Monday, November 29, 2010


One of the traditions that my Mom and I have at Thanksgiving and Christmas is to make lefse. Similar in appearance to a flour tortilla, lefse is a Norwegian flatbread made with potatoes. You will see this gracing many tables here in Minnesota this time of year, and it will no doubt make an appearance at many lutefisk suppers sponsored by local churches.

The lefse makers

Lefse is a traditional accompaniment to holiday meals, most often serving as a delivery mechanism for butter and cinnamon sugar. Some people like it with a little jam. Others (such as my Dad, brother, and Great Uncle Goodie) will take an unconventional approach and make a little "burrito" with their traditional lutefisk, which is slightly disturbing. :) Me? I take my lefse straight up. So good on its own!

(As a side note - Lefse is really the perfect food for runners as well. It is packed with carbs, light weight, and extremely portable. There is a reason the Fargo Marathon serves this after the race!)

Traditionalists will scoff at the fact that we use instant potatoes. Hey, if you want to peel, boil, and rice nine cups worth of potatoes, be my guest! I've got no problem with using instant potatoes for the following reasons:

1. They are, in fact, real potatoes - only dried
2. Instant potatoes offer greater consistency and reliability - it is much easier to control moisture content, helping to better ensure a tender, fluffy lefse
3. Let's face it - instant potatoes make for much less work
4. If it was good enough for Pearl Johnson, it is good enough for me! :)

Here is the recipe that my Grandma used, and it is the one that Mom and I use. It comes from an older edition of the Norseland Lutheran Church Cookbook, and Pearl Johnson was a friend of my Grandparents.

The recipe, as written - the handwritten notations represent the amounts needed to make a third of the recipe. The full recipe makes a LOT of lefse!

Some tips, and some special equipment that will make the job easier:

1. Ideally, you should have at least two people helping - one to roll, and one to cook. This would be a lot of work for one person, and it helps to get an assembly line process going (back in my Mom's hometown, that is exactly how the ladies of the church would do it in preparation for the lutefisk supper!). Recruit your kids to help and make it your own holiday tradition!

2. Mom says to keep your dough as cool as possible, as it is mostly potatoes with a smaller ratio of flour. The dough is very soft. Mom takes little pieces of dough and rolls them into a ball. She adds them to a well floured bowl and keeps them in the fridge until ready to roll out.

Lefse dough, ready to roll out

3. Roll your lefse out on a well-floured pastry cloth board. I noted earlier how soft he dough is, and it will be much easier to roll on a cloth surface. It also helps to have a cloth covering the rolling pin.

4. It is not called for in the recipe, but Mom always sprinkles a little whole wheat flour over the top of her lefse dough when rolling it out. That is because it adds some taste and texture, and because that is what her Grandma used to do. And who can argue with Grandma? :)

5. Use a lefse stick. This stick, similar to a tapered ruler, will make it easy to remove the lefse from the pastry cloth board, and to turn on the griddle when cooking.

6. Cook them on a griddle (or lefse grill if you are a purist) just until some brown spots develop. It doesn't take long, just a minute or so on each side.

Lefse on the griddle

7. Cover the lefse with kitchen towels to let them cool. If you let them air dry, they will become hard as a board, and that is not what we are after. Lefse should be very pliable and soft.

Lefse plated up for Thanksgiving dinner

So that is a little bit about the lefse Mom and I make. It is really good stuff, and if you have never had lefse, there is no way you wouldn't like it. And I can't wait to make another batch of this at Christmas. The batch I brought home with me is going fast!

Monday, November 22, 2010

2010 race wrap-up, and some curry

So I missed the Turkey Run on Sunday. I was planning to participate in what would have been my 6th consecutive Turkey Run, but the weather was dismal, if not dangerous. A terrible ice storm hit late Saturday and early Sunday, leaving everything glazed and extremely slick. It seemed prudent not to go anywhere, so I stayed put. And I was happy I did (read more here).

With that, my 2010 race season has come to a close. It was a weird year with some nice successes early on (a new 8k PR, a great 25k trail race, and my first sub-4 hour marathon), followed up with some really crappy wet and/or hot races in the summer (read more here and here), and three races I decided against running on account of the weather (storming, too damned hot, or icy). So I am now setting my sights on 2011. I have the Zoom! Yah! Yah! Indoor Marathon right away in January, and the rest of the year is currently a blank slate. Looking forward to setting some new goals!

Sunday's meal was a good one. I made a recipe from the December 2010 issue of Bon Appetit - Shrimp and Coconut Curry with Green Beans. It was very simple. You make a curry paste out of lemongrass, shallots, jalapeno pepper, cilantro, basil, ginger, and curry powder (I used my homemade blend), cook that for a few minutes, add coconut milk, and simmer some blanched green beans and shrimp in sauce until cooked through.

Shrimp and Coconut Curry with Green Beans

My variations included adding a clove of garlic to the curry paste, as well as a couple tablespoons of fish sauce (seemed like a good Thai ingredient to add to a coconut curry) and perhaps a tablespoon and a half of sugar to the sauce. I also made only half the recipe, and served it over jasmine rice. Fragrant, fresh, slightly spicy, luxurious, and really darn tasty. This dish was bursting with flavor! I absolutely loved it.

I wish you all a happy and safe Thanksgiving holiday. I will be back next week with tales of eating, running, wildlife, and for fans of Norwegian delicacies, lefse making!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Rescuing Snoopy and replicating pasta

Brrrr! A chilly run this morning. 17 degrees, a wind chill of 5. That feels kind of cold!

It didn't stop me from doing 15 miles, however. I had a pretty decent run. Predictably, there weren't many people out and about, so the trails were all mine. But running was brutal when heading into the wind. And for what it's worth, at these temperatures, and at my rate of speed, a water bottle freezes up around mile 12. :)

I saw some red-breasted mergansers, mallards, and geese on Fish Lake. Lots of chickadees, cardinals, blue jays, crows, and I even saw a snow bunting. I also rustled up a deer in the park. However, my most interesting animal encounter came at home.

As I was entering the driveway, a guy in a truck stopped and asked if I had seen a Sheltie. I told him where I can from and said that I hadn't seen any dogs at all, so he started to turn the truck around.

I got to the door of the building, and of course, there is a fuzzy little Sheltie staring right at me. I flagged down the guy in the truck. Thankfully, he was still close by. He spotted her on the steps of the building and came over to round her up.

Her name was "Snoopy." I think the gentleman was pretty relieved to find her, and I was glad I could help! So, my work here was done.

But my work in the kitchen this Saturday was just beginning!

I like it when I see a dish that has a surprise ingredient. Earlier in the week, I came across the website of a restaurant in Ohio that had intriguing pasta dish called "Rigatoni Salumi" - rigatoni pasta with sweet sausage, tomato, fennel, pine nuts and...golden raisins?

Of course, the golden raisins are what jumped out at me. Without them, you have a fairly conventional pasta dish. But with them, you have something slightly unique. And it kind of made sense, in a weird way. They would obviously add some sweetness, and also a different texture and color. I decided to wing it and see if I could create a recipe based on the description.

I was grinding some homemade spicy Italian sausage today, so the timing was perfect. The dish on the menu used a sweet sausage, but I like spicy Italian sausage better. For the sauce, I went with a small can of diced tomatoes and some diced fennel. White wine was added, and I seasoned the sauce with thyme and parsley. I didn't have rigatoni, but I thought curly fusilli noodles would be great here (any short pasta would do, really). And, I would add a judicious amount of golden raisins and pine nuts towards the finish.

This dish was awesome! I was extremely pleased with how it turned out. Spicy sausage, chunks of tomatoes, tender bits of flavorful fennel, crunchy pine nuts, and the unexpected surprise of sweet golden raisins, all tangled up in some nicely cooked fusilli. And there was just the right amount of sauce to coat the pasta - not too wet, and not too dry. Lots of great textures and flavors going on here. Very tasty stuff - and I am glad I wrote down what I did so I can make this again!

It was kind of fun taking nothing more than a menu description and trying to create something. An enjoyable day in the kitchen.

Below is my recipe for the spicy Italian sausage that I made (no claims of authenticity - this is just my rendition!), as well as the pasta dish I concocted:

Jean's Spicy Italian Sausage

-2 lbs. pork shoulder, cut into long, thin strips
-1 T. fennel seeds, toasted and ground
-1 T. crushed red pepper, toasted and ground
-1 T. kosher salt
-1 T. sugar
-1 T. Hungarian sweet paprika
-1 t. dried oregano
-1/2 t. dried marjoram
-1/2 t. fresh ground black pepper
-2 T. fresh Italian parsley, minced
-1 T. fresh thyme leaves, minced
-1 T. garlic, minced
-3 T. white wine

In a large bowl, combine the pork shoulder with all ingredients except for the wine. Toss well to coat. Run the strips of pork shoulder through a meat grinder using the large die for a coarse grind. Ideally, the meat should be as cold as possible, even partially frozen (I also put the meat grinder attachment of my stand mixer into the freezer for a couple hours so everything stays cold). Once everything is ground, gently stir the white wine into the meat.

Fry up a little "test patty" to see if it is seasoned to your liking. If not, add whatever seasoning you feel is necessary. Cover and place in the fridge for at least a couple of hours to let the flavors mingle. You can now cook up your sausage, or wrap well and freeze for later use. Makes two pounds of bulk spicy Italian sausage.

Jean's Fusilli with Italian Sausage, Tomato, Fennel, Pine Nuts, and Golden Raisins

-1 T. olive oil
-8 oz. fresh spicy Italian sausage
-3/4 c. fennel bulb, diced
-1/2 c. white wine
-1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
-1 T. fresh thyme leaves, minced
-1 T. fresh Italian parsley, minced
-1/4 c. golden raisins
-Salt and pepper as needed
-2 T. pine nuts, toasted
-8 oz. fusilli (rigatoni, penne, or other short pasta)
-Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese for grating

In a large, deep pan, over medium high heat, add the olive oil. Add your sausage and cook until nicely browned. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Drain all but a tablespoon's worth of fat from the pan. Reduce heat to medium. Add the fennel. Cook until the fennel is slightly soft and has taken on some color, about 5 minutes.

Add the white wine to deglaze the pan. Return the sausage to the pan, and add the tomatoes, thyme, and parsley. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the golden raisins and allow to cook for a minute or so. Check for seasoning, adding a little salt or pepper if needed.

While the sauce is cooking, in a pot of boiling, salted water, add your fusilli pasta. Cook the pasta a couple minutes short of package directions, just shy of al dente. Reserve a 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta.

Add the pasta to your sauce. Add the pine nuts. Toss the pasta for a minute or so, allowing the pasta to finish cooking and the sauce to coat the pasta. If the sauce is too thick, add small amounts of the pasta cooking water to help thin the sauce to your liking.

Serve immediately with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese if desired. Makes about 4 servings.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

In celebration of bread

Another enjoyable run tonight. Temperatures were around 36 degrees with cloudy skies. Very comfortable. The snow from the weekend has been cleared off of the trails, so traction was good. A huge flock of 60+ geese flew over me in "V" formation. Lots of mergansers on the lake again, too (they had better get going in a southerly direction post haste!). And there were no deer blocking my path - all the deer were down by the lake instead! Nice night out there.

And on a completely unrelated topic - Happy Homemade Bread Day!

Cinnamon-Raisin Swirl Bread I baked on Saturday

Everybody celebrate! I just started a batch of no-knead pizza dough to commemorate the occasion. It is starting its slow rise as I type this. :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tonight's wildlife run

A quick post about my run this evening - a nice five miler. Lots of melting going on, so the trails were wet, and even slushy in some areas. But, it was a very nice night out there. And lots of wildlife, too.

I saw one of the resident eagles, scared up a huge red-tailed hawk, a dozen hooded mergansers were out on my local lake, and I had to navigate my way through four deer that were blocking the trail.

The deer were strangely ambivalent to me. I slowed to a walk so as not to spook them to much, chatting with them a little to let them know I meant no harm. They were slightly wary, but tolerated my presence. I passed between the four of them and was easily within five feet of one. Literally, I was surrounded by deer! They never moved. I got past them and started running again. I turned back to look, and they just stared at me as I ran off into the distance.

Strange deer. Maybe they just happen to like runners? :)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Beet Gratin

Last week I stumbled upon a recipe concept that I had never seen before. It was for a beet gratin, and it sounded extremely appealing to me. I am a beet junkie, you see, so I knew I would like it. But I had no idea just how much.

I followed the recipe pretty much to the letter, but I embellish and added a combination of Gruyere and aged Gouda cheeses, along with a couple of cloves of finely minced garlic (gotta have some garlic, now!). I also baked the whole thing in a 9 1/2 inch glass pie dish as opposed to individual ramekins.

This is the best beet dish known to man!

It reminded me of a beet version of a gratin Dauphinoise, but without cream or potatoes. Cooked up in a gratin, the beets become tender, and the liquid from the beets turns syrupy and sweet. Flavored with thyme, garlic, a hint of nutmeg, and crusty, nutty cheese (don't get me started on those little bits of caramelized cheese around the edge that have been infused with beet juices...oh my!), and you have a winner of a dish. Also, the color was just incredible.

Beet gratin, out of the oven

A small wedge of beet gratin served along side some smoked ring sausage from Osseo Meats and some steamed broccoli was a tasty meal on a snowy day. The beets were the star of the show. Which is saying something, because the ring sausage doesn't exactly suck.

Beet gratin plated up with smoked ring sausage and steamed broccoli

A wildly successful dish, and a new way for me to enjoy one of my favorite veggies. I can't wait to make this again. And I just caught myself nibbling on a cold piece of beet gratin while standing in front of the fridge a few minutes ago. Love this stuff.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Winter Storm Warning

Interesting run this morning. The Twin Cities is currently under a Winter Storm Warning, and it is snowing like crazy as I type this. So far, 1 to 2 inches has fallen, and they say 7 to 11 are possible. Good grief!

I should remind you that it was 67 degrees on Wednesday.

Even with the storm in progress, it didn't stop me from logging 14 miles this morning. Kind of a challenging run, to say the least. Trails were slushy, and roads were terrible. Running with the wind was fine, but running into it resulted in an eyeball stinging experience due to the fine, wet flakes! But as you can see, it is still quite pretty.

I think winter is upon us!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


I don't have any cohesive thoughts right now, so here are some random items:

1. Unbelievable weather this week. The temperature was 67 degrees both yesterday and today, making for fantastic running. How nice to still be able to wear shorts and a light shirt in November! Reality will set in soon, however. Temps in the upper 30's and low 40's by the weekend.

2. This week my no-knead pizza dough has given me some outstanding meals. I've made a few really good pizzas, and I still can't believe this actually works. So far, I am finding that it needs a little bit longer cooking time to brown the edges of the crust than my old dough recipe. I think this is because of the overall higher moisture content of the dough. In any case, the crust is so light and airy. Love it! Here is a simple pizza I made with nothing more than sauce and cheese (Manchego, mozzarella, sharp cheddar, and Gruyere).

No knead? No problem!

3. After my race this past weekend, I discovered that my favorite running shorts are starting to wear out - as in, there is now a huge hole in the crotch. It didn't just happen at the race, either. Clearly this was due to long term wear, I have no idea how long this has been developing, and I can't believe I hadn't noticed earlier. Eeek! Right now everyone at Rocky's Run is thanking their lucky stars that my shorts were lined. :)

Nike running shorts: now available in crotchless! Yikes!

4. Beets are awesome, and I found this recipe for a beet gratin that looks outstanding to me. It is almost like a gratin Dauphinoise, but with beets! This, or some variation of it, might be on my menu soon.

5. I love "The Good Guys" on FOX, and I'm encouraging people to watch it. The show is hysterical, but they buried it on a Friday night (which is the death of a TV show), so I am afraid it will get canceled. It is one of the few shows I truly enjoy. Please check out "The Good Guys."

"Let's go bust some punks!"

6. I am already finding myself looking at the race calendar for next year. I have Zoom! Yah! Yah! in January, but beyond that, nothing is planned. Part of me really would like to venture somewhere out of the Midwest to do a race, because I never really go anywhere. But where? Need to think about this.

7. Made some really good vegetable beef soup on Sunday. Beef chuck, carrots, onions, garlic, potatoes, turnips, peas, mushrooms, tomatoes, corn, and ditalini pasta. Great stuff, and has been making for some outstanding lunch material this week.

Soup is good food.

That is all.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Rocky's Run, and my entry into the Masters Division

Maroon and Gold, prominently displayed at Rocky's Run

Sunday was an absolutely gorgeous day. What a better way to spend it than by partaking in the Rocky's Run 5k at the University of Minnesota Golf Course?

This race is a benefit for the Rocky Racette scholarship fund. They announced before the race that they now had surpassed $25,000 in the fund - a significant milestone which allowed them to reach a certain level of endowment to keep it going for a long, long time. Very cool!

Ready to run at Rocky's Run!

This is my fifth Rocky's Run. It has become something of a fall tradition. A fun 5k on a hilly golf course. And we couldn't have asked for a much nicer day. Low 50's, sunshine, and a gentle breeze. Wonderful! As a reminder of what it can be like, the race director pointed out that the race was canceled in 1991 because there was 30 inches of snow on the course (the infamous Halloween blizzard, for those who remember)!

The finish line at Rocky's Run

A gorgeous day on the U of M Golf Course - it would have been nice for golf or running!

My race was pretty much the same as it always is at Rocky's Run - the U of M women's cross country team disappears like a shot, I remember that 5k's are actually really hard, and also remember that this course has almost no level ground (always going uphill, downhill, or trying to keep your balance on a sidehill). Somehow I managed to miss Steve Quick out there cheering on the runners (Sorry I missed you, Steve - hope to catch you and some of your Evil Kitchen concoctions at a future race!).

I ran a decent race by my standards. My time was 24:16 (unofficial), which is pretty much right in my wheelhouse for this event, making me a model of consistency. In my five races, the time gap between all of them is a mere 17 seconds.

This year happened to be my slowest. This also happens to be my first race as a "Masters Division" runner. Therefore, I am chalking up the slow time to old age. :)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Resisting the need to knead

I was probably one of the last cooking enthusiasts on the planet who hadn't tried "no-knead" bread. Ever since Bittman wrote about Jim Lahey in the NY Times, the Internet and blogosphere have been abuzz regarding Lahey's recipe for bread that you don't need to knead.

My thoughts were there is no way this should work. I am far from an expert when it comes to baking, but I do know that kneading the dough builds gluten which gives bread its texture. So how do you get the gluten if you don't work the dough?

Then I read some recipes for no-knead pizza dough - and you know I like my homemade pizza - so I thought I would give it a shot to see what all the fuss was about.

I found Lahey's recipe (the original) and this one (similar to Lahey's, but added whole wheat flour, sugar, and olive oil). I sort of combined the two, going with with the original recipe's proportions - 3 cups of flour (but with 2 1/2 c. all-purpose, and 1/2 c. whole wheat), also adding 1/4 t. sugar and 2 T. olive oil.

Following the instructions, I simply stirred everything together until just blended. Then I covered the bowl with plastic wrap and set it inside of my oven (a warm, draft-free environment) to hopefully rise overnight. At this stage, it looks like a complete disaster. You think there is no way this is going to work. Really, shouldn't I be kneading this? But no, just walk away! Whatever. We will see what happens. Here is what it looked like after stirring everything together:

A big 'ol mess of flour and water

In the morning I checked on it and something magical had started to occur. The mixture had doubled in size and turned into a bubbly, pasty-looking science experiment. This sort of resembles and smells like a sourdough starter. It had a very yeasty, fermented, beer-like aroma - a product of the long, slow rise. Crazy! Here is what it looks like after a good 22 hours:

It's alive!!!

Venturing onward, I poured the dough onto a well-floured board - and I mean well-floured (if you try this, please watch the video at this post - it was most helpful to see how much flour he used, how loose the dough is, as well as the technique of handling the dough). It was quite sticky, but very elastic. I am not a very "sciencey" guy, but what they say happens is the yeast grows and slowly stretches the dough over a long period of time, thereby producing the gluten without the kneading. Essentially, the yeast is doing what my stand mixers does. It just takes longer.

Ready to shape the dough

I added some four to the top, cut it into four pieces, and shaped the dough into balls, refrigerating three of them for later use. The dough was so soft and had an almost jiggly texture. Very light and supple. I took care not to overwork them and they shaped up nicely. Hey, this just might work!

The dough, shaped and ready to rock

When getting ready to make the pizza, I started by patting it out with my hands to work out some of the air bubbles, and then switched to the rolling pin. I found that I needed to have plenty of flour close by, as the dough is quite wet. Just keep adding little bits of flour as needed. Then I transferred the dough to a pizza peel dusted with more flour and some cornmeal. After brushing the edge of the dough with olive oil and applying a layer of tomato sauce, I added my toppings. This pizza had something of a Spanish theme - homemade chorizo with smoked paprika, mixed olives, red bell pepper, and Manchego cheese.

The pizza, topped and ready to bake

Here we go! With the oven heated to 500 F, I baked the pizza on my stone for about 7 minutes. The results?

Amazing! This was the lightest pizza crust I have ever made. Crispy on the bottom, yet airy and chewy. It baked up beautifully. The only thing I would have done differently? I should have left it in the oven for a minute more to brown the edge a little more. But the toppings were looking good, so I pulled it. Regardless, it was an absolutely delicious pizza, and the Spanish themed ingredients were well served with this tasty crust.

Fresh out of the oven

I am completely sold on this recipe, no question about it My old standby, Alton Brown's pizza dough, while good, might be going the way of the dinosaur. My "go to" pizza dough will not be kneaded. It is incredibly easy to make and requires almost no effort. Just make sure you have enough flour on hand when working with the dough, handle it gently, top it sparingly, and you will be fine. It results in an incredible pizza.

