Archive for November 2012

Norge Ski Jump CX Race

November 30th, 2012 — 9:10am

I wasn’t planning to do a cyclocross race last weekend. There was no WCA race on the schedule, so I figured I’d have the weekend off. But then my friend Claire invited me to come along with her to do the Norge Ski Jump Cyclocross Race in the north suburbs of Chicago. She explained to me that she wanted to “keep the engines hot.”  That made me laugh. But I was also intrigued. And the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to race.

Shortly before 6 a.m. on Saturday, I met Claire and we made the drive across the border. As soon as we arrived, we hopped on our bikes and did a practice loop. It was probably the most technical course I’ve ever ridden—lots of off camber turns, gravel, climbing, and barriers that were most certainly higher than regulation. Instead of giving me confidence, the practice loop made me downright scared. It was also the coldest I’ve been at a CX race. Trying to keep my feet warm was a no-win situation. I could feel the doubts creeping in—this course is crazy, it’s so cold, why am I here? But Claire made me feel better when she talked about how it would be great experience—to overcome the fear of riding such a technical course, to race against a new field of women—and if nothing else, it would be a good race-effort workout.

As soon as we lined up for the race, I realized had forgotten to put on my sunglasses. When we took off, the cold air hit my eyes and suddenly I had tears in my eyes and could hardly see. This was not good, especially since the first stretch was particularly treacherous with loose gravel and scattered larger rocks. Somehow I made it through and fell into fifth place. I was riding well with the leaders through a flat, technical part. Eventually, we came to a large, gravel hill, and while the others attacked, I couldn’t get traction. My wheels spun out and I was literally left in the dust. For the rest of the race, I was in no-man’s land—a few minutes back from the leaders and few minutes ahead of the next group. I tried to stay motivated, but without much of a race, I’ll admit it was difficult.

Claire was right, though. Regardless of how things went, it was a good experience. I encountered new obstacles that will make me stronger in the future. And everyone I met at the race was incredibly friendly. Somehow I also managed to take home $50 for 5th place, my very first race payout. Granted, between the race registration, gas money, post-race beers, and lunch, I was in the red instead of ahead, but it still felt pretty sweet to be handed an envelope of cash.

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3rd Annual Madison Dailymile Holiday Lights Run

November 30th, 2012 — 5:42am

Last night was the Third-Annual Madison Dailymile Holiday Lights Run. As always, we met at the Brittingham Boat House and set off for a 5k run to and through the Olin Park Holiday Fantasy  in Lights display. The last two years, I hosted a shindig at my apartment afterward with appetizers, cookies, and hot toddies. But I’ve since moved, so this year we headed downtown to the Great Dane for appetizers and drinks. We had a great group—14 Madison-area dailymilers. I met new friends, and caught up with other friends who I’ve known for what seems like forever. I love how dailymile keeps growing my circle of friends in Madison and beyond.

1 comment » | Racing and Training

Slow Food UW Cafe Lunch – 11/28

November 28th, 2012 — 11:38am

From today’s menu, I chose the Kale, Apple and Camambert Sandwich on Challah, the Spinach Salad with Watermelon Radishes, and the Egg Drop Soup. All of the ingredients for the menu were sourced from Willy Street Co-op.

But even better than the food was the company. This week my cycling buddies Claire and Heidi joined me for lunch. In addition to cycling, we share a love of good food. What we do not share is a love of science. Both Claire and Heidi are brilliant scientists at the university. And although I can’t always follow when they start in about the methodologies of their current research experiments, it makes me proud to know they are kicking butt in fields traditionally dominated by men.

1 comment » | Madtown Lovin'

Cranberry Upside-Down Cake

November 27th, 2012 — 5:12am

I celebrated Thanksgiving with my mom’s side of the family at my parent’s house this year. My mom asked me to bring a dessert to the gathering, and I was happy to oblige. I wanted to make a dessert I had never tried before, something still in the Thanksgiving realm, but beyond the standard pumpkin and apple pie variety.

When I stumbled upon a recipe for Cranberry Upside-Down Cake from Joanne Weir, inspired by Lindsey Shere, retired pastry chef of Chez Panisse, I knew I had found just the dessert I was looking for. The cake turned out great—the top, beautifully marbled with sweet, baked cranberries, and the cake, dense and crumbly. Topped with a dollop of homemade whipped cream, it was a sweet ending to a filling Thanksgiving feast.

