Bloomin’ Metric Century

Bloomin’ Metric Century Ride

This morning at 3:45 a.m. the alarm went off.  I budged and Iggy the cat did not want to move so he cooed and squeaked until I was out from the covers. Last night I left my gear and my bike by the front door so I wouldn’t have to do anything except eat breakfast and drink some coffee before heading out.  It sounds, ahem, easy enough to scoot out the door to do something you love, no matter what the hour, but last night when I went to bed at midnight my mind was telling me it would be okay to blow off the ride today.  I could sleep, cook a nice dinner, bake some focaccia bread and rest up for the week ahead. Instead of sleeping in, I got my arse out of bed, jumped on the number four train to Grand Central Terminal and then boarded the Metro North Railroad to Norwalk, CT.

20110522-062016.jpg

Train departed at 5:35 a.m.  About five cyclists and a group of persons just returning home from the clubs, boarded the train and settled in for the hour and a half ride to Norwalk.  If you’re interested in learning more about Norwalk, check out the Norwalk Historical Society website.

20110522-062034.jpg

My bike is cozy – resting up before the big day.

The ride organizers made special arrangements with the Metro North Railroad to allow more bicyclists on the morning train.  We did not have to pay the usual bicycle fee.  Bonus!

20110522-062051.jpg

We arrived!  And it’s moist!

The forecast called for a cloudy day in the high 50′s.   It was drizzling and chilly when we arrived at the station.  The small group of riders biked to the ride start where we dropped our bags off, picked up our cue sheets and headed east along the waterfront.  I have come to appreciate well-made athletic apparel; without it I would have been soaked, cold and come away with a sore behind.  Too much information? Maybe, but if you’ve been on a bike long enough, you’ll understand.

The Bloomin’ Metric Century was one of three ride distances offered.  Riders could do the 25 mile ride or the 75 kilometer ride.  One of the things I really like about organized rides? No one times your ride.  It isn’t competitive at all.  Kids ride bikes, families ride, persons of all ages, shapes and sizes ride.  A handful of riders rode really, really nice bikes, the ones that cost in excess of $10,000 kind of nice.  Other riders pedaled along on bikes that cost less than a couple hundred dollars.  I like the variety and I love my bicycle.  It is designed to handle rough surfaces well and the geometry keeps me in a more comfortable riding position than many road bicycles.

If you want to really do something special for yourself, I suggest you go to a bike store to have your bike fitted for you.  When I moved to New York, my bike was dismantled and shipped in a box.  I had the local store put it together and it wasn’t until I was in the saddle for long rides that I noticed aches and pains that hadn’t been there when I rode in California.  My wrists and elbows hurt, my palms throbbed, and my lower back ached after every ride.  Something was not right.  I did  some online research and found a great bicycle store in Manhattan called Bicycle Habitat.  A couple of their staff members are specifically trained to fit Specialized bikes so I spent about $125.00 and my summer riding is now going to be out of this world.  What a difference!  No pain or discomfort today – at all and this was my longest ride of the season.

20110522-062345.jpg

Course Map cautions,  ”The upper portion of this map is very hilly”.  Uh oh.

This 34th Annual Bloomin’ Metric ride was put on by the Sound Cyclists Bicycle Club. There are three beautiful routes to choose from, where you can ride 25 miles, 75 kilometers (47.6 miles) or 100 kilometers (62.1 miles) along scenic roads of Fairfield County Connecticut.  I searched the Internet for a Course map from previous years and found a 2009 map on May My Run.  It’ll give you a good idea of the kind of elevation change we did. The course was rolling, curvy, tree-lined in many parts and we passed by some estates (aka not mere houses).

20110522-062129.jpg

I really like to visit old cemeteries because sometimes it’s possible to learn how people lived by knowing how they passed on.  If I have time, I’ll be sure to come back to this one.

20110522-062141.jpg

Rest Stop One:  Toth Park at mile 18.

20110522-062115.jpg

Mechanics on the left, food on the back tables and the loos on the right.  The only thing missing on this cool spring day?  Hot coffee please!  Tea? Cocoa?

20110522-062153.jpg

Quick pit stop in a beautiful part of this ride that followed the Saugatuck Trail.  The trail weaves through the fern covered woods, past a beautiful body of water.

20110522-062206.jpg

Second Rest Stop, Weston, CT.  A welcome sight and break from pedaling.

 

20110522-062223.jpg

One of many beautiful houses along the route.  Next time I will stop and take pictures of the absolutely gorgeous homes.  I have only seen U.S. estates like these in magazines!

Toward the end of the ride, we passed horses, cows, goats and sheep.  I didn’t ride with a group so much of the day was spent chasing people, watching people whiz by me or passing slower riders.  At one point I wondered if I had gone off course because no one was around. It was so still.  When I looked to my right, I heard the soft shoe of a beautiful deer.  She was beautiful and I thank my lucky stars she let me see her.

