Saturday, November 26, 2011

Tarte Tatin and Thanksgiving

We had SNG's family here for Thanksgiving, and between the wonderful food, the wonderful company, and the wonderful weather, it was definitely a highlight of the season.

The day started with a running race, of course. E-baby and I participated in the Inside Out Sports Turkey Trot 8K and kids' 100 M dash. There was also a one-mile fun-run, which really we should have entered SNG in, but there was no one to chase him, so I doubt he'd have crossed the starting line. I was happy with my time -- 5 miles in 48 minutes -- and e-baby made lots of new friends at the kids' run.

Her race was exciting. There were probably 80 kids lined up at the start, and most of them were bigger than e-baby. They took off like a shot. She ran her tiny legs as hard as they'd go. Like her mommy, she isn't the fastest in the field. And I think she was surprised to find that, just short of the finish line, her legs were hurting. I held her hand and we crossed the finish line together, and she got a red ribbon for finishing. This mommy couldn't have been more proud if e-baby had finished a marathon.

Back at the house, SNG, Dianaverse, my mother-in-law and I contributed dishes to the Thanksgiving meal, which consisted of:
Two kinds of stuffing
Garlic mashed potatoes
Fresh cranberry sauce
Bacon-hazelnet brussels sprouts
Steamed broccoli
Sauteed shiitake mushrooms (from Dianaverse's mushroom farm)
Apple pie
Blueberry pie
Sweet potato pie
Key lime pie
Walnut pie (Oh.My.Gosh.)
Watermelon cream pie
Cranberry-orange bread
Chocolate-blueberry bread

And because six pies and two dessert breads weren't enough, I made something sweet on Friday. It started with a recipe for Pear, Apple, and Cranberry Tarte Tatin at, but I modified it substantially for healthier tastes (and, it was killing me to try to resist all the leftover pie). It's kind of interesting because you make it upside-down, and cook the fruit on the stovetop before putting the crumble crust on top and baking it. Then you turn it out onto a plate and it is all sweet and tart and the flavors have integrated but the top is still crispy and comforting.

It was tasty as a dessert, yet still good enough for you to be a high-fiber, low-glycemic breakfast.

Cumble crust:
  1/2 c wheat germ
  1/2 c Ezekiel cereal
  1/2 c old fashioned oats
  2 T granulated Truvia
  3 T butter, cubed into little tiny pieces
  3 T cold water

Fruity part:
  2 ripe, peeled pears, thinly sliced (double this if you prefer)
  1 large cooking apple (honeycrisp, jazz, fuji, granny smith), peeled and thinly sliced (double this if you prefer)
  4 T Truvia*
  1 T molasses*
  1 T agave nectar*
  2 T butter
  1 t cinnamon
  1/2 t ginger
  1 c fresh cranberries (double this if you prefer)

To make crumble crust:
Combine crust ingredients except for water in a bowl and mash with a fork until the butter and grains are close to the consistency of breadcrumbs. Set aside.

Cook fruit:
Put butter, sweeteners, cinnamon and ginger in a 10" skillet over medium-low heat. Thoroughly melt butter and stir until well combined, but not sizzling. Remove from heat.
Starting in center, arrange apple and pear slices in concentric rings, overlapping a little with each slice. Make as many layers as you need to (I had 2 layers with 2 pears and 1 apple). Sprinkle cranberries on top.
Return pan to stove at med-low heat and cook until the sauce simmers. Turn heat to low and cover. Simer for 5 minutes. Remove cover and swirl fruit around to mix with sauce a bit. Continue cooking, uncovered, 7-11 more minutes or until sauce has thickened to a runny caramel consistency. Remove from heat.

Add 3 T cold water to crust crumble mix and knead with hands. Mash dough in hands to make little "pancakes" and lay them on the tart, placing them so that they touch until the entire tart is completely covered.

Put in 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes.
Remove tart from the oven and let it rest at least 20 minutes. Put a plate over the pan and carefully turn it over. Jiggle the pan a little to be sure it all falls into place before lifting the pan. Serve warm. If you are of a sinful persuasion, serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

* this is to replace 1/2 c brown sugar. I have found this combination to be the best balance of taste and sugar content, but you could use whatever you want here.

