Baklava Cheesecake

28 Sep

Combinations are a funny thing. In some cases, combining two amazing things makes both better: Mos Def and Talib Kweli, chocolate and peanut butter, mulled wine and family, avocado and, well, anything. And then there are the pairings of two perfectly wonderful things whose product makes you realize we should have let well enough alone: cronuts, bacon cupcakes, and whatever those chicken fries are that Chick Fillet is hawking. Blech.

So, when I came across the idea of baklava cheesecake on a few blogs, I wasn’t quite sure what to think. Would this be a match made in heaven, wherein the sum becomes better than its parts, a la Will and Jada (lord, please don’t let the rumors be true!)? Or would this be just another example of muddled greatness (see also: the epic meltdown that was Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet)?

Well, the good news is this: I wouldn’t be writing this post if it were terrible. I’ll give you a second to you drool over this photo:

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I consulted more than a few other recipes to gather tips and techniques. I am truly standing on the shoulders of phyllo-covered giants here–namely, I took great inspiration from this Greek Recipes.TV (with a lovely video) and this Sprinkle Bakes recipe. Thanks to both for their contribution to this recipe. Because this was an experiment, I’m going to do a bit more preamble about the process–if you’re only here for the recipe, keep on scrollin’.

I ultimately decided to combine baklava with that incredibly-unique Honeyed-Greek Yogurt Tart and use pistachios in the baklava filling and clementine juice in the syrup. I wasn’t worried about the nutty filling or the cheesecake batter–what worried me was the syrup. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around how the cheesecake would absorb the syrup and was worried I would create a sloppy, cheesey honey mess (which, for the record, I absolutely still would have eaten with a spoon). On first serving of this dish, I poured just a bit of the honey syrup over the finished product and then gave each piece a generous helping of it as garnish. This received high marks from those eating it, but I was not particularly impressed.

So, I did what any self-respecting gluten-free/sugar-free baker who had just won a triathlon would do: i went home, smothered the leftovers with the syrup, and let it sit overnight. Then, I ate all of that gluten and sugar for breakfast…and dinner… the next day. You know, in the name of research.

I want the whole internet to know here and now that this batter absorbs traditional baklava honey syrup so amazingly that it is a crime against humanity not to pour it generously over the WHOOOOLLLLLLLEEEE cheesecake/pie, allow it to sit for at least 8 hours before serving, and proclaim that the the only appropriate way to address the honey-water-sugar liquid poured over from here on out is “sizzurp.” Its just that good.

And now, without further ado, the latest combo that makes each component better: Baklava Cheesecake

Baklava Cheesecake

**This is a make-ahead recipe! It needs time to cool and absorb syrup–do not think you are making and serving this within the same 4 hours!

For the baklava

  • 1 container (15-20 sheets) of filo dough, thawed and room temp
  • 2-3 sticks of butter, melted (one at a time so you can use as needed)
  • 1 c roughly-ground pistachios (I accidentally used roasted and salted ones and liked the low-savory flavor)
  • 2.5 c roughly-ground almonds
  • 1.25 c sugar
  • 1 TBS cinnamon
  • 0.25 tsp nutmeg

For the cheesecake

  • 16 oz Trader Joe’s chevre with honey, at room temp (I am very sorry if you do not live by a Trader Joe’s, but this stuff is just too good not to require singularly)
  • 1 c full fat Greek yogurt with honey (HERE IS A SHOCKER– I actually recommend something OTHER than Fage for this one: Trader Joe’s!), at room temp
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 2 eggs, at room temp

For the syrup (or sizzurp, if you’re down with Houston like that)

  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 c water
  • 1 c honey
  • juice of 1/2 clementine
  • 1 tsp Vanilla


