Friday, March 30, 2012

Best of the Week #53

I have a superabundance of breakfast pastry at my desk today. I brought my own homemade healthy mini-muffin (I tried a new recipe and was not thrilled…I will adjust it before I blog it!), and then one of my co-workers bought in a box of glazed doughnuts, and then there was an event so I am in also possession of a croissant! 

Whyyyyyy oh why does this happen all at once??? Needless to say, I am trying to resist a Friday fatstorm and failing miserably…sighThe Newbie did suggested I treat myself this week...

It’s been quite the week in Mollie-world! Both my jobs were kinda crazy, and you already know about the running situation, and SpeedyKate and I are apartment-hunting like woah. Clearly I do too many things, which is all good and manageable until everything explodes at once.   

And since I’ve been busy, this best of the week will be brief. My most popular post was, again, the Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars because they are the most intense creation I've ever concocted.

Speaking of apartment-hunting, can I have one with this? A Kitchen in a Greenhouse

  • 2. “Why are you worried about summer? You look fine.” If your girlfriend is trying to get in a little shape for summer, don’t make her feel stupid for doing it. Sh-t is stressful already.
  • 5. “Will you shut up about Nutella already? It’s just chocolate-flavored peanut butter.” Lol, get out of my house.

Incredible Animals of Frozen Planet. I now want a pet musk ox. 

I love this: A (Non-Political) Ode to Washington DC. Captures my emotions exactly.

  • Beyond the calls for resignations, and the scandals, and the pundits and the politics and the theatrics, there exists here a thriving society full of young, brilliant people whose core reason for living and breathing and working in this town is to make the world better. Whether it’s the young community manager at a tech startup, to the ex-pat taking notes at their embassy, to the communications director at an environmental non-profit, sit down at a bar with anybody in this city and after one martini or seven, if you listen carefully you will hear the same story: that they came to D.C. because they want to be part of something bigger than themselves.

This was part of my busy work week: Funny or Die made a video about the LRA starring the guy (Detective Stabler, i.e. Chris Meloni) from Law and Order: SVU. Go here to watch the video

Live birdwatching on the interwebs. What will they think of next??? Top 5 Wild Bird Webcams 

This site cracks me up probably more than it should. 
  • Would you like Polynesian Snack? With beautiful flower? 
  • Where is fork? Is Snack for to eat with hand? You like canned bean sprout? And buttermilk? And pimiento? And fruit piece? Mix all together? No? Oh. Maybe Snack is not for you.
Good news for animals: Pictures: Biggest Conservation Area Created in Africa Who wants to go on Safari??? 
  • Spanning an area of Africa almost the size of Italy, the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, or KAZA, will encompass 36 national parks, game reserves, wildlife-management areas, and tourism areas, according to WWF, a conservation organization offering both technical and financial support to the initiative.
  • To borrow a cadence from Michael Pollan: Read books. As often as you can. Mostly classics. 
And with that I bid you good-weekend! 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thank you.

A huge thank you to everyone who commented yesterday! Your love and support really means a lot to me. I try not to whine too too much on ERR, but sometimes I think it can be constructive - hearing about your experiences is really helpful to me, and maybe to some of you too. (I will be referring back to the nice things you said next time I’m feeling bummed.) So again, thanks.

In response to some of your excellent suggestions, I am PT-ing it up over here: stretches and strengthening exercises, plus some super-fun deep tissue massage.

I thought maybe I’d take it easy this week and be able to run Cherry Blossom on Sunday despite my problems, but I’m not interested in doing a race for the sake of finishing (if I wanted to run a slow 10 miles, I could go do that for free), and I’ve never been the kind of runner who can pull a good race out of the air. So I am officially out, and that is ok.

I don’t want to over-exaggerate the severity of the situation. It’s really not a bad injury (most likely a combination of strain and muscle tightness) just incredibly bad timing.  

As for actually quitting running…let’s be real, that’s never going to happen. I may briefly give up hope, but I am physically/emotionally unable to stop trying.

My recovery plan commences now: one week of complete time off with lots of stretching and massage, then starting back with three days of low-resistance spinning, then back to running. If all goes to plan I should be running again by next weekend. 

Good luck to everyone racing this weekend!!!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The End of Running?

