Saturday, October 23, 2010

Cyclocross Race Weekend

Another busy weekend awaits us. As the end of cyclocross season come towards an end, the number of events has increased exponentially. On the list of events for today, a cyclocross event  early in the morning at Terry Hershey Park where Brad would be attending his first sanctioned ride. He's been looking forward to this all week so I wanted to be there to capture some moments for him.

Waiting for the fun to begin at the start line. 

Brad took off with a group of about 20 men and 2 women. When he came back around the bend he was about 10 people from the leader. Jodi and I cheered for him to let him know to push it. As he completed his first lap, I noticed that he had moved up some in the standings and was now around 7th place. From previous races, I know that as long as Brad can keep his pace he will continue to move up in the rank as riders fatigue and drop off. As we waited for him to come back around the bend and rush past us again, I started to wonder why he hadn't come past yet. Waiting....waiting....waiting. Then I see Brad walking his bike back to the start line. Damn.

Flat front tire. Needless to say, his race for today was over at the point. He took it well, but I know he was fuming inside and quite upset. 

We have another race tomorrow up in the Woodlands, so hopefully he'll get some better luck and finish the race strong. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Marinated Goat Cheese

With Brad out of town this weekend working at the Bike Around the Bay ride, I decided to take advantage of the empty house and have some friends over for a girls night in. With the help of my friend Keslie, we decided on a theme of "Cupcakes and Cocktails." We threw around various ideas for our shindig such as "Let Them Eat Cake" a Marie Antoinette theme complete with every desert possible and champagne and "Cheerio at the English Pub" with English pub food including fish and chips, steak and ale pie, and beer. We ultimately chose "Cupcakes and Cocktails" because Keslie is an aspiring Martha Stewart with her baking habit and cupcakes are one item she loves to make.

(I cheated and bought my selection of cupcakes from Crave. I'm not Martha Stewart like Keslie)

To counteract the sweetness of the cupcakes, I picked a handful of side dishes to snack on. I made a Mexican Pot Sticker, Bruschetta on french baguette, and Marinated Goat Cheese. I decided not to make the baguette this time as I wanted to make sure it came out right so I bought a loaf at the farmers market this morning. I'm still working on my bread making skills, but I promise when I get baguettes figured out I'll show you on here. The marinated goat cheese on baguette was delicious. There is something about goat cheese that I love. It's tangy, smooth, and is wonderful on bread. This appetizer is super easy to make and something that can be easily thrown together if you are in a rush before a get together. 

Marinated Goat Cheese
(adapted from Umami Girl

1 log of goat cheese (~8 oz)
1/4 cup of EVOO
Fresh thyme springs
Pinch of sea salt and fresh ground pepper
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 clove of garlic, minced

Place goat cheese in a small dish. Pour olive oil over the log and then sprinkle with remaining ingredients. Cover and let rest in refrigerator or at least 1 hour and up to a couple of days. Prior to enjoying, remove from refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to allow cheese to soften for easy spreading. 

Spread onto french baguette or crackers. 

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Yetti Cross

The cooler (albeit slight) temperatures of the "fall" in Houston mean the start of cyclocross racing for Brad. This year is Brad's second year to race in the local event called Yetti Cross. Last year the race location was minutes from our place downtown and this year they moved the new location to again minutes from our place out of the city limits. Lucky us! For those unfamiliar with cyclocross, its a racing event which I would describe as a mix of road bike crits with mountain bike terrain. Bikes typically consist of road style bikes, with beefier breaks and tires to handle the ground. Obstacles are part of the course with several where riders have to dismount, jump over some obstacle (tree log, board plank, etc) and remount and continue pushing on. It doesn't look easy....

So for your viewing pleasure, here is my man looking all sorts of fine in his bike gear working hard!

Our bestest couple friends, Jody and Keslie, even came out to support Brad one Wednesday evening. Don't think look thrilled to be there....

I tried out the camera mode on my point and shoot to see if I could get some fun video shots of him jumping an obstacle. Excuse the crazy cheering fiance.....

Sunday, September 19, 2010

I guess the surprise is on me

My Sunday started with a nice mountain bike ride down Terry Hershey Park to scoop out the new Yetti Cross course for Brad's first race on Wednesday. We needed a relaxing day after celebrating my 30th birthday this week. After all, I'm old now. Afterwards, we jetted to the grocery store since we had nothing left in the fridge. You see, we had a birthday party to participate in later in the day and knew we wouldn't be able to do our normal Sunday evening shopping. Our good friend Maxx was getting older and we needed to make sure he knew it in the best way possible....celebration!! With Maxx's present in tow we headed to his house. 

