Archive for October 2009


Chili Party Invites

October 29th, 2009 — 7:36am

fall09-043For the first time in a long while, I seriously considered sending out an evite as a party invitation. My friend Karen and I recently decided on a date in mid-November for our 3rd annual Chili Cookoff (for co-workers). The event planner in me knew our invites needed to go out ASAP. And having just gotten back from a two-week vacation, and feeling generally behind in life, I didn’t think I’d have the time to design and assemble 20+ handmade invites. And thus, I was so close to giving into evite and all of its generic-ness (please excuse my invitation snobbery). Really…I don’t judge. fall09-0442

But in the final moment of truth, I couldn’t do it. I needed something that allowed me to imbue more fun, creativity, and personalization. I did an internet search in hopes of generating new ideas, and immediately found an awesome chili party invitation template on a Web site called “Chica and Jo.” The invites feature a crockpot of chili. And much like a children’s pop-up book, the lid of the pot pulls up to reveal the party details. Genius! fall09-041

This past weekend, I worked diligently on the invites. Per the instructions, I printed the templates, cut out the pieces, created the invite text, used a craft knife to cut a slit in the top of each crockpot, taped the crockpots onto a card with double-sided tape, and designed the pull-out piece. It was a lot of work—more than I had anticipated when I decided to make invites. But much in the way I find cooking to be cathartic, so, to me, are projects like these. Last night, I put Al Green’s Greatest Hits on my turntable as I finished up the final invites. I sang along…’cause youuuu make me feel, so brand newwwww…as I cut, glued, pressed, and sealed. Crockpot or crackpot?

I must say that I’m proud of the invites. They might be the best yet, at least in terms of chili party invites. And they were also very affordable, since most of the materials are part of the template. And now it’s time to focus on perfecting this year’s chili entry.

3 comments » | Crafts & Design

Granola with Olive Oil, Dried Apricots, & Pistachios

October 27th, 2009 — 10:51am

fall09-032I’m kind of a granola freak. I eat granola with plain yogurt almost every day for breakfast—always accompanied by coffee, and sometimes drizzled with Agave necar. Without fail, I look forward to my simple bowl of granola every day. It’s the perfect breakfast…delicious, crunchy, healthy, sweet, and filling.

 

I make my granola from scratch every time—I usually whip up a double batch every few weeks. That’s enough to fill several Tupperware containers for me, and also provide samples for my closest friends. My friends (aka guinea pigs) are all too familiar with my frequent deliveries of the “latest creation.”fall09-033

 

I’ve probably tried nearly twenty different granola recipes. I look for recipes that are a little sweet, a little salty, and have a lot of texture and crunch. I’ve made some very good granola recipes over the years. But still, I felt like I had yet to find “the one.” Until this past weekend, that is.

 

It was time to make a new batch, and I was anxious to try a new recipe. I did an internet search for granola and was immediately drawn to an article featured in the New York Times this past July. Written by foodie Melissa Clark, the article includes a recipe loosely based on the granola sold at famed Brooklyn-based Early Bird Granola. According to the article, the secreat ingredient that makes this granola so special is olive oil. Olive oil is obviously a good fat, and it also contribues a lot of flavor to the mix.fall09-013

 

I spent a lot of time over the weekend gathering the ingredients for the granola—raw pistachios, pumpkin seeds, coconut chips (which I actully purchased during my trip to Hawaii), pure maple syrup, dried apricots, etc. It took a few trips to find everything I needed, and the ingredients weren’t cheap.

 

Preparation was pretty standard—I mixed everything in a big bowl, spread it in a single layer on a baking sheet, and baked in the oven for around 45 minutes. The kitchen smelled amazing as it was baking. I knew then that I was in for a big treat. fall09-034

 

I kid you not when I tell you that I have finally found the holy grail of granola. This is the best granola recipe I have ever tried (even though I say that every time, this time I really mean it). I rushed some samples over to a few friends to gage their reaction. My friend Julie confirmed, “I’m pretty sure the granola was not just the best you’ve ever made, but also the best I’ve ever had!! Thank you again for sharing. I think I need your secret.”

 

Now I’m excited to try different variations of this base recipe. That’s the nice thing about granola—you can throw in a little of this, and a little of that—and really tailor it to your own tastes. I hope you enjoy the recipe!

1 comment » | Kristin's Kitchen

Free Bagel Fridays

October 26th, 2009 — 12:54pm

index_06You know how much I love a good bagel. Especially seasonal pumpkin bagels at Einstein’s…with pumpkin cream cheese. And they’re even better when they’re free! That’s right…free bagels at Einstein’s this Friday before 11am. The reusable coupon is available  here. Spread the bagel love…and feel free to send to your friends, family, and co-workers. Because who doesn’t want a free bagel?

