Archive for March 2013

Chocolate Avocado Shake

March 25th, 2013 — 6:14am

March 2013 042When I was growing up, there was nothing I loved more than a chocolate shake. While the rest of my family feasted on popcorn as a pre-bedtime snack, I would pull out the blender, haul a gallon of ice cream from the freezer, and set to work creating my favorite frozen treat. While it may seem a little absurd and indulgent for a 10-year old girl to be making herself a 25 ounce chocolate shake nearly every night, I was a competitive swimmer at the time, putting in countless hours at the pool each week. I was constantly hungry, and chocolate shakes were a special treat I looked forward to each night after a hard practice.March 2013 048

Eventually my metabolism caught up with me and I realized I could no longer sustain a daily chocolate shake routine. But I do still love ice cream and it’s no secret I indulge rather frequently. Recently, I came across this recipe for a Chocolate Avocado Shake in Eating Well Magazine. Avocados help make the shake nice and creamy, and pack in monosaturated fat, fiber, potassium, magnesium and protein. It almost makes me want to revive my nightly chocolate shake habit and start singing, “My milkshake brings all boys to the yard…”

Chocolate Avocado Shake (from Eating Well, April 2013; makes 2 servings)

1 ripe avocado, halved and pitted
1 1/2 cups vanilla almond milk (regular milk is fine, too)
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons maple syrup, or to taste
2 tablespoons semisweet chocolate chips melted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract, or to taste
12 ice cubes

Scoop avocado into a blender; add milk, cocoa, maple syrup, melted chocolate and vanilla. Pule and puree until smooth. Add ice and puree until thick and frosty.March 2013 045

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Gooey Cinnamon Squares

March 23rd, 2013 — 4:14pm

February 2013 078I think everyone in Madison deserves a Gooey Cinnamon Square for enduring single digit temperatures at the end of March. This dessert is a cross between a Snickerdoodle cookie and St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake. The combination is pure genius, and these gooey squares are guaranteed to warm your soul. They’re not at all healthy, but don’t you think you deserve a special treat? It’s been a long winter.

Gooey Cinnamon Squares (from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook; makes 7 dozen 1-inch squares)

Soft cookie base:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup milk

Gooey layer:
1/4 cup light corn syrup, golden syrup or honey
1/4 cup milk, half-and-half or heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 large egg
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9×13 pan with parchment paper and coat the paper and sides of pan with butter.

Combine the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. In a separate medium bowl, beat 8 tablespoons of butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and milk and beat until combined. Beat in the dry ingredients.

Spoon the cookie base into the pan and spread into an even layer. Set aside.

Whisk the corn syrup, milk and vanilla in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, beat the butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Add 1/3 of the flour and beat, then 1/2 of the vanilla mixture and beat. Repeat twice until just combined. Spoon mixture over the cookie base into an even layer.

Whisk the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and sprinkle it over the gooey layer.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the top is bronzed like a creme brulee. Cool completely and then cut into 1-inch squares.

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A Year of (Not) Running

March 22nd, 2013 — 10:35am

February 2013 182This has not been my year for running. Over the last ten months, I’ve battled one injury after another—plantar fasciitis, ball of foot pain, and most recently, ankle pain. It all started after I ran my first 100-mile ultra marathon last June (go figure). I was probably dealing with the onset of plantar fasciitis beforehand.  I felt great during the race, but a few weeks afterward the pain set in and eventually became intolerable.

Usually, I’ve found that not being able to run is not good for my mental health. I need it, I crave it. But this time was different. I had plenty of things to take my mind off running—a trip to Spain and a new sport that filled my weekends—cyclocross. But I did miss my morning runs. I put it off much longer than I should have, but eventually I went to a doctor. He gave me shoe inserts for arch support, a painful cortisone shot and told me not to run until it was fully healed and the cortisone wore off, then sent me on my way.

