Thursday, October 28, 2010

Magical Macaroni and Cheese

I had a craving this weekend for this specific macaroni and cheese. Ever since I made this recipe about a month and a half ago for the very first time, I have never even thought considered using a different recipe. It makes 10 portions, and I have eaten it at least once every day this week and am not at all tired of it! The sauce is made with Havarti cheese, and the macaroni is poured over roasted cauliflower. The flavor combination of the Havarti sauce over the cauliflower is truly magical. I assure you (and everyone) that once you try this macaroni and cheese, you will never turn back!

This recipe is adapted from this blog. They call for caraway Havarti- which I tried once and didn't really like. So, feel free to substitute your favorite Havarti cheese!

Without further delay- here is the recipe- complete with plenty of pictures- I replaced my camera this weekend (yay!) and went snap happy :)

1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 head cauliflower
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound elbow macaroni
6 tablespoons butter, divided
1 small onion, finely diced
4 tablespoons flour
3 cups milk
Pinch of cayenne
4 cups (1 pound) Wisconsin Havarti Cheese, cut into chunks (or shredded, but I'm too lazy to shred)
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan Cheese

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Spray the bottom of a 9x13 baking pan with olive oil (I used an olive oil spritzer)
Slice the cauliflower into 1/2-inch thick chunks, and place them in a single layer into your pan. Spritz more olive oil, as well as salt and pepper, on top. Roast the cauliflower for 25 to 30 minutes until they start to brown. Remove cauliflower from the oven and reduce the temperature to 400°F.

While the cauliflower is roasting, cook the macaroni according to package directions, and drain. Put it back into the dry pot, or into a large bowl if you have one large enough (which I do not so I used the pot and it worked just fine!)
In a medium sized pot, melt 4 tablespoons butter over medium- high heat. Add the onion slices and cook for about 5 minutes.

Add the flour one tablespoon at a time, while stirring it into the onion for about 3 minutes. Then add the cayenne and milk, and stir with a whisk frequently. Bring the sauce to a boil, and simmer for about 2-3 minutes until it has thickened.

Pour this mixture over the drained macaroni, and add the chunks of Havarti cheese, and stir until all the cheese is melted and the sauce is coating all of the pasta.

Then pour the entire contents of the macaroni and cheese sauce over the roasted cauliflower.
Melt 2 tbsp of butter and mix with the bread crumbs. Sprinkle this mixture and parmesan cheese over the top of the macaroni, and bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes.

Remove from oven and let sit for about 10 minutes. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Half Marathon in the Hills (and Rain!)

So, yesterday was the Run for the Hills Half Marathon that the run clinic ladies (+ one husband) were participating in. It was an inaugural race in a very nice hilly state park far-ish away from the city. We stayed over night at coach's house to not have to make a long drive in the very early AM and so that we could get a good night's sleep before the race.

I wasn't as worried about this race as I was about the triathlons that I did this summer. I think there are two reasons for this: 1-I have done a half marathon before (though without hills) and we had done more than 13.1 miles in our training runs and 2- unlike in the swim of a triathlon, where you can't exactly stop and take a break without worrying about drowning, you can stop and walk if you are tired and need to in a running race. So, the fear of dying was not really there. :)

The morning of the race, as we were looking through our goodie bags for our race bibs, we realized that it was not chip timed. I don't know why this made me annoyed, but I was curious as to how they were going to time us...and I know it doesn't actually matter, but part of me was like, if its not chip timed, why don't we just go on our own run...and not pay anything...but either way there was no turning back, and we caravaned out to the course.

The weather was quite gloomy- gray, lots of clouds...not really the ideal weather for a scenic run, but at least it wasn't raining when we got there just yet. There was, however, plenty of rain in the forecast. Our group all got together and did a short warm up jog before the race. It was kind of chilly, so I was glad to start moving. We took a port-a-potty stop just before the race. These may have been the scariest port-a-potties I have ever been in...they looked like giant refrigerators on the outside, and they were dark on the inside. I almost got stuck inside! Yikes!

We all headed over to the start line and learned about what their master plan for timing was...they had assigned us bib numbers alphabetically, and were starting us in waves of 25, every minute. Now, I was bib 92, and my running buddies were all in the 100-125. So since I wasn't really planning on winning, and figured I'd just be timing myself with my watch anyway, it would be no big deal to start 1 minute later and then just subtract 1 minute off of my final time. So, our wave came, and we were off.

