Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Santa Margherita Ligure


the beach we laid out on, Santa Margherita

About a month ago, Josh's co-worker Jamie was in Italy for a wedding, and stayed with us for a few days. We visited Lake Como (my "where's George?" posting), and then dropped her off in Santa Margherita. This is a small town down on the Mediterranean coast, just north of Cinque Terre near Portofino. This city is a beautiful and relaxing place to visit! Unfortunately we only had a couple of hours there, so we decided to lay on the beach and get some sun.




This area of the Italian Riviera is well known for its scuba diving, yachting and ritzy seaside resorts. Santa Margherita is expensive to stay in, but not nearly as expensive as Portofino. Portofino is a getaway for the extremely wealthy (and famous). Santa Margherita is a great alternative to staying in Portofino if you want that experience, but not the pricing. This town is also well known to the Milanese; everyone knows the town and thinks it’s a beautiful vacation spot.

Portofino


San Fruttuoso

Christ of the Abyss (Il Christo degli Abissi)



Since I have been teaching English courses in Milan, I have learned about some places to visit from the locals. When they heard I was visiting Santa Margherita, they said I had to see "Christ of the Abyss". I had no idea what this was, so they explained that it is a statue of Christ under water, about 20 meters down in a town called San Fruttuoso (near Santa Margherita). One of the guys in my class even had a picture of the statue on his cell phone. He said it was off the coast from a church, and many couples get married there underwater. After doing a little research, this statue was placed there as a gift from Genoa as a thank you for naval assistance. There are also underwater replicas of this famous statue in other parts of the world including Grenada, and Key Largo. We weren't able to visit the statue on this short, one day trip. Maybe next time!

Monday, June 27, 2011

We have a screamer!

Me, Craig and Josh on the gondola

The lady in black is "The Screamer"

About three weeks ago, Josh’s uncle Craig was visiting Switzerland for a work trip and decided to swing down to Italy for a weekend before flying home. He was very excited to see Venice, so we drove out for the day on Saturday. Of course, it seemed that everyone in Italy had the same idea! It was a holiday weekend for Italy, so there were many families in Venice on holiday. Not to mention there were 5 or 6 cruise ships docked there as well. With that being said, it was difficult to walk down the tiny narrow alleys of Venice without bumping into someone. It seems like we were being herded through the streets and I kept expecting Chandler Bing to be somewhere yelling “Moo”. Even when moving like a herd of cattle, the city is still amazing.

When we first arrived in Venice, we saw an artist with some great artwork on the street. We LOVED her impressionistic style and were very interested in purchasing a canvas. But with Josh being the analytically minded person he is, we decided to keep shopping. I can’t blame him- we would have been carrying the canvas with us all day. We could always go back. So, we waited to purchase artwork until later in the day.

in the main square of Verona


 
a statue in the square of Verona
We started out by grabbing lunch, and a beer on one of the side streets. When Craig and I were drinking our beer I came to the realization that Venice is the original “Shabby Chic”. The city walls are cracked, peeling, and the city could definitely use some updating, but that is the allure of it. It is so charming and there are so many great sites to see. We did the touristy things- walking around, enjoying the scenery and we took a gondola ride. Since there were three of us, we decided to take a gondola ride with another group of three from Chile. One of the women was so scared that the gondola would tip over and we would take a dip in the Grand Canal. She kept screaming and shrieking, and our gondolier was saying “we have a screamer!” That seemed to be the phrase of the day.
  

 
in the "royal box" at the arena

We decided that one day in Venice was enough for us, so on Sunday we drove to Verona and spent the day there. I didn’t realize how much history is in Verona! One of the first things we saw was an old Roman ruin called the Porta Leoni. It was the ancient Roman gateway in Verona that was built sometime in the first century. Other places we visited included Juliet’s balcony, Romeo’s house, the main square, palaces and what looked like tombs of crusaders. We also visited the arena (a smaller version of the colosseum) and realized that it is still a working arena. They have made the arena into an opera house that has regular shows. We ended up buying tickets for Romeo and Juliet the opera in in August. That will be our first opera, I’m so excited!

our seats for Romeo and Juliet are down below
where we are standing


After walking around for a couple of hours, we left and headed back to Milan. I’m excited to go back to Verona and see more of the city. We only scratched the surface!