I couldn’t help myself from running the very next day. The pain was gone and I was overjoyed. But just as suddenly as the pain had disappeared, it reincarnated as pain in the ball of my foot. Once I got through that a few months later, I was slapped across the face yet again with ankle pain—the kind that literally left me hobbling in pain and unable to walk in the middle of a run. Clearly I was a mess.

Yet, in the middle of all of this (about a week ago), I convinced myself that I might still be able to get ready for the Ice Age 50 (mile) race in May that I had signed up for months in advance. It’s become my favorite race of the year and I’ve done it each of the last three years. I pictured myself running the race every year until I was 80 or so. Typically, when racers are all lined up at the start, the race director asks those who have run the race x or more times to identify themselves. I imagined that some day I would be the last one with my slightly frail but still strong 80-year old arm up in the air.

I suppose that’s led to slightly unrealistic expectations. Only 8-weeks to train for Ice Age 50? Certainly not ideal, but possible, I told myself. And hey, I wasn’t going to rule out running the Kettle 100 in June at this point either. Definitely still possible.

But then one night last week as I was falling to sleep, I realized it just wasn’t a good idea. If I tried to throw myself into training for a 50 mile race in 8 weeks, the only thing that stood on the other side was disappointment and injury. That next morning, I contacted the race director and asked if it might be possible to switch to the 50 kilometer distance. I was bummed, but I knew it was the right thing to do.

It’s funny how injuries play with your mind. How we go out for  “test runs” when it’s clearly not a good idea (or we’ve been strongly advised otherwise). Or the things we tell ourselves to convince ourselves that the injury is not so bad. The thing is, I think I got a little too accustomed to running injury free. I was very lucky and had gone at least five years without a major injury. Having to deal with it again reminds me of when I first took up running in high school and college. I was plagued with injuries—literally everything in the book. I wanted to be a runner so badly, but my body wasn’t having any part of it. I wasn’t able to run the first marathon I trained for.

Luckily, I was eventually able to build up my body to the point of being able to run an entire year without injury. And then another. And another. I ran marathons, 50ks and 50 mile races, countless 30 mile training runs, and finally, a 100 mile run.

Being injured recently has made me realize how lucky I was to be able to run those distances for so long. And how lucky I am that I can run at all. It’s a gift and a privilege. At the same time, I think it’s good to take a break every now and then. To rest your body. To think about why you do it and what aspects of it you enjoy most. And fall in love with it all over again. Sometimes you need to set it free.

Comment » | Racing and Training

Frank Warren’s PostSecret

March 21st, 2013 — 8:42am

March 2013 030One of the things I love most about living near a college campus is the abundance of free lectures, films, concerts, etc. There’s always something to do and new ideas to explore. In the past several weeks, we’ve attended lectures on topics as diverse as Kim Bostwick’s “Evolution Revealed: How to evolve a seductive musical instrument from feathers,” to a presentation by highly acclaimed civil rights layer, advocate and New York Times best-selling author Michelle Alexander about the mass incarceration of African American males in the supposed age of colorblindness.

Last night we braved the cold and walked to Union South to see Frank Warren speak as part of the Distinguished Lecture Series. Frank Warren is the founder of PostSecret, a community mail art project that encourages people from around the world to anonymously mail very personal and creatively decorated postcards to give voice to a close-guarded secret. Since 2005, Frank has collected more than a half-million postcards, which he displays on his blog.

Frank’s presentation was entertaining and interesting. He talked about how he started the project (handing out postcards to strangers on the streets of DC) and how giving voice to a secret can break down walls in your life and empower and inspire both you and those who receive it—and just the idea that life can be tough, but we’re all in it together. He shared his favorite post cards, as well as those that were banned from being included in his books by his publisher. He also talked about his efforts to increase awareness and conversation around suicide prevention, a cause near and dear to his heart. Finally, Frank offered audience members a chance to step up to the mic and let go of their own secrets. It was very emotional, but the audience rallied around each person courageous enough to step up and bare their soul.

