Kelly the Culinarian: January 2015

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Three Things Thursday

1.   1.    I don’t know if it’s the running on snow or the increase in mileage, but my calf is killing me. It’s super sore and tight, so I’m taking a rest day. And wearing calf sleeves under my tights.
So saucy
1.    2.   I’m going to do a little home improvement and upgrade my kitchen counters to granite. There are so many options and it’s hard to tell what’s worth it and where I should buy from. It’s all basically in the same ballpark of prices, so I’m overwhelmed by choice.

 3. 1.       I got this new running jacket and am looking forward to trying it out. The whole jacket is reflect, and there’s an LED light integrated into the shoulder. Then this blinky tab on the front. If I get hit by a car now, it wasn’t for lack of trying to be visible.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

"It's Either Fast or Fun"

On the way to the F^3 Half Marathon Saturday, run club buddy Keith shared some valuable advice that I wanted to share (and document so I don’t forget it).

Something you should know about Keith: He’s run 57 marathons, and while his fastest was 3:30, he’ll regularly run marathons back to back and come in within seconds of his standard time. The guy runs. A lot. Consistently.

On the way to the race, we were raw nerves. Even after dozens of races, something about the ritual of getting up early and traveling to run concurrently with a bunch of strangers keys me up. Keith’s sage advice was this:

For some it was fast, for some it was fun, for all, there was beer
“There are fun races and there are fast races. But don’t decide a week or a month or even now which one it will be. Decide after the first mile, will this be fun or will this be fast? There’s always going to be another race. You’ll race better if you set out without expectations and see what happens.”

And that, friends, might have been the best race day strategy pep talk I’ve ever heard. It rings true with all my experiences – a mile six of Circular Logic last year, I knew I was toast. Despite all my preparation, it wasn’t going to happen. Then six weeks later at the Vermont City Marathon, I knew by mile two it was happening. I felt strong and started pulling away from my pace group.

How soon do you know if it’s going to be a fast or a fun day?

Monday, January 26, 2015

Race Report: 2015 F^3 Half Marathon

Six-word recap: A lovely weekend run, with medals.

I won a race entry to the sixth-annual F^3 Half Marathon from Emily. I had thought about doing this race last year because it fits in so well with my training for Circular Logic. Alas, the weather is really unpredictable this time of year and I didn't want to commit.  Who would have known it would be 40 degrees and sunny on Saturday? It was really an ideal day, but I just couldn't pull it together for a PR.

I carpooled with the run club, so I rolled out of the house at 7:15 to meet up and drive in. We decided to split parking at Soldier Field and it was the best possible call. We parked steps from the United Club, walked in and that was it - $22 well-spent, especially when split five ways.

There were indoor restrooms that we all used, as well as gear check that we declined and left items with our colleagues instead (thanks Erika!). The race is in its sixth year and they have it down to a science - runners warm up indoors and then all walk out to the start line together at the last possible second. The start line was rather congested, but once we all got into the chute, it moved along.

The first two miles were not fun for me. I don't know if anything was wrong as much as I was just not feeling it. After three miles, I started to settle in and rebound. I actually really enjoyed the course. Runners go north from Soldier Field, then south past Burnham Harbor towards the South Shore Cultural Center, then loop back. I liked this because with the turn around, you see everyone who's racing. I saw a ton of familiar faces, which was a nice distraction as I was running alone without music. I don't know what I was thinking with the music thing, but it was a hectic morning.

I took a gel at eight, and somewhere around the nine-mile mark my left calf started to bother me. It felt really tight and sore, and I stopped at one point to stretch it out. It's still sore today, and I'm guessing it's from running on snow and ice.

I crossed the finish line in 1:54:02, so it's three or four minutes slower than my PR. I'm a little disappointed since conditions were perfect, but hey, they can't all be diamonds. It was a free race for me, after all.

In the finisher's chute, there was hot cocoa, water, organic protein drink and KIND bars. I found my group and we cheered on our remaining runners, then headed inside. I took advantage of the indoor restrooms and changed into warm clothes, then snagged my free beer.

