Saturday, July 31, 2010

Minnesota Vikings Potato Salad

At the farmers market on Thursday, I found some really cool purple fingerling potatoes. I also happened to have a few fingerling potatoes left over from last week's haul, and they are kind of yellow. At the very least, they look similar to a Yukon Gold. So, since the Minnesota Vikings started training camp yesterday, I decided to make a Vikings-themed potato salad!

Purple potatoes are pretty when sliced!



I found a recipe in a recent Bon Appetit magazine for Potato Salad with Pancetta, Rosemary, and Lemon and adapted it for my fingerlings. This recipe was a little different than your traditional potato salad in that it was made with olive oil instead of mayonnaise, so it was billed as a lighter salad.

I halved the recipe, since I was only cooking for myself. I had no celery, so I did not include that, but that would definitely add some crunch and a contrasting texture. Also, I did not have pancetta, but I did have a small slab of my home cured bacon (which is not smoked - but regular smoked bacon would be good here, too) in my freezer that was an acceptable, if not better, substitute.

This turned out to be a delicious side dish. The lemon and olive oil dressing is bright and lively. Couple that with a nice freshness from the herbs, a hint of garlic, and some salty bits of crispy bacon, and you have a perfect potato salad for summer. Definitely lighter than the traditional stuff. And, it is kind of pretty with the purple and yellow potatoes, I think! Here is what I did:

Minnesota Vikings Potato Salad with Lemon, Rosemary, and Bacon
-adapted from Bon Appetit



-1 lb. purple fingerling potatoes, sliced in 1/2 in. rounds
-1/2 lb. yellow fingerling potatoes, sliced in 1/2 in. rounds
-1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
-2 T. lemon juice
-1 t. lemon zest
-1 clove garlic, finely minced
-2 t. fresh rosemary, finely minced
-Salt and pepper to taste
-3 oz. thick-cut bacon (or pancetta), diced, cooked until crispy
-2 T. Italian parsley, finely minced


In a large pot of cold water, add your potatoes and some salt. Bring the potatoes to a boil, and reduce heat to medium. Cook for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender and pierce easily with a fork.

While the potatoes are cooking, whisk together your olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, rosemary, and some salt and pepper. Taste. If it needs more of something, feel free to add. Set aside until potatoes are done cooking.

Drain well, and toss into a large bowl or container. While the potatoes are still warm, add your dressing and toss well. I used one of those large plastic GladWare containers, snapped the lid on, and tossed everything around to distribute the dressing. Taste again to check for seasoning (the recipe didn't give amounts for salt and pepper, and I found myself needing to add more of both at this stage). Chill in the fridge for at least a couple of hours, or overnight.

Allow to come to room temperature, add the bacon and Italian parsley, and toss well to incorporate. Serve it up and enjoy, all the while hoping and praying that Favre decides to return, otherwise we are screwed.

GO VIKES! :)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Today's finds, and reconsidering plans

Here is today's score at the farmers market:



Similar to last week, I got some more basil (huge bunch for $1), pretty grape tomatoes, and delicious sweet corn. But the really exciting find was the purple fingerling potatoes! Cool. I think I might need to do some sort of Vikings-themed potato salad since the purple and gold report to training camp tomorrow! :)

In other news, I am thinking about ditching my plans for the Bismarck Marathon in September. Yesterday it was not quite as humid as it has been, but temps were still in the low 80's. In the middle of my run, all I could think about was hot I was, and how miserable this summer has been for running (for me, at least...I hate heat).

The marathon is only 7 weeks away, and I don't feel at all prepared. I have only had a few training runs since June that I have enjoyed, where the temperature was to my liking. My last two races have sucked, mostly because of the weather. The prospect of doing any more really long runs on 70+ degree, humid, gross mornings isn't appealing. My mojo feels gone. It is well established that I am a cold weather runner. I am not having any fun right now...and I don't like it when I am not having fun. :)

Might be a little more enjoyable to take away the pressure of having to log the big miles and just do some shorter races this fall. Time to recharge the batteries, I think.

In the meantime, at least I have some nice produce to play with. :)

Until next time,

Jean

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Weather statistics and pizza

I did my normal weekday run yesterday, and it was once again really warm - 85 degrees, humid, and sunny. Today, I decided to skip my run because of even worse heat (93), humidity, and dangerous heat indices (104 as I type this!). Just not worth it.