My favorite part of the weekend: other than seeing all of the fun sites, trying a new drink called a Spritz was a fun new experience. It’s a specialty of Venice made with white wine, aperol, and sparkling water (or tonic) on ice with an orange slice. On a hot day, this is a very refreshing drink!

Porta Leoni


4 weeks until the Konig Ludwig Half!

SO... Here is what I've done in the past week! It was really difficult because I was recovering from that sinus infection, but I was able to push through and get in a few decent runs. Now... it's time to increase my distance already!! Even though I've been battling sicknesses, my body has felt really great. No knee issues this time around, and I've felt really great after my runs. I must be doing something right- I just need to remember to take my vitamins so I don't get sick again!! With all these little setbacks I'm a little nervous that I won't be ready for the half, but I'm going to push through anyways!

My long run ended up being on Monday because we had too many things going on this weekend. I'm realizing that I need to do my long runs on Friday mornings (especially in the upcoming weeks) because we have things going on each weekend that will make it extremely difficult to schedule a long run. Next week we will have visitors, and the following couple of weekends we will be traveling.

Anyone have thoughts on schedules with this kind of limitation? I was thinking about doing runs M, W, F (with the long run on Friday), T, TH will be pilates or cross training, then just walking on the weekends. Will this be enough?

My schedule for the past week:
Monday: 5 miles, 49 minutes
Tuesday: core training, 30 minutes (sit ups, pushups, wall sits, etc)
Wednesday: 6.5 miles, 1:04 (man it was hot that day!! and more hills than normal, I had to walk for five minutes after 3.5 miles, but I pushed through it)
Thursday: off
Friday: cardio run (2 miles in 18 minutes, walk two minutes, then 11 minutes of intervals*), core training- situps/pushups
Saturday: off
Sunday: walked 4-5 miles around Milan
Monday: 7 miles, 1:06
*when I do intervals, I usually do 60 seconds at a jog (just barely slower than race pace), 45 seconds at a run, 30 seconds sprinting, then back to a jog for 60 seconds... then repeat for at least 10 minutes. This helps me to increase my endurance and speed. I haven't done intervals in a few weeks, and with my illnesses putting a dent in my pace, I thought it was time to reintroduce them to my training. Hopefully it will allow me to be a little faster in the upcoming weeks.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

5 weeks...

Hey everyone!

Sorry for the late posting on this one. Last week was a tough week- I came down with a sinus infection that put a major dent in my training schedule. Unfortunately the last two weeks have brought my training to a stand still. It's very frustrating! But, I have been able to at least keep going at my current rate and not go backwards. Although, it has slowed my pace a bit, but that will change!

Here is what I was able to do last week:
Monday: Pilates
Tuesday: 4.8 miles, 44 minutes
Wednesday: Pilates
Thursday: sick
Friday: sick
Saturday: walked around San Remo (about 1-2 miles)
Sunday: sick

This week I've been able to do a little more, even though I'm still recovering. I've been working hard this week and hope to do a long run this weekend. Stay tuned...

Monday, June 20, 2011

Cannelloni


Here is another great recipe courtesy of Mario Batali. Josh and I made this one last night and it was delicious!! This cannelloni is a little sweeter than the ones I’ve had in the past, and had that little “something” that always seems to be missing when I make cannelloni. Mmmm… this one is definitely a keeper!! It is also not for the time conscious! This one takes a while to make, so be sure to save this for a weekend when you have time. But it is so worth it J
Time: 1 hour 20 prep, 30 minutes cook time
Serves: four

Cannelloni al Forno
Step 1: Make the Besciamella (20 minutes)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1.      In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Cook, stirring constantly until it is light golden brown (6 to 7 minutes).
2.      At the same time, bring another medium saucepan with the milk almost to a boil. Add the milk to the golden brown mixture, constantly stirring in one cup at a time. Whisk the mixture until smooth and bring to a boil (constantly whisking- or else the mixture will burn). Cook, whisking, until thickened (about 10 minutes), then remove from heat. Season with the salt and nutmeg. Transfer to a bowl and let cool, then cover and refrigerate.
NOTE: the cannelloni only calls for one cup of this mixture, while the recipe makes a little more than 3 cups. We cut everything into one third and only made one cup of the besciamella.