  1. Prepare the cheesecake batter. Beat together the cheese, yogurt, and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until combined between additions. Set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350F. Prepare the bottom layers of baklava. Combine the ground nuts, sugar, and spices in a medium bowl. In a lightly-buttered 9×14 Pyrex pan, layer 4 sheets of filo dough after individually buttering them and top with about 1/3 of nut mixture (for more detailed instructions, read my baklava recipe or watch this video). Repeat. Put one layer of buttered filo over the second layer of nuts, then pour the cheesecake batter over top and smooth with a spatula. Top with the remaining nuts. Butter and layer remaining sheets on top of cheesecake/nut layer. Trim the edges and score the slices, trying to slice only through the top layer. Bake for 70 minutes.
  3. While baking the pie combine the honey, sugar, and water in a medium sauce pan. Stir over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Cook (without boiling!) over medium-low heat for 15-20 minuted, until liquid has thickened and is a lovely golden brown. Remove from heat, add clementine juice and vanilla and stir just to combine. Set aside and allow to cool.
  4. Allow the pie to cool–this could take 1-1.5 hours, so go do your laundry. Reheat* the syrup so that it is hot (but not boiling), and slowly pour about 3/4 of the syrup over the pie, making sure to get the corners, nooks, and crannies. Allow the pie to sit overnight, or at least 5-6 hours to absorb the syrup. Serve at room temperature with remaining syrup to side.

*A great debate rages about whether you should apply hot syrup to cooled baklava pies or cooled syrup to hot pies–I suggest using the cooled pie method in this case to accommodate the cheesecake, but if you try the other way and have success, I’d be interested to know it!

Catching Up Kefi: FERRAGOSTO 2015- 5 Days in Naxos

22 Sep photo 5 (7)

Alright alright alright– it hasn’t really been a summer until we have a rundown of the annual Terror Twins visit to the Motherland. Since I am hanging on to summer’s last light by tooth and nail, late September seems like the perfect time to catch up. Or something like that. For a refresher on Ferragosto, check out this rundown, or the scoop on Ferragosto 2013, or Ferragosto 2014. This is a long one, so for the short version, scroll way, way down.

photo 5 (3)This year started out inauspiciously. We landed in Athens and headed right for Piraeus, and JetSet was feeling ALL the jetlag.  We picked up a ferry to Naxos, and JetSet looked like this for most of the trip:

photo 2 (8)By the time we got there, we were famished and headed straight to Lonely Planet’s #1  restaurant recommendation, Meze2, and our first day went from inauspicious to inexplicably delicious REAL quick. This was so, so very worth it– JetSet and I both agree that it was the best horta (a giant pile of greens) we had ever had, and God rewarded our journey with MUSSELS SAGANAKI!

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photo 1 (7)We desperately searched for our accommodation (Despina’s Rooms, which gets four very enthusiastic thumbs up from the Terror Twins), which took forever because of the twisty-turny streets of Naxos’ beautiful old city. Sweaty from climbing up and down stairs and full from the world’s best horta, we did the only thing two exhausted Greek Americans could do: find the best live music and envy the apparently cancer-immune lungs of all the Europeans smoking cigarettes around us. Finally, we climbed into bed (separate twin beds this year, for those keeping track), and resolved to get up early to see Naxos by day the next morning.

…but then we slept until almost 11. Whoopsies. By the time we rallied and got out of the room, we decided to just cut our losses and head straight for the beach. Naturally, it did not disappoint.

photo 4 (7)After beachtime and caffeinated beverages, we took advantage of the Afternoon Light (when Greece’s beauty truly comes to out to play). We took some selfies. If I haven’t totally sold you on Greece, then let me point out that this is the view from the municipal parking lot. Friggin picturesque.

photo 5 (8)We headed out for more delicious food, and then headed over to the Ocean Club, which had been full of very cool-looking people the night before. We thought would be hopping again that night but was…well, not. The drinks, however, were great and also the size of our head.

photo 2 (6)A few hours (and I think another unintentional sleep-in later), it was a new day and we headed off to Abrami. Here, we found a few things: 1) absolutely incredible gigantes at the only taverna in town–what luck! 2) a trail that we concluded could ONLY lead to a nude beach just around the riverbend frequented exclusively by serial killers and 3) breathtaking views.

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World’s best gigantes

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JetSet, of course, wanted to know if he was in shape enough for the serial killers to kill (he has a sick sense of self-validation). This is as close as I would get– the brunette girl next door ALWAYS get serial-killed first.

