Birthday Recap & Apple Cashew Cupcakes

23 Sep

Last week I had a birthday, which was so wonderfully celebrated that I have to share.

I had five whole days off, so I made a tour of all things Kefi. Let’s start with the amazing wedding of a longtime friend, XTKef!

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FianceKef and I had such a blast catching up with old friends (and their way-cooler-than-us moms).

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Just when we thought the wedding couldn’t get more fun, there came the bagpipers! Congrats, XT and Ciaran!

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Next, FianceKef and I got both our families together for their first-ever meeting. We had such a lovely time, did a little wedding planning, and WokeUpLikeDisKef was so thoughtful as to pick up gluten-free, sugar-free, and vegan cupcakes from Sprinkles for my upcoming birthday. FianceKef and I drove all the way home with big old smiles–we’re so excited for our families to get to know each another.

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On my birthday itself, FianceKef completely outdid himself. We had plans for dinner at Lincoln, and when he realized he would be late, he called ahead and ordered me this lovely glass of bubbly!

photo 2We had an amazing meal, including the second-best brussels sprouts I’ve had in DC (first being the to-die-for brussels dish at Zaytinya).

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But the fun doesn’t end there–I still had one more day off! So, I met up with these two beauties for my first-ever barre class:

photo(1)Even though I was so sore that I struggled up the stairs for three days, I had a great time, found muscles I didn’t know I had, and I can’t wait to go back.

That night, all of my very favorites got together, and even made me delicious gluten-free, sugar-free apple cashew cupcakes!

photo 4 photo 5And that, my friends, is what brings us to today’s recipe: apple cashew cupcakes! SummitKef used this cupcake recipe and iced them with this super-easy, could-be-vegan-but-why cream cheese icing. I loved them enough to one before our dinner was delivered, one after dinner, and two for breakfast the next morning. Since I was clearly on the verge of a massive birthday binge, I brought the remaining left overs to work (where people know about a quality baked good) and they were universally adored.

Thank you so, so much to everyone wished me a happy birthday–it truly was! Special thanks to the Babes for braving the world of gf/sf baking (without so much as a nut grinder!), to GingerKef for always singing the Stevie Wonder version of “Happy Birthday,” and to NoLongerClevelandParkKef for catching Gingey belting it out!

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Some New Life Goals

22 Sep

A lot has happened in the last week: I officially entered the last year of my twenties and started the first year of my last degree (God willing) and am my way to becoming Chef Kefi, PNP-BC. Start the prayer circles now– it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.

All these new beginnings mean, of course, that’s it’s time to make some resolutions. Y’all already know I love a goal, and with all these new things happening, I’ve decided to identify some new things to work toward for the short and medium term. Kind of like New (School) Year Resolutions… or just some ish I want to get done before I turn 30.

Fitness:

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I was so thrilled this year to meet a lot of fitness goals- I PR’ed in a half, completed my first Olympic triathlon, and came in 14th in my age group at Nation’s. But all of that training came at a price, and I found myself facing a lot of injuries. So my winter goal for fitness is to build strength and flexibility. I’m measuring this by classes: in additon to biking and running, I am committing to one strength and one flexibility class per week– so be on the lookout for recommendations for and reviews of DC-area strength work! What classes do I NEED to take? Leave a comment and let me know!

Life:

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I’ve decided I’d like to say yes more–yes to more fun, yes to more time with my friends, yes to random events on nights before I work at 7am. I pride myself on practicality, which makes it so easy to say no to things, but from now on I’m going to try to say no only when it actually makes practical sense. If I think about it this way, dinner with an old friend after a 12-hour shift would actually probably energize me, not drain me. A trip to New Orleans for a wedding I’d love to go to sounds totally worth it, practically speaking. I will measure this by how often I find myself looking like that guy in the picture above (although that may be worth saying no to).

