Archive for May 2012


Beware of the “Silent Killers”

May 31st, 2012 — 9:59am

image001I’m attempting my first 100 mile trail run on Saturday—the Kettle Morraine 100. More on that tomorrow. For now, I just wanted to share a few excerpts from the 48-page race bulletin I began reading earlier this week.

You will find the trail to be about 80% wooded terrain; with the rest meandering through gentle prairie or marsh areas. Part of the course will be a roller coaster of hills, with small rocks and roots scattered about. We have a total altitude gain of approximately 8,800 feet. Though the hills are not long and/or especially steep, they can take a tremendous toll on you if you attempt to run them. They are many and scattered throughout the course. “Silent Killers” is what one local runner calls them.

In the woods the mosquitoes can be very nasty so try to keep moving as fast as you can.

There have been wolf sightings.

You may run across snakes, but we are not aware of any that are dangerous.

There are many Wood ticks which are visible and can be removed quickly. The smaller Deer ticks are less common, but harder to find and are the ones that can carry Lyme disease. Careful examination after the run is recommended to remove any ticks.

Soon after you cross Young Road you will climb one of the longest hills to the top of Star Mountain (Bald Bluff). From there the trail is consistently up, down and rocky. If you have extra energy you can go look at the stone elephant about half way to Horseriders aid station. It is a large rock that looks nothing like an elephant except it is big.

If you go more than 10 minutes without seeing a ground marking you may want to think about turning around.

Silent killer hills and wolves and a stone elephant. Oh my.

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Strawberry Basil Scones

May 31st, 2012 — 4:46am

may-2012-228Last weekend was the first time I noticed strawberries at the farmers’ market this season. Apparently they are early this year, which is good news by me. Larry and I immediately picked up two pints. If you’ve ever tasted fresh strawberries straight from the field or farmers’ market, you  know that the taste is far superior to that of the giant strawberries sold at the grocery store (beautiful, albeit flavorless). Market strawberries are best the day you buy them. I’ve made tasty Strawberry Scones, but I was inspired to try this recipe because of its new spin—the addition of basil. With a dollop of Gentle Breeze Honey, these scones were a great way to celebrate the beginning of strawberry season.

Strawberry Basil Scones (from Happyolks; makes 8 large scones)

2 ½ cups flour
2 tbsp turbinado sugar
1 
tbsp baking powder
¼ 
tsp salt
½ cup cold coconut oil or butter, cut into chunks
1 + cup chopped fresh strawberries
2
 tbsp minced basil
½ cup full fat coconut milk
2 
eggs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a large bowl stir together the dry ingredients. Scoop out or cut in butter or coconut oil. Stir in minced basil and hulled, and quartered strawberries. In a medium bowl stir together eggs and the milk. (Cream, half and half, or regular milk would work here too.) Add egg mixture to flour mixture in one pour. Stir together until completely moistened, using your hands when necessary.

Turn out onto a parchment covered baking sheet. Press into a 1” thick circle. Cut into 8 wedges. Brush with extra milk and sprinkle with sugar. If you use butter instead of coconut oil, place baking sheet with cut wedges in the freezer for up to 20 minutes before baking. It will make them magically fluffier and more scone-y. Bake for 15-20 minutes, depending. Finish with a good dollop of local honey or clotted cream.may-2012-214

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Asparagus, Poached Egg, Spring Onion & Garlic Over Grits

May 30th, 2012 — 12:41pm

may-2012-249When I arrived home from the farmers’ market last Saturday with a heavy bag of fresh produce, I asked myself, ok…what can I make with asparagus, fresh eggs, spring onion and spring garlic? Luckily, the answer was right at my finger tips—at a wonderful blog called Happyolks. And all I needed was polenta, which luckily I had leftover from the derby party. It was a fantastic brunch—spring in all of its glory. And although I still need much practice, I also came a little closer to perfecting my egg poaching technique. Next time, I’d add more butter to the polenta, and less lemon juice/zest to the dish—it was a tad too much lemon flavor for my liking. But otherwise, a great spring brunch option.