Step 2: Make the basic tomato sauce (40 minutes)
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 Spanish onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons freshly chopped thyme
½ medium carrot, finely shredded
Two 28 oz. cans whole tomatoes
Salt

1.      In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and light golden brown (8-10 minutes). Add the carrot and thyme and cook until the carrot is soft (about 5 minutes).
2.      Add the tomatoes with their juice and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower heat and simmer until the sauce is as thick as hot cereal (about 30 minutes). Season with salt. This sauce can be refrigerated for up to one week, or frozen for six months.
NOTE: to save time, we used canned, plain tomato sauce, and added that to the vegetables, instead of canned whole tomatoes with the juice. This will save the 30 minutes needed to simmer the sauce. Only a few minutes on the stove and the sauce is ready.

Step 3: Now, we are ready to make the cannelloni!!
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
8 oz. ground pork
8 oz. ground veal
¾ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
1 large egg, beaten
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cannelloni noodles (we bought pre-made, but Mario gives the recipe in his book for homemade- I didn’t include that because of how long this recipe is)
1 cup basic tomato sauce
1 cup besciamella
1.      In a 10-12 inch sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon butter over high heat until it foams and subsides. Add the ground pork and the ground veal, cook stirring occasionally and breaking up clumps of meat, until brown. Drain excess fat, then add ½ cups of the Parmigiano, the flour, and milk and bring to just under a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, cook for 10 minutes stirring frequently. Remove from heat and allow the filling to cool. Stir in the egg and season with the nutmeg, salt and pepper. Set aside
2.      Cook your noodles as instructed on the label. Use an ice bath to drop the noodles into after cooking- this will help to keep them from ripping when you stuff them with the meat mixture.
3.      Preheat the oven to 350°F.
4.      Spoon half the tomato sauce into the bottom of a large baking dish (9x13) in an even layer. (we used a little more than that)
5.      Fill the cannelloni noodles with the meat mixture, and line the bottom of the pan with the stuffed noodles. Top with the remaining tomato sauce and then the besciamella. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmigiano.
6.      Bake for 20-25 minutes until the sauces and cheese are bubbling and the edges of the pasta are crisp and browned. Serve immediately from baking dish.
Enjoy!!
This recipe seems complicated… but trust me, it’s worth it!! It was delicious J

Reference:
Batali, M. (2005). Molto Italiano: 327 Simple Italian recipes to cook at home. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers Inc.

Porcini Salad with Arugula

Insalata di Porcini. This salad has been a repeat in the Thielen household and is very easy to make. It’s simple, but with great flavor (as many Italian recipes are). Sometimes porcini mushrooms are difficult to find (even here at grocery stores in Italy), so I’ve used white agaricus bisporus mushrooms. This salad takes only a few minutes of prep time to clean the mushrooms, and only about 10 minutes cook time. This recipe comes from Mario Batali’s Molto Italiano cookbook.

Time: 15 minutes
Serves: four

Porcini Salad with Arugula

4 large fresh porcini mushrooms
2 bunches of arugula, washed and spun dry (about 3 loose cups)
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Coarse sea salt (I leave this out)

1.      Preheat grill or broiler
2.      Carefully cut each mushroom in half and place them on the grill or on a baking sheet under the broiler. Cook, turning often until charred and softened (8-10 minutes).
3.      In a large bowl place the arugula, ¼ cup of the olive oil, the lemon zest and juice. Divide into four separate plates.
4.      Remove hot mushrooms from the grill (or broiler) and place on arugula. Shave the parmigiano on each salad and spoon the remaining olive oil over the salad. Sprinkle with sea salt and serve immediately.