Everything was going so well – I had some good workouts, build up to a decent long run, and I even ran a respectable warm-up race a couple weeks ago – so well that I barely blogged about it for fear of jinxing my fitness fast-track, as if by looking at it too closely, getting too excited (yay! look at me! uninjured and finally getting back into shape!) I might make it all go away. 

Well despite my best efforts, the alchemy didn’t align because go away it did. As of today, Wednesday, my hip flexor hurts and my pessimism is high. Cherry Blossom Ten Miler, the race I’ve been working toward, won’t be blossoming for me this year. 

You’d think by now I’d be used to this feeling – the punch-in-the-stomach failure that comes with the realization that I can’t run. The anger, frustration, and disappointment of knowing that my own body has betrayed me, and the even worse realization that all those emotions can be directed nowhere but inward, because no one did this to me but me. I can’t run

Are we meant to be? Me and running? This philandering fair-weather friend of mine? Or should I just stop now before I daydream up another castle in the sky only to have it collapse around me in a pile of running shoe rubble the very week before it actually matters? True, I would miss the runner’s high…but it might be worth it to be spared the runner’s low.

To serve as some explanation, this post was mostly composed in my head as I walked the two miles back from the track last night, a new never-to-be-worn racing shimmel in my hand, and my coach’s (reasonable but painful) criticisms echoing in my ears. “There will be other races,” people say. I feel like I’ve been telling myself that for years. But running is not a zero sum game…so maybe there won’t be. People do it, people lead happy productive lives and they don’t run. Is it a learnable skill? Is it a skill I want to learn? 

On a recent episode of 30 Rock, Jack asks Kenneth how he can stay so positive in the face of failure. The usually ruthlessly chipper Kenneth responds in a moment of serious intensity, “I lie to myself every morning when I wake up. I don’t know how much longer I can do it.” That is exactly how I feel about running right now. 

Thank you for bearing with me through this stream of self-loathing consciousness. Regularly scheduled happy blogging will resume tomorrow when I get over myself.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Cake of the Week: Red Wine Chocolate Cake

Well isn’t this a classy cake fit for a cocktail party? 

I don’t usually bake with alcohol, but this cake was just too alluring for me to pass up. Red wine and chocolate are the decadent stuff of romance novels and date movies and depressed dumpees, am I right? (This recipe would probably be more fitting to post near Valentine’s Day, but in Mollie-world every day is a good day for chocolate!)

If you prefer to skip the red wine, you can substitute buttermilk in this one-bowl super-simple cake. Though the wine adds a nice interesting flavor – the cake doesn’t taste alcohol-y, just like a chocolate cake with a bit of a hmmmm what is that? intriguing sort of kick. I made this for my Hunger Games Dinner Party -- it's very easy to transport since you can just make the whipped cream when you arrive. 

You could serve it with a dusting of powdered sugar, or fresh strawberries, or whipped cream (yummm!).

Red Wine Chocolate Cake (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup red wine, any kind you like, OR buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup Dutch cocoa powder (if you only have regular unsweetened cocoa powder, use: ½ cup cocoa powder plus ¼ teaspoon baking powder)
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Whipped Cream:
  • 1 cup chilled heavy or whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Fresh strawberries (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan with parchment, and either butter and lightly flour the parchment and exposed sides of the pan, or spray the interior with a nonstick spray and dust with flour. 
  2. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and yolk and beat well, then the red wine and vanilla. 
  3. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together, right over your wet ingredients. Mix until 3/4 combined, then fold the rest together with a rubber spatula. 
  4. Spread batter in prepared pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. The top of the cake should be shiny and smooth, like a puddle of chocolate. 
  5. Cool in pan on a rack for about 10 minutes, then flip out of pan and cool the rest of the way on a cooling rack. This cake keeps well at room temperature or in the fridge. 

Whipped Cream:
  1. Chill a bowl and beaters in the freezer for at least 15 minutes before starting the whipped cream.
  2. Beat cream until soft peaks form.
  3. Add vanilla and sugar and beat until stiff.
  4. Dollop and enjoy!

  • Slice fresh strawberries and pile on top of the cake.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Weekend Report: Hunger Games Dinner Party

In preparation for this past Friday night, we bought our tickets in advance, worked the google like the pros we are, and planned an epic Hunger Games Dinner Party!