Broiled Asparagus, a Poached Egg, and Charred Spring Onion and Garlic over Grits (from Happyolks; serves 2)

1 cup coarse grits (polenta)
1 bundle (about a pound) asparagus
3 spring onions
2 stalks spring garlic
Lemon juice, lemon zest
2 eggs
olive oil / butter
salt

Combine 1 cup grits with 5 cups cold water in a heavy, deep pot. Bring to a boil, toss in a bit of salt and reduce to simmer for 45 minutes, stirring very frequently and adding water and oil/butter to your liking. Meanwhile, prep asparagus on baking sheet. Coat with olive oil, salt, pepper and zest of 1 lemon. Broil on the top rack for no more than 5 minutes. Remove asparagus from pan and set aside. Slice the white and light green portion of both garlic and onions and toss in leftover olive oil from the asparagus on the baking sheet. Squeeze the juice of the fully zested lemon over the garlic and onions. Add a bit more oil if you feel necessary. Return to the broiler, and check every 2 minutes to make sure they don’t burn. Pull them out when they have a nice brown char on the edges. Set aside.

Prepare the water for poaching the eggs in a deep pan. Once things come to a boil, it’s time to start prepping the serving bowls with the warm grits and asparagus. 1-ish cup of the grits, followed by half of the asparagus… bring bowls/plates over to the stove for easy transfer of the eggs.

When the water has just come to a boil, create a vortex in the center by whisking a fork in a counter-clockwise direction. Once you’ve gotten up enough speed, set down the fork and quickly crack the egg into the middle of the whirlpool you’ve created. Now just watch. Seriously. Magic is happening. Cook for 4 minutes.

Place finished egg on top of the asparagus, and pile on a generous handful of charred onions/garlic.

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Fruit Tacos with Chocolate Tortillas

May 30th, 2012 — 4:04am

may-2012-207When I was searching for dessert options for the recent Iron Chef Taco Dinner, I was immediately smitten by a recipe I found online for Fruit Tacos with Chocolate Tortillas. I think it was the beautiful pictures of the tacos that sold me. That, and the chocolate tortillas. These were fun to make. Luckily, Larry owns a tortilla press, which made preparation of the tortillas much more easy and efficient. It was my first time using a tortilla press—and what a handy tool! I tried making cashew cream (a mix of cashews and water) for the topping, but was less than impressed with the results. I preferred a simple chocolate sauce (I mixed chocolate chips and a bit of cream) and a sprinkling of coconut chips (just a thicker form of shredded coconut), but shredded coconut would be fine, too. 

Fruit Tacos with Chocolate Tortillas (from munchinwithmunchkin; serves 16)

Tortillas
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup coconut oil
4 tbsp. agave
1 ½ cups warm water

Fruit Salad
½ cup papaya, diced
½ cup mango, diced
½ cup blueberries
½ cup strawberries, diced
½ cup kiwi, diced
juice from one lime

Toppings
Chocolate sauce
Shredded coconut or coconut chips

In a large bowl, sift together flours, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder. Add coconut oil, agave and warm water and mix to form a large ball of dough.

Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and knead for 5 minutes. Cut the dough in half, and continue to cut each ball of dough in half until you have 16 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Do not add oil to the skillet as the tortillas need to be cooked on a dry surface.

On a floured surface, roll the dough into 16 circles about ¼ inch thick and 6 inches in diameter. Once the skillet is hot, add one round of dough and cook for 30 seconds per side. Place the cooked tortillas on a plate lined with a damp paper towel.

Continue this process until all 16 tortillas have been cooked.

To prepare the tacos, layer the fruit on a tortilla and sprinkle with lime juice. Serve with chocolate sauce and shredded coconut, or any toppings of your choice. may-2012-148

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Confetti Slaw

May 29th, 2012 — 12:04pm

may-2012-221The season of grilling out is finally here. And along with burgers and brats, baked beans, potato salad and lemonade, every good barbecue needs a solid coleslaw. I whipped up this recipe for a get-together over the weekend. The recipe is from Vegetarian Times. I was lured in by the beautiful colors of the vegetables—vibrant purples, reds, oranges, and greens. The salad has a nice crunch and an especially tasty dressing. I added the minced jalapeno for some extra heat.

Confetti Slaw (from Vegetarian Times; serves eight)

Slaw
4 cups finely shredded red cabbage
1/2 large red bell pepper, cut into 2-inch matchsticks (2 cups)
1/2 large orange bell pepper, cut into 2-inch matchsticks (2 cups)
1/4 cup finely sliced green onions
1/2 seeded, minced jalapeno chile, optional

Dressing
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon white or cider vinegar
2 teaspoon sugar
1 clove garlic, minced (1 teaspoon)

To make slaw: toss together cabbage, bell peppers, green onions, and jalapeno chile, if using, in large bowl.

