Tuesday, April 29, 2008

John Harvard Sporting a Badger Flag

My work here is done.

My Old Kentucky Home

Tommorrow morning marks the beginning of my long roadtrip to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby. I'm meeting friends in Ann Arbor, from which we are roadtripping to Louisville. Here is the schedule of events:

Thursday, May 1
-Bourbon Trail: stops include Jim Beam distillery in Bardstown, KY, Woodford Reserve Distillery in Versailles, KY, and a private after-hours tour at Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, KY
-Barbeque dinner

Friday, May 2
-Traditional Kentucky breakfast
-Churchill Downs (First race of the day at 11am, Kentucky Oaks post time 5:45pm. We have one box overlooking the Winner's Circle-front row! The other box is just shy of the finish line and under cover.)
-Barbeque dinner at sunset

Saturday, May 3
-Churchhill Downs infield (First race of the day at 11am, Kentucky Derby post time 6:04pm)
-Downtown derby debauchery (live music on the river, bar hopping the iron district, etc.)

Sunday, May 4
-After derby brunch
-begin the long roadtrip home

Deena's Avocado Enchiladas

This past weekend, in celebration of Deena Kastor's Olympic Trials victory, I decided to make her recipe for Avocado Enchiladas, which I found online. Apparently she references the recipe during the documentary, The Spirit of the Marathon, which I blogged about previously. The recipe was awesome. I served it with refried beans and Mexican rice. A great meal for vegetarians, too! It was, however, a time intensive recipe. So probably best saved for the weekend.

2 Tbs vegetable oil
1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs sugar
4 Tbs cumin
3Tbs oregano
1 can beer
1 twenty-eight ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth or water

8 ripe avocados, peeled and seeded
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1 cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
Juice of one lime
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
3/4 teaspoon salt
20 corn tortillas
1/3 cup grapeseed or canola oil
1 pound Monterey Jack Cheese, grated

Instructions: Here is the recipe many of you asked for. I made one of my favorite recipes while shooting the documentary Spirit of the Marathon. Heat 1 tsp oil in sauce pan. Add onion and saute for 5 minutes or until soft. Add garlic, sugar, cumin and oregano saute 2 more minutes. Add beer, tomatoes broth let simmer for 20 minutes. Can be made two days in advance cool, cover and refrigerate until used for enchiladas.

Chop avocado and toss with cilantro, red onion, jalapeno, lime juice and salt.Heat oven to 400 degrees. In saucepan, heat oil (grapeseed and canola oil tolerate high heat and do not become toxic at high temperatures) over medium flame for about 5 minutes. Once oil is hot, fry tortillas one at a time for one minute each side, or until lightly brown and blistered. Remove and blot on brown grocery bag or paper towel (if you skip frying the tortilla, the enchiladas will not hold form).

Spread 1/2 cup red sauce on bottom of casserole dish. Dip fried tortillas in pot of remaining red sauce, spoon 3 heaping tablespoon of avocado filling in each tortilla. Roll up and arrange rolled tortillas side by side in casserole dish. Pour remaining sauce over tortillas sprinkle with cheese.

Cover and bake for 25 minutes take foil off and bake for another five minutes. Serve two enchiladas on a plate with rice, black beans and a side salad.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Fall Marathon Selected

Despite the fact that I have barely finished recovering from Boston, I've already selected and registered for my next marathon (September's Ironman excluded). I have selected the 27th annual Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, known as "the most beautiful urban marathon in America," which will be held on Sunday, October 5. The field is capped at 11,000 participants and last year's race filled in just 20 days. This created a bit of pressure and necessitated an immediate decision. So now I'm in. And I'm excited. I love trying new races in new places.