The first leg I felt like we were going pretty fast- a little faster than I was comfortable with considering that we had 13.1 miles to go! But I kept in our little group of four, and we moved along, passing a handful of the slower people in our wave, and getting passed by the crazy fast people of the next wave. We hit a few steep-ish downhills, but nothing too terrible on the uphill. When we hit the first mile marker, we saw that we were around on track for our 9 ish minute mile goal, and continued onward. When we hit mile 2 however, it had been only about 5 minutes since the last mile marker, and we were a little confused...but decided that there was nothing to do but just ignore it. The first part of the race was the first segment of the large loop that the 10k race was following. We had two little interludes off to the side before picking that loop back up at the end of the race. The first interlude was a straight shot out and back. We saw the mile marker three and figured it was mostly right. When we got to the turnaround, it was exactly that- a water station blockading off the remainder of that part of the trail, so, we stopped and turned straight around. weird. When we got near the end of that strip, we saw our other pair of friends doing the race and waved. Its nice to be doing a race where you see people you know!

The second interlude was a little loop that we had to do 2x. as we headed out on the loop, we passed mile marker 6, and eventually mile marker 7. we did the loop again with no 8 or 9 in sight. We were also told that the middle 6 or so miles were less hilly. This was just not true. So, we never really got a break from hills the entire race. Though to be fair, these hills were nothing compared to the last triathlon I did, so I was counting my blessings really. As we finally came to the end of the 2nd loop, we saw a sign that said, 'to miles 11,12,13' so we were like, ok, now the mile markers will be more accurate, and we can gauge where we are...but boy were we wrong... eventually we passed 9, but I was certain we had gone at least 10- that loop had to be around 2 miles judging by how long it took us to go around it! But, if we really had 4 miles to go, I had to start conserving energy! At this point, it had been drizzling on and off and started to rain a little more consistently. It actually felt a little nice and refreshing. But I couldn't help but think, what is up with me and races in the rain!

Not long after mile marker 9, maybe 3-4 minutes, we saw mile 10, then another 3-4 minutes passed before we saw mile 11. What?! Do these people have any idea how important accuracy in mile markers is? How are we supposed to gauge the proper energy exertion to finish the race if these mile markers meant nothing? At the next aide station, I decided to ask. "how far to the end" I shouted? "Oh, you're almost there!" they replied, encouragingly. "We are the last aid station!" Well, I hoped that that meant < 2 miles, because the aid stations had been plentiful, but at this point, I wasn't counting on anything. It was almost like no one knew what was going on! I guess that's one issue with an inaugural race!

Finally we hit mile 12, and mile 12, everyone later agreed, seemed to go on forEVER. Its one thing to see mile 9 when you KNOW you have gone at least 10, but if mile 12 came early, that's just a cruel joke. I looked at my watch, and thought, I can run for 10 more min, I can do it.  I saw that (if that was at all close to mile 12) I was within range of beating my under two hour goal, so I just kept chugging along. At this point, I was all alone- the 3 others I had started with had dropped back for various reasons, but I was determined not to slow down. It was a little eerie running all alone- the race was so small that there were some points with no other runners in sight. But I pushed the idea of "if something happens to me out here i'm all alone" out of my head, and plowed through. Finally, I saw spectators...and asked them- "are we almost there?" It was so frustrating not having any idea how far we had run. "1/2 mile more!" they told me...ok, I can do this, less than 5 minutes to go! There were spectators spread out throughout this stretch of the race, that were cheering and encouraging. "you look great, almost there!" i finally saw the finish line, and picked up my pace, determined to finish strong! I got through and stopped my watch- 1:55:34! (though the real time said 1:55:59, but whatever, I'll take either!) I had done it in under 2 hours! with hills and rain and all!

I walked off a little and the next 3 friends that I had started with finished up within the next few minutes. We went back to our cars to get warmer clothing (the rain may have been refreshing while we were running, but while we were standing around waiting, it was chilly and unpleasant). I got the worlds worst charley horse while trying to take off my sneakers to put on fleece pants, so that sucked. In addition, my left ankle was really hurting- maybe my shoes were too tight? We went to get some food -they had the usual bananas as well as oranges and bagel sticks and cream cheese- yum. They were a little tough to eat bc they were cold but they were totally delicous.

We sat shivering in the rain, calculating when we thought our other friends were going to finish, and willing them to run faster so we could go get warm sooner :) Finally, they got there, and we hung around with them for a little while and listened for the awards, just in case ;) They began announcing the awards, and our coach got first in her age group! Then, I got 2nd in my age group! So exciting! I have never placed in anything athletic before (even in our badminton golden years, my doubles partner and i missed the 3rd place in the county by one!) so I was totally excited! I just hoped that the girl who got 1st beat me by more than the 1 minute late I started (I checked later, she did!). After the awards were over, we headed over to ihop to get some warm beverages, and refuel. It felt so good to eat and hang out with everyone, now that this half marathon weight was lifted off of our shoulders! all in all a good race- many of them had just completed their first half marathon- way to go guys! :)

The drive home was long, and I just had a headache and wanted to take a nap. I was wiped out- I don't think I drank enough, and being outside in the cold rainy weather for that long couldn't have helped. I finally got my wish, and napped until it was time to celebrate a friend's birthday with grass fed burgers and molly's cupcakes (yum!).