To make dressing: whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl. Toss slaw and dressing until vegetables are coated, and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Serve chilled or at room temperature. may-2012-236

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Madison (Half) Marathon

May 29th, 2012 — 5:18am

may-2012-208And just like that, Sunday’s Madison Marathon suddenly became a half-marathon.

Early last week, forecasts for Sunday were discouraging—90+ degrees, humid and sunny. With the previous week’s Green Bay Marathon still fresh in everyone’s minds (the race had been black-flagged due to heat—meaning all runners had to stop—after just 2 hours and 30 minutes), the Madison Marathon staff took a proactive approach, sending an e-mail to all racers mid-week announcing that the marathon would likely be cancelled due to the heat—and that a final decision would be made on Friday afternoon. The reactions of runners were all over the board—understanding, pissed, discouraged, sad, relieved, etc. It many ways, the emotionally-charged discourse reminded me of the intense political debates that have characterized the state’s recent recall election.

On Friday afternoon, the marathon was officially cancelled. Everyone registered for the marathon was invited to participate in the half-marathon instead.

Sure, I was disappointed. I had signed on to pace the 3:40 pace group for the marathon, and was looking forward to trying my best to help other runners meet their goals. But more than that, I was disappointed for my friends who had trained so hard to run their first marathon. Knowing that they wouldn’t have the chance to meet their goal, at least not on the date and during the race they had planned on, made me sad.

At the same time, I totally respect the decision made by the race organizers to cancel the marathon. I didn’t envy their decision—not one bit. Especially as an event manager, I know how difficult it can be to make a decision that will affect thousands of people—especially one for which you know many people will disagree. You do your best with the information at hand and try to make a decision that is in the best interest of the event and all involved.

I believe the race organizers did that. With heat and humidity forecasted as it was, it was likely many racers would need medical attention. And as race organizers reasoned, if all of the ambulances and medical personnel are out on the marathon course, who is going to help your grandma when she suddenly needs medical attention? Ultimately, It came down to a decision that was best, not only for racers, but for the Madison community as a whole. And really, wouldn’t you rather the race be called in advance, than when you’re half-way into the thing? chocmilk

So although it wasn’t my original plan, I ran the Madison Half-Marathon on Sunday. In many ways, I think it was a blessing in disguise. I have a much longer race next weekend, and I’ll (hopefully) be able to recover much quicker from running a half-marathon than from a marathon. With that in mind, I ran the half at a relatively conservative pace, while still pushing it a bit. I started with the 1:50 pace group, and tried to inch my way closer to the 1:40 group (didn’t come too close, though—finished at 1:44). I saw a ton of people out on the course—friends from college, friends from triathlon, friends from Dailymile, etc. So that was the best part of the day. That and the cold chocolate milk at the finish.

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Iron Chef Dinner: Taco Tuesday

May 26th, 2012 — 2:05pm

may-2012-168Kristin’s Pulled Pork Tacos with Creamy Tomatillo Dressing

may-2012-171Brodie’s Cheeseburger Tacos with Thousand Island Dressing

may-2012-174Matt’s Carne Asada Taco Sandwiches with Red Pepper Sauce

may-2012-173Enjoying a margarita before dinner

tacoIt’s Taco Time!

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Loading my plate with taco goodness

533008_793405971113_20206171_35926114_765658918_nSeveral dessert options

may-2012-199And, of course, the Choco Taco

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Fresh Asparagus Soup with Parmesan Crisps

May 26th, 2012 — 1:30pm

may-2012-138Tis the season for asparagus. Each of the last several weeks, I’ve picked up a pound at the farmers’ market and have challenged myself to try something new. Last week, I decided on this recipe for asparagus soup from Vegetarian Times. Preparing the soup helped to solidify my immersion blender as the most helpful, time-saving piece of kitchen gadgetry I own. I found mine several years ago at a garage sale—still in the box, never used, for $2. Score. The soup has a velvety-smooth texture and fresh-lemony taste. I particularly enjoyed the Parmesan Crisps—a nice touch on the side (enhancing the dish both visually and flavor-wise) that would be easy to incorporate into a variety of soup recipes.