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Slow Food UW Cafe Lunch – 3/20

March 20th, 2013 — 7:43am

March 2013 029Today’s Slow Food UW Cafe lunch featured a carnival theme. And there’s nothing I love more than a menu crafted around a theme. I couldn’t help myself from I trying everything on the menu, except the chili cheese dog. My picks included an over-sized soft pretzel with house mustard and beer cheese sauce ($4), a savory funnel cake ($1), fried pickles and onion rings ($1), a root veggie kabob ($1), and for dessert, chocolate custard with caramel corn topping ($1). All were delicious. The savory funnel cake with wild rice and roasted bell peppers was particularly interesting (although slightly disconcerting in appearance). And I loved the dessert’s contrast in textures —smooth chocolate pudding punctuated by crunchy popcorn coated in a hardened sweet, caramel sauce, finished with a drizzle of chocolate sauce. Thankfully, the food was unlike any other I’ve enjoyed at a carnival.

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Tri Therapy Review

March 20th, 2013 — 4:53am

Dano Book CoverLast week I finished reading Tri Therapy, a memoir written by my good friend, Dan Tyler, who more commonly goes by  the nickname “Dano.” I met Dano through triathlon—we’d often run into each other at races, and he was also a frequent customer at a triathlon store I worked at a few years ago.

Dano is one of those people who always has a smile on his face and is generally enthusiastic about life. While I’ve always known Dano to be generous and community-minded, he made a big impression on me last year when he was the first person I knew to buy tickets to a “farm to table” fundraising dinner I had planned for work. Although he doesn’t even own a television, he told me that he still recognizes and appreciates the great value of public television and wanted to support me and my work.

When Dano asked if I would be willing to read his memoir, I told him I would be honored. From our conversations, I knew Dano had poured his heart into the project, and I was eager to read his story. Plus, I don’t know too many people (or any) in their thirties who have already tackled writing and self-publishing a memoir. That’s impressive in and of itself.

Tri Therapy is about Dano’s experience training for and racing endurance sports, and the fundamental truths he has discovered along the way—like living in the present, practicing gratitude and helping others as part of a community.

What I learned about Dano by reading his memoir is that he is incredibly self-reflective and introspective. He is in tune with who he is, and what he wants in life. Dano is  unwaveringly committed to doing his part to make the world, his community and sport better. He has a good sense of humor. And he is continually learning, growing and seeking to  improve himself.

Through his stories, I loved picturing Dano going door-to-door up and down his street, introducing himself to neighbors and asking for donations to support Team in Training—“You’re going to see me out here running in the snow over the next few months and I’d like to tell you why.” Or the second time he waited in line early in the morning to register for Ironman Wisconsin, prepared with a whole carafe of coffee, a folding camp chair, a blanket, and ample snacks to share. I also loved picturing Dano going through Ironman aid stations jokingly asking volunteers for fois gras, cavier and beef wellingtons. Or Dano, stopping mid-stroke during Ironman to wave at his family standing on the top of the Monona Terrace (and amazingly, they saw him and waved back. Both years!). To me, these stories sum up the essence of Dano.

I found myself frequently highlighting sentences and passages that struck a special chord with me. Some were inspirational, others made me stop and consider—am I doing enough to give back to my sport and encourage participation among those newest to it? How do I practice gratitude? What are the aspects of my races I remember most now and why? Are my goals and approach to the sport sustainable? What bigger life lessons do I take away from my journey of training for and racing endurance sports?

There are so many takeaways and life lessons in Tri Therapy for endurance sport veterans and newbies alike. Dano is on to something. The races really do teach us so much about life.

Comment » | Books, Film, and Music, Racing and Training

Late Winter Carrot Salad

March 19th, 2013 — 6:32am

March 2013 021This past weekend I was asked to bring a vegetable to a family gathering and inexplicably found myself at a total loss. I had never prepared a vegetable as a dish to pass and many of the options I found—green bean casseroles, cauliflower gratin, creamed spinach and the like—didn’t do much for me.