Comment » | Uncategorized

Rocky Ridge Champ

October 26th, 2009 — 11:31am

Over the weekend, my brother ran the Rocky Ridge Half-Marathon in San Ramon, California. Not only did he run the race, he won it. The whole darn thing.

How does my brother run so fast? What does his training entail? It’s all about rigor and consistency. Intervals and discipline. It’s all about the beer mile. This, my friends, is Kelly’s training plan in action.

Read more about the origins and rules of the Beer Mile here.

1 comment » | Family Fun, Racing and Training

Pumpkin Cookies

October 26th, 2009 — 8:41am

fall09-005It’s amazing how much I can accomplish in a weekend when my days aren’t eaten up by long Ironman training rides and runs. This weekend, I went to two farmers’ markets, gorged myself at the Madison Food and Wine show, made a fool of myself at the bowling alley (I am terrible), made chili party invitations, ran several errands, enjoyed Sunday night dinner with friends, ran and biked short distances, and cooked chili, honey corn muffins, granola, and a double batch of pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.  I was a machine.

I am obsessed with pumpkin anything this time of year. Pumpkin bagels, pumpkin brownies, pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin fettuccinepumpkin bread, pumpkin cookies…you name it, and I’ve probably tried it. My all-time favorite pumpkin recipe, however, is for pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. I look forward to these little tasty morsels all year. The recipe suggests storing the baked cookies in the refrigerator, and eating them cold. I actually prefer the freezer—the colder, the better. It’s a little odd to think of eating cookies from the freezer, but you’ll just have to trust me. They’re out of this world.

If you have any other good pumpkin recipe recommendations, let me know!

Comment » | Kristin's Kitchen

Race Report (Part 2: Swim)

October 23rd, 2009 — 11:42am

kona-swim-courseThe 2.4-mile, one-loop swim course featured a very long rectangle (essentially one mile out, a short turn-around, and one mile back) with big orange buoys marking the way. Obviously swimming in the ocean presented some major differences and challenges from that which I’ve faced during Ironman Wisconsin’s Lake Mendota swim. Most notably, salt water, a one-loop course (vs. Wisconsin’s two), and no wetsuits allowed (due to the warm water temps).

I was able to get in one practice swim in the days leading up to the race. It had been years since I’d last swum in the ocean. It was an incredible experience. I felt like my senses were on overdrive. As soon as I put my head in the water, I could taste, smell, and feel the salt. And not only could I see my arms pulling through the clear, turquoise water, I could see all the way down to the bottom of the ocean! I spotted a school of beautiful yellow fish and a gigantic sea turtle. Oh my gosh, I realized—I’ve swum for 21 years, but I’ve never swum like this before. 7991_1239372232

After finishing my practice swim (about one mile total), I was walking out of the ocean, as a woman excitedly approached me, exclaiming that we were wearing the same skin suit. Now to back up a little, a skin suit is sort of like a full-body swim suit with special hydrodynamic properties. Supposedly it provides maximum speed in the water during non-wetsuit competitions. Not wanting to be left out (nor behind!), I purchased one—the silver “Frequency” from Nineteen—a few weeks before the race. The woman proudly informed me that she calls hers the “silver bullet.” She also told me that her husband owns the wetsuit company Nineteen, which is interestingly named after “Highway 19, the Queen K on the Kona Coast,” which “represents the goals and dreams of every triathlete.” After jumping out of the water to grab her husband, she introduced me, and asked him to take a picture of us. That was fun. And I love my skin suit’s new nickname—the silver bullet. Definitely a keeper. ninfrss09w-2

So back to the race.

Without a doubt, it was the most intense, scary, chaotic, and testosterone-fueled swim I’ve ever experienced. With so many athletes at or near the same speed, there was a lot of swimming on top of each other and fighting for space. Things became particularly scary when the mob neared each orange buoy. At that point, everyone became enmeshed together, wrapped around the buoys, and shoved underwater. That’s when the kicking, pushing, and elbow throwing became most intense. At one point, my goggles were ripped off and I was hit in the face. Luckily, I was able to maneuver my goggles back on my face, but by then my eyes were stinging from salt water. ironman09-108

I’ve learned not to get too upset when people become aggressive during an Ironman swim—it takes a lot of energy to get mad and to start throwing elbows back at suspected aggravators. And with such a long day, regardless of how much a little elbow action might actually be warranted, it’s really just not worth it. So I generally hold back. As hard as it might be.

