austin: the land of queso

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

It's no secret that I love oozy, fatty, melty cheese. In college, I lived off of Del Taco nacho fries, an off-menu culinary wonder so gooey that it comes with a fork. I've also been known to go to 7-11 and get the nachos -- you know, the kind that you pour into a paper bowl and then cover with pump-it-yourself cheese from a machine. Oh, beautiful guilty pleasure!

So imagine my joy when I arrived in Austin, and almost every restaurant we went to had some form of melted cheese on the menu. And the cheese was quality cheese -- not just some artificial, semi-orange stuff from a squeeze bag.

I had queso at Curra's Grill with fresh tortillas. And queso with breakfast (I told you this was an obsession) at Kerbey Lane. But my hands-down favorite queso from the weekend was from Torchy's Tacos.


Dear god. If only there was a swimming pool full of that stuff.

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In other cheese-related news, Karen and I have selected our route for this Sunday's long ride. (Yes, that's right -- I'm talking about cheese and cycling in the same sentence. Are you really that surprised?) We'll be exploring Marin and stopping at two creameries along the way. Perhaps I should figure out how I can strap a cooler to my bike. (How many grams will that add?) 

Oh, and I think we're going out for fondue tonight for Thai's birthday.

Cheese!

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And since this post has ADD, here are some other things that happened in Austin:

 





in the lone star state

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Snuck off to Austin this past weekend to run the Livestrong Austin Half Marathon with Shaya and Jennifer (their first 13.1!).


I know you're probably wondering why I haven't mentioned this race until now (except for briefly here).

The answer: I felt completely and totally unprepared. In fact, my longest training run (and I use the term "training" very loosely) was only 9.7 miles, and I averaged something like a 10:45 pace during it. (I'm realizing I kind of loathe early-season races -- it just takes me forever to get back into training, both physically and mentally. At this time of year, all I want to do is stuff my face. Which I guess made Austin a very good destination since I basically spent the weekend eating more queso dip than I ever have in my life. But I'll get to that later.)

The fear of being undertrained was further amplified when we drove the course Saturday. (Side note: My rental car was a minivan. That's right. Rollin' like a soccer mom.) You know how everyone always says Texas is flat? Bullshit. Austin is hilly as hell, and the course was short rollers to about Mile 3, then a steady climb to Mile 6, then a long downhill to about Mile 8 (since busting the glutes wasn't enough, we had to trash the quads, too), followed by a few more short, steep climbs all the way to the finish. (What sort of evil, maniacal person puts the toughest hill at Mile 12? And then adds another hill about 600 yards from the finish line?!)

By the time Sunday morning rolled around, I felt like I was going to have a panic attack. I was probably more nervous than Shaya and Jennifer, and have I mentioned this was their first 13.1 ever? (Clearly, I set a very good example for them: This is how you Completely Freak Out.)


Another thing I wasn't prepared for: The sheer amount of people at this race -- a combined 19,000 for both the half and the full.

So I guess it was no surprise that my nerves made me immediately have to pee as soon as we crossed the starting line. (Shaya and I were running together -- Jennifer dropped back because her foot was bothering her. She did soldier through and finish, but it was rough going.) I had to stop at a port-a-potty at the Mile 1 marker. The break cost me about two minutes.

When I started running again, I forced myself to calm down and focus on the sights. It wasn't hard -- the spectator support was fantastic, and the signs made me laugh. Lots of Ryan Gosling "Hey Girl" signs. A Grumpy Cat sign that said: "I tried running once. It was horrible." And my favorites: "Paul Ryan said he's already finished" and "Run softly -- I'm hungover."

Once I stopped freaking out, the miles went by fairly quickly -- definitely helped that we drove the course because I knew exactly what to expect. The climb up South Congress wasn't bad at all, and I absolutely loved the "yellow mile," where the Livestrong cheering team was going absolutely nuts. (I couldn't resist running over to the side and throwing myself at the random guy with the "Free hugs" sign -- always fun to share my sweat.)

I finished in 2:14. Not my best race by far, but not bad considering the near-constant climbing, the pee stop and being undertrained.


But the most exciting part was celebrating Shaya, who never in her life thought she'd do something like this. I can't wait to see what she'll do next.


 And of course, no successful race is complete without -- you guessed it -- ramen.


