Thursday, January 30, 2014

How to Cook Delicious Food and Impress Your Friends

Ice houses on one of 10,000 lakes
This year between Christmas and New Year’s, I flew home to visit my parents and some old friends. It was a great time to be lazy, catch up, and enjoy some snow. My friend Ellie, who recently moved to Seattle, was in town and we made the trip up to Grand Rapids, MN to visit our friend Sarah. Our visit included some freezing cold snowshoeing, delicious food, and hours of catching up.

Ellie and Sarah are my two best friends from high school. Among the three of us, I’m the least accomplished. Ellie was a 2-sport athlete in college (soccer and softball). She went to Mayo Clinic for medical school, and although she never talks about it, I’m sure she finished at the top of her class, because she basically had her pick for residency (Mayo) and then went on to do a Sports Medicine fellowship (also Mayo). She’s traveled all over the world, healing children and doing research. She now lives in Seattle and we both work at the same hospital (I’m in accounting). Sarah played basketball in college, taught elementary school in rural Texas for Teach for America, finished at the top of her law school class, and went on to win the very prestigious Skadden Fellowship. The Skadden Fellowship is what brought her to northern Minnesota where she practices law on the Native American reservation. I love being around these two, not just because they are amazing women, but also because they are a strong defense for public secondary education in rural school systems (where we grew up).

But the reason I’m writing about this visit is because Sarah, who is also an amazing cook, shared some recipes with me, that I wanted to share with you. She had Gwyneth Paltrow’s latest cookbook and I had a chance to look through some of the recipes. We all thought it was kind of funny to have the beautiful Gwyneth pictures at the farmer’s markets amidst the recipes, but it seemed like a solid cookbook. Along with the beet salad (below), Sarah raved about the chickpea and cauliflower salad, and then made us homemade ravioli and roasted brussel sprouts.
I made these recipes for Sydnie and Tesia a couple weeks ago and they thought I should share them here. I tried the cauliflower recipe again last Friday for some Oiselle teammates and it wasn’t quite as good (I’d recommend a cauliflower head on the larger side). These are pretty easy, go-to salads without fancy ingredients  and they will impress your friends. I hope you enjoy them with good company!
Roasted Cauliflower + Chickpeas with Mustard + Parsley
  • a 14-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained and dried in a kitchen towel
  • 1 head of cauliflower, outer leaves removed, cut into bite-sized florets
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Coarse sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon seeded mustard
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped Italian Parsley - roughly a handful
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F
  2. Toss the chickpeas and cauliflower together in a large roasting pan with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and a big pinch of salt. Roast, stirring now and then, until everything is dark and the cauliflower is quite soft, about 45 minutes. The chickpeas get a bit crispy.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk together the mustards, vinegar, and 1/4 cup of olive oil with a big pinch of salt and a few healthy grinds of black pepper.
  4. While the chickpeas and cauliflower are still warm, toss them with the mustard dressing and the parsley.
  5. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Roasted Beet + Avocado Salad - also from It's All Good
  • 1 large avocado, skin removed and diced
  • 4 large beets, roasted (you had better know how to roast beets by now!), and diced the same size as the avocado
  • bunch of scallions, sliced thin
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced - (I actually left this out, because raw red onion is too strong for my belly)
  • kosher salt & pepper
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 2 tsp white wine vinegar
  • pinch of sea salt & pepper 
  1. Dice up the avocado and roasted beets to be the same size and lay them on a platter.
  2. Sprinkle the sliced scallions and red onions all around. 
  3. Sprinkle w/ kosher salt & pepper.
  4. Spoon dressing over just before serving.
I also made this salad, which I found in Cook's Country

Arugula Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
  • 3 slices of hearty bread, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (I used day old baguette)
  • 2 oz. of Parmesan shaved
  • 6 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 t. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 t. mustard
  • 1/2 t. of lemon zest, plus 1 t. of lemon juice
  • 8 oz. baby arugula
  • Optional (add cooked shrimp or chicken for protein)

1. Toss bread, grated Parmesan, 3 T. of oil, and 2 garlic cloves together in a pan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until croutons are toasted, about 8 minutes. Transfer to plate and let cool.

2. Combine vinegar, mustard, remaining garlic clove, lemon zest, lemon juice, 1 t. salt, and 1/2 t pepper in large bowl and slowly whisk remaining 3 T of oil until incorporated (I use a medium mason jar and shake, shake, shake).

3. Toss arugula and dressing together in large bowl. Top with croutons, optional protein, and shaved parmesan. Serve and accept compliments graciously.

