DIY Sports Drink Recipe

For the past few years I’ve relied on Accelerade Fruit Punch to nourish me through intense running workouts. However, as this year I’ve shifted more to cycling, I’ve been doing less intense workouts and don’t need as high of concentration of sugar. I started using Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix, which has half the calories and more sodium (important since I sweat a lot). However it doesn’t have any protein, which is important for endurance events. After getting inspired by Allen Lim’s story (Skratch Labs’ founder) of creating the recipes in his kitchen, my inner DIY demon took root and I decided I had to give it a go creating my own sports drink.

First Taste of my Sports Drink, in an Elegant Glass

First Taste of my Sports Drink, in an Elegant GlassFirst Taste, in an Elegant Glass

Research and Recipe Creation

I started by looking at the ingredient lists and nutritional information for Accelerade and Skratch Labs to understand what goes into those. I also did research online for other individuals who had began this same quest. One important aspect to me was to try and use natural ingredients – I didn’t want to give in and use artificially flavored Kool Aid because I was pretty sure I would find it disgusting after a couple swigs.

It didn’t take long to figure out that essentially all the ingredients to a basic sports drink are easily available online. Whey protein powder, vitamin C, magnesium, calcium, etc. are all available through health food stores. Potassium is a key ingredient in “Lite Salt”. Taking a hint from Skratch, I picked up some freeze-dried strawberries at Trader Joe’s to flavor my mix.

Sports Drink Ingredient Round-Up

Sports Drink Ingredient Round-Up

My first batch tasted good but was a little milky-almost like strawberry Quik. I attribute that to the presence of the Whey Protein powder, so I backed off in the next batch. It drink also lacked the thirst-quenching punch of citric acid. So I broke down and bought some Lemonade Kool-Aid, which is naturally flavored but (alas) artificially colored. With these tweaks complete, I ended up with the following recipe.

The Recipe

Yield: 20 x 12oz servings

I did all measuring using a digital kitchen scale in grams.

  • NOW Vitamin C Crystals – 0.56g, about 1/8 tsp
  • Morton Lite Salt – 5g
  • NOW Calcium Magnesium Powder – 8g
  • Kosher Salt – 9g
  • Kool Aid Unsweetened Lemonade – 2 packets (13g)
  • Trader Joe’s Freeze Dried Strawberries – 1 bag (34g), pulverized in mini food processor and then strained to remove seeds
  • Jarrow Unflavored Whey Protein Powder – 80g
  • NOW Carbo Gain (Sugar – Maltodextrin) – 100g
  • Sugar (regular table sugar) – 260g

Add the ingredients in the order listed above, at each step making sure they are thoroughly mixed. This helps ensure the smaller-quantity ingredients are evenly distributed through the drink mix.

Finished Mix with Perfectly Sized Scoop

Finished Mix with Perfectly Sized Scoop

Once it is mixed well together then weigh the entire mix and divide by 20 to see how many grams to add per 12oz of water. My total was 520g/20 = 26g. I had an old Gatorade scoop that delivered this much mix, so I’m just using that.

The Results

Here’s a comparison between the different drinks in 12-oz dosage.

Accelerade Skratch Labs Chuck Drink
Calories 120 60 94
Carbohydrates (g) 21 15 18
Calcium (mg) 100 45 53
Magnesium (mg) 126 34 36
Sodium (mg) 220 233 239
Potassium (mg) 90 30 86
Vitamin C (mg) 75 17 28
Vitamin E (mg) 10 0 0
Protein (g) 5 0 3.2
% Carbohydrates 5.93% 4.24% 5.10%
Carb:Protein Ratio 4.2:1 N/A 5.8:1
Cost per serving $0.62 $1.00 $0.40

The main cost driver is the freeze-dried fruit – $0.15 per serving. The protein is $0.10/serving. So if you wanted to go cheaper you could cut those out (Gatorade is $0.15/serving for reference).

Taste is pleasantly lemony and not too sweet. The protein is understated (lower ratio than Accelerade) but still there. Thanks to the lemon, the drink doesn’t taste like Strawberry Quik. The best thing is that the recipe is fully customizable depending on your activity and tastes. There are a variety of freeze-dried fruits on the market: berry blend, strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, tropical fruit, apple, and more.

The only thing that’s left is picking the right name. The leading contender is “Chuckleberry” but I’m open to more suggestions.

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Year in Review – 2011

It has been way too long since my last post (20 months). This was not because I had nothing interesting about which to write; just the opposite, in fact! However my crowded working, training, traveling, and eating schedules ended up squeezing out my writing. But, as is customary this time of year, I wanted to take some time at year end to reflect on the year and what’s on tap for 2012.

2011 by the Numbers

  • 0 – number of bears I saw while hiking Mt. Whitney
  • 1 – number of new states I visited, as defined by traveling outside the airport (Idaho)
  • 2 – batches of beer I brewed (Strong Scotch Ale and Chocolate Russian Imperial Stout)
  • 6 – number of energy gels I ate while running the Carlsbad Marathon (best flavor: GU Chocolate)
  • 7.6 – number pounds lost in 2011
  • 53 – total number of pounds I’ve lost since August 2002
  • 334 – number of restaurants I’ve been to in San Diego since moving here in 2002
  • 535 – number of miles I ran in 2011
  • 1,321 – number miles I logged on my road bike in 2011 (doesn’t include commuting)
  • 7,255 – number of calories I burned while riding the Mt. Laguna Bicycle Classic, if you believe my Garmin
  • Total: 9514.6

Weight chart since I started keeping track

Accomplishments

Carlsbad Marathon complete, recovery drink in hand

  • Finishing the Mt. Laguna Bicycle Classic on April 16. 101 miles and 10,088 feet of climbing, ascending Mt. Laguna thrice by three different routes. My time wasn’t great – 10:05 elapsed. By mile 80 my right leg would cramp and seize up when I pushed hard on the pedals, and therefore I had to walk up the severe 20% slopes.  I was so drained by mile 90 that even though the rest was all downhill I had to sit at the rest stop for 10 minutes just to build up the mental strength to get back on my bike.

Riding up Kitchen Creek, the second of 3 ascents during the Mt. Laguna Bicycle Classic

  • Climbing Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the 48 contiguous states at 14,500 ft. This was done as a monster day-hike of 22 miles, climbing 6,200 ft in elevation. I started at 3:00am, was on the summit by 10:30am, and was back at the trailhead at 3:45pm.

Summit of Mt. Whitney with Lone Pine and Death Valley in the background

  • Visiting Machu Picchu in Peru by hiking the Inca Trail for 4 days and 25 miles

Amanda and I in front of Machu Picchu

  • Finishing the Borrego Springs Century bike ride in 5:32, a personal record. I was able to share the pace with 1-3 people for almost the whole ride, making the day much easier. I believe I finished 4th overall, and thoroughly enjoyed the pie and ice cream reward in spite of the chilly temperatures.

New Experiences & Great Memories

  • Wonderful December weekend spent exploring San Francisco, crowned by seeing The Weakerthans play all 4 of their albums on consecutive nights

The Weakerthans’ John K. Samson from front row

  • Following the Tour of California bike race. Pre-riding the Solvang time trial one day, then riding to the top of Mt. Baldy to see the mountain-top finish

Levi Leipheimer and Chris Horner zooming by near the summit of Mt. Baldy

  • Snowmobiling in Lake Tahoe during Chris’ bachelor party.
  • Innovative exotic mixed drinks made from an array of infused piscos at the bars of Cusco, Peru. Everything from eucalyptus and coca leaves to aguaymanto (gooseberry) and cinnamon.
  • Trip to Las Vegas with some of the TakeLessons crew – playing craps, seeing Love, hanging out at the pool.
  • Cruising the Snake River in a jet boat, hitting 3 states in one day (Idaho, Washington, and Oregon), eating home-smoked cheese and fish.

Jet boat on the Snake River in ID/WA/OR

  • As training for Mt. Whitney, Amanda and I also climbed San Jacinto (10,800 ft) and San Gorgonio (11,560 ft). These were beautiful hikes that I’d love to do again, possibly as short backpacking trips.
  • Being in the aviary with giant Andean Condors in Peru.
  • Pumpkin-themed dinner with Chris & Dani. The menu: pumpkin butter whiskey, pumpkin quesadillas, braised beef short ribs over pumpkin puree, pumpkin beignets with Mexican chocolate dipping sauce
  • Trying alpaca and guinea pig in Peru.

Things I Learned

  • It must take a LOT of cocoa nibs to make a beer taste really chocolately. I added more than any of the recipes I found online, but my chocolate imperial stout still wasn’t as chocolately as the Pizza Port one.
  • The mental fortitude it takes to complete athletic endeavors lasting up to 13 hours
  • How to shoot clay pigeons
  • Bicycle construction and maintenance. I replaced the component gruppo on my road bike and built my Soma commuter bike from scratch (except for sawing the fork).

My home-built Soma steel commuter bike, complete with fenders, rack, and leather handlebar tape

  • I spent a lot of time reading management and leadership books this year: 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership; Made to Stick; First, Break All the Rules; Start with Why; The Evidence-Based Manager; Drive
  • San Francisco is not nearly as scary and dirty as I thought, although I still do like San Diego burritos better
  • Dishes I feel I mastered cooking this year: fish tacos; philly cheesesteak sandwiches; short ribs; grilled steak with frites and Belgian beer cheese sauce

Oh, the Things that I Saw…

  • British Airways 777 planes landing at Lindbergh Field
  • Marmots at High Camp while climbing Mt. Whitney

Marmot near High Camp on Mt. Whitney trail (small rodent in middle)

  • Llamas chewing grass among ancient Peruvian ruins where wild strawberries grew
  • Wild bighorn sheep in Idaho

Bighorn sheep along the Snake River in Idaho

  • A man running while wearing short shorts and carrying a discman
  • Cycling along Harbor Drive (big street with 45 mph speed limit) a man started jaywalking across the street a hundred feet or so ahead of me. There were some cars coming but they were far enough back that he was fine. However, he was quickly followed by a mother duck and about 10 baby ducklings. They must have thought he was the father. I had to swerve my bike to weave between the babies, and I thought for sure they were doomed by the cars. However as soon as I passed I heard the desperate screeching of tires and the angry honking of horns. The oncoming cars stopped and let the ducklings across.

Favorites of the Year

  • Non-Fiction Book: Made to Stick, by Chip & Dan Heath. Engaging and enlightening explanation of how to best communicate ideas.
  • Fiction Book: The Dark Tower: Wizard and Glass, by Stephen King. I’m still in the middle of reading this 7-volume series, but this was the best book so far. Ender’s Game was also great.
  • Restaurant: Blind Lady Ale House, followed closely by Sessions Public. BLAH consistently has amazing, fresh, innovative pizzas and a great set of beers. Sessions Public has the best fries in San Diego and tasty pub fare to boot.
  • Album: Natural Causes by Steve Tibbetts. Technically a 2010 release, but I didn’t buy it until 2011. Tibbetts is an amazing guitarist who combines samples and eastern melodies into subtle yet rich compositions.

Disappointments of the Year

  • Carlsbad Marathon. Although I was proud of finishing my first marathon, I was disappointed that I fell apart in the last 3 miles.  I had severe leg cramps that made me unable even to walk at certain points. I believe most of this was caused by lack of electrolytes. I ended up finishing in 4:08, which is slightly slower than median for my age group and about 20 minutes slower than I had trained for.
  • Silver Strand Half Marathon. I trained for 3 months with the goal of finishing close to 1:40, and I felt good going into race day since my 12 mi training runs had been at nearly race pace. However the weather was warm on the big day, so I got dehydrated and faded the last 4 miles. I finished in 1:50, 4 minutes slower than my PR.
  • The whole toilet, shower, and drinking water situation in Peru.
  • The Tour de Julian bike ride is held in early November each year and features beautiful scenery and challenging climbs. We drove up there the evening before to camp at altitude and acclimate, but our campsite was speckled with snow. The forecast for ride day was in the low 30’s and rain. After a frustrating night getting our fire started and shivering in the back of our car (virtual tent), we got the notice that the ride was going to be shortened due to the conditions. I was still going to give it a shot, but when I got up in the morning and was still shivering even with my warmest biking gear on then I knew it would have been miserable and we headed home.
  • My Russian Imperial Stout didn’t carbonate (but still tastes great)
  • The Inca Trail was really a lot more crowded and commercialized than I would have expected. It just doesn’t feel like a hard-core hike when you have people trying to sell you coke and snickers in the middle of it.

Goals for 2012

  • Become a Cat 4 cyclist. I have really enjoyed my time on the bike so far, and I wanted to commit to doing more cycling next year. I needed something to push me to train harder, so I joined the Moment Cycle Sport Road Race team. I have also applied for my racing license, so I can start competing in criteriums and road races starting in February. To get to Cat 4 I need to start in at least 10 races. I am also committed to the team training 3 times per week, about 100 miles.
  • Finish the Mt. Laguna Bicycle Classic faster than last year, hopefully without walking my bike
  • Visit a new state – Mississippi – to see my sister in law
  • Gain backpacking experience by going on a 5-6 day trip. A long-term goal is to do some more serious mountaineering (e.g. McKinley) so I want to get comfortable with multi-day adventures in the backcountry. This includes figuring out how to use my camp stove.
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Ten Reasons I Love Portland

Earlier this month I completed another fact-finding mission: figuring out if I really truly love Portland, Oregon. Amanda and I first visited Portland in 2005 after a glowing recommendation from my brother. Since then I’ve been longing to go back: to explore the endless shelves at Powell’s books and sample what some claim to be the best pizza in America.

The cats like to help us pack

The cats like to help us pack

1. The Weather

When I saw that the forecast was for rain all weekend, I knew this would be the first trial of my love. Plus, we weren’t renting a car, so we walked around in the chilly (40-50deg) rain all weekend. This did not dampen my spirits one bit. I really enjoy overcast weather because it cuts down on sunburn and keeps things cool. Plus there are so many wonderful green trees and lawn there.

2. Voodoo Doughnut

We learned about Voodoo Doughnut on the Food Network and of course had to visit their downtown location. The first time we went there (Friday morning) the line was out the door and we would have waited for 30mins just to get our doughnuts. So we went to Stumptown Coffee Roasters (also great!) instead and vowed to return.

Breakfast at Stumptown Coffee Roasters

Breakfast at Stumptown Coffee Roasters

The second day was much less busy and gave us a chance to peruse their funky menu and order up some sugary concoctions for the days ahead. We started with a Triple Chocolate Penetration (yes, it’s topped with Coco Puffs) and something that was topped with Cap’n Crunch cereal. What’s amazing is how well the cereal worked by adding just enough crunch to an otherwise soft and delicious doughnut. The sugar balance was also just right.

Cap'n Crunch doughnut

Cap'n Crunch doughnut

Triple Chocolate Penetration doughnut

Triple Chocolate Penetration doughnut

For breakfast the next day we grabbed a blue-raspberry-cotton-candy flavored one and their namesake Voodoo Doll doughnut, which is filled with raspberry jelly that looks like blood when you bite into it. Yum!

Blue raspberry and Voodoo Doughnut

Blue raspberry and Voodoo Doughnut

3. Friendly Service

One consistent thing we noticed is that service there was universally friendly: from the baristas to the bartenders to the servers. People were willing to take time to explain things to you and always had a smile. It certainly made our trip even more enjoyable.

4. Deschutes Brewpub

We always try to hit as many breweries and brewpubs as possible, and this trip was no exception. My favorite of the bunch was Deschutes Brewpub because the food, beer, ad location were all excellent. We actually ended up going there twice.

Beer sampler at Deschutes

Beer sampler at Deschutes

The interior space has a modern warehouse feel to it and the restrooms have gigantic urinals. Amanda was on a venison kick so she had elk stew one day and the elk burger the next.

Elk stew at Deschutes Brewpub

Elk stew at Deschutes Brewpub

I had the Reuben sandwich and the Blue Bacon burger. They offer generous beer samplers and even have a special/seasonal beer menu that you can choose from. I’m really glad we didn’t have to drive anywhere afterwards.

Enjoying a Belgian beer at Deschutes

Enjoying a Belgian beer at Deschutes

5. Artisan Distilleries

One of the surprises of the trip was running into a couple places who made their own spirits. Our first night there we went to McMenamin’s Ringler’s Annex which is tucked in the basement in a triangle-shaped block. Upon finishing our panini-centric meal and imbibing a couple of their house beers, we spotted their Alambic “13” Brandy and realized we had to get that. It was served warm by precariously positioning a brandy snifter over a glass of warm water, which releases the intoxicating aromas.

Our second encounter with artisan distillation happened at the Rogue Public House, where after having enjoyed a couple of their fine ales we decided to move on to the hard stuff: hazelnut spiced rum, spruce gin, pink gin, and probably some others I’m not remembering. I’m not a big gin fan, but the Rogue incarnations were amazing. I wouldn’t hesitate to say that trying artisan spirits there and at McMenamins was a revelation.

6. Cupcake Jones

After drinking at Rogue we had the munchies, and my phone told me there were cupcakes nearby. We found ourselves at Cupcake Jones where we could point-point at the ones we wanted to devour. Those first couple were gone so fast we didn’t even have time to take pictures (nor can I remember the flavors), so we went back the next day just so that I could bring you this fine shot of their chocolate chip cookie dough cupcake.

Chocolate chip cookie dough cupcake

Chocolate chip cookie dough cupcake

7. Powell’s Books

What else is there to say, other than Powell’s is a full city block and 4+ stories high (depending on how you count, since the stories don’t cover the full block)? One neat thing is that, at Powell’s, they intermix used and new books so that you aren’t limited to what is still in print. They even have a rare book room. I spent a lot of time in their humor and art sections, and also scoped out some good cycling books.

8. Hawthorne Blvd Food & Beer Extravaganza

One of our side trips was to do a pub crawl down Hawthorne Blvd, with the final dinner destination being a pizza place we didn’t make it to last time: Apizza Scholls. We started at the Lucky Labrador Brew Pub, where we enjoyed a couple of their beers, a pulled pork sandwich, and some unshelled peanuts. The pub has a very open feel but was a little more grungy than Deschutes. The food was unadventurous and so-so but the beer was tasty.

Our next stop was Roots Brewing Company, just one block away. The food menu there looked tasty but we stayed away, preserving our appetite. They had a great selection of beers to offer in their reasonably priced sampler, including the unique heather ale and the tasty Festivus. You knew it was a working brewery because the whole placed smelled like boiling and fermenting beer. This was a great stop and certainly a place to get some food next visit.

Beer sampler at Roots Brewing Company

Beer sampler at Roots Brewing Company

We then hopped back on the bus and made our way further down Hawthorne. At our next stop we visited a couple shops including a mystery bookstore (Murder By The Book), Powell’s Home & Garden (yes, they’re so big they have specialized satellite bookstores), and a neat Italian market.

Our last destination of the evening was Apizza Scholls, which is well known for making a high-quality pizza with fresh ingredients. It had also been featured on TV and we tried to go here last time we were in Portland but it had been closed for Memorial Day weekend. This time we showed up at 4:30 to wait in a ~20-person line for their 5pm opening. Service was slow at first as they struggled to deal with the glut of people right at opening. Their beer list included a local (homebrew?) IPA that Amanda got, and I stuck with a non-alcoholic birch beer.

Invasive Species IPA by Porches Brewing Company

Invasive Species IPA by Porches Brewing Company

We ordered their sausage pizza, figuring that a homemade sausage would beat out pepperoni. It was an excellent pie, but to be honest I was expecting it to be more transcendent than it was. I’m a big fan of Blind Lady Ale House here in San Diego, and I’d say they offer just as good of pizza with more unique ingredients (love the poblano chorizo one) and a better beer selection.

Apizza Scholls sausage pizza

Apizza Scholls sausage pizza

9. Portland Saturday Market

In spite of 30-degree temperatures with driving wind and rain, there was an amazing array of vendors at the Portland Saturday Market. What sets this apart from other street markets is the quality of crafts and selection of booths. There is a great selection of food items, cute haberdashery, and some great art involving utensils. The only thing we bought was a catnip-filled body pillow for the cats – about as much fun as you can have for $6.

Zephyr with catnip body pillow

Zephyr with catnip body pillow

10. They Don’t Have Earthquakes

Well, I guess there hasn’t been one yet. The 7.2 San Diego earthquake happened while we were still up in Portland and we returned home to a mess of tumbled CDs and some terrified cats. Actually it was interesting and fortunate that the only things that fell were my CDs – the glasses stayed put in the cabinets.

Earthquake aftermath

Earthquake aftermath

Athena hiding after the earthquake

Athena hiding after the earthquake

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Running the NFAR 5k

A blurry sun-drenched start line

A blurry sun-drenched start line

As part of my marathon training, one of my goals this year was to run a 5k (3.11 mi) race in under 24 minutes. I figured that pushing myself to go faster would also make my marathon more pleasant, since I’d be spending less time on each of the training runs (they are prescribed by distance rather than time).

The San Diego Race for Autism was the first 5k that I ran, back in 2008. I like it because it is close to home, at a cool time of the year, and not too crowded. Last year was a disaster for me because I got sick the week before. I still finished it and ended with a time of 29 minutes. This year I was aiming higher.

I started training for it back in January using the FIRST training program. This is the same plan I used for the half marathon, but is adapted for the 5k distance based on advice in the book. Most of the tempo runs were ~4 miles and the long runs between 6 and 8, although for the last few weeks my marathon training also got underway so I was running 10-15 miles as a long run.

After turning in some 7 minute mile times late last year, I decided to train to run the 5k in 23 minutes instead. This would be a good stretch goal for me. The first few weeks of training were rather difficult, and I was unable to complete the interval training exactly as I was supposed to. However, things got easier as the training went on. Part of this was due to improved conditioning, and part due to losing weight (10 lbs since the beginning of the year). Going in to race day I was confident I’d be able to get close to 23 minutes.

Rounding the corner around 1.5mi

Rounding the corner around 1.5mi

The weather was OK for race day: a little cold (50 deg) and sunny (I’d rather be running when it’s overcast). The course had changed slightly this year: starting further down balboa bridge and making a longer loop through the park. I reached the start line early so I could be close to the front: avoiding the crowds and the time delay until I actually reached the starting line. I knew that to hit 23 minutes I’d need to keep up a 7:23/mi pace.

When the race begin, I felt good about the pace I was keeping. Not having one of those GPS watches I have to rely on my perceived exertion level to judge this. When I hit the 1mi marker the time was 7:11. It was on the way to mile marker 2 that I realized my mistake.

At 2.3 miles and still chugging along

At 2.3 miles and still chugging along

I was getting splitting side stitch around 1.5 miles. This seems to happen to me if I drink too much, and sure enough I had chugged 6oz of energy drink right before starting. For longer races you want to start off properly hydrated so your stomach is processing the energy drink. For a 5k, apparently, this is not as good of idea because you are running at a harder pace.

Working through the side cramps, I finished mile 2 at 14:10 (yes, faster than mile 1 for some reason) and then started to slow. I remember at that time just trying to keep up with this 10-year-old who was repeatedly sprinting ahead of me, then stopping and walking 10 feet. I was also trying to stay ahead of a 60-year-old man. It was depressing.

A few more strides to the finish

A few more strides to the finish

The course goes downhill slightly before a vicious little uphill right before the finish. I slowed a lot for the uphill and they didn’t have a time check at mile 3, so I didn’t know how close I was. Soon after, I saw the finish line and the timer that read 22:45, so I knew I had to hustle. I elevated the pace as much as I could and finished in 23:07.

The Final Race Standings

The Final Race Standings

Looking at the final race results, I was pleasantly surprised at how I did:

  • Overall: 108 out of 1808 (94th percentile)
  • Age division (M 30-34): 10 out of 104 (90th percentile)

Overall I would count this as a success. Just in November I was happy to be in the 50th percentile of my half marathon, and now I was in the 90th. I think my age group was a little bit wimpy for this one, but also I know my training is paying off. Finishing well also has me inspired to run some more 5k races after my marathon training is complete.

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Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon

Roughly translated as: “Beef in a Wine and Bacon Bath”

Boeuf bourguignon with roasted red potatoes

Boeuf bourguignon with roasted red potatoes

Amanda and I attended an Oscar party a couple of weeks ago, and I think we were the only people who hadn’t seen any of the movies that were nominated. It was a little bit sad. It’s not that we don’t like movies; just that we don’t get to the theater that much, and when we do it’s for strange events such as the Bicycle Film Festival. But we were inspired and updated our Netflix list with all kinds of oscar-nominated films, including Julie & Julia!

My dad and stepmom Barbara saw this movie last year and got inspired. So much so, that Barbara bought me and her son Al a copy of Julia Child’s cookbook for Christmas and encouraged us to cook some recipes from it. While I don’t think I’ll be able to complete the same 500+ recipes in 365 days that the movie portrayed, I can at least commit to trying some of my favorites such as Boeuf Bourguignon.

This past weekend I set aside some time to give this one a shot. I stayed fairly close to the recipe, but decided to take my own path in places where I wanted a shortcut or to customize the recipe. For example, I wanted to do the final cooking in our slow-cooker since I know that can produce tender beef and is less fussy than managing a gas stove for 3 hours. Also I just went with standard sliced bacon cooked in a pan instead of tracking down a whole slab of bacon and blanching it.

I follow some of her more arcane steps, however: coating the browned beef in flour and baking it for 8 minutes; sauteeing the mushrooms separately; cooking everything in the rendered bacon fat (hard to go wrong with that culinary advice, really).

Boeuf bourguignon ingredients

Boeuf bourguignon ingredients

The recipe started with some simple ingredients from our local Trader Joe’s and Vons. Vons has a really bad meat department so I was limited to a chuck roast instead of going with Julia’s preferred rump roast. I chose a young (2008) bourdeaux wine from TJ, priced at $7.99. I did a mini taste-test of this wine against a Chateau Bonnet (2005; $15) that I had ordered online, and the Chateau Bonnet won hands down: much more  smooth and drinkable. The TJ wine loses and gets to be part of the dish!

I cut the bacon into lardons and cooked them until browned in a pan, thereby rendering out the fat. After transferring them to a bowl then the party began: everything else gets to fry in that bacon fat! First the beef, browning carefully on all sides.

Beef browning in bacon fat

Beef browning in bacon fat

Then I transferred the beef and bacon to a baking dish, coated in flour, and cooked for 8 minutes in a 425 deg oven. Julia has you do some kind of tango with the pots here: cleaning one and then switching the meat to another. I ignored her and just baked the beef in a separate dish before putting it into the slow cooker.

Onions and carrots cooking in bacon fat

Onions and carrots cooking in bacon fat

The vegetables got the same treatment, joining the bacon fat party once the beef had departed. These cooked until browned and then were also put into the slow cooker.

The final ingredient: wine!

The final ingredient: wine!

I then added the rest of the ingredients: tomato past, seasoning, and most of that bottle of wine. At that point the beef was basically swimming in alcohol like those sake-drowned fish that were on iron chef that one time. The broth was pink from the bordeaux, and smelled delicious.

The sauce runs red with bordeaux

The sauce runs red with bordeaux

With the slow cooker powered on, I had some time to prepare the rest of the dish. The bacon fat got used once again, this time for cooking my mushrooms. These were sliced (with an egg slicer, of course) and then sauteed over medium heat until browned. At that time I added salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, and rosemary. I also knew I needed a side dish to with this, so I decided to improvise a simple roasted potato recipe made of red potatoes, sea salt, pepper, Spanish smoked paprika, and olive oil.

Roasted red potato side dish

Roasted red potato side dish

This I just roasted until fork-tender, about 25 minutes. As the bourguignon reached completion I added the mushrooms and some salt.

Boeuf bourguinon complete!

Boeuf bourguinon complete!

For final plating I spooned the bourguignon into a bowl and arranged the potato chunks around it. I mixed the potatoes in with the sauce while eating for a delicious flavor combination.

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Beer Tour of Belgium – Day 10: Sint Truiden

Today we left Liege by the northern route, driving to the top of the citadel and looking out upon the city. We made our way to Sint Truiden where we explored the city center and climbed a nearby tower. From there we drove to the Ter Dolen brewery for a beer sampling. We finished the day by driving to our hotel in Zolder and enjoying a final meal in Belgium.

