We leave in a few hours for New York, I still haven’t finished yesterday’s post and I had a bit of pre-travel panic today. Swim class was great but things went downhill fast after that. To help counter that, some Christmas spirits:
Today was interesting. It started with early morning swim class (still the fastest) and more sinus-searing flip turn practice. I’m getting better, slowly. I’ve figured out that if I don’t flip around enough then when I push off the wall, I head straight down to the bottom, so that’s another step forward. My usual gang didn’t even make it to the flip turn stage yet, so I’m really glad I went on Wednesday. From there, I had to jump on the bike and head straight downtown in the rain to pick up a prescription for the liver-destroying drugs I need to keep my bowels from eating themselves because the pharmacist was being somewhat bitchy about expired prescriptions and where exactly on the piece of paper the doctor signed it. Then back home as fast as my poor city bike could go to meet the heating guy who was there to do the yearly inspection of our very efficient, but often broken heating system. He beat me there even though I was a full three minutes early for once. We got inside, I went upstairs to my little workstation and left him to do his thing. Which involved inordinate amounts of under the breath muttering and the occasional German expletive. He had to go down to his truck on three separate occasions, had to talk with both his boss and the makers of the temperamental heating several times and frighten the cats at least twice. And this for a system that wasn’t even broken in the first place. Oh, yes. That was foreshadowing.
By the time he left, he’d had to go down to his truck one more time for the duct tape to fix the bit he had broken, we’d had to turn off a circuit breaker so he could do more fixing of the thing that wasn’t broken and the entire electronic innards were strewn all over the kitchen floor. He’s got to come back at some point to replace the part he broke while fixing the functional heating and…
You know what’s coming, don’t you?
There was no hot water after he left. So yes. Success on all counts. Immediately after I went into righteous indignation mode and made the (long-suffering) Wife write a nastygram to the landlord, she discovered that the hot water didn’t work because the heating guy failed to turn it back on. Someone had a Friday the 13 today. I’m just glad it wasn’t me. The Wife rescued us by pushing a button. She’s quite the handyperson.
The other thing that happened today of course is that the Hobbit part two opened. The one with the dragon and apparently extraneous elves. So since I can’t find my Lembas scones recipe (they started as cookies, but the texture changed as I continued to modify it and I wrote all the changes down by hand somewhere and I can’t find it. Anyway, these are somewhat light, kind of healthy, and definitely filling.
L on Wheels’s Lembas Pancakes
(These are my version of Lembas done as pancakes; they’re dense and a bit nutty and should fill hungry bellies for hours)
Makes: 8 to 9 regular pancakes or 5 Mickey Mouse pancakes, enough for 3 adults or 2 hungry boys
- 1 Egg
- 3/4 cup flour (white or whole wheat)
- 1/4 spelt flour
- 1/3 cup dried coconut flakes
- 1 Tbsp. sugar (white, brown, or raw)
- 3/4 cup milk (low fat)
- 2 Tbsp oil (canola or similar)
- 3 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 cup chopped walnuts (or other nuts)
- Preheat frying pan over medium heat with oil (canola or similar; not olive). Preheat oven to about 120°C or 250°F or so with an oven-proof plate already inside to keep pancakes warm.
- Beat egg until fluffy.
- Add the other ingredients and mix with spoon until just moistened, not longer. If consistency is too thick, add a bit more milk, if too thin, add a bit more white flour. Too thick would be if a metal spoon stands up straight and never falls over, too thin would be if that same spoon meets no resistance and falls straight over. Anything in between and this recipe will work with varying degrees of pancake height.
- Grease pan with oil and butter – add the oil first, then butter for flavor. Do not substitute margarine for the butter here. If no butter, just use oil. Do not use olive oil.
- Pour batter onto heated pan in pancake‐sized dollops. (About 1/4 cup)
- Turn pancakes when bubbles pop and the edges are slightly dry.
- Store in warm oven until whole batch is done.
- Serve with: Fruit, syrup, honey, jam, butter, etc.
Which makes me think of my favorite Star Wars featured song…
This blog does not seem to go up to 11 this year. Apologies to anyone who was waiting impatiently for yesterday’s post. I pulled a double swim workout, ate sushi, and fell promptly asleep.
Wednesdays are my usual days to meet up with my little swim group that I am ostensibly in charge of – in that I’m bringing the training plans and modifying them as necessary as my little group gets more proficient at the crawl. After only two months learning from me (and having started pretty much at zero) one of them is already faster than me. So I’m either the world’s best swim coach or slow as the offspring from a turtle and a sloth. Or I should know better than to show 20 year old athletes new skills. Anyway, I’m quite proud of them and only slightly miffed at how fast they are.
