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Pudding for dinner

August 28, 2009

A few months back I came across a recipe for a fabulous SAVOURY bread pudding. Yes, you heard me right- savoury. As in – not including chocolate chips. I swooned. I baked. I devoured.

Since then I’ve tampered with the recipe only slightly – including different cheeses, using different types of breads, increasing the rosemary etc. And trust me – nothing can ruin this recipe. It’s absolutely freaking delicious. Up until this point my basic bread pudding has consisted of any or all of the following: asparagus, spinach, mushrooms, sourdough bread, potato bread, rosemary, sage and cracked pepper. As for cheeses I’ve basically been sticking to a mixture of fontina and gruyere – both creamy and slightly stinky. Delish.

Last week while cleaning out the freezer I came across the vegetarian chipotle sausage that I smuggled across the border from Trader Joe’s (Oh Joe, when will you come visit your friends to the north!!??) and I was hit by a culinary lightening bolt – SPICY BREAD PUDDING! Try this my friends and you will be hooked.

1 loaf stale bread – I bought the day olds from the Market Bakery for $1!, consisted of an old olive bread, some multigrain buns and a small sourdough bun. Chop up the bread into bite size cubes. Should measure about 3 cups.
3 large eggs
3/4 cup milk (2% or homo works best)
1/2 cup veggie or chicken stock, cooled
1 cup grated fontina (you could mix up different cheeses if you like, and trust me increasing the cheese has never hurt this recipe)
1 tbs fresh oregano (half if it’s dried)
10 cremini mushrooms, diced
2 veggie sausages, remove casings
1 shallot, thinly sliced and 1 red pepper, thinly sliced

So here’s how I do it:
1. cube the bread and lay it out to dry for at least an hour, sometimes overnight if it’s too fresh. this is where stale bread comes in handy.
2. fry up your hot stuff – sausage, shallots, red pepper and mushrooms. leave this to cool slightly, you don’t want it to melt the cheese.
3. whisk up the eggs and milk.
4. in a large bowl combine the bread, grated cheese and the sausage mixture – i do this with my hands. then move this to a large dutch oven or covered casserole dish.
5. pour the egg/milk mixture and the stock over the bread.
6. let to sit overnight – at least 8 hours for the bread to soak up all the goodness.
7. i like to sprinkle a little extra cheese and grated pepper on top right before it goes in the oven.
8. casserole dish will need to sit inside a water bath in the oven – i do this by placing the dish into a 9×9 glass brownie pan and surrounding it with hot water. this is important. do not roll your eyes and skip this step.
9. place the whole thing into a 350 degree oven.
10. the pudding will need to bake for at least 55 minutes then take the lid off for another 10.
Eat Your Face Off.

The egg mixture keeps the bread ultra moist and reminds me of my mom’s turkey stuffing. I’m sure there are a million amazing variations that can be made on savoury bread pudding. But this was definitely a fave – I ate it all week with some adzuki bean stew.

Further evidence of its deliciousness – the bf cleaned out the leftovers and the bf NEVER cleans out the leftovers. Let me know how it goes!

Race Report: Midsummer Night’s 30km

August 26, 2009

As part of my marathon training our coaches have encouraged us to participate in what is known as a “Tune-Up Race”. Otherwise known as the “let’s get real and see if you can get shit done out there” race. I was glad that they had chosen the Midsummer Night’s Run because a) I had already registered for it (early birds can win prizes!) and b) for many reasons I actually really like this race (as opposed to the many that I don’t).

The MNR offers two running distances – a 15km or a 30km and also a 15km walk. I ran the 15km last year and despite the intense exhaustion and the fact that I was running at NIGHT in AUGUST I had a great time. Last time I ran alone – didn’t know a soul, no one to cheer me on except for my doting bf at the finish line. This time I had several new running friends, both from the clinic and also from the Pride RUN so it was great to cheer and be cheered on whilst in the thick of it all.