Cranberry Upside-Down Cake (recipe by Joanne Weir, inspired by Lindsey Shere, retired pastry chef of Chez Panisse; serves 8-10)

1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 pound cranberries
1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon plus a few drops vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
2 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar

Place 4 tablespoons of the butter and the brown sugar in a 9-inch cake pan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is melted, 1 minute. Swirl to coat the sides with the butter. Place the cranberries on top of the melted butter and sugar. Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a bowl, toss together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cream the remaining 8 tablespoons butter and the sugar together in another bowl. Add the egg yolks to the creamed mixture, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add 1 teaspoon of the vanilla and mix well. Add the milk alternately with the dry ingredients, folding well after each addition.

Beat the egg whites to soft peaks. Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat until the peaks hold their shape. Fold the whites into the cake batter. Spread the batter over the fruit in the cake pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes.

Remove the cake from the oven and run a small knife around the edge of the pan. Let the cake cool for 15 minutes. Invert the cake onto a serving platter and let it sit for another 5 minutes with the pan on the top. Remove the pan.

Whip the cream to soft peaks. Add a few drops of vanilla and the confectioners’ sugar and mix.

Serve slices of cake with the softly whipped cream.

Comment » | Kristin's Kitchen

Kringle Kross Hales Corners Park

November 26th, 2012 — 9:35am

I’m usually able to piece together my cyclocross races  when I discover various bruises on my body in the days that follow. Last Monday morning, for example, as I was getting into the shower, I found a big, ugly purple bruise on the tip of my shoulder. Oh yeah, that‘s when I cut a corner too close and rammed my shoulder into a tree. But prior to that discovery, I had forgotten all about my run-in with a tree. The ugly bruise was a temporary reminder.

The Sunday before Thanksgiving, I raced Kringle Kross in Hales Corners (near Milwaukee), part of the WCA series. The “Kringle” part of the name is a reference to the popular traditional Danish pastry with fruit filling made in nearby Racine, Wisconsin. The race’s name is also apparently a nod to Jingle Cross, the popular regional cylcocross race that took place the same weekend in Iowa City. As a result, the race fields at Kringle Cross were notably smaller.

I was one of nine competitors in the women’s pro/cat 1/cat 2 race at Kringle Kross. For the first time in several weeks, I had a great start, finding myself in third position after the long straightaway as we entered a technical part of the course. I was excited to be on the wheels of a well known sister pair who regularly dominate the WCA races. Surely this won’t last for long, I thought to myself, but I’m going to hang on and enjoy it as long as I can.

I struggled once we hit several riders from the master’s 55+ race who had started 30-45 seconds before us. The sisters easily breezed around the guys, while I found myself stuck. I had some interesting run-ins with 55+ men’s field. One literally elbowed me as I passed by—hey, what are you doing, I asked, incredulously. I also got tied up with a man who took a corner too tight and went down right in front of me. It’s interesting how some  men graciously move over and let me pass, while others seem to try to make it as difficult as possible. I’m not quite sure yet what to do in those situations, but I think I need to be more assertive and let the guys know I’m coming through.

I was eventually passed by another woman. I was able to stay with her during the technical parts of the course, but was amazed by how she literally dropped me like I was standing still on a long uphill. Not that I wasn’t already well aware, but my weaknesses became abundantly clear in that moment. I knew I probably couldn’t catch her, so I then focused on trying to hold my position. There were two women just a little ways back who were inching closer. Luckily, I was able to hold my fourth spot into the finish line. I was thrilled. And it wasn’t until the next morning that the bruises had formed and my shoulder felt like it had been rammed into a tree. Which, of course, it had.

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Swirled Sweet Potato Pie

November 20th, 2012 — 1:02pm

I don’t know about you, but with less than 48 hours until Thanksgiving, I’m dreaming about pie. All kinds of pie—the typical Thanksgiving pumpkin and apple, but also chocolate cream, pecan, rum raisin, and pear-cranberry. Over the weekend, I tried the following recipe for Sweet Potato Pie with Cream Cheese Swirl, featured in this month’s Eating Well magazine. I was lured in by the beauty of the cream cheese swirl topping—a nice spin on a classic. But most importantly, it’s delicious pie—subtly sweet with a smooth, velvety texture and a gingersnap cookie crumb crust. It’s time to bring on the pie.