And that’s not even my big swimming news! I couldn’t make the Monday swim class this week, so I got to make it up last night. Which means that after swimming for an hour, I took a 15 minute break and swam for another 45 minutes. The Wednesday night crowd is a bit more coordinated than the Monday morning group. At least some of them are. I actually might not have been the fastest, but it was a bit hard to tell because after the usual 20 minutes of various drills, we started to learn to flip turn! I did a flip turn! More than one! And I didn’t snort half the pool up my nose! I clearly need a lot of work at them and I sort of miss the wall about a third of the time, but I CAN DO IT! It’s not that hard. Really.
So that was yesterday. Also yesterday I put up our tiny Christmas tree. We’ll be away for Christmas this year so the Wife thought we didn’t need one, but I love putting up trees. So I got a tiny little potted spruce for 10 Euros and a pretty table runner with stars on it for 4, pulled out our paper decorations and after about half hour’s work, we had a tree. The Wife has been working crazy hours and has been a bit stressed at work. I was hoping this would help, so I left it on when I left for the pool (she out of work in time to grab her swim stuff from home and join me for the second swim hour and got 2300 good relaxing meters in while I learned to flip turn (did I mention that I learned how to do a flip turn yesterday?)).
Today’s recipes are healthy and vegetarian, and I actually managed to make them today while I was busy doing all the things.
My daal recipe is taken pretty much verbatim from the dairy free cooking section of about.com. I usually add a tiny bit more red pepper powder (mine’s not exactly cayenne, it’s the really spicy red pepper that you can get in the Indian food store) and less broth when I want a more stew-like consistency.
- 1 T. sesame oil (you can use olive oil here, but the sesame oil is so much tastier)
- 1 cup finely chopped onion
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 T. finely grated fresh ginger
- 4 cups water or vegetable broth (the veggie broth gives it some depth of flavor)
- 1 cup dried red lentils, rinsed and picked over
- 1 t. cumin
- 1 t. coriander
- 1 t. tumeric
- ¼ t. cardamom (or 3 to 4 cardamom pods, crushed with mortar and pestle)
- ¼ t. cinnamon
- ¼ t. cayenne pepper (any hot pepper powder will do and more can be added to taste)
- 1 t. salt, or to taste (none necessary if you add veggie broth)
- 2 T. tomato paste
1. In a 3-quart stockpot or other medium-sized soup pot, heat the sesame oil over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onion, garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are translucent, about 6 minutes.
2. Stirring constantly, add the water or broth, lentils, spices and salt. Bring to a low boil, then turn down the heat to low, cover and let the soup simmer for about 20 minutes, or until lentils are very tender.
3. Stir in the tomato paste until well combined. Cook several minutes more, or until the soup is desired temperature and consistency, adding more water to the dahl if needed. Serve with yoghurt and chapatis.
(yes, you can make your own, it’s easy!) I had no idea that chapatis (Indian flat bread) are so easy to make. And fun. But you have to encourage them. No bad-mouthing or talking down to the chapatis as they cook.
- 2 cups chapati flour (white will work just fine)
- Warm water (enough to make a pliable dough – start with 1/3 cup)
- 1-2 tsp olive oil (for the dough)
- Salt to taste
- Additional flour for work surface
- Cooking oil for pan (Canola works. Any oil with a relatively high smoke point and little flavor will do. I.e. no olive oil or sesame oil for the pan.)
- Mix flour, salt, water, and olive oil to form a smooth dough. That’s the key – working the dough enough to make a nice, really smooth dough. It should be about the consistency of fresh Play-Doh, but a bit stickier. I start with a spoon and switch to hands after the water is incorporated. Don’t be afraid to work it for a while.
- Let rest for 10 minutes or so
- Preheat pan to medium high heat with a tiny amount of cooking oil to coat pan
- Roll into small (about 1.5 inch or 4 cm diameter) balls
- Coat each ball lightly with flour and roll out to about 6 inch (15 cm) diameter (1/6 inch thick) circles.
- Fry each circle, flipping twice. The first time after you see little bumps on the top form (and light brown on bottom) and the second after the bottom is light brown, just like the first side. Just after the second flip, use a kitchen towel to press the edges of the chapati down and encourage it to puff up (this is where you have to tell it that it is a good chapati, a clever chapati, and very pretty). I’m not always successful getting them to puff up, but they taste ok anyway and have about the right consistency.
- Serve with daal or other Indian food. Or anytime you need a nice flat bread.
Now, everyone sing with me 🙂
Because nothing says Christmas like recipes from the civilization that killed Christ.
