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.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Bacon Buttermilk Pancakes

Mardi Gras has never really been a big deal for me. Maybe it's because I'm a bit of a homebody (going out with a mass of drunken idiots just isn't really my kind of fun). But I think it's more likely that because I was raised Lutheran, and we never gave anything up for Lent, the idea of having to "get stuff out of my system" was never present.

However, In the past couple of years I made the discovery of Shrove Tuesday, also known as Pancake Tuesday. Well, an excuse to eat pancakes for dinner. That I can get on board with.

used a recipe for Gale Gand's buttermilk pancakes that I found online. They called for a cup of blueberries, but lately I've been hearing about bacon pancakes, and well, that sounded interesting. So I replaced the blueberries with crispy-cooked bacon.

The pancakes themselves were delicious. I don't often make pancakes from scratch (probably because I usually make them in the morning when I am extra lazy and a mix is easier) but this was a great recipe. I was a little surprised that they weren't baconier (is that even a word), it was more that they had a salty undertone (which was good, don't get me wrong). The maple syrup was an absolute necessity and a delicious addition. I need more excuses to make pancakes for dinner, yum.

Here's the recipe (adapted from Gale Gand's Brunch!)

Bacon Buttermilk Pancakes

- makes 10 3-to 4-inch pancakes -

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 large egg
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for cooking
12 slices bacon, diced and cooked crisp

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. In a separate bowl, beat the egg with a fork and then mix in the buttermilk, milk, and melted butter. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and combine with a wooden spoon, leaving plenty of lumps. Transfer the batter to a pitcher with a pour spout.

Heat a griddle or a large skillet over medium heat (after you've cooked a few pancakes, you may want to turn the heat down to medium-low so your pancakes don't brown too quickly. Melt 1 teaspoon butter on it (when the griddle starts to get dry as you're cooking, add more butter, 1 teaspoon at a time) and heat the butter until it foams.

Pour about 3 tablespoons of the batter onto the griddle to make each pancake, leaving space in between for spreading. Sprinkle each pancake with about a tablespoon of bacon. When the top of each pancake is done bubbling and no longer looks wet and the underside is lightly browned (about 3 minutes), flip the pancake and cook it on the other side until golden brown, about 2 minutes.

Serve immediately, or keep warm on a plate in a 200-degree oven while you cook some more pancakes.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sausage and Peppers Fettuccine

So I had peppers, I had onions, I had sausage. It seemed like a sausage and pepper sandwich might be in order. But what I didn't have has bread.

I decided to take the idea and instead make a pasta sauce (because what I did have was a package of fresh pasta).

Here's the ingredients:

4 hot Italian chicken sausages
1 red bell pepper, seeds removed and sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, seeds removed and sliced
1 onion, peeled and sliced
6 clove garlic, sliced thin (I forgot these in the photo)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
red pepper flakes to taste
2 Tablespoon tomato paste
3/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock, or water (also not pictured as it was a last minute addition)
1 pound fresh fettuccine
6 leaves fresh basil, julienned
grated Parmesan cheese

To start I fired up the grill and cooked the sausages through. Once they were cooked through and then rested for a couple of minutes I sliced them, then set them aside. Now if you are not a winter time griller like me, the sausages could be fried up inside or the sausage could be removed from its casings and browned in the same pan just before adding the peppers.

While the sausages were on the grill, back inside I heated a little olive oil in a large saute pan.

When it was hot, I added the peppers and onions (and I should have added the garlic, but I forgot)...

...and let this cook until the onions were cooked softened and translucent, which took just under 10 minutes.

I added the garlic, oregano and pepper flakes and cooked while stirring for about thirty seconds.

Next I added the tomato paste and cooked this for another minute or so (this caramelizes the tomato paste just a bit, making it sweeter).

Finally I added the white wine and the chicken stock...

...and the cooked sausages...

...and let the whole mixture simmer gently for about fifteen minutes.

While it simmered I cooked the fettuccine according to the package instructions. When it was cooked I drained it, saving a bit of the pasta water and then added the cooked pasta to the sausage mixture. It seemed a little thick so I added a few tablespoons of the reserved pasta water.

I portioned out the mixture onto a couple of plates (with enough left for a hearty lunch) and then sprinkled each with a little basil and Parmesan.

This came out pretty good. Sweet and spicy. The husband picked out all the garlic (without even trying it, hmph) but he said he liked it too. I wouldn't have minded a few more pepper flakes, but over all I really enjoyed this. It's definitely going on the to be made again list.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

What's in the Box?

