Cheers & Cheese

I’d like to talk about a little something called a cheese plate. Or in this case cheese plates.

This is in my opinion, the best way to spend a small chunk of money on a date night. So of course, this was how I chose to celebrate my marathon with my husband.

The bare essentials of a good wine and cheese course: wine, cheese and bread. But I suggest adding a few other additions to taste different flavors in your wine. Here’s my suggestion for the course. 

Start with wine. Pick one that you know you’ll enjoy, with a lot of flavor. I prefer dry wines, and would suggest staying away from sweet unless you’re planning on a dessert course.

Next, find a place that sells good quality cheese. There’s a place near Amish country that I like to go for cheese. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s are great options, too. 

Pick a variety of cheeses that will pair well with your wine. This time around I bought a sage flavored cheese, smoked gouda and Irish cheddar. Yum!

Next, pick a few of the following:
-          Dark chocolate
-          Dried cherries or raisins
-          Flavored honey
-          Jam
-          Apple slices
-          Grapes
-          Fresh salad greens
-          Baguette slices
-          Crackers
-          Olives
-          Cured meats
-          Smoked salmon
-          The sky’s the limit, really

Next, arrange everything real pretty. Presentation is key. 

Get out some wine glasses. And some small plates. And have yourself a good time. 



Reaching a Goal is Bittersweet

On October 16, at the Columbus Marathon, I achieved a personal goal I’ve been working toward for the past year. I got a personal best for my marathon time, 3:33:49, and qualified for the Boston Marathon. I can’t quite put into words how amazing it feels to work so hard over months of training to achieve a goal. And then to actually do it. 

Running the marathon started out the way they always do. A slight feeling of waking up from a dream and being thrown into a crowd of people. Waiting in line for almost an hour to use the bathroom. Suddenly, everyone is running. Legs and arms are moving fast, but your mind is still numb from the cold and waking up at 5:30 a.m. You know you’re trained, tapered, “ready.” But there’s a little voice inside of you saying “can I really do this?” And then another voice says, “too late to turn back!” 

I ran the first half pretty quick, with minutes to spare ahead of my goal time. I was feeling great right around mile thirteen. And then all of the half-marathoners veered off to their finish line, and I had to run another thirteen miles! From a combination of this mental frustration, and losing electrolytes and dehydration, I got a horrible cramp from about mile 15 to 17. Somehow, I pushed through this excruciating pain, and by mile 20 I knew deep down that I could finish strong. 

The last six miles required my complete focus—mentally, physically and spiritually. If you were cheering for me during the last few miles I’m sure you saw this look on my face. Focus. 

Crossing the finish line, seeing Joel’s face in the crowd, I said emphatically “I did it!” After shoving a Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pie and some Snowville Creamery chocolate milk down, I spent the next few days relishing in the achievement with the people I love most. It was one of my best moments from the past several years. 

So now what? Right after the race, I stared researching marathons in the other six continents (oh yeah, Antarctica too). Realistically, I’m not sure if I’ll ever make it to the Great Wall of China or the polar circle, but this obsessing over races made me realize that I need another goal or I might go crazy.   

It’s a strange feeling to have accomplished a huge goal and be proud of it, but simultaneously realize that I need something else to work towards now. I’m still working on that, but I hope to run a half marathon in the spring and compete in a triathlon next summer, too.  

On a final note, I finished the marathon with an overwhelming sense of gratitude to God for keeping me healthy and blessing me with amazing, supportive husband, parents, siblings and friends. I am grateful beyond words for the love and support that receive from each one of you.


It's Marathon Week

I’d like to start off by saying that it’s been a busy few months. Marathon training has taken up a significant part of my free time, and it’s honestly been hard to keep up with writing on this blog! Having said that, it’s now marathon week and I’m internally a combination of anxious, energetic, exhausted and ruminating. I have moments where I just want to stay inside and focus until the day of the race. But then there are plenty of other things to fill my time. 

A week ago Joel and I went on a camping and backpacking trip to the Smokey Mountains. A-maz-ing! It is absolutely beautiful there. During the week I was only able to go on one run, but a full day’s worth of hiking up a mountain is pretty good training, too. Here we are at the top of Mount Le Conte, inside the National Park.

It’s wonderful the perspective that going on vacation brings. Especially one where your time is spent enjoying life without the conveniences of microwaves, refrigerators and (embarrassingly enough) even showers. Being outdoors really brings life to your body and soul. Joel and I went on a trail run on a path in the mountains that ran right alongside a small river. Who needs an iPod when you have the background soundtrack of real, roaring running water?! We did have to use caution though; if you stare at the view too much you could fall on the rocks. 

This past week I started something I’m calling a “Cookbook Club” with several of my friends. We’re reviewing and using a cookbook or cooking blog, similar to what you’d do with a traditional book club. Then we meet and all bring some tasty food we’ve made based on the recipes in the book or blog. 

For the first meeting we read Yotam Ottolenghi’scookbook, Ottolenghi. I made a version of this Wild Rice Salad. It is a delicious combination of textures, flavors and types of ingredients. It has a nice presentation – it looks appetizing, nutritious and complex. I present to you this lovely rice salad. 

Wild Rice Salad with Pine Nuts and Sour Cherries

Adapted from the Guardian

¾ cup wild rice 
1 cup basmati rice 
½ cup quinoa 
¼ cup skin-on almonds, roughly chopped 
¼ cup pine nuts 
½ cup olive oil
2 onions, peeled and finely sliced 
3 tablespoons roughly chopped parsley 
1 ½ tablespoons roughly chopped basil 
several handfuls of arugula 
½ cup dried sour cherries 
juice of one lemon, plus grated zest of 1 lemon 
2 garlic cloves, crushed 
Salt and black pepper

Cook each of the grains (wild rice, basmati rice and quinoa) in separate containers a few minutes short of the recommended time on the package directions (al dente). Add about a tablespoon of olive oil and salt to each along with water prior to cooking.

Allow the grains to cool to room temperature. 

Put the almonds and pine nuts in a pan with a tablespoon of olive oil and some sea salt. Cook on medium-low heat for three to four minutes, stirring. Take off the heat when the pine nuts begin to brown. Don’t burn them! They burn easily and quickly. 

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan and add the chopped onion and chopped garlic. Cook on medium high heat for five minutes, stirring often, until they begin to brown. Drain on paper towel. 

Put all the grains in a mixing bowl, along with the herbs, arugula, onion, garlic, nuts and sour cherries. Mix the lemon juice, zest, remaining olive oil, half a teaspoon of salt and several grinds of fresh pepper. Pour the dressing over the salad and stir. Allow flavors to set at least 15 minutes before serving at room temperature. 

Serves about 6 – 8 as a side.