*Some changes that I make: I mix the dressing on the side with the olive oil, zest, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Then I toss the dressing with the arugula before adding the mushrooms. I also leave out the sea salt.

A great salad that will definitely be a repeat for us! Thanks to Mario Batali for sharing this one!


Reference:
Batali, M. (2005). Molto Italiano: 327 Simple Italian recipes to cook at home. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers Inc.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

6 weeks until the Konig Ludwig Half!

So, this week I found some new and interesting challenges in my training. I wanted to start working on hill training since it didn't really occur to me that there might be some big hills to climb in this race! The race is in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps... not sure why training for hills didn't occur to me sooner! After talking to Laura about that, I decided that my challenge this week would be hills. So, on Tuesday I started working on that.

I ended up running my long run on Sunday last week instead of Saturday as planned. We were in Venice with Josh's uncle Craig last Saturday and Verona on Sunday. As a result, it was difficult to get in the long run until we got home on Sunday night. And, of course, it started raining while I was running. Not so fun, but it made me run a little faster :) During that run I also realized something… Previously when I would train at a 10 minute mile pace, my feet would go numb at about mile 3 or 4 and stay that way for half a mile, then go back to normal. On Sunday I had that happen when I tried to hold myself back and run at a slower pace. When I relaxed and just let myself run at a more comfortable/natural pace, my feet were fine and the numbness went away instantly. I haven't had a problem with the numbness running at a faster pace, so it seems my body likes running at a 9 minute mile pace instead of a 10 minute mile pace. This could also be a result of different shoes. I now have Saucony running shoes; before I had Mizunos.

So, here is what I've done since last my last post:

Saturday: walked 4-5 miles around Venice
Sunday: ran 6.5 miles, 57 minutes
Monday: off
Tuesday: 4.35 miles, 51:30
Wednesday: off (sick)
Thursday: 1 hour Pilates
Friday: off
Saturday 6.10 miles, 55 minutes

I think my run in the rain last Sunday gave me a touch of the flu... I was really achy this week and my stomach was a mess. So that was another challenge this week in addition to the hills. On Tuesday I wanted to start my hill training, so I started running on an incline. After about 32 minutes my hamstrings were screaming at me! So instead of continuing and possibly injuring myself, I decided to walk for another 20 minutes on an incline. When I woke up on Wednesday I felt awful, so I decided to take the day off and rest. Then I decided to take it easy for the rest of the week to recoup. Man, taking off two days makes me feel like a lazy bum!! Even if I am sick…

The time off this week was actually really great. I feel like it was a much needed mental break for me in my training, not to mention necessary for my body to recover. Now I feel really great and I’m ready to continue my training with renewed enthusiasm. Bring on the new week!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Lago di Como, Where's George?

We have visited Lake Como a few times since I moved to Milan in February and it just gets better each time. Maybe that has something to do with leaves on the trees and flowers now that it is summer…? On the day I flew in, we drove up to Como and spent some time in the city, but the weather was too dreary to really enjoy it. We had some coffee and sat inside most of the time. The second time, we drove up to Cernobbio and Mennaggio, two beautiful cities! A couple of weeks ago, we also visited Lake Como with Josh’s co-worker Jamie and saw Bellaggio. Cernobbio is supposed to be home to George Clooney, so we called to see if he wanted to join us on our tour of Lake Como.

Me and Josh at the villa

Some interesting information about Lake Como (Lago di Como):
·         it is the third largest lake in Italy (next to Lake Garda and Lake Maggiore)
·         It is one of the deepest lakes in Europe- 1320 ft deep (400 meters)
·         Madonna, George Clooney, Gianni Versace and Sylvester Stallone have (or had) homes on Lake Como
·         Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the clones, Ocean’s Twelve, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace have scenes filmed at Lake Como (and we visited a few of those locations!)