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Ain’t nothing like a sunset in the eastern Med.

Okay, so at this point it’s been three days of sleeping in, eating meals of amazing food, and chasing the cool crowd from nightlife spot to nightlife spot. Usually, we would try and find something productive to do… but, instead, we headed out for another delicious dinner. The Gods of Ferragosto smiled upon us, and our gluttony was rewarded twofold: we were served by a man who flirted shamelessly with both of us (we think he might have also been a recruiter for the nude serial killer beach but can’t be sure) AND we fulfilled a lifelong Ferragosto dream by FINALLY convincing someone entertaining a whole crowd of people with traditional Greek to music stop what he was doing and play our FAVORITE acoustic song, Fevgo (for reference, I think this is like something like asking someone who is classically trained in Spanish guitar to play Phil Collins). I would play the video I took, but JetSet and I singing along karaoke-style drowns out the wonderfully talented and obliging man who so kindly indulged us.

So, after missing the in-crowd at the Ocean Club the previous night, we were determined to be with the Cool Kids that night, and headed right to (where else?) a place called Swingers. To get the party started, we tried to take a getting ready selfie like all the hip people we see on Instagram:

photo 4 (5)But only later realized you’re supposed to hide how messy your room is by focusing on your own reflection in the mirror. Sooo we tried again:

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Okay, so now the scene has been set. We’ve taken a totally hip selfie, both been flirted with by a potential nudist/serial killer, and were totally the “it” people during karaoke  the live music portion of dinner. Feeling fun and fancy free, we headed to a place called Swingers. I just tried to find the link to the bar, but when you google “Swingers Naxos” a lot of things unrelated to the superfun bar we went to came up. Hopefully, I still have a job next week.

photo 3 (4)We LOVED Swingers from the jump- the menus were printed on old records, the DJ played Whitney Houston for me, and we made friends with all the Greeks around us. Plus, we took ANOTHER out-of-focus picture, but we decided that it was appropriately blurry given the level of fun we had that evening and didn’t retake it.

So- if you and your brother had been gluttonizing all over an island for three days, what would your next course of action be? Scroll down if, like us, the adventure you chose was CLIMBING A MOUNTAIN.

photo 5 (4)But of course, the story doesn’t start there. First, we had to find the mountain. In general, the Terror Twins pride themselves on navigating Greece with the greatest of ease (and when ease ain’t available, we just stick our heads out the window and scream, “SIGNOMIIIIIIIIIIIIIII!”). This mountain nearly defeated us when we took a wrong turn and then continued following Lonely Planet’s advice to “follow the narrow paved road lined with a garden wall.” Well, we followed the wrong narrow path all the way down to a dead end which required approximately 10,000-points to turn. The situation was WAY too tenuous for me whip out my camera to take a picture (though he may be small, JetSet’s wrath is mighty), but needless to say it was reminiscent of this moment:

He specifically said

Okay, so now you’re all caught up. We’re at the mountain, we’re climbing the mountain, JetSet is racing all the other tourists he sees up the mountain because he’s got something to prove after days of inactivity, and what happens? I realize that I am, in fact, afraid of heights. For reference, a good place to make this discovery is not here:

photo 1 (3)One anxiety-filled trek back down the mountain, and my pulse had returned to normal and we were off again. To yet another beach.

photo 3 (5)JetSet and I were both pretty pooped from the climb, so we just bought a bottle of whatever was lying around and called it a night:

photo 1 (2)Haha, just kidding. You didn’t think we’d go to BED, did you? Instead of partying with our BFF Dom P, we headed to the awesome Museum of Folklore, which was hosting a bazouki concert that night. The host of the evening was something like a Greek Archie Bunker who had wandered onto the wrong set and found himself starring in Frasier. The concert was amazing–see a video here. The free wine and ouzo kept flowing, and before the night was out, I had bought a new shirt and a pair of earrings and JetSet had invited himself to the summer house of the Lebanese family sitting behind us. Opa!