The medals were these fantastic fully colored bottle openers on a ribbon that featured the Chicago skyline. I liked that instead of another shirt, runners got a nice hat and running gloves in a little nylon drawstring bag.

In all, I thought this was a well-coordinated race that had a nice course and good swag. I don't know if I would pay $70 to run on the Lakefront Path, and I'm not sure how I'd feel about this race if it was -30 instead of 40 degrees. Any way you slice it, I had a great day and it was fun, even if I wasn't fast.

Cost: $70, free for me
Time: 1:54:02
Pros: Nice course, great swag, lovely medal, all the festivities were indoors
Cons: It's expensive for a half, and the weather is unpredictable

Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday Favorites: A Helpful Mishmash of Stuff

I've had this task filled with interesting things to share all week, but no real way to tie it together in a manner a journalist should. But, time's a wasting, so a list shall have to do.

1. I'm running the F^3 Half Marathon tomorrow and it's going to be 41 degrees outside. That's practically perfect. We'll see what I can pull together tomorrow.
Almost exactly one year ago at the
S-no-w Fun 5 Miler

2. Cyclists, please note, the Pearl Izumi Factory Store in South Barrington is closing on Jan. 26. I made the trek out there this week and looked around. I'm ambivalent. It's 50 percent off the regular price, so it's not that stellar, but bike stuff is pricey any way you slice it. I got a pair of nice padded shorts for $30, but that's not write your grandma great.
This came from there last year

3. I enjoy very fine beers on occasion. I'm a beer snob who enjoy hunting rare, delicious and otherwise snooty beers perhaps even more than drinking them. If you're like me, bookmark this 2015 craft beer schedule page immediately. It has charts for tons of the popular craft beer places showing what's available when. If you ever find yourself trying to buy my favor, I drink porters and stouts and enjoy a hoppy, fresh IPA.
Like this one. Nom.

4. This might be my favorite sports clip, ever. At the very least, it's the most redeeming quality of football.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Three Things Thursday

1. I'm still going strong with my goal of logging my running and biking miles. I've been logging on Garmin and then adding them to a spreadsheet for the Chicago South Suburban Moms Run This Town Challenge (fur moms count, I guess). I'm up to 125 miles ran and 150 miles biked. I hope I can keep it up!
2. I shut down my kombucha production this summer but would like to get back at it. I just need a SCOBY. Anyone have one for me?

3. At the suggestion of Erica, I entered a soup recipe contest Artizone is putting on this month. Please oh please vote for my sausage kale soup here:

Please and thank you!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Working for the Weekend: Birthday Shenanigans Weekend

Happy Birthday to my baby sister! Mandy celebrated another commemorative anniversary of her 21st year in this world again this year, with much fanfare as a result. But first, miles are required, because my training for the Circular Logic Marathon is well underway. I've been searching for a safe place to run during the winter, and I finally found Mecca in the form of the Morton Arboretum. How have I lived 12 minutes from this place for six years without knowing it's existence? For shame. It made 17 miles almost pleasant. It's never easy, but running is fun for me again.
#Selfie with the beauty filter. We're beautiful now
 Then, it was time to pick up cake. Mandy requested something girl with pink icing. This counts, right?
I want it noted that this crocodile/ alligator/ dragon has teeth and they are red
 After getting into town, we fueled up at Snarf's, which is right by Oz Park where my sister lives. I got a rotisserie chicken sandwich on wheat, and was as impressed by it as I was the comedic styling of this location's staff.

 The night began at the Lincoln Park Binny's tasting room, which is an amazing space if you haven't been. It's the world's largest liquor store and a beautiful place to grab a pint. Or a $2,700 bottle of champagne. Your call.

We started the night with a goofy photo. Mandy's boyfriend's family and I were trying our best Brady Bunch impression. How did we do?
"I'm Katie, I'm Mandy, I'm Kelly and we're *CLAP* the Mahoneys!"
Next up, we took a party bus. Yep, just like in college. It was a blast, even if we were quite scrunched in.
We stopped at Lagunitas, which I don't think I have a photo of, because we arrived 15 minutes before last call. I mean, last call at 8:15 on a Saturday night? Come on! It was a total bummer to get the bum rush at 9 p.m. I'd like to go back for the tour, but not for the beverages. Next up, we had to go to Mahoney's. Just because. At our namesake bar we received free shots, so it was worth it.