20110522-062314.jpg

Goats and sheep chillin’ at a farm about 10 miles from the finish.

20110522-062322.jpg

This Sheep that Baaaah-ed at me and would not leave me alone.  It may have had something to do with my less than graceful entrance.  Riders pulled over to the right to look at the animals and I thought it was a great idea.  Problem is, I stopped without removing my cleats from the pedals.  Ever so slowly I listed to the right and fell to the ground in an undignified manner.  Tipping over in slo-mo in front of an audience is not my idea of a good time.  To make matters worse, I couldn’t get up.  The scrape on my knee is a sad reminder that I left some of my pride back there.  Good thing I don’t take myself too seriously!

20110522-062334.jpg

Here’s a shot of one of many islands off the shore of Calf Pasture Park, Norwalk,  CT.

The rest of the bicycle ride was well supported by clear signs and local police.  I only saw a couple of scrapes and thankfully, no one appeared to have been seriously injured.  The ride organizers had sandwiches and cold drinks ready for us when we finished.  Then it was time to head home!

20110522-062351.jpg

Shot of a neighboring train (conductor) as we traveled back to Harlem and onto Grand Central Terminal.

20110522-062358.jpg

I biked from Grand Central to Penn Station to catch an A express train.

20110522-062408.jpg

Back in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.  Snapped this photo on the way to lunch.  Really cool graffiti.

If you’re in the area next year, be sure to check out the Bloomin’ Metric Century ride. It was lots of fun and I’m going to sleep hard tonight!

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Giant Ginger Cookies

Giant Ginger Cookies

From the Better Homes and Gardens Recipe Book

I made these Giant Ginger Cookies a few months ago and loved the dense, chewy texture.  I enjoy baking things that make the house smell really good and I gotta’ tell ya’ the scent is heavenly in here.  What a fantastic way to start a beautiful, sunny spring weekend in Brooklyn.  Note to self:  use an oven thermometer to make certain that your oven is in fact at 350 degrees.  Too hot and your cookies will dry out and possibly burn.  Too cool, and the cookies will take a long, long time to cook.

20110521-112541.jpg
Giant Ginger Cookies fresh from the oven 

This is a pretty straight forward recipe. I’ve come to accept that I am a little weak on technique and enjoy a well written, easy to follow set of instructions.  Here’s a list of what you’ll need and how to make magic happen in your kitchen.
Ingredients
  • 4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 cups shortening
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 3/4 cup coarse sugar or granulated sugar

I find that removing all the items from the cupboard all at once works best for me. I put them back as I add each item; it helps me move quickly and stay focused.  I’ve been known to add twice the recommended baking soda or omit ingredients entirely when not paying attention, so tricks like this help.

20110521-112528.jpg

Directions

1. In a medium mixing bowl stir together flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt; set aside.

2. In a large mixing bowl beat shortening with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds to soften.

3. Gradually add the 2 cups granulated sugar. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally.

4. Beat in eggs and molasses.

5. Beat in as much of the flour mixture as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour mixture.

6. Shape dough into 2-inch balls using 1/4 cup dough (remember, these are GIANT cookies!).

7. Roll balls in the 3/4 cup coarse or granulated sugar. Place about 2-1/2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.

8. .Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 12 to 14 minutes or until cookies are light brown and puffed. (Do not overbake or cookies will not be chewy.)

9. Cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool.

10. Store in a tightly covered container at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Makes twenty-five (25) 4-inch cookies.

Don’t forget the milk and enjoy!

 

 

20110521-114044.jpgWho can say no to fresh cookies and milk?  Ginger, it’s not just a wintery spice.

Posted in Baking, Cookie, Ginger, Molasses | Tagged , | Leave a comment

New York Road Runners Healthy Kidney 10K Run, Central Park

New York Road Runners Healthy Kidney 10K Run, Central Park

20110514-093127.jpg

New York Road Runners 10k, May 14, 2011

Race Morning

When the alarm clock went off at 5:15 a.m., I asked myself this question, “Why so early? On a Saturday?” Why run? I love running almost as much as I run dogs and for those of you who know me, I love dogs. I really love them. I’m the guy that stops dog owners on the street to ask if I can say hello to their pooch. Some take to it better than others, but dogs, like running, create conversation.

I don’t have a running partner here in New York City. Not yet, anyway. When the alarm goes off, I have the option to roll over and go back to sleep and I admit, last winter I did just that a couple of times. Why run? Because runners are kooky and in New York, especially, runners are particularly wonderful; they come in all shapes, sizes, colors, abilities, ages.  It’s a treat to see kids as young as 12 running and older competitors in their 70′s and 80′s.  The oldest male finisher was 87 years old!  I want that to be that runner when I grow up.

