The Long Long Run

Posted: November 9, 2010 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: Johanna | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

I apologize for the size of that photo up there, and for the fact that the goldish medal reflected on my teeth, making them look yellow. But I get to post one huge photo. I have earned this gigantic photo. Because this photo?

It was taken after I finished my first marathon.

On Sunday. The 2010 ING New York City Marathon. I averaged an 11:34 minute/mile pace over 26.2 miles, finishing in 5 hours, 2 minutes, and 48 seconds. I whailed into a wall at the 23rd mile, and was totally cooked when I crossed the line, but I ran 26.2 miles. And a year ago, I hadn’t even completed a 4-mile run yet. This is a fact.

I don’t know if any of you know any long distance runners (besides those of you who were out there cheering for me on Sunday, and to whom I am therefore eternally grateful), but they’re very interesting creatures.
Distance runners are constantly doing battle, waging war. We fight the weather, the elements, often running in the cold, the oppressive heat and humidity, or the rain/sleet/snow if we have to. We fight our friends and family members, who sometimes unknowingly make us think we can’t do it, or try to convince us to skip a run or not prepare properly the night before. We fight the distance, aiming to beat it and better it. We fight our bodies, our doubts, the pain and the sweat. We are constantly fighting.
And after all that work, most of us never even win. 44,829 people finished the New York City marathon this year. Only 4 of them came in first place. The rest of us? We did something that maybe we never knew we could do. I sure did.

50 weeks after I ran my first road race, I completed my first marathon. I’ve been training for 4 months. 3 times a week, every week, for 4 months, I ran. I didn’t drink on Fridays because I knew that I had to get up and do a long training run on Saturdays. I sweated through runs increasing from 9 miles to 20 miles. I covered 20 miles TWICE. And in the end, it all came down to 5 hours of my life. And I did it. I have never been as proud as I was on Sunday when I crossed the finish line. Except when they gave me my medal, and my mylar cape, and I was able to see my family and friends after and celebrate.

Sunday’s run was amazing. It was painful. It was difficult and it was glorious and I cried more tears than I knew I had to cry, and I am in more pain than I ever imagined I would be. I am grateful for every person in Bay Ridge, who gave me high fives and yelled “Go Yosie” at me, for getting me off to a happy start. I am thankful for every band that was out on the route, even the ones I didn’t listen to that closely. I am thankful for every single footstep, because I never knew I would take them all at once.
I ran 10 wonderful miles. I ran 8 Ok miles. I hit the Bronx and felt like hell, but somehow the pace picked up. And then I hit Central Park. And everything slowed way down. But I ran.

I am glad for every supporter in Brooklyn, for my wonderful friends who cheered me on in Queens. For the present Pretty Girls, all of whom were out to support me and cheer for me, who stood in the wind and held up signs and screamed. I am glad that when I hit the Queensboro bridge just before mile 15, I knew that I could get to the other side if I had to crawl, and I am glad that when I saw my friends again in Harlem, I apparently looked good despite how bad I felt 22 miles into the run. I am glad for Adi, who tried her damnedest to get to the City to see me, because others in her position absolutely would have given up or turned back. I am grateful to EDub, who also tried SO hard to see me. She did more than most would, and more than many did, and she didn’t even get to see me. But she was with me. I’m grateful to Mr K, to Grampa and to Pop, for lifting me up and carrying me when I thought I couldn’t run anymore, and helping me find that little bit more. I am grateful to every single person at First Congregational Church who kept me on the prayer list, and who sent their prayers and their energy to me around the time I started the marathon. I love every single person who couldn’t be there in person but told me they were pulling for me. I felt your energy.
I am blown away by my parents, my brother, my cousin Mike coming out to cheer for me. I am so glad that Erin, Jen, Marla, Rita, Bakezilla, Ben, Alyssa, Alex, Mom, Dad, Trev, KBam, EVo, John, and my wonderful, supportive, amazing boyfriend Jesse were there. I will never be able to thank you all enough.

Long distance runners are fiercely independent. We know that no matter what we say, the only things that are getting us through the next training run are our selves. We have nothing to rely on except for what we carry – our energy gels, electrolyte drinks, our clothes and our shoes. And what we carry inside us – grit, determination, independent spirit and the relentless will to finish. I trained with KBam for 4 months, and without her I would not have made it to the starting line. But I knew that the only way I could get to the finish line was to find it in myself. And I did. Even when I was sure I would stop, give up, never see Manhattan, let alone Central Park.

Even so. Every long-distance runner knows that we cannot do it alone. Without the crowds to lift you, you have no will to push. Without knowing that my family was out there, expecting me, I would have started walking the first time things got tough. Without Alex to run alongside me I wouldn’t have been able to push through the Bronx. Without the promise of hugs, and congratulations I would not have driven all the way to the finish.

Have you ever wondered what a runner eats?