Suddenly, it was our last day in Naxos. We took the good advice of a very nice man I work with and headed to the small village of Apiranthos. There, we feasted upon the an amazing Naxos cheese saganaki (do yourself a favor if you ever happen upon cheese from Naxos: eat it all), rode motobikes (sort of), and purchased Greek moonshine fireball (seriously).

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Whew, lordy. I am tired reliving it all!

We boarded our ferry back to Athens (nearly missing it, natch) and settled in for a happy little picnic on the outside deck:

photo 4After our time in Naxos, we spent a wonderful few days with our beautiful family in Athens, and my great Aunt and I used Greeklish to discover that we both really wanted to take a selfie together on our last morning with one another:


So, if you made it this far– congratulations. If you’re just joining us from up top and only want the take-homes, I ain’t mad atcha:

1- Naxos is a great island. Though there’s only one town, there is PLENTY to do in high season, and we were both thrilled with the ample opportunities for live Greek music and great food. Five days was a perfect length of time.

2- OF COURSE WE HAVE TO TALK ABOUT THE FOOD. Lots of people in Naxos have family roots in Crete, and so the food is just Again, the cheese– it’s almost like whipped feta cream cheese, and it is all over everything. So, so good.

3- Greece is just the most wonderful place, and whenever I am there my heart sings. If you’re still wondering what kefi is, it is spending a week with your brother/best friend exploring a beautiful island and giggling, connecting with your beautiful (and growing!) family, and getting to see views like this one every, single night:

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Pan-seared Salmon with Roasted Beets and Horseradish Salsa

16 Sep

Thanks everyone for your kind words yesterday about my big triathlon!

Today we have a recipe that practically cooks itself. It comes to us from HelloFresh, the ingredient-delivery service that MrKef and I use during hectic weeks. This meal was ready to go in about 25 minutes and got resounding thumbs up from both of us here in the Kef household–not an easy task!

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Pan-seared Salmon with roasted Beets and Horseradish Salsa


  • 2 fillets of salmon, skin on
  • 1 8 oz package of pre-cooked beets (or 3-4 beets, peeled and roasted), chopped into 1/2 cubes
  • 1 red onion, 1/4 diced and 3/4 chopped
  • grain of your choice–we used white rice because that’s what we had
  • 2 tsp horseradish
  • dill, to taste, diced (I used one of those small plastic packages, about 1/4 cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated or minced
  • 2 TBS balsamic vinegar
  • 1-2 tsp smoked paprika
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper, to taste


1. Get your grain going per package instructions (boil the water, cover the pot, etc etc). Preheat your oven to 400F.

2. Toss 2/3 of the beets with the chopped 3/4 of onions, 1-2 tsp olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place in oven for 15-20 minutes, or until onions are slightly carmelized (browned).

3. In a small bowl, combine the dill, diced onions, horseradish, remaining beets, and 1 tsp olive oil. Mix in some salt & pepper. Check on your grain per package instructions. Take out the beets/onions if they’ve been cooking and you forgot about them, like I did (oops!)

4. Season the salmon on all sides with salt, pepper, and paprika. Heat 1 tsp olive oil in a small pan over high heat. Once the pan is nice and hot (but not smoking!), cook the salmon skin-side down for 4-6 minutes (assuming a 6 oz fillet), or until skin begins to crisp and turn golden brown. Flip the fish and cook on the other side for 2-3 minutes. Set aside to rest.

5. Add the balsamic vinegar and garlic to the hot pan and let the liquid reduce by half to make a delicious balsamic glaze. Hello Fresh says you should discard the garlic, I think that is a horrible idea and ate it as a balsamic-garlic glaze.

6. Mix together your grain and horseradish salsa. Serve with fish and roasted beets and onions. Drizzle with balsamic glaze (with or without the garlic).

TriTalk Tuesday: Nation’s Tri 2015 Recap

15 Sep

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It’s Tuesday and that means two things: 1) in one (!) day I will be thirty and 2) it’s time for some TriTalk, and I’m linking up with Cynthia, Courtney, and Phaedra to give you the scoop on this year’s Nation’s Tri.