LLC was the host/master of ceremonies/gamekeeper (haha) and put on quite the pre-Hunger Games show. 
We started the evening with a Prim-inspired appetizer: Bread with Goat Cheese, Strawberries, and Basil

Then LLC served Katniss’ favorite dish from the Capitol – Lamb and Plum Stew – as well as a delicious Carrot Soup (recipes below).

Of course I brought dessert – a Red Wine Chocolate Cake with Fresh Whipped Cream (I'll post the recipe tomorrow). According to the Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook (PDF)"The feast served during Katniss's first night away from her family ends with a decadent chocolate cake. Amidst the depression of facing almost-certain death (not to mention Haymitch's dispiriting drunkenness!), this sweet ending perhaps makes Katniss realize that things aren't as bad as they may seem."

The movie was awesome. If you haven’t already, you should definitely read the book and then go see the movie. 

In other news, it was ridiculously hot on Friday, so this whole situation happened in the context of dressed like summer. Unfortunately, the theater didn’t get the memo and possibly still had the heat on (!?!) so it was a bit of a sweaty movie-viewing experience. It was a balmy 70 degrees as I walked home at 1:30 am, luckily no rabid Paneem-sourced teenagers stalked me through the park on my way back…

Saturday morning I went for my last pre-Cherry Blossom 10 Miler long run. Not surprisingly, the blossoms are early this year and were already out in full force! The Tidal Basin was kinda crowded with cherry blossom viewers (i.e. tourists), but I didn’t mind too much. Instead of running on the crowded paved path I opted for the fairytale-esque petal “paved” grass path on the side. 

If you’re looking for a less crowded Cherry Blossom experience, I suggest you go a bit further than the Tidal Basin and run/walk/bike around Haines Point

Anywho, now for the Hunger Games recipes. I know the Lamb and Plum stew sounds weird, but it was SUPER delicious and I strongly suggest you try it out!

Katniss’s Favorite Lamb Stew with Dried Plums (adapted from the Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook)
Printable Recipe.
Yields 8–10 servings

  • 2 pounds lamb fillet, shoulder or leg, cut into 2" pieces
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • ½ cup water
  • 4 cups beef stock
  • 2 teaspoons white sugar
  • 3 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 2 cups diced carrots
  • 1 cup diced zucchini
  • 1½ cups diced celery
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 3 potatoes, cubed
  • 1 ½ cups dried plums
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 3 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup ginger ale

  1. Place lamb, salt, pepper, and flour in a large mixing bowl. Toss to coat meat evenly.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large pan and brown the meat, working in batches if you have to.
  3. Remove lamb to a side plate. Pour off fat, leaving ¼ cup in the pan. Add the garlic and onion and sauté until the onion becomes golden. Deglaze frying pan with the ½ cup water, taking care to scrape the bottom of the pan to stir up all of the tasty bits of meat and onion. Cook to reduce liquid slightly, then remove from heat.
  4. Place the lamb and garlic-onion mixture in a large stockpot. Add beef stock and sugar, stirring until sugars are dissolved. Bring mixture to a boil, cover, and simmer for 1½ hours.
  5. Add the vegetables, dried plums, herbs, and ginger ale to the pot. Simmer for 30–45 minutes, or until meat and vegetables pierce easily with a fork.

Carrot Soup (adapted from the 1977 edition of Moosewood Cookbook)
Printable Recipe.
  • 2 pounds peeled or scrubbed, chopped carrots
  • 4 cups stock or water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 medium potato, chopped (optional, for heartier soup)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1-2 small cloves crushed garlic
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans

Choose one:

  • 1 cup milk (LLC used milk)
  • 1 cup yogurt or buttermilk plus a little honey
  • 1/2 pint heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup sour cream


  • 1 teaspoon each of thyme, basil, and rosemary 

  1. Place carrots, liquid and salt (and potato if you are using it) into a medium sized soup pot and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer it for 12-15 minutes. Let it cool to room temp.
  2. Saute the onion, garlic and nuts in the butter and olive oil until the onions are clear. You can sprinkle in a little salt to help draw the moisture out of the onions. Towards the end of cooking, stir in the seasonings.
  3. Stir nut mixture into carrot mixture. Puree about half of it in a blender until smooth. (If you want a completely pureed soup, the original recipe says to puree it all in the blender. We prefer some chunks, so we only did half).
  4. Whisk in the milk. As I mentioned in the beginning, I often leave this step out until I'm just about to eat a bowl of soup. I'll stir in a little milk, a spoonful of yogurt or some cottage cheese just before serving (and just after reheating, if I'm using the microwave).
  5. Garnish with toasted nuts, some toasted bread crumbs or eat just as it is.