Just put some green beans in a casserole dish, you might exclaim. But I wanted to make something more interesting and tasty.

What I love about the carrot salad we ultimately chose is that it’s so colorful and vibrant, and uniquely flavorful without any kind of dressing (just a bit of fennel, coriander, and lime juice playing off the sweetness of the roasted carrots). It was also nice to be able to prepare the dish ahead of time and quickly assemble at the party. Once of our nieces enjoyed helping to “whimsically”  arrange the carrots as the recipe instructs.

The dish was a hit and certainly one I would make again. Perhaps I over-thought the whole vegetable side dish assignment, but in the end, I enjoyed making something new and interesting and was proud of our contribution to the meal.

Late Winter Carrot Salad (from  Myrica Von Haselberg via Wisconsin Foodie; serves 4-6)

3 lbs carrots, cut lengthwise into pencil-thin sticks
2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp of fennel seed
1 tsp of coriander
freshly ground black pepper
2 sweet, fresh oranges
half of an avocado
squeeze of lime juice
finely diced cilantro

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss the carrots, olive oil and sea salt together and spread on two parchment-covered baking sheets so the carrots are not touching. Roast until the carrots are tender and very dark in some places, approximately 50 minutes.

Meanwhile, place 1 teaspoon of fennel seed and 1 teaspoon of coriander in a small pan over medium heat. When they darken a bit and smell toasted, transfer to a mortar and grind finely with a pestle. Add a half teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. Toss this spice mixture with the carrots when they are finished baking, and set aside.

Cut the peel and white membrane off the outside of the oranges. Then slice crosswise into thin circles.

After removing the carrots from the oven, adjust the oven to 350 degrees and roast 1/4 cup of sliced almonds on a baking sheet until they are golden brown, about 5 minutes.

Dice the avocado into half inch cubes, sprinkle with lime juice and a dusting of salt.

To assemble the salad: start with a large plate or broad, shallow bowl. Spread the carrots evenly over the bottom, allowing them to loop and curl whimsically. Next, sprinkle on the avocado, then the thin orange rounds. Top with a sprinkle of toasted almonds and cilantro. Eat immediately at room temperature, or store in the refrigerator and leave out the avocado until just before serving.

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Happy Pi Day!

March 14th, 2013 — 3:43am

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Slow Food UW Cafe – 3/13

March 13th, 2013 — 8:05am

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Pierogi and Squash Stew

March 12th, 2013 — 9:39am

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Last week I made Pierogi and Squash Stew with a recipe from this month’s Food Network Magazine (a Christmas gift that will be well-utilized). I had trouble finding a bag of frozen cubed butternut squash, so I baked my own (which certainly added to prep time). I also, by accident, substituted vegetarian sausage for the Italian turkey sausage.

The soup was great—hearty and flavorful, but not heavy. I particularly enjoyed the mushrooms and the unexpected pillows of mash potato-ish filling that came with each bite of pierogi swimming in a bath of tomato-flavored chicken broth. This soup is a nice farewell to winter. Because before we know it, we’ll be packing away our treasured stew, soup, and chili recipes in favor of spring’s lighter fare.

Pierogi and Squash Stew (from Food Network Magazine, March 2013)

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 cups shredded coleslaw mix or shredded cabbage
1 10-ounce bag frozen cubed butternut squash, thawed
1 12-to-13-ounce package cheddar and potato pierogies
Kosher salt
1/3 cup sour cream
Freshly ground pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat; add the sausage and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms and stir well to coat. Increase the heat to medium high, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute, then stir in the chicken broth and 2 cups water, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.

Add the coleslaw mix to the pot, cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the cabbage is wilted, about 3 minutes. Add the squash and pierogies and simmer, uncovered, until the pierogies are cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt. Divide among bowls and top with the sour cream, and pepper to taste.

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