This has been quite a summer. Last summer, we (runners, that is) were blessed with some cooler weather, making it a treat to throw on the running shoes and head outside. These past several weeks have been miserable.

Just for kicks, I reviewed my spreadsheet where I track the temperatures during each of my runs (not necessarily the high for the day; just the temp when I finished). I picked an arbitrary date of June 1st and calculated an overall average temperature through July 26th in both 2009 and 2010. Here are the results:

2009 - June 1st - July 26th

Total Runs: 38
Runs in the 50's - 2
Runs in the 60's - 11
Runs in the 70's - 12
Runs in the 80's - 11
Runs in the 90's - 2
Coldest run: 55 F - June 8th
Warmest run: 93 F - June 22nd
Overall average temperature - 74.2 F

2010 - June 1st - July 26th

Total Runs: 39
Runs in the 50's - 1
Runs in the 60's - 2
Runs in the 70's - 19
Runs in the 80's - 16
Runs in the 90's - 1
Coldest run: 55 F - June 12th
Warmest run: 91 F - June 22nd
Overall average temperature - 78.2 F

While 4 degrees warmer overall doesn't seem like much, some of the numbers over that span tell a different story. As you can see, this same time period in 2009 offered many more runs in the 50's and 60's, which is extremely pleasant. An interesting observation I made from 2010 is that of the 16 runs in the 80's, 11 of those were 85 degrees or greater! And, I thought it was strange that the warmest days of those two time periods was the same day - June 22nd.

Anyhow, what I am saying is it is hotter this year, and running has been tougher for me. :) Here's to cooler days ahead.

OK, enough boring numbers! Let's talk food.

Pizza has been on the menu a couple of times over the last week (because there is nothing more fun than baking when it is 90+ degrees outside!).

The first pizza is a "Farmers Market Margherita" of sorts. I topped this one with tomato sauce, mozzarella and Grana Padano cheeses, along with the awesome grape tomatoes and fresh basil I purchased at the farmers market. I put a little of the basil on the pizza before cooking, as well as some shreds of raw basil after it came out of the oven for added flavor and some color. The red grape tomatoes were super sweet, and the green ones tart, adding an interesting contrast. And, the green ones also stayed in line with the red, white, and green theme that is the Margherita - the colors of the Italian flag!

Pizza Margherita...Mama Mia!



And, tonight was something a little different - bacon, pineapple, and jalapeno. I saw this combination pulled off on The Food In My Beard, and it looked really good. And it was. The toppings work extremely well together - smoky bacon, sweetness from the pineapple, and a nice clean heat from the jalapeno peppers. Cheeses included fresh mozzarella, Monterrey Jack, and a little extra-sharp cheddar. Just delicious! This one will be made again. Soon.

Sweet, spicy, and smoky



Until next time,

Jean

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Lumberjack Days 10 Miler

"Chaos in the midst of chaos isn't funny, but chaos in the midst of order is." - Steve Martin

Saturday morning I pointed The Silver Hornet east and found myself in Stillwater, MN, for the annual Lumberjack Days festival. I would be partaking in the Freight House Road Races 10 miler, which is becoming something of a tradition.

Whenever I run the same races year after year, there is a sense of déjà vu all over again, as Yogi Berra would say. At the very least, there is a sense of sameness. Case in point for Lumberjack Days:

1. I parked in the same lot as I always do (maybe even the same space).

2. It is the same check-in process, and shirts are handed out after the race, which I like (you've gotta earn it here at Lumberjack Days, baby!).

3. Same bumpy school bus ride to the start. (Two quick asides - I no longer fit comfortably in a school bus. Also, as we were about to leave Stillwater to head to the start, our surly bus driver started honking and wildly gesticulating at a lady who was trying to park in the area he needed to drive through. A chaotic start to the race day, and we hadn't left the parking lot!)

4. Same course, and you know exactly what to expect and where (including the nice folks at the 10k split who run a sprinkler all the way from their house to the road - on cue, as always), and where the water stops are.

5. And, many of the same familiar faces from the local running scene. A lot of consistency here!

Even some of the pictures are the same. Here is 2009:



...and here is 2010! :)



The only real variable is the weather. And what a difference it made this year.