May the odds be ever in your favor!!!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Best of the Week #52

Well I just had an epic fail of a morning. I set my alarm for a totally reasonable running time, but when it went off I was mid-dream (in Petaluma - there were dolphins!), so I quickly re-set it for ten minutes later…then when it went off a second time. Again I thought no way and re-set again….then ten minutes later I accepted the inevitable, gave up on morning running, and did my final re-set for a much later I’m-not-running-this-morning time. Sheesh.

That, combined with last night’s miserable tempo fail, leads me to conclude that I'm going to take today off.

Thanks to Pinterest and Photograzing, my most popular post this week was Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars.

This is a great Running Times article about American 5K specialist, Lauren Fleshman, with some good advice about training, injuries, and running/life balance.
  • Running is a serious pursuit, worthy of serious attention.
  • "Hyper-intelligent athletes tend to gather so much knowledge, but that doesn't always get converted into logical programming."
  • She tried the obsessive focus, and it made her miserable. Now she runs fewer miles than in college, but makes more of them. She cross-trains and focuses on strengthening exercises. She relies on her chiropractor and embraces massage, acupuncture, yoga, sports psychology and even applied kinesiology. Her holistic approach also leans, heavily, on happiness away from running. With all these pieces in place, she says, "It's almost like I get 10 [times] out of one workout."
  • Her writing addresses a lot of frustration like this. I ask if it serves a therapeutic role. "Definitely," she says quickly. "I looooove over-thinking." The writing helps focus her active mind. Paired with a healthy appreciation for the mental side of the sport, it's become a powerful tool.

I’m seeing The Hunger Games tonight after a pre-Hunger Games dinner party. I did not make these specific cupcakes, but they’re pretty awesome, right?

“Urban Dictionary redefines literature's biggest names: Cut the Kerouacing and don't Tolstoy on too long: what slang meanings could your favourite writers lend their names to?” (source)
  • The thought, for example, of teenagers choosing to incorporate the greatest surviving work of early Mesopotamian literature into their vernacular ("Gilgamesh: Something or someone epic beyond words, such as Gilgamesh himself. Something or someone worthy of having an epic written about them/it. Ex: Those shoes are just gilgamesh") makes me wildly happy. 

This is a fun blog, "Streets of Washington," that includes current and historical pictures with commentary about this city I call home. It’s written by John DeFerrari, who “is a native Washingtonian with a lifelong passion for local history. He has a Master’s Degree in English Literature from Harvard University and works for the federal government. He is also a trustee of the D.C. Preservation League.

"Why People in Cities Walk Fast" (source)
  • With the exception of Nairobi — insert joke here about Kenyans crushing everyone at the New York City Marathon — the fastest walking cities were from wealthy nations. The statistical analysis confirmed this general perception: two of the three strongest social predictors of walking speed were a country's G.D.P. and its purchasing power parity (the other was its individualism). Indeed, when Levine considered all his "pace of life" metrics, he found that pace of life was swifter in "economically productive countries" like Western Europe and Japan than in undeveloped countries.
This video is funny but also kind of depressing: Watch the second cartoon video: “Kony or Baloney.”

As I’m sure you’re aware, we are mid-March Madness. Here’s the nerd version: "Democrats vs. Dictators" from Foreign Policy.

And for actual basketball fans, “A History of Bracketology: Who invented the tournament bracket?” (source)
  • In the mid-1800s or before. One of the first single-elimination tournaments in the modern era was the London 1851 chess tournament, organized by the British champion Howard Staunton.
100 best first lines from novels” Some of my favorites:
  • Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. - Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967; trans. Gregory Rabassa)
  • Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. - Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina (1877; trans. Constance Garnett)
This is just insane. “Adventures of a Teenage Polyglot.” This 16-year-old has videos in 50 languages.
  • Then last March, during spring break, Timothy did something that changed the metabolism of his language study. In his family’s apartment in the East Village, he made a video of himself speaking in Arabic and uploaded it onto YouTube, with subtitles in English. The response was sparse but enthusiastic, mainly from people in the Middle East: Way to go, Tim! He followed with more videos, each adding viewers, until his Pashto video, posted on Dec. 21, had 10,000 views in two days.
And for those of you running Boston: (source)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Literary Bite: Tomorrow River by Lesley Kagen