At each remaining buoy, I tried to bury my head down and breathe as little as possible—so as to keep my face unexposed and avoid a bigger goggle fiasco, or worse yet, some kind of race-ending injury. By the second-half of the swim course, the field had become much more spread out. Although I never really found anyone to draft behind, and I wasn’t able to maintain my usual bi-lateral breathing (I seemed to swallow salt water everytime I tried), I did get into a very comfortable rhythm. 47958-087-034f

At one point on the way back, I glanced down at my watch and saw that it read 50 minutes. Oh, no, I thought. I have so much farther to go to the beach, and I’m already at 50! I hadn’t really thought too much about a goal time for the swim. I knew that I’d completed all five Ironman Wiscosnin races under an hour. However, without a wetsuit, I knew my time would be slower, at least by a few minutes. But I became nervous at that point when I saw my time and realized how far out I was still from shore.

The next several minutes went by in a flash. I don’t remember much. It’s always exciting when you feel yourself getting closer and closer to the beach, and you know that you’re nearing the end of the first of three events. I like being able to check off each event. Swim. Done.

I swam until my arms hit the sand and I couldn’t swim any further. I then jumped up the stairs that led from the beach up to the transition area. They were big steps, but so much easier than running up the helix during Ironman Wisconsin! My total swim time was one hour and five minutes. yghuawnmptvbpdv_20091010212641

I quickly hosed myself off with one of many green hoses hanging from the top of a tent I ran through at the entrance of the transition area. The goal was to get the salt off my body, particularly around my eyes. I continued to run through transition, and a volunteer handed me my swim-to-bike transition bag.

Volunteers then accompanied me to the women’s changing area. Amazingly there are 5,000 volunteers at the world championships for 1,800 athletes. Amazing. Although I didn’t have to change (I had my tri uniform on under my skin suit), the volunteers helped me get out of my suit, sort my gear, and put sun tan lotion on my arms and legs. I was pretty much out of it. But luckily I remembered to grab everything I needed—bike shoes, a pack of electrolytes (salt tablets), and a few extra gel packets. From there, I ran through transition and made my way to my bike. I put my bike shoes on, grabbed my bike, and ran through transition until I came to the line across which I could mount my bike. Total transition time: three minutes and twenty-eight seconds.

2 comments » | Racing and Training

Butternut Squash Curry

October 22nd, 2009 — 6:00am

squash1I don’t know about you, but all this talk about Ironman has gotten me hungry. And so I interrupt the regular scheduled programming  for some much needed food talk.

Last night, for the first time in several weeks, I made a home cooked dinner. I chose a recipe for Butternut Squash Curry, which is part of a feature on winter squash recipes in the October issue of Martha Stewart Living (I think I read every magazine on the newsstands over the course of my 9 flights to, from, and around Hawaii). marthaliving_oct09_1

I love squash for so many reasons…

-They exude fall—a season I adore.

-Each is interesting and unique, with such intricate design details and vibrant colors.

-They can keep for several months in a cool, dry, and dark space.

-They’re healthy—lots of good antioxidants and plenty of fiber.

-There are so many varieties from which  to choose—acorn, butternut, carnival, crown, delicata, and golden acorn.

-You can roast the seeds for a tasty snack.

-And how many other vegetables do you know of that can make an entire nourishing main meal?

And so without further ado, here’s the recipe!

Butternut Squash Curry (Martha Stewart Living, October 2009)
Serves 4

For a thicker curry, mash some of the squash with the back of a wooden spoon.

2 medium butternut squashes (about 2 pounds), peeled, halved, and seeded
1 large onion, cut into larger chunks
4 garlic cloves
3 cups plus 1 tbsp. water
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. fennel seeds
¼ tsp. ground coriander
1 two-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated (about 2 tbsp.)
2 tbsp. tomato paste
2 tsp. coarse salt
¼ tsp. crushed red-pepper flakes
2 cups cooked brown rice, for serving
Fresh cilantro, for serving
Lime wedges, for serving

1. Cut solid sections of squashes into large chunks and seed pod sections into 3/4 inch wedges. Puree garlic, onion and 1 tablespoon of water in a blender until smooth.

2. Heat oil in a 4 quart pot over medium heat. Add mustard seeds, fennel seeds, and coriander, and cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.  Stir in onion paste & ginger.  Cook stirring often until caramelized, 6 to 8 minutes.

3. Add tomato paste, scraping bottom of the pot if needed. Stir in remaining 3 cups water, the salt & crushed red pepper flakes.  Add squash, and cover partially.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, and summer gently until squash is tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Serve over brown rice with cilantro and lime wedges.