Saving the Best for Last

As always, my favorite part of vacation (and life) is discovering and sampling new culinary delights. Probably the most exciting stop during my time in Boston was exploring the historic North end of town, which is dominated by authentic Italian restaurants and mouth-watering pastry shops. On Saturday night, a local Bostonian pointed us to L'Osteria for a delicious Italian meal. Karen and I shared the Caesar salad and homemade lasagna, which might have been my all-time favorite. Afterwards, we made our way around the block to the legendary Mike's Pastry Shop, which had a line of people waiting for tables that stretched all the way down the street. We opted for the much shorter "to go" line and I ordered chocolate chip cannoli, which definitely hit the spot after dinner and, I'd like to think, fueled me though my marathon.

Other favorites during the trip included Legal Seafoods "If it isn't fresh, it isn't legal," a Boston chain, where I enjoyed the hot lump crab dip with seafood chips as an appetizer and the double stuffed baked shrimp (jumbo shrimp with buttery crabmeat stuffing) as an entree.

I also liked Z-Square, located in the heart of Harvard Square, which specializes in creative American home cooking. Although slightly more expensive prices than I like to see for lunch, the offerings were unique and tasty. I enjoyed the Italian Classico sandwich, with spicy cappocola, provolone cheese, roasted red pepper and balsamic vinaigrette on ciabatta. Karen opted for the Grilled cheese, a unique blend of roasted vegetables with blue, mozzarella, and Gruyere cheese.

I loved Herrell's Ice Cream in Cambridge, which is known for their "smoosh-ins" (kind of like Cold Stone with a personality). Great ice cream, interesting college town vibe. And finally, the sandwiches at Deluca's market were awesome, especially the award-winning roast beef. Definitely a great deli sandwich for $5.99. I love food.

The Sites of Boston

Beautiful flower box overlooking Acorn Street

And the Boston Marathon flower boxes!

Acorn Street: the most photographed street in Boston

Our Bed and Breakfast in Cambridge

Entering Harvard

The Charles River

Newbury Street

Boston Commons

The Holocaust Memorial

Union Oyster House

Paul Revere's House

Paul Revere Mall (Old North Church in background)

Old North Church

Paul Revere's family pew

Duck Statues, Boston Public Garden

More Pre/Post Race Pics

Pre-Race Pasta Dinner at City Hall

The bus lines on the morning of the race

Transportation Issues!

And the very long (and unmoving) porta potty lines

Karen and Kristin pre-race

Karen and Kristin with John Harvard

Kristin and Karen at Legal Seafoods after the race

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Women's Olympic Marathon Trials

Joan Benoit Samuelson at mile 17

Deena Kastor in 2nd Place at mile 17

The race begins at mile 22

Deena cruises to victory in 2:29:35

2nd place-Magdalena Lewy-Boulet (2:30:19)

3rd Place- Blake Russell (2:32:40)

Finish Strong, Joanie!

One of my favorite parts of vacation was watching the Women's Olympic Marathon Trials on Sunday, the day before the Boston Marathon. Over 150 elite female marathoners competed for one of three coveted spots to represent the U.S. Olympic Team in Beijing this summer.

The race course started on Boylston Street and featured four loops before ending at the traditional Boston Marathon finish line in front of the Boston Public Library in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood. I had the opportunity to catch the runners at miles 17, 22, and near the finish line. It was very exciting to watch the women I've always read about in Runner's World magazine (the best in the world!). It was also incredibly inspiring to watch 50-year old marathon legend Joan Benoit Samuelson run her last competitive race. Joan coasted past many women almost half her age with an astonishing 2:49:08 (90th place), setting an American record for 50+.

The race favorite was definitely American record holder and 2004 Olympic bronze medalist, Deena Kastor. But Magdalena Lewly Boulet set a daring pace and led the race until mile 23. Up until that point, Deena was almost 2 minutes back, and I was starting to worry that she wouldn't be able to make up the time. But when the two passed us again at mile 22, they were neck-and-neck, and Deena looked very strong and easily cruised to victory in 2:29:35. Second was Magdalena (2:30:19) and the the third spot went to Blake Russell (2:32:40). Interestingly, all three are California girls.

