Sunday, September 13, 2009

Things I Have Made Recently That Isn't Rice Pudding

I think I'm pretty predictable. By now you've probably figured out that one of the most reoccurring themes of my blog is food. As of late, not only have I been into eating food but I've also been into cooking/baking food too. And that, my bloggy readers, is what brings me to the subject of this post: "Things I Have Made Recently That Isn't Rice Pudding."

I have mentioned my favorite cooking blog Smitten Kitchen a few times thus far. I think the reason I love it so much because she provides pictures. Not only pictures of the final product but the various steps along the way. The pictures make the recipes seem doable. Not to mention I love her commentary. (I told Wyatt that Deb (aka: The Smitten Kitchen) and I would probably be bff's if she lived next door. We do share one major thing in common and that is our love for food. I could actually relate to her excitement for tomato season. I too drool at the thought of the delectable Sun Gold tomatoes Wyatt's dad plants for me each year. I can hardly contain myself as I count down the months until I get to eat them again. I think it's the feeling most people have about Christmas.) Okay, major tangent...

Anyway, here are some of the things I've made as of late:

Nectarine Galette
I have NO idea how to pronounce the latter word of this dish but could hardly resist the need (yes, I mean NEED) to make this. It's so beautiful. Plus it seems like nectarines are always overshadowed by their sister the peach when it comes to desserts. I had to bring them to the center stage. I've also been looking for the opportunity to brush-up on my homemade pie crust making skills.

The result was, well, if you'll excuse my pride - STUNNING! I have NEVER made a pie crust so perfect in taste and texture. The secret - I used a cheese grater (yes, cheese grater) to grate a frozen (yes, frozen) stick of butter into the flour mixture. I got this idea from the local newspaper the Oregonian. What a BRILLIANT idea! That was my huge issue before - trying to get the mixture to look like "coarse corn meal". Grating the butter into the flour automatically makes it like corn meal! I also learned that the less you mix/handle the pie dough the better the crust.

(the perfect pie crust - may have to enlarge to see the full effect)

The final product was, I'm sad to say, good. Just good, not great. The pie crust was perfect, the almond/sugar mixture was very tasty, it was the nectarines that didn't shine. Perhaps if they were more ripe... I don't know. Perhaps this is why peaches seem to get all the attention?

Next up, Ratatouille
Ever since the movie about the cute little chef rat came out I wanted to make this. Who knew that a cartoon could make something look so good? My oldest brother Harold served his mission in France said that it was in fact, not good. I dismissed his opinion since he has a reputation for not liking vegetables; and since he told me not to order the pizza while we were in Paris (which he did end up ordering and RAVING about as I tried to choke down my cooked brie pasta).

I decided now was a better time then ever since I have accesses to all the vegetables from Wyatt's parent's garden. As much as I hate to admit it, Harold was right. Despite it's array of colors that make it so appealing, it does not taste good. I tried. I really tried to like it. I wanted to, desperately! But leftovers don't lie and they sat in the fridge for nearly a week without any desire from Wyatt or me to polish them off. I can't tell you why exactly I didn't like it. I like all the ingredients otherwise. Maybe it's the combination of them?

Last, but not least: Tomato and Corn Pie
I've never had (nor heard of) tomato pie before. Again, it was the pictures that sold me on it. Plus the abundance of tomatoes that I have access to (Wyatt's dad planted 14 tomato plants this year). I again took the opportunity to improve my pie crust making skills and successfully made my very own tomato pie! Again, the crust turned out perfect (I love my frozen butter cheese grater trick!) and the final product was delish! Well, except for the part at the very end when Wyatt asked me if I used "old" cheese because he had a bite that tasted like old cheese. My heart sunk. I swear the cheese looked (and tasted) fine to me!

(Wyatt's winking. Not giving pirate face.)

Other recent food adventures include the Sun Gold tomatoes that I roasted (I knew I should've took them out of the oven when I checked on them!) and proceeded to char. What a disappointment when the air is filled with tomato-garlicy goodness, only to discover the culprit of the wonderful smell passed its prime 45-minutes prior. My only redemption is that I have two more weeks of tomato season.

