Monday, March 15, 2010

My blog has moved...

and can now be found here:

The feed for this blog has moved

the new feed is at:

Saturday, March 13, 2010

This is a test

Only Testing. please ignore.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Lavaman ... Lost

I have been putting off writing this for a while. I was holding on to a glimmer of hope that I would be able to participate in Lavaman this year. But today, the door closed on that possibility.

It all started about three weeks ago (well technically it started about 13 months ago). My coach and I decided that I was over-trained so it would be a good idea to take a few days, maybe a week off from training (and if your coach, who loves pain, tells you to sit down for a week, you do it). So there I was, relaxing on the couch, wiggling my ankle around a little, when suddenly I felt a pop (and then there was much pain).

I still had a few days before I needed to get back to training so I figured I'd give it a little rest and lots of ice and it would be good as new. A week later I was still in pain. I called my physical therapist and she recommended a week, maybe two of treatment ("probably just a little tendinitis, we'll get it worked out"). When I was still in pain three weeks later we decided it was time for a specialist.

Through all of this, I was convinced that I would be able to participate. Sure, training would suffer a bit, but I would be able to make it though. I continued my swim training and started doing all of my running in the deep end of the pool (I was in the pool so much I was starting to feel chlorinated). The one thing I couldn't do was bike. Every Friday I would try out my bike on my trainer, hoping that I would be able to ride with the team on Saturday, but I was always disappointed. I could only make it about ten minutes before I was in too much pain to continue.

This is when my pity party started. I was so mad at the situation. I mean really, how do you hurt your ankle while you are just sitting on the couch, c'mon! Still, I continued to hold out hope. Even if I couldn't train, I would still be able to participate. Sure, I would be in pain during the event, but it would be fine. As long as I wasn't going to cause myself permanent damage, I could deal with pain.

Today I saw a foot and ankle specialist. He had already talked to my physical therapist so he knew what I wanted, some kind of quick fix to get me through the event. Well, he shut that down right away. He wiggled around the good foot, then wiggled around the bad foot, then made a face. "Don't ship your bike to Hawaii, it will just be a waste of money. You can not do a triathlon on this ankle. I'm not sure yet what is wrong, but you can't do a triathlon on this ankle."

He sent me off for a set of stress x-rays. In case you have never heard of stress x-rays (because I hadn't) it's where the doctor turns the ankle to the side as far as it will go while they shoot the x-ray. They do this on both ankles for comparison. Well, we'll just say the comparison wasn't good. The amount of movement my ankle allows shows that there is definitely something not good going on in there. I had an MRI as well so that the doctor can get a better look at what is going on with the soft tissues but I won't know the results of that until my follow-up next Thursday. So, a definite diagnosis is still to come, but the word surgery was bandied about quite a bit.

Long story short, I have to sit out the Lavaman Triathlon this year. The very tiny bit of good news is that almost all of my fund raising can be rolled into another TNT event later this year. I'm leaning towards Lavaman 2011!

I am so grateful to everyone who has been so supportive of my endeavor for the last few months. I have been in awe of the generosity of time, talent and (especially) money that I have experienced. I have had more people than I can count tell me that they are proud of me or that I am an inspiration to them. I can't help but feel that I am letting all of you down.

I'll still be traveling with the team to Hawaii. It's going to be really hard to see the rest of my team crossing the finish line, but I want to be there to cheer them on. Plus, I can get a good look at what I'll be in for come next year.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What's in the Box?

Usually I customize what comes in my box, but this week I neglected to do that, so I received a few things that I'm not too excited about. I usually don't get spinach because the husband really doesn't like it and I already have a bunch of lemons in the house. Plus, I'm going to really have to work to get through that much fruit (I usually only get two kinds of fruit, not three in the box).

1 Green Cabbage
2 Hass Avocados
1.5 pounds Russet Potatoes
1 Cucumber
1 Bunch Baby Leeks
1 Bunch Carrots
1 Green Leaf Lettuce
.33 pound Baby Spinach
.4 pound Mushrooms
2 each Lemons
4 Pinova Apples
4 Navel Oranges
4 each D'anjou Pears

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Happy, Happy Birthday

Yesterday my uncle wished me a happy birthday and told me that he hoped I didn't have to make my own cake. I replied that making my own birthday treat is the only way to ensure that I get to enjoy exactly what I want. This year, that was Momofuku's Crack Pie.

At Momofuku's Bakery and Milk Bar in New York City they sell this ooey-gooey pie for $44 each. Making it at home cost much, much less than that (and you get two pies).

I cooked this over two days, making the oat cookie for the crust one day and finishing the crust and the filling the next morning. The result is a really sweet creamy filling in a slightly salty cookie crust. A delicious contrast.

Happy Birthday to me!

Click here for a link to the recipe in case you want to try this deliciousness at home.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Tale of Two Chickens

This week I decided to take on a couple of recipes from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home Cookbook. The recipes from Ad Hoc are intended to be family-style "you can make this at home" recipes. I like this idea because some of the recipes from say his French Laundry Cookbook which might call for something like, an entire pig's head (not really an everyday ingredient) or require three days of prep are not too accessible for the casual cook and are certainly not intended for weeknight dinner type cooking (at least not at my house). Not to say I don't cook from it, or from his other cookbook Bouchon, because I have and everything I have made has been phenomenal, it's just not "everyday" cooking.