Not a bad bowl, Komé. The tonkotsu was downright delicious, and I could've inhaled three plates of those potstickers.

it's good for you. right?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

I had elaborate plans to write about my adventures in scuba diving (since cycling and triathlon aren't expensive, time-consuming and complicated enough, I had to add another sport that involves a ridiculous amount of gear and travel -- makes perfect sense, right?) and how I spent last weekend completing the first part of the scuba certification process and how I still smell like chlorine from the pool training session and how I'm going to find Nemo and finally see whale poo in person. (Don't tell me I'm the only person who's ever somewhat obsessively wondered what whale poo looks like. Fellow freakshows, I know you're out there.)

But then I went to my StrikLee training session tonight and kind of died.

My coach upgraded me to a CompuTrainer once again (the first time he upgraded me was last week), so there was no escaping the numbers. And a good portion of tonight's workout involved either staying in Zone 5 or doing a series of standing sprints (which I absolutely hate more than anything -- I don't know what it is about standing, but it just burns up my legs in horrible ways I have never experienced before). I wanted to cry and puke. I almost did both. And I made a lot of very unladylike grunting noises.


But I did it. And my power output this week was much better than last week. (God, I never thought I'd be the person to care about this crap. But then again, I never thought I'd ride a bike like this. Or do a triathlon. Or want to see giant things in the ocean that could potentially eat me.)

I just really hope all of this suffering work makes me a better cyclist in the long run. And I also really hope I'll be able to walk tomorrow.

slow cookin' tuesday

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Tuesday. For me, this means a night of StrikLee torture training. And stumbling into the house afterward, cold and clammy with sweat, completely exhausted and really, ravenously, ridiculously hungry. With zero patience for cooking and zero desire to leave the house again to go to a restaurant.

In other words: Code red, must-eat-now-or-I-will-destroy-someone, straight-up hanger. (For the uninitiated, that's hunger + anger. Dangerous stuff.)

How to cope and keep my neighbors safe from cannibalism? The slow cooker. On StrikLee days, I come home on my lunch break, quickly prep some ingredients, throw everything into the Crock-Pot and turn it on.


Last week, I made slow cooker enchiladas. This was so easy that I felt like I was cheating. I basically just layered beans, olives, tofu, tortillas and enchilada sauce over and over again until the Crock-Pot was full.


And then I went back to the office.

When I came home that night from my workout, the house smelled absolutely amazing -- spicy, savory, comforting goodness. And all I had to do to satisfy my appetite was scoop some of this cheesy wonderfulness onto a plate and add some tortilla chips for extra fat-kid flavor.


(The downside to the Crock-Pot: It looks like a Crap Pot. No matter how good the food is, it's still a weird, shapeless conglomeration of stuff when it's done. But if you can get over this, you'll be rewarded.)

Slow Cooker Enchiladas

1/2 large onion, diced
1 can black beans
2 small cans pitted, sliced black olives
1 package extra firm tofu
1 package shredded cheese (pick whatever kind you like -- it doesn't matter)
1 package tortillas (I like the gluten-free teff or flax ones from La Tortilla Factory)
2 cans enchilada sauce, red or green (or make your own if you aren't lazy, impatient and pressed for time like me)
2 T olive oil

Mix the onion, black beans and olives together in a large bowl. Crumble the tofu into the bowl.

Coat the inside of the slow cooker insert with the olive oil. Layer the onion-black bean-olive-tofu mixture at the bottom. Generously sprinkle cheese on top. Spoon some enchilada sauce on top of that. Then add  a layer of tortillas (and it's OK if the tortillas overlap). Repeat about two more times, until the Crock-Pot is almost full. After the final layer of tortillas, sprinkle the remainder of the cheese on and pour on what's left of the enchilada sauce.

Cover the slow cooker and set to low for 5-6 hours. Serve with chips (I like tortilla chips or -- even better -- Fritos). And maybe some hot sauce and sour cream (or yogurt, if you want to be a little healthier). You can even make a side salad. (Or some rice, if you're Asian like me and want to have rice with pretty much everything that's ever been created. Ha.)

The best thing about this recipe is that it's not set in stone (which is probably also why my measurements really suck -- I'm a runner, not a chef). It's all about winging it -- if you want more cheese, add more cheese. If you don't like tofu, swap it out for cauliflower or broccoli or zucchini or another firmer vegetable, cut into thin slices for easy layering. You can also try pinto beans instead of black beans. The options are endless.
 
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