Over 7,500 runners finished the race on a cool, overcast morning.   Here’s a shot of the last 100 meters of the race.  It’s hard to appreciate the incline from a photo.  Trust me, it hurts at the end of the run.

20110514-093144.jpg

If you follow women’s professional running, you’ll recognize the 2011 Los Angeles Marathon winner, Buzenesh Deba.  The Ethiopian runner took the women’s race out with a blazing time of 33:38.  Deba and the top three male finishers chatted with fans and race officials backstage at the award ceremony.

 

 

20110514-092844.jpg

Overall Female Winners:

  1 Buzunesh Deba               23 WSX  USA          33:38
  2 Betsy Burke                 26 NYAC USA          36:13
  3 Michaela Laussegger         39 0    USA          37:32

 

Leonard Patrick Komon , the word record holder in the 10k and 15k distances, broke the NYRR Central Park 10k record yesterday and beat out the other racers by 20 seconds!  Leonard stands third from the right in the photo below.

20110514-093021.jpg

Here’s a list of the overall men’s winners:

  1 Leonard Patrick Komon       23 NIKE KEN          27:35
  2 Micah Kogo                  24 REEB KEN          27:55
  3 Joseph Ebuya                23 NIKE KEN          27:56
  4 Simon Ndirangu              26 NIKE KEN          28:18
  5 Lelisa Desisa               21 NIKE ETH          28:19
  6 Tesfaye Girma               28 WSX  USA          28:24
  7 Ezkyas Sisay                22 WSX  ETH          28:47
  8 Bado Worku Merdessa         22 WSX  ETH          29:06
  9 Bobby Curtis                26 REEB USA          29:09
 10 Derese Deniboba             28 WTC  ETH          29:10

The United Arab Emirates sponsored this run and hosted the awards ceremony.  Next year, a $45,000 prize is up for grabs for breaking this year’s record of 27:35.  I was barely half way through the run when the elites were getting their post race massage!

20110514-093114.jpg

The full list of racing results for the 10k run can be found here:  results.

20110514-093059.jpg

For anyone who participates in these runs, plenty of clean porta potties are a welcome sight.

20110514-093156.jpg

Running in Central Park is a pleasure and I recommend you run the six mile loop when you have the opportunity.

Here is the requisite post race dog photo.  Lots of cute dogs were out but these two big boys caught my eye.

20110514-092824.jpg

Posted in Running | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

North Face Endurance Challenge Bear Mountain NY Race Report

20110510-032532.jpg

North Face Endurance Challenge Bear Mountain Race Report, Half Marathon

Last Sunday I rented a car and drove about 60 miles north of the city to Bear Mountain State Park. At 4:00am race day, the temperature was already in the 50′s and it was forecast to reach the 70′s with abundant sunshine. Traffic was light on the hilly, tree-lined highway. As the world came into view and the sun crept up, I spotted a doe and her two baby deer eating breakfast. This is why I appreciate leaving the asphalt behind every few weeks.

20110510-032557.jpg

Second time I’ve had a Kia Soul Rental

The half marathon distance is one of several offered in this race series. On Saturday, ultra runners hit the trails for the 50-miler, the 50k and the marathon. Sunday was the day for the shorter distances, the half marathon, 10k and 5k runs. Trail running has its own special flare and appeal. Mile markers are replaced by colorful ribbons, concrete replaced by single-track trails, river rock, and tree roots. Did I mention lots of climbing and descending? Quad killers, those downhills. I ran my longest run since the March marathon last weekend, a nine miler. I knew I had a lot of miles in my legs from a winter of training, and was prepared to walk when needed. My race day goal? Breathe in the fresh air, zigzag on the mountain, and if lucky, ease my mind. No time or pacing goals. Just run.

Runners left the parking lot, loaded into yellow school buses and traveled to the race start/finish line.

20110510-032325.jpg

Bear Mountain S.P. Administrative Building

20110510-032340.jpg

Flowers in bloom

I arrived nearly two hours before the race start and had time to walk around the park. The race expo site sat in the middle of a large grassy area between the administration building and a lake. Paddle boats and canoes for rent. Lots of hiking trails and picnic areas surround the lake. When I took a closer look at the tree branches, I noticed dozens of turkey vultures sunning themselves. An early morning woodpecker provided the beats on my short pre-race walk.

20110510-032359.jpg

Here is the link to the North Face Endurance Challenge website: http://www2.thenorthface.com/endurancechallenge/races/2011/ny/index.html

Race Date
Saturday & Sunday, May 7-8, 2011

Start / Finish Location

Bear Mountain State Park

Administration Building

Bear Mountain, NY 10911

Information

Traversing a newly-designed, faster course for 2009, runners can expect terrain changes from packed dirt to loose rocks, from tree roots to leaf-covered trail. The Bear Mountain Endurance Challenge course cuts to the chase, with some trails heading steeply uphill rather than zig-zagging at a gentler grade. Descents end in wooded hollows before the next rapid climb ending with breathtaking views. Make no mistake: this will be a tough test of off-road endurance.