Funny story. When we were at the airport on Tuesday, we saw Deena and her husband in line at the ticket counter. As star-struck, mid-pack runners, we staked out a spot just outside the metal detector lines and watched her come through. Most entertaining was that she had her race trophy casually stuffed into a plastic bag. We then followed her into a gift shop, where we watched her buy two Dasani waters. Obviously, we were very inconspicuous as we stalked her throughout the airport. But just in case you wanted to know, Deena drinks Dasani water. Inquiring minds can thank my stealth reporting skills.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Back from Baaston

I’m back!! Although a little stiff and quite unsteady on stairs following Monday’s 26.2 mile-adventure, I feel refreshed and alive, as only vacation can make one feel.

Boston was amazing. I loved exploring the city. It’s an incredibly walker-friendly city, and the public transportation (the “T”) was superb. I’ll detail my adventures in subsequent posts, but highlights included sampling the Italian restaurants and pastry shops of the North End, watching the Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials on Sunday morning, enjoying a post-race seafood feast, touring Paul Revere’s house and several stops along the Freedom Trail, taking in spring in Boston, and sticking a Badger flag in John Harvard’s hand.

The Boston Marathon was an experience of a lifetime. While the pre-race transportation and porta potty options were severely lacking, causing me to miss my Wave 1 start and lose my pouch of Cliff Blocks (energy gel blocks) in the woods, all went pretty smoothly once I actually started running. Even though I spent the first 30 minutes literally blocked by runners, I eventually broke out of the crowd and was able to start moving. While I'm definitely not a top runner in any race in which I partake, especially the Boston Marathon, I did find myself passing people the entire race because of my Wave 2 start. This, I’m sure, was a mental stimulus. And I was able to supplement my nutrition by picking up dropped (unopened) Gu gels along the way. Just gotta go with the flow sometimes :)

The course was beautiful--essentially one New England-ish small town after another, with only the last three miles actually taking place in Boston proper. The course was VERY hilly. The infamous heartbreak hill at mile-21 was certainly long, but didn’t actually stand out too much from the ten or so hills I hit beforehand. The crowd support on the course was incredible. People lined the streets the entire way. Definitely the best was the women of Wellesley College at mile 17. You could hear their screams a mile away. The students lined the streets with all sorts of posters, which included “Kiss me I’m graduating,” “Kiss me I’m a lacrosse player,” and “You’re sexy!” Of course, the male runners went crazy at this point, and definitely took many of them up on their offers.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt so good during a marathon. I never really “hit the wall,” as runners like to say, which is a feeling that typically occurs anywhere from mile 15-21. I felt great until maybe the last two miles. My time wasn’t a personal record, but I’m still very proud of my finishing time–a 3:37:30, which is my second fastest marathon to date. I very much enjoyed the experience, and it was a great race and vacation. Pics and more stories to follow.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Spring in Madison

Spring is in the air in Madison. As of last week, the lakes are fully thawed, the Library mall fountain is spouting, the terrace tables and chairs are in place, and most excitingly, the Dane County Farmers' Market on the Square opens this Saturday, April 19! Although I won't be in town to enjoy the first, at least I know that I have many, many Saturdays of farmers' markets ahead. There's no better way to start the weekend than with a small coffee, a fresh pastry, a lovely stroll around the Capitol square, live music, local farmers, and incredible local produce. I love Madison. I love the farmers' market! Here are the details:

Dane County Farmers' Market on the Square
Saturday market starts April 19 (through early-November)
Capitol Square
-the largest producer-only farmers' market in the country. Always open, rain or shine!

Wednesday market starts April 23
200 block of MLK, Jr. Blvd.

Meyer Lemon Icebox Cake

Earlier this week, I made the following Meyer Lemon Icebox Cake. I finally found a grocery store in town that carries three varieties of Meyer Lemon Curd (a small jar for ~$3, which is obviously much cheaper than the Williams Sonoma alternative I started with, priced at a whopping $14).