Right after the race, I ate a huge plate of gravy fries, and 2 pints of Guinness. For my first dinner after running the race, my first proper balanced meal, I had broiled home fries, spicy black beans, and 2 fried eggs. This may not have been the most “from scratch” of meals, but it was hearty. It had protein and carbs. And in a world where being tired and sore does not mean you don’t have to get dinner on the table, it was just what the people I love wanted to eat.
And for that, as well, I am eternally grateful.

Brunch of Love

Posted: June 13, 2010 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: Johanna | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

I love Brunch. The best thing, I think, about living in New York City is that brunch is a real meal. On Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 4pm, you can go to a restaurant and get foods that are neither on the breakfast nor the dinner menu – and drinks that you would never order if it was dinner.
My favorite place to get brunch is Essex, in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Essex serves som great brunch fare – excellent eggs benedict, a cubano that makes even this skeptic’s mouth water. Their Bloody Marys are spicy and strong, and the waitresses walk around with pitchers of mimosas, and up until recently, they didn’t keep count, so your 3 free mimosas were more like “3″ free mimosas.
Shamefully, even though I always say that I’m going to branch out and try some of their other wondrous things, I always end up getting one of 2 things; I love the Southern – biscuits and sausage gravy with fried eggs – and I love love the Mexican Matzo Brei – basically migas, with black beans and chunky guacamole.
I’ve tried a couple of their other offerings, but sadly I was disappointed – I always come back to the two faves, and my absolute favorite is the Mexican Matzo Brei. I generally don’t try to replicate restaurant favorites at home, instead leaving them to the experts. I believe that if you can do something perfectly, I should pay you for that.

However, a few weeks ago I was motivated to attempt to make Mexican Matzo Brei in my own kitchen. I blame the Pioneer Woman, mostly. She had a recipe in her cookbook for Migas, which I decided I would hack, because I didn’t have the patience to fry my own tortillas, and I don’t do cilantro. As I was reading it over, I realized with a start that here was the thing I’d been hoping for all my life! A recipe for Essex’s Mexican Matzo Brei!! I ran to assemble the ingredients, and started cooking.

adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks and Essex restaurant

1. Assemble your cast of characters: 1 bag of tortilla chips, 6 eggs, Shredded “taco” cheese, 1 red bell pepper, 1 jalapeno pepper, 1 fryer pepper(aka cubanelle), 1 tomato, 1 red onion.

2. Dice 1/2 the red onion, 1 red bell pepper, and 1/2 the fryer pepper very finely and evenly. Heat up 1-2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium-high heat, and add the red onion and peppers. Cook until they are brown, but NOT sweated- we want crunch, not mush.

3. Beat the eggs with  1/4-1/2 cup of milk, salt, and pepper. Crush 2-3 big handfuls of tortilla chips until they’re roughly 1/2 inch squares, not to powder.

4. Chop up 1 tomato and 1 jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs removed (unless you want the heat) and add the tortilla chips and jalapenos to the skillet. Stir, cook for about 30 seconds, and add the tomatoes.

5. Add the eggs, folding gently to cook the eggs without smashing things up or turning them to mush. When they’re mostly set to your liking (I like mine pretty soft), sprinkle with shredded cheese and try not to drool.

I also served these with some Tasty Black Beans, which I’m premiering later this week on this blog, and some chunky guacamole. While it’s no replacement for Essex, and I’d rather go drink mimosas and not have to wash the dishes after, (not to mention eating a pre-brunch cupcake if the line is long at Essex), I really enjoy knowing that I can have Mexican Matzo-Brei anytime my little heart desires!

Try this, and tell me about YOUR favorite brunch dishes! Maybe we can have an at-home brunch revolution!

Finger Food for Grown-ups

Posted: February 4, 2010 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa | Tags: , , | 3 Comments »

Cooked quiche

Do you ever miss being able to eat with your hands with out people looking at you like you’re an animal?  I do.  Of course there are always things like quesadillas and chicken wings that are standard ‘finger food’ but there aren’t many finger foods to fit a more refined palette (not my palette, but someone else’s who is more refined.  I still love PB, banana and honey for gods sake).  So in my many internet wanderings, I stumbled across a new mini quiche recipe that both  intrigued me and made me squeal like an excited little girl at the same time (yeah, I said it).  I guess I shouldn’t say the whole recipe excited me, rather the idea that the recipe gave me.  Rather than using a standard crust for the quiche, they used prisciutto.  Thats right my friends, I give you quiche wrapped in bacon!! Its super easy too.  You can use whatever quiche recipe you prefer, but here is the one that I used:

1 egg, 2 egg whites, 3Tbsp sour cream, diced black olives, diced mushrooms (left over from my kickin pasta from earlier this week), pepper, and garlic to taste.  Whisk the eggs and sour cream together until they are smooth,  then add the rest of the ingredients.  Take four slices of prosciutto and cut them in half width-wise.  Grease 8 cups of a mini-muffin pan (I know the prosciutto has fat, but trust me its going to make your life a lot easier if you add a little extra grease.  Line the greased cups with the half slice of prosciutto by squishing it up against the sides until it fits the cup shape pretty well, then spoon the quiche mixture in dividing it evenly between all the cups.

uncooked quiche**Keep in mind that its going to puff up a little.  I got a little over zealous loading these bad boys up and  had some overflow during the cooking process.  Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 12 minutes until the quiche is set.  Let them cool until you can handle the pan, then run a knife around the edges and the quiche should pop right out of the pan.