Growing up I always wanted to be a twin, only child, or orphan (sorry Mama and Dad) because according to all the books I’d ever read, they had the coolest adventures. However, considering the family situation (Sister1 and Sister2, neither of whom is my twin), the whole situation was always pretty unlikely…

I’ve since gotten over that wish, but apparently literature hasn’t. Tomorrow River by Lesley Kagen combines two of these adventure-guaranteeing characteristics: the book tells the story of twin 11-year-olds in Virginia in 1969, searching for their lost mother.

The main character, Shenny, is pretty awesome – she’s spunky and brave but also poignantly childish. The book begins near the anniversary of her mother’s disappearance and follows Shenny and her silent twin, Woody, as they try to piece together what happened to their family. Depending on your sympathies, this book might be a tear-jerker (it wasn’t for me).

The story was fast-paced and enjoyable. It read like young adult fiction (i.e. a plot-driven adventure/mystery) but with real adult themes (race and domestic violence). Tomorrow River isn’t a must-read, but if you happen to pick it up I doubt you’ll regret it. 

(And through looking at Lesley Kagen's website, all of her books include a twin/orphan situation of some sort. Why fix what isn't broke, right?) 

For more on Tomorrow River, you can listen to an excerpt online (MP3) and download discussion questions (PDF).

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Weekend Report: Skiing in Colorado

I know it’s Wednesday and the weekend is long past, but I just got back from skiing in Colorado with SpeedyKate and it was fantastic! Snowcapped mountains, sunshine, skiing, and copious amounts of Mexican food miiight just equal my ideal weekend experience. 

We went to Copper Mountain and Breckenridge with her parents. The conditions were “spring” to say the least – meaning a bit warm in the afternoons and a bit icy/crusty in the mornings, but overall it was pretty freaking glorious. The number of words needed to express and explain my love for skiing would fill many a blog post…so let’s just say that I love skiing a lot and leave it at that for now.

Luckily SpeedyKate lives up to her name in skiing as well as running. Not that I wouldn’t have waited for her at the bottom of every run, but it was really nice that I didn’t have to! (That sounds incredibly arrogant, but let me explain: I ski raced instead of going to high school, so I’m pretty speedy on the slopes.)

We kicked off the weekend with delicious Mexican food in Denver. Real Mexican is one of the very best things/things I miss most about the West. Tamale me please! And we went for a second experience in Breckenridge because why not  maximize the chips and salsa and mole? For Mexican #2 we met up with one of my summer camp friends. She lives and works in Colorado and is currently strategically planning (i.e. it’s a choice on purpose) to live out of her truck and rock climb and then get her EMT license. Conclusion: laid back in DC vs. laid back in CO are two completely different plains of existence.  

In addition to days up and down the moguls, SpeedyKate and I got up extra early in the mornings to run pre-skiing. I’m sorry to report that I was a bit of a whiny-pants. Despite my summers spent running at 9,000 feet, the altitude really got to me this time! The scenery was gorgeous, but at 9,600 feet, a morning run in Breckenridge may have been the worst 28 minutes of my life (pure exaggeration there, but you get the idea). Every step felt like the very end of a race, and I may have thrown a (mostly) internal runner’s tantrum…sorry SpeedKate… 

After running we started the day with a hearty breakfast (thank you Ken and Linda!!!) before heading to the hill. We skied until the lifts closed every day (like the intense people we are), with just a brief lunch break mid-afternoon. The runs were pleasantly empty considering it’s mid-March, which was ideal. Duck-and-weaving around unpredictable skiers and snowboarders can get a bit scary. 

We also met up with Amy, one of my college track teammates, for a run in Denver (oh the relative luxury of 5,000 feet!). We looped around a park just like old times in Boston, except this time we were accompanied by an adorable dog and I was gasping for breath. 

The long weekend ended far too soon and we were both so sad to leave. I am currently trying to figure out how to move DC closer to mountains so I can work in my field but also be a semi-ski bum...any ideas? 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Eat Run Read on Pinterest

Everyone is talking about Pinterest – it’s 2012 and our attention spans have never been shorter! Give us appealing formatted visuals and as few words as possible! We need simple and user-friendly way to sort and store our recipes, reading lists, and of course those super-cute new dresses for spring! 