We arrive to the party. There was a bit of confusion....

Wait a minute, you guys aren't friends with Maxx...

Some tears and finger pointing accusations....

Cupcakes found their way into the mix....

Fake presents were opened...

Bubble wrap became a crowd pleaser....

We had a few drinks....

Which lead to some rocking out...

Brad had a little too much fun and fell onto his knee...

A bit more tears came out....

Advice was promptly given....

Then everyone smiled and said cheese.

I guess the surprise was on me. Thank you to Terry and Nancy for capturing all the photos of our special day. 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The last days of my youth (i.e. I'm turning FREAKING 30!!)

For the last 364 days I've been dreading what tomorrow is going to bring. Not only will I add another decade onto my life, but I'll be entering a completely different mindset in life. No longer will I be upset if I'm carded buying alcohol, I'll be upset if they don't card me cause I'm obviously way above the legal age. I don't have to eagerly wait to get lower auto insurance premiums cause I'll be looking for my seniors discount soon. Ugh, 10 more years until I have to have mamograms!! It's just depressing thinking about getting older. 

Although the idea of getting older makes me miserable, I thought maybe if I reminded myself of what my 20's brought me it may help prepare me for what my 30's will bring. 

Summer of 2000 and 2001
Worked as a counselor at Camp Saginaw in Oxford, PA where I met my best friend, Gemma. My summers were spent helping with swim lessons, comforting home-sick 6-10 year olds, folding endless loads of laundry, and meeting some of the best people I've ever met. My "american" accent was made fun of constantly and I learned way more about vegemite then I ever cared to. 

May 2005
Graduated 2nd in my class from the University of Kansas School of Pharmacy with a Doctor of Pharmacy degree! That's Dr. Starla to you buddy. Following graduation, I promptly packed up all my stuff and the kitties and moved out to Cincinnati, OH to start my residency at University Hospital. It was scary to move further than a 45 min drive from my parents, but I needed to get my career completed. 

June 2007
Finished two hellish years of residency in Cincinnati where I specialized in Oncology Pharmacy. Two years filled with accomplishment, progress, satisfaction, sadness, heartbreak, and self-renewal. Although those years brought a large share of all the hurt I've ever felt in my life, I firmly believe that the person I am today was created by my need to be myself and find out who I really am. 

March 2008
Traveled to New York City to meet up with my best friend Gemma and take in the city sights. Gemma flew all the way from England to hang out with me in the Big Apple. As both first-timers we successfully maneuvered around the subway system, saw a broadway musical, saluted the giant lady of the country, and took in the never sleeping city at full force. 

July 2008
Became a world traveler for the 1st time in my life by getting my passport and flying away to the "one happy island" in the Caribbean. Aruba was my first taste of life outside the states. I traveled the island in a jeep reaching places not reached by most tourist, snorkeled at a sunken ship wreak, and soaked in the tropical sun while drinking fruity drinks on the tranquil beaches. 

November 2009
Met and fell in love with the man of my dreams. He didn't know it at the time, but I knew by the time this picture was taken at Thanksgiving that he was the one. He's filled my life with adventure, passion, giggles, and most certainly love. 

January 2009
Purchased my first bike and started a hobby/lifestyle that will last until I am shriveled and dead or unable to use my legs. Through Brad I found a group of riding friends,  the Road Rascals, who lead me in developing my biking skills and pushed me to go further than I dreamed possible. Less than 3 months after getting my bike, I completed my first MS 150 ride from Houston to Austin and stood beside my friends in Austin celebrating our achievement. 

February 2009
Shredded for the first time in my life at Winter Park in Colorado. Despite having wicked altitude sickness from going from sea level to 10,700 feet in a matter of a few hours, Brad and I managed to ride bikes down the mountain in the dark guided only by head lamps, snowboard for 2 days, injure my wrist, and drive the jeep in crazy blowing snow. 

April 11, 2010
I lost a part of my heart and soul on this day. The man of my life, my father, was taken away from us this day. My heart aches still so much and I miss him more than words can describe. I miss everything about him and everything that was to come, walking me down the aisle "one of these days" and having grandchildren that he can love. More than anything, I miss my father for making me laugh and inspiring a rivalry passion that noone can ever compete with. 

