Sunday, May 02, 2010

To change things up a little...

It has been four years since I started this blog, and it is time to freshen things up. I am in the process of starting up a new blog with a running, cooking, and food focus (which mine kinda was already - I just wanted to give it a new look and theme that will reflect this!).

So, I am taking a little break from blogging while I work on the new site and migrate all of my old posts over there, so none of my drivel from this blog will be lost. I won't be gone too long (heck, I have a marathon next weekend that I will need to report on!), and no doubt I will be commenting on the blogs that I read regularly.

Stay tuned...I will let you know when things are up and running! :)

Until next time,

Jean

Monday, April 26, 2010

Belated food post

I haven't talked much about food lately, but that doesn't mean I haven't been cooking! Here are some recent creations from my kitchen:

These cookies are from a couple of Saturdays ago. They are chocolate and butterscotch chip cookies with cinnamon. The recipe was loosely based on this one, but eliminating the toffee and going with all chips, and with a teaspoon of cinnamon added to the flour. There was something of a happy accident in that I added too many chips, so the cookies stayed big and chunky instead of flattening out. And I am really liking the addition of cinnamon to a lot of my cookie recipes. Yum!

Chocolate and butterscotch chip cookies with cinnamon



Made a tasty pizza last Thursday - black and green olives, fresh Mozzarella, Trugole cheese, and Grana Padano cheese, and home-cured Canadian bacon (still had a little bit left in the freezer!).

Mmmmmmm....pizza!



Another cookie recipe - this is from the "sounds really strange, but is actually really good" files. I found this recipe in Bon Appetit for soft chocolate cookies with grapefruit and star anise and wanted to give it a try. Soft in texture with a rich chocolate flavor, the star anise adds a licorice note, and the grapefruit zest lends a pleasant citrus burst. Probably not a cookie for everyone, but I found them interesting, unique, and quite flavorful.

Exotic tasting cookies



Saturday night's dinner was shrimp in yellow curry. This is a Thai-style coconut curry dish I found in Mark Bittman's cookbook, The Minimalist Cooks at Home. (You might remember Bittman as one of the lucky guys who got to eat and drink his way around Spain with Gwyneth Paltrow and Claudia Bassols) His recipe is here - but I changed a few things. I added lemongrass and roasted chile paste to the aromatics, reduced the amount of shrimp to a pound and included some veggies (red bell pepper, water chestnuts), and used all of a 14 1/2 oz. can of coconut milk (the recipe called for a cup, but I figured why waste the rest?). Even had some of my homemade curry powder on hand. You create an extremely flavorful sauce and basically poach the shrimp until just cooked through. This dish was outstanding.

Shrimp in yellow curry



Sunday was a crummy day weather wise, so I stayed in for most of the day and made pork and black bean enchiladas. It started with a homemade guajillo chile salsa, which would serve as my enchilada sauce. I also made a tangy and smoky tomatillo-chipotle salsa. A small hunk of pork butt was seasoned with a variety of spices and braised in beer, chicken stock, and some of the tomatillo-chipotle salsa until tender. I shredded the pork and mixed it with a can of black beans. The braising liquid was defatted and reduced to about a half cup worth of intensely flavored and spicy glaze, and this was mixed into the pork and beans. The pork and beans were rolled up in tortillas, topped with guajillo chile salsa, Monterrey Jack, and sharp cheddar cheeses and baked until golden brown and bubbly on top.

Hot out of the oven



Labor intensive? Yes. But absolutely worth the effort? You bet! The enchiladas came out of the oven smelling amazing, and tasting even better. Topped off with a little bit of both of my salsas and some sour cream, and I had a delightful south-of-the-border feast.

Plated up, with extra guajillo chile and tomatillo-chipotle salsas!



There, I am caught up!

Jean

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Nature's surround sound

Saturday morning arrived with cloudy skies and temps in the low 50's. Looked like we had received a little rain overnight, and a quick check of the radar indicated my area was in a dry slot with most of the rain was in southern MN. I headed out for my run.

Everything was going just fine until around mile 7 when a few raindrops started to fall. I could see the southern skies darkening, and I started to hear some claps of distant thunder.

A couple of miles later, the heavens opened up. It started with some large raindrops intermingling with...pea-sized hail? Good grief! This is the first time I have ever been caught in hail on a run (it stings). The hail subsided quickly enough, but heavy rain continued, along with more thunder and lightning.

In no time, I was drenched. Large puddles quickly appeared along the trails. Gutters along the side streets became small rivers. We received a tremendous amount of rain in a very short period of time.

(Nice morning for the Get In Gear, by they way! I will be interested in reading some race reports.)

I will say this much - there are few things cooler than being able to hear thunder when you are outside. It is just an amazing sound. The rumbling can not only be heard, but also felt. This vast, expansive sound makes you feel small. Mother Nature's surround sound system absolutely rocks!

I actually met another runner during the worst of it. We exchanged "Good mornings" with a little bit of a laughter in our voices, both keenly aware that we didn't do a very good job of interpreting the local weather forecast.

Clothing completely saturated? Check. Shoes waterlogged? Check. Chafing badly because every article of clothing was clinging to my body? Really big check. Good times!

Can you believe I ran 20 miles in this crap? This was the weekend for my "long run" in preparation for my marathon in a couple weeks! In spite of the conditions, I ran OK. But never have I been so happy to take a hot shower and put on some dry clothes.

So, with that, let the taper begin! :)

A couple of random notes:

1. This morning I noticed two different flowers. The marsh marigolds are in full bloom in one of the local parks I passed. The swamp was just a sea of yellow flowers. And, I saw some lilacs along the trail that are just starting to bloom. This is, I believe, the earliest I have ever seen both. In fact, I know a couple of years ago during a cool spring, the lilacs were not out until Memorial Day weekend.

2. Here are a couple of belated action shots of me from last weekend's Trail Mix 25k - My friend Jon was there with his family, and his daughter was kind enough to snap a few photos of me. It is kind of rare that I get any photos of me actually running in a race, so these were fun to receive.

Yours truly, completing the first lap



And, here I am at the finish

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I like Minnesota in the springtime

What a spectacular week. Running has been excellent, with pleasant, dry days in the high 60's and low 70's. Just delightful. And the warmer days have caused the vegetation to explode. Lots of wildflowers are emerging, and the flowering trees are starting to blossom. It is looking gorgeous around here.

Spotted a few new birds this week, all on Sunday. I was very happy to see the warblers have started to return. I found numerous yellow-rumped "Myrtle" warblers, and located a solitary palm warbler. These two species are usually amongst the first of the warblers to arrive, so they were right on cue. I also discovered a few blue-winged teal on one of the lakes, field sparrows (in a field, appropriately enough), and encountered a very chatty brown thrasher. It is so great to see the spring migrants moving through.

Forget Paris. I will gladly take Minnesota in the springtime any day! :) A few images from this week:

Leaves filling in nicely along the trails



This happy cardinal was singing from the treetops



A blossoming apple tree



A closeup of the apple blossoms



The yellow-rumped warblers (a.k.a., "Myrtle" or "Butterbutt") have arrived



Blue-winged teal floating on the lake



A flowering crab apple tree outside of my place - these are blossoming at least a couple of weeks earlier than normal

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