I also spent nine-hours canning salsa with my friend Phoebe on Friday. "I'll be home at 5pm Wyatt." 6pm that night, "Um, do you want to come over to Phoebe's and have pizza while we finish canning?" We finally left at 11pm. It was quite the adventure and my it was my first stab at canning using a canning pot. Sorry I trashed your kitchen've got to admit, it was fun! Too bad we didn't take any pictures to document the day.

If you've made it this far, I'm sorry I'm always talking about food. It's just something I think about all the time. Even as I'm drifting off to sleep... Hopefully for your sake I'll have a kid some day and dedicate my blog to life as a mom and not as a pseudo chef.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Hood to Coast 2009

What a weekend! I am one of the lucky 12,000 people that got to participate in the "mother of all relays" Hood to Coast. What a fantastic event to be a part of! For all those Hood to Coast virgins out there, let me outline a few key facts:

192 miles (from Mt. Hood to the Oregon Coast)
6,000 feet (of elevation descended)
1,000 teams
12,000 runners (12 runners per team)
2,000 vans (2 vans per team - 6 runners per van)
36 legs (3 legs per runner)
1,000+ HoneyBuckets (port-o-potties)
15-35 hours of running (depending on how fast your team is)
4 hours (or less) of sleep

I got a call from the Jamison's in my ward the week before the race to see if I would fill in for a last minute drop out on their team. Happy day! I am so glad they called me! (Since we don't know where we'll be living next year, I was beginning to think that my opportunity to run Hood to Coast was passing me by. Sign up for the race is 10 months before the race.) I was given the choice to run either the most difficult leg of the race, or one of the easiest legs. I decided to take the challenge and go for the hardest. Let me give you a visual of what my legs looked like...

Leg 5:

Miles: 6.08; Time: 53 minutes; Pace: 8:43.0

Notice the 400-feet gain in elevation? In case you're wondering...I did run the entire leg!

Leg 17:
Miles: 5.69; Time: 48 minutes; Pace: 8:26.2

Ahhhhhh....nice and flat. This is the route I ran at 2am in the the pitch black! For me this was the hardest of my three legs. Have you ever run in the deep dark of the night? It's hard to see your final destination...or how far you've come. I kind of felt like I was running for-ev-er! Not to mention my fear that I'd get abducted. Did I mention I was running alone (except for the runners that passed me) in the pitch black? Yikes!

Leg 29:
Miles: 6.11; Time: 55 minutes; Pace: 9:00.1

The first point I'd like to make on this route is that I climbed 600-feet the first 3.5-miles. The second point I'd like to make is that 300 of those feet I climbed in 1-mile! I assure you that as slow as I was going, I did "run" up the hill. (Thanks to my favorite run around Lake Oswego - which includes my nemesis McVay Hill - that prepared me (unknowingly) for Leg 29!)

Be sure to take note of my competition - "one of these things is not like the other." Who are these crazies that fly past me as if they're conquering an ant hill?!!!

What a feeling it was when I finished my three legs - I was so proud of myself! (Is that bad?) I was so nervous before the race because I didn't know what to expect and...well, you saw Leg 29! Wouldn't you be a little intimidated too?

I'm so grateful for the Jamison's and all the hard work they put into planning, coordinating, and figuring out the logistics. I'm especially grateful for Paul Jamison. He was the driver/manager of our van. He made us dinner after our first legs, made sure we were at each exchange on time, met us in the middle of our routes with water, ran by our sides while we drank the water, calculated our pace as we were running, cheered us on, and was simply our support. I can almost make a church analogy using Paul and his role as team manager. Seriously, it was such a comfort to have him waiting for me in the pitch black of night, in the middle of my 600-foot climb, and at the end of my leg. He was my personal beacon. Thanks Paul!

I also want to give a shout-out to my dear hubby! He was also a HUGE support! He made sure I had all the stuff I needed for the race, took care of all the chores at home I couldn't do, drove all the way to the coast to meet me, arrived at the coast 5-hours earlier than I did, brought me a dozen "job well done" donuts, and drove me home to Portland while I slept in the car. What a man!

Needless to say after it was all said and done, I was POOPED! I think I may have got a total of 4-hours of sleep in a 36-hour period.

It was a grand experience and definitely one I'd like to repeat! What better way to spend 30-hours than in a van, getting to know three strangers (I already knew two of them)? It really did give me a rush of adrenalin, a boost of self-confidence, and some nice bragging material. I'm trying to convince Wyatt to run with me next year. He's the only thing I think would make it a better experience.