First things first: pre-race. Picking up the race kit was smooth as silk and the easiest pickup that I have ever made. Not only that but the race shirts are ADORABLE! SO much better than last year. AND they’re purple! It couldn’t get any better. Oh but wait – there was also a 45km pin recognizing the total distance that I had run with MNR. LOVE IT!

Race day: Unlike last year (which was delayed because of lengthy lines at bag check and the toilets) everything at the start line seemed to go off without a hitch. There were plenty of pre-race fluids available and dropping off my bag was easy breezy. All the road closures seemed secure and the announcements at the start line could be heard even in the back.

The actual race: At this point most of the race is a warm, fuzzy haze and from what I can recall there were no real moments of losing my shit. Figuratively or literally (thank you Tums). At the Around the Bay race in March I totally psyched myself out before I got to the start line – I wasn’t kidding about the crying. This time around I was pretty confident, at least that I could finish. I gave myself tons of leeway just in case I couldn’t hit my marathon race pace but I ended up needing to slow myself down every once in awhile and by the end I had so much energy that I was cheering on the people I was passing (I know, how smug and annoying am I?) and I was amazed that I could actually speed up in the last kilometre.

I made sure to continuously hydrate with Gatorade throughout the race and probably downed around 36 ounces of fluid and two energy gels from start to finish. On the advice of a runners nutrition book that I’m currently reading I also sipped Gatorade in the hours leading up to the race. I think that the combination of all this hydration was enough to keep me going for 3 hours and 8 minutes – a whole 4 minutes faster than my time five months ago!

Because we were meeting a friend for dinner we had to flee the scene pretty much as soon as I crossed the finish – but I’m hoping that next year I’ll be able to partake in the beer gardens scene. It looked like a runner’s version of the prom in there – all pimped out in intimidating race jackets. Who knows, if things keep going this well maybe I’ll have my own pimped out race gear next year 😉

On the twelfth week of training my coaches gave to me…

August 25, 2009

FORM! Okay, maybe not as exciting as a partridge in a pear tree but definitely more useful when it comes to hill training.

This week in our marathon clinic we discussed running form and it couldn’t have come at a better time. After last week’s lower back debacle I knew that something was seriously off with my form and that I was getting sloppy as the hills got more difficult. The problem – bubble butt. Apparently I stick my butt out when I get lazy, throwing my hips out of whack and placing a crazy amount of pressure on my lower back. Yes that’s right, I’m the Beyonce of hills. So I made an extra effort to focus on my form and to push my hips forward as I maneuvered through my last week of hill training – Oh, did I forget to mention that? NO MORE HILL TRAINING!! Hallelujah and praise Jebus.

So yah, the whole form thing – totally changed my running, not to mention the ease with which I was able to jump out of bed the next morning. Thank you coaches 🙂

Tuesday: Headed out for 8km with the group. Really lovely route that kept us in the shade and mostly away from scary traffic – but I was ill-prepared without my juice and had a few bouts of cotton mouth. Thank goodness for a few well positioned public water fountains. Definitely ran slower than planned.

Wednesday: The end of hills. Finished up our last week with 10 hills and I have to say – it wasn’t bad at all. The hill was not so scary and we were all able to spread out and run side by side – very much appreciated after weeks of being forced to run Army-style in single file. Kept a good pace and HR wasn’t out of control. I am still completely annoyed and dumb-founded by girls that can chat whilst running UP a hill!? Seriously?? RUN FASTER!

Saturday: Tune-up race – Midsummer Night’s 30km. Unlike my previous 30km this year I was much more confident and prepared going in – I didn’t even cry at the start line this time 😉 Seriously. I didn’t. The run was absolutely fantastic. After Tuesday’s dismal pace I wasn’t so sure that I could maintain my goal race pace so I set my virtual trainer a few clicks slower than expected. And I totally kicked the computer’s ass! In the end I ran 1 second faster per kilometre than expected and had enough wind in me to start sprinting at 29km. I stayed loose and hydrated and had a really great time out there.

