Tag Archives: training

Obligatory pre-race navel gazing…

OK, it’s two days to marathon day so it’s that inevitable time to come up with a race plan!

I’ve had input from a few running friends who all rejected my original plan of, “go hard until I blow up and see how far I managed to get.” I have absolutely no idea how to go about this despite some excellent advice from folks who know much better than I do what works when you’re actually concerned about finishing time for a marathon. And despite the fact that I don’t know what I’m doing or what I’m talking about, I shall do so ad nauseum for the next 2000 words.


The Wife and I are running a marathon on Sunday. I want to run it in less that 4 hours which is probably a bit of a stretch.


This will be my fourth stand-alone marathon. I didn’t run one last year as I got a wee bit burned out after Ironman and couldn’t face starting up again immediately after it for marathon training. Previous years were always one fall marathon using a Hal Higdon intermediate training plan (except the first one, that was his beginner plan). This year, I’m still a little burned out on triathlon and have gone back to running as my primary outlet for masochism training.


For the race itself:

Continue reading

Best Pie Ever (Strawberry-Rhubarb Version)

The best thing about our crazy non-winter here (it never got really cold enough to wear my really excellent new winter jacket more than twice, it didn’t snow at all, and it basically rained all winter with temperatures just above freezing) is that local strawberries have already started showing up at the market. That means that rhubarb season and strawberry season are going to be coincident for longer than the usual scant week of overlap. And that means that I’ve attempted to make strawberry-rhubarb pie for the first time ever.

Look at my pie! Now go make your own!

Look at my pie! Now go make your own!

A side note

There is no German word for pie. If you look it up in the dictionary, you find “die Pie” or possibly ” gedeckter Obstkuchen” which translates as covered-up fruitcake which is…not the same thing at all. I posit that the lack of pie in both their vocabulary and their lives is one reason why Germans have the reputation for being so dour and humorless.

An additional side note

Germans are not humorless. We just don’t get their sense of humor most of the time. When we think they’re angry and yelling at each other, they are actually telling jokes, except that you have to have read both Nietzsche and Schopenhauer in order to appreciate them.

On Pie Crust

In the US, I generally bought the Pillsbury frozen pie crusts after one or two disastrous experiments with Crisco-based crusts that never got flaky or ever tasted any good at all. But the other day, I really wanted to make a quiche (I’ll post a recipe for that later in the week or early next week.) and couldn’t just go to the store for a pie crust (see above paragraph regarding Germans and the embarrassing lack of pie in their lives.) so I had to make my own. After a good long perusal of various recipes on the internet, I came to the stunning realization that I didn’t need to use shortening. I could just use butter for the whole damn thing (Note that I am not the only one to have ever had this revelation, when I was searching for strawberry-rhubarb recipes, I discovered that Smitten Kitchen had the exact same thought, only six years ago! ) And the quiche came out tasty and amazing! And the crust was both tasty and flaky. And caused the Wife to say I make the best quiche ever, or at least very good quiche. Regardless, I no longer fear the pie crust, rather I embrace it in all its flaky, buttery goodness. And I possibly did the dance of joy for a few minutes over my Mad Baking Skilz!

On to the pie.

It seems that every strawberry-rhubarb pie recipe on the internet comes from this one which came from a 1997 issue of Bon Appetit (I don’t know where they got it from, but really there are only so many ways to combine strawberries, rhubarb, and sugar in a pie crust) My version is a slightly tweaked version of the slightly tweaked version that Smitten Kitchen posted in 2010.