One word of advice though: I usually get my prosciutto sliced pretty thin, but for this recipe I would definitely recommend using a thicker cut because the thin has a tendency to pull apart more easily so there are holes in your ‘crust’.  A thicker cut would solve that problem pretty easily.

Once they are out of the pan, devour them.  These would be really good for any party from a brunch to the superbowl depending on what you put in them, and they are fantastically easy to make.  If you can poke, stir, and pour then you are good to go.   Hope you enjoy!

Sunday Brunch, Anyday

Posted: November 14, 2009 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: brunch, Johanna, Make-Ahead, Monthly Mingle, vegetarian | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

One of my favorite bloggers recently posted a recipe for Saffron shortbread cookies. And she posted it as a participant in something called the Monthly Mingle. The internet is full of blog events, from Novel Food to Daring Bakers to the BBA Challenge.

This month’s Mingle theme is brunch recipes. Now, I love me some brunch, so I decided that a heck of a time to start participating would be with brunch. So….. away we go!
Breakfast Bread PuddingWhile I love french toast or a good stack of pancakes as much as anybody, I’m much happier to put my energies into a savory brunch, and similarly much happier to eat it. Plus, it’s difficult for me to make a brunch decision out at a restaurant that doesn’t involve cheese or eggs in some way. Unless it’s corned beef hash. And honestly, cheese on corned beef hash would be delicious, but overly decadent.
And yet I digress.
We were out at a party the night before our at-home brunch, and I knew that I would be up early the following morning to go for a run (4.5 miles. ughhh). So, when we got home from the party, I threw together a Breakfast Bread Pudding, which much like a strata, can be left in the fridge overnight, fully assembled, and baked the next morning.
Breakfast Bread Pudding
1. Butter a baking dish. It can be round or oval or rectangular, 9×13 or smaller, or possibly bigger if you scale up. I used a smaller one than I planned, but any baking dish will do, as long as it has 2-inch or higher sides.
2. Tear up half a loaf of crusty bread. We used Pan Paesano from Whole Foods, which has a delicious cornmeal crust, but please feel free to leave whatever loaf of bread you want out on the counter all day, so you can tear it up at night. Rip it into bite-sized pieces, and scatter them evenly over the bottom of the dish.
3. Dice 1 small onion and 1 clove of garlic, and saute in 1 tablespoon of butter until soft. Add roughly 8 ounces of chopped crimini mushrooms, and cook until softened and starting to color. Add a pinch of salt, and season with pepper. While the mushrooms and onions cook, halve 3/4 of a pint of grape tomatoes and reserve.
4. Whisk together 6 eggs and 1 cup of milk, and season with salt and pepper. Raid your cheese selection to see what you have left in the fridge. Grate whatever looks good — in our case some leftover Madrigal baby swiss that was used in several recipes, most notably the Most Amazing Mushroom Risotto EVER.  Grate 2/3 of a cup of cheese.
5. When the mushrooms are cooked, sprinkle the mushroom-onion mixture, as well as the tomatoes, over the bread chunks. Sprinkle with half the cheese. Pour in the egg mixture, and press everything down into the bottom of the baking dish. This is literally the most disgusting combination of sound and feeling ever, but persevere. Top with the rest of the cheese.
6. At this point, you could cover the bread pudding, and stick it in the fridge overnight. Otherwise, you could put it directly into a 350-degree oven for 1 hour.

You bring the champagne. I'll bring this.Call your friends up, and tell them to bring the mimosas.

Or, y’know, change out of your sweaty running clothes, thank the heavens for boyfriends who remember to put the food in the oven, and settle down on the couch with a plate of this and a cup of coffee. Your house will smell gorgeous and you will be eating a delicious meal. I suppose there might be more to life, but around 11am, I couldn’t think of a darn thing.

Johanna: The Improviser

Never quite follows the recipe. Doesn't really measure. Tastes with her fingers. Somehow, it always works.

Alyssa: The Triple Threat

Can do it all. And modest to boot.

Bakezilla: We Use Mixers Too

She likes to bake. Actually, baking is the only thing she does. It's a passion.

Rita: The Kosher Chick

Restrictions have nothing on her.