Section 1 & 2 – Start to 10K Aid Station to Anthony Wayne Aid Station (3.9 miles)

Description: Sections 1 and 2 is 3.9 miles and mostly trends uphill. Racers will have 2.7 miles to sort themselves out before the trail turns to single track.

This part of the race was really crowded as runners warmed up and found their legs. Some took off really fast and used up a lot of gas quickly while others took a more conservative approach and walked often. The first mile most of us ran a few steps and then ended up coming to as stop as runners clogged up the trails. It was in the low 60′s at race start – perfect.

Section 3 – Anthony Wayne Aid Station to Queensboro Aid Station (4.4 miles)

Description: This section retraces the route of the British Army as they marched to take over Ft. Montgomery. It is mostly flat and downhill with the exception of the climb over The Pines Mt. Runners must be mindful of the leaves and loose rock on the descents.

This section consisted of rolling hills and our first climb of the day. It flew by and we popped out at the bottom, grabbed a drink and ran on a flat stretch of pavement for about a half mile. The aid stations were well stocked with sports drink, water and gels. Volunteers were really friendly and plenty of first aid was available. Lots of people stumbled and took some serious falls during the run.

20110510-032303.jpg

Allen Wayne Aid Station, mile 4.4

Section 4 – Queensboro Aid Station to 1777 Aid Station (2.5 miles)

Description: This section is the most difficult of the Half Marathon course. It features several climbs including the hardest ascent up to the Timp Pass. The Timp Pass Road descending from the Pass turns very rocky.

I’ve ran on several trails in the Pacific Northwest and in California but I do not consider myself a seasoned trail runner or an expert. I will admit that I was surprised when the trail went straight down the steep hills and rocks. It made me deeply appreciate the switchbacks from out west. My quads were blown by this point; my feet began to catch on the twigs and roots, the dry leaves and dirt seemed more slippery, and the highly technical course caught up with me. My first serious fall happened during this section; thankfully I slid head first into a pile of dry leaves and came away with a few minor scrapes.

20110510-032423.jpg

A peek at some of the rock formations

I am not ashamed to say that I walked up several of the hills. The amount of loose river rock made it very difficult to get any kind of rhythm on the trails. If only I were a more graceful and confident descender – the true sign of a really good trail runner.

Section 5 – 1777 Aid Station to Finish (2.8 miles)

Description: Two smaller climbs await you on your way to the finish. Leave something in the tank!

The last section featured wider roads, a little concrete, much less river rock and a scenic bridge. The three race distances (10k, 5k and half marathon) came together during this part of the race so paces and fitness levels of the runners varied.

One of the things I find challenging on trail runs is the need to maintain focus because one lapse could mean a serious tumble, a twisted ankle, more road rash. It is tiring and can become mildly annoying as the miles add up, but I dig it.

I began to get a stitch in my side with about one mile to go and I decided to run through it. The desire to get to the finishing chute won out and once I could hear the race announcers in the distance, I knew we were close. I ran to the finish line in one piece and even though the photo shows a grimace on my face, I was VERY happy. What a great run and day in the woods!

20110510-032446.jpg

Canadian Geese and their fluffy yellow babies

20110510-032503.jpg

Race Expo – Endurance Challenge Stage

Lots of cold water stations, ice baths, sponges, healthy snacks and vendors filled the expo. The mood was upbeat, friendly and runners relaxed in the sunshine.

20110510-032515.jpg

Runners chilling out post race

Finishing shoot in the background.

20110510-032546.jpg

Pug’s name is Edie. She’s a gem.
I’m eyeballing the San Francisco North Face Challenge run in December 2011. Anyone?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

House Guests? You betcha!

I sometimes wonder if I will feel motivated to clean house when we do not expect overnight visitors? There’s something special about having friends and family stay over. For one, I love the company and love to feed people. New York is a serious vacation city and when I think about it, I recognize that it is fantastic. Of course people want to visit this place! I am happy to see old friends for a cup of coffee, too, because not everyone stays with us. It’s great to connect and when I can, I will make it happen.
This morning I woke up, went for a run and then pulled chocolate chip scone dough out of the fridge. My very first attempt at scone making was so much fun! And boy, were they good.

20110503-071458.jpg

A couple weeks ago, I went on a mini baking frenzy and decided to make the scone dough and keep it in the freezer. I wrapped the discus-shaped dough up in Saran wrap and it remained frozen until last night.

20110503-071721.jpg

I used a pastry brush to coat the scones with melted butter and sprinkled turbonado sugar on top. I used a pizza cutter to slice the dough into triangle shaped wedges, placed them on a silicon baking sheet and into the 350 degree oven they went.

