Tuesday, September 21, 2010

MMM, Butternut Squash

With Autumn comes lots of wonderful fall veggies.   One of my favorites is butternut squash, so when I found a really good one last week I was very excited.    I contemplated all week long what I wanted to make with it, there are so many good things: butternut squash ravioli, butternut squash soup, roasted butternut squash, butternut squash bread pudding . . .you get the picture.    I finally decided that I wanted to try a butternut squash risotto, I had eaten a sweet potatoe one a few weeks ago and loved it - so the thought of trying one with butternut squash sounded even better!  

After searching through all my cookbooks and on-line I found this recipe for butternutt squash risotto that I decided to follow.    I have never made a risotto before, mostly because it is supposed to be hard to make.   But after reading through the directions, I realized it really isn't all that challenging to make, you just have to have patience because there are multiple steps and it just takes along time to make good risotto!

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto with Sage
serves 4 (or one with multiple containers for leftover meals)

1 small butternut squash (you will probably use just one half)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small sweet onion, diced (I used shallots instead)
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 cup arborio or carnaroli rice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 cup white wine
4-6 cups chicken stock, warmed on the stove in a pot
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

First you have to roast the butternut squash.   There are other recipes which call for cubing the butternut squash and cooking it with the onions and garlic, but there is something about roasting that is so much better.   I think it is the carmelization of the squash that doesn't occur with other methods of cooking it.    So to roast it, I have found the best way is to cut into cubes and then lightly coat with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.   I have also found that if you line a pan with aluminum foil first, it is much easier to clean up afterwards.   Depending on the size of the cubes you can roast at 350 to 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes until desired doneness.

After about 20 minutes of roasting I decided to start the rest of the cooking process.   Once the butternut squash got done, I just turned off the oven and let the pan sit until I was ready to use the squash. 

With risotto you start with the onion first to soften.

Next step is to add the garlic for a minute or so, then the rice for just a few minutes until it starts to get golden.

The next step is to start to add the first of the liquids and any spice you are using.  In this recipe it is a white wine, but you can use veggie or chicken broth for all of it.

From this point on, this is where it is a waiting a being patient game.   You add a little heated stock (I used chicken) at a time, stir and let simmer until the liquid boils down.   Repeat until all the stock is gone and the rice has taken on a creamy texture.

The author of this recipe suggests that you do other things in the kitchen during this process, such as clean, cut up and prepare other foods for the meal, or drink wine.   I think I could get on board with this!

Drinking wine while cooking?  Priceless!   I also opted to clean my apartment at the same time.   Worked well and looked something like this:  take sip of wine, vacuum living room, stir risotto and add stock, gulp of wine, vacuum bedroom, sip of wine, stir risotto . . .you get the picture.    All in all it was a very productive afternoon/eveing!  

Last step is to add in the squash and cheese for the finished product!   I ate mine as a maindish and added a spinach salad (and more wine) to round out this great meal! 

My stats for the past few weeks:
9/6/10:  32 mile bike
9/7/10: 40 minute recovery run, 30 min strength train
9/8/10: rest (book club)
9/9/10:  hour bike (17 miles), 30 min run
9/10/10:  2800 swim (200 warm up, 5x500, 100 cool down)
9/11/10:  10 mile run
9/12/10:  Rev3 1/2 IM Relay - bike 56 miles (3:08)
9/13/10: 2000 swim
9/14/10:  55 minute run (5.5 miles?), 30 min strength
9/15/10:  17 mile bike
9/16/10:  40 minute run (4.25mile, middle 2 mile tempo run)
9/17/10:  rest
9/18/10:  6 mile run, 20 minute open water swim at Alum
9/19/10:  44 mile ride
9/20/10:  40 minute run
9/21/10:  2200 swim, 30 min strength

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Rev3 Racing Weekend

Team MIT Tri Chicks

Last weekend I had the opportunity to do a 1/2 IM as a relay team.   This is something I have never done before, so when Kathy emailed Kristen and I a few months ago about doing this, I was very intrigued.   So, after a little discussion and figuring out who would do what leg, we decided to sign up and give it a try!  

This was the inagural race for the Rev3 Tri at Cedar Point.   We had to go up the day before to register and get the bike into the transition area before 5pm.   Most of the bigger sized races require that you do this prior to race day and there isn't race day registration.    Not sure the reason, but it does make it easier race day because you don't have to haul as much gear or worry about how long the registration lines are going to be on that given day.    So, by 4:30pm we were checked in and ready to go with nothing else to do the rest of the evening. 
The OSU vs. Miami was the same day, so someone suggested BW3, sounded good - so a few of us went there to kill some time and watch the game.    We then ventured over to a local Italian Place and did our carbo loading for the night!