Me and Jamie in Bellaggio
Bellaggio- this was not Josh’s first time to Bellaggio, but it was for me and Jamie. The city is very picturesque, but there were a TON of American tourists there. It was weird to be around a bunch of Americans in Italy, I’m not used to that! There aren’t many Americans in Milan (at least not that I have met). When we arrived, we drove around for about 45 minutes before finding parking. It is best to arrive early in the morning for that reason (we arrived around mid-day). We walked around this quaint little town, looking at the seriously expensive cars, the expensive shops with silk (Bellaggio is known for its silk) and other fun things, and enjoyed the amazing view of the Alps. The weather was great, but a storm was rolling in from the Alps, so we took shelter in a wine shop while the storm blew through.  The wine tasting was great (as always!), and they had a machine that automatically poured a perfect sample for us. This machine also put the charge on a card the shop keeper gave us. We could sample as many as we wanted and the card kept a tab for us. Very nice! We hadn't heard back from George at this point... we were a little disappointed but the day was still young.

storm rolling into Bellaggio with the Alps
in the background

Bellaggio from the ferry
  
After our stroll through Bellaggio and our wine tasting we were pretty relaxed and feeling good. We decided to take the water ferry (car and all!) across the lake so we could visit one of the famous villas used in Star Wars and Casino Royale.




Some amazing flowers at the villa

Villa del Balbianello- this was the hospital that James Bond went to in Casino Royale, and was also the lake country home used in Star Wars that Padma and Anakin were married at. This Villa has an amazing location on a peninsula with views of Lake Como on all sides. The villa was built is 1787 for the Cardinal Angelo Maria Durini, and after several owners it was purchased in 1974 by Guido Monzino (the leader of the first Italian expedition to climb Mount Everest). When Guido died, it was left to the National Trust of Italy. After some time relaxing in the gardens at the villa, still no George... Oh well. We must keep going!
Jamie relaxing and enjoying the view



The house where Anakin and Padma stayed


The green where James Bond is sitting when
Mr Basil visits him to settle the money tranfer

















Mr. White's house

On one of our previous trips to Lake Como, Josh and I also visited “Mr. White’s House” from Casino Royale. This house is currently a private residence, so we were only able to see it from the road. We felt a little like the paparazzi taking pictures at the road gate… but it was too amazing not to!

Cernobbio- the supposed home of George Clooney. We still had not heard from George, so we tried to text George again.... The Jolie-Pitts must have been in town visiting; otherwise I know he wouldn’t have missed a visit from the Thielens!! ;) On our way home from Villa del Balbianello, the traffic was completely stopped on the road to Milan. Cernobbio provided a nice reprieve from the parking lot we were sitting in on the highway, so we stopped and had dinner before heading back to Milan.

This was a lot of fun going to Lake Como, although it seems to be a very “American” tourist destination. I’m looking forward to exploring Lake Garda more (we stopped there on the way back from Munich and it was AMAZING).

My favorite part of Lake Como: Villa del Balbianello! The gardens and views are too great to pass up!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Pork Milanese


We made this dish earlier this week and it was delicious! This is another great meal for entertaining that can be prepped up to four hours ahead of time. Giada hasn’t lead me astray yet- here is another one of her awesome recipes from her Everyday Italian cookbook.

Pork Milanese
Time: 10 minutes prep, 15 minutes cook time
Serves: 4

1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, beaten
1 ¼ cups plain dried bread crumbs (we couldn’t find bread crumbs, so we used crushed croutons)
2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
4 8-oz center cut pork loin chops (1 inch thick)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 lemon cut into wedges

