Friday, August 31, 2012

Pine Bush Tri

Location: Albany, NY
Distance: Sprint (325yd s, 11.5mi b, 3.25mi r)
Participants: 311

When I found out I was heading home for not one, but two family reunions this summer, on back-to-back weekends, I thought it would be fun if I could add in a race to the trip.  And so I signed up.  This race report is almost two months late at this point, funny how time slips by...

One of the big reasons I signed up for this race was so that some out of town family members would get to see me race.  That being said, I didn't quite realize that the swim start, T1 and T2 were all in different locations- not the most spectator-friendly race ever.  Choosing to situate themselves in T2, my parents and aunts were able to see me twice, going in/out of T2 and then coming back in for the finish.  There's something special about racing when you know you'll have some friendly faces in the crowd, and I was glad to have them there :)

The swim is in a small lake so it was short.  Crazy short.  I'm sure all of the first-timers appreciated it, but it seemed like they could've tried to cover a little more ground pond.  I was in the 10th wave and they ended up starting 15min late, so I had some time to stand around and...  wait.  The water temperature was perfectly comfortable sans wetsuit and while it wasn't clear, there wasn't much of any muck to contend with (I heard some chatter about it beforehand, so I was a little worried).  In my wave were both men and women in my age group, so I was a little unsure of where to start.  Turns out I overestimated others' ability and wasn't able to swim my own pace.  Before you knew it, though, we were already at the shore.

And is a really big beef from this race:  timing.  Since when do we not separate out transition times from the other disciplines???  I didn't pay too much attention to the placement of the timing mats during the race so I have no idea where the breakdowns were; all that is listed in the results is swim, bike, run and overall times.  #wtf

The bike course is a mix of pine bush preserves and sectioned off major roads, with some gentle rollers along the way.  I did what I could to push here, but 60miles in the Adirondacks & central NY in the week leading up to the race left me with legs that only had so much to give :-P  What can I say, I couldn't help but take advantage of my surroundings!

The run is an out and back, with a little lollipop in the middle.  There's a sizable hill at the beginning/end of the course so you know what to expect when you head down it out of T2.  While I didn't have that much left on the bike, I was feeling good on the run and kept passing people (none of whom were in my age group), so I couldn't help but wonder if I had a chance to place.   I was able to power up the hill and finish strong in 1:13:10.  Or so they say.  Based on what I saw on the clock and my wave, I thought it should've been 1:10??

top of the hill, in the home stretch

While I like racing by perceived effort and not having to worry about hitting the start/lap/stop button, this experience has made me realize that I still want those numbers!!!  I can't help but want to compare past performances and want to improve.

I did have a good race though, and my parents and aunts cheered me on to a 4th place AG finish  (79th overall).  Which I was unhappy about until I was on my way back to Boston and realized that I left the blueberries I picked for jam-making in my parents fridge.  That quickly became the tragedy, and I realized that no matter what place I finished, I was satisfied with my performance ;)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Strawberry Basil Scones

It's tea time for this month's 5 Star Foodie Makeover!

When I heard plans for our virtual British afternoon tea, I immediately thought of strawberries and cream.  I know, I know, more Wimbledon than tea party, but I couldn't shake the idea and decided to morph it into something you would normally see at a tea party...  scones!

My incarnation of strawberries and cream turned into a strawberry basil scone served with coconut cream.  Dehydrating the berries a bit helped prevent adding alot of extra moisture to the scones.  They were quite delicious, especially served alongside some tea, however I realized that I don't have any "proper" tea cups!  Please excuse the oversize mugs that I'm partial to :)

Strawberry Basil Scones w/Coconut Cream
scones adapted from A Cozy Kitchen, coconut cream from Cook's Illustrated (found here)
yield:  6 scones

If you have a chance, put your coconut milk in the fridge the day or two before you're planning on making the scones, it will help solidify the cream of coconut!

For the scones:
8 medium strawberries, quartered
1c flour (I used a mix of white whole wheat, oat and cake flour*)
1 1/2t baking powder
1 1/2T evaporated cane juice (or granulated sugar)
1/4t fine sea salt
2 1/2T unsalted butter, cold  (could use Earth Balance to make these completely dairy-free)
6 medium basil leaves
1/2c coconut milk (full fat, or heavy cream), plus a little extra

For the coconut cream:
1 can full fat coconut milk
1 1/2t evaporated cane juice (or granulated sugar)
1/2t vanilla extract
pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 200deg.