When they were lightly browned I tested them with a toothpick only to pull out a chocolate covered toothpick. Wow. I struggle to know just when to remove items from the heat. I gently tapped the top of the scones and they bounced back and held their shape. Time to cool them on a rack and then dig in!

20110503-072352.jpg

Scones were just waiting to be eaten!

Coffee and Scones for breakfast? But of course! Thanks for coming to visit!!

20110503-072459.jpg

Posted in Baking, breakfast, chocolate chip, scone | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Macaron or Macaroon? Boo boo.

From Pink Sludge to Banana Whoopie Pies

It’s my boss’ birthday tomorrow so I really wanted to make something special and bring it to the office.   Her favorite color?  Pink.  Favorite cookie? Macaroons.  French Macaroons to be precise.  Unless you know about something called “Macarons”.  Ah, the French.  Like many, I’d always pictured macaroons as hay stack looking mounds of coconut and never really understood the appeal.  When I moved to New York, I discovered a city that is fascinated by tiny French Macaroon cookies. I had seen them in Parisian pastry shops but didn’t know them by name until I did some research.  Boy, did I research.  Videos, blog posts, cookbooks, newspaper articles.

Macaroon Flop
Macaroon Flop

 

Everything I read gave me the SHIVERS…

Sure, sure, everyone commented on how difficult it would be to get the meringue consistency right.  Trial and error.  Emphasis on error for this baker!  I used almond flour to make the pink vanilla macaroons and followed the recipe to a tee.  Everything looked good until the baking progressed.  I never knew feet on cookies was ideal, but without feet, the cookies lose their distinctive rough around the edges look.

These cookies lost their will to go on, foot or no foot.  I knew from the tutorials that my screw up was irreversible so I scraped the unappealing pink sludge into the trash.  The next flop involved hazelnut flour and dutch processed cocoa.  It wasn’t pretty and soon the garbage can was overflowing.

Ditch the pink goop. On to Plan B.

Banana Whoopie Pie Assortment

Banana Whoopie Pie Assortment

 

 

 

 

 

Bring on the Banana Whoopie Pies!

I love Whoopie pies and had some ripened bananas on hand so I figured I’d have these ready in case the macaroons did not work out.  The consistency of the pie itself is a cross between a mini-cake and a cookie – totally dig it. Luckily, I made the cookies last night just in case and simply had to assemble them today.  I stuffed the cookies with vanilla cream cheese, Nutella and Dulce de Leche (the messy cookie on the left).

Here is the link to the Banana Whoopie Pie recipe I found on a terrific blog called, Baking Bites.

Banana Whoopie Pies

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cups mashed banana (2 medium)

Banana Whoopie Pie Dough

Banana Whoopie Pie Dough

1. Preheat oven 350F.

2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone pad.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.

4. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light.

5. Beat in egg, vegetable oil, vanilla and mashed banana.

6. Add half of the flour mixture and stir until just incorporated.

7.  Add the remaining flour and stir until just combined.  When you notice small lines or streaks/strings in the batter, the batter has reached the desired consistency.

8. Drop 2 tablespoon balls (approx 1 1/2-inch balls) of dough on baking sheet.

9. Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until cookies are lightly browned around the edges and “set” in the center.

10. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies (1 dozen sandwich cookies).

 

Banana Whoopie Close

Banana Whoopie Close

This is an aerial view of the cookies; cookies positioned on their sides.  I put a lot of cream cheese filling in the cookie for the photo.

Cream Cheese Filling

Ingredients

3 oz cream cheese, room temperature
4 tbsp butter, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 – 2 cups confectioners sugar

1. In a medium bowl, beat together cream cheese and butter until smooth.

2. Blend in vanilla and confectioners’ sugar until mixture is smooth and thick.

3. Add additional confectioners’ sugar if mixture seems runny.

Whoopie Dough and Cookie Tops

Whoopie Dough and Cookie Tops

The quality of these photos isn’t great, but this photo shows the cinnamon-tinted cookie bottom and the dough in the background.

I really like the flavor of vanilla extract in my baked goods so I usually add more than called for in recipes.

Assembling the Cookies

This is where you can be creative.  Whoopie Pies generally have a whipped cream, cream cheese or marshmallow fluff-like filling.  I place a small ice cream scoop-size of filling in the center of the bottom of one cookie and use the top of a second cookie to squish the sandwich filling to the edges.

Since I spent most of the day in the kitchen watching the macaroons flop, I did not make additional fillings.  Instead, I filled the cookies with Nutella and Dulce de Leche.

Nutella Ducle de Leche

Nutella Ducle de Leche

Banana Whoopie Nutella Filled

Banana Whoopie Nutella Filled

All I can say is, enjoy the baking and hopefully my boss won’t be too disappointed about the cookie substitution.  Macaroons were just not working for me today.

Personally, I ‘m looking forward to digging in tomorrow!