Football played on the TV all day. The Cowboys won and the Longhorns won. We forgot all about war, economic downturns, political corruption, and petty concerns for the day. I hope your Thanksgiving was full of as many reasons to be thankful for this wonderful life as mine was.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A dozen lessons from a half-dozen triathlons

I received an email in May about the Ramblin Rose Women-only Triathlon. The tag line: YOU CAN DO THIS. I had not done a triathlon in six years. Two weeks later, as prophesied, I did it. My swimming was abonimable, but it was great fun. Afterwards, I resolved to do one triathlon a month until the season ended.
May: Ramblin Rose Raleigh
June: The Smile Train
July: Triangle Triathlon
August: Rex Wellness Triathlon
September: Dash for Divas
October: Sportsplex Triathlon
In the spirit of progress, here are things I learned throughout the season... some of which I learned the hard way.
1. WARM UP, YOU GOOF! It may be fine to workout without a warmup, but on race day, warming up puts your mind in the right place.
2. Make friends with neighbors in the transition area and in swim start. It reduces nerves, and gives you someone to look for along the course.
3. Check the bike for mechanicals before the race. Chains fall off and brakes get disconnected.
4. Transition times can cost you several places on overall rankings. If you aren’t going to win anyway, it probably doesn’t matter.
5. The only people who passed me on the bike this year were guys sporting $12K worth of triathlon gear and 30lb of extra gut. That stuff must really work.
6. There are a lot of men with $12K worth of gear and 30lb of extra gut.
7. There are a lot of women with department store bikes and 30lb of extra gut.
8. There of no women with $12K gear and a gut, and no men with department store bikes and a gut. Also, for the record I never saw a woman with a TT helmet. TT helmets are a little bit silly for a sprint triathlon.
9. For me, swimming is best treated as a slow, zen-like process. It will end. I will not drown. I will not beat anybody. In the meantime, I'm weightless. Enjoy the feeling.
10. Triathlon is a solitary sport. Open your eyes and enjoy the scenery. Open your ears and enjoy the rhythmic sound of your own breath.
11. The Music. Really. Really. Sucks. Really. A lot. At women-only races, it is even worse.
12. The best feeling in a race: when somebody cheers for you by name (even a stranger). If that somebody is your husband, or your parents, it’s extra motivating, If it’s your own kids, it’s a dose of heaven.
I hope to resume the one-tri-a-month schedule next Spring, and in the meantime I am planning for one running event a month. We will see how that goes.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Guy Fawkes Day 2011

Last night we celebrated our annual Guy Fawkes Day bonfire and effigy roast. I can't recall which years we have missed, but this year was different in two respects.

1. It was the first year that nearly everyone had kids.
2. We didn't have our effigies made in advance.

I can't help but think these facts are somehow related.

Like other years, it was a night to remember, and a reminder of how much I love having parties at my house. Yes, even with a dozen kids under 6 running around breaking stuff. Even with all that, I was in hog heaven.

Some highlights, starting with injuries, because they're the most fun to talk about:
* Right before the party, I sliced my thumb open. If not for the party, I would have gone for stitches. Let's hope double-wrapped bandage and triple antibiotic heal it up well enough.
* E-baby had her lip busted by a swat from a kid who was mad that she told him to quiet down. She probably didn't say it very quietly herself...
* Jambuca cut his chin falling in the yard.
* We burned effigies of Guy, Parliament, cancer, mosquitos, roaches, a pop star from the 80s, a wicked kitty cat, the Morrisville town council, a drumstick, and I can't remember what else. If any of this sounds offensive, then you weren't there.
* For the first time, someone got snippy with me about throwing junk onto the bonfire (like candy wrappers and messed-up marshmallows from s'mores). Good thing he wasn't around the year we almost blew up my coworker with a 2-liter bottle.
* We used all of my plastic plates. Not sure that has ever happened before. None of them ended up on the fire. Also a first.
* As the party wound down to the last 5 or 6 guests, we pulled out the digeridoos and the ukulele for a live performance by e-baby and jambuca around the campfire. They serenaded us with Frere Jacques, Mr Golden Sun, Twinkle Twinkle, some homespun stories, and a lengthy jam-session ode to nature. Quite a show.

Upon reflection, it is a lot harder to throw a big party when there are a dozen little tykes letting the good times roll, but it's still worth it to spend some no-manners-necessary time with good friends. I hope other people had a good time, too.