Race morning always comes early.   This was no exception.   It was suggested that we try to be there by 6:15am to get our body marking done.   Normally this flows pretty well, you get your marking done, then go to the transition area and check all of your stuff, then get the wet suit on if appropriate, and before you know it - the race is starting!   It was a little longer process for this race.   The full IM race started first at 7am, then they let the 1/2 IM group go at 8:30am but in waves.   The Relay Teams got to start in the last wave, which meant our start time wasn't until 8:50am!   So, we got to sit around for several hours before the race even started for us.    It was fun though, because we did get to see everyone else get ready and had some nice bonding time as fellow racers . . .

Kathy and I getting body marked, very early in the morning.

Found a fellow racer, who also got there way early . . .(Kathy, Me, Rocco, Kristin)

We set up our own area outside of the transition so that the spectators and racers would have a common place to meet and get ready while they waited.   Kristen had the longest wait of everyone since she did the running leg of the relay.   This would mean waiting until 12:15 to 12:30pm to start depending on how quickly Kathy and I could do our legs!   Kristen had the right idea by bringing the recliner chair so she could rest her legs! 

Getting on the wetsuit truely is an artform and there is much discussion on what is the best way to do this . . .Some spray Pam or Cooking Spray on their bodies to make it go on easier and many use body glide.  You can see that this group used a variety of methods including, but not limited to, wetsuit calithenics and other friends to help zip and get into the suit!

Swim start finally arrived and most everyone headed down to the beach to get ready. 

When there are "wave starts" to a race, they typically break up the groups and start them at different times, rather than everyone starting together.   Each wave is typically indicated by age group, sex, and/or weight.   Different color swim caps normally designate who is which wave.

As I mentioned before, the Relay Teams started in the last wave - they grouped us with the 45+women and the clydsdale athletes.   Apparently someone thought those would be the slowest swimmers.   Not so, Kathy actually caught up with and passed some swimmers in the 2 waves that started prior to hers! 

We didn't catch Kathy coming out of the water, but we did spot our friend John, he was actually only a minute or so ahead of Kathy . . .

Kathy made it back into transtion after a 40 minute swim (1.2 miles), we exchanged the race chip and then I was off to start the leg loop of the tri (56 miles).   The course itself wasn't really that challenging - a few steep but short hills and one segment that had about 10 miles of rolling hills.   Would actually have been a pretty easy bike for me except that there were 15-17 mph winds that day.   Wind is not my friend on the bike and I would rather deal with anything else.   And wouldn't you know it, but the last 15 miles or so on the bike provided us with a nasty little headwind!  No worries, I gutted it out and although it wasn't the time I was hoping for, I was able to finish the bike in 3:08.  

Meanwhile, Kristen is still waiting in transition.  Not sure what all she did for 3 hours while I was out there, but someone snagged a shot of her stretching and getting ready for her run.

Whatever she did, it worked!   I came into to transition, Kristen took the timing chip from my ankle, and in 36 seconds our transition was complete and she was off on the run (13.1 miles)!

Once I caught my breath, got the bike put away and my legs stopped shaking, I stretched, changed clothes then met up with Kathy and Kristen's husband, Ben.   We put a few things in the car and then headed to the finish line, which was inside of Cedar Point Amusement Park.    That was one of my favorite parts at being part of the relay - I actually got done early enough to see most of my friends be able to finish.   It was especially cool because I was able to cheer on two of my friends, Rocco and Stephanie, as they finished their first 1/2 IM distance!

Rocco, looking strong with a 5:35 finish!

Stephanie is on the left, apparently she ran 10 miles with this girl and they exchanged recipes and other things while passing time on the run!

The other really cool thing is that they let all the team members run down the final stretch so that everyone can finish together!   Kathy and I went back and forth on this because we knew Kristen was on her way to a PR time for the half marathon distance.   We were both in flip flops and weren't sure we could run her pace, on the otherhand we wanted to finish as a team!    We opted to jump in and run as fast as we could!

In our exuberance we almost left Kristen behind!   But we slowed and all got to finish together with a final time of 5:36 (Kristen's 13.1 mile run was a 1:46 PR)!!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

PR, baby!

Finally, after a 6 years, I was able to set a new PR for myself for the Half Marathon Distance!  My very first half marathon I had set my PR 2:06:04, and had yet to beat it!