Sweet Potato Pie with Cream Cheese Swirl (from Eating Well, Nov/Dec 2012; serves 10)

2 medium-large sweet potatoes
6 ounces crisp gingersnap cookies (26-28 small cookies)
2 tablespoons canola oil
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt, divided
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup (2 ounces) reduced-fat cream cheese
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Wrap sweet potatoes in foil and place on a baking sheet. Roast until very tender, about 1 1/4 hours. Carefully unwrap and set aside to cool.

Reduce oven temperature to 350°.

Process gingersnaps in a food processor until finely ground. Transfer to a bowl, add oil and stir until well combined. Using a spoon, spread and pat the crumbs into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie pan. Bake until just barely beginning to darken, about 10 minutes.

Clean and dry the food processor bowl. Peel the sweet potatoes and transfer to the food processor. Puree until smooth. Measure out 1 1/2 cups (if you have extra puree, reserve it for another use). Return the 1 1/2 cups puree to the food processor. Add brown sugar, 1/2 cup yogurt, eggs, egg yolk, cinnamon and nutmeg; pulse until combined. Spread the sweet potato filling in the warm crust.

Clean and dry the food processor bowl again. Add the remaining 1/4 cup yogurt, cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and ginger; puree until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides once or twice. Dollop tablespoonfuls of the cream cheese mixture onto the filling, spacing them evenly. Draw the tip of a wooden skewer or a thin knife through the cream cheese mixture and sweet potato filling repeatedly to create a swirled design.

Bake the pie until firm to the touch and starting to puff around the edges, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack, at least 2 hours.

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My First Sewing Class

November 16th, 2012 — 11:33am

Last night I took my first sewing class—Sewing Fundamentals, Where do I begin? I’ve always wanted to learn how to sew, but never quite got around to it. I guess I figured it would always be there and that when my knees and hips eventually give out from too much running and biking, I’ll take up  sedentary hobbies like sewing and knitting. My mom has always been a passionate quilter, so I’ve grown up around a sewing machine and surrounded by dozens of quilts. But I also realized that having a mom who knows how to sew doesn’t necessarily motivate you to learn how to sew yourself. Like when you can just say, hey mom, can you hem these pants? Or hey, can you make me this quilt? How about these pillows? Why learn myself?

But then in strange twist of fate, I found myself in a job co-managing one of the biggest quilt shows in the country. And eventually I realized, I can name every major brand of sewing machine and thread, but I still can’t sew. And that’s when I decided that I needed to take the first step. And so I registered for a beginner’s sewing class at Sewcial Lounge, which bills itself as a “modern sewing lounge and fabric studio” on Monroe Street. And then my friend Julie mentioned that she was also interested in learning how to sew, so she signed up, too. Before class, I purchased my supplies—a 16″ by 16″ pillow insert, woven fabric, measuring Tape, pins/pin cushion, shears, marking pencil, seam ripper, and coordinating thread.

The class was 2.5 hours and there were just four students—by design (I, for one, needed a lot of personal assistance). The shop owner and teacher, Sara, is young, funny and relateable. She warned us that the first part of class is dry and all about the sewing machine. I admit I found my eyes glazing over at times, especially after a full day of work, but Sara made it bearable. Eventually, we turned on the machines for the hands-on part. We learned how to install a needle, wind and insert the bobbin, and thread the sewing machine—none of which I’ll actually be able to do again on my own. I found all of the steps, machine parts and holes a bit overwhelming.

I was relieved once we actually began sewing—mostly because the sewing machine takes over and does a lot of the work for you. But even then, it felt awkward—the whole stepping down on a pedal like you’re driving part. Yet, I was driving a sewing machine. I couldn’t sew in a straight line to save my life, but I was sewing. And that, I suppose, is the first step. I must say I was quite pleased when I made my first pivot. I finished my pillow case with just a few minutes of class time to spare and eagerly stuffed my pillow form inside and poked out the corners. As long as you don’t turn the pillow case inside out and examine the stitching, it looks pretty lovely, I think.

1 comment » | Crafts & Design

Slow Food UW Cafe Lunch – 11/14

November 14th, 2012 — 8:39am

My choices from today’s cafe menu included the Turkey Sandwich with Pickled Carrots on Sweet Potato Brioche, the Butternut and Farro Salad,  and Pumpkin Pudding for dessert.