All snarkiness aside, I actually really like Pinterest and think it’s incredibly useful. Instead of having a million bookmarked pages on your browser, or trying to remember where you saw xyz, you can just "pin" things then access them from anywhere.

So a couple weeks ago I created boards for all my recipe categories (Cakes, Cookies and Bars, etc.) to serve you as a visual recipe index. I also did a “Food I Want” board, so if you saw something on my sidebar but I switched it out before you bookmarked the recipe, it’ll be on that board forever. Or at least until the next internet trend takes over…

If you’re on Pinterest, follow my boards!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Literary Bite: A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore

My impression of A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore is that the author tried to fit in too many things and it ended up falling flat. It’s the story of a college age girl from Nebraska who goes to college in a Midwestern city, nannies for an adopting couple (race issues!), dates a potential terrorist, and has issues with her own parents who are rural farmers and her brother who joins the military. (See what I mean???)

So I’m not insanely anti-this book, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

But then maybe I’m wrong? 

The NYT reviewer says, “I’m aware of one — one — reader who doesn’t care for Lorrie Moore, and even that one seems a little apologetic about it.”

So I guess count me as number two?

It’s a “post-9/11” book, set in the autumn of 2001, but for most of the book the reader can’t really tell when or where it’s happening. I felt that the narrator and main character, 20-year-old Tassie, has the internal voice and eyes of someone much older (this reviewer agrees). The themes were all good – but overall they just felt a bit too contrived. 

Moore comes from a background of short story writing, which is apparent in the style of her prose. It’s powerful…but almost too powerful to sustain a novel. 

Have you read this? What did you think?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

National Pi Day

I'm feeling a wee bit overwhelmed with life right now...

BUT on this National Pi Day (think geometry), I'm happy to report that:

  • a) I have successfully introduced my cousin Heather to tofu and Malaysian and Ethiopian food in the past 5 days.
  • b) I had an awesome track workout yesterday morning.
  • c) AND I'm going skiing in Colorado this weekend!!!

So, unreasonable anxiety aside, life is pretty awesome.

If you want to celebrate Pi (╥) Day with some actual pie:

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Cake of the Week: Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

I'm pretty sure these Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars are inch-for-inch the most intense creation I've ever concocted. 

Do you see those chunks of salt? With the caramel oozing out? That is pure deliciousness right there!
It's a good thing I made them as a gift, because had they been in my apartment for more than 12 hours I probably would have eaten them all. Seriously guys, these are UNREAL. They're like the thickest chocolate chip cookie you've ever had, and then decadently carmel-y and addicting-ly salty at the same time. What'd I tell you? Scary-good. 

This baking experience came dangerously close to being a kitchen disaster just be warned: an 8-inch pan is not the same as a 9-inch pan! I used an 8-inch square, which meant the bars were too thick. They required extra cooking time, and even after I took them out after close to 35 minutes in the oven, a knife inserted in the center informed me that they were dangerously gooey. 

Ugh what a waste! I thought, anticipating having to go to the store and start again from square one. But I let this batch sit on the counter, then cooled them in the fridge overnight. The next day I pulled out my knife, and with pessimistic trepidation, cut into the bars. 

Turns out, that almost-raw gooeyness transformed into pure sweet-and-salty awesomeness overnight. And the best bars ever were born. 

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars (source)
(printable recipe)

Yield: 24 cookie bars
  • 2 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups chocolate chips
  • 10 ounces caramel candy squares, unwrapped
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 3 teaspoons (approximately) fleur de sel, sea salt, or kosher salt, for sprinkling over caramel and bars
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch square pan; set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
  3. Using an electric mixer, mix together the melted butter and sugars on medium speed until combined. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla extract and mix until smooth. Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix on low, just until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  4. In a medium microwave-safe bowl combine the caramels and heavy cream. Microwave on high until the caramels are melted, stirring every 20 seconds. This will take about 2 minutes. OR you can do this step on your stove top: melt caramels and heavy cream in a medium-sized pot or saucepan, stirring until melted. 
  5. Press half of the cookie dough into the prepared pan. Pour the hot caramel over the dough cookie dough and spread into an even layer, leaving some empty space around the edges. Sprinkle the caramel with half the sea salt. Drop the remaining cookie dough in spoonfuls over the caramel and gently spread the dough with a spatula until the caramel is covered. Sprinkle the bars with the rest of the sea salt.
  6. Bake the cookie bars for 30 minutes, or until the top of the bars are light golden brown and the edges start to pull away from the pan. 
  7. Cool the bars on a wire rack to room temperature, then refrigerate for about 30 minutes to allow the caramel layer to set. DO NOT TRY TO CUT BEFORE THEY'RE COOL, it will turn into a huge gooey mess. Cut into squares and serve. Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature.
(printable recipe)