  • 1 double crust pie dough, refrigerated (see below for crust recipe)
  • 750 grams (1.5 pounds) fresh rhubarb (*this is weight before trimming. you should have the same volume of cut up rhubarb as strawberries. Too much rhubarb and the pie will always be runny.)
  • 500 grams (1 pound) fresh strawberries
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large egg yolk beaten and blended with 1 teaspoon water (for glaze)
Pre baking, artfully crimped edges, decorative slits, and everything

Pre baking, artfully crimped edges, decorative slits, and everything


  1. At least several hours before you want to make the pie, make the dough and store it in the refrigerator
  2. Preheat oven to 400°F or 180°C (with Umluft – if you don’t know what that is, you don’t have it; otherwise 200°C)
  3. Prepare the rhubarb – clean and rinse it, cut off the leafy bits and the wider bit at the other end. Cut it into 1.5 cm (1/2 inch or so – yes, I know the conversion is inexact. Cooking is an inexact process.) pieces. No need to peel according to Rhubarb Central (for all your Rhubarb needs)
  4. Prepare the strawberries – wash, rinse, hull and cut into pleasing sized pieces that seem like the right size for a pie. If they’re about the same size as the rhubarb pieces, that’s probably about right.
  5. Roll out 1/2 of the pie dough (one of the refrigerated disks) to a 12″ circle and put in 9″ pie plate (I use the fold into quarters method to get it into the pie plate.
  6. Mix rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, lemon juice, salt, and cornstarch together in a bowl and pour it into the pie plate.
  7. Roll out the other disk of pie crust, trim it to 11″ and cut decorative slits in it.
  8. Place it over the tasty mess of berries in the pie plate. Then fold both dough crusts under and “decoratively crimp” the edges together. You’re on your own there. Pie dough crimping is a giant sucking black hole of internet advice, videos, and tutorials. Do the best you can or spend all of Thursday inadvertently watching pie-making videos.
  9. Optional: Take the leftover dough, roll it out and make whimsical decorative accents using cookie cutters or whatever is handy. Glue your artistic masterpieces to the pie dough with the egg yolk glaze/glue.
  10. Brush the glaze over pie dough.
  11. Put the pie on a cookie sheet or other solid surface (the recipe I used didn’t say why. I assume to prevent inadvertent spill-over from reaching the bottom of the oven.)
  12. Bake it for about 20 minutes
  13. TURN DOWN the oven temperature to 350°F (175°C and turn off Umluft) and cook an additional 20 to 30 minutes until pie is golden brown and juices are visibly bubbling.
  14. Remove pie from oven and let cool on a wire rack. Seriously, let it cool. Then the fruit mixture will have time to set properly and the pie won’t be runny. We solved the problem by making it the night before and eating it for breakfast.

Just after baking, as we waited for it to cool enough to eat.

Just after baking, as we waited for it to cool enough to eat.

What to do with the constructed, cooked, and cooled pie:

Serve with whipped cream. Possibly for breakfast. Or dinner. I am assuming that you know how to make or buy whipped cream or can use the internet to figure it out. We flavored ours with a bit of vanilla and that was a perfect complement to the pie. This pie is not too sweet and really, it’s better that way, the tastes of the strawberries and the rhubarb really come through.

Breakfast Pie

Pie, it’s what’s for breakfast

My pie dough:

Ingredients for two crust pie:

  • 2 ¼ cups (280 grams) whole wheat flour (you can use white flour here, I just like the taste of the whole wheat and how well it pairs with the strawberry and rhubarb)
  • 1/4 cup (30 grams) white flour + additional white flour for surfaces
  • 1 TBSP sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 sticks (225 g) very cold unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup ice water + 1/4 cup additional ice water


  1. Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl
  2. Cut the cold butter into cubes, add it to the dry ingredients and use a pastry blender to blend it to the “pea sized crumble” stage. Don’t over mix. And yes, a pastry blender is a little thing you use in your hand, you don’t need the stand mixer for this at all.
  3. Add 1/2 cup ice cold water and mix with a rubber spatula until things come together. Add up to ¼ cup additional water as necessary just to get the dough to stick together (add by teaspoonful)
  4. Divide dough in half, cover with plastic wrap and shape into two disks.
  5. Put the dough disks in the refrigerator for no less than 2 hours.
  6. If you’ve never done this before and need pictures to help you out, go here.
A close-up of our whimsical decorative dough cut-outs. Yes, they're cats. No, they are not evenly spaced around the edges and no, they don't all face the same direction. Cats, remember?