 

 

 

Posted in Baking, Banana Whoopie Pie, Cookie, Cream Cheese Frosting, Dulce de Leche, Nutella, Sandwich Cookie, Whoopie Pie | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

You Had Me at “Cookie”

Ode to Cookie Connections

Cookie Close Up

Cookie Close Up

I can’t remember the first time I made a cookie, but I can tell you that I have devoted a good deal of time to making and eating cookies.  Sure, I enjoy the process of combining flavors, texture and creating an eye catching, appealing, tasty treat.  But there’s more to it.  Baking has become a weekly ritual; Thursday nights I bake something to bring into my office on Friday mornings.  I drop off goodies with my upstairs neighbors or the new mom across the hall.  Not only does baking help me to relax me and to wind down after a week of running around New York City like a madman, it helps me to connect with people.  Sure, I talk to people, mostly families, when I am at work but professional relationships are just that – professional.  Professional boundaries often do not allow for personal and at times equitable relationships, for that matter. Since  I am an introvert, and for the most part fairly reserved,  baking is a good way for me to make myself interact with peers and non-workmates.  I talk to people.  Baked goods makes people happy.   Each week I bring cookies, cupcakes, bars, breads or some other baked goods into the office.  Friday afternoons,  I walk from office to office and offer baked goods to persons who do meaningful yet hard work.  Who knew cookies were such great ice breaking tools?  Now, everyone at work knows my name and knows I bake.  And I know their names and usually their weekend plans. If I don’t bring something in on Fridays, a rare exception, people wonder.  Out loud.  As in, they approach me and again, I talk to someone I might otherwise not see or speak to during the day.

Baking for others, like dog walking, helps me to create, maintain and grow relationships.  Baking helps me keep my wits about me.

I routinely search the Internet for new, visually appealing baking recipes and follow several fantastic blogs.  Today I am trying out a recipe from one of my favorite kitchen adventure blogs called “Sweet Pea’s Kitchen”.

I’ve been eyeballing the recipe for Butterfinger Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter cookies for weeks and decided to try my hand at it.

Luckily, I only had to visit two corner stores before I found someone who carries Butterfinger candy bars!

You can find the original recipe here:  http://sweetpeaskitchen.com/2011/04/23/butterfinger-chocolate-chip-peanut-butter-cookies/

Butterfinger Chocolate Chip-Peanut Butter Cookies

 

Butterfinger Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

Butterfinger Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

Ingredients:

  1. 1 ½ cups all purpose flour
  2. 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  3. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  4. 2/3 cup chunky peanut butter
  5. 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  6. 1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup sugar, divided
  7. 1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
  8. 1 large egg
  9. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  10. 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  11. 1 (2.1-ounce) Butterfinger candy bar, chopped (scant 1/2 cup)
Cookie Dough

Cookie Dough

I chilled the cookie dough while cookies were in the oven.  I used an ice cream scooper to help form equal-sized dough balls.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Chop up the Butterfinger candy bar into small chunks and set aside.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat peanut butter, butter, 1/3 cup sugar, and brown sugar until smooth.
  5. Reduce speed to low and add egg and vanilla; mix until combined.
  6. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined.
  7. Stir in chocolate chips and chopped Butterfinger candy.
  8. Place the remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a shallow bowl for rolling.
  9. Using 1 1/2 tablespoons dough for each cookie, roll dough between palms to form balls.
  10. Roll the ball in the sugar, and  place it on the prepared baking sheet.
  11. Repeat with the remaining dough, spacing 1 inch apart.
  12. Using bottom of glass or measuring cup, press cookies into 1/3-inch-thick rounds.
  13. Bake cookies until edges are golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes, reversing sheets halfway through.
  14. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets about 2 minutes.
  15. Use a wide metal spatula to transfer the cookies to a wire rack and cool to room temperature.
  16. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Butterfinger Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

Tip:  Cover the bottom surface of the glass in butter, dip glass in the sugar mix and then squish down the cookies.  This helps avoid those pesky, sugar free bald spots.

Yields: 2 ½ dozen cookies

Enjoy the cookies!  They taste and look fantastic. I think my coworkers and friends will be pleased.

 

And remember, a good dog is a tired dog.  For more info about Coco,  the Frenchie, go to:  http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1655332651&sk=info

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

National Marathon 2011, Washington DC

NATIONAL MARATHON 2011 RACE REPORT

TRAINING

This was my first official winter in New York City.  It was the first time I trained for a spring marathon in below freezing conditions.  I followed the same training program I’d used with the Fleet Feet training program(s) in Sacramento, CA and thankfully, remained injury free.  Aside from some serious foot pain mid-way through the 17-week program, my body held up well and my energy level was high.  Two weeks before the marathon I ran a 10k assessment run and PR-ed.  I was feeling great and eager to run.  Anyone who has tapered for a marathon, understands the word “bloat” and the “doughy” feeling the body experiences as it retains fluid and glycogen during the recovery and healing process.  I imagine this retention as fuel for race day and try to make the most of it as my both my appetite and training decrease.