Last year the swim was cancelled due to heavy rain in the days leading up to the race. The weather this year threatened to make the race a duathlon yet again, but thankfully Mother Nature kept it together and we had a beautiful race day morning. Pre-race expo was easy as pie–in and out in less than 10 minutes–and bike racking was uneventful (I seem to have FINALLY learned my lesson from the drama of racking my bike for the 2014 NYC Tri!) . I was looking forward to getting home, stuffing my face with a gluten-free pizza, and going to bed.

…but first, I had to run 17,249 post-wedding errands. After a trip to Costco, Macy’s, Bed Bath & Beyond, the Post Office, Anthropologie and Athleta (which really were all wedding-related, even though I know that’s a strange list of wedding stores), I was finally home. All that running around made falling asleep around 9:30 easy, and I was grateful to be so sleepy that even pre-race jitters couldn’t keep me up!

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Photo credit: SwimBikeRun Photo


There are pretty much two ways to approach transition prep: get there insanely early and organize your stuff so that it would pass military room inspection standards, or get there with only as much time as you need and hope for the best. Any guesses as to which your Type B+ triathlete friend here picks? Exactly. I do not like to get caught up in other people’s mess on race day, so I try to get to transition 20-30 minutes before it closes, set up my stuff, and go claim a shady spot to sit by the swim start. I don’t bring a ton of extras with me (except for goggles–always gotta have a spare set of those!), I do not try to get fancy with balloons or other bike markers, and I do not try to fashion a bench out of a cardboard box or a cooler or what have you.

Sounds like I have it all together, right? Well, I do… once I get to transition. To have met me in this life is to have waited for me–so even though I plan to get to transition with 30 minutes to spare so as to avoid other people’s madness, I inevitably get there with about 10-15 minutes to spare and get caught up in my own shenanigans. This year, I had totally forgotten that Rock Creek Parkway was closing at 630, and I got stopped by a grumpy cop and had to go pretty much all the way back home and take the long way around.  C’est la vie.

The Swim

Like last year, there was lots of waiting around for the Olympic racers to all get off before the Sprint race started. Luckily, it was a stunning morning and then this rainbow appeared–truly a sign of a good race to come!

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Photo credit: Live Free and Run — go check out her awesome blog!

I was Heat 30, and we got moving sometime around 845. Here’s where things get interesting. In general, I do not race triathlons–I just really like doing them. However, sometimes even a Type B+ woman can be driven to Tracy Fleck dimensions. While chatting with this very nice woman, I mentioned that I often sign up for the Athena category (which is a triathlon class for women over 165 lbs… which is to say everyone over 5’6″ or so whose name is not Heidi, Cindy, or Iman). She looks me up and down and says, “Oh, wow. That’s crazy–you look like a normal person, I’m surprised you qualify for racing with those people.”

Now, I know she thought she was being complimentary, and I know that it is practically compulsory in this culture to meet even the slightest comment about fatness with an EMPHATIC “but you’re not fat! You’re just athletic/big boned/curvy/whatever!” but for whatever reason I was just not in the mood for this bologna, and so I decided right then and there that, even if I wasn’t racing the other 1,000 people on the course, I was going to race her. “Those people.” Hpmh.

I usually kind of lollygag my way thought a swim, but since I was suddenly competing, I put my head down and got that thing done… sort of. Twice I got so caught up trying to pass big bunches of people that I veered way off course and probably swam an extra 75 meters or so… whoops. Probably serves me right. The course is a little bit of a cluster because it’s a 9-at-a-time timetrial start and you’re swimming INTO the current for the first 200 meters, so that means there are just throngs of people struggling and bottlenecking for the first third of the course–not my favorite way to swim, but I got through it. I was pretty sure I was one of the first in my heat out, so I just took off for transition and hoped that lady enjoyed the view of my ENTIRE over-165lbs-since-middle-school butt as she watched me from behind. (Swim: 17:05)

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Apparently, this is THE #nationstri photo to take–I, sadly, did not strike such a pose, but thought these people did it the best out of everyone who did! Photo credit: Susie Goggs.