Overall, this was a good race. I had my doubts when I learned there would be hills (and rain) but it was actually lovely scenery, and I am really satisfied with how I did. The only huge complaint I had was the mile markers. I sure hope they get their acts together before they run this race again next year!

The group of run clinic ladies after the race! Some of us look happier than others ;)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


I read an article in Real Simple magazine about 20 or so things to do with pizza dough, and got the urge to make homemade stromboli. What it really turned into was something more like a calzone, but either way it was quite delicious. This was also a fairly easy recipe, where I cheated and made very little from scratch- but it was fun and yummy.


2 packages of Pilsbury refrigerated pizza dough, thawed for 30 minutes
1 frozen square package of spinach
half a bag of thin cut carrots
2 stalks of green onions, chopped
1 8 oz bag of pizza shredded cheese
1/2 jar of tomato sauce

Cook spinach according to package directions on stove (add 1/4 cup water and bring to a boil, let simmer for 2-3 minutes), add in carrots and heat for a few more minutes. Mix in green onions after removing from heat.

Roll out pizza dough. Divide into 4 chunks and roll out further. Put 1-2 tablespoons of sauce (or desired amount) on each pizza dough chunk. Add 1-2 spoons of vegetable mixture followed by 1-2 fingerfuls of shredded cheese.

Be careful not to fill the dough up too much- leave room to roll! Roll up strombolis, and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake at 400F for 25-30 minutes, or until browned. Makes 8 stromboli.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Quinoa with Black Beans and Corn

Generally I try to cook a big meal with lots of leftovers on Sundays to eat for my weekday lunches. I am too cheap to buy food at my cafeteria, and especially as of late, where I've been running experiments over lunch and not getting to eat til 2-3 PM, I don't really have time to go off campus to buy food. I also know its a lot healthier, so I try to make sure I'm eating at least one good meal a day! So, this is what I was eating this week, following this recipe from one of my favorite blogs! She has tons of 'everyday' easy to make recipes that are all so delicous! so, here's my take on the recipe- which is very similar. No pictures because my camera day I'll get it fixed and this will be a real blog with images!

Quinoa with Black Beans and Corn

2 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium white onion, chopped
2 teaspoon minced garlic
1.5 cup uncooked quinoa
3 cups water
2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (15 oz) can corn
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed

Heat olive oil on medium high heat and add and saute onions. After 4-5 min, add garlic and saute a few more minutes. Add quinoa and water, followed by cumin, salt and peppers. Bring to a boil, cover and let simmer for 20 min (or when the water is all gone**). Then mix in the black beans and corn, and let it sit warming for 5-6 minutes. Then, enjoy!

**Be very aware of how long you let it cook! I left mine for a whole 20 minutes, and I came back to some burned quinoa! It still tasted delicious though!

***Another lesson learned- attempted to make this recipe the day before I made this slightly burned version (i have made this recipe several times earlier with no catastrophes!) and found bugs growing/living in my cayenne pepper! Always check that your spices are not too old (who knew bugs favored the spicy stuff!). I promptly purchased new cayenne pepper to attempt the recipe again!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Heath Toffee Bars

Yesterday I went to a co-worker's party, and I am known for bringing delicious baked goods to our monthly birthday celebrations (recipes which I generally find online, and will be sure to credit!), so I had to come up with something yummy to make. I really wanted to make M&M bars, and found a recipe on the M&M site: then scoured the baking aisle at the grocery store and target, when much to my sadness, I could not find mini M&Ms. Surely I could not be the only person to want to put M&Ms into a cookie bar?! I settled for Heath Toffee Chips instead, and followed the recipe as listed. I did not get a chance to take a picture because my camera battery died, and now the bars are all gone. Anyway, they were quite a hit, except for that they stuck a bit to the bottom of the dish (pretty sure that's where the toffee melted.) Not one of my favorite personal baking feats, but they were fairly simple and everyone loved them.

2/3 cup butter
1 1/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 bag Heath Toffee chips
Preheat oven to 350°F (or 325°F for glass pan). Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy; add egg whites and vanilla extract. Combine flour and baking soda; add to creamed mixture just until combined. Stir in Heath Toffee bits. Spread dough into a greased 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out slightly moist with crumbs. Cool completely before cutting. Store in tightly covered container.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Welcome to my blog!

Hi! I have been meaning to start a blog due to my obsession with reading other people's cooking and training here goes! I will be sharing stories about my running and triathlon training and races, recipes I try or invent, and knitting projects I work on and complete. I do not claim to be advanced or expert on any of these things, but I have learned over the years that through hard work and effort you can complete anything you step at a time.