Yep, I’m still sick and possibly slightly high on cold medicine. I did swim today though. Swimming first thing in the morning when it’s windy and dark and cold and icy out is really nice. You get to the pool where it’s nice and warm, swim for an hour, sit under the lovely hair dryers for a while and then come out, and the sun is shining, it’s no longer icy and you still have the entire day ahead of you. Also, we did some good exercises in swim class. My favorite went like this:
Push off from the wall and without kicking, glide as far as you can. Then swim 6 strokes. Then glide again, 6 more strokes, and one more glide. If you’re good, you should be able to make it with just two sets of 6 strokes and the last glide should bring you to the wall in a 25 m pool. I came close, but still haven’t made it. The instructor promised that by the end of the course, I’ll be able to. I am hopeful.
We also had lunch today with a triathlon friend who’s just back from Thailand where she did the Laguna Phuket Triathlon. That one is now on my bucket list. And Thailand features (sort of) in today’s recipe so I’ve very cleverly worked in the reference now.
Recently, we were visiting the Roman reconstruction and museum at Saalburg (one of the towns on the Roman Limes (wall) which is as far as they got into Germany) where we picked up a cookbook. Here’s the first recipe we tried from it:
Patina de Piris
(or weird Roman pear thingy)
- 1 kg (2 pounds) Pears
- 2 Tbsp Honey
- 200 ml (1 cup minus 1 Tbsp) Passum (Roman raisin wine. It’s red and sweet and generally hasn’t been made for like two thousand years. Feel free to substitute Sherry or do what we did and make your own by dumping about 100 g (2/3 cup) of raisins into 200 ml (a little less than a cup) of red wine and letting it sit in the fridge for 3 days or so. Then hit it with the stick mixer. Or not. The recipe works either way.)
- 1/4 tsp ground cumin
- Liquamen (Roman fish sauce. Also hasn’t been made in two thousand years. Use Thai fish sauce instead. Trust me on this.) As for the amount, the recipe isn’t entirely clear. It says use a shot of it. Probably around a teaspoon or two.
- Olive oil (Another shot. We used about a tablespoon.)
- 4 Eggs (Size not specified. Roman chickens were probably about the same size as modern chickens. You should have seen them in the gladiatorial games, though, with their armor and little chicken swords. They were dynamite!)
- Pepper to taste
This one takes at least a day of prep, 3 if you’re making your own Passum.
Step 1. Make the passum. Wait a couple of days. Don’t drink it or you have to start over.
Step 2. Peel, core, and quarter the pears. Then cut them into pieces. I don’t know. Maybe Jupiter or some other god likes things to come in groups of four.
Step 3. Pears into a pot. Add in the honey, fish sauce, olive oil, Passum, and cumin. Cook, covered (again no recommendations as to heat. Go with medium low to medium depending on how closely you want to watch it.) until the pears are soft. Then hit the whole thing with either the potato masher or the stick mixer. I recommend the latter.
Step 4. Let the pears cool completely. Also, do not worry about the intense cumin and/or fishy smells during the cooking. It will all work out in the end, I promise.
Step 5. Preheat the oven to medium. I don’t know. The Romans clearly didn’t have convenient temperature dials on their ovens. (I mean, my grandmother’s cook book describes the type and number of logs needed to cook certain things, so this is no surprise, really. I’m not sure anyone ever gave specific cooking temperatures before sometime in the 1970’s. Oil a casserole dish or baking pan. We used an 8″x8″ brownie pan.
Step 6. Beat the eggs until fluffy. Fold them into the cooled pear mixture.
Step 7. Cook, covered until the eggs are firmly set. At this point it should look like a slightly browned omelet. Cooking time? For us it was about 35 minutes.
Step 8. Add a dash of freshly ground pepper to the top and serve. The consistency is a bit odd, but the taste is really nice.
So there you have it. Roman dessert with pears and Thai fish sauce. I posted this one for my friend P who’s been having a lot of nasty dental work and can’t eat crunchy foods these days.
So, being sick, I’ve been curled up half the day watching christmas cat tv. It’s one of the most entertaining reality programs I’ve ever seen. The internet is for cats!
And finally, the Air Force Band was at the National Air and Space Museum on Tuesday. My other friend P. was there for it. I wish I still lived in the DC area so I could go to one of their Christmas concerts.
Today, on the second day of Advent, I got up early to get to the pool by 7:00 am for the first day of a 2-week Advanced Crawl swimming class at the local pool. There were 7 of us, 2 women and 5 men all with varying amounts of interesting tattoos (one has some very Maori tribal ink down both arms and another has his entire back covered in very Japanese artwork) I was a bit worried about this because I don’t believe in my heart that I’m good enough to be advanced, and because this class is taught in another language on top of it. But the instructor knows me and she said I’d be find, so there I was.
