Every year I head into the first races of the seasons with high expectations. Each time I toe the start line, I know I’ve worked harder than ever before. I know I’ve made gains in technique, fitness, and strength. Despite this knowledge, every year I cross the first finish line I am left…wanting. A little disappointed, a little discouraged, and a little bit perplexed. So, every year I write a blog working my way through the weekend. Year one: On Starts. Year two: Finding Finesse. Given this history, I shouldn’t have been surprised by the opening weekend of races. They were WAY better than years past (each year at West Yellowstone I’ve cut my eventual result in half- 7th this year instead of 28th in 2014), but still not what I wanted (RE: winning). This year is a little different because that first race weekend didn’t count for overall domestic points scoring (that happens this weekend), but still a race is a race. And as a racer I’m generally unhappy when things don’t go to plan.
So cooling down from the races, I was searching for an analogy. Being a perennial pancake person (in the ongoing debate of pancakes vs. waffles vs. french toast), I decided that my racing is rather like pancake making.
To anyone who has made pancakes- you know about the first pancake theory. For no real scientific reason- the pan, the ingredients, and the chef remain the same- that first pancake just doesn’t turn out like the rest. I tried searching for a scientific explanation, and there just isn’t one. There are some nonscientific ones HERE, the most succinct coming from KrazyKakeKylie using the source “myself.” You don’t do anything differently, but that first pancake is a little flat, a little burnt (or undercooked), and just not as tasty. So you make one (and in our household give it to the dog), and then by the next batch things turn around.
And, no one remembers that first pancake. The first pancake is heavily (and thankfully) overshadowed by the glorious batches that follow. I was devastated after the first races last year, but went on to podium for the first time at US Nationals, win my first SuperTour, and race in my first World Cups. But if I’d given up and assumed that the first pancake would be representative of the following pancakes…well I’d be hungry.
So instead of throwing away the entire batch before I even give it a chance to cook, I’m going to figure out how to make them better. For one, I should turn up the heat. I skied technically well last weekend, but (I think) was so focused on skiing well that I ignored the ski really fast part. Pacing has always been a struggle of mine, and the transition from pavement to snow makes that extra hard (you don’t get a perfect push every time on snow). Further, you don’t pick different roller skis for different conditions. I’m immensely thankful for all the new Madshus skis I got this year, but am still figuring out the prime conditions for each and working with Pat to figure out how to best wax them for kick.
Finally, I will head into the next weekend of races with twice as much skiing under my belt. I decided to stick around Vermont this summer instead of travel for snow, so the learning curve is steep. Kikkan Randall (who, granted, had a baby last year, making her transition all the more impressive) likened getting back to snow skiing like riding a bike: “It is a bit like riding a bike. The sensations are all there and I’m used to it, but it’s also new again. But I kind of like that. I really enjoyed working my way to the top and where I was through the 2014 season, and now I have to work my way back. I like that challenge.”
I’ll report back on the second batch next week. Until then it is time to recover from a big week of training and intensity on snow, and get ready for our first Super Tour races of the season- back at West Yellowstone because of (lack of) snow problems in Bozeman.
Thomas just headed out to Rapid City, South Dakota to begin his job as a trust advisor for the Concord Trust Company. I’m so proud of him, but also South Dakota is far away. This is a bummer for two reasons. One, he’s no longer just a 2 hour drive from Stratton. Two, he is currently in the middle of Ohio driving across the country (it’s a 30 hour drive). I’ve always been one to deal with stress through cooking, so I went on the hunt for a recipe that would alleviate some sadness through slight sweetness, and be portable so Thomas could have some high quality road snacks…and avoid expired Twinkies from 7/11.
The other constraint I was dealing with was time. I decided to make him these cookies at the last possible second, so I need a 20 minute miracle. And I needed to have everything I needed already in the cupboard. I had tahini and honey and almond flour, and when I typed these into the Google machine, came across a very simple yet highly rated recipe from Food and Wine. I didn’t modify these at all, although next time I might throw a couple dark chocolate chips in there…because dark chocolate is a cure-all-maladies type of food.