Up next: we start speed.

West African Ginger Drink

August 19, 2009

Last year when I noticed the edges of my teeth becoming disturbingly dark I gave up my daily brew of green tea. It was tough but I found that I was mostly addicted just to the sensation of warm liquids in the morning. So I moved over to the more tooth-friendly lemon & hot water – providing even more conclusive evidence that there is an old British lady living inside of me (not that the Coronation Street addiction was enough).  I loved my lemon and water and despite the fact that sometimes it felt as if I was brewing a pot of water and pesticides I kept it up.

A few months ago I was battling some digestive issues and started adding ginger slices to my morning brew – mmm ginger, me likey. So when I came across this recipe last month on Food Safari I knew that I had to give it a whirl. It’s a West African Ginger Drink that essentially involves pulverizing a whack load of ginger and limes with some peppercorn and sugar thrown in for kicks. Lemme tell you – it’s bloody brilliant. Watch the video at the link until the very end just to see the look on their faces after the first sip – it’s at that point that the ginger reaches out, grabs your tongue and stabs it with a million tiny flavour darts. That’s right – FLAVOUR DARTS (copyright me).

I like to make this a really strong mixture, so I only add about 3 cups of water and then strain the whole thing at least four times through the sieve. It’s amazing the amount of fibrous pulp that comes out of the mix!

Once it’s strained and contained it’s ready to go. I like to add about 1/4 cup to my mug of hot water and I’ve also been adding it to tonic water (apparently good for sore muscles) as a nice chilly cocktail. I added some Pimm’s to it this week but I found it to be kind of a waste, the liquid is so overpowering that any additional flavour is lost.  That being said – it would make a brilliant vodka cocktail. It’s got punch like a sonofoabitch and a ton of healthy antioxidants to boot.

Delish. A++

Keeping it classy with pizza for breakfast

August 17, 2009
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A few months ago I came across this recipe for breakfast pizza and pretty much haven’t stopped making it since. Soft dough with creamy cheese and runny eggs – um, yes please. Here’s a step by step evolution of my most favorite breakfast/lunch/dinner treat.

Step 1: The DoughI like a rectangular shaped pizza as opposed to circular – but that’s just me. Do whatever you want. I start with a pre-made pizza dough, pound it into shape and let it sit for about 15 minutes. Then I like to smear some creamy cheese from edge to edge, in this case I used garlic Boursin. Mmmmm.But we’ve done it with plain old mozzerella as well.

Step 2: The stuff on topOnce the cheese is adequately smeared I cover it with fresh basil, thyme, oregano and whatever leafy green I have – like spinach, kale or arugula.

Step 3: Top it off

Add some onions or garlic if you like and then drizzle olive oil all over the toppings. You should also smudge the olive oil around the edge of the crust, this increases the level of deliciousness (that’s an official chef term). And then AND THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT – drizzle the entire pizza with some truffle oil. I’m telling you, if you don’t have truffle oil go BUY SOME. They sell it pretty much anywhere these days and a good small bottle will only cost around $12.00. You won’t regret it.

Step 4: The cooking part

Put into the oven (preheated to 500 degrees) for 5 minutes – hopefully you have a pizza stone otherwise just use a baking sheet (well oiled and sprinkled with cornmeal). After 5 minutes slide a few eggs onto the pizza – I like to do this from a small cup instead of directly from the shell. If there are any air bubbles forming it might help to press down on the pizza with your spatula. Cook for another five minutes or until eggs are set.

Step 5: Insert into mouth

This is what happens when you don’t press down on the air bubbles – egg suicide. Still delicious just not as pretty.

This pizza is one of my most favorite foods right now and I keep adjusting the ingredients as the summer progresses and new veggies come into season. I can even imagine a goat cheese and grilled peaches version towards the end of the month. The best part of it all is that the bf considers pizza creation to be man’s work – so I get to kick back and wait for the pizza delivery man 🙂

Eleven.

