Sunday, January 11, 2009

Culinary Adventures Part II

In late December I decided to embark on the third of my three Culinary Adventures, ravioli (or another type of stuffed pasta). I decided to make agnolotti from Mario Batali's book, Molto Mario. So far every recipe we've made out of this book has been excellent, so while I knew this would be a time consuming experiment I was pretty sure the result would be an excellent meal.

I've had agnolotti once before, so I knew they were supposed to look like little bricks wrapped in pasta. My last stuffed pasta experience, however resulted in exploded ravioli...the guts of my poor little ravioli floating in the boiling water. This time I was determined to keep the guts in the pasta and thought keeping extra pasta on the edges would be the best way to guarantee this. Rather than look like agnolotti my pasta looked an awful lot like ravioli.
As I was dropping my supersized agnolotti/ravioli into the water I remembered that I was recently told that the best way to avoid exploding pasta was to cook them at less than a full boil. Huh...I remembered too late to correct my pasta making, but I did use a less violent boil and no stuffing escaped!

As it ends up, the filling was excellent...the pasta was good but the pasta around the edges was a bit undercooked and could have used a few extra minutes of cooking time.

Next time I'll try to make the pasta the right and I'll cook them a little longer...otherwise, I'd consider this experience a success!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Culinary Adventures

In October, while visiting my Cousin Kathy in California and enjoying some great food, I developed a list of foods I wanted to try to culinary goals.

The list includes gnocchi, ravioli (which begins with making my own pasta) and tamales.

Shortly after I got home I tried gnocchi, with mixed success (half of them were great, the other half were mushy). So I can't cross it off my list.

I haven't had a chance to try ravioli since my incident a few years ago, when all the fillings popped out of the pasta.

I do, however, have an ace in my pocket when it comes to tamales. My sister in law, Alma, has lots of experience making tamales with her mom. She and my brother, Ted, came over on Thanksgiving weekend and helped me accomplish a fantastic batch of tamales.

Before they came over I made the fillings, including a shredded pork in pepper sauce and leftover thanksgiving turkey in mole sauce.

When Ted and Alma arrived Ted mixed up the masa and Alma helped us prep the corn husks. After a couple of hours, we were finally ready for the production line. Alma gave us some lessons on preparation and we were fell into full production.

The finished product was wonderful. Not totally authentic, but as close as this mostly-Norwegian ever thought she would come.

I wouldn't necessarily say that the tamale book is closed, but the first chapter "How we get started" is definitely underway.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sometimes you CAN go home again (part 2)...

Home doesn't always include a house...for me it means feeling happy and loved.

I ran the Chicago marathon on October 12th. As with most marathons, it seems to have taken a bit out of me...physically and emotionally. After the marathon I "broke up with running" for a few weeks. I ran, but rarely and I didn't enjoy it much.

This weekend I got back together with my running friends for the first time since the marathon. I was reminded why I value running so much. Sure it helps me stay in shape and gives me a reason to wear some cute running clothes, but the biggest benefit (and one I never expected when I started running) was the great friendships it has given me. My run yesterday with Carly and Amy was great...we talked, laughed, and caught up on the last few weeks.

Today I raced Rocky's Run with my Cross Country team. The race was painful, hilly and tons of fun. Getting together with my friends in pink is ALWAYS a great experience and today was no different. Having so much fun with the girls has convinced me to get back together with running. I think I'll go for a run tomorrow...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Sometimes you can go home again (part 1)...

This past weekend I had to say goodbye to my Aunt Pat, who passed away on September 13th. As a kid I always thought Pat was one of the most glamorous women I knew...she had a real Audrey Hepburn quality and I was always in awe of her.

While I was really sad to say goodbye to Pat, the weekend offered the opportunity to get together with members of my family that I don't get to see often enough. My Aunt, Uncle, dad, cousins, first cousins once removed, brother and sister (and all their families) are some of the most welcoming, most intelligent and easiest to laugh group of people I have ever met (and I'm not just saying that because I found out that they read my blog). The time I spent with them this weekend put me at ease, but I had a hard time putting my finger on exactly why.

Kirk and I left Chicago on Saturday afternoon so we could make it back to Minnesota in time for the River Rocks music festival. We had both been looking forward to the music festival for about a month, mostly because one of our old favorite bands, Semisonic, was playing the festival. As a college kid I used to follow the precursor to Semisonic, Trip Shakespeare, as often as I could including a magical pre-Thanksgiving concert at First Avenue. Living in Wichita, Kansas Kirk and I traveled a bit (all the way from Wichita to St. Louis) to watch Semisonic in it's early stages. It was the closest we'll ever be to "Dead Heads".

Semisonic has been broken up for a few years and other than a very rare reunion concert we only hear them via CD or iPod. The concert on Saturday night was absolutely magical. As soon as the band took the stage I had a smile that stretched ear to ear.

From TVsnacks

I realized during the show that Semisonic's music, like the love and companionship of my family, made me feel comfortable, happy and safe...and reminded me of the good ol' times. I have a lot of great memories of my family and we'll be making a lot more memories in the years to come. I'm looking forward to our family reunion in the summer of 2009...those of you who continue to read my blog can look forward to a post about all the fun we have!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Bad Decisions lead to good outcomes

Tonight, a beautiful night in Minnesota, Kirk and I ate dinner al fresco (not naked and not with Mr. Al Fresco, regardless of what you may think) and had a really great meal. Afterward we sat on the deck talking for hours. As Kirk was opening the THIRD bottle of wine (aka the "bad decision bottle") he spilled wine on the base of my wine glass. I quickly forgot that he had spilled on my glass and tipped all the wine off my glass onto my Lumberjack days 2007 10 mile t-shirt. I was dismayed. Kirk pointed out that it was a great reason to get rid of a REALLY ugly t-shirt. I guess everything happens for a reason.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Is it normal to fight back tears every 5k?