I had lots of tasty root vegetables waiting around so I decided to start with the recipe for Whole Roasted Chicken on a bed of Root Vegetables. Out of respect for the author, I'm not going to reprint the recipe here, but if you have the book (and if you don't I recommend it) you'll find the recipe on page 22.

The thing about Thomas Keller recipes is that they are precise, explaining exactly how each ingredient should be trimmed and cut. The thing about me is, I'm not that precise when it comes to chopping vegetables, I mean, I cut everything pretty close to the prescribed sizes, but I certainly am not as exact as he is.

I did make a couple of changes to the recipe. First, it calls for leeks, rutabagas and turnips in addition to carrots, onions and potatoes. Well I didn't have leeks and I just flat out don't like turnips (and I am a grown up so I don't have to eat them if I don't want to). It's been so long since I've had rutabagas I can't remember if I like them or not. If I get the opportunity to get them in my CSA box I will happily try them again, but I had no interest in a special trip to the store to pick up a item I may or may not like, so I left them out too. What I did have was parsnips and golden beets, and since I like both of those things, into the mix they went.

Otherwise I followed Keller's instructions. I pulled out my ginormous cast iron pan and deposited my olive oil dressed vegetables along with my trussed chicken which I had rubbed the inside of with fresh thyme and garlic. Then I but 4 TABLESPOONS or butter on top of the chicken (along with some salt and pepper) and popped it into the oven. The thing is, I must have been really sleepy when I was making this because after I trussed the chicken I stupidly put the chicken into the pan breast side down instead of breast side up.

So, while it cooked just fine, the yummy crispy skin was on the wrong side of the chicken (sad). However, the chicken itself was wonderful, moist and gently seasoned. While the vegetables were really good, I personally think that 4 tablespoons of butter was at least 2 tablespoons to much. A little too greasy and not quite crispy enough for my taste. So when I make this again I think I'll go with less butter and maybe a few less vegetables in the pan (I think they might brown better if they weren't as crowded).

So, one chicken down, one to go. Each year I cook dinner for two of my best friends, their family and of course the husband and myself as my birthday gift to them (their birthdays are on two consecutive days so I can get away with one dinner as two gifts). The recipe that seems to get the most attention from this cookbook is the one for Buttermilk Fried Chicken. Because I had heard so much about this recipe I asked if I could put it on the menu. I like to try out new things on this group because they are always (luckily) a forgiving group.

This recipe is really easy to find online (in fact it is on the Amazon sale page linked above) so I'll leave you to find it for yourself. You can also buy it as a kit (which frankly seems silly to me, but you know, to each his own).

Keller specifically calls for 2 1/2 to 3 pound chickens stating that you may need to go to a farmers market to find them. However, I did not have the time to search out tiny chickens, so, I went for the smallest chickens I could find at my local QFC which were 4 pounds each.

So, once again I followed the instructions. Brined the chicken overnight, combined all the ingredients for the coating then packed everything up to prepare at my friends house.

Once there I set up two pans with oil (one for light meat and one for dark) as well as a dredging station (the chicken goes through the flour coating, then into buttermilk, then into a second batch of coating, then onto a parchment lined baking sheet until each piece was coated) and a cooling rack. This took A LOT of room.

So into the oil went my first two batches of chicken (one with thighs and one with breasts). This is when I started having serious heat control issues. A lot of the coating came off and even though the chicken was cooked to temperature the skin wasn't even crispy. Sad fried chicken.

This is when I started to get despondent (and thankful for a kind group of friends (and my cocktail)). Time for a few adjustments. We turned off the kitchen fan, readjusted the temperature controls and waited for the oil to come back up to temperature. In went the drumsticks, a second batch or breasts and once they were done, the legs.

Success (mostly). As we gathered around the table I encouraged everyone to try the drumsticks first (as they were the most golden brown and delicious) then the breasts, then the legs (I didn't even serve those first two batches, bleaagh). I was supposed to have fried up some fresh thyme and rosemary to sprinkle over the top, but at this point I was just happy to be getting something edible on the table so we decided to just dig in.

You can see from the picture that I also served a tower of biscuits. What not pictured is some very delicious macaroni and cheese (which my 5-year old picky-eater Goddaughter actually approved of) and a salad made with greens, the white-wine poached pears that I canned in November, blue cheese and glazed nuts.

The chicken was really good. The brine kept it really, really moist (and added a great flavor) and the coating was lightly seasoned, crispy and delicious. In the cookbook Thomas Keller says that once you try this chicken you'll want to add it to your weekly routine. Well, while it was very good, it was a lot of work. It might make an every six months routine at our house.

To end the meal I served cake balls (similar to these). One of my diners was almost two-year old Rowan. He was cracking me up while he was eating them so I snapped a few pictures (yeah, they're a little blurry but it was a little dark and little kids move fast).

Here's the approach.

Next a few nibbles off the bottom.

Then the whole thing went in.

He looked like a chipmunk hoarding nuts.

Too cute.