The Bike

I tried to zoom out of T1 as quickly as I could, with mixed results (4:10). I had used PAM Cooking Spray on my arms and legs to help get the wet suit off, and I think that was helpful. I was most slowed down by some mud on the 0.25 mile run from swim to transition, which had me running slowly to avoid falling and took some extra time to clean off

Pretty much as soon as I got on the course, I had the wildly pleasant surprise of finding that my legs felt AWESOME. Head winds were strong going up Rock Creek Parkway past the Kennedy Center, so I moved down to the drops–which I almost never do because I think riding on the drops is a bit unsafe, but since it was the last weekend of my twenties, I felt like reckless impulse was the way to go. Like last year, I just focused on picking people off, so I still couldn’t tell you much about the course… but it was flat, and it was fast. And I was not playing.

On the way past transition on Independence Ave (mile 11?), some woman zoomed by me and was weaving in and out of people (rather than pass on the left, where there was an ENTIRE PASSING LANE at her disposal). While she was breaking all the rules, she was rudely yelling at people who didn’t anticipate what she was doing BEHIND them in order to move out of her way… so uncalled for. Luckily for me, my selfrighteousness burns like the fires of Mordor, and I decided that I was, once again, in a race. She was speedy on the bike and stayed just out of reach, but–as tri luck would have it– her bike was racked near mine and I saw her head out of T2 just before me. Game on. (Bike: 55:28)

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Everyone else in the world got better pictures than I did and I think them for sharing! Photo credit: Jessica Margarit.

The Run

Rude Passing Woman aside, I really enjoyed my time on the bike, and felt strong and speedy for once as I headed into T2. I made a quick shoe change, guzzled some Nuun, and headed out to enjoy my favorite part: the Run! (T2: 2:15)

The Nation’s run route really is spectacular. Down Independence Ave, along the Tidal Basin, a quick uphill toward the Holocaust Museum, then down around the front end of Haines Point before a long chute on Ohio Drive. In the first quarter mile, I saw a patient of mine from a couple years ago cheering from the sidewalk, so of course I had to double back and see her and her supercute toddler–what a happy surprise to see them again! Last year the short-but-steep hill heading into the first water station killed me; this year I owned that little beast (but was bested by the GU I was struggling to open the whole way up… you win some, you lose some).

I thought I was running somewhere in the neighborhood of a 9:30 mile, and could not believe when my Garmin dinged off that I had completed the first mile in 8:20-something. This was insane! I had never felt this good this far into a race (even a sprint) before, and I was on track to match my 5k time from the beginning of the season.

As I rounded the 2 mile mark in Haines Point, who comes into my view? You guessed it: Rude Passing Woman. I’ve been working on my finishes, so I decided to hold steady for another quarter mile or so before turning it on and trying to catch her. As we headed up the Tidal Basin bridge onto Ohio Drive, I tried to conjure the sweetest aura I could so that as I went by she would just FEEL that I was doing it nicely and feel so badly that she had yelled at all those on the bike course. In fact, I bet if you go to, you’ll find a blog post about how this really nice, supportive, thick woman passed her in the final mile of the run and did it so nicely that she is turning over a new leaf and will be transitioning to for the 2016 tri season. Okay, so actually she paid me NO mind as I went by, and–fine–it isn’t really nice if you’re only being nice to prove a point, but … delusions are key to selfpreservation so we’ll just leave alllll of that right there and move right along.

Before I knew it, I was in the chute! I let loose and CHARGED for the finish line… I was not going to be passed in final seconds like last year. I got the run done in 25:48, almost a 2-minute improvement from last year.

Once I crossed, I realized I was pretty much surrounded by men and figured I must have finished pretty high up in the women’s rankings. I headed over to the timing tent, and was SHOCKED to see a number “1” in the Division Place column… I had WON my age group!

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Use your imagination. Looks like the photo credit’s been taken care of for me on this one!

