mile portion of the Cabot Legacy Virtual Race to benefit food banks across America. In the meantime, my BCF provided me with a very tasty prize to raffle off on this little corner of the Internet. Behold, cheese nirvana!
The prize pack includes some of my favorite Cabot products: Seriously Sharp Cheddar and White Oak Cheddar. I tasted these when I was in Vermont with #CabotFit for the Vermont City Marathon, and if you haven't had these, you're missing out. I like the Seriously Sharp on chili and the white oak on my sammiches.

The Legacy collection and the Cabot Legacy Virtual Race both celebrate 95 years *running*. Registration for the race is just $25 and includes a super awesome medal that I can't wait to hang up on my wall.

But, running is not required to win. One lucky reader will receive all this cheesy goodness. I'll leave the contest open for one week, so enter early and often. May the odds be ever in your favor!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Training Tuesday: So, what's next?

After an Ironman closely followed by a secret marathon, I get a lot of funny looks, side eyes and concerned comments.

"Won't that destroy your knees?"

"Aren't you tired?"

"Is this how you're coping with your .... 'situation'?"

"Oh honey, there's more to life than running."

"Well, good for you [eye roll]."

"You're a machine!"

(All real, recent conversations)

The truth is, I really enjoy running. A lot. I've written before about all the things I get out of running, which has never been more true than at this juncture in my life.

But now that I'm all healed up from Ironman Wisconsin, what does one do after that? There are many options: improve my 5K time enough to place in a circuit, focus on improving my swim stroke with master's swim classes, qualify for the Boston Marathon, complete a few more century rides, tackle my long-standing official half marathon PR, run back-to-back marathons, travel somewhere exotic for a race, do another Ironman ....

Sigh. Choices are hard. But being an adult is even harder, because there's this little factor of money to consider. Races aren't cheap, triathlons even less so, and Ironmans? Well, there's a reason why people joke it's the sport of the 1 percent.

So here, my dear readers, is what's next after an Ironman:

I want to PR my next marathon. Specifically, I want to run a 3:40 next spring at Circular Logic.

Big, bold goal. But I'm officially a badass so it's time to keep not settling. Plus, I need redemption against a run that broke my spirit and busted up my stomach.
So here's to the next pursuit. To the early mornings, to the meal prep, to the laundry, to the speedwork, to the pain, to the triumph.

Here's to being proud but never satisfied. Join me for the next chapter.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Motivation Monday: Sometimes You Just Do Things

If you've ever read ultrarunner extraordinaire Scott Jurek's "Eat and Run," one of the concepts he ruminates on extensively is "sometimes you just do things." This resonates with me today mostly because I donned a bib signed by him this weekend and did some things.

I'm not blogging about the marathon. This was for me. Not for the blog and certainly not for time. This was for the experience, for the personal triumph and for the champagne, naturally.
Because sometimes, you just do things.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Lessons from #GBSxChi, a Pop Up by Go Blog Social

Today was a pretty amazing day - I spent the whole day hanging out with inspiring bloggers throughout the midwest at Go Blog Social's pop up session in Chicago. #GBSxChi was hosted at Workshop, a beautiful coworking space that made me want to pinterest the whole thing and recreate it at home. Far more to come on the swag, decor and bites another day, but I wanted to get down the educational highlights from today while it was still fresh in my mind. There was truly so much to learn from the presenters on everything from how to balance blogging and life to working with brands and affiliate marketing. Here were the big take aways from each presenter:

Martiza/Beauty4Bloggers: Putting Your Best Face Forward

  • Be camera ready but not made up

Allison Ray/Sassy Moms in the City: Working with Brands

  • Be true to your voice and passion
  • Walk away from opportunities not in your wheelhouse
  • Your About Me page has to have an e-mail address and social icons above the fold
  • Know your worth. You bring value to the table.
  • Constantly, actively create your own opportunities
  • Your first question when a brand contacts you should be, Is there a budget for this campaign?
  • Introduce yourself as the founder and editor of your blog when you go to conferences

Helena Swyter/Sweeter CPA: Taxes for Bloggers

  • Track everything
  • The best book keeping is what you do now
  • Bloggers have to file self-employment taxes for more than $400 in income or $600 in product
  • Save 25 percent of your income for taxes

Brian Littleton/ Working with Affiliate Marketing

  • Affiliate marketing maintains relevancy in your blog
  • Think away from the sidebar ads - it's the difference between product placements in movies and billboards
  •,, will cover the majority of affiliate marketing opportunities
  • You can supplement your income with deals
  • Free shipping makes deals attractive
  • A blog should drive newsletter subscriptions (uh-oh) - change the subject lines every time
  • Commission rates are negotiable, if you have data that makes you stand out

Farissa Knox/ How to be #BossPeriod

  • The boss doesn't know everything, and is constantly learning and investing in the future
  • Irrelevant jobs still teach valuable lessons
  • Be the nicest version of yourself for clients and customers
  • Pay attention to details, it makes a difference!
  • Being a boss isn't about how people view you, it's about continuous improvement. There is no finish line
  • Don't ever get comfortable. Grow. Evolve. Become your next best version.
  • There's no such thing as over communicating honestly with clients
  • Separate work you from home you - cell phone goes away when you come home
  • Don't ask employees/clients/whoever to do things you wouldn't