Place strawberries on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  Bake the strawberries for 45min-1hr, until they are slightly dehydrated.  Set aside to cool.

Turn the oven to 425deg.  Place a mixing bowl and beaters into the freezer.

In a medium bowl, add flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.  Whisk together.  Grate in butter and using your hands, quickly work the butter into the flour until it resembles a coarse meal.  Chiffonade basil leaves (roll into a cigar and slice, creating ribbons) and add them to the flour/butter mixture along with the strawberries.  Gently combine and then pour in coconut milk and mix until the dough begins to form, ~30sec.

Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and knead by hand just until it comes together into a rough, slightly sticky ball, 5-10sec.  Pat dough into a 1" thick circle and cut into 6 wedges  (or 4 or 8, if you prefer).  Put scones on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Brush with coconut milk and then bake 12-15min, until scones are light brown.

While the scones are baking, remove the can of coconut milk from the fridge and the bowl/beaters from the freezer.  Using a spoon, take off the top layer of cream that should have formed (reminded me of shortening) and add it to the bowl.  Add in the sugar, vanilla and pinch of salt.  Beat on low speed until small bubbles form, ~30sec.  Increase the speed to high and beat until the cream thickens and light peaks form, ~2min. Refrigerate until your scones are done cooling.

Once the scones are done, transfer them to a wire rack for at least 10min to cool before serving with coconut cream.

*Yes, I need to go to the store!

Have you ever been to an afternoon tea?  What's your favorite treat?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Peach Vanilla Jam

Every time I think about peaches a certain song immediately pops into my head and usually stays for too long.  Who can complain when you're biting into a ripe, juicy peach though ;)

I'm going to can some peach jam this year, but this was actually made last year at the very end of peach season so you get this one first!  The skins were left on to add some fiber and texture, but feel free to peel your peaches (after a quick dip in boiling water) if you so desire.

Peach Vanilla Freezer Jam
adapted from Confessions of a Tart
yield:  3 jars

This jam is perfect on a biscuit, cheese platter, almond butter & jelly sandwich, stirred into yogurt...  you get the idea!

5 1/2c thinly sliced peaches  (peeled if you prefer)
1/2-3/4c packed brown sugara
juice of 1 lemon
1/2t vanilla extract
1/4t almond extract
seeds scraped from 3 vanilla beans

Add all ingredients to a medium bowl and stir until the sugar dissolves.  Refrigerate for 1-2 hours (or overnight).

Transfer fruit to a heavy-bottomed sauce pan and heat to medium high.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to low and gently simmer for 15-20min or more until jam has thickened.  Try the nudge test with a chilled plate to test if it's done.

If you want a chunky jam, you're done!  If you'd like a smoother jam, transfer (all or a portion) into a blender and process until it has reached your desired consistency.  Spoon into jar and freeze (for quite a few months) or refrigerate (for a few weeks).

Now, who's got a killer recipe for peach pie??

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Savory Blueberry Jam

It's tough to write a blog post when you've been gone for so long!  Life's been a little crazy this summer, but I'm hoping things settle down soon.  I have a few things to share in the meantime, and hopefully there won't be too many more crickets.

So long as you're not sick of berries yet this summer, I'd head to the market and pick up some of the wild blueberries I've been seeing.  Then bring them home and whip up a batch of Blueberry Jam w/Rosemary & Balsamic!  [Please forgive the lack of pictures, my camera was probably hidden by boxes]  After my favorite recipe from last year, I had to try another sweet and savory fruit jam.  While it might not be as good as my tomato jam, it has made for some fantastic dishes in my kitchen.  

The first came when brainstorming what to do with scallops from our Fish Share.  I warmed some jam a bit on the stove (over low heat) and thinned it with a little water (could use broth) until it reached the desired consistency- not too thin, not too thick ;)  Served over simply seared scallops (no butter/wine sauce), you have one tasty dish!

As this savory blueberry would be a fabulous accompaniment to a cheese tray, I also found it to be phenomenal in a grilled cheese made with a combination of cheddar and cave-aged gruyere.  Looking at these pictures again makes me want to crack open another jar...  hopefully I'll be able to hold off and save what's left for gifts!

blueberries and melted cheese...  yum

What would you do with a jar of blueberry jam with rosemary and balsamic vinegar??
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