May 2010
Stretched my wings a little further and ventured over to Europe for a trip of a lifetime. Brad and I flew into London to spend time with my best friend, Gemma, then hopped on the Eurorail to the city of love, Paris. From Paris we traveled further south to the Cote d' Azure in Nice, France. Here we logged our most epic bike ride ever, we climbed to the top of the Col de Madone (975 m or ~3500 ft in 9 miles). 

Monday, September 6, 2010

The fruits of labor

Fresh baked french bagette + a dollop of goat cheese + slow roasted tomatoes = heaven

Slow Roasted Tomatoes

It's nearing the end of the summer and sure enough the farmers markets and stores are full of fresh fruit and vegetables. One item that I see an abundance of but have never been able to fully enjoy each season is tomatoes. Other than in pico or salsa, tomatoes have not become an integral part of my cooking, likely due to taste issues from both of us. I've really wanted to find a way to love tomatoes like I do the other vegetables I eat on a consistent basis because of the additional nutrients it would add. In my endless food blog stalking, I found a recipe for slow roasted tomatoes at Pinch My Salt that looked tempting. I wondered if Brad would even give it a try since he's a tomato hater. So on the night we invited our friends Keslie and Jody over for dinner I decided to give it a try, since I knew that Keslie would eat anything related to tomatoes. 

Let's just say....there was none left over by the end of the night. Brad and Jody, both veggie haters even enjoyed them. As Brad said, they taste like marinara sauce. 

This recipe is incredibly easy and most people probably already have the ingredients in their cabinets. First get as many tomatoes as you desire. I figure if I'm going to be keeping the oven on for quite a few hours, I might as well make up a huge batch. You can store them for later, the ones you don't devour after they are finished baking, by placing them in a container with some olive oil and placing in the fridge. You can also freeze them in plastic bags for several months as well, if they last that long. As far which tomatoes to use, just about any will do. I've used small cherry, grape, or pear tomatoes because they are a bit sweeter and take less time to roast, but Roma tomatoes will also work. 

After washing the tomatoes and slicing them in half, lay them cut side up on a cooking pan lined with parchment paper. Drizzle the tomatoes with olive oil and season with a bit of corse kosher salt. For the additional seasonings, any Italian type of herb will work (thyme, oregano, rosemary, fennel seed, and marjoram). For the latest batch I made, I mixed even amounts of thyme and oregano, and added a little bit of marjoram and dried rosemary. It's best, especially if you use fennel seeds, to grind them up to a fine powder with either a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder. Since I had neither, I opted to not use fennel seeds, and just used my dried herbs. Sprinkle the herb mixture on top of all the tomatoes and make sure everything is coated evenly. Throw some unpeeled garlic cloves on the pan as well. 

Heat the oven to 225 degrees and cook for 3-4 hours. Enjoy the lovely smells throughout your entire house while they cook. The cooking time will depend on the size of the tomatoes. When I've used cherry tomatoes, between 3-4 hours worked great. Just watch them starting early in the cooking time. They are done when they are shriveled but still have a bit of moisture left. 

Although I'd love to eat them all up right now, I need to keep some of these for future hungry times. I used a canning jar, filled it with tomatoes, place a few garlic cloves in there, added some olive oil and store it in the fridge. 

Slow-Roasted Cherry Tomatoes (adapted from Pinch My Salt)
Cherry, grape or pear tomatoes (or whatever tomatoes you like)
Garlic cloves, unpeeled
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Combination of dried Italian herbs (such as fennel, oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary)
- Cut enough tomatoes to fill the sheet pan (about 2 small baskets should do the trick) and place them cut-side up on the parchment paper.  Scatter a handful of unpeeled garlic cloves throughout the tomatoes. Preheat oven to 225 degrees.
- Drizzle olive oil all over the tomatoes and garlic, then sprinkle lightly with kosher salt.
- Mix together some dried Italian herbs and grind the herbs into a powder using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle then sprinkle evenly over the tomatoes. You can also omit grinding the herbs if you aren't using fennel seeds.
- Bake at 225 degrees for 3-4 hours, or until they have shriveled but still contain a bit of moisture inside.  The time will depend on the size of your tomatoes, so start checking early.
- Let cool and eat immediately or store in a covered container with a bit of olive oil in the refrigerator.  

Here are some other slow-roasted tomatoes recipes from different food bloggers:
 Slow-Roasted Tomatoes at Kalyn's Kitchen
Slow Roasted Tomatoes at Smitten Kitchen