A close-up of our whimsical decorative dough cut-outs. Yes, they’re cats. No, they are not evenly spaced around the edges and no, they don’t all face the same direction. Cats, remember?

And that’s it. Best pie I ever made.

And if you’re wondering…

When this thing is going to be a triathlon blog again, well I’m getting on the road bike on Friday for the first time since October and tonight I am going to swim with my little Wednesday night group for the first time in over a month. Now I’ve got to stop nattering on the blog so that I can get my run in today before swim group meets. Also, I just got my MIO Link in the mail and I can now measure my heart rate without feeling like I am suffocating (claustrophobia reaction to the usual chest heart rate strap). It’s very pretty and seems to function just fine and I will write more about it when I’ve had more than one run while using it.

And also, no, I had absolutely no idea who Smitten Kitchen was until this week when I needed a good pie recipe. But giving credit where it is due is a good habit to get into. Also, she has good pie crust tutorials.

Happy Pie-ing!

Obligatory cat pictures

As I was setting up a shot of the pie with some slices taken out just to show how nice and not-runny the filling is, Captain Dukie photobombed me.

As I was setting up a shot of the pie with some slices taken out just to show how nice and not-runny the filling is, Captain Dukie photobombed me.

Then so did Devil-kitty. I then gave up on getting this shot the way I wanted it, preferably without a cat in it.

Then a minute later so did Devil-kitty. I then gave up on getting this shot the way I wanted it, preferably without a cat in it.

In which IKEA and Chocolate are more useful than not

Well, in all the excitement of marathon training and discovering the joys of pie crust (see tomorrow’s post) I somehow managed to completely lose the partially finished blog post that was to have been titled, “The Swedish Horse of Depression – How IKEA and my insufficient language skills took a perfectly reasonable quaint winter custom and turned it into something else entirely.” I will attempt to recreate that post here for your reading pleasure.

Let me explain. No, it will take too long, let me sum up.

I’ve been battling pretty hard this winter against depression. I don’t know if it’s just a really bad case of SAD, or something less winter-dependent. In any case, there have been days (weeks, really) where getting out of bed is hard, I’m so tired I feel like I can’t do anything, and that the parts of my brain that deal with decisions and anything more intellectual than watching the Musketeers on the BBC iplayer are a bit beyond my abilities. My poor Wife has been doing her best to remain cheerful and helpful throughout, but I know it’s not easy for her.

Anyway, so in a cheering-up expedition about a month or so ago, we went to IKEA, because where else would you go to remember all that is good in life? As we were heading out with our haul of meatballs, kitchen tools, bedding, and more nondescript shelving, I saw something colorful and adorable on a shelf in the food area.

It was this. A chocolate horse wrapped in brightly colored foil. I read the German description of how the Swedes would make these colorful items for their children during the long dark winter nights. And I thought, “Of course! That’s brilliant! Making chocolates during the winter to help ward off the depression that comes with twenty hours of darkness a day! We must have one!”

I then proceeded to embellish the tale with the idea that at winter’s end, there would be a great party at which much chocolate would be consumed, after the chocolate horses were broken in ceremonial fashion to signify the end of the long night and the coming of spring. It was so logical and clear in my head that I was utterly convinced that that must be what the Swedes were doing.

Then, of course, I said all this out loud to the Wife (who shall be known henceforth as the Wife Who Knows All Things about All Things, Especially Swedish Customs and IKEA Related Trivia or W.WKATATESCIRT for short) who immediately said as anyone who doesn’t inhabit my brain and correctly interpreted the explanatory sign would, “Well, no. Those horses were wood. They were brightly painted toys.” So then I was left with the question of why? Why would IKEA mislead us so?

And then I realized something Important. It didn’t matter. If the Ceremonial Breaking of the Chocolate Horse of Depression ™ was going to help me, then that is what we were going to do. And we did.