I waited around for awhile before calling MrKef and my family to see if maybe people who had started after me would have finished faster, but it turns out that this time I had really won. This still feels so insane to me, mostly because lots of triathletes would argue you’re not even in contention for the podium without a fancy tri bike, and without having done a BRICK workout a week, and without an aero-helmet blah blah blah. I didn’t meet any of that criteria and here I was, my agegroup winner. How crazy! Total race time: 1:44:31

photo 3I thought I would have a lot to say about this, but I am still kind of shocked. I know, I know– it isn’t THAT special to have won an age group award, but in this world that equates thinness with fitness, it just feels like a HUGE win for me. Whenever I show up to bike groups or races, people are constantly assuming I’m a newbie, or that I won’t be able to keep up with the pace group, or that I need them to demonstrate complicated parts of the workout for me… and this is just confirmation that hard work and good training pays off–period.

It also confirms something that makes me really proud of myself: I cannot be bothered to let other people’s hangups get in my way. If I had waited for the right time, or the right weight, or to look the right way before I tried a triathlon, I would still be waiting, and I never would have found this sport that has brought me lots of joy and contributed immensely to my mental and physical health. This is a lovely thing to realize about yourself as you leave your twenties behind. To all my people out there who feel smothered by the totally effed collective that is American body image (however it affects you) I’ll say this: Bump the haters, don’t believe the hype.

And to “Those People” Swimmer and Rude Passing Woman: I’m coming for you again next year.

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Catching Up Kefi: My Little Sister Got Married!

4 Sep

If you go back the last few entries, most of them have started out with apologies and explanations about my absence and promises to do better. We’re gonna skip that today and just get right down to it: BabyKef’s wedding. On a scale of one to late, this post ranks pretty high– it was almost three months ago! Alas, better late than never, right? #ThingsChronicallyLatePeopleTellThemselves


Okay, so here’s the thing about your girl BabyKef: she ain’t in to all the detailed decision making, and she IS really into a party. When figuring out what to do for her nuptials, they did some looking and didn’t see anything that wow-ed them. Then one day she called us all and said she was getting married on a cruise ship. And we all said, “Of COURSE you are.”

The night before the wedding, BabyKef was in great spirits. So great, she entertained us all by chugging champagne straight from the bottle and displaying her signature dance moves.

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Photo blurry because can’t nobody hold BabyKef down!

The next day, there was mass pandemonium getting everyone on to the ship. On my death bed, I will regret not getting video evidence of MamaKef absolutely losing ALL her ish while charging up the gangway over whether we all had our passports. Priceless. Anyway, after a really beautiful ceremony with some of the sweetest vows I can remember, we had a new married couple in the family!

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MamKef, of course, was a major babe and absolutely killed it in her rouched gown (which she got for 90% off MSRP, thank her very much). She’s pictured here with some family favorites, my aunt and cousin!

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But the party didn’t end in the ship’s Discotheque my friend (and yes–Carnival insists on using the Euro spelling of “club”). A large portion of the FamiliaKef set sail  to keep on celebrating BabyKef’s Big Day. What happens when MamaKef, HomeBrewKef, ChefKef, CafeKef, and ChampagneOnlyKef hold court for seven days with a hodgepodge of hilarious new-to-us friends? Hijinks on the high seas. That’s what.

So here’s how it went: MamaKef and HomeBrewKef would get up early, claim some spots in the kidfree area of the pool, and we’d all sunbathe, nap, read, and eat (not necessarily in descending proportion). Then we’d break for gym/nap, and between 630-7, this was the scene:

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My parents had scoped out these chairs within about 15 minutes of being on the ship and decided that this would be their happy place. Luckily for us, it was right next to the surprisingly-sophisticated Alchemy Bar, Carnival’s own mixology station. We had two FANTASTIC women to hang with: Michelle and Tetyana:

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Just tell these two what flavors you like, and a custom cocktail will appear before your very eyes… and if the basil is misbehaving, Tetyana will spank it for you! Should you ever be on a Carnival cruise, and should you ever encounter these two, ask for the MAN-P (Michelle’s Awesome Nep Pineapple), the Remedy, or a Cucumber Thing Without Sugar (my favorite).