Fresh Asparagus Soup with Parmesan Crisps (from Vegetarian Times; serves 6)

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbs. unsalted butter or olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped (1 cup)
5 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
2 lb. fresh asparagus (36 to 40 medium-size spears), tips reserved, stalks cut into 1/2 inch pieces, divided
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/3 cup low-fat milk or heavy cream
1 Tbs. lemon juice
2 tsp. grated lemon zest

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line baking sheet with silicone baking mat. Divide Parmesan cheese into 6 mounds on baking mat, and flatten using back of spoon. Bake 3 to 4 minutes, or until cheese melts into lacy rounds. Cool completely. Remove from baking sheet with spatula; set aside.

2. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, and saute 5 to 7 minutes, or until soft. Add broth, asparagus stalks, and thyme; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover pan, and simmer 15 to 20 minutes or until asparagus is tender.

3. Meanwhile, cook asparagus tips in boiling, salted water 2 minutes, or until just tender. Drain, and rinse under cold water. Set aside.

4. Puree soup in blender or food processor until smooth. Return to pan, and stir in milk, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with asparagus tips and Parmesan crisps.may-2012-079

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Potato and Leek Galette With Watercress

May 25th, 2012 — 5:52am

may-2012-094This is another recipe I’ve really enjoyed this spring. The galette makes for a nice appetizer, side, or a lighter entree. I love how the leeks and watercress, which are so abundant at the farmers’ market this time of year, take center stage. Next time, I might try cooking the galette in one tablespoon of extra-virgin oil (as opposed to two), as the galette was just a touch on the greasy side.

Potato and Leek Galette With Watercress (From Martha Stewart Living, April 2011; serves 4)

1 large russet potato, peeled and grated (1 1/2 cups)
1 small leek, white and pale-green parts, thinly sliced crosswise and rinsed well
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup watercress, trimmed
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Place potato in a bowl of cold water, and let soak for 10 minutes. Drain well in a salad spinner or squeeze in a clean kitchen towel to remove excess water. Combine potato, leek, flour, nutmeg, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Scatter potato mixture in skillet, and press lightly with a spatula to make sure it holds together. Cook until underside is golden, about 6 minutes. Flip. Raise heat to medium-high. Cook until underside is golden, 4 to 5 minutes.

Turn out galette. Toss watercress with lemon juice and 1 1/2 teaspoons oil, and place on top of galette. Slice into 8 wedges.

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Poached Rhubarb With Elderflower Sabayon

May 22nd, 2012 — 5:26am

may-2012-141Rhubarb is one of the things I look forward to most at the spring farmers’ market. But the thing about rhubarb is that it always seems to be prepared in the same way—in breads, pies, cakes, crisps and cobblers. It’s all good, but by the end of the spring, these dishes feel tired and predictable.

Looking to try something new, I was inspired by this recipe I found in Martha Stewart Living last year. Both Elderflower liqueur and sabayon were new to me. Elderflower liqueur is made from the blossoms of the elderflower plant. It has flower and fruit notes and is mildly sweet. I bought a bottle of Thatcher’s Organic Artisan Elderflower Liqueur at Woodman’s (mostly because it was half the price of St. Germain’s). Thatcher’s is a small-batch distillery outside of Temperance, Michigan. Sabayon, on the other hand, is an Italian dessert made with egg yolks, sugar, and a sweet wine.

The dish was relatively easy to prepare. A few notes: I found that the rhubarb needed significantly more time to simmer than the recommended 3 minutes to become tender. I kept watching it and tasting a piece every few minutes until it seemed right. It’s also very important to watch the egg/sugar/liqueur mixture closely and whisk constantly until it triples in volume and is just warm to the touch (this part is important, otherwise you may end up with scrambled eggs!). I enjoyed this dessert—rhubarb certainly takes center stage, with some interesting flavor and texture companions. It makes an elegant dessert that would be nice for a spring dinner party.

Poached Rhubarb With Elderflower Sabayon (from Martha Stewart Living, April 2011, serves 4)

3 cups water
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped, pod reserved
1 strip (2 inches) lemon zest
1 1/2 pounds rhubarb, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
4 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons elderflower liqueur, such as St-Germain, or any other sweet, floral liqueur

1. Prepare an ice-water bath. Bring water, 2 cups sugar, the vanilla seeds and pod, and lemon zest to a boil in a wide, shallow saucepan. Stir. Reduce heat. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add rhubarb, and simmer gently until just tender, 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl set in ice-water bath. Let cool completely. Divide among 4 bowls.

2. Whisk together remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, the egg yolks, and the elderflower liqueur in a double boiler or a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Cook, whisking constantly, until sabayon is tripled in volume, frothy, and warm to the touch, 6 to 8 minutes. Serve immediately over rhubarb.

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