August 17, 2009

Fairly uneventful eleventh week of training.

Highlight of the week: nearly puking my guts out on the appropriately named “Horror Hill”. Never before have I felt so nauseous, exhausted and covered in sweat and bugs than I was during hill training this week. Let’s get straight to it:

Tuesday: Had a late meeting so couldn’t join the group, only managed to get in a 4km tempo run. Felt pretty good though, especially after two days of rest.

Wednesday: Hill Training Horror. Could have been a snuff film title, for sure. When word got out that our leaders were taking us to a “shady hill” we all breathed a sigh of relief – the sun was scorching. Our sighs turned to screams when we arrived at our ravine-like destination and were forced to pick up the pace in order to escape from the ravenous mosquitoes that swarmed our sticky bodies. Ugh. Probably the toughest hill that I have EVER trained on. Did something nasty to my back and couldn’t stand up straight for the rest of the evening, felt better after some TLC (read: wine).

Saturday: 6km steady run. Treadmill. Yes, I’m a wuss and yes I was catching up on some Food Network TV.

Sunday: 23km long run. I’ll say it straight up – I was terrified of this run and was convinced that I was going to collapse in a pile of sweat and lululemon gear on the side of the road. But I made it! I headed out early and managed to stay on the shady side of the street, I even gave myself the option to cut the route short if I needed to – but I didn’t! Don’t get me wrong – I ran SLLLLLOOOOOOOWWWWW and I had to stop for a Gatorade refill around 17km, but it was all good. Aside from a little bit of armpit chafing (what’s with me and my tissue paper flesh!?) and losing approximately 3 litres of sweat I was fine. Didn’t even have any gut rot or swishy waterlogged stomach 🙂 Yay me.

Coming up next: Midsummer Night’s 30km Run on Saturday. Please pray to the weather gods that the humidex has evacuated the city by then!

Book Report: My life on the run / Bart Yasso

August 14, 2009

First things first, I must confess that I love Bart Yasso. When I see him at races I scream his name like he’s a rock start. I’ve even had him sign my training guides and race bibs like some kind of teenage fangirl. He pretty much has the COOLEST job in the world and the few times that I’ve heard him speak his self-deprecating humour and Yankee accent make me swoon.  So I know that it was imperative I read his autobiography “My Life on the Run: the wit, wisdom and insights of a road racing icon”. Hoping for a little motivation I waited until I was mid-training schedule to open my copy. And say what you will about his writing abilities, the man knows how to tell a good story. And his life is full of them, so much so that it blew my mind.

I’m the kind of runner who puts off runs when the wind is too strong or if there isn’t enough cloud cover – this man has run in conditions that make me doubt his sanity. Up and up mountains for days, on roads so hot that his shoes melt, away from gnashing wild animals and even in his birthday suit – the man is definitely a rock star of the running world.

Yet aside from all his bravado (look at how badass I can run!) he definitely shows a softer and more emotional side when it comes to discussing his family and how they helped him find his calling. I found it fascinating to learn that he’s a former alcoholic and that he didn’t start running until he was well into his twenties – there’s hope for me after all!

I was glad that he ended the book with a series of different training programs and was really interested in his 10-day training plans. He very much endorses the types of plans that give you plenty of recovery time and allow you to get in your mileage without overtaxing your body. And he’s definitely a guy who knows overtaxing up close. It was sad to hear about how his own running career was slowing down due to an advanced and chronic case of lyme disease – although it seems like lately he’s been tweeting about being out and running several races, so hopefully he’s gone into another period of remission.

I just learned that he’ll be attending the Toronto International Marathon again this year (he thanks Jay Glassman in the intro, so I guess they’re buds?) but I’m hoping to rub elbows with him at the New York City Marathon in November.

And yes, I’ll still be the one screaming like a teenager.