The cake was very good, and both refreshing and light. After assembling the layers, the cake requires 24 hours of refrigeration before serving, which was annoying (who wants to wait that long to eat dessert?). When I finally delved into the soft layers, I was pleasantly surprised by the flavor and smoothness, although in hindsight, I think I would skip the extra dollops of Meyer Lemon. Between the lemon wafers and lemon flavored whipping cream, there seems to be more than enough lemon flavor. But other than that, this recipe is definitely a keeper and an ideal choice for a summer soire. Enjoy!

Meyer Lemon Icebox Cake (from norecipes.com)

An icebox “cake” is actually cookies layered with cream. In this case I use lemon wafer cookies I got at Whole Foods, Meyer lemon curd, and lemon cream. Left in the fridge overnight, the wafers absorb liquid out of the creme and take on a firm cake-like texture without getting mushy. For being relatively simple, this is actually one of my favorite desserts. Here’s my take on this classic.

-1 1/2 C heavy whipping cream

-3/4 C Meyer Lemon Curd to mix with the cream

-3/4 C Meyer Lemon Curd to layer1 box vanilla or lemon wafers

-Whip the cream until soft peaks form. Add 3/4 cup lemon curd to the cream and fold it in gently with a rubber spatula.

-In a 8 x 8 square baking dish or other suitable vessel, put down 1/3 of the cream and spread it around. Then put down a layer of wafers smearing the tops of each one with a good dollop of lemon curd. Repeat, finishing with a layer of cream.

-Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours before serving.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Jeopardy! Experience

Sitting in on two tapings of the Jeopardy! College Championships last Friday evening was very cool. It was my very first live game show experience and it was awesome to enjoy it on campus, and personally know one of the contestants! Suchita Shah, one of our campus tour guides was selected to represent UW-Madison, along with 14 other contestants from colleges and universities all over the country.

In the first taping, I watched students from the University of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Tufts battle it out. The next taping featured students from Michigan State, University of Colorado-Boulder, and a seemingly socially challenged student from Harvard. Tapings continued into Saturday, with the semi-finals and final championship round.

The episodes will air on May 5-9. So as not to ruin your viewing experience, I am not going to reveal the winner. I can tell you Suchita did wonderfully. I can also tell you that I was sitting pretty far back, so you probably won't catch any Kristin sitings, but maybe you'll catch a quick shot of me waving my towel (above) and cheering.

Admittedly, I've never been much of a Jeopardy! fan. But I certainly enjoyed the live experience, and am now a little more intrigued with the show and Alex Trebek. He was hilarious, brilliant, and extremely witty. When there were breaks in the taping, which were relatively frequent, Alex would come out into the audience and answer questions. We seriously covered everything--favorite lunch meat, worst drinking experience, favorite Indian food, best vacation spot, favorite animal, etc. It's like we go way back now.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Most Beautiful Chocolates

Have you ever seen a more beautiful box of chocolates? I certainly haven't. What incredible eye candy. And not only are they pretty, I can tell you from personal experience, that each one of these morsels was heavenly. I think I ate them all in one sitting. Well, maybe not quite.

Karen and I received this box of David Bacco chocolates as a gift from our friend Jane, who attended our St. Patrick's Day party. David Bacco is a local chocolatier (I swear Madison has more chocolatiers per capita than any other city in the US. There's David Bacco, Gail Ambrosius, Candinas, Nilda, etc.)

What I like best about David Bacco's chocolates is that they feature such imaginative flavor combinations inspired by elements of earth, air, fire, water, and spirit. And they are beautiful and each so intricately designed and detailed.

Bacco, who was the exclusive chocolatier for Madison's Cocoliquot downtown restaurant (which, unfortunately, closed in February), will be opening his own shop at Hilldale Mall in May. Slated to open across from Sundance Cinemas 608, between Sushi Muramoto and WineStyles, the shop will feature Bacco's signature line of chocolates. Yay! But until then, his chocolates are still available at some local retailers, and more information will soon be available on his Web site at www.davidbacco.com.