I originally signed up for this race because it was so close to my home and I know the race course fairly well.   The start of the race was only 1 mile from my house - perfect!   It isn't often that one can actually be close enough to walk to the race start!     It was also being sponsered by my workplace and I have friends that helped to run the event.    So, once I read about it, I was in and I am so glad that I did it!

Race morning started with near perfect temps - 50 degrees when I woke up!   I ate a quick breakfast, got ready, and did a light jog over to the race start.   Fortunately Fleet Feet had a tent, so I was able to drop off a bag with extra clothes, meet up with my friends, and have time to stand in line for the bathroom.     There were just shy of 1,500 participants so the race was a good size but not too big as we got off right on time.  

This race was a half marathon distance and a "quarter marathon distance" and they had pacers for every minute pace.   However, since more people had signed up for "half of the half" they only had them for that part of the race and not the full half marathon.   I decided to line up with the 10's today to see how I would do, despite having run 10:30's with all my long runs and not doing much regulated speed work this summer.  

I was pleasantly surprised that for the first 3 miles not only kept up with the 10 minute pacers (thank you Michele and Joe!)  but that it felt pretty easy!    At this point the pacers and all of the quarter marathoners turned to go back towards the race start and the rest of us kept going.   It was now down to Dawn and I trying to keep a 10-10:15 pace.   Right around the 4 mile mark, the one big hill on the course started.   I kept a steady pace and before I knew it, I had left Dawn behind.   I slowed at the next water stop and she caught up with me.   Decided at that point I wanted to see what I could do.   Dawn was using this as a training run so didn't want to push it, she wished me luck and I took off.   I put down the next two miles at a 9:15 pace!

The next few miles I slowed just a bit because I knew I still had a little over the half the race and the course went slightly uphill again just prior to the turnaround.   By mile 8, I started to realize that if I was able to maintain a 9:30 pace the remaining of the race, that I would be pretty close to a new PR.   I don't wear a garmin, so I was relying solely on my watch time and what I could figure out in my head.     At mile 10 my legs started to cramp a little but overall felt pretty good, breathing was on track.   Got to mile 11 and my breathing was starting to give me some issues, but I hoped I was still maintaining.    This is the point that it can get hard because once you start to get tired, you can feel like you are going fast, but that isn't always the case!   I hoped I was still as fast as I felt . . .Last 1/2 mile I tried to just go as fast as I could, minutes ticked by and I thought, where the heck is the finish??   Finally I rounded a curve and could see the flags and hear the cheering.   I put my head down, gutted it out, and looked at my watch as I crossed the finish . . .2:05:55!!!   

Afterwards, we all went over to Matt the Miller's for some free drinks and a really nice brunch. It was a nice way to finish out a great race!  

Thanks Jeff and David (the race organizers) for a great race experience!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Summer Goodness

One of my favorite things about summer is all of the bountiful food and wonderful selections at the Farmer's Markets.    One of the best ways for me to spend a Saturday morning is to get in a nice run in with friends and then follow it up with a leisurely trip one of the local Farmer's Markets.    Unfortunately I sometimes get in over my head and end up with too much food and not enough time to eat it all before it goes bad!    This past Saturday was no expection.   I had a lovely run with my MIT friends and then went over the the Worthington Farmer's Market with my friend, Kathy.    It was a great selection and before I knew it I had walked away with 2 bags of fresh veggies, including, heirloom tomatoes, red and yellow peppers, basil, sweet corn, brocolli, fresh spinach, strawberries, and blackberries.    I also walked away with several baked goods, which I managed to finish off later that day!   Once I got home, I was wondering how in the world I was going to eat all of this food and started looking at my recipes for some inspiration.  

So, I was thrilled when I found this recipe in Simply in Season

Stoplight Salad
2 cups tomatoes (chopped and drained)
2 cups corn (grilled gives a nice smokey flavor)
1 medium green pepper
1 medium red sweet pepper
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, basil, or parsley (chopped)
2 cups cooked black beans

Combine the above ingredients into a bowl.

3 TBS olive oil
3 TBS balsalmic vinegar or lime juice
1 clove garlic (minced)
Whisk together in a separate bowl.  Pour over salad.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Toss gently and serve.

**Few notes of interest for this salad.  It serves very nicely as a side salad to any protein.   I turned it into a maindish by adding 2 cups cooked quinoa to it.   I also substituted fresh green beans (broken into small pieces) for the green pepper and thought it tasted just as good!