Thursday, November 18, 2010

New adventures in cooking

Maybe it's because it's getting cold outside and curling up on the couch with a hot bowl of soup that's been stewing for hours sounds so inviting, or maybe just because I've gotten bored with our staple meals, I've decided it was time to dust off the old cookbooks (aka, epicurious) and get cooking.

A few notes:

  • So far I've made 3 trips to whole foods, and 4 meals. Hopefully, I'll get more efficient with my shopping as I go.
  • With each meal, I'm learning more about the foods that Paul like and dislikes (Likes: snow peas! Dislikes: Cumin, Ginger, Sesame Oil :-( )
  • I broke down and bought the online subscription to America's Test Kitchen. I used to have a paper subscription to Cooks' Illustrated, which I loved, but honestly, it just wasn't all that convenient when you wanted, say, a pork chop recipe ("Was that in May or March of 2007?"). The online subscription is easily searchable and cheaper than the original, but lacks the same beautiful illustrations. Already, I've used it to suss out curry powder, french onion soup and kitchen timers.
[not my picture]

Meal 1: Beef, Shiitake and Snow Pea Stirfry
I'd give this one a 4 out of 5. Paul felt like there was something sorta missing. I marinated the beef for a few hours in the hoisin and chili (but I followed the advice of some of the reviewers and replaced some hoisin with soy - I will not do this next time and hopefully that will address Paul's concern). This was really easy. I'll definitely make it again.

[my pictures - taken with iphone :(]

Meal 2: Hawaiian Pork with Stirfried Cabbage
This one was probably a 3 out of 5. The pork was way too salty (and this coming from a self-proclaimed savory person) and the cabbage was bland. The plus side was that braising the pork made it delicious and tender even for really lean cuts. I think I'll make this again, but with low-sodium broth and maybe adding dark rum or pineapple to add a little deeper flavor.

Meal 3: French Onion Soup
For this one, I went to ATK. I feel like for classics like this, I trust that they have scoured all the recipes I'd find on epicurious, tested them all and come up with this, the perfect French Onion Soup. And honestly, yes, this was definitely the best French Onion Soup I've ever had (and I've been to France!). And it was relatively easy. They recommend caramelizing the onions in the oven, which, if time-consuming, is low maintenance. And I bought the gruyere they recommended too. Really, this soup was awesome. 5 out of 5!

Meal 4: Curried Lamb and Lentil Stew
You'd think after that last review, I would never go back to epicurious, but somehow, I'd already picked this one out, and I did go to ATK to determine what curry powder to get (Penzey's, which I made a special trip for). Alas, this recipe failed on many levels. It was one note (even a good one note of the Penzey's curry powder didn't make up for it), the cook times were completely wrong - it needed a minimum of 2 hours to make the lamb and lentils tender, the balance between lamb and lentils was off. I tried to salvage by adding some maple syrup to add some sweetness, which helped, but this just wasn't the meaty stew I was hoping for. 1 out of 5.

Tonight, we're trying out Tuna Tacos ala East Coast Grill, one of our favorite local eateries. I'm hopeful that this will be delicious, but I'll let you know tomorrow.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Noosa Race Report: Back to Oz

I went back to Australia for the first time 2 weeks ago. I had gotten an entry into the Noosa triathlon, so I planned a holiday around it. I went to Canberra, the Gold Coast, Brisbane and finally Noosa. It was fantastic to see old friends everywhere I went. It took several days to get acclimated to driving on the left, referring to my "mum" and thinking in metric, but it all came back pretty quick.

I did a terrible job taking pictures on this trip, but a great job catching up with people and making new memories. Lauren and I went to Question Time in Australian Parliament which was quite the experience, we hiked Mt. Ainslee with Kimberley and Hamish, I met Joslyn's new man Matt and shared a coffee with her overlooking the Brisbane River from the Powerhouse, I had lunch at Jamie's new cafe, had morning tea (and tim tams) with the ITIG guys, went shopping with Julie, shared homecooked meals with Julie & Jonathon, celebrated Jawad's birthday and finally headed up the coast to race.

[seriously, I can't figure out how to get this picture to rotate]

I went up with Vanessa Friday afternoon and met her elite brother and his elite girlfriend (who won the women's race after coming second at Kona 3 weeks earlier) and her parents. There were over 3300 individual competitors at the race. We registered at the massive bays:

And checked out the expo. Asics makes their own Noosa tri running shoe:

And we checked out the gorgeous sunset:

The race itself was not something I've been training for. Good races at the end of the season in the US had made me confident that I could have a good race at Noosa, especially relative to my last showing at Noosa in 2008. 2:48 was the time to beat.

Not sure exactly what happened on the swim. I got smashed in the left eye early on, and I couldn't open it for the rest of the swim cause my goggle was on so tight, so maybe I wasn't swimming straight with only one eye, but I came out of the water in 32 minutes and thought "sweet, oh, wait, this wasn't a half ironman distance. Suck." I expected at most a 28 minutes swim. Oh well. 3 minutes slower than 2 years ago.

On to the bike. The bike felt good, despite not being on my own bike. Heading out to the turn around, I was flying with the tailwind. I felt strong going up the hill, and cranked coming back home. My knee was a little cranky at about the 30K mark cause the seat wasn't high enough, but otherwise, everything felt good. 1:22 in the end. But I was watching my time and still shooting for sub 1:48, that meant I needed to do the run in 54 minutes, which seemed very doable.

Finally, the run. Two years ago, I had a terrible run. This year, I felt good. Ran it in 52. Sweet. End time was 1:47, so one minute better than 2 years ago, on no training and a bit of jetlag.

And on to the 4th leg. I went to the official Noosa after party at the surf club for the first time. It was fantastic. Every one was into it.

It was great having a chance to come back and see every one and even better to get to race in the 3rd largest race in the world. I'm thinking I might make a tradition out of it, and try to go back for Mooloolaba 2012. That will be another 18 months. Though having an extra week down there would definitely be in order.

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