After drinks, it was dinner time. God bless Carnival– they tried. But gluten-free and sugar-free didn’t quite make sense on a cruise ship that serves pizza, ice cream, and burgers 24/7. Here are some of the hilarious iterations of ingredients that showed up at my seat:

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Broccoli a la (sugar free) mode. Have you ever seen such a beautiful sight?

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GF/SF apple pie… the cornflakes being the “crust.” I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this, but dutifully ate it because they really did try.

While the attempts at de-glutizing the table did take up a large portion of discussion, we should not stray too far from the drinks. As you may/may not know, ChefKef does not really drink all that much these days–the weekends are for training rides/runs, not tending to hangovers. Something came over me on the Wednesday of the cruise, and I declared that night to be “Drunk Dinner.” Happily, the table obliged:

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Then, BabyKef dropped by, reminded HomeBrewKef of one of MamaKef’s favorite sayings about anti-acids, and he absolutely lost it:

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By this time, I was “feeling no pain” as MamaKef would say. And since my dad was laughing, I figured it was time to make some trouble. I broke away from the group and secretly called BabyKef’s sleeping husband. When he answered, I whispered creepily, “David, we need you” and collapsed into hysterics. BabyKef found him later, sprawled across the bed fast asleep, with his hand still on the phone receiver.

We, on the other hand, headed over the The Quest. If you’re ever on a Carnival Cruise, plan your whole week around this–and you should most DEFINITELY attend it drunk and sans people you can’t share secrets with. I am not going to spoil it, but I will share that, at one point, we got here:

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We’ll keep the picture small and blurry to protect the guilty.

Despite the previous few paragraphs, we did also spend some quality time together engaged in activities other than eating a drinking. As we were celebrating BabyKef and all, we did lots of dancing, some of it with the 87-year old at the next table:
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But even HomebrewKef caught the carefree wave and participated in a Latin dance class!photo 2 (3)

There was a very strange trip to the cruiseline’s private island, where we unintentionally recreated a scene out of Good Guys :

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and I realized there is, in  fact, a limit to what I’ll do for champagne:

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And of course, there were all kinds of photos:

Some of the selfie variety…
photo 2 (2)MamaKef refused to pass up the chance to get her daughters in an absurd “glamour” shot:

And, of course, we had to act a fool:


And that was that! It was a beautiful wedding that led to a week of great times with the family and some new friends– Congrats, BabyKef!

Classic CuK: Grandpa B’s Extravaganza Eggplant Parm

9 Aug

Everyone is missing PurpleHeartKef on what would be his 93rd birthday. In his honor, let’s throw it back to the Grandpa’stravaganza of 2013, when he told us all about his tried and true method for awesome gluten-free eggplant parm:

Head over here for the whole scoop.

Ricotta Ice Cream with Balsamic Strawberries

8 Jul


The theme of this week seems to be  “food Chef Kefi, RN made but didn’t eat.” A meaty, full-of-flour pizza yesterday, and today some super-easy, 4-ingredient ice cream that’s chock full of sugar (and oh so good!). Not sold yet? Serve up that ice cream with some strawberries marinated in a balsamic glaze and just let the drool dribble on down your chin. An ice cream maker will help keep this ice cream light and smooth, but isn’t required.

Ricotta Cheese Ice Cream With Balsamic Strawberries 


  • 2 c ricotta
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 1/3 c confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 TBS Marsala wine (or 1.5 TBS sherry vinegar)
  • 2 c strawberries, sliced
  • 5 tsp sugar
  • 1 TBS balsamic vinegar
  • Juice of 1 lemon


1. Whisk together the egg yolks and confectioner’s sugar in a standing mixer until the mixture is thick and lemony in color. Add the Marsala wine, then the ricotta and whisk together until just combined.

2. If you have an ice cream maker, pour mixture into machine and churn to desired texture, then freeze. If you don’t have a machine, pour mixture into freezer-safe container and freeze until ready to serve.

3. Combine balsamic, sugar, strawberries, and lemon juice and refrigerate until ready to serve.

4. Move ice cream from freezer to fridge about 30 minutes before serving to soften. Serve with strawberries.


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