We set the Chocolate Horse of Depression ™ on the table in a suitably danger-free area.

Behold, the Chocolate Horse of Depression. (as sold by IKEA)

Behold, the Chocolate Horse of Depression. (as sold by IKEA)

Then I got one of my wooden swords out. My favorite wooden sword, in fact. (Yes, I have a favorite wooden sword. Doesn’t everyone?)

You can't actually see me in the picture, but trust me, I'm on the other end of the wooden stick.

You can’t actually see me in the picture, but trust me, I’m on the other end of the wooden stick. I believe this shot is actually me in mid-swing. Devil-kitty is not impressed.

And then I smashed the adorable, brightly-colored Chocolate Horse of Depression ™ with a few well-placed blows.

The first of which cracked it pretty neatly open.

The first of which cracked it pretty neatly open.

And after the thing was reduced to tiny little pieces, it was transferred to a bowl and symbolically consumed (Actually, no. It was literally consumed. But with symbolic meaning.)

Also, note out really clever and cool coffee table. Which is a cheap IKEA table with a sheet of glass over it and a nice selection of our race numbers as decoration.

Also, note our really clever and cool coffee table. Which is a cheap IKEA table with a sheet of glass over it and a nice selection of our race numbers as decoration.

So that is the quaint Swedish custom of breaking and eating the Chocolate Horse of Depression ™  at the end of a long winter. And I am doing better. But I have no idea if that has to do with the ceremony, the coming of spring, the 50 miles a week I’m running (And that’s a post for another day. The one about how I usually use exercise to help manage my generally mild to moderate depression, but when I reach the level of marathon and ironman training and it’s not helping, then I know there’s something NOT RIGHT with my stupid head.) or just some other utterly random event that set my brain chemistry back on the upswing to normal. In any case, I think we will be breaking the Chocolate Horse of Depression ™ every winter, possibly more than once, if necessary.

Training update: Last week was a cutback week, so only 42 miles, the week before was 52 miles and this week is another 53 miles. It’s my last high-mileage week before tapering starts. And I am right there on that razor’s edge of overtrained, so I think I did it right this time around.

Here is the teaser for tomorrow’s post:

My entirely homemade strawberry-rhubarb pie just after getting its egg yolk sponge bath and just before it went into the oven. Tune in tomorrow to see what it looked like after it was baked, along with the recipe.

My entirely homemade strawberry-rhubarb pie just after getting its egg yolk sponge bath and just before it went into the oven. Tune in tomorrow to see what it looked like after it was baked, along with the recipe.

I’ll be posting the recipe tomorrow because this is possibly the best pie I’ve ever made. It’s so good that I’m going to be making it again for my mother-in-law this weekend when they are visiting for Easter.

And finally, Devil-kitty looking especially silly:

Devil-kitty, who should possibly be called Derpy-kitty based on this photo.

Devil-kitty, who should possibly be called Derpy-kitty based on this photo.


A blog post of no real content

Going to continue blogging semi-regularly, but tonight I don’t have a whole lot to report. I only got 3 runs in this week and only 25 miles run, but I have spent the entire weekend doing martial arts and was at a workout of one sort or another every day since I got to the US. I am very much off my schedule for the month, but it really couldn’t be helped this time. I am struggling to not feel guilty for not running even though I’ve been doing lots of other things that take up all my time. I’m pretty sure that missing today’s run will not make me fail the marathon. I don’t even really know what constitutes failing a marathon. Maybe oversleeping and consequently failing to show up?

Also, I have not updated this week’s running totals for the little virtual runner’s group that I am part of (I’m running this month’s challenge) and I am also going to not feel guilty about that. I have actually been busy. So busy that I don’t really have the time to spend on the internet. Also, very tired. I hope nothing exciting happened on the internet while  I was gone and that nobody was wrong there, either.

Anyway, here’s a picture of Ron, who belongs to the friend who let me stay all week and use her internet and spare bedroom and generally disrupt her schedule for a week while I am in the US.

cat sleeping near an electric heater

Ron, keeping himself warm and toasty in front of the heater.