Cait Weingartner/ Balancing Blogging

  • Blogs are no longer journals, they are brands and businesses
  • At the end of the day, there are no secrets that remove the work aspect - you still have to get shit done
  • Have a point of view/mission statement/elevator pitch - it's what makes you different and keeps you true to yourself
  • Write your goals every year on a post it - what did I check off, what didn't I and why?
  • Define your mandatories and say no when it doesn't align
  • Focus on your awesome - the things that work best for you, you love the most and provides the greatest result
  • Create an editorial calendar to align with your vision and goals
  • Know when to hire a photographer - she shoots once a month four outfits

Danielle Moss/

  • Don't over share
  • Your blog likely won't be a full-time gig, so it should be a passion
  • Haters are part of the shin dig

Friday, October 10, 2014

Cooking with Kelly: Crock Pot Pumpkin Quinoa Chili Recipe

I do not like being cold. It's one of the worst sensations on planet earth in my opinion. The only redeeming factor about the fact that it's getting a little bit colder every morning when I take out the dog is that I am highly motivated to make hot, filling meals like stews, soups and most of all, chili. I make a lot of chili in the crock pot (see: Crock pot vegetarian chili and vegan quinoa and sweet potato chili) but as a self-professed

Crock Pot Pumpkin Quinoa Chili Recipe

1 small pumpkin (look for pie pumpkins)
1 onion, chopped
3 gloves diced garlic
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can black beans
1 can pinto beans
1 can white beans
1 can tomato paste
1 small can mushrooms
1 can of sweet corn
1 cup rinsed quinoa
16 ounces stock (I used chicken)
2 chicken breasts, chopped
1 tablespoon sriracha sauce
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
2 tablespoons cumin
2 tablespoons chili powder
Cilantro, cheese and chopped onion for topping

Crock pot recipes are so easy. Dissecting the pumpkin was a hardest part, and made me feel like Dexter. The easiest method is to treat it like a melon - cut off the top and bottom and cut it in half, then remove (and save!) the seeds. Remove the skin with a vegetable peeler. I steamed and smashed half of it to add creaminess, but that's your call.

I do, however, recommend draining and rinsing the beans, corn and mushrooms to remove excess sodium. Then everything goes in the pot on low for eight hours. Taste it when you get home, add more spice, salt or liquid based on your preferences, then let it cook another half an hour together and serve.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Three Things Thursday

1. Whenever I'm feeling sad or doubting myself or my abilities, I stop being sad and start getting awesome. Specifically, I go for a run in my Ironman Wisconsin finishers shirt and remember that I'm a badass. It helps. Running is my go-to cure all for everything that ails me these days.

2. It's October. I don't have my Halloween stuff out. I have a Christmas tree. It's white. I can explain! It was on sale for $39 and I thought for that price, if the trend doesn't resonate with me next year, what the hell. And the white tree with the blue lights is going to look damn fine in my girly living room. I only set it up to make sure I didn't hate it, it's not in my living room presently.
3. I had to get Napoleon a new collar, and since dogs are color blind and all, I got my favorite color. I also sprung for a nice one with his name embroidered on it and my phone number so he's not making that little jingle all night long as he wanders the house solving the world's problems and patrolling for nefarious squirrels. He seems unimpressed by the gesture.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Parmigiano Reggiano Academy at Eataly

Sometimes blogging opens doors to amazing experiences that I never even knew existed. I was invited to this awesome event at Eataly (like IKEA for Italian food) and eagerly counted the days until all my cheese-filled dreams came true. From the invite:

 Join us Parmigiano Reggiano Academy, an innovative sensory analysis course. Discover the differences aging makes and gain expertise in this guided cheese tasting experience.

Pair that with drinks and appetizers and someone out there knows the most direct route to my cold, cold heart. Eataly is already one of my favorite places on planet earth (if only I had more time, patience and money to enjoy all the aspects of this heavenly establishment), so I was happy to enjoy a little R&R with some of my favorite bloggers.

When I rolled in, the bar was already slinging carefully selected beverages designed to enhance and complement the delicate flavors of the cheese and appetizers we were set to sample. Being a dedicated beer geek, I took one for the team and passed on the wine in lieu of the porter. Yes, please ....

I then took a seat at the cheese academy, where skilled connoisseurs walked us through what we should look for when tasting cheese, such as smell, texture, melt-ability, crystallization and of course, flavor. It was really interesting to note all the subtle differences between 14-, 24- and 36-month aged cheese. I personally preferred the 24-month cheese, but one of the lessons I learned is that if you want to melt cheese over something hot, you're best to use older cheese to avoid that gummy nastiness in the bottom of your bowl. The second lesson from this journey in deliciousness was that Parmigiano is meant to be cut with an almond-shaped knife. Instead of chopping it into little squares, it should be broken into free-form rocks of buttery tastiness to best enjoy the complexity of the flavors. I learn something new everyday.

Then, it was onto more yummies in the form of appetizers and bites hand-crafted by the chef at Eataly to showcase the diverse flavor profiles of the cheese. I loved, loved the savory grilled figs, along with a pesto-topped grilled pear. I need to host some kind of event to use these recipes in my home. Step one: find time to clean my house enough to have a party ...

All of this learning was part of a bigger program to bring cheese education to the masses. The organization that put on #PRAcademy sent us home with kits to have our own at-home cheese tasting experience, and does the same for cheese purveyors throughout the country. This is all leading up to the Parmigiano Reggiano Night on Oct. 25. It's a movement to get people to pay attention to one another over a meal, rather than watching television and checking Twitter whilst shoveling food into their faces (guilty).

Five super famous chefs are chipping in, and if you use the Facebook app and share photos from your dinner, you'll receive a gift for your efforts. I hope it's cheese.