  1. Place flour in a wide, shallow bowl. Place the eggs in another wide, shallow bowl. Mix the bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, basil and thyme in a third wide and shallow bowl. (This is all for breading the meat. Set up a station with the flour starting at one end, the eggs next, then the breading mixture.)
  2. Use a meat mallet to pound the pork chops until they are ¼ inch thick. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper.
  3. One chop at a time, dredge them in the flour to coat lightly, dip the chop into the beaten eggs and allow the excess egg to drip off. Finally, coat the chop in the breading mixture. Press gently to allow the mixture to stick. (If preparing ahead of time, place the chops on a lined cookie sheet and cover them. Then place in the refrigerator for up to 4 hours.)
  4. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 150 degrees F.
  5. Heat the oil and butter in a heavy sauté pan over medium heat until hot. Place two chops in the pan and cook until golden brown (about 3-4 minutes on each side). Once done, place the cooked chops on a lined cookie sheet and place in oven to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining two chops.  Salt and pepper can be added to taste. Once all four are done, serve immediately with a wedge of lemon.
NOTE: the lemon is key with this dish! I wasn’t going to serve it with the lemon and changed my mind after tasting it without the lemon. The lemon should be squeezed onto the meat before eating (similar to how you would use lemon with seafood). This extra acidity really brings out the flavors of the breading on the pork chops.
We served the chops with steamed carrots and zucchini. Grilled asparagus could be another great side for this meal. Serve it with a medium bodied red wine- in our case we opened a bottle of Chianti Classico Riserva. Enjoy!
Picture of Pork Milanese Recipe

 

Reference:
De Laurentiis, G. (2005). Everyday Italian: 125 simple and delicious recipes. New York, NY: Clarkson Potter/Publishers.

Monday, June 6, 2011

No pizza for you!


Pizza Spontini!! This place came highly recommended to us by our friends Ilaria and Francesco. We have walked by it a few times since moving here and everytime it was alway packed with a line out the door, so we thought we would try it. After all, it seemed that the locals liked it- surely we would? They say it’s the best pizza in Milano, so we thought we could judge for ourselves. Josh and I went there a few weeks ago for the first time, and despite the long line, we were able to get a table right away. The hosts at the pizzeria are very much like the “Soup Nazi”- when you’re done, they come over yelling “Andiamo! Andiamo!” (Let’s go! Let’s go!). Basically, you get kicked out of your table when you’re done. There is no time for lingering after eating pizza at Spontini! You have to eat the pizza and abide by their rules. Otherwise it may be a situation where you hear “No pizza per tu!” (No pizza for you!)


We went back to Spontini this weekend with Josh’s uncle Craig. He was in town for the weekend after a business trip to Switzerland, so we decided to take him to the place with the best pizza in Milan (well… so they say). We thought we were going to get kicked out at first…but pulled things together just in time. In spite of our best efforts to understand the fast Italian that the host was speaking, we failed to understand that with only three people, you sit at a two top- not a four top table. We thought he said to sit at the four top… within seconds of maneuvering to the table, the host was yelling at us that only groups of four or more could sit at a four top- not three! What he was originally trying to tell us was to wait in the corner for a minute until the next table opens. With my nicest smile I looked at him and said “no capisco” (I don’t understand) and he quickly realized that our Italian is not very good. I thought if I could be like Kramer with the Soup Nazi and befriend him, we would get a table quicker and be able to eat our pizza in peace. We quickly found out that Pizzeria Spontini has a “Pizza Nazi”!!


Our server at Spontini (not the one
with the opinion of Obama though)
 
We also realized how open one of the servers was with his opnions when we were there. He asked us where we were from and we told him Minnesota, USA. The first thing he said was “Obama!” (this is the first thing anyone says here when you say you are from the U.S.). Then he proceeded to say he didn’t like Obama, and that he was “shit”! People here have very strong opinions about him and they always want to share it with you. The server said it with a little laugh though, so I think he was trying to ruffle some feathers more than anything. Of course, Josh appreciated this since he is such an instigator himself J
 



Pizzeria Spontini Milano
The wood fire oven

The pizza at Spontini is soooo good! No wonder it was voted by the residents of Milan as the best pizza in the city! It is amazing deep dish pizza with lots of gooey cheese. We thought we tasted a little bit of fish in there, but couldn’t decide if it was our imagination or not. As it turns out, we were right! They use a wood fire oven to bake the pizza and the ingredients include cows milk cheese, oregano, Emilia tomato pulp, a thick soft crust yet crisp at the bottom, and anchovies. There is only one type of pizza, and the only option you have is to order a small or large. And of course, you have to have a beer! I would highly recommend stopping by Pizzeria Spontini when in Milan, just be sure not to upset the Pizza Nazi!