I think Bowie the Pomeranian had the best night, actually. He slept well, got lots of cuddles and inevitably a bunch of treats.
Happy Birthday, Mandy!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

New Traditions: Sunday Family Dinner

I've mentioned it in the blog before, but since I returned to Illinois, I've settled into a new normal filled with new routines. One of my favorite new rituals is a weekly open-house dinner. I started doing it for a number of reasons, including one of my post-divorce goals of wanting to be closer with my family. I also enjoy being social and cooking for my friends. When I keep things casual, it's easy and it's cheap, too. Here's how:

  • I keep it a regular thing - I make dinner at around the same time every Sunday night.
  • I keep it casual - the same guest list shows up most weeks, so I just shoot a text and let them know when food will be ready. 
  • I keep it scaleable - I either make a casserole or a crock pot recipe. If more people show up, I've got enough, and if some people are busy, I'll have leftovers for lunches for the week.
  • I keep it cheap - This is how I bulk cook for the week, as well as use up leftovers. If chicken is on sale, I'll make peanut Thai chicken. If I just made a turkey, I'll make a Tex-Mex turkey soup.
  • I keep it clean - I use crock pot liners, so there's no clean up, and I don't even have matching dishes, so you get what you get here.
  • I keep it potluck - if anyone asks me what they can bring, I always have ideas of things we can add - salad or rolls or tortilla chips or something. Never turn down an offer!  
Right now, I have my famous crock pot pulled pork sandwiches slowly simmering away in the kitchen (it smells awesome), but last week, we had lasagna courtesy of Red Gold Tomatoes. It's a family-owned company that has a whole campaign focusing on the idea of "Food Brings People Together." They sent me a lasagna kit, which I put to work making a veggie and Laura's Lean Beef lasagna for a complete meal in one. I fed probably eight people that night, then ate leftovers for another few days.

Red Gold is hosting a simple gourmet lasagna party on Facebook until Feb. 3 and will give away 750 aprons and six gourmet lasagna party prize packs, which include a Le Creuset lasagna pan (if you win, please share with me, I want one of those!).

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Three Things Thursday

1. My work provides me with the phone of my choice, so I figured go big or go home. So I went as big as possible and chose the iPhone 6+. It's massive and I love it. It's the best of a tablet and a phone, and makes my job so much easier. I can't run with this phone, but I don't do that normally anyhow.
2. Speaking of running, I'm pretty psyched about how many people have been joining our run club's weekly long runs. Despite the cold and slush (or maybe because of it?), we have quite the group taking to the streets.
3. Napoleon is back to health, so I let him help me finish off some peanut butter. Not surprisingly, he prefers natural peanut butter, just like his mom.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Cooking with Kelly: Cabot Cheddar Cheese Quick Bread Recipe

Maybe it's some sort of ancient hibernation instinct, but something about winter makes me want to hunker down with carbalicous goodness. I have so much Cabot Cheese as part of the Cheese Board that I'm basically always craving it, and always have a stash of it. So naturally, I needed a bread to go with my famous vegetarian crock pot chili recipe, which I made for my Sunday dinner. I was out of cornbread, so I came up with this alternative.
This recipe yields a dense, flavorful bread sporting a crusty top and a slightly crumbly interior. I used Cabot's Seriously Sharp Cheddar (both inside and on top), but Horseradish or Jalapeno Cheddar would also be stellar additions to this recipe.

Cabot Cheddar Cheese Quick Bread Recipe
2 cups flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cold butter cut up
1 package Cabot cheese, grated (set a bit aside for topping)
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk

Grease a 9x5 pan and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Mix together the dry ingredients, then cut in the butter until the batter resembles crumbly sand. Stir in the cheese, and then in a separate bowl, combine the egg and milk. Pour into the dry ingredients and stir to combine, being careful to not over mix it.