These were meant to last Thomas the whole trip, but I’m pretty sure they didn’t make it past Vermont.
Food and Wine says it makes 30…mine made more like 20
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1 1/2 cups almond flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup tahini
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Place sesame seeds in a bowl (you’ll use this for rolling the little cookies in). Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and lightly grease two baking sheets, or line with parchment paper
2. In a medium bowl, mix the almond flour, baking soda, and salt together.
3. In a separate smaller bowl, mix the honey, tahini and vanilla together.
4. Create a small well in the dry ingredients, and pour the wet mixture into the center. Using a wooden spoon fold together until completely combined.
5. Using your hands, make golf ball sized balls of dough, roll in the sesame seeds, and gently flatten. Place on cookie sheet and repeat until all the dough has been used.
6. Bake for 8 minutes, switching pans from top to bottom half way through. They should be just turning golden brown on the bottom.
7. Let cool completely, and in my case put in a ziplock Baggie for travel food!
I have a new restaurant on my ever growing bucket list. After watching the Netflix Documentary series “Chef’s Table,” in which the luckiest people in the world interview and follow and film the world’s most creative, elegant, and talented chefs, I’ve decided I need to get myself to Blue Hill in New York. Head chef Dan Barber essentially founded the Farm-to-Table restaurant movement. Originating from his desire to combine environmentally sustainable practices, nutritiously beneficial food, moral social practices and of course taste, he has become world renowned for the subtle complexities on display at his restaurant. At the most basic level, he wants every ingredient on his plates to have a sense of self worth and integrity. As Chef Barber sees it, a single radish prepared well should be just as impressive as the 24 day aged steak. He finds meaning in simplicity. But for this to work, he has to start with the best ingredients.
With that in mind, I wanted to figure out the best way to showcase the local food star of September: the apple. I wanted to give it the attention it deserves, without losing its essential “apple-ness.” And that’s the trick with food- mixing and matching flavors without losing the essence of any individual ingredient. Every ingredient has a purpose.
I like fruit crisps, but in my mind the apple plays second fiddle to the topping (because butter is a hard flavor to compete with). So I decided to do an inside out crisp of sorts- hollow out an apple, and stuff it with just a tiny bit of a crisp like topping. Then throw that in the oven so the apple can release its natural sweetness, add some creamy yogurt and some crunchy toasted hazelnuts…and the rest is history.
1 local as good as you can find Apple
1 tablespoon rolled oats
2 teaspoons quinoa (I used tri-colored)
1 teaspoon dried cranberries (fruit sweetened if possible!)
1 teaspoon maple syrup
2 teaspoons salted butter (cold and cut into small pieces)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
6-8 hazelnuts, toasted
Yogurt for serving
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. While the oven is preheating, prepare your apple. Using a sharp knife, cut a circle in the top. The size will depend on your apple, but for reference my circle was the about the size of my pinky finger. You want to have a big enough hole for the filling, but not so big you lose the apple! Also be sure not to cut through to the bottom! I found it helped to use the knife initially, and then use a spoon to take out the rest.
2. Prepare your filling. Combine the oats, quinoa, cranberries, syrup, and cinnamon. Then using your fingers, work the butter into the mixture until it resembles coarse sand.
3. Stuff all of the filling into your apple. Place your apple in a dish that is just barely bigger than the apple itself. Put a little water in the bottom of the dish (so it covers 1/4-1/3 of your apple). This creates a steaming effect, which gets your apple nice and soft.
4. Bake, uncovered for 20-30 minutes. Total time will depend on the size of your apple, so start checking at 20 minutes. You want it soft to the touch, and the skin starting to separate from the apple itself.
5. Once cooked through, let rest for 5 minutes. Top with yogurt and hazelnuts and a dash more cinnamon, and enjoy! I had mine with two local maple-sage breakfast sausages. A truly harmonious mixture of savory and sweet.
P.S. I’m going to start saving all of my change for a trip to the Blue Hill at Stone Farm restaurant (there is one in the city and one on the farm where the ingredients come from). It might take me awhile, as the full menu costs $238 per person, excluding beverages, tax and gratuity. But once I’ve saved enough money, it will still be 60 days until I can eat there, as that’s how far out one must make reservations. Maybe Chef Barber will read this blog somehow, and invite me there free of charge. Here’s to hoping!
Confession: I usually hate quinoa. In fact, I endearingly call it quino-blah. There really isn’t any flavor in my opinion, so if I’m going to eat it you better believe there are some other things going with it. So when I saw a recipe for a quinoa salad that called for a half bunch of parsley (my favorite herb) I clicked on it. Then I saw it had toasted hazelnuts and apples. So I made it. And it might be the only quinoa salad I make from now on. The quinoa is really just the backup singer to the other ingredients. Toasted hazelnuts are really something special, and as we are now entering apple season, this easy side dish adds a nice fall flair to any meal.
Serves 3, adapted ever so slightly from Food52.com (a great place to find a variety of tasty recipes)
1/2 cup quinoa
1/2 cup hazelnuts (these are expensive little nuts, but in this quantity shouldn’t break the bank. Pecans or walnuts would be tasty too!)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 celery stick (finely diced)
1/2 small onion (finely diced)
3 scallions (only the green parts), chopped
1/2 bunch fresh parsley (finely chopped)
1/3 cup dried cranberries (find some that are naturally sweetened with apple juice if you can! These taste so much better than craisins, but craisins will do in a pinch).
Juice from one lemon
Salt and Pepper to taste
1. Make your quinoa. Bring a pinch of salt and one cup of water to a boil. Add your 1/2 cup quinoa, reduce heat and simmer for about 15-20 minutes, or until all of the water has been absorbed. Fluff, and then place in the fridge to cool.
2. Toast your hazelnuts. Preheat your oven to 325, and bake hazelnuts for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool (you’ll hear the skins crackle!). Once cooled remove skins (they should just pop right off), and chop these ever so slightly (you still want big pieces!)
3. While the hazelnuts and quinoa are cooling, heat your olive oil in a skillet. Once hot sauté the celery and the onion (along with some salt) until softened, 6-8 minutes. Place into a medium sized mixing bowl.
4. Mix the parsley and scallions into the onion-celery mix. Then add your cooled quinoa, hazelnuts, and dried cranberries to the mix. Give it all a stir. At this point you can core and chop your apple (don’t do this ahead of time or you will get a brown apple). Put your chopped apple onto the top of the salad, and pour your lemon juice on top of that (this prevents browning). Give everything another mix, add salt and pepper as you please, and let sit for 20-30 minutes before serving! These 30 minutes are a great time to prep the rest of your meal- for me shredding chicken and roasting asparagus!
This will keep for up to 3 days in your fridge, and is easily doubled to serve a larger crowd.
As I shared earlier with the Tahini Marinated chicken, there is nothing worse than bland chicken. I can’t say it enough, so expect it a couple more times. So with some chicken thighs in the freezer, I was looking for a new flavor combination to give the chicken some life (…the irony doesn’t go unnoticed). I stumbled upon a cookbook that Erika gave me for my birthday (or maybe graduation, but either way a present) and landed on a Moroccan chicken recipe.
And because it’s my birthday tomorrow, it is like Erika’s gift keeps on giving. Because this chicken is truly a gift. Grilling the thighs keeps everything juicy, with the added help of molasses and honey creating a nice crispy exterior. Served with rice and some grilled bok choy, the sauce drizzled over it all…a dinner worthy of a birthday eve.
Moroccan Chicken (serves 4)
Adapted from The Vermont Farm Table Cookbook
For the chicken and marinade:
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 minced garlic cloves
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup local honey
1/4 cup molasses
8 boneless chicken thighs
1 teaspoon salt
For the sauce:
2 cups chicken stock
2 carrots thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water
Salt and pepper to taste
Toasted Almonds for serving (about 1/4 cup)
1. Make the marinade. Heat the oil in a small sauce pan, and add the garlic, coriander, and cinnamon. Stir constantly for 1 minute. Stir in the honey and molasses and heat until bubbling. Split the marinade in half (put in two separate bowls to cool).
2. Once cooled, pour half the marinade into a large ziplock bag. Add the chicken thighs and salt, massage, and place in the fridge for at least two hours (up to 24, I did mine for 6).
3. When you are about 45 minutes from your desired dinner time, start the rice. Meanwhile begin the sauce. Pour the second half of the marinade into a sauce pan, along with 2 cups of the chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minute stirring occasionally. Add the chopped apricots and carrots, and cook for another 20 minutes.
4. Once you’ve added the apricots and carrots, cook the chicken. Our grill heats up fast, so I started the grill right when the marinade sauce began to boil. On a grill that is medium-high, cook the chicken for 5-7 minutes each side.
5. When the chicken is done and resting, mix the cornstarch with the water. Pour this mixture into your sauce to thicken that baby up. Serve with rice and a vegetable of your choice, and dinner is not only tasty but also served!
And some other things I ate this week… (And a raw cake I want to make)http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1013807-carnitas-braised-in-witbier
And this raw cake is beckoning… It is my birthday tomorrow after all
I feel like I am pretty good at covering all of my nutritious food bases throughout a day. I eat a wide variety of dishes, eat until I’m full, and then eat again an hour later. But around this time of year- without fail- I go through salad burn out. With all of the amazing fresh and local salad ingredients, for the months of June and July I pretty much don’t go a day without some kind of leafy green side dish.
Don’t get me wrong- I still love vegetables. But I stop wanting them chopped up and mixed on top of a bed of greens. So I get conflicted- I know I need the vegetables, but need a new way to consume them.
So I add bacon. I skip the leafy green stuff and get straight to the goods. I make this 10 minute broccoli bacon salad. It covers all the bases both nutritionally, texturally, and taste bud-y. Walnuts for crunch and some healthy fats, raisins for sweetness, bacon for goodness, and broccoli and red onion for nutritious-ness. And of course my go-to Greek yogurt for some creaminess, and local honey to fight the allergies. I’ll be eating this on repeat (or for at least two more lunches, the recipe serves three of me).
2 broccoli heads, cut into bite size florets
1/2 small red onion
Handful (my very precise unit of measurement) chopped walnuts
6 pieces cooked bacon, chopped
1/2 cup plain Greek Yogurt
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
Salt and Pepper to taste
Literally so easy. Put the broccoli, onion, walnuts, raisins and bacon into a medium sized mixing bowl. Combine the yogurt, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper in a small dish. Pour over the dry goods and mix completely. Serve right then, or put in a Tupperware. This kind of dish tastes just as good (if not better) after a day or two in the fridge.
Two more kitchen highlights:Check back next week for some homemade Graham crackers I’m perfecting, and an energy ball recipe I’m working on for the Birkie foundation!
Simple is good. So for this week’s recipe round up, I’m sharing some no-recipe-recipes. These are perfect quick meals for anytime- ideal for a mid-summer rest week. There is plenty of room for substitution- so use this as a template for your own creativity. Or if you’re a mosquito, skip this and just chomp on this writer.
This is an empty the fridge bowl. Since I was leaving Stratton for the week, going to the grocery store seemed excessive. So I opened the fridge to bacon and eggs (two things I always have in the fridge), some leftover polenta, and the last remnants of a successful early week farmers market visit. Oh, and some Parmesan.
Cook polenta according to package instructions (I use corn meal and chicken stock for mine, and add a good amount of butter at the very end for some added richness and deliciousness). Preheat oven to 425, and toss vegetables with some olive oil. Roast for 15 minutes. When you put the vegetables in, fry up some bacon. Once cooked, set bacon aside but DO NOT DUMP THE LEFTOVER GREASE. Use it to fry your eggs. Crack eggs into the hot pan, and don’t touch ‘em! This will give you a nice crispy edge. Cook until whites are set. Put some polenta in the bottom of a serving bowl, then put down your vegetables, the eggs, and finally sprinkle with chopped bacon and some Parmesan. Dinner is served!