The monster deep dish pans


Friday, June 3, 2011

7 weeks until the Konig Ludwig Half Marathon!

At the end of July I am running the Konig Ludwig Half Marathon with my friend Laura. It looks like an amazing race that goes through the base of the Bavarian Alps outside of Fussen. The race path runs by a beautiful lake near Neuschwanstein Castle (Mad King Ludwig's castle). I'm so excited for this race!! It initially caught my eye because it has my maiden name (Ludwig), and it is also named after a FANTASTIC brand of beer :)  When I was a kid, my dad had a poster of this castle hanging in the hallway at home. I used to dream that I was somehow related to this King Ludwig and could go to live in my distant relative's castle. Of course, we all grow up and realize that it is now just a tourist attraction. But the enchantment is still there.



The reason I am writing about this is because I need to stay accountable in my training. With all of the traveling we have done in the past few weeks, and the inconsistent schedule I have in Italy, it's difficult to stay on a set training schedule. To be sure that I am staying on task, I am going to write about my training each week. Hopefully this will keep me going since I don't have any running partners to hold me accountable.

If you have any suggestions on things I can do to improve my pace during my training please let me know!! My goal for this half marathon is to run it in 2 hours or less. I basically just started my training by running at a quicker pace than usual, and kept up with that. Hopefully it works in the end!! So far, it has helped me to increase my pace.

This week was week seven of my training, and there are seven weeks to go until the race. This will be my second half marathon- my first being the Gary Bjorklund half (at Grandma's) and I ran it in about 2 hours, 10 minutes. At the beginning of this training, I started from pretty much nothing since I hadn't been running for a few months. If I was lucky I would get a mile run in from time to time, but nothing serious. This week I was able to run five miles twice which was a big accomplishment for me. For some reason, the five mile mark is a big barrier for me- everything after that seems to come a lot easier. So... this was a big week in my training! Here is what I have done so far for this week:

Monday: 5 mile run, 47 minutes
Tuesday: 1 hour pilates
Wed: off
Thursday: 5 mile run, 45 minutes
Friday: 1 hour pilates
Saturday: 6.5 mile run planned  

I am very happy with my progress up to this point. Since I can remember, I have always been a 10 minute mile runner. Slowly I'm starting to change that :)

Prosciutto wrapped asparagus

Here is another great recipe courtesy of Giada! This easy to make appetizer is great for entertaining. This one is really easy and great because it can be made ahead of time and sit for a while before your guests arrive. It is meant to be served at room temperature. We made this for our Italian friends, Ilaria and Francesco, at our first dinner party in our new apartment. It was a big hit!

Prosciutto wrapped asparagus
Time: 20 minutes (plus cooling time)

12 asparagus stalks (about 1 pound), trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 paper thin slices of prosciutto halved lengthwise

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
2. Peel the bottom of each asparagus (or snap off the ends- this is what I do). On a heavy baking sheet toss the asparagus with the oil, salt and pepper. Put in the oven and roast until the asparagus is tender (about 15 minutes). Let them cool completely.
3. Once cooled, wrap each asparagus with one piece of prosciutto, leaving the tips of the asparagus exposed. Arrange on a serving platter and serve at room temperature.

Asparagus Wrapped Prosciutto

This is a great appetizer where you get the flavor of the prosciutto, while eating your vegetables too J. It is also a beautiful presentation that will impress your guests. This will definitely be repeated many times in the Thielen household!


Reference:
De Laurentiis, G. (2005). Everyday Italian: 125 simple and delicious recipes. New York, NY: Clarkson Potter/Publishers.