Kelly the Culinarian: November 2016

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Training Tuesday: Spring Marathon Cycle Begins

Friday I'll sign up for my fourth Circular Logic Marathon. I'm looking forward to another winter of running and fighting the sloth that tends to creep in once the temperature dips. In our new home, we have a wonderfully well-stocked home gym with entertainment and ventilation. Also, with our new rower, my cross training is a piece of cake (I wish it was real cake and not just an expression).

Poley needs another medal
This go around, I'll use the training plan that last led me to my PR in Vermont. The FIRST Marathon training plan relies on three tough runs per week. That's it. No junk miles or recovery runs. The plan suggests two additional days of cross training. I found this worked for me before, especially as I used the crosstraining days to build up my triathlon fitness. I'll be using the off days for rowing, biking and strength training at home.

I don't want to say I'm going to train for a PR. The more time goes on, the more I wonder if my "fast" days are behind me. If they are, I'm OK with it. I run for me and my health, not necessarily to best myself each time. That's the joy of running. You get out of it what you want. I know regardless of how I train, I'll be faster this year than last (unless someone else needs 1.5 liters of bone marrow a month before). But it won't be nearly as eventful as the last race.

At this point, I feel like this race is just part of me. It's something I do every year and will continue to do as long as my body is able. We've got it down to a science, too, in terms of housing, set up and logistics. If I was able to complete a marathon after a bone marrow donation, I'm confident I can keep doing this for years to come.

Anyone else want to join? You can't beat a marathon for $46, and here are my other reasons why this race rocks. See you in April maybe?

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thankful for ...

It seems only appropriate to take a moment to pause and appreciate the truly awesome bounty life gives us. This has been a big year, and I am overjoyed to see the fruits of our labor coming together to form a beautifully cherishable life. This year, I and thankful for:

A body strong enough to donate bone marrow and complete and Ironman six months later.

Smiling to boot
A beautiful home that fits our needs, puts us close to the kids and reminds us how fortunate we are every morning we wake up within its cozy walls.

These goobers, who love me and have been patient as I navigate the uncharted territory of blended families.

My wonderfully supportive husband, who made me a parent and has pushed me to achieve so many of my life goals while simultaneously taking care of our home and ensuring we never drink crap beer.

Proving you can have your cake and eat it too

And does my body markings and bike maintenance and static dryer sheet application
A wonderful network of family and friends who join us to celebrate and commiserate.

I love that we go on double dates to the theater
... with the same people we share hotel rooms and triathlon with
A job that rewards me, gives me opportunities to shine, provides me the freedom to work from home and the time to pursue amazing vacations.

This furface, who has transformed into a remarkable family dog the kiddos love (a plot twist I never saw coming).

The readers of this blog, who have supported me through many phases of life and allow me to have incredible experiences that enhance my ability to do the job I'm passionate about.

I am thankful every day for this and so much more. Life is good.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

November Degustabox - Baked Tikka Masala in a Hurry

Ah, it's that time again! Another Degustabox arrived packed with possibilities. I love going through the boxes and coming up with interesting ways to use what's inside. This month, I decided to push the easy button and use one of the recipes that comes with the ingredients. I've made an awesome slow cooker chicken tikka recipe before, and it's amazing, but also time consuming. With Sharwood's Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce, I cut my meal prep and cooking time down immensely. What's great about this method is everything cooks in the oven at a low temp basically unattended. Pop it in the oven and go about your evening, then food will be served in 45 minutes. I used instant brown rice and topped this with plain yogurt, but I'll leave the fixins' up to you.

Fast and Easy Baked Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast, cubed
2 medium onions, chopped
1 jar Sharwood's Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce

Arrange the onions at the bottom of a casserole dish. I used a large LeCruset dish, but anything with a lid will work. Top with chicken, then pour the sauce over it evenly.
Bake at 300 degree for 30 minutes. Stir, then bake for another 15-20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is bubbly.

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Easiest Homemade Play-Doh Recipe

 Now that it's getting colder, finding indoor activities is a priority. I loved crafts as a kid and it's far easier for the kids to not fight with each other and color on the carpet if they have something to engage with. Playdoh is a pretty compelling activity in our household, as is baking. Bringing these things together and letting the kids customize their portions with their own colors seemed to captivate them even longer than usual. From start to finish, I think making and playing with their creations occupied them fight-free for more than two hours. Plus, they actually made something and used their imaginations, rather than tapping things on an iPad. I let them each add different ingredients, which meant they also got a minor math lesson as well as the motor skills of pouring and mixing. Here's how we did it!

The Easiest Homemade Play-Doh Recipe

2 cup flour
1 cup table salt
1.5 cups water
1 Tablespoon oil
Food coloring

Whisk the dry ingredients together, then drizzle the wet ingredients over. I let each kid gently mix the ingredients with a spatula before I finished up by mixing it together by hand.

Then, we separated the dough into four portions and put them in plastic bags. I added six drops of food coloring to each and let them knead the color in in the bag. Eventually, I took the dough out and finished incorporating the colors before handing it over to them, because that stuff won't come out of clothes or skin for some time.

This stuff is not shelf stable, so it's good for one play session only. The kids used forks, rollers, strainers and other utensils for at least an hour. A favorite game was hiding a small toy in a ball of dough and then letting the other kid unveil it.


Thursday, November 17, 2016

Three Things Thursday

1. I'm not sure who's the most excited for Christmas in our house - me, the kids or Napoleon. The presents are coming in gradually and he enjoys the doorbell rings and questionable toys I make him pose with.