By and large, I have gotten pretty lucky with the weather at this race. Traditionally, this is a very hot time of year. The first time I ran here in 2005, it was really warm (excessive heat warnings later in the day, with heat indices rising to 110!), and I finished in time to avoid some mid morning storms. 2008 and 2009 were both right around 70 degrees, but the humidity was very low, making for comfortable running.

For this year's race, some thunderstorms blew through the Twin Cities overnight, leaving some nice cloud cover in their wake. Temperatures were in the high 60's earlier but quickly warmed to the mid 70's during the race. Dew point were in the 60's as well, leaving something of a sticky, sweaty situation. The cloud cover was the only saving grace.

Bottom line; I don't run well in weather like this.

As per usual, the race starts north of Stillwater at Square Lake Park. The race director shouted "GO!" from the top of a van, and nearly 1100 runners were headed back to Stillwater.

And then things got weird.

A mere half mile into the race, I got to witness a girl do a face plant in the middle of the highway, all on her own. She stepped into a pothole that she obviously didn't see, and down goes Frazier. She hit hard, too, and the sound was awful. A bunch of us slowed down to check on her, and she bounced right back up, insisting she was fine. Obviously, she was - she passed me soon thereafter and looked remarkably good, so that was great to see. And I never saw her again!

By the first mile, I had sweat pouring down my face. It was going to be one of those days.

Another weird thing I witnessed was near the 5 mile mark, and I was personally involved. Running in the middle of the highway, suddenly I feel my right foot get tangled with another runner behind me! I nearly took a tumble of my own, thankfully managing to catch myself before falling. She apologized, but what the hell? Here I am minding my own business and nearly got taken out by this girl who was, for all intensive purposes, drafting me. We've got a whole highway to work with! Plenty of room here, people; no need to be running in someone's shadow.

Even worse, more chaos ensued as a police car blows by the runners with the siren on and lights blazing. It was followed by what looked to be some sort of emergency vehicle that was driving with much less urgency, so I don't know what that was all about. I was wondering if they were responding to something that happened with a runner. The emergency vehicle came back by us later on, and it didn't seem that there was a significant problem. Still, you never like to see those things at races, so I hope everyone was alright.

Is this a road race or a demolition derby?

With all of this crazy stuff going on around me, let's talk about something positive - overall, the course has elevation loss as we head back down to the river. Lots of downhill running all the way to Stillwater. It's a great course. So if you are suffering, you can do a little coasting to try and recover. Miles 5 through 7 were largely downhill. I made it through the 10k split in good nick, 48 minutes and change.

But, things deteriorated in rapid fashion.

Following the water stop after mile 7, I hit a wall in a big way. I felt hot, exhausted, and extremely sluggish. I actually needed to stop and walk for a couple of brief stretches on the way to the finish. I kept telling myself, "It could be worse - the sun could be shining!" :) The last couple of miles were most unpleasant.

I dragged my sorry butt into Stillwater as best I could, rounded a couple of corners, ran under the historic lift bridge, and finished in 1:21:14 (results here). I was positively soaked, every article of clothing, saturated. People might have thought that I had fallen into the St. Croix River, but no. And I don't care what anyone says - if your running clothes get that wet, there is no amount of Body Glide that will prevent chafing (enough said).

I was spent. What a race!

All things considered, and with all the strange stuff that transpired, I wasn't entirely displeased with the results. Even with my apparent lack of adaptability to these conditions, I was only 2 1/2 minutes slower than the 10 miler I ran in May. Somehow, I still managed to finish in the top half of the overall, gender, and age division categories (even with a couple of late walk breaks!, though I certainly didn't feel like I did. Maybe it wasn't such a bad day after all?

My groovy new 2010 Lumberjack Days race shirt



None of this (strange events, weather) should take anything away from the race itself. It is one of my favorite local races. I love the 10 mile distance, and as noted, I have run Lumberjack Days several times. The course is pretty, and it is a lot of fun to finish in downtown Stillwater in front of a lot of cheering folks. A fantastic summer event - even if Mother Nature doesn't always cooperate.

I'm already looking forward to exacting some revenge next year. Hopefully, it will be a little less chaotic. Although, the chaotic races tend to give one more interesting stories to tell!