Relationships:

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Don’t these people just look so positive? I think I am an extremely positive person, but I bet there are lots of people I know who wouldn’t describe me as such. Two things I really value about myself are that I am practical (see above) and that I am critical. Add a strong dose of New York sarcasm in there and you can see how people wouldn’t quite get the picture. I’d like to do a better job of translating my thoughts for other people, which might even mean keeping some of those thoughts to myself. When one of my loved ones is saying/doing/thinking something I find to be unpractical or worth a bit of critique, I’m quick to point that out. And you know how often they change their minds about something they didn’t ask my opinion on but I gave it to them anyway? Pretty much never. I’m not saying I’m working toward being less critical of systems, symbols, and impact (never that), but I can stand to be less critical of the people I love (and probably even the people I don’t like very much). So this goal is not about changing myself to become more positive as it is about showing people more of the positive person I know I am. I’d like more people to leave conversations with me feeling good about themselves and our interaction, not confused about why I started opining on something they weren’t even asking. This will be a tall order, and will probably be measured by how many fewer times per week JetSet has to say, “Oh, okay. Anyway.”

So that’s what I’m thinking about. Anyone else making goals this fall?

(Ed. Note: Malaysia Mondays are currently on hiatus because I lost the dang memory stick and won’t return until JetSet becomes savvy enough to upload them to Google Drive. We’re working on it.)

TriTalk Tuesday: Nations Triathlon Race Recap

9 Sep

Woohoo! Nation’s Triathlon is in the bag…well, really Nation’s duathlon is in the bag. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

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FianceKef’s dear friend H.A.M.Kef suggested we add this race to the season’s roster, and since my first attempt at an Olympic triathlon was only about a month before Nation’s, I figured I’d be mostly trained up for a sprint. Timing was pretty awesome- I rested for a couple days after NYC, then went back to 10 days of peak training, backed off, and tapered. Before I knew it it, it was race weekend!

The expo was exactly the kind I like–not too big, not too small, and full of local vendors with blow out sales. H.A.M.Kef and I hit up the Potomac River Runners’ stand like it was our job– I got some much needed new running gear for half-off PLUS a pair of Newton Distance shoes… for $50! I am so excited to finally give Newtons a try. (What’s the hype? Check it out here.)

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After the expo, we scidaddled over to West Potomac Park to rack up, which was easy as pie. Turns out the pre-race day procedures have WAY less rigamarole when you remember to bring your bike number to bike rack-in! A quick stop off at the grocery store for pre-race meals (me: Van’s juice-sweetened GF waffles, H.A.M.Kef: black bean spaghetti with butternut squash, brussels sprouts, and a little grilled chicken. She wins.) and we were home by 3 pm.

Just a few (14, to be exact) short hours later, we were up and ready to race! The heavy rain on Saturday had cooled DC down immensely (almost 20 degrees!)… but it has also led to sewage overflow into the river, and so the swim at Nation’s was cancelled for the second time in 4 years. I was not all that bummed- I know I can swim and luckily this wasn’t my target race for the (almost-ending) season, but I know there were people who traveled and trained for this specific race, and I felt for them.

Despite the change of plan, spirits were high in transition. We got set up, I discovered and fixed a flat (thank you Jesus and racer #4827!) and then it was time for waiting. Lots of waiting. The Olympic group started on time at 7:15 am, and after they all got out, the sprinters started around 9. I must have started around 9:20.
photo 5-4When the swim is cancelled, pretty much everything remains the same except you don’t swim. So you still run from swim out to transition along the same course, and you’re still not allowed to have your helmet or shoes on. Some people clearly did not get this concept and I saw some people starting with their transition gear bag… but no one seemed to really care.

We started in groups of 9 separated by age group and gender. Most of the women in my heat were awesome-lots encouragement and laughs, but of course there’s always that one. This woman bent over and spread out her arms like some kind of track start plus the thing every mom does with her arm when she stops short in a car (you know what I mean). When I politely removed her arm from my body, would you believe she glared at me and put it back? Luckily for everyone, the whistle blew and I did not have time to put this wench in her place.