This was my fourth marathon.  In 2008, I trained alone and ran the Napa Valley Marathon (http://www.napavalleymarathon.org/) using Galloway’s run/walk method.  In 2008 and 2009,  I trained with the Fleet Feet coaching team in Sacramento, California and learned to appreciate the value of running with a team and was lucky to make a couple of good friends along the way.  This time around, I opted to train alone because my job schedule is so screwy; most of my runs happened at 5:00am before I headed out into the field.

Saturday mornings were reserved for the long, slow runs.  I circled Prospect Park in Brooklyn more times than I can count, battled winds to and from Coney Island, made multiple crossings of the Brooklyn Bridge, up to Harlem and Central Park.

THE DAY BEFORE THE RACE

We took the 7:00am train from Penn Station, NYC to Union Station, Washington DC on Friday morning.  This was my first trip to the nation’s capitol and I was really excited to see the sights…by foot during the race.  We took the metro from Union Station to the race hotel in Dupont Circle, and then headed to the Race Expo at RFK Stadium/Armory.  I picked up my race packet and walked around the expo looking at marked down running gear and gadgets.  It’s strange, but I feel extremely fatigued the day before an important race; it had been a busy work week and I think the stress caught up with me.  We didn’t stay long at the Expo because I didn’t want to spend too much time on my feet.  We ate really good food in Dupont Circle, window shopped, napped and went to bed early.

Allergies happened.  I woke up several times throughout the night wondering if the sore throat and stuffy nose were allergy or cold symptoms?  It was the first time I seriously considered staying in bed and skipping out on the run, but then I imagined what it would feel like watching the hoards of runners pass by and all the miles I had run to prepare for the big day, and got my arse out of bed.

RACE DAY

The race was set to begin at 7:00am and the race organizers managed to get the DC Subways to begin running at 6:00am, an hour earlier than normal on weekends.  Unfortunately, dozens of runners, including myself,  waited in 30 degree weather at the Dupont Circle station waiting for the gates to open. At 6:20am, the gates opened and a hoard of lycra-clad, nervous runners rushed to catch a train that did not come for another ten minutes.  Two train rides later, we ran up the stairs toward the Armory just in time to hear the starting gun sound and witness the 15,000 runners (minus a sorry group of latecomers) take to the streets.  I stripped down, tossed my bag to the nice volunteer and waited.for.the.bathroom.

It’s inevitable.

Nerves + coffee + cold = need to pee.

When I made it to the START line, 21 minutes had passed, the pace teams were long gone and it was me, the stragglers at the end and harried latecomers.  Time to change the race plan and enjoy the ride.

I had planned to run withe the 3:30 pace teams and attempt to qualify for Boston 2012.  Not happening.  They were long gone.

Plan B:  Rely on the Garmin to pace myself.  At mile 7, I stood in a long line for the porta-potty and did not realize that the Garmin actually stopped and did not record anything from miles 7 to 13.

Plan C:  Relax, enjoy the scenery and run your heart out.  I ran by “feel” and felt great during most of the run. In fact, the much anticipated rough patch didn’t come.

The 26.2 mile/42k figure eight shaped, sometimes hilly course looped past the Capitol Building, the Smithsonian, the Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Dupont Circle, Adams Morgan, Anacostia Park, National Stadium, the waterfront.

The course was lined with thousands of enthusiastic spectators, the aid stations were stocked with water, Powerade and Gu, high school marching bands and cheer leading squads shook their pompoms our way.

The course was missing one thing: mile markers.  I had absolutely no idea how many miles we had traveled until we hit the midway point at RFK and headed back out to run the second half of the course.

One more prolonged pitstop and I was off to travel the second half,  arguably the most difficult part of a marathon.

We ran by the Capitol Building a second time and headed south toward the waterfront.  I stopped at nearly every aid station, making sure to stay hydrated and was happily surprised to hear a volunteer mention mile marker 19.   That last six miles felt like nothing.  I had about 10k to go – I could run a 10k, no problem.  In fact, it was a perfect day to run; in the 30′s and sunny.  If only I could lose the jacket!

When the hills and wind greeted us, the miles seemed a little longer.  I passed by the 25-mile aid station without stopping, ran up the ramp that took us over a long bridge toward RFK Stadium.  Marathoners were blowing up, moving backwards, limping and staggering toward the distant stadium.

My body was pretty taxed by this point, and while I probably wasn’t running a fast last mile, I felt the effort.

