Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Strange January

We had an unusually mild January.  Hardly any snow, only a few days below zero, but most days with above average temperature.  In fact, I ran outside in shorts three different times.  For my comfort level, that requires temperatures around 40 degrees or above.  The last two days were both in the 40's, and tomorrow and Thursday are to be more of the same.  Wow!

Not too many times can you wear a running cap in January in Minnesota!
I've been telling people that this year reminds me an awful lot of the winter in 2007.  I was living in the northeast metro at the time and even had a day when I ran in shorts.

Then in late February, this happened

And in early March, this.

We've still got a long way to go, and March is typically our snowiest month.  So we are certainly due for a good old fashioned wallop of winter!

But until that happens, I am not complaining.  Running has been awesome this season. ;-)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Chili with Chipotles and Smoked Ale

Sunday barely topped 20 degrees and had a bit of a wind chill - therefore, it was a perfect day for chili!

I made a variation on my standard chili recipe.  Beer is always an ingredient, as it adds a certain tangy, malty flavor that works well in chili.  This time, as a little experiment, my beer of choice was a smoked ale.

Smoked ale is a beer made with malted barely that has been dried over an open flame.  This imparts a slightly smoky flavor to the barley, and consequently, the beer.

The most famous versions of these are the German Rauschbiers, but I used a domestic.  I recently picked up a bottle of Victory Brewing Company's "Otto."  It is an ale inspired by these German smoked beers.

Smoky beer!
My primary intent was to use it in chili, but I must say the stuff tastes pretty good on its own.  Somewhat malty, and the smoke is delicate and not at all overpowering.  Not something I would drink a lot of, but it was nice.  Perfect to drink with the chili, in fact!

Some of the ingredients
My only other alterations to the recipe were that I used 28 oz. of fire-roasted tomatoes instead of regular canned tomatoes (the Muir Glen brand is excellent).  I also swapped out the diced green chilies for a couple of chipotle peppers (the canned version in the adobo sauce), seeded and diced.  If we are going with a smoked beer, we might as well add some smoked chile peppers, right?

Chili with Chipotles and Smoked Ale
The chili definitely had a smoky, slightly roasted flavor to it, but it was subtle.  No doubt the smoked ale, fire-roasted tomatoes, and chipotle peppers all contributed here.  Spicy, a slight sweetness, and a smoky note to finish it off - that's some good chili.  Might have to grab another bottle of "Otto" for future chili endeavors!   

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Winter running, and the Art Shanty Projects

Winter finally arrived this week!  We had some overnight lows in the teens below zero, and we managed to get some snow on Friday.  It was only an inch of snow, but it sure did screw things up.  Traffic was horrible, streets were very slippery - so this is what winter is supposed to be like!  I had almost forgotten.

I decided to do my long run on Friday night after work.  Seemed like a better option since Saturday morning was going to be below zero again.

I had a fantastic 12 mile run.  It was only 10 degrees, but there was not much wind.  The trails had a nice layer of snow to offer both cushion and grip.  And I didn't see a soul.  A few of the trails were unbroken, so I was the only person who had been there.  Later in the run with the headlamp on, the light was reflecting off of stray snow flurries.  Very pretty!  And I felt really strong throughout the run.  One of the best runs I have had this winter!  So much fun.

I was a bit of a frosty mess when I returned.  Here is picture of me following the run:

Ice, ice, baby! Winter running, Minnesota style!
Also, my Buff, which I was wearing around my neck, ended up freezing to my facemask!

"Baby, it's cold outside!"
Welcome back, winter... ;-)

With the long run out of the way, today I took the day off and headed down to Plymouth to check out the Art Shanty Projects on Medicine Lake.

This is an annual event (more or less - they missed last year for some reason) where local artists build some of the coolest, most creative ice fishing houses (a.k.a., "shanties") and display them on a frozen lake in the middle of winter.  Here are some photos I took:

2012 Art Shanty Projects on Medicine Lake

Nordic Village Bridge

The Sashay Shanty - "aims to recall the romanticism of winters of yore."

ICE-Cycles Shanty - something of a bike shop

"Monsters Under The Bed" Shanty - I liked this one!

This thing rocks! An awesome robot fish house!
If there is anything more Minnesotan than an art show involving ice fishing houses, I haven't found it.  Good stuff!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Swedish-Norwegian Meatballs

OK, back to some actual food-related content!

Sunday I made meatballs.  But not just any meatballs.  I made Swedish-Norwegian meatballs!

What makes them Swedish-Norwegian meatballs, you ask?  Well, for years now, I have been making a recipe based on Marcus Samuelsson's Swedish meatballs in his Aquavit cookbook.

But, as I am mostly Norwegian and not at all Swedish, I took a page out of Norwegian chef Andreas Viestad's Kitchen of Light cookbook.  Viestad makes a Norwegian pork meatball stuffed with prunes.

So I am combining elements of both recipes - Swedish-Norwegian prune-stuffed meatballs!

Of course, this isn't going to stop me from adding a few twists of my own.

Swedish meatballs are traditionally served with lingonberry jam on the side.  Lingonberries grow in the Arctic tundra, and the jam is not always easy to find (nor is it especially cheap).  As I am in Minnesota and have access to my Mom's homemade wild raspberry jam, I am using that as a substitute.

Also, I added small amounts of ground mace, ginger, allspice, and nutmeg - all of what I consider to be earthy, warming "Scandinavian spices," if you will.  They add a very nice flavor to the meatballs.

Oh, the sweet pickle juice in the sauce?  That was Samuelsson's idea, not mine.  Sounds weird, but it works so well, imparting a sweet/sour flavor that plays nicely will the sweet flavors of the raspberry jam, and the savory, rich flavors of the sauce.    

I am sure I have ruined the authenticity of the dish.  But the meatballs taste great, and I do think they would still go a long way towards bringing the Swedish and Norwegian people closer together.



Swedish-Norwegian Prune-Stuffed Meatballs
-inspired by Marcus Samuelsson and Andreas Viestad
(makes about 24 meatballs)

Meatballs

-2 shallots, minced
-1 t. olive oil
-1 lb. ground beef
-1 lb. ground pork
-1 cup of fresh whole-wheat bread crumbs, chopped fine
-2 T. half & half
-1 1/2 T. honey
-1 egg
-1/4 t. ground allspice
-1/4 t. ground mace
-1/4 t. ground ginger
-1/4 t. ground nutmeg
-Salt and pepper
-12 whole dried prunes, halved
-Butter and olive oil for frying

Sauce

-1 c. beef stock
-1/2 c. half & half
-2 T. raspberry jam
-2 T. juice from a jar of sweet pickles
-Several turns of fresh ground black pepper

Sweat the shallots in the olive oil over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool.

Put the meat in a large bowl. Soak the bread crumbs in a little bit of half & half to moisten, then add to the meat mixture. Add the honey, egg, allspice, mace, ginger, nutmeg, salt, and pepper, and mix well.

Take a small piece of the meatball mixture, roughly the size of a golf ball.  Flatten it slightly and place a piece of prune in the middle.  Fold the meat mixture around the prune to completely seal it and form into a meatball.  Repeat with the rest of the mixture.  You should have about 24 meatballs.

In a large, deep skillet, fry the meatballs in batches in a little butter and olive oil until nicely browned, but not cooked all the way through. Transfer to a warm plate.

In the same skillet where you cooked the meatballs, add the beef stock, half & half, raspberry jam, and pickle juice. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, allowing to thicken slightly. Season with black pepper,  Return the meatballs to the sauce, allowing them to cook through, perhaps 15-20 minutes or so.  If you find the sauce needs additional thickening, add 1 T. corn starch mixed with 1 T. cold water to tighten it up.

Serve with mashed potatoes and some extra raspberry jam on the side.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012 Races

Below are links to my 2012 Races:

March 18, 2012 - St. Patrick's Day Human Race 8K - St. Paul, MN

May 12, 2012 - Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon - St. Joseph, MN

June 9, 2012 - Lake Waconia Half Marathon - Waconia, MN

October 27, 2012 - Surf the Murph 50K - Savage, MN


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