The path from swim out to our bike area was about 250-300 meters or so–some people sprinted it, I decided jogging would do it. My legs were not feeling light or strong at ALL, which surprised and worried me. I shoved a Picky Bar in my mouth as I got my cycling self together, hoped the caffeine would fix the heavy legs, and got the hell out of there. (T1: 3:03)

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The bike ride was pretty fun, but I can’t say much more than that–I was focused on laying down the hammer once that caffeinated-goodness kicked in. It’s almost 100% flat (just one big hill) and a lot of it runs on ramps on and off the highways, which is to say there were often 3-4 lanes of wide open road and lots of people for me to pick off. If you don’t mind my saying so, I was a lean, mean passing machine on the bike course–but that came at the expense of my actually enjoying the course, as I don’t think I could recreate it without a map if my life depended on it. Some hazards of note: 1) the tunnels/overpasses can get pretty dark and it made me wish I had tinted sunglasses 2) there are quite a few tight turns on the course–give yourself and your fellow racers lot and lots of room and SLOW DOWN 3) there are two no passing zones– one on the way out to VA and on the way back (I think we were on 395 at that point). You will lose some time here, but they’re not longer than 400-800 meters or so. Do not be that jackass who passes in the no passing zone. Basically, it is the equivalent of being the person who waits until the last minute to merge into the right lane when the left lane is closed and drives up to the front of the line of cars– annoying and not safe. (Bike: 54:31)

Anyway, the ride was a good one, and I tried not to dawdle too long in T2. In the NYC Tri, I was trying frantically to dry off my soaking feet and amp myself up for the hilly run to come (total T2 in NYC:  5:16!). For this race, I just wanted to get in and rock that run– 3 miles is just so much more reasonable. I scampered out of there in 2:40–I’ll take it.

As I mentioned int he NYC recap, the whole bike-to-run thing ain’t my strong suit, but I focused on making it from transition to mile 1 and figured I’d take it from there. Luckily, I found KMBGKef on the sidelines, who ran with me for about a quarter of that first mile, which helped it fly by. There’s a bit of a hill coming up along the Holocaust museum, and I definitely lost some time there. Mile 2 came up faster than I thought it would near the entrance of East Potomac Park (which is bizarre considering I was probably going slower than I thought I was), and before I knew it, the finish line came into view. The problem with this is that the finish line is in view for at least one-third of a mile, which really makes that last-ditch, give-it-all-you’ve-got sprint to the finish a long one. I was disappointed to let up my only age-group pass about 10 seconds before the finish line, but I’m proud of the way I held my own out there this time! (Run: 27:13)

Bike-Run Finish: 1:27:25. That brought me to a 14th-place finish in my age group (out of 70-something), which I was SO SO SO proud of. I trained hard through the ups and down and the injuries this summer, and it was really nice to finish the season with a good race. Overall impressions of Nations: well-organized, easy to navigate, and very fun. Bike course could have been more scenic (I think), but the run course is a very nice one. Swag is generous (a tech tee, large mesh backpack, and a glittery medal)–but it’s tough to say it’s worth the price when the swim is cancelled so often. Food afterward was fine–but I’d prefer nicer swag over fancy post-race food any day.

As per usual, my race day pictures were terrible so I won’t even bother to screenshot them — at the RnR USA half, I was looking like William Wallace… at Nations, I was channeling Josie Grossie. No, thank you–I will not pay $40 for that image, but thank you all the same, MarathonFoto.com.

I did, however, get to try my hand at photo bombing– what do you think? Haha. Maybe I shouldn’t quit triathloning.

photo 1-14HUGE congrats to H.A.M.Kef for killing her first triathlon and looking good while doing it!

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Malaysia Monday: 6 Days in Kota Kinabalu Part II

8 Sep

After a long hiatus, we’re back! To refresh your memory, we’ve already spent 3.5 days in George Town, Penang and covered local eating options, selfie sticks, and a retro railroad on the first 3 days in Kota Kinabalu. Today, we’re talking near-death experiences on Southeast Asia’s largest mountain, how to survive in a Borneo jungle, and free pedicures.

Day 4: Mt Kinabalu National Park

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Thanks to MountKinabalu.com for the awesome photo!

 

Mount Kinabalu is the main attraction in Kota Kinabalu and the highest peak in the Malay Archipelago. Some people spend 2 days and 1 night fighting altitude sickness, extreme conditions, and exhaustion to climb to the summit…. JetSet and I did not do that. Instead, the amazing staff at Eden54 arranged a day trip for us with Only in Borneo. Our tour guide, Mark, picked us up at the hotel around 8 am and we took the ~90 minute drive from KK to Mount Kinabalu national park.

Our first stop on the tour was a beautiful vantage point of the mountain. JetSet and I asked another tourist to take our photo. When we stood nicely next to each other smiling, he pulled his face away from the camera and said, “Aren’t you going to pose?” So we did:

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But then that wasn’t enough–“Do something!” he said. So we did what just about everyone else around us was doing:peacesigns

And then we finally gave him what he really wanted and acted a complete and total fool:jumpIn addition to this beautiful scenery (note the peaks behind us if you can take your eyes off the two complete messes pictured above), there is also a market and a few restaurants. The market was actually one of the most unique ones I saw–not the run-of-the-mill t-shirt places we had seen elsewhere in KK.

After the vantage point, we headed to the Botanical Gardens

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These were very cool- lots of plants I had never seen before. Here it was actually really helpful to have a tour guide–Mark pointed out cool things and gave us some advice about what to eat and what to avoid if we were ever stranded in a Borneo jungle. Naked and Afraid, here we come!

Through the Botanical Gardens we went, and on to the Canopy Walk. Now, a note here: I am not really afraid of heights, but I am VERY afraid of being suspended in heights (as in: I can go to the top of tall buildings, but you won’t catch me on a tightrope between them). When I was in Ghana 5 years ago, I did the Canopy Walk and I think my heart is still recovering from INTENSE tachycardia. So I almost chickened out this time around, but then I reminded myself that I probably wouldn’t die and, if I did, it would be on an awesome trip to Malaysia with my dear brother on the island of Borneo–what a way to go! So I took a deep breath and walked across that damn thing!

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I sang “Sitaram” (that chant you hear in almost every yoga class), and took it slow. I gave zero effs when a 9-year-old behind me yelled, “What’s wrong with that lady that she can’t go any faster?” This is what I looked like after the first quarter mile:

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About half-way through, I turned around to JetSet running across that thing like it was the East River Park. Whatever–I am not afraid of bees and he is.mikewalkAfter my brush we death,  we got back on the bus and headed to Poring Hot Springs. For those who may travel to Malaysia and think these might be worth it: they are not. They’re small and gross and it’s already 100% humidity every day in Borneo–why get into more hot water? I don’t understand. Anyway, connected to the springs are lovely trails, with a 10 minute hike to a small waterfall and a 30-45 minute hike to a large one. The paths are seriously Fern Gully-esque.

ferngullyAnd at the small waterfall, there is a relaxing spa opportunity–you can put your feet in cool, refreshing water and have fish eat the dead skin off! I find these things utterly repulsive, but JetSet has always wanted to try it, so he was thrilled to find the a naturally-occuring chance. He did not report feeling like a Kardashian.

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We definitely thought this day trip was worth it–all these little stops were several miles up and down major foothills, so we wouldn’t have been able to get to all of this without renting a car. Only in Borneo were easy and organized, and Mark added some hilarity to the day, which is the added bonus of tour guides if you ask me. The lunch included was at a Chinese restaurant that wasn’t any better or worse than a sit-down Chinese place in America, but if you’re interested in healthy food I’d bring a snack. All in all- Only in Borneo’s Mt Kinabalu day trip was a good choice!

Next week: Indiana Jones-style bike trips, JetSet’s insatiable love of pork, and the time I almost cried over a big ol’ fish (provided I find the damn flash drive with all my pictures–pray for me!).

 

 

 

 

My Best Friend is a Runner’s World Celebrity!

5 Sep

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Recognize that face? That’s KMBGKef’s mug staring at you from the Runner’s World home page! Go check out the whole story about how she’s is going to run a million races in one day here.

Katie Garibaldi’s Zucchini-Carrot No-Noodle Pasta

4 Sep

Ed Note: Today we’ve got an awesome no-noodle pasta from Katie Garibaldi, a San Francisco-based singer who’s a little bit country and a little bit soul, and definitely worth checking out. She’s a healthy eater after my own heart, and I’m thrilled to feature her recipe here! For more gluten free noodle ideas, refer back to these CuK favorites: butternut squash spaghetti and protein-packed blackbean noodles.

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I’ve always considered myself a pretty health-conscious person and started experimenting with cooking more nutritious recipes that didn’t include gluten or dairy. Problem is, my husband and I love pasta. Gluten-free pasta noodles are available in the stores, but as I started eating more and more clean foods, even those began to seem heavy and unappealing. In researching healthy recipes, I stumbled upon a technique of using a vegetable peeler to peel zucchini and use those as pasta noodles. I thought it was brilliant: a pasta dish without all the heavy grains! So I experimented with different veggies and ingredients. Really, the combinations are endless. In this recipe, I use zucchini and carrots for the pasta, and mushrooms, broccoli, and tomatoes for the “meat” of the dish. The sauce is a healthy pesto sauce that’s very easy and quick to make. This dish is packed with vegetables and nutrients, and the best part is you get full without feeling heavy and bloated—just clean and satisfied.

Katie Garibaldi recently unveiled her seventh full-length release of all new compositions since her award winning Next Ride Out in 2009. Brent Black of criticaljazz.com calls Follow Your Heart, “Americana music that transcends genre and geographic location,” in his five-star review of the album. When not performing and recording, Garibaldi can be found researching and creating healthy and personalized recipes for herself and her new husband. 

 Katie’s Veggie No-Noodle Pasta

Serves 2

Ingredients

Pesto Sauce

  • 2 c cilantro
  • 2 TBS raw sunflower seeds
  • 3 TBS raw cashews
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 3 TBS fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp tamari
  • ½ c olive oil

Veggie No-Noodle Pasta (serve with pesto sauce):

  •  1 c sliced mushrooms
  • 2 c broccoli florets
  • 3 TBS olive oil
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 c cherry tomatoes
  • 2 zucchini
  • 2 carrots
  • Garnish: shredded cabbage

Assembly

1. To make the pesto sauce: Blend the cilantro, sunflower seeds, garlic cloves, lemon juice, and tamari in a food processor until finely chopped.  Blend in the olive oil until smooth.  Put aside until ready to serve with meal.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare a non-stick baking sheet.  Put the sliced mushrooms and broccoli florets in a bowl with the olive oil and sea salt.  Toss to coat.  Transfer them to the baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes.  Halfway through baking time, add the cherry tomatoes.

3. Use a vegetable peeler to peel the zucchini and carrots into “pasta noodles” and put them in the same bowl you used earlier (for the mushrooms and broccoli) to coat them in the leftover olive oil.  Toss to mix up the pasta and set aside.

4. Place the pasta on two dishes and top with the roasted vegetables. Drizzle the pesto sauce on top, and garnish with shredded cabbage for added crunch. Serve and enjoy!

Raspberry FIG Challah

28 Aug

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I said pretty much all there is to say about this amazing weekend yesterday- luckily, now we have some scrum-dilly-icious bread to talk about today!

I found this delicious jam-laced challah idea over at Girl v. Dough. In addition to this amazing recipe, she is a great resource for making bread and I highly suggest you head on over there for some great tips and tricks. I followed her bread instructions exactly but subbed the jam for one without all the sugar–y’all already KNOW I think this FIG jam is the business. (Confused about the mid-sentence caps? recall this). I did a test run two weeks ago and have to admit that even I, Ms. Gluten-Free-Even-Though-I’m-Not-Allergic, ate half a loaf.

This bread is NinjaKef approved, and JetSet suggests smothering it in peanut butter. Though you should be warned that this may result in your looking like this:

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She’s normal. He ain’t. Not a lot more I can say about that.

Since I used someone else’s recipe directly I won’t commit recipe plagiarism–just go right on over here and check it out!

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