After the semi-regular, post-race tradition of take-out for dinner, the rest of the evening will look a little something like this... ;-)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

This week at the farmers market

Here is tonight's bounty from my local farmers market.



Fresh basil, sweet corn, fingerling potatoes, and some awesome little grape tomatoes (the green ones nice and tart, the red ones oh, so sweet).

Amazing looking produce is showing up right now. Last week only one vendor had corn. This week, most of them did. Tomatoes are really coming into their own as well. The vegetables look absolutely gorgeous, and it is hard to exercise some restraint. I want one of everything!

Expect a pizza Margherita with the basil and tomatoes at some point this weekend. I am also sensing a light, summer potato salad with the fingerling potatoes. And the corn? Well, that will be served fairly unadulterated; barely cooked, a little butter and salt...perfection!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Looking the part, and why the catbird is cool

I was going for my run this evening. There is this old retired gentleman who lives in my building, and I occasionally see him sitting on one of the benches out front. He was there this evening, and we exchanged our usual greetings.

"Heading out for your run?" he asked.

"Yep, I think it is going to be a warm one too," I replied.

"Well, you sure do look like a runner," he added.

It is always kind of funny when someone else says something like that. Sure, I know I am a runner, but it is not every day I hear someone else recognize it.

Fast forward to the run itself - it was hot. 87 degrees with plenty of sun, which translated into a slow, sweaty run for me. Sluggish. Brutal. Ugh! It was one of those days that makes me long for the 40 degree mornings of fall. Not a good performance today.

I certainly didn't feel like a runner, but apparently I am at least looking the part. :)

Let's switch gears and talk birds for a second.

One of my favorite birds of summer is the gray catbird. These sleek, rather nondescript songbirds take up residence in the thickets along my running trails, and I see them every time I am out. I think few people pay attention to them, as they are not exactly the most colorful bird. But they are some of the most interesting to me.

A very smart bird, they are able to recognize when the dreaded, parasitic brown-headed cowbird lays eggs in their nest. The catbird will remove any eggs that don't belong to them.

Even more interesting, I have been learning about their talent for mimicry. While they are known for making a classic "mew" sound, hence their name, the video below from Cornell shows the catbird's mighty range and details some of the other birds (and in some cases, amphibians) they can impersonate:



This summer, I have heard the catbird impersonate a robin, red-winged blackbird, and even a song sparrow. And I am sure they have been faking me out for years, making me think they are other birds! The gray catbird is apparently the Frank Caliendo of the bird kingdom. :)

Until next time,

Jean

Saturday, July 17, 2010

I am the boss of this chicken!

Finally, a good long run on the weekend!

This morning was cloudless and warm at 75 degrees. I felt warm, and the dew point was around 60, so the humidity was not quite as oppressive as the previous two weekends.

I ran 15 miles, and it was great. I felt strong and even slightly speedy. I didn't his a wall like I did last week, and the week before that. I had power today and was able to maintain a nice pace. Still, I was a sweaty mess by the time I got home, but it was a really satisfying, encouraging run. Good to have a day like this. More, please.

Quite a few people out running, especially towards the end of my run. In two to three months, fall marathon season will be in full swing, and it is clear that many people are preparing for something. Lots of water bottles, hydration packs, gel flasks, and even a lady running in...long pants? I remind you, it was 75 and slightly humid - I hope she was heat training!

Saw some nice wildlife once again. A loon flew over me, as did a cackling pileated woodpecker. Gray catbirds are everywhere. I heard several members of the flycatcher family (eastern phoebe, eastern wood-pewee, great-crested flycatcher). There were only a 7 rabbits along the trails for a somewhat lackluster .46 BPM - but still, it is always fun to see even a few cute bunnies!

On to some cooking stuff - here is one the best instructional pieces I have seen on trussing a chicken. The gentleman doing the trussing is Chef Brian Polcyn, one of the co-authors of the excellent book, Charcuterie. You can also tell by his style that he is a teacher, and an entertaining one at that. Watch the video to the very end, and you will learn the real reason why we truss chickens. :)



I had never seen a chicken trussed like that before. After watching it, I couldn't believe how simple it was, and how it completely make sense to do it that way. It would appear that I have been doing things backwards.

