Monday, February 7, 2011

My Sandwich

Today I'd like to tell you about the most awesome sandwich that I made this weekend: My Sandwich.

I specifically call it My Sandwich because it is in fact my sandwich, not yours.

Over the last week I've spent a lot of time with 2 year olds. Not my own, of course, but when you have a lot of friends with children, you tend to be around them quite often. I find that it is around this age that children start to grasp the understanding of possessive pronouns, specifically My/Mine.

Without having children of my own, I can only draw the following conclusions by observation. But I suppose children pick up this sense of ownership from their parents. If your child wants some water from your glass, you say no. Why? Becuase it is "mine," or "it is mommy's/daddy's." Or if the child wants some of your pizza you say "no, it is mine, that is yours (pointing to their own piece.)" Or the child tries to play with something sitting out that you do not want them to play with: "that is not your toy, it is mine."

Now I perfectly understand this. After all, there are probably very few people who would choose to have their child's (or any child's) drool and spit all over their pizza or floating as a little island in their water cup. And sometimes young children just don't understand a long complicated explanation, even if they have the patience to sit through a 6 word sentence.

"You can't play with that knife, it is sharp and you may stab yourself, and then we have to go to the hospital and you may die" is just such a long explanation for "don't touch that." Usually followed by "why" and then "because it is mine." or "it is my toy."

So at some point children have a desire to also feel this sense of ownership. And thus everything becomes "Mine." And so, today I will tell you about "MY sandwich."

This weekend I started a two week trial of eating more healthy. I know, it's very noncommittal.

But I am going to try, for the next two weeks, to avoid anything that tends to make my stomach hurt. Namely, heavy cream sauces and deep fried things, also foods with a lot of butter (cookies excluded).

So instead of grabbing whatever randomness looked tasty in the fridge, I set out to make a healthy sandwich. See exhibit A.

Exhibit A:

This is my sandwich.

I started out doing a light saute on some red onions and green pepper. I used a slight amount of olive oil and turned the heat up to about 7. I wanted to get them a little brown, warm, and only slightly soft. I had no intention of caramelizing them.

I then removed them from the pan and added a slice of whole grain bread schlepped on one side with some garlic hummus. Hummus side up, of course. And heat turned down to 3.

I will caution you, do not add too much hummus. Especially if you are putting some on the other slice of bread as well. Otherwise you could end up with a very mushy sandwich... ick.

I added my onions and peppers to the bread, followed by some spinach, tomato, and a little cheese. (The cheese is more of a slight binding agent than a dominant flavor). I topped this off with another slice of whole grain bread with garlic hummus. (hummus side down this time)

I then pressed the sandwich, flipped the sandwich, and covered the pan with a plastic cover of sort. This allowed the heat to be trapped in to help melt the cheese while the bottom side finished getting crispy.

Transfer to plate, and ta-da. It was fantastic. Nice and light, and very refreshing. And, healthy!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Texas Tough Mudder - 1/29/2011 - Part 4

This is Part 4 of the Tough Mudder series. If you haven't read Part 1, 2, or 3 yet, go down and start from there.

Part 4 - After the Tough Mudder

Now, I know what you're thinking. After everything we've been through, what more could there possibly be to tell.

Well, let me tell you.

After we had gotten our victory beers, shirts, bars, and headbands, we headed back to the car. And by that, I mean, Jeremy walked and I limped. Up until this point, I had only been cold in the water, but once I hit land I was fine. Only now, the challenge was over, the clouds were coming in, and I was getting cold.

So we hurried back to the car, and I handed Jeremy the running belt that I was wearing. It's basically a belt with an expandable pouch in the back to hold stuff, such as food... and a car key.

Ah ha. And now you understand why there needs to be a Part 4 to this story.

So Jeremy opens the pouch then looks at me point blank and says "there's no key in here." At first I thought it was some sort of sick joke. There's no way he could be serious.

He was.

At this point we started going through all the possible options. How we'd get back to Austin. How we'd get the spare key from his house in Houston. And what we were going to do about the fact we were cold, hungry, and wet. After all, everything we owned was in the car, and the key was... well, it was somewhere between mile 5 (first food stop) and mile 10.

Well, at this point, there was only one option, and that was to walk back to the three spots where we had taken a food break. I mentally prepared myself for the hobble. Both my knees were screaming.

Fortunately, the course is very spectator friendly. So, although it is 3 course miles between the smoke house and the monkey bars, it's only about 1/8th mile walk for spectators.