.5 pound Snow Peas
1 Golden Bell Pepper
1.25 pounds La Ratte Potatoes
1 Cucumber
1 pound Full Circle Bagged Carrots
1 pound Parsnips
2 Lemons
1 bunch Green Onions
1 Delicata Squash
1 head Romaine Lettuce
0.4 pound Cremini Mushrooms
4 D'anjou Pears
4 Braeburn Apples

I also ordered this from the green grocery:

Truffle & Salt: Incredible black truffles from Abruzzo combined with adriatic Italian sea salt from the small town of Cervia to make the ultimate must have seasoning.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sausage and Rice Stuffed Acorn Squash

I've had an acorn squash sitting in my pantry for a couple of months (luckily squash are forgiving when it comes to going bad). Now, I love squash so I'm not sure why it has been sitting there taunting me for so long, but that is just the way it goes some times.

I decided that it was finally time to cook the thing. And since it had been waiting patiently for me to cook it, I decided that I wanted to try something new and maybe a little special.

Here's the ingredients:

1 cup rice, cooked (I used a brown and wild rice mix, but any old rice would work)
2 chicken sausages, casings removed (I used a hot Italian variety but another kind of sausage would work too)
1/2 onion, diced
5 mushrooms, sliced
2 clove garlic, minced
4-5 leaves sage, chopped
2-3 sprig thyme, chopped
2 Tablespoon Alfredo sauce (yes, I could have made a little bechamel sauce here but I had half a jar of sauce leftover from a lazy/tired night of cooking dinner, so I used that instead, and it worked great, so why go to the extra effort)
1-2 ounces Parmesan cheese, plus a little more for the top
1 acorn squash, cut in half with the seeds and what not scooped out

To start, I cooked the rice in my rice cooker. While that was going I browned the sausage along with the onion, then after a couple of minutes I added the mushrooms, garlic, sage and thyme (some rosemary would have been great too, but alas, the super cold week we had here killed off my rosemary) and continued to cook the mixture until the onions were translucent and the mushrooms were browned. I removed this from the heat and stirred in the cooked rice, Alfredo sauce and Parmesan cheese. At this point I cooled the mixture down and stashed it in the fridge (I had a big spurt of cooking energy so I cooked this filling while I made a different dinner), but I could have easily continued on at this point.

A couple of days later I continued on with my cooking. I stuffed the rice mixture into the cavity of the squash and then piled some more on top for good measure. I made a couple of rings out of aluminum foil and placed each of the squash halves on each of the rings so that they couldn't roll around while they were in the oven.

I covered this loosely with a piece of aluminum foil and popped it in a 350 degree oven. After an hour of cooking, I took the foil off and added a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. After another 20 minutes the squash was cooked through and the rice mixture was nice and bubbly.

I served the stuffed squash alongside a pear and romaine salad.

This turned out really good. With each bite a little bit of rice, a little squash and a little sausage, yummy. The husband really liked it too, a lot. And he is not a huge squash fan so that surprised me a little. I can imagine a few variations on this meal (different rice, different meat (or no meat), different cheese) and I can hardly wait to try them.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Glazed Carrots and Parsnips

Originally I intended to write this post about my take on Pioneer Woman's Crash Hot Potatoes (and I will add a few notes on those later) but the vegetable side dish I made turned out so delectable that I decided to write about it instead.

Here are the ingredients:

2 medium carrots
1 large parsnip
2 teaspoon butter
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
2 Tablespoon pecans, toasted

I peeled the carrots and the parsnip then cut the carrots on the bias into 1/4 inch slices. I sliced the parsnip in half lengthwise and removed the woody core before slicing each of the halves on the bias into 1/4 inch slices.

In a saute pan, I melted the butter and then added the vegetables to the pan along with a little salt and pepper. I added about a tablespoon of water and covered the pan so the vegetables would steam through. After a couple of minutes I removed the lid and added the brown sugar, stirring until the sugar had melted and the vegetables were cooked through, about another minute. I tossed in the pecans, gave it one last stir and that was it.

I served the carrots alongside a flat-iron steak with balsamic caramelized onions and the aforementioned potatoes (with a couple of tweaks). I used purple potatoes and Yukon golds as the potatoes, thyme instead of rosemary, and added a little sprinkle of blue cheese during the last couple of minutes of baking.

Seriously, these were so good (and the potatoes and steak weren't have bad either). I'm sure they would be good with all carrots or all parsnips or with almonds instead of pecans. These were so easy to make too. I highly recommend these for your favorite vegetable lover (or maybe even a vegetable hater, they are that good).

Friday, January 22, 2010

Treats for Your Sweet

As part of my fundraising efforts for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training program I will be making delicious Cake Truffle Balls for purchase.

To order, print out and fill out the attached form and return it, along with payment to D. Ted or Jennifer Harris by Feb 5.