I am amazed this works, and that it tastes so good. It almost feels like you are cheating. But I am a believer now. No-knead dough rocks!

Rocking the Vote

So I have to share my voting story from last Tuesday.

It was a beautiful day, so I walked over to my polling location, which was about a mile from me. After spending about 15 minutes filling out the rather extensive ballot, I placed it in the ballot scanner. The thing start beeping like crazy. Did I break something? Two very serious looking election judges descend upon me to decipher my wrongdoing.

Apparently I voted for one too many Soil & Water Conservation Supervisors. I am really not sure how this could have happened, as there were no less than nine candidates on the ballot with really confusing instructions - there are two districts (even though this section looked like there were about five districts), and you only vote for two in this district, but only one in this district, but only if the moon is in a waning gibbous phase and white smoke rises from the chimney at the conclave (something like that, anyhow - I might have made that last part up).

In any case, I must have screwed something up. Visions that I was going to be the proverbial "hanging chad" in what was no doubt a hotly contested race for the multiple Soil & Water Conservation Supervisor positions danced through my head. Never a dull moment with elections here in Minnesota. I am already smelling the lawsuits and assertions of "voting irregularities." :)

I had a good 14 mile run the morning. 34 degrees and fairly strong south winds gave me a wind chill of 26 to contend with. My face is still a little raw as I type this, and it was no problem keeping the Gatorade cold. There are still a fair number of American coots on my lake. They should be leaving very soon. And I scared up a couple of deer - a doe and a four-point buck.

My first race since July tomorrow - Rocky's Run 5k at the U of M golf course. This will be my fifth time running here, and I always look forward to it. And the weather forecast looks amazing, so this should be a very good time.

Monday, November 1, 2010

When October Goes

All apologies for the Barry Manilow themed post title, but that was all I could think of. :) Life has been fairly busy with little time to blog. Here is a summary of the last week, with a few recent culinary creations:

1. I survived last week's windstorm pretty much unscathed. It was a wild storm. My area had wind gusts in excess of 55 MPH, but some areas had it worse. There was a streetlight knocked down in my neighborhood, along with some tree branches and limbs on the trails, but otherwise we are no worse for wear. It was a most impressive system. Check out this satellite image from Oct. 27th!

WOW! An amazingly powerful and huge storm system

2. Running has been good. Following the storm, we had some calm, crisp days, which were most enjoyable and ideal for running. Got in a really nice 14 miler on Saturday, and my typical 5 milers on other days as per usual. There were still some American coots hanging out on my lake as of this past weekend, and I am seeing lots of dark-eyed juncos along my trails. I have also spotted some deer on a couple of recent runs. And Saturday and Sunday both offered some gorgeous sunrises.

3. I did manage to sneak away from my busy schedule to enjoy some spicy chicken wings and beer with a few of my buddies for our season-ending fantasy golf league "banquet." We have had a league since 1999 where we pick one player each week (no repeat picks allowed), and you get that player's earnings for the tournament. I have won the league twice and was the defending champion. One of our traditions is that the winner has to add something to our rather ostentatious trophy, which currently contains a broken driver with a golf ball screwed into it, a hockey puck, deer antlers, a kidney stone strainer, a Sergio Garcia bobblehead, and it even has power (one winner added a lamp!). Our trophy was a huge with the Buffalo Wild Wings staff - nearly every server, as well as the general manager, came over over to take a look and hear the story behind it! Here is how it looked in 2008:

Below is a picture of my addition; a highly appropriate "letter of apology" from Tiger to our league. :) I apologize to comedian Ron White, as for part of the "letter" I manipulated a quote I heard him use in an interview!

4. Some recent dishes from my kitchen:

Pizza with a homemade spicy Italian sausage, red peppers, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, and green olives, with fontina and mozzarella cheeses.

Asian-style yellow curry stir-fry with shrimp, vegetables, and rice stick noodles. The curry powder I used was a homemade version based on Tyler Florence's recipe.

Chili con carne with pork shoulder, ground beef, and nine beans (kidney, red, black, garbanzo, black-eyed pea, navy, great northern, calypso, and pinto!). Beans gone wild!

October is in the rear view mirror, but I am excited that November is here. This could be my favorite month. November offers such an interesting transition from the colorful month of October to a stark landscape right before the impending snow and chilly days ahead. Football season is in full swing and really heating up. The flannel sheets went on my bed last night. And Thanksgiving is only 24 days away. I love November.


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