We started at the monkey bars. In my mind, this is where the key would have gotten lost. It was almost the end of the run and I was so tired at that point, I knew that I probably grabbed the shot blocks out of the pouch without thinking about the key. So we searched for a while, looking all over the muddy, muddy ground, but to no avail.

So we headed back to the smokehouse. If it wasn't there, then someone else would have to walk to the mile 5 rest stop, because that was pretty far away. On the way to the smokehouse we found $2 lying on the ground. It wasn't exactly a key, but hey, still not a bad find.

At the smokehouse water station we looked around the ground, then Jeremy went over and asked the volunteer if anyone had found a key. She said that yes, in fact someone did find one at the monkey bar area and it was now at Lost and Found.

Ah! I was so sure at this point that it was our key, that I hadn't really considered what we would do if it wasn't our key. Surely two idiots wouldn't have dropped keys on the course. Don't ask me why we didn't try going to the information desk before we started our jaunt around the course, I don't know. In retrospect, that would have been a good starting place.

We got to information and the woman held up the key. It was ours! I handed her my $2. I told her I found it on the course and I was turning it into Lost and Found. She said "no, you found that, it's yours." I said "No, karma is a bitch, you keep it."

Texas Tough Mudder - 1/29/2011 - Part 3

This is Part 3 of the Tough Mudder series. If you haven't read Part 1 or Part 2 yet, go down and start from there. Sorry, I guess I could have done these in reverse order... or you can just scroll down :)

After running through about 8 miles of course, we started to hit the harder obstacles. Okay, probably not 'harder,' but we were just so exhausted at this point, they seemed pretty hard. One was the rope bridges or 'The Ball Shrinker'. A series of bridges across cold muddy water. Two ropes, one high and one low. Walk your way across the lower one, while holding onto the upper one. Our rope figured out the best way to do this was by facing alternate directions. This way there was equal pull on both sides of the rope. Doing it this way made it not too bad. Still slippery, but doable without falling in the water.

We rounded the corner after the log carry, and saw the sight that almost made me cry... another lake. I stopped on the bank to just prepare myself for what was about to happen. I even questioned whether I could even make it across at this point. The sun was going behind the clouds, and I just knew (from plenty of experience up to this point) how cold that water was going to be. It would take all my energy to get across.

I jumped in and started swimming out to the middle, where, waiting for us, were a series of three underwater tunnels. They weren't really tunnels, but large blue barrels making three barricades across the water that you had to swim under. Yep under. At this point you were in up to your head, but at least you weren't holding your breath.

I got out to the first barricade and grabbed on. I had to prep myself again. All of a sudden some guy came up next to me and said "1,2,3." Without thinking I just pushed myself under the water and swam until I knew I cleared the barrels. Unfortunately, I almost went too far, and came up just in front of the next set. I came up and gasped for breath. But I only had a second until I heard someone else yell "go." Without thinking I was back under the water.

It was probably better this way, as the longer you stay in the water, the colder you get... obviously. I can honestly say that I don't remember much about going under the barrels, but I do remember just swimming my heart out trying to get back to the other side of the shore. I got out and turned back to see Jeremy just finishing the third barricade. He took a minute to also catch his breath then swam over to me. We were both so cold...

After the water crossing, we went straight into Twinkle Toes. You had to make your way across two bridges that were made of 2 - 2x6's standing upright. So you had about 4" to walk across. With muddy shoes, while people were falling off in front and behind you. Both Jeremy and I did pretty good on this one, only falling once.

Next came the monkey bars. I knew from the start of the event that I would have trouble with this one. Jeremy was smart and took his time to dry off his hands first. I just jumped onto them.

My first attempt I only made it two bars, then I fell into the freezing cold muddy water and swam the rest of the way out. However, after feeling that I didn't really try that hard, I decided to go back and try again. I made it 5 bars the second time, and I was pretty happy with that.

Jeremy, however, did awesome. Not only did he make it across, but he had to keep stopping and waiting for the guy in front of him to keep moving. Oh, did I mention that the bars went up and then down? Like the pitch on a roof? Yea, hard.

After the monkey bars, we grabbed the last of the shot blocks to eat, then headed for the last 1 mile run. At this point it was definitely more of a walk, but I was doing a limping run when I could. After all, this was the Tough Mudder. I'd deal with the pain later.

The second to last obstacle was another water crossing (go figure). You had to wade out to the middle of the pond, scale up a vertical cargo net, climb down a wood ladder, of sorts, then wade back out. At least you finished somewhat clean, but man, I so did not want to get in that cold water.

