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pancakes2

I’m back training. Sort of. I went back to my group for a week, but they do most of their training on hills and I’m just not up for that, yet. My back is still wonky (three ruptured disks from a fall in 2007), and the hills kill me when my fitness is not on par. Pushing hard to keep up with the group puts too much strain on my back, and, ugh…just no fun. So, I’m staying home, in the valley where it is flat, wide open, and no one is throwing shade because I’m slacking (not that I don’t deserve it – I throw a lot of shade).

For some strange reason, I always find my way back to my happy place with my running through high mileage. I think it takes the pressure off of doing “good” mileage, and allows me to just get it done. High mileage for me is anything beyond 120 miles a week, because that is my base. I know it sounds excessive, but trust me when I tell you, it ain’t pretty. No one would confuse me for a “runner” when I’m trying to do 30 miles a day, as I’m perpetually breaking into a walk, often to the beat of Redbone. Seriously, I’m an embarrassment to myself.

But at least I’m back at it, hoping to get re-inspired to race again, or at least do something fun to justify all the training. I love to run. I LOVE to run. But my racing over the past couple of years, since I’ve been back in Texas, has been…well, meh. I don’t know if it is the weirdness of training with other people again after 5 years of training solo, or if I’m just over it. I hate being ambivalent about it FOR THIS LONG. I’ve always just sort of run from my gut, raced what seemed like a good idea, and hoped for the best. Being back with a group has made me self-conscious in a way I don’t remember from before. It is disconcerting.

So I’ve taken a step back. I’m training alone. And training a lot. And cooking and eating what sounds good instead of what I think I should eat. This morning, after my first run, that was pancakes.

I’ve always had a love affair with pancakes. But not the rubbery, chain restaurant kind. I’m more of a crepey, buttery, sweet and savory pancake lover. Since I’m not a big syrup kind of person, I need my pancakes to hold up on their own. They have to be everything, no window dressings to cover up blandness, rubberiness, or all-around what’s-the-point-of-this-bready-disc-ness?

I think a pancake should be light, crisp-ish on the edges, slightly sweet and slightly salty. Like a food version of what I envision a sand dollar to be if it were edible. No syrup is required. Fruit would enhance it, and possibly, chocolate. No one would be mad if you added whipped cream. Butter on top is a must.

For quick, easy, everyday pancakes, I use Mark Bittman’s recipe from the New York Times. As he says, it comes together quicker than making a piece of toast.

Everyday Pancakes

(adapted slightly from Mark Bittman)

2 cups AP flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon sugar

2 eggs

2 cups milk (use less if you like a thicker pancake)

2 tablespoons melted, and cooled, butter

butter for the griddle or pan for cooking

 

Whisk together the flour, baking powder salt and sugar. In a separate bowl, lightly whisk the eggs and milk together and then add to the dry ingredients. Add the melted, cooled butter and mix just until incorporated.

Heat griddle and then butter the surface. Ladle out pancakes, leaving room around the edges. Flip when bubbles appear, then burst, and bottoms are browned. Brown other side.

Top with butter, syrup, fruit, chocolate, and/or whipped cream.

 

 

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BCsoup

Another race that didn’t go well, another week off for recovery. The cycle of life that revolves around ultrarunning. Run, race, regroup, repeat.

And in the meantime, cook and eat, right?

You all know how I feel about soup, so while I putter around my house during my weeks off of intense training, I start my chicken broth. Chicken, water, onion, garlic, wonky carrots, celery, salt, pepper and thyme. Later in the day, I add the apple cider vinegar to get all the goodness out of the bones and transform the broth from, just a soup base, into a magic elixir. All day the pot gently bubbles away on the stove, doing most of my kitchen work for me, while I focus on things like laundry, bill paying and cleaning up whatever it was that spilled in my refrigerator (are there gnomes in there that knock over pickle jars and leftover Chinese Chicken Salad while we sleep?).

While scrubbing and tossing and folding, I think about what kind of soup I want to turn my broth into for dinner. I was kind of beaten up from the race for the first couple of weeks after, but more strangely, I am still in that bit of a funk you find yourself in after you’ve trained hard and then DNFd. The heatstroke/heat exhaustion I seemed to have suffered has left a kind of lingering heaviness in me, keeping me out of hot baths and hot showers (my usual sources of post-race comfort), so I’m having to find renewal in other things, like Dorito’s and doughnuts. Salt, sugar, fat.

And that is exactly what I’m craving in my soup. Normally, I shy away from creamy soups in the summer. This is Texas, y’all, and a big bowl of butter/cream/cheese love is not very, well… loving, in the middle of June. The air conditioner is already working full-time and I’m waiting until sunset just to take out the trash. Maybe it’s the heat exhaustion thing. I don’t know. But every time I step outside in the light of day, I feel like what I imagine Lestat, or Edward, or Dracula must have felt like: shimmery, melty, and possibly, about to go up in a puff of smoke. Hot sun and heavy soup should definitely be a “no”.

But today, while I’m carefully ensconsed in my 64 degree house, I feel like a creamy soup is exactly what is called for. I want comfort from the inside. Salt, sugar, fat, remember? And because Dorito’s and doughnuts don’t pass for dinner around here, I need to make something that has the same effect but doesn’t raise any eyebrows like I’m “trying to pull one over” on Tim (you serve one too many banana splits for dinner and suddenly your audience becomes suspicious).

The answer, I decide, is Broccoli Cheese Soup. Really, this is about as close to comfort food, while still masquerading as a vegetable, as you will ever find. And by using homemade broth, the protein content is pretty good. See? Protein, and vegetables = health food = totally not the same thing as a banana split.

Broccoli Cheese Soup

(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 medium onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 cup AP flour

1 cup whole milk, half-and-half or heavy cream

6 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade) – more if a thinner soup is desired

broth

4 cups broccoli, chopped (cut off large stem, but use smaller stems)

2 bay leaves

sea or Kosher salt

black pepper

3 cups grated cheddar cheese

 

Melt the butter in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Soften onions, about 10 minutes. Add minced garlic and stir for 1 minute.

onions

 

Add flour to make a roux, stirring constantly for 4 minutes until golden brown. Add salt and pepper. Gradually whisk in the milk, half-and-half, or cream. Stir until smooth. You should have a thick-ish base.

roux cream

Add chicken broth and bay leaves. Bring to a low boil. Reduce to a simmer and leave uncovered for 10 minutes, allowing the mixture to thicken slightly.

Add the chopped broccoli. Simmer for another 20 minutes until tender.

broccoli

Remove bay leaves and taste. Add more salt and pepper, if necessary.

with broccoli

With an immersion blender (or very, very carefully in a regular blender), puree soup mixture until desired consistency.

Add 2 1/2 cups cheese and allow to melt. Serve, garnishing each bowl with remaining cheese.

Soup2

 

 

 

 

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