Ingredients for this week’s menu were sourced from Jordandal Farms, Hook’s Cheese Co., Wetherby Cranberry Co., Yang’s Fresh Produce, Gitto Family Farm, Jone’s Valley Farm, Madison Sourdough Co., Lu Ziong, Bleu Mont, Ramsey Family Farms, and Elderberry Hill Farm.

As this week’s cafe lunch is the last before Thanksgiving (no cafe next week – 11/21), the Thanksgiving flavors were well represented.

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Wild Rice and Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash

November 14th, 2012 — 5:19am

I first shared this recipe on my blog four years ago, and it continues to be my favorite stuffed acorn squash recipe. It’s so hearty and flavorful, and the dish works great as either an entree or a side dish. In case you missed it the first time, here’s the recipe I use, which I adapted ever so slightly from a recipe I found at Lunds and Byerlys, a Minneapolis-based gourmet grocery store.

Wild Ride and Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash (adapted from a recipe by Lunds and Byerlys); makes 4-8 servings

4 (1 lb.) acorn squash, halved, seeds removed
1 tbsp. olive oil
8 oz. bulk Italian sausage
2 tsp. Italian herb seasoning
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 tsp. minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste
1 (10 oz.) package frozen spinach, thawed, squeezed dry
1 cup cooked wild rice
1 1/2 cups shredded provolone and mozzarella, divided

Arrange squash halves cut side down in a 13 x 9 microwavable baking dish filled with one inch of water. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and make a few steam vents in the plastic wrap. Microwave until tender (15 minutes).

While squash is cooking, preheat oven to 350F. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and sauté sausage, Italian herb seasoning, red pepper, onion and garlic until sausage is cooked and onions are tender (8-10 minutes). Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in spinach, wild rice and 1 cup provolone/mozzarella.

When squash is tender, carefully remove the water from the baking dish (the dish will be very hot). Place a tablespoon of butter in the bottom of each squash half. Spoon sausage mixture into halves and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Cover the dish with foil and bake in preheated oven for 10-15 minutes.

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Cam-Rock CX Classic

November 13th, 2012 — 11:34am

When I imagined racing cyclocross in the middle of November, I certainly never pictured myself in shorts on a 70 degree day. But luckily my tender hands and feet were saved from the inevitable extreme cold and wind for at least another week. This past Saturday I raced in the Cam-Rock CX Classic in Cambridge, about 20 miles east of Madison. Interestingly, spectating at last year’s Cam-Rock race was my first taste of cyclocross. I remember thinking, this is awesome. I want to try this. Now, exactly a year later, I’ve completed nine races and am enjoying CX more than any sport I’ve ever done.

Probably most noteworthy about this week’s race is that I upgraded from cateogry 3 to 2. Going into Saturday’s race, I hadn’t intended to upgrade. My thought was I’d finish out the season in category 3 and upgrade next year. But then a few people asked me on Saturday morning if I had upgraded yet, and it started to make me anxious. Should I upgrade? When is the right time? Are people talking badly about me? I decided to ask the official for advice. I explained my situation—I’m new to cyclocross this season, I’ve won four races in category three, people keep telling me I need to upgrade, but I don’t know if it’s time.  She told me that I hadn’t reached the mandatory upgrade point, but that I would very soon. With a smile and a hint of encouragement, she explained that category 2 races would be faster and a whole lot of fun. But in the end, she left the decision totally up to me.

I hemmed and hawed and asked Larry for advice. He listened and helped me work through the pros and cons. I realized either way, it would be fine, and ultimately decided to go for it. I figured if I’m going to be forced to upgrade soon, I might as well do it now. In category two, I’d be racing with the women’s pros and category one riders—and who better to learn from than the best women out there? In some ways it was hard to give up the idea of winning races (that will probably never happen again…I’ll be lucky to stay in the mix from now on), but in other ways, I looked forward to the idea of blending into the field and not feeling the pressure (from myself) to win races. So I’m not sure if my decision to upgrade was brave or completely wussy, but either way, I pulled the trigger.

The race went well. It was faster, a lot more aggressive, and very fun. I made many mistakes, but I think I did alright for my first race with the big guns. I ended up 7th (of 11 women). I know I’m going to have to train and work a lot harder to compete at this level. But more than anything, I need to reassure myself that I belong in the race and can compete at this level.

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