The very last obstacle was Electroshock Therapy: sprint through a field of live wires, some of which carry a 10,000 volt shock. This was actually not as bad as it sounds. I got shocked twice, and its more of a large involuntary twitch. Oh yea, and you have to run through a thick mud pit, so you can't go that fast, otherwise you'll just get stuck or fall down.

Jeremy and I finished the event in 2:50. Not great, but not bad. I'm glad we broke the 3 hour mark. We had so much fun. I don't know if I'd chance doing it again in January, but I would definitely sign up if it was in the summer. Here's a link to the full course map.

All photos are courtesy of brightroom photography.

Texas Tough Mudder - 1/29/2011 - Part 2

This is Part 2 of the Tough Mudder series. If you haven't read Part 1 yet, go down and start from there.

After mile 5 my right knee was really starting to bother me. For some stupid reason I had decided to take a ballet class the Thursday before the event, I don't know what I was thinking. Between that class and just not being in great running shape, I really started to mess up my knee. Not to mention, it's really hard to run when your shoes are caked in mud. Form just goes to hell.

So between mile 5 and about mile 7, it was mostly trail running. There were a few obstacles, such as the Boa Constrictor: a series of small tubes that you had to army crawl through. Then there was the creek run. Yep, you guessed it. More running through cold ass water trying to make it across before your feet froze off. And the Log Bog Jog: run through a swamp while hopping over a series of downed trees.

Jeremy was really good about walking with me when I needed and fake running with me when I felt that I could. My run was more of a very slow jog at that point.

As we made our way back into the main area of the course we were met with the Texas Smoke House. At this point they would have normally had a large fire that you had to run through, but because of the burn ban in effect, they switched over to a smoke house. The idea: jump through the window of the house, then make your way out through the thick smoke. Be careful... there may be hidden obstacles.

So here's where things got interesting. First we stop to grab a few shot blocks. Then Jeremy goes first. He jumps through the window then turns around to help me in. As he turns around, he doesn't realize that the ground drops off behind him, and he goes sliding down the mud slope into the huge mud pit at the bottom. I was laughing so hard, I could hardly crawl into the house. "Jeremy down!"

Again, you needed help getting out of the mud pit, because the little mud hill on the other side (still in the smoky house) was too steep to be able to get your footing to get out on your own.

I can't really remember the order of the next few obstacles, but I know they included the Mud Mile. A series of huge mud pits lined up for about a quarter mile. These were fun... and really muddy! See...

After the mud run we hit the next obstacle: Hold Your Wood. Run up and over a series of hills carrying large tree logs. Cause at this point, you were only carrying your own weight up and over all the hills, walls and streams.

But the worst obstacle was still to come...

Texas Tough Mudder - 1/29/2011 - Part 1

It all started last April, when I bought Jeremy (and myself) an entry into the Texas Tough Mudder for his 35th birthday. Back then it seemed like a great idea. Run 10 miles though mud, water, and obstacles all for the fun of it. However, what I did not consider, was that the challenge was in January. Now, I know some of you northern folks think it is balmy in Texas all year round, but I can assure you that it can get very cold. Today it is 37 degrees. That's cold.

Fortunately, we got lucky. The weather had forecasted a front moving into the area with rain and cold winds, however, that seemed to hold off until the next week, and it was 65 degrees the day of the race. Perfect.

We arrived at the event just in time to see our friend, Mark, and his team, Sic-Fit, start the course. We followed behind them 2 waves later, around 10:40. But before we started we made sure to brand ourselves with our bib, and bib number written in permanent marker across our arms, legs, and forehead. Yep, they wanted to make sure you were visible from all angles... and when covered with a ton of mud. (side note - if you are planning to do this event, bring your own marker and avoid the long branding line)

First things first. They make sure to stress to you that the Tough Mudder is not a race, it's a challenge. It's about having fun and helping each other out. And man are they right. There were more than a few obstacles that you could not have conquered on your own.

Our event was held at the Cross Creek Cyclecross track in Paige, TX (about an hour east of Austin). The first mile or more is running around the cyclecross track. Up and down the many hills they have built up. Then you hit the first obstacle...

Kiss Of Mud

I was able to get under this by crawling on my hands and knees, Jeremy had to get down a bit lower and army crawl through it. Just for kicks they made us do this obstacle twice.

Run around the track a bit more, and you come to the mystery obstacle. This one we also had to do twice. Obstacle two: Ice Bath. Yep. It was a pit of mud water about waist deep that you had to jump into... and it was filled with ice. Brrrr. You definitely needed help getting out of this one.