Spoon the batter into the pan, then top with the reserved cheese. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Speed v. Distance: A Classic Training Conundrum

Side story: When I was a newspaper reporter, I wrote a story involving local ordinances and called it a conundrum, which means a challenging problem or obstacle. When it was published, a local official called me and chastised me up one side and down the other for the use of the word. He told me he had to look up the word and it said a problem without a solution. He never spoke to me again. I called it conundrum gate '08.

Anywho, I've been thinking a lot about my marathon training, or lack thereof. I really planned to hunker down and follow a marathon training plan to a T. Really, I did.  But life happened. When I trained for Circular last year, I followed a very regimented program with redlining, puke-inducing intervals, prescribed long-run paces and soul-crushing tempo runs. I didn't hate it, but the workouts were so complicated I had to write it on a post it to keep it all together.

So this year, I've taken a detour. One of my running buddies once told me he wasn't following a training plan because fundamentally, they're all about gradually ramping up your distance over time while testing your limits on shorter runs to increase your threshold. Much like him, I know I can go the distance. If I had to run a marathon tomorrow, I could. It would suck and I'd be in pain, but I could grind it out.

I know that I benefited from intervals, though, so I'm keeping that on tap. Last year, I'd usually run distance on Sundays mornings, then on Monday morning, run a shorter, exponentially more difficult series of intervals. I liked doing that (in a sick way), so that I was pushing myself on already tired legs. I think it helped with my mental toughness.

The draw back is that double-digit miles are very satisfying. There's nothing I enjoy more than logging at least 10 miles before work, but it's not feasible. Plus, I feel like I need to cut back to focus on quality. I can't run like I'm being chased for five miles, but I can for .5 miles.

So here's to not caring if I run 40 miles or 28.2 in a week. My legs can cover the distance. My feet can take the pain. Now it's time to embrace the pain of training, the discipline of cutting back. All in pursuit of pushing myself to a new PR

3:40 or bust, right?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

#FLFC15: Chicago Auto Show's First Look for Charity

In what is easily my biggest blogger win thus far of 2015, I was selected to attend the Chicago Auto Show's First Look for Charity with a few other members of the Chicago Food Bloggers. It's a black-tie affair that annually raises more than $2 million for 18 local charities. In addition to requiring tuxedo attire, the whole affair is bathed in delicious food and signature cocktails, along with giveaways for a 2015 Explorer and a 2015 Ford Fusion (I'll start my good luck superstitions now).

As part of my deal with the event, I was invited to an awesome preview party Friday at McGrath Acura in Chicago. I aspire to own a car that comes from a dealership this nice. We started with a taste of the signature cocktail, a Berry Bramble made with Menage a Trois vodka. Fun fact, they'll make a 240-gallon version of this on game day to ensure patrons' glasses don't run dry. That's on top of the 60,000 bites of food. I may need to size up on my gown.

There was so much to sample, from gourmet guacamole to locally made ice cream. The kicker? This was only a small portion of the food and beverage providers sponsoring the event. I tried some amazing food, including smoked ribs, a seafood tostada, cheesecake bites, flourless gluten-free brownies and sushi. I'm so excited for the gala now because I've gotten the pro tips from all the seasoned blogger, and also know what to expect culinary wise. I'm personally planning to snack early and often because this menu is to die for.

Who else is attending the First Look for Charity on Feb. 13? You know how to find me there:
And I'll be wearing a green dress with all my plates of food. That, too.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Three Things Thursday

1. I sold Belle the Bike to Cathie, which made me a little sad and a little happy. Belle and I had some great times - I completed two 70.3 races with her (Ironman Racine 70.3 and Festival of Races) and enjoyed many miles and smiles with her, like Venus de Miles and my first Udder Century. But Cathie is going to take good care of my old road bike and she'll see even more great times under her watchful care.
Venus de Miles
Racine 70.3

2. Cathie asked me to stock her bento box and I said I'd fill it up with M&Ms. We both lamented the need to eat healthier and drink more water and green tea, so she brought me some when she picked up the bike. Best. Green. Tea. EVER.

3. I started my new job this week and am having a blast. It's a great place with interesting work. I'm going to be happy here. I'm on a mission to make 2015 awesome. So far, it's full of win!
Have to have my #CabotFit lunch box for my first day