2. Napoleon has been bathed and washed and HATES it. He looks so cute it hurts.

3. It was recently our turn to bring snacks for one of the small one's schools. "Pickles" were not required but seem to disappear in this house. I appreciate the photo to go with the request, just in case there are any doubts about what to buy.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Three Things Thursday

We've been assembling to watch Westworld every week (if you aren't watching, you're missing out). Napoleon was extra turdtastic the week, so in addition to getting dressed up, we decided to make him breadneck. At the end of the night, we let him eat it, but it was hilarious since he didn't even know it was there. Marvel did, though.

2. Here's my PSA for the week: DYK that The Home Depot offers free projects for kids every month? You sign up online and show up on the first Saturday of the month. They provide all the materials and the mess stays there. This month was building and decorating a helicopter in honor of Veterans Day. Past projects have included birdhouses and mailboxes. The kids get to use real tools, and free is for me ... 

3. It's been a tough week for America, and lots of emotions are flowing. Being in DC right now is quite interesting. The whole town feels gloomy and downcast. Last night, there was a protest near where I had dinner. They're chanting "not my president," and are carrying signs that say "Love Trumps Hate." 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Visiting FourteenSixteen in La Grange

We're settling into our new neighborhood nicely, but haven't really found a hang out yet. At our old place, we had our favorite haunts and watering holes. Now, onto bigger and better locales! When I was invited to visit 1416 in downtown La Grange, I was excited to shop a new potential meeting place. While they wined and dined us, all opinions are my own.

The location and vibe of this place is great. It's within walking distance of the La Grange train station. The decor is firmly downtown industrial chic, featuring lots of exposed vintage lightbulbs and soft lighting befitting a first date or business luncheon. What really sets this place apart is the rooftop deck. It's partially covered and amply heated, which means even in Illinois, it's probably an option 10 months out of the year. The view is lovely and the string lights are adorable.

A menu offering at FourteenSixteen that I feel is lacking in other suburban destinations is a stellar cocktail menu. Their cocktails are available on tap, are beautifully garnished and served in appropriate glassware. The attention to detail when it comes to cocktails is unparalleled.

The Sixteen
The Fourteen

After our first round of cocktails, we moved onto appetizers. There's quite a bit to choose from, but we enjoyed the cauliflower sliders and mushrooms five ways first. The mushroom bruschetta features mushrooms pickled, roasted, grilled, candied, confit and charred with cheddar cheese and a drizzle of balsamic. I enjoyed the cauliflower immensely as well - all vegetables are better roasted.

The star of the appetizer course and perhaps the entire evening was this delicious scallop number. It was served atop a toasted goat cheese polenta, which was subtly flavored and a great juxtaposition against the tender and flaky scallop. It also had pickled jalapeno and fresh greens on top, which added flavor without any off putting heat.

Before we moved into more food, we paused for cocktails. Don't worry, these are tasting sized.

The pisco picante had fresh cilantro on top, which was a bit unexpected, and the Cortez was a refreshing mid-meal break.

But back to the eats - 1416 serves up some of the best homemade pasta I've ever had. This tagliatelle toss with lamb ragu was so tasty and fresh that it made us both wish they offered more sauces with this pasta.

But the steak. The steak, my friends, is where it's at. These are wet-aged for 10 days and lovingly woodfired to perfection. We got the filet and everything on the plate was beyond perfection. The steak had an amazing crust of perfectly tuned herbs and spices. The meat yielded to pressure from a fork and melted in your mouth. The potatoes were excellent and the green beans cooked to the precise level of doneness. It was everything I want in a steak.

We also tried the halibut dish, and it was a damn good piece of fish. Very tender and sweet.

Before desserts, more cocktails.

The tradewinds and the angel's share, my personal favorite. I'm only slightly weirded out that my drink contained egg whites, but it looked so elegant and timeless and tasted so heavenly that I soon forgot what caused the foam.

Onto desserts, my favorite part of any meal. We were torn which way to go here - I heard great things about the apple crostada, as well as the flourless chocolate cake, but the chocolate bomb was new and intriguing. So we went for a trifecta.

I'll tell you this - the chocolate cake is like fudge and brownie had a baby. It's dense and decadent and must be shared lest you risk diabetic shock.

The chocolate bomb was a healthy portion of ice cream ensconced in a chocolate globe that sat atop fruit and orange marmalade. It was served with warm caramel tableside and was a darn cool presentation.

That crostada though. It's flaky pastry fashioned around roasted apples with sea salt caramel ice cream on top. Of course, no apple pie facsimile is complete without a caramel drizzle.

A huge thank you to 1416 and the amazing staff who prepared our meal, complete with incredible wine pairings. It was a wonderful evening at a location I hope to make my local destination. Until next time!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Three Things Thursday

1. This was my birthday card from the small ones. Best gift I've ever gotten, as it was unprompted and super sweet.

2. I got my latest DeGustaBox USA and I'm super excited to whip up something new. I have so many ideas: some sort of masala soup, a poppyseed slaw, maybe some Moscow mules? So many choices.

3. My cheese board game is en pointe. We had company this week and I hit up Mariano's to add some variety to my Cabot Cheese collection/hoarded stash. I was pleasantly surprised - they had a great variety of cheeses already sliced into affordable portions for a fancy platter. I got such a great variety - Sweet cheddar, balsamic-soaked manchengo and jalapeno honey goat cheese.