After running about another quater mile, you hit obstacle 3: Creek Crusade. Slosh your way through waist deep freezing cold muddy water. This was the second introduction to the freezing cold water. This "creek" was pretty wide, and by the time we got to the other side, my feet were frozen. I guess this was their way of "easing" you into the cold water that was waiting for you ahead.

Just as you exited the creek and turned the corner, there you were faced with the first real tough obstacle... Walk the Plank. Okay, so here you had to jump off what they say is a 15 foot platform into freezing cold water. (I think it was more like 20' myself). But first you have to get up to the platform by scaling up this flat wooden incline (about 80 deg) using a rope. Of course it was so muddy that was almost impossible, so someone helped push you from the bottom, while the guy at the top grabbed your arm and yanked you up. Now the platform at the top was only about 5' x 10' most, so you didn't have much of a chance to think before someone started screaming at you "jump, jump."

I don't really recall falling into the water, as much as I remember the cold zapping all the energy out of my body the instant I hit the water. Whew... that was cold. But that wasn't the end of it. You still had to swim across the lake. Yes, lake. This wasn't just a pond, it was FAR. All I could think was "swim, swim, swim." Half way across you can't feel anything anymore, and all you can do is try to focus on making it to shore. When you finally made it, they had emergency blankets for those who needed them, but we found that we warmed up quite quickly. After all, the water was probably about 55 degrees, max. Way colder than the pool at Barton Springs in Austin.

The next few obstacles included Devil's Beard: a series of three cargo nets that you had to climb under.... some while going up a muddy hill. Then there was the Hay Bails. Not just little square ones, large round ones. First stacked one high, then stacked in a pyramid 2-3 high. The pyramid was another obstacle where you definitely needed the help of others to get up and over.

There was also the Berlin Walls: A series of 3 - 12' high walls that you had to get up and over. And of course the Mud Hill: try your best to make it to the top without slipping back down... then slide down the other side.

I should mention here that all these obstacles were somewhat spaced out and between each one was some running and a lot of trekking through small ponds of freezing water and/or mud. You know, at some point, you just don't even notice that you can't feel your feet.

By this time we finally reached mile 5. Time for a short water break and some clif shots.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Recipe and a Ring

I've been feeling bad lately about not posting more recipes and food related stuff. Although, in my defense, I still don't have a kitchen or a house, so, you know, that's kinda been slowing me down. Because I don't have any new food items to blog about, I thought I'd pull out an old recipe for you. I can't recall if I've blogged about this before, but if I did it was so long ago that most of you probably forgot. This is one of my all time favorites and people go crazy for them: Butterscotch Bars.

12 oz butterscotch morsels
2 cups gram cracker crumbs
1/3 cup of butter (look for the 1/3 measurement on the stick)
1/2 (ish) cup of ground/chopped walnuts (if you like nuts, use more, if not, use less)
1 egg
1 tsp (ish) vanilla
8 oz cream cheese (1 pack)
1 can (14oz) sweet and condensed milk


melt butter and butterscotch morsels together in a bowl. If using the microwave make sure you do this slowly so as to not burn the butterscotch. once melted, mix in the gram cracker crumbs and the nuts. This will make the bottom and top of the bars. Press 1/2 the mixture into a 13x9 pan.

filling: cream together the cream cheese, egg, vanilla, and sweet and condensed milk

pour the filling on top of the base layer of butterscotch crumb

sprinkle the remaining butterscotch crumb mixture on top of the filling, to form the top of the bars.

bake 25-30 min at 350 deg. (i usually do 25 min)

let cool to the touch. I'd recommend cutting them at this point. They are difficult to cut when they are very cold. Once cut, place in fridge to cool. It's a cream cheese mix, so you don't wanna have this out for super long (ie - 5 hours). But you can take them out 30-60 min a head of serving to warm up a bit. Though I prefer to eat them cold.

I hope you enjoy these as much as I do!

The Ring

Now onto something super exciting. When Jeremy and I got engaged last July he gave me a beautiful diamond set in a placeholder band and allowed me to take the time to design my own engagement and wedding bands. This way he could surprise me with the proposal yet still give me the ability to personalize my ring. For the last few months we were looking at tons of different rings and coming up with a design that was a combination of the things that we both liked.

We had the ring done at C. Kirk Root Design here in Austin, and last weekend after the Tough Mudder, we were finally able to go pick up the ring. It is GORGEOUS! I've posted a few pictures below. Obviously I'm not allowed to wear the wedding band yet, but I included it in the pics so you could see them together.