When the finishing chute came into view,  I was swept through the final 200m by the cheers and energy of the spectators.  It was awesome!  I crossed the line in 4:01 something and had absolutely no idea what my actual time was until later that evening.  My finishing time was 3:39:13, 8 minutes and 13 seconds over the Boston Marathon qualifying time.  The good news? I felt great at the end and know that had circumstances been different, the run would have been quicker.  I know my body was capable of doing more and I felt great most of the race.  That’s a great feeling.

After I crossed the finish line, a medal was placed over my head and just like that, it was over.  Race complete.  Let’s celebrate and eat!  After a nap, of course.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Wonder of Wide Open Spaces

Kai South Rim of Grand Canyon, October 2010

The Wonder of Wide Open Spaces

Needless to say, life has changed since last winter when we moved from Northern California to Brooklyn, New York.  We welcomed spring, survived the sticky summer, played outdoors in the fall and welcomed winter with a Christmas 2010 blizzard.

For starters, I am no longer bored.  I don’t do bored well.  In fact, I’d rather be over worked than bored any day.  Boredom leads me to the jumpy feeling one gets just before being tapped on the shoulder by someone in the know, someone who has found you out, who knows more about you than the people who see you day in and day out, the ones who share surface-level pleasantries in the hallway or in line at the coffee shop.

I am blessed with a sense of renewal, common during middle age, perhaps, but I cannot remember being happier. In fact, I’m tickled. The thing is, it was totally unplanned.  This blooming love affair with New York City completes me in indescribable ways.

The job search intrigued and frightened me; we are in the middle of a recession AND I’m just starting out in my field.  I almost settled.  For a job I wouldn’t like, that bored me and provided the myth of stability. Instead, I applied for a that scared the bejeezus out of me. With this work comes a deep sense of responsibility.  One of its greatest challenges is that it requires me to be sharp, delicate, flexible and when needed, tough as nails.  So, I took the job that challenged me physically, spiritually, intellectually.  I went back to a job I once held and didn’t come close to doing well in spite of good intentions.

nyc-subway-map-thumb.jpgAs I fumble my way through the streets and subway lines of Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens, I witness acts of kindness and compassion every day, multiple times a day.  When you pay attention, you can’t help but see it.  A rider offers up their seat, helps carry a baby stroller upstairs,  gives directions, shares a laugh with a stranger. When I first visited New York twenty years ago, it was different. I’m just now getting over the feeling that I am smack dab in the middle of a “Law and Order” set.  This place is one of the most photographed in the world.  It’s huge and will take years to come close to knowing.

This place draws people from all over the world and brings them back for more.  People come to visit.  Often.  I am exited by this city because it breathes life into me.  I am not bored. I’m not wondering where to live next, where to work next.  The sense of dread and dissatisfaction has gone.  For years I listened to people who loved their work, whose lives were enriched by their environment, who just knew what they were doing fit.  At last, I have it.  New York is a good fit.  Now I know.

I’ve pedaled through the five boroughs in a day, walked holes in my shoes in Queens and  eaten my way through a string of food carts.

One of the greatest challenges I face is learning how to assert myself and do it forcefully, when needed.  The west coast brought out the softy in me and this can be both a blessing and a curse.  Speak up.    Increased energy reserves.  A desire to connect and reconnect with people who I love.

Let the honeymoon period continue to sustain me.

Add me to the long list of people who proclaim, “I love New York!”

Right now, it’s time to connect with bed.  Good night all.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

West Meets East


Kai and Max SF, CA

We planned to move from Sacramento, California to Brooklyn, New York by plane and our stuff would follow in a van.  Certainly, driving a rental car full of two dogs and a cat did not figure into it.  After all, it was the end of February and winter was still in force.  Unfortunately, the airlines would not accept the pets because it was three degrees to cold in Sacramento.  That’s right, three degrees. Perhaps I should make one thing very clear, our pets are well loved  and happy.  I don’t want them to freeze or experience discomfort.  Since S had to start her new job, it was up to me to drive the critters across.

This is one of the rare moments that Ruby and Coco were awake during the six day trip across Interstate 80 East.  Iowa Turnpike?  Love your rest stops.  Ohio? The Starbucks are much appreciated.  Utah and Wyoming Highway Patrol?  Really wish you hadn’t pulled me over.  Twice.  For not speeding.

I was incredibly proud to make it in one piece. Blizzards, white outs, floating snow drifts and slushy conditions were enough to frazzle my nerves.  The pizza from Brooklyn’s “Tomato and Basil” was delicious.

We got the keys to our apartment the morning after I arrived.  I anticipated a few snags along the way because we were moving into a new building.  Six weeks and many, many workers streaming in and out of the apartment later, it’s just about feeling like home.  I’d rather not go into the plumbing incident.  Suffice it to say that certain items do indeed float downstream and we live in the bottom unit.

Week six, Internet arrived and with it came what appeared to be Easter week.

This brings me to the topic of the next post:  initial impressions of New York from a life time west coaster.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment