Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Peanuts

Along my running route this fall, there was the most sincere pumpkin patch in all the land...


...and that place magically transforms into a "cut-your-own" Christmas tree farm this time of year.


I keep looking for Charlie Brown, Linus Van Pelt, Snoopy, and the crew from "Peanuts," but I haven't run into any of them yet.  True to form, The Great Pumpkin didn't appear back in October, either. :)  In any case, Charles M. Schulz would have loved it here. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving runs and some snow

A belated Happy Thanksgiving to all!

The classic plate of turkey and all the trimmings!
I spent Tuesday through Saturday with my folks up in the north country, and we had a great time.  Good company, tasty food (see above), and nice weather for a few of the days.

Running was really good.  I got in three runs, the best one being a two hour long Thanksgiving Day trail run through the Superior National Forest.  It was sunny and in the upper 30's, and I explored a new trail that I had never been on.  It was fantastic!  Some challenging hills and really fun terrain through the spruce, cedars, and birch.  I even scared up a ruffed grouse (perhaps more accurately, he scared me when he took off with his loud wing beats!).  Easily one of my best runs of the year.  Loved every second of this run.

Friday was a different story, at least as far as the weather is concerned.  A big 'ol cold front swept through, and with it came some snow (a couple of inches for us) and plenty of wind. 

Getting ready for Friday's snowy, chilly run
Friday's run was 18 degrees with a wind chill of 3.  My first run of the season where I had to break out all the winter gear!  Winter running is fun, and I love it.  But this was a shock to the system.  Especially after running in shorts earlier in the week!

So, winter is upon us, and I have my first snowy, wintry run under my best.  OK, winter, let's do this!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Recent runs and creatures

This morning's sunrise!
We've been enjoying a pretty nice week for early November.  Temps have hovered around 50 degrees the last couple of days, and it has made for fine running.

Speaking of, I just noticed there has been little running content on my supposed running blog as of late.  I have been running, just not as much!  Since Surf the Murph, I have dialed back the training quite a bit.  There are no races on the immediate horizon, so I am reserving the right to take it easy for awhile.  I've been running on more or less an every-other-day schedule, and have done a pair of 11 mile long runs on the last two weekends.  That will probably be the pattern until I figure out what is next.

I have had some great bird and animal sightings this week.  American coots are passing though on their way south.  Still some ducks hanging around - I saw at least five dozen hooded mergansers on my local lake, and I also counted seven northern shovelers.  A few red-tailed hawks circled overhead yesterday.  Had a wild turkey running on the opposite side of the road from me.  And I saw a gorgeous 8-point buck...twice!  Once he was right in my yard, and a couple days later he was in the park (he will be much safer in the park).

Unrelated to anything, how is it possible that Thanksgiving is next week?  Inconceivable!  

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Asian-style Chicken Wings

Back in September, I made a recipe from Andrew Carmellini's American Flavor cookbook.  It was his recipe for Asian ribs.  They were so good!  Sweet, spicy, salty, sticky, a little bit of spice, and a nice exotic flavor from the Chinese five-spice powder.  Absolutely delightful.

Carmellini's Asian ribs from my kitchen in September

The spices and sauce seemed rather versatile, so they should also work well with another ingredient that loves Asian flavors - chicken wings.  I found a cheap package of wings at the store, so I thought I would try to scale down and adapt the recipe using the same flavors.

The wings turned out great.  I found all those same qualities that I liked in the ribs with these wings.  Delicious, and very easy to throw together for a quick dinner.  Here is what I ended up with:

Asian-style Chicken Wings a la Carmellini
Asian-style Chicken Wings
-inspired by and adapted from Andrew Carmellini's Asian Ribs recipe

For the wings:

-1 t. Chinese five-spice powder
-1/2 t. chipotle pepper powder (ground chipotle peppers)
-1/2 t. garlic powder
-1/8 t. cayenne pepper
-1/2 t. cracked black pepper
-1/2 t. kosher salt
-1 1/2 lbs. chicken wings (a dozen or so)
-1 T. canola oil

For the sauce:

-1 T. ketchup
-1 T. hoisin sauce
-1 T. rice wine vinegar
-1/2 t. black bean sauce

For garnish:

-1/4 t. sesame seeds
-1 scallion, finely sliced

In a small bowl, mix the Chinese five-spice powder, chipotle powder, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, cracked black pepper, and kosher salt.  Set aside.