A bit blurry, but here's my trio of salads - cauliflower chickpea,
beet & avocado, arugula with homemade croutons

Evidence that it was a real meal with place settings. Also, Sydnie's leg
Recipe for carrot lentil soup is here.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Going Pro: Part II - as in Finally Going For It

I’ve thought about this topic a lot. In fact, it was on my mind nearly every day in 2013 and multiple times per day since June 23rd. So it’s about time I write about it. I’ve made my decision to race as a professional triathlete in 2014. It’s big, it’s scary, but based my lists of (+) and (-) it’s the right thing to do.

Sigh of relief to have this in my hand.
Also, holy crap! Is this real life?

Over a year ago I wrote about “Going Pro: Part 1 – as in not Going Pro” and realized I wasn’t ready at that point in my life and my triathlon “career,” (kind of weird to be calling it that, I guess). And that was the best decision for me at the time. 2012 ended up being a bit rocky and I learned a lot about recovery, the importance of rest, how easy I need to take my easy days, and that you can’t just sign up for every triathlon or marathon out there because it “sounds fun.” We all have breaking points and that year I found mine. I was humbled in 2012 with my okay performances and glad I could hide them in the age group field.

But 2013 was different; it was smarter. I learned to listen closely to my body’s needs and knew when I needed a rest, some yoga, naps, better nutrition, or when to say no to triathlon’s most prestigious race in order to maintain some life balance. I was also more patient with my coach’s workouts. If I had a rest week, I took it easy. If I had a long run, it didn’t mean 18 miles of tempo. In July and August when everyone was training hard and I was having a mid-season break, I didn’t get too antsy (even when there were some mid-season blues). And then in September when friends were wrapping up their seasons, I was once again building and focused. I learned, and this is something I need to carry over to this year, to be less “results driven” and more focused on what I’m doing to improve, because my participation in this sport is for the long haul. Of course there’s no guarantee that 2014 won’t have bumps along the way; I’m sure there will be plenty. But I’m stronger, wiser, and more experienced than I was in 2012. The past two years have been excellent for my growth and maturity. 
In June 2013 I laid down a really solid race, one that boosted my confidence and reminded me that 2011 wasn’t just a fluke and I did, in fact, deserve the chance to race as a professional. A lot of people have asked what does this change and the answer is: not much. I’m keeping my job in financial accounting and staying with the same coach. A professional license doesn’t mean I have sponsors knocking down my door. Just like any other season, my past success doesn’t guarantee anything. I plan on working harder and smarter than I ever have and being strategic in deciding when and where to race. I’m sure there will be age groupers that will beat me, but I can’t worry about that. As an age grouper, I beat women in the pro field at most of my races. Perhaps the girls who beat me are the age groupers on the fence of turning pro, just like I’ve been the past couple years.

For anyone wondering if I'm a list person...yes, I am.
There’s been a lot of debate in my head making my decision. There’s the practical side: more flexibility in signing up for races, cheaper registration fees, homestay opportunities, pro sponsors through Ironman, or a tax write-off as a business expense [my dad’s suggestion “oh, I figure that would be the main reason you’d do it,” he says]. And there are also motivating factors: faster fields, potential for prize money, lining up with some of the top pros, and a lifetime opportunity. But the biggest gain is that “Going Pro” truly makes me excited! When I think about 2014 and all the races that seem realistic for my travel budget, they all just seem more exciting if I race against the professional field.

My friend Sarah gave me this card before
 CdA last year. Very fitting for IM athletes.

Right now I don’t have the desire to chase an age group world championship, which I won’t lie, was a tough decision in itself. And for the races I picture myself doing, I want to go head to head with the best, even if it means a good shellacking by some of them. My goal in this sport is to be the best athlete I can be. So why wouldn’t I try to push myself by lining up with the best athletes in the field? If I end up putting too much pressure on myself as a professional and start losing the fun in the sport, I can always go back to the age group lifestyle that has treated me so well over the past several years.

It’s a bit surreal. A few years ago I didn’t really see myself having that much athletic talent – my marathon times were in the 3:30s and biking and swimming were still pretty new and daunting. But I liked to work hard and set goals. And eventually every small goal became a stepping stone to me becoming fast enough and strong enough to earn the opportunity to race as a professional athlete. So I’m going for it and hoping to turn a new set of small goals into something remarkable, even if what lies ahead is only remarkable for me.
Thanks to everyone who has supported me in making this decision and helped me become the athlete I am today!
With Heart,

The fine print: I would have applied for my elite license in November, but elite licenses under the USAT expire on December 31 no matter what. So I decided to save my $45 and wait a couple more months before officially pulling the trigger and making this announcement on the Internet. This decision was made a long time ago, but it’s nice to finally have this well-earned piece of paper in my hot little hand and this big news off my chest.
Also, saying no to Kona in 2013 was the best decision that year. I’m not saying I’d make that same decision every year.
Right now, I’m scared shitless. But I’m using scare tactics to as a means of motivation. I’ll find my confidence between now and my first pro race.