12.31.2011

Goodbye 2011!

So much happened this year! 365 days ago, Dan and I were getting ready to board a plane back to snowy New Jersey, with paper deadlines and finals looming.

In January, we mostly huddled inside, trying to study for exams, prepare for thesis presentations, and finish off our second to last semester. At the end of the month, I took a trip down to Austin, TX with Princeton Crew for our annual winter training trip.

The team in Texas.
At that point, I was still in the second boat. Occasionally, our coach gave me a glimmer of hope that I might be considered for the top boat, but it was always fleeting. I also really got my weight under control in January/February, regularly hitting 129 pounds.

February began our final semester at Princeton. The month went by in a blur, with the exception of Dan's wonderful V-day surprise.


During February, I also worked my way into the top boat with the Princeton lightweights as we prepped for our first race.

March marked the start of our racing season, where we blew our competition out of the water. We immediately took the top of the national polls. It also marked a rapidly approach deadline: my senior thesis due date.

In early April, my thesis was handed in, and the beginning of the end began. The lightweights finished our undefeated regular season, Dan and I completed our final classes at Princeton, and we prepared for finals and graduation.

In May, we won the regional championships!


And then Dan and I graduated.


I got sick during graduation. Lots of people, incredibly high temperatures, and the stress of training were not a good combination. I stayed sick through June, when we raced at the national championships, and came in second.

Dan and I briefly parted ways while he visited home in Oregon and I flew to England to race one last time.

Rowing in England!
We were reunited in Berkeley shortly thereafter, where Dan began his search for work, and I started work as a rowing coach. We also began planning our wedding!

In August, Dan started work at an architecture firm in San Francisco. As we both got busier, the year began to march away a little bit more quickly.

September and October were spent looking for housing and making money. We finally moved into our new apartment in mid-November. We enjoyed Thanksgiving with Dan's parents, as they came down to help us move.

Thanksgiving on the beach! Only in California.
December brought frantic wedding planning, including the arrival of my wedding dress! (Yes, it still fit!) We also celebrated the holidays both in California with my family and in Oregon with Dan's.

Now, one year later, Dan and I are out on our own, and preparing for our wedding--a short two weeks away!

Stay tuned for New Year's Resolutions tomorrow!

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12.30.2011

Easy Peasy Whole Wheat Bread

If you search for "things that have to be made with a KitchenAid", bread comes to the top of the list. This is, of course, not true (unless you're making brioche), but it sure is much easier. And this recipe couldn't get much easier.

Like all bread, this takes time. Try it some weekend. If you start it at breakfast, you'll have fresh from the oven, fluffy 100% whole wheat bread by lunch time.

The key to making the bread fluffy, instead of dense, is adding vital wheat gluten. Adding this protein helps make up for what whole wheat flour lacks--the ability to hold onto air bubbles. You can usually find it in the bulk section at your super market. Bob's Red Mill also sells a packaged version.

Note: stand mixer not required, but these directions call for one.

----- ----- ----- ----- -----
100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread
makes 1 large loaf

Ingredients:
1.5c warm water
1.5t active dry yeast (1 packet)
pinch of sugar
3T oil
2T honey
3.25c whole wheat flour
3T vital wheat gluten
1.5t salt
milk or cream for brushing

Directions:
1. In a small bowl, or in your liquid measuring cup, mix the warm water, yeast and sugar.
2. Put the remaining ingredients except milk/cream into the bowl of your stand mixer.
3. When the yeast is bubbly, add it to the stand mixer and mix with the paddle attachment until the dough just comes together. Let the dough rest for 20 minutes.
4. Knead the dough for 5 minutes, rest for 2 minutes, knead for 5-7 minutes, or until the dough passes the windowpane test.
5. Let the dough rise someplace warm for 1-2 hours, or until doubled in size.
6. Gently fold the dough down (don't punch!! unless you like dense bread...), then shape it into a loaf in a greased, lined 9x5 loaf pan
7. Rise an additional 30 minutes to an hour, or until the bread has crested over the top of the pan. (It won't rise much more in the oven.)
8. Brush the top of the loaf with milk or cream, and bake for 45 minutes at 350°F. I also brushed the tops 10 minutes and 20 minutes into baking, so the top was nice and shiny.
----- ----- ----- ----- -----

We ate this with a salad and homemade split pea soup. There's something so satisfying about an entirely homemade meal.. I can't wait until our balcony garden produces enough veggies for a homegrown, homemade meal!!

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12.29.2011

A New Tradition

Last year, Dan and I started a new tradition. We celebrate Christmas Eve with my family, eating a traditional German feast of red cabbage, mashed potatoes and goose, followed by delicious desserts.

On Christmas morning, we trudge to the airport and make the two hour flight up to Oregon to meet Dan's parents at the airport. After Christmas dinner with Dan's family, we make the drive to his parents' house out by the coast for a week of relaxation.

This year, a most wonderful present was awaiting me under the tree--a brand new, beautiful KitchenAid. I've wanted a KitchenAid for a few years, but realized how impractical it would be in a college dorm. Although it was probably good for my waistline, I was disappointed every time a cake craving was thwarted by my inability to whip up a nice buttercream frosting.