2 comments » | Kristin's Kitchen

Race Report (Part 1: Pre-Race)

October 20th, 2009 — 11:53am

47958-033-023fI suppose I can’t put off writing my race report any longer. Vacation is over and it’s back to reality for me. For some reason, this time around it seemed much more difficult to get myself to this point—actually sitting down to write my Ironman race report. Maybe it’s because I’m still processing (more than a week later) how I feel about the race results…or maybe it’s because writing this report signifies an end to a journey I’m not quite ready to give up. And certainly my week-long post-race vacation on the island of Oahu didn’t help me focus on the task at hand either. Regardless, I struggled. But here I am. Finally forced to recount my 11 hour and 44 minute journey—all of its awesome highs and cruel lows—hours, miles, and months in the making. So here it goes. ironman09-021

 

Race day. Saturday, October 11, 2009. A day I had been anticipating, training for, and dreaming about for days…months…years. My alarm sounded at 4am, at which point I quickly rolled out of bed and set to work getting myself dressed and fed. My breakfast consisted of a whole-wheat bagel with peanut butter and a banana. As is the case for many athletes, it’s always difficult for me to eat on race morning. My body and nerves protest to the point of dry heaving. But there’s really no choice—I need the calories. In hindsight, I should have eaten more for breakfast, as I ended up being very hungry during my six-hour bike ride, despite taking in more than 1,300 calories in energy bars and gels alone. ironman09-101

 

My friend Jen and I, along with our families, left our condos (conveniently next door from one another) promptly at 4:30am, to give ourselves plenty of time to get to Kailua pier to get body-marked, situated in the transition area (to pump our tires), and relax before the 7am start time. I was most anxious about the traffic on Ali’i Drive on race morning…I was so worried we’d find ourselves two miles from the start completely backed up in traffic. Jen and I went so far as to plan and practice our driving route and parking location on Friday, so as to avoid Ali’i drive as much as possible, and ensure that our race-day drivers could quickly and easily drop us off at the start on Saturday morning. ironman09-1251

 

Luckily, the plan went off without a hitch on Saturday morning. We arrived to the transition area shortly after it opened at 4:45am. We started at the body-marking tent, where volunteers literally stamped (with ink) our race numbers on each arm. From there, we made our way into the transition area. Besides getting there that morning, the other thing I was most anxious for was inflating my tires. I didn’t have my own pump there (not enough space in the suitcase for everything!) so I knew I would need to locate and borrow one, and I also didn’t have much confidence in my ability to inflate the race wheels I was borrowing—they had proven quite tricky in the few times I’d practiced. After trying a few different pumps, which were luckily plentiful in the transition area, I finally found one that worked and easily pumped my tires to 120 psi. Success. Within seconds, my blood pressure calmed. Everything was going to be okay.  ironman09-119

 

We then ran into a few of Jen’s teammates, the elite crew from Mark Allen Online, who where relaxing at an outdoor patio table at King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel, immediately adjacent to the transition area. We sat with Jen’s teammates for the next 40 minutes or so of down time before the race. Many of her teammates have raced Kona several times, and were able to offer a few last minute words of advice to us Kona newbies. I enjoyed hanging with the group—they were obviously extremely talented athletes, but so friendly and down-to-earth—which in turn, made me feel calm and relaxed. ironman09-0221

 

Eventually, Jen and I began to pull on our skin suits and make our way to the swim start. At that point, the professionals were already lined up in the water, just minutes out from their official start time (6:45am). As soon as the cannon went off for the pros, Jen and I entered the water, exchanged one last hug and good luck wishes, and parted ways. I cautiously paddled to the line of swimmers that was quickly forming for the 7am age group start. Although I’m a decently strong swimmer, I knew there were many swimmers who were much more talented than I in the mix (take Jen, for instance, a former collegiate swimmer at the University of Tennessee.) I tried to self-seed myself a few rows back to avoid being run over.2323232327ffp53665nu3264-9-45wsnrcg335888-99632nu0mrj

 

As more and more swimmers entered the water, what had started as neatly formed rows of self-seeded swimmers quickly became a messy blob of hundreds of people treading water in very close proximity to one another. Thus the pushing, kicking, and elbow throwing began before the swim officially started. Several volunteers on surfboards swam back and forth at the front of the crowd, desperately attempting to keep the forward-pushing mob behind the starting line.

 

With very little warning, not even a 5-second countdown, the cannon blew and we were off.

2 comments » | Racing and Training

World Championships 2009

October 17th, 2009 — 1:19pm

Super cheesy soundtrack, and certainly focused on the professionals—but nonetheless, a nice visual depiction of this year’s race.

1 comment » | Racing and Training

The Morning After

October 12th, 2009 — 11:31pm

100_1803

Best. Cinnamon Roll. Ever.

1 comment » | Racing and Training, Uncategorized

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