Add the chicken wings to a large bowl.  Sprinkle the chicken with the seasoning mixture and add the canola oil.  Stir well until the chicken is well coated with the seasonings.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours, or even as long as overnight.

When ready to cook the wings, preheat the oven to 350 F.

On a foil-lined baking sheet with a lip, add the wings and bake for 40 minutes.

While the wings are baking, make the sauce.  In a small bowl, stir together the ketchup, hoisin sauce, rice wine vinegar, and the black bean sauce.  Set aside.

After 40 minutes, remove the chicken wings from the oven.  The wings should be completely cooked at this point.  Increase the oven temperature to 400 F.

Place the chicken wings in large bowl and add the sauce.  Stir the wings to coat them well with the sauce.  Return them to the baking sheet and bake for about 5 minutes until the wings are nicely glazed and slightly caramelized (keep an eye on this so nothing burns).  

Remove the chicken wings from the oven, make sure they are cooked through (they definitely should be, but check for an internal temp of at least 165 F if you are not sure), and place the wings on a large dinner plate.  Sprinkle with sesames seeds and the scallions.  Serve immediately.

Makes one large serving or two if you are willing to share, which I am not... :) 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Surf the Murph with moving pictures

Below is a really fun video production from last month's Surf the Murph races.  I am somewhere in the sea of headlamps at the 50K start!



The video does a very nice job featuring some of the trails we ran on, the creative costumes, and the beauty of the park.  Gives a great flavor for the event.  Good times!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Cookbook Challenge #28: Blue Ginger

For this Cookbook Challenge, we head to a place that seeks to unite the flavors of the Far East and the New West.  I cooked from the pages of Blue Ginger: East Meets West Cooking with Ming Tsai.

East Meets West
Chef Tsai  has been on the block for quite some time.  His restaurant, Blue Ginger, opened in 1998 in Wellesley, MA, and he was a mainstay on the Food Network with his "East Meets West" show which ran in the late 90's/early 2000's.  He is currently the host of Simply Ming on PBS, a popular food and cooking show which is heading into its 10th season.

Tsai's cooking has been labeled "fusion" cuisine, and his book, Blue Ginger (published in 1999), seeks to marry the flavors, ingredients, and techniques of the Far East with those of the west.  The result is an eclectic mix of intriguing recipes.  Things like beef and shiitake stew with garlic mashed potatoes, classic roast chicken with sticky rice stuffing, and sweet and spicy beef noodles (the "spaghetti and meatballs" of his youth, he says!).  Some ingredients might be familiar, others might not, but he shows how to combine these elements in respectful ways to make incredible meals.

It is no secret that I love stir-fries, so there is probably little surprise that the dish I chose to make was Tsai's Gingered Beef with Leeks and Asparagus.  In the book, he says this is his take on the classic Chinese-American dish, beef and broccoli (asparagus replacing the broccoli, of course).  Also, he says leeks are unusual in Chinese cooking, but that they add a subtle flavor and texture to this simple stir-fry.

Gingered Beef with Leeks and Asparagus from Blue Ginger
It wasn't the prettiest thing that has come out of my kitchen, but it tasted really good.  The beef, after the overnight marinade in the wine, soy sauce, canola and sesame oils, was unbelievably flavorful and tender.  Leeks did indeed add a subtle flavor, and it is loaded with ginger and garlic.  Slightly crisp, but still tender, asparagus offers a great texture.  The dish is also sort of "self saucing," because when the beef cooks, it releases a lot of liquid, which dresses all of the ingredients nicely. 

If I were to do this again, I would add some chilies.  I thought the dish could use a little heat.  But that is just a personal preference.  Tsai said this was supposed to be like beef and broccoli, which is a very mild dish.  So in that sense, it is completely successful.   

I find Blue Ginger: East Meets West Cooking with Ming Tsai to be an inspiring book.  I like how Tsai is able to weave together ingredients, techniques, and ideas to create a sort of crossover cuisine.  I see a number of dishes I would like to try, and that beef and shiitake stew might have to be on my menu this winter.   

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