Mid January check-in and cat amusement

So while we were out on our run today, Captain Dukie thought he’d grab a little computer time. Somehow with his little feet, he managed to press Cntrl-Opt-Command-8. Then he was searching for some lost files. Neither he or I could actually find pOuhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh on the system, though. And normally, things are a nice cheery blue and white on this machine, not weird need-to-depress-four-keys-at-once-to-achieve inversions.

This is what I came back to:

The cat's been on the internet again...

The cat’s been on the internet again…

So, more importantly, I’m still attempting the Maffetone training, hating it slightly less, but still unsure about my belief levels.

So far, I’ve run 46 miles this year, pretty much all of it at an average HR around 140 bpm. Most of it was at something between 10:30 and 11:30 paces which is both frustrating and disappointing. It’s getting slightly better, I suppose. Last week was 27 miles running, one day of swimming, a couple of easy bike rides to town and 3 days of aikido. So, we’re taking it easy this month 😉

I have two sort of serious and important posts in the works, but the silly cats have preempted them. Later in the week I’ll get to the one where I talk about bike commuting and safety (a friend of mine almost got hit the day before yesterday) and why it’s going to be a rough transition when/if we move back to the US where the drivers see us as nuisances and not people who have a right to use the road.

Until next time, the Wife, Captain Dukie, Devil-Kitty, and I will continue to search fruitlessly, but hopefully for pOuhhhhhhhhhhh!

At least the post-run greeting committee is warm and soft, despite their inherent destructiveness.

At least the post-run greeting committee is warm and soft, despite their inherent destructiveness.



Advent 2013 Friday 13 Edition – Lembas pancakes

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)


  1. 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.
  2. Beat egg until fluffy.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Pour batter onto heated pan in pancake‐sized dollops. (About 1/4 cup)
  6. Turn pancakes when bubbles pop and the edges are slightly dry.
  7. Store in warm oven until whole batch is done.
  8. Serve with: Fruit, syrup, honey, jam, butter, etc.
Lembas pancakes with fresh fruit, honey, maple syrup and lime juice

Lembas pancakes with fresh fruit, honey, maple syrup and lime juice

Believe it or not, the Wife had never had a Mickey Mouse pancake before I made these for her last year.

Believe it or not, the Wife had never had a Mickey Mouse pancake before I made these for her last year.

Everyone should get to have Mickey Mouse pancakes made especially for them at least once.

Everyone should get to have Mickey Mouse pancakes made especially for them at least once.

Devil-kitty checks out some race swag as Captain Dukie patiently waits his turn.

Devil-kitty checks out some race swag as Captain Dukie patiently waits his turn.

And we got our first Christmas Card today! It's a gorgeous, hand made (cyborg) Qui Gon Jinn from a friend that we will hopefully be visiting in the UK next year.

And we got our first Christmas Card today! It’s a gorgeous, hand made (cyborg) Qui Gon Jinn from a friend that we will hopefully be visiting in the UK next year.

Which makes me think of my favorite Star Wars featured song…

Advent 2013 day 10 Sockgasm and cranberry desserts

I am tired so instead of recipes typed in by me, you get two that are directly from the internet.

Apple-Cranberry Pie from Runner’s World – Not the healthiest pie on the planet, but it’s got apples and fresh cranberries in it (along with cream cheese, oats, and other good things) and it was relatively fun to make and much more fun to eat.

Oatmeal Cranberry cookies – I found the recipe for these online last year and now it’s our favorite cookie. I’m making more tomorrow. These use dried cranberries and it makes them about a thousand times more interesting that cookies with raisins in them. The cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom make them really special.

The other thing that happened today besides a 25 km round trip bike ride to get my regular (every 2 months) bloodwork done – necessary to make sure my meds aren’t destroying my liver and to make sure I’m still basically mostly healthy – and the usual 3.5 hours of Aikido and a ton of work in between those two things is that I got to wear my new Christmas socks today. We exchanged gifts early because I am a five-year-old and couldn’t wait.