About 10 months ago Kirk decided he was going to run the Boston Marathon. Why? First because he still feels the need to get even with the marathon for kicking his butt back in 2000 and second because we wanted to see the Women's Olympic Marathon Trials that was scheduled to take place the day before the marathon. Needless to say, I decided to run the marathon as know, since I was going to go anyway.

The weekend was great. Watching the trials was a lot of fun...what a great race. After running around to the first few viewing points we stood in one spot for the rest of the race. Deena seemed to be a crowd favorite, but the crowd was full of love for everyone. It was inspirational to watch these strong, fast women compete for the chance to run in the Olympic Games, and to see the women who were just out to enjoy the ride. The three women who were running together in last place after one mile went by us with HUGE smiles on their faces as if to say "I'm running in the Olympic Trials and IT IS AWESOME!" really made my day, and made me miss my running friends.

The next day was my turn. The Boston Marathon. I've run it once before, in 2003, and the course definitely fooled me. The course is downhill for the first 6 miles and if you don't realize this ahead of time you just might go out too fast. I would bet 90% of Boston first timers do. I was paranoid enough to hold back and keep a close eye on my watch, which I thought would pay dividends later.

For the first 7 miles or so I had people passing me left and right. I just kept hearing Gene-o's within patient. I would see people go past me and KNEW I would see them later in the race, especially that woman who pushed me at the start. The first half of the race seemed really long...I just kept thinking I needed to make it to the halfway point, THEN I could start thinking about the finish. I even started thinking about the miles as they correspond to miles on the Twin Cities Marathon course, just to help me gauge how much longer I had to go. That helped a little, but the first half still felt like 20 miles.

I knew my legs were in trouble when they were really hurting on a downhill about mile 15ish. I hadn't even hit the big hills and my quads were already in pain. I think it had to do with walking and standing a lot on Sunday while watching the trials. Once I got to the Newton Hills (about mile 17) I started passing a few people. By the time I hit mile 22ish I was passing a lot of people. There were so many people who went out too fast and had paid the price on the hills.

During the race the crowds were amazing. Wellesley (mile 12.5), Boston College (mile 22ish?) and Boston University (mile 24ish) were especially loud and gave me a huge boost when I needed it. Since I ran a smarter race than I did last time I was able to enjoy the course, noticing things I missed first time around. The different towns were much more memorable, I noticed Fenway (I think I missed that last time)and the Citgo sign, and the last few miles were so much fun with the crowds and so many runners. However, the finish line area was the most amazing. It's a really wide street filled with runners heading toward the line, the crowds are was invigorating. I crossed the finish line with tears in my eyes and a huge smile on my face.

I think I got beaten by a guy in a Paul Revere costume, but I passed the two guys in hats with bunny ears. I felt pretty good about that...

After the race I met up with Kirk and Nathan, then we ran into Mike on the way back to the hotel. We walked about a mile, crossing through Boston Common, rehashing the race along the way. It was a beautiful day.

When we got back to the hotel the lobby staff saw our medals and gave us (Kirk, myself and another guy who just happened to enter at the same time) a standing ovation. Words can't explain the feeling.

Today I'm burned, my legs are sore, but the pain is tolerable. I'm really happy I ran the marathon. All in all it was a great experience...

6 months ago when I decided to run the marathon I thought I was in for a very lonely experience. Between training for 4 months on my own and running the race by myself I thought I would be alone every step of the way. I couldn't have been more wrong. My running friends joined me for my long training runs, my short training runs and for coffee afterward. It seemed I was never alone!

Every 5k during the race the runners cross a mat that records your time, then it gets posted on the runner tracking website. During the race I knew my running friends as well family members and some co-workers were watching me online at home. As I crossed the start I thought to myself "ok ladies, here we go". For the rest of the race I knew I wasn't alone.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Current Conditions

Saturday was a beautiful day...I stood in my friend Janelle's kitchen watching huge snowflakes fall while she and her husband served all our running friends fantastic pancakes. The conversation turned to local weather hero Mark Seely...we all love to listen to his weather forecast every morning on Minnesota Public Radio while traveling to work.

All the weather talk got me thinking...

Kirk received a great gift from his parents for his birthday, an Oregon Scientific WMR-100 personal weather station. Kirk has been planning on setting it up once the snow melts and he can get up on the roof, but I got impatient and set it up this weekend instead.

One of the wicked-cool things about having your own personal weather station is that you can track the weather AT YOUR HOUSE through a site like Wunderground

So, after a bit of troubleshooting, I got our Personal Weather Station (PWS) sending weather info to Wunderground. Our deck is now officially known as KMNEAGAN12
Keep in mind, since Kirk and I live in a wonderland of sunshine and chocolate, the accuracy of the weather on our deck doesn't EXACTLY match what you'll find on the Wunderground website...we're pretty protected from the wind.

Once the snow melts we'll relocate the weather station to an area more exposed to the elements, like the roof, but for now enjoy the weather!