All proceeds will go directly to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

To find out more about my Team in Training event please visit my fundraising Web site If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bad Blogger, with Good Reason

Lately I've been a bad blogger, but I've had good reason. Last week as part of my fundraising for my Team in Training event and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society I threw a Hawaiian Feast. I spent a fairly sizable amount of time menu planning, finding door prize donors, creating gift certificates, coordinating volunteers, making signs, etc. It was more work than I imagined (but in the end it was totally worth it). This left me with little energy for cooking much less blogging.

The menu for the feast consisted of lots of yummy traditional Hawaiian food. Here's what I prepared (with the help of some great volunteers):

Spam Musubi (think sushi but with fried spam instead of fish)
Ahi Poke (pronounced po-kay)
Kalua Pork
Chicken Luau
White Rice
Hawaiian Macaroni Salad (trust me, it's different from mainland macaroni salad)
Tropical Fruit
Cupcakes (from New York Cupcakes, delicious)

I also made Haupia which is a coconut milk pudding/gelatin concoction, but it never set so I couldn't serve it.

My favorites from the night were the Kalua Pork and the Ahi Poke. I thought I would pass along the recipes.

Traditionally at a luau the Kalua Pork would be a whole pig, cooked all day in an underground imu. Obviously that is not practical for most cooks. I used pork shoulder which is not only cheap, but also very tasty. This recipe is from Epicurious.

Kalua Pork

5 pound boneless pork butt roast
2 Tablespoon Hawaiian sea salt or course sea salt
3 frozen banana leaves, thawed
4 cup Water

2 cup water
2 teaspoon Hawaiian sea salt or course sea salt
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke

Instructions: Preheat oven to 350°F. Using small sharp knife, cut 1/4-inch-deep slits 1 inch apart all over pork roast. Rub 2 tablespoons sea salt all over pork. Unfold 1 banana leaf on work surface and place pork roast atop leaf. Fold up leaf around pork, enclosing completely. Repeat wrapping pork in remaining 2 banana leaves, 1 at a time.

Tie with kitchen string to secure, then wrap roast in foil. Place pork in roasting pan; pour 4 cups water into pan.

Roast pork in oven until very tender when pierced with fork, about 5 hours. Unwrap pork and cool slightly. Shred pork and place in large bowl.

Bring remaining 2 cups water and remaining 2 teaspoons salt to boil in small saucepan. Add liquid smoke; pour over pork and stir to blend. Let stand 10 minutes to allow liquid to flavor pork. Serve.

Ingredient tip: Hawaiian alaea sea salt is available at specialty foods stores and online from Hawaii Specialty Salt Company at Banana leaves are available at Asian markets and Latin markets. Liquid smoke is a smoke-flavored liquid seasoning available at many supermarkets and specialty foods stores.

My other favorite from the night was the Ahi Poke. There are lots of different recipes around for Poke, but the one I used came from a blog called Chaos in the Kitchen. Click the link to see her beautiful poke photo (which in the end was a large part of the reason I chose that recipe). I used frozen Ahi Tuna (QFC had donated a gift card for me to use for the event and frozen was all they had) and it actually turned out great (and was substantially less expensive than fresh would have been). I cut the tuna into 1/2 squares while it was still partially frozen which made it really easy to do. My version of the recipe makes 12-16 appetizer size servings.

Hawaiian Poke

16 ounce sushi-grade tuna
1/2 sweet or red onion, julienned
2 green onion, diced
1/4 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
2 clove garlic, minced
2 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoon black sesame seeds (or toasted)

Combine onion, green onion, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, sesame seeds and oil in a bowl.

Add bite sized pieces of tuna, mix well.

Chill the mixture for 15 minutes before serving so flavors can mix. Check for salt before serving, the soy sauce can be pretty salty without needing any additional salt.

Now that my event is in the books I can get back to blogging. I picked up my CSA box yesterday and I've already got some ideas brewing about what to make. A new entry will be coming soon, I promise.

P.S. I raised $706 for LLS with the Hawaiian Feast. A little less than I was hoping for, but not too bad.
The thing that really touched me was the willingness of my friends to give of their time and talents to help make my event a success. Some friends gave amazing door prizes, others spent hours in the kitchen helping me prep and serve, another spent the evening as our DJ (setting an awesome tropical mood) and a few helped collect money at the door, sell raffle tickets and bar tend. I could not have had a successful event without all of their help.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What's in the Box?

0.4 pound Cremini Mushrooms

1 pound Roma Tomatoes
1.5 pounds Yukon Gold Potatoes
2 Yellow Onions
1 Bunch Carrots
2 Red Bell Peppers
1 Acorn Squash
1 pound Zucchini
1 pound Parsnips
1 head Romaine Lettuce
1 Cucumber
4 D'anjou Pears
3 Pink Lady Apples