Ultimate Comfort Food

I recently tried a recipe for Chicken and Dumplings that I found on my mom's recipe blog (yes, my mother has multiple blogs). It was really good and warm (and comforting).

Chicken and Dumplings

3 (10.75 oz.) cans condensed cream of chicken soup
3 2/3 cups water
1 cup and 3 tbsp. chopped celery
3 onions, quartered
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
5 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
6 carrots, sliced
2 (10 oz.) packages frozen green peas
5 potatoes, quartered
3 2/3 cups baking mix
1 1/2 cups and 2 tbsp. milk

1. In large, heavy pot, combine soup, water, chicken, celery, onion, salt, poultry seasoning, and pepper. Cover and cook over low heat about 1 1/2 hours.
2. Add potatoes and carrots; cover and cook another 30 minutes.
3. Remove chicken from pot, shred it, and return to pot. Add peas and cook only 5 minutes longer.
4. Add dumplings. To make dumplings: Mix baking mix and milk until a soft dough forms. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto BOILING stew. Simmer covered for 10 minutes, then uncover and simmer an additional 10 minutes.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Updates from Derby Central

This just in from Louisville.

It's spring here. Tulip, dogwood, and pear trees are blooming, jonquils (daffodils for you Yankees) are up all over the place, and my cats are lying in the sun on the big screened porch off the back of the house. You can hear birds chirping, the neighbor's dog's ID tags chattering as he patrols the fenceline, and the hum of lawnmowers - that's right! It's beginning of another season of whose lawn is greenest!

So that means there are only 21 days until we take Louisville by storm for Derby 2008!

Breakfast on the Farm

I'm totally going to this on Sunday...

13th Annual Breakfast on the Farm
Presented by: UW-Madison Association of Women in Agriculture

Sunday, April 13, 8am-Noon
UW-Madison Stock Pavilion
1675 Linden Dr.
Tickets: Adults $7, Students $5

Enjoy a delicious country breakfast including eggs, mushrooms, sausage, pancaked, applesauce, cheese, ice cream sundaes, juice, milk and coffee.

Entertainment includes: Prarie Thunder Cloggers, Old Time Polka Band, Petting Zoo, Education Corral, UW Marching Band, and a visit from Bucky Badger!

Steal My Heart

Over the weekend, I made these great sugar heart cookies with meyer lemon curd filling. They seemed festively appropriate for the start of spring! You can use any sort of seedless preserve as a filling, but I think the meyer lemon curd spreads particularly well, and tastes great. I opted for the slightly expensive and pre-prepared Williams Sonoma alternative, but my mom just sent me the following recipe for meyer lemon curd. Might give it a try sometime soon.

Meyer Lemon Curd

1 stick unsalted butter (1/4 lbs
2-3 Meyer lemons zested
1/2 C Meyer lemon juice
3/4 C sugar
2 extra large eggs separated

Drop the whole stick of butter into a heavy bottomed saucepan over low heat and let it melt (the pan should be just warm enough to melt the butter). Once it's mostly melted turn off the heat.
In a medium bowl, add the sugar and zest a few lemons into it. Then squeeze about 1/2 C of juice and add it to the sugar.

Separate the eggs, dropping the yolks into the pot of melted (but not hot) butter and the whites into the sugar mixture.

Whisk the yolks and butter together until well combined. Then take the whisk to the sugar mixture until well combined. Pour the sugar mixture into the pot with the butter and whisk it all together.

Turn the heat back on to low and use a heat-proof silicon spatula to constantly stir the mixture, scrapping the bottom and sides of the pan to make sure nothing burns. If you have an instant read thermometer, just get the temp up to 170 degrees and you should be golden. Otherwise, just keep stirring until the curd thickens enough to coat the spatula. Make sure you don't over cook it!