The feeling I get when I get to wear a new and soft pair of socks for the first time can be described better in German: Sockenvergnügen. Apparently this word did not exist until I entered Germany. The best English translation is: Sockgasm!

These big, fluffy socks have fleece on the inside. It's sort of like getting to wear Devil-Kitty on my feet all day long. He's in awe of the socks.

These big, fluffy socks have fleece on the inside. It’s sort of like getting to wear Devil-Kitty on my feet all day long. He’s demonstrating what the inside of these socks feel like for us.

In lieu of music today, here’s David Sedaris reading his hilarious Christmas essay 6 to 8 Black Men.

Advent 2013 Day 8 Lazy Sundays

Which for us means that we do the weekly long run sometime in the afternoon after a late breakfast (waffles today) and general lazing about for a couple of hours. So I ran 9 miles this week, all of them today. The Wife ran 23, a much more reasonable number and appropriately spread out throughout the week. Today’s run was nice, through fields, up over a couple of really tall overpasses, along the river and back through the scenic industrial park trail. Incidentally, that last is not meant ironically. They actually have set up a scenic walking/biking trail that borders on the industrial park and various fields and forests on the other side. It comes complete with informative plaques and scenic overlooks. We wore our matching bright orange hoodies and as usual got more than our fair share of smiles and waves. I actually look utterly ridiculous in it, especially when I’ve got the hood up, which I did for most of the run today.

I told you I looked ridiculous in it. This is immediately post-run being greeted at the door by Devil-Kitty

I told you I looked ridiculous in it. This is immediately post-run being greeted at the door by Devil-Kitty. The Wife likes the silly frizz halo that you can see escaping the dorky hood. What? My ears were warm!

Then when we got back, we had a typical lazy meal, made with chicken legs bought fresh from one of the poultry stalls at the weekly farmers market. They actually do taste better than the frozen ones from the store, even the organic ones.

Chicken Rub Chicken

No, this is not an order. Stop it, chickens! Ahem. Serves 2. These are great with a steamed vegetable and some mashed potatoes or baked sweet potatoes. We make this on days when we don’t want to think about what to cook.


  • 2 chicken legs
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp paprika powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F.
  2. Mix the spices on a small plate. Variation is encouraged – the only things that I always end up putting in are the salt, pepper, and paprika, so if you prefer e.g. cumin, curry powder, or chili powder, feel free to add that to the mix instead. But try the cinnamon at least once – it’s really excellent with chicken!
  3. With your fingertips, rub the spice mixture all over the chicken legs until they’re evenly coated and, for most given versions of spice mixture, red.
  4. Place chicken legs on a on a piece of aluminum foil with the edges folded up, and stick in the oven on the middle rack. Bake for about 25‐30 minutes. If you’re making a potato side dish, it’s a good idea to start the potatoes now – then everything will be ready together!
Today's Chicken Rub Chicken with mashed potatoes (and goat cheese instead of milk or sour cream) and some nice steamed snap peas

Today’s Chicken Rub Chicken with mashed potatoes (and goat cheese replacing some of the usual milk and sour cream) and some nice steamed snap peas

On today’s run, I listened to Paul Simon’s Graceland all the way through from start to finish and was reminded once again of just how excellent this album really is. I’ve been listening to Graceland for 27 years at this point and it still hasn’t gotten old for me.

Here’s Rhymin’ Simon singing it in 1991 at the Concert in Central Park (which I was at, at the expense of a final exam in physics)

And me at Graceland with my traveling companion in 1990 when we did one of those things that you can only do in the invincible stupidity of youth. We spent two months on the road as we drove off to look for America, New York to San Francisco by way of Nashville, Memphis, New Orleans, Austin, the Grand Canyon, the New Mexican desert, and the Pacific ocean.