Some simple pizza inspiration. I made a sourdough crust with my starter, and topped with some parsley pesto. Then I used some leftover baked chicken (another fridge staple), peaches, sugar snap peas, green onions, goat cheese and a sprinkling of chopped pecans. For an added treat, get yourself a little dish of honey to dip the crust in. Also a cute bicycle pizza cutter doesn’t hurt.
This recipe from the New York Times for corn basil pasta is incredible. I used my ancient grains fusilli for the pasta, but your favorite brand would work. For some serious protein I grilled up a pork chop (well two, one for lunch the next day).
French toast a la me! I used some of my whole wheat sourdough, and soaked the pieces in a mixture of two eggs, a little maple syrup, a dash of vanilla and a sprinkling of cinnamon, I topped it with Greek yogurt, blueberries and roasted peaches- but French toast is a wonderful place to use up anything you have left in the pantry. To roast the peaches (which everyone should do), set your oven to the broiler setting. Halve a peach (or two, I won’t tell), and add a small piece of butter to the middle, drizzle with maple syrup and a little cinnamon. Put onto a baking sheet lined with foil skin side down, and broil for 8-10 minutes. The peaches will just begin to carmalize and be soft to the touch.
As far as quality protein sources go, chicken breast lands near the top of the list. As far as good taste goes…well, there is nothing more bland than an overcooked plain chicken breast. No one likes tasteless rubber. So when the local butcher had a sale, I snagged a couple chicken breasts and spent a roller ski figuring out how to marinade them.
Thanks to the sesame noodles from last week, I had a lot of tahini in the fridge. Most famously used in hummus, tahini is a great way to impart flavor into dressings and marinades as well. You can go a Mediterranean route, a Middle Eastern route, or even an Asian direction with this healthy spread. Made from sesame seeds, using Tahini as a marinade for chicken breast also adds some much needed fat to the meat. Even marinating the chicken for just four hours makes a world of difference, although it is best to prep the chicken in the morning, and toss it on the grill after a second training session in the evening. Be sure to have a meat thermometer handy- they aren’t very expensive (under 10 dollars), and will ensure you have perfectly cooked meat every time. I’m relatively new to grilling, so I turned to google for the best grilling technique. I’m open to suggestions, so send your best tips my way!
I served this alongside some crispy potatoes (from the Cravings cookbook), and a simple tahini dressed salad with some fresh black raspberries. A perfect meal for anytime.
Tahini Grilled Chicken Breast
Serves 2 (or one dinner and a post four hour run sandwhich)
Two large chicken breasts
One tablespoon tahini
One tablespoon peanut oil
One tablespoon maple syrup
Two tablespoons soy sauce
One teaspoon turmeric (a great anti inflammatory spice to have on hand!)
One teaspoon smoked paprika (normal paprika would also work fine)
One teaspoon minced ginger
1/2 a lime
Salt and Pepper to taste
- Pat chicken breasts dry with a paper towel, and place in a large ziplock bag
- Place remaining ingredients in with the chicken, juicing the lime and the throwing the remainder of the lime in with the chicken as well.
- Close the bag (IMPORTANT), and massage the marinade into the chicken breasts. Place in fridge, rotating half way through the marinating time.
- Grill, let rest, and serve! While you are patiently waiting to cut into the meat (letting is rest is quite important), go ahead and make your salad.
And some other things I ate this week…
Two breakfasts- one fancy (a cornmeal-basil-thyme-wheat berry savory waffle I made with Erika and Natalie over the weekend), and one simple (oats and yogurt with blueberries, peaches and almond butter).
Caesar Cardini, an Italian immigrant, claims to have invented Caesar Salad (modestly named) during a July Fourth rush at his San Diego restaurant when he ran out of his normal ingredients. Making due with what little he had in his kitchen, he came up with the classic and everlasting salad dressing. Normally Caesar dressing involves a lot of work and whisking, and also contains an element of risk. Due to the usual involvement of raw emulsified egg yolks, salmonella can be a concern. To avoid that problem, most dressings turn to mayonnaise to achieve the creamy texture.