Don't wait on this - make up a reason to make these ASAP - you will not regret it!!!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Weekend Report: Cousin Time and St. Patrick's Day 8K

This weekend was all about the cousins. LLC lives here, and she and I hang out all the time, but now Heather is visiting from Arizona, completing the trinity of third generation representation of our family, and ensuring that from her home in California, Grammy Jean is soooo psyched right now. There’s no need to get into my family’s socio-geographic stuff, but let’s just say that three cousins (daughters of three sisters), independently hanging out, has never happened before. 

Heather is spring break-ing in DC for the week and arrived Friday night. We kicked things off big with a walking night tour of the monuments (myself as the fun-fact-full tour guide). 

We started Saturday with a morning movie in Georgetown. The Lorax was super-silly and actually really good! We then lunched at the Museum of the American Indian Cafe. We split an “Indian Taco,” which is Navajo fry bread (omg yum) topped with buffalo chili and taco toppings, as well as a “Plate of Many Colors,” i.e. sides of mashed parsnips, wild rice and watercress salad, three bean salad, and red cabbage slaw. 

None of us is actually interested in seeing that museum, so after lunch we moseyed on over to the National Gallery. We saw the new Picasso's Drawings Exhibit (very good). The Chester Dale Exhibit has finally been disassembled, and its art redistributed throughout the museum. This means they’ve re-done the impressionist wing – my favorite! 

By late afternoon I was pretty tired, and not sure if I wanted to walk up the stairs to the Modern Art Wing Tower, but we did it anyways and the Mel Bochner exhibit  of thesaurus-inspired colorful art was totally worth it. 

After such a big day we spent the evening couching (it’s a verb), in preparation for our race -- the St. Patrick's Day 8K -- the next morning…

St. Patrick's Day 8K - Race Report

Ok, so here’s the thing, when I’m preparing for a race, I don’t even try to hide the crazy. My unnecessary worry and anxiety was probably tangible Saturday night, but luckily we’re all family and they can’t really hold it against me. But because I freak out in advance, by the time Sunday morning rolls around I have everything planned to the minute and am ready to just get on with the actual racing part.  

The race was big, over six thousand entrants, but incredibly well-managed! The start wasn’t over-crowded at all, and I met up with my team just before the “go.”

I’m happy with how it went. I ran pretty evenly, and accomplished my goal from way back in November of running under 33 minutes. My only "issue" is that I finished and felt totally fine. I felt tired while running (as in, I was definitely trying hard), but once I crossed the line it felt like no big deal. The good news is that means I can run faster, the bad news is that I don’t like having anything left at the end of a race. 
My splits were:
  • Mile: 6:20
  • 5K 19:50
  • Net time: 31:51
  • Gun time: 31:54 (that's 5:25 pace)
  • Then team time - GO CAPITAL AREA RUNNERS!!!

Racing out of the way, we headed to our next DC activity: brunch.

We went to Ted’s Bulletin on the Hill, the place with the most amazing breakfast combination ever: pancakes and eggs and hash browns. The food, once we got to that part was delicious. The two hour wait, however, was not so good. I recommend getting a reservation, but know that you need to make it like 2 weeks in advance. Heather and LLC split the Caramel Macchiato Milkshake (possibly the best milkshake flavor ever), and we all split a homemade strawberry pop-tart. YUM! 

Well-fueled, we walked over to the Botanical Gardens to see the Orchids Exhibit. I spent a lot of time at various flower shows, exhibits, nursery’s, etc. as a child and hated it, so I give myself some serious adult-points for voluntarily go to and enjoying an orchid show! 

The day was clear and the weather was gorgeous, so post-flowers we stopped by the Post Office Tower to get a sweeping view of all of DC.

Then we were exhausted, and aggressively couched for the rest of the evening. What a weekend!!!