Liege Citadel

Liege citadel

Liege citadel

View of Liege from citadel pathway

View of Liege from citadel pathway

Sint Truiden

Tongerlo Brune with lunch at Sint Truiden

Tongerlo Brune with lunch at Sint Truiden

Astronomical clock in St. Truiden

Astronomical clock in St. Truiden

Cow bouncy castle in St. Truiden city center

Cow bouncy castle in St. Truiden city center

Cathedral in St. Truiden city center

Cathedral in St. Truiden city center

Cathedral interior

Cathedral interior

Climbable tower near St. Truiden city center

Climbable tower near St. Truiden city center

Checking out the St. Truiden chicken experiment

Checking out the St. Truiden chicken experiment

Strange structures near the tower

Strange structures near the tower

Interior of tower

Interior of tower

Looking down tower interior

Looking down tower interior

View of St. Truiden city center from the tower

View of St. Truiden city center from the tower

Catacombs near the tower

Catacombs near the tower

Ter Dolen

Ter Dolen beer and cheese sampler

Ter Dolen beer and cheese sampler

Zolder

Corsendonk beer with dinner

Corsendonk beer with dinner

Mort Subite Gueze with dinner

Mort Subite Gueze with dinner

La Botteresse Brune

Bellevaux Black

La Botteresse Brune

La Botteresse Brune

Beers I Tasted

Here are the beers I tasted today:

  • Tongerlo Brune
  • Ter Dolen Blonde
  • Ter Dolen Brune
  • Ter Dolen Tripel
  • Ter Dolen Kriek
  • Corsendonk Brune
  • Mort Subite Gueuze
  • La Botteresse Brune
  • Bellevaux Black

Total tally of beers for the whole trip: 74 beers

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Beer Tour of Belgium – Day 9: Achouffe and Liege

Today was another successful day filled with beer tasting. We drove southwards from Liege to Chouffe to taste beers (and ice cream!) at their Brasserie. From there we backtracked north to Malmedy to visit the Brasserie de Bellevaux. Our third and final brewery for the day was the Val Dieu abbey, just east of Liege. We finished off the day in Liege at the Fete de Wallonie, making friends with some of the people who ran the food booths. It was a night filled with blueberry beer and liquor!

Achouffe

La Chouffe Brewpub

La Chouffe Brewpub

La Chouffe beers

La Chouffe beers

Inside La Chouffe Brewpub

Inside La Chouffe Brewpub

More La Chouffe Beers

More La Chouffe Beers

Farm-raised venison (gibier)

Farm-raised venison (gibier)

Bellevaux

Fields driving to Bellvaux

Fields driving to Bellvaux

Cows near Bellevaux

Cows near Bellevaux

Bellevaux brewery

Bellevaux brewery

Beer sampler at Bellevaux Brewery

Beer sampler at Bellevaux Brewery

Amusing highway signage

Amusing highway signage

Val Dieu Abbey

Kegs at Val Dieu brewery

Kegs at Val Dieu brewery

Grounds of Val Dieu brewery

Grounds of Val Dieu brewery

Amanda and me at Val Dieu

Amanda and me at Val Dieu

Val Dieu beer sampler

Val Dieu beer sampler

Birds on the Val Dieu Abbey

Birds on the Val Dieu Abbey

Domesticated sheep at Val Dieu Abbey

Domesticated sheep at Val Dieu Abbey

Liege

Fete de Wallonie in Liege

Fete de Wallonie in Liege

Blueberry beer booth

Blueberry beer booth

New friends at the Fete de Wallonie

New friends at the Fete de Wallonie

Beers Tasted

Today I tasted:

  • La Mac Chouffe
  • La Chouffe
  • Porto Mac Chouffe (La Chouffe with Port)
  • La Chouffe Houblon
  • Bellevaux Blonde
  • Bellevaux Brune
  • Bellevaux Triple
  • Val Dieu Blonde
  • Val Dieu Brune
  • Val Dieu Grand Cru
  • La Chaperon Biere aux Myrtilles

Total for the trip: 65 beers

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