Nothing against mayo, but anything that can last literally years on a shelf has to contain a certain number of unnatural ingredients and preservatives, which science consistently tells us to avoid like the plague. The only problem: I love creamy dressings and dipping sauces. So, I turned to my forever friend greek yogurt. Subbing greek yogurt for mayonnaise doesn’t sacrifice any flavor, and simultaneously adds a little protein to my salad dressing. Yes please!
I threw together this dressing to toss with some kale and pasta to create an all-in-one side, and served it with some roasted chicken to round out the meal. It was a quick, easy, and insanely delicious comfort food, perfect for after a big day of training.
Kale Caesar Pasta Salad
Recipe adapted from "The Forest Feast" by Erin Gleeson
1 bunch kale
1 tablespoon shredded parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts
3/4 cup (dry) of your favorite pasta (I’m currently really loving this ancient grain fusilli)
1/3 cup Greek yogurt
2 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoon grainy dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Make the dressing. Put all ingredients in blender, and blend until smooth. This will make more dressing than you need for the “base” of the salad, but it keeps well in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
2. Prepare pasta according to package instructions. Once you drain it, rinse with cold water. Set aside.
3. Prepare your kale, chiffonade style. Cut off the tough stems at the bottom, and place each kale leaf on top of one another. Roll the kale lengthwise to create a “straw” of kale, and then cut into small ribbons using a sharp knife. Place kale in bowl, and add a teaspoon of olive oil. Massage your kale until the fibers have released (you will get a distinct “earthy” smell and the kale will be dark green and shiny).
3. Toast your pine nuts. Be extremely careful, as these little guys go from not toasted to burnt in about 10 seconds. Give your full attention to this process, and make sure you are constantly shaking and stirring the nuts in the pan. Once toasted (you will get a nutty smell and they will just start to turn a nice golden brown) remove from heat, and chop into very tiny pieces. Let cool.
4. Put cooked pasta, cooled pine nuts, parmesan and anywhere from 1/4-1/2 cup of the prepared dressing in a bowl and mix until everything is coated. Start with a 1/4 cup dressing, and add as you see fit to get maximum flavor without drowning the kale in dressing.
5. Let sit for 5-10 minutes, and then enjoy!
And some other things I ate this week…
Before big group workouts (regardless of length), Coach Sverre gathers the group together and doles out instructions. Today we had a brand new running route on tap, so the pre workout meeting involved a lot of directions, homemade maps, reminders to stay as a group, and even more reminders not to twist any ankles. In addition, today Sverre gave us exact instructions on fueling during the run. One of the most important aspects of training is eating, especially on longer runs where the potential for bonking, hungriness (hanger-ness), and subsequent unhappiness runs rampant. So instead of just reminding people to fuel during the two and a half hour effort, Sverre gave specific locations where we were to eat our bars (even specifying how much of a bar to eat). And it worked! Everyone stopped as a group to drink some water and eat their bars, no one bonked, no one fell, and no one got lost. I think Sverre is on to something.
I know that fueling is important, but one of my biggest problems is I don’t love a lot of the bars out there. And because I love cooking, I figured I could engineer myself something I like and easily bring with me on a training session. After a couple “recipes” (basically me going through drawers, throwing things into a bowl, and mixing them around), I landed on my favorite so far. I think I’ll keep experimenting, but now that I have a solid baseline I can’t wait to try different add-ins. These bars have all the macronutrients and good stuff to keep you rolling (or running, rowing, biking…you get the idea). And, they make a great snack even if you aren’t in the middle of a workout. I’ve learned that it is still possible to bonk just walking around the grocery store. Beat the bonk, have a bar.
2 Cups Old-Fashioned Oats
4 Scoops Protein Powder (I used 4 scoops of Progenex Belgian Chocolate More Muscle,but your favorite will work too)
3/4 Figs, Chopped
1/2 Cup Smooth Peanut Butter (I prefer salted!)
1/2 Cup Honey
1/4 Cup Almond Milk
1. Mix all ingredients together in bowl until a big ball has formed (I used my hands)
2. Line a 9 by 13 inch baking sheet with wax paper, and smash mixture until it fills up the tray
3. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour
4. Cut into 12 pieces, and either keep them in the pan or wrap individually for an easy on the go snack.
And that’s really everything! Super easy.