Anyhow, this method of trussing got applied to the beautiful Amish chicken I bought at the meat market today ($6.79 for a 4+ pound bird). The chicken was stuffed with lemon, garlic, parsley, rosemary, thyme, and sage, and got tied up as in the video. I applied butter to the outside, along with finely minced thyme, rosemary, sage, and of course, some salt an pepper. A simple, humble preparation. I roasted the bird at 350 F for 90 minutes, basting every 30 minute, until the juices ran clear.

Here is what it looked like coming out of the oven



And here it is plated up with some corn and potato salad



The trussing method did its job. It kept the breast meat so juicy, moist, and delicately flavored with the herb, lemon, and garlic that were busy steaming away inside. The bird cooked nice and even, so everything finished at the same time. And it tasted damn good, if I do say so myself. I love roasted chicken. A fine, fine meal, and I have some nice leftovers to work with.

Chicken salad, perhaps? :)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Overcoming aversions

For years, I have had an aversion to just about anything with the word "salad" following it. Not the leafy green salads, mind you. I like those. I am talking the mayonnaise-based ones. Chicken salad. Tuna salad. Egg salad. Potato salad.

I've never had a very good reason for disliking these things. I always thought part of it was that I was never into hard-boiled eggs. And, the only thing I ever used mayonnaise for was to spread on a sandwich. But recently, I made some homemade egg salad for the first time, and it wasn't so bad. I tried some homemade chicken salad awhile back with leftover roasted chicken, and it didn't suck. So, I am taking baby steps.

Tonight I ventured into the world of potato salad. I have never made this before, so you are witnessing a first. I found a recipe on the Food Network website that looked really appealing - Bobby Flay's Mustard-Green Onion Potato Salad. Bobby has 39 different potato salads to his credit according to the website search, but this one stood out because I love mustard. And he uses two kinds - Dijon and whole grain. Seemed like a good one to start with.

Bobby Flay's Mustard-Green Onion Potato Salad



I followed the recipe exactly except I used sherry vinegar instead of white wine (I had no white wine vinegar, but I like sherry vinegar better anyhow), and I used a mix of new red potatoes and small Yukon golds. Otherwise, everything else was fairly precise.

The potato salad was really tasty! Potatoes were creamy, the dressing was tangy (a little pungent, in a good way, from the mustard), and the green onions and parsley added a nice freshness. Dare I say great stuff? I would make this again.

A repeat of last night's dinner, with the addition of Bobby's potato salad



Continuing to take baby steps into the world of mayonnaise-based salads,

Jean

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Minnesota on a plate, and a house that is crowded

88 degrees and hazy sun on the run tonight. Miserable. What an awful, hot stretch of weather this has been. Aside from some really neat butterfly sightings (Monarch, red admiral, red-spotted purple (very cool), and an enormous eastern tiger swallowtail), it just wasn't a good time out there. I could use a cooler day right about now.

That is all we need to say about running. Let's talk about a couple of fun things instead.

I made a nice haul at the farmer's market today after work - a huge bunch of fresh basil, some beautiful ripe tomatoes, a loaf of honey-wheat sandwich bread from a local baker, and the first Minnesota sweet corn made an appearance. Happy days!

Aside from the Hellman's mayonnaise on the "BBT" sandwich (you remember...bacon, basil, tomato), everything on the plate below was made or grown in Minnesota. The double-smoked bacon came from Thielen's Meats in Pierz. Tomatoes were wonderful (I think it is going to be a great summer for them). The corn, while small, was crisp and sweet. Fragrant basil. Awesome bread. Everything was delicious. Summer dining at its finest!

A plate of Minnesota goodness



In other news, I am deliriously excited because one of my favorite bands, Crowded House, released a new album this week. Even better, they are on tour and are actually stopping in Minnesota this September! It takes a lot for me to get excited about much in the world of entertainment these days, so this will be a treat. I am so there. Neil Finn, if you are reading this, I am requesting you perform "Mean To Me," "Silent House," and "Italian Plastic." Anything else would be icing on the cake.

"Nothing like that Italian plastic..."



Until next time,

Jean

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

On account of the weather...

....there was no run tonight. Here were the numbers when I got home:

Actual temperature: 92 F

Dew point: 78 F

Heat index: 108 F!!!

I will let the witch say it for me...




Running would have been dangerous. I opted for a three mile walk instead, and that was plenty. I was a sweaty mess by the time I got home.