Me and a friend, going to Graceland, 1990

Me and a friend, going to Graceland, 1990

And cat-hats are the latest trend, really they are. And they do wonders for keeping the ears warm.

Devil-kitty as fascinator. Many thanks to the Bloggess for the inspiration.

Devil-kitty as fascinator. Many thanks to the Bloggess for the inspiration.

Advent 2013 Day 6 – Pagan Pears

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!

christmascats.tv on their lunch break. They're adorable, especially the ones in sweaters. Devil-kitty won't wear sweaters.

christmascats.tv on their lunch break. They’re adorable, especially the ones in sweaters. Devil-kitty won’t wear sweaters.

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.

Advent 2013 Day 3 Motivation is hard, spinach is easy

I haven’t run, swum, or biked yet today and it’s already mid afternoon. Sure, I’ll be spending 3 hours later today doing martial arts, but does that really count as exercise? I’d like to think it does, but there’s always that part of my brain that says no, if it’s not swim-bike-run then it somehow doesn’t count. Which is ridiculous as the damp and sweaty stink of my dogi can attest. I shall now tell that part of my brain to shut up.

“Shut up, brain!” (Apologies to Jens Voigt for co-opting and corrupting one of his signature phrases…)

I know how stupidly hard the off-season can be to all of us, especially when it’s coupled with the stress of holidays. So let’s give ourselves permission to be a little indulgent, run (or other cross training – maybe ice skating with the kids?) because we want to, eat because food is good, and generally be good to ourselves (and each other) this season.

With that in mind, when I asked the Wife what I should do with the bag of spinach in fridge yesterday, it really wasn’t a difficult decision. So, in the spirit of indulgence and being good to ourselves, here’s our favorite spinach recipe (not particularly healthy or vegetarian). Later in the month, I’ll post some of my much healthier alternatives.

Spinach al Forno

Otherwise known in our house as Spinach Porn because with all this lovely cheese it’s pretty much the sexiest and most overindulgent thing that you can do to spinach and still call it food.

We happened upon this a while ago in the favorite Italian restaurant of a good friend of ours and knew immediately that we had to recreate it. We’ve given it a bit of a twist with the cheeses that we use and this version involves sheep, goats, and cows. Really, the cheese choice is up to you but we recommend using one hard cheese like parmesan, one crumbly cheese like feta and one soft cheese like ricotta or anything like that.

This will serve 2 as a main course or 4 as an appetizer.


  • 1/2 kg (1 pound) fresh spinach
  • 1 small to medium onion (chopped)
  • 3 cloves garlic (finely diced)
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup parmesian, asiago, or other hard cheese (finely grated)
  • 100 g (3.5 oz.) feta or other crumbly cheese (crumbled)
  • 100 g (3.5 oz.) ricotta or other soft cheese
  • 100 ml (1/2 c) heavy cream


  1. Preheat oven to 175 °C (350 °F)
  2. Lightly coat a small casserole pan or baking dish (8″ x 8″ or equivalent) with olive oil
  3. Wash spinach, remove stems, and cut or tear into small pieces
  4. Heat a large frying or sauté pan to medium with ½ the olive oil
  5. Add the onion and sauté for about 2 minutes
  6. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes
  7. Add the rest of the olive oil and about 1/3 of the spinach. Continue adding spinach as its volume reduces until all the spinach is soft but still bright green
  8. Remove from heat
  9. In a separate bowl, mix the crumbled feta, the soft cheese, and the heavy cream with 1/2 the parmesan.
  10. Add the spinach and mix thoroughly
  11. Transfer to the baking dish and cover with remaining parmesan
  12. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes until cheese on top is golden brown but not burned.

OK, all this spinach love reminds me how much I love my vegetables, so even though I said I’d post flutes today, instead, I’m going to give you a vegetable double feature:

and now instead of music about vegetables, how about music with vegetables?

A cat sleeping on a bed

Yes, Devil-Kitty has his very own pillow on the bed. And all this talk of cooking and exercise and vegetables has tired him out