You know how in every class, there’s one person who has to be last? Yeah. That wasn’t me. Actually, it turns out that I can outswim this entire class. The guys started getting out of my way, saying “Ladies first” so that I didn’t catch up with them and pass them. So huzzah for ego-boosting swim class. After the class ended, I stayed around for an extra 15 minutes, just swimming by myself and feeling comfy in the water. I haven’t swum alone since deep in the high volume weeks before Ironman, so it was nice and peaceful not to be looking out for anyone else and having to set an example. I was so peaceful and in the zone that I swam directly into some guy who magically appeared out of nowhere in my lane, backstroking right towards me. Oops! Overall, it was a fun and new experience to be the fast kid in class. I could get used to it!
Possibly, my swimming has improved since I obsessively do about 300 meters of technique exercises at the start of every swim. Here are some of my favorites:
Anyway, might as well stay under the sea for today’s recipe. The other week, the Wife brought home 2 kg of fresh mussels from the local fish shop. We didn’t have any white wine on hand for traditional Moules Marinières so I improvised.
- 2 kg fresh mussels
- 3 Tbsp Olive oil
- 5 cloves garlic
- 1 medium onion
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 1 can chopped tomatoes in juice (or 1 cup fresh tomatoes, skinned and diced + 1 cup water)
- 1 Tsp dried thyme
- 1 Tsp dried basil
- Fresh or dried parsley to taste
- Pepper to taste
- Rinse the mussels in fresh water and remove beards and barnacles. Discard any obviously dead ones (Like ones that are already open and don’t close again when you poke at them or very obviously broken shells.)
- In a large heavy sauce pan or stockpot heat the oil over medium heat
- Add the onion and garlic and sauté until translucent, try not to burn the garlic.
- Add the wine and cook an additional minute
- Add the tomatoes plus a cup of additional water
- Add the spices
- Bring to a low boil
- There will be about three waves of mussels. Make sure each wave is wearing the appropriate color swim cap…Cover and steam for 3 to 4 minutes or until most of them have opened. Send them to T1 and add the next batch. Repeat until all mussels are cooked and the broth is rich and tasty.
- Add all mussels back into broth (or serve mussels in separate bowls and spoon broth over them)
- Serve with garlic bread.
I used the leftover broth the next day to make vegetable soup with spinach, mushrooms, and pasta. It was pretty salty so I had to cut it with more water for the soup.
And now let’s hear from some folks who met someone who’s 6’4″ and full of mussels…
This is especially for the Wife and the theme of rock musicians playing flutes. We’ll continue with that theme tomorrow.
And now for your daily cat. At the Christmas market we got a cat surprise treat bag that contained a catnip treat. The cats turned it into a tiny, sodden pillow soaked in cat spit in short order. While I don’t have any pictures of them fighting over it, falling over in a kitty stupor, and subsequently getting the munchies, I do have a picture of them covered in ribbons, helping us take down last year’s tree.
Or, a long, navel-gazing essay on swimming by me.
Today’s writing time is about swimming. During my triathlon journey so far – and it’s a relatively short one; I did my first tri in 2010 – swimming has definitely been the most challenging and interesting part of the whole experience.
Which of these is not like the others?
When “they” say that swimming is pretty much totally dependent on technique, they’re right. Swimming is not like running and biking. In running and biking you can just put one foot in front of the other or turn the cranks using basic skills that most of us learned as children. On the other hand, swimming relatively fast for relatively long distances requires feats of coordination and conscious attention to details that we don’t think about in regular land-and-air living. Most of us as children learned to swim in that we learned how not to drown in the pool or the ocean or the lake or the quarry and that was enough to satisfy our parents safety consciousness and our own impatient desires to get out into whatever body of water we had at our disposal and go have fun. I truly envy the people who learned to swim properly as kids.
I just want to be happy! Or at least not a tension-filled disaster in the water!
Well, it’s been most of the season and I haven’t managed to finish a blog post all summer or this first half of fall. Which is a shame because it has actually been a banner year for me. Let me explain; No it will take to long. Let me sum up:
So far this year to date I have achieved a PR in every race I entered. Every single one. Every distance, every race. It appears that Ironman training has been good for me on the whole. I escaped major injury (or rather, I trained well and listened to my body) and I finally got my iron levels to something approaching normal. I have no idea how long I’d been training and racing before this while being iron deficient. So thanks to my doctor for making me get blood drawn every three months and take iron supplements regularly.