What was interesting was that I felt the cold front start to move through while I was out walking. The breeze picked up with the air getting noticeably drier. It is still hot as hell - 94 degrees as I type this, but the dew point in now only 69, producing a heat index of only 99. :)

I am glad I didn't run. There will be cooler days.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Refrigerator sweet pickles

Last week at the farmers market, I stumbled upon some beautiful, small, early-season cucumbers. That can only mean one things - time to make some sweet pickles!

Mom always makes these sweet pickles in the summer, so this is very much a summer memory for me. My Dad loves these as well and could eat the whole vat if we left him alone in the kitchen with them!

One of the keys to this recipe is to use the smallest cucumbers you can find. You can certainly make this with larger cucumbers, but they won't have the same crispness that the smaller ones do. Also, the little guys have fewer seed, so if you access to the small cukes, by all means use them.

The recipe below is based on my Mom's with a few modifications of my own. It is very easy to make, and there is no cooking involved - but it takes three days, so plan accordingly. If you have one of those KitchenAid vegetable slicers or a hand-crank model, it makes short work of the slicing. For this batch, however, I just used my santoku knife and a cutting board, doing everything by hand. It takes a little longer, but the mindless, repetitious slicing can be kind of therapeutic. Here is how it is done:

Refrigerator sweet pickles



7 c. small pickling cucumbers, sliced thin
1 c. yellow onion, sliced thin
1 T. kosher salt
1 c. distilled white vinegar
1 1/2 c. white sugar
1 T. celery seed
1 t. mixed pickling spice
A healthy pinch of crushed red pepper (optional)


Day 1:

Combine the cucumbers and onions in a large bowl. Sprinkle with the salt and toss well.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Day 2:

Drain the liquid from the cucumbers and onions (and there will be a lot of liquid!).

Mix the vinegar, sugar, celery seed, pickling spice, and the optional red pepper if desired. Stir well until the sugar is pretty well dissolved (you will have a thick, almost syrupy liquid).

Place the cucumber and onions in a large, plastic container, preferably one with a cover. Add the liquid to the cucumbers and onions and stir well to combine. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Day 3:

Enjoy your sweet pickles! I usually just eat them straight out of the container, but feel free to use them as you would any regular sweet pickles.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sweaty week

Let's talk a little bit about running.

First, the positives - While the weather has not been cool for running, the wildlife sightings during my runs have more than made up for it.

This week I noticed the thistles have exploded, exposing their thistle down. American goldfinches have been busy harvesting the down, as that is their preferred nesting material (they are always one of the last birds to start nesting).

There must have been a huge hatch of red admiral butterflies, because I have seen dozens this week. They are so pretty - and they are everywhere!

Other sightings included several deer, numerous gray catbirds (including a few scolding a Cooper's hawk), common yellowthroats all over the place, a brown thrasher, a mama mallard with either a late or second hatch of baby ducks, and Saturday's run resulted in 15 cottontail rabbit sightings for a perfect 1.0 bunnies-per-mile ratio.

Now, for the negatives - This week has been quite warm, which has made running rather difficult. Ever since last Saturday, we have been dealing with upper 80's and even some low 90's, and on most of those days, some high dew points. Not fun.

Take this Saturday's run, for instance - it was a near replay of last Saturday. Temperature of 78, dew point in the 60's. I managed to run 15 miles. I use the term "run" loosely. At times, it resembled running. Mostly, it was just suffering. It is hard to breathe when it is humid. The heat and sun really take their toll. Clothing gets completely saturated and heavy. Just not pleasant.

I am so not a warm weather runner. Is autumn just around the corner?

Suffering mightily somewhere around mile 13 on Saturday's run



So, when the running hasn't been great, what does a person do? Why, you bake brownies, of course! :)

I made another fantastic recipe from Une Gamine dans la Cuisine. This one was for Black & White Peanut Butter Brownies. Brownies with white chocolate, peanut butter, and dark chocolate. How can you go wrong?

Brownies out of the oven



I used Ghirardelli chips all the way around - a cup of Ghirardelli white chocolate chips to melt and incorporate into the batter, and I used their bittersweet 60% cacao chips to fold into the mixture and sprinkle on top.

Cut into bars



These are some of the best brownies I have ever made. The white chocolate and peanut butter form the foundation, and the bits of bittersweet chocolate offer a nice surprise. Really a successful and decadent recipe, one that I will definitely make again. The brownies are quite effective at cheering a person up when the weather isn't to you liking! :)

Until next time,

Jean

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Viking beans?

This was my score at the farmers market today...



...a mix of beautiful yellow and purple beans.

They reminded me of the Minnesota Vikings colors. And unlike Adrian Peterson, I tucked these away securely in my arm and did not fumble them all over the parking lot. :)

I will eventually talk about running when the weather isn't so hot...which might be November at the rate we are going.

Until next time,

A rather warm Jean

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

When baking trumps racing

After a soul-sucking 12 miler in the heat and humidity on Saturday, on Sunday morning I woke up to 80 degrees, even worse humidity, and rain pounding against my windows. I opted not to do the Firecracker Run on the 4th. It was definitely the right call. There will be other races on nicer days.

Instead of racing, I decided to do some baking!

I found a wonderful blog with this recipe for S'More cookie bars. It looked too amazing not to try and certainly did not disappoint.

(Everyone knows what a S'More is, correct? Good. Moving right along...)

The recipe was followed to the letter. I used some chocolate I had on hand in my pantry - a mix of Lindt and Green & Black's chocolate bars (both 70% cacao). Also, to make the graham cracker crumbs, I found that an electric coffee grinder does a remarkable job. It takes a few batches, but it gets the job done. Just make sure to clean it out really well! I simply must get a food processor someday! :)

The finished product - S'More Cookie Bars



Oh, my...are these ever good! After removing from the baking pan allowing to cool on a rack for a couple of hours, I cut it into bars. The chocolate and marshmallow creme still had something of a gooey texture. Chocolatey, marshmallowy goodness combined with the graham cracker cookie crust - what is not to like? These totally reminded me of a S'More. Just a wonderful treat (not just for me, but also for a few of my lucky coworkers today!).

No question, I will be making this again. And trust me, I am sure I had more fun making these than I would have dragging myself around Excelsior at the Firecracker Run that day. :)

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Heat and Humidity...Ick!

This morning I had just a terrible run. I put in 12 miles, and it was positively miserable. Even got up nice and early when it was still "cool," but everything felt bad right from the get go. Sluggish. Slow. Sweating like crazy. Lots of walking in the last mile. Ick!

A quick check of the local National Weather Circus website when I returned home told me it was 77 degrees with a heat index of 80 - at 7:30 in the morning, no less. No wonder running wasn't much fun today! It proved to be a scorcher and got progressively worse as the day went on.

Tomorrow I am scheduled to run in Excelsior at the Firecracker Run, an annual 4th of July tradition. The forecast is for more of the same heat and humidity (a low of only 75 overnight), only Mother Nature might be providing some early fireworks. 80% chance of showers and thunderstorms in the morning. If that happens, I think there is a 90% chance I will stay in bed! :) I am still trying to dry out my shoes from the Dam To Dam in Iowa last month (OK, exaggerating just a wee bit!), so I would be more than happy to sit this one out and look forward to drier, cooler days.

Tonight, I treated myself to homemade pizza - because when it is 91 degrees with a heat index of 97, there is nothing better than turning on the oven... :)

Pizza, pizza...



This one was topped with my homemade Italian sausage, basil pesto, tomato sauce, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, and thin slices of blanched new potatoes (my recent farmers market purchase). Cheeses included mozzarella, provolone, and Grana Padano.

While I have seen this done before, I had never tried potatoes on a pizza, and I really liked them. Nice texture and creaminess. The basil pesto really added a lot of flavor, as did the spicy sausage. I also made my beer-infused pizza dough (using beer instead of water...Red Hook "Long Hammer I.P.A" in this batch), which gives a slightly tangy flavor to the crust. Good stuff!

A happy 4th of July to all. Stay safe, stay cool, and have fun!

Jean

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Farmers Market excursion

A quick post...

Just made my first summer trip to the farmers market in my area. The place is an absolute candy store. Picked up some wonderful red new potatoes, baby carrots, fresh peas, and the cutest baby red beets.

In fact, I just had some of the carrots and potatoes. Garden carrots taste unlike anything you buy at the store. So good. And these new potatoes are the creamiest, most delicious things ever. I am sensing more of them in my future.

That is all. Just needed to say I love this time of year!

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