So far, we've made chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream frosting, challah (my favorite kind of bread), whole wheat sandwich bread, and nutella cookies.

I think for lent this year, I might have to give up anything I could make with my KitchenAid instead, just so I have an excuse to use it more. Not that I've needed an excuse so far.

Happy baking! And I hope everybody is coming out of their holiday food coma, and ready for more. If not, trying whipping up a batch of nutella clouds (replace the peanut butter with nutella) by hand.

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment or emailing me at piquantprose [at] gmail [dot] com.

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12.25.2011

Merry Christmas from OAK!

Heading to Oregon for Christmas take two!!!

Updates to follow.

Hope you all have a very merry Christmas!

12.23.2011

Book Review: Tender by Nigel Slater

Back in Princeton, Dan and I visited one of the last remaining bookstores on earth. (Ok, that's a bit dramatic.) I think we spent an hour just perusing the shelves, Dan in the photography section, while I buried my nose in cookbooks.

The selection was absolutely overwhelming--hundreds of cookbooks, with thousands of recipes, and so few meals to cook. (We were eating in the dining halls.) I knew I didn't need any of them, but when I pulled this one off of the shelf, I was captivated.

I dragged Dan over to show him the dark, oversaturated photographs, paying homage to fresh, crisp, tender vegetables. Finally, somebody who understood!

The pages of this book are sectioned by vegetable--from your standard broccoli to the more unusual celeriac. Each section has a succulent description of the vegetable, graphic enough to make even the most ardent zucchini-hater reconsider, followed by planting tips for your backyard vegetable patch, and a collection of recipes.

Now, I know the English are famous for crappy cuisine, but I think Nigel Slater may be one of the few with some serious tastebuds. So far, we've made two recipes from the book, both of which were phenomenal. The remaining recipes look equally delicious, and I hope to attempt many soon.

Be warned that these are not recipes for the faint of heart--he is not shy with the heavy cream--or those new to the kitchen, as the instructions can be quite vague.

Pros:
- Amazing photographs and descriptions, all of which make you want to eat more vegetables
- Creative and classic recipes, plus notes on how/when to eat them
- Great organization, and clear layout

Cons:
- Many of the recipes rely on meat and fat, so this is not for strict vegetarians or people on a diet
- The recipes can be a bit vague in places (e.g. "cook as you see fit")

Overall, I'd recommend Tender to any carnivores trying to eat more vegetables, as well as anybody who's serious about growing their own vegetables. If you don't eat meat at least occasionally or garden, it's probably not worth the $25.

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12.22.2011

Tuiles and Trees

Earlier this week, Dan and I decorated our first Christmas tree together!



Apparently, if you wait until the week of Christmas to decorate your tree, all of the ornaments go on sale. We decided to do a classy tree, with glass ball ornaments.. ok so they're mostly "shatterproof" glass, aka plastic.





That same evening, I tested the good graces of my La Farine apron once again. Flipping through my cookie book, I scanned ingredient lists to find something I could actually make. (A lot of the recipes call for cream of tartar.. probably a good thing we don't have any, or Dan and I would eat way too many cookies.)

I stumbled upon tuiles, a super thin wafer cookie that is incredibly pliable when hot, and very stiff and crunchy when cooled. They also look a lot like GIANT potato chips.

The recipe toted the difficulty of making these cookies--not only do they involve an unusual shaping method, they also require precise removal from the oven. The line between crisp and chewy is almost as thin as the line between crisp and burnt.

Fortunately, I had luck on my side.



Well, except on this batch.. I used parchment paper instead of aluminum foil, because I like to experiment. Outcome: cookie fail.



I'm not going to give you a recipe, because you should really just go buy the book. I will give you some advice, however:
1. Use aluminum foil, dull side up, liberally buttered. Alice Medrich claims silicone mats work as well--I don't yet have silicone mats with which to test, but I trust her.
2. After 10 minutes in the oven, check often.
3. Once they're out of the oven, work fast. On your first batch, I recommend making just one or two cookies, so you see how they behave right out of the oven. From there, you can increase the size of your batches.
4. Feel free to re-use aluminum foil, just make sure to re-butter!

Happy baking!


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12.20.2011

Split Pea Soup: Peas Optional

In an effort to declutter, I sold a number of old books to our local used bookstore, Moe's. In addition to making space for the books I'll actually read, they gave me Moe's money to spend in the store.

I spent a long time browsing (as I do in all stores), and eventually ended up in the cookbook section. (Somehow, I always end up there--like father, like daughter.) As I flipped through the various books, mostly from long disproven fad diets, I saw the yellowed spine of a small, unassuming, paperback book.

<Image Source>
I'd heard the name before, but never bothered to delve deeper. When I opened the pages, I was immediately enchanted--the recipes were all about the vegetables. They were simple, varied, fresh, savory, delicious.. I bought it.

Of course, it has taken me months to actually read its contents, and select a trial recipe: split pea soup. Dan and I made this last night and it was marvelous. The soup is thick, hearty, filling, and flavorful. 

Due to Dan's dislike of mustard and vinegar, I had to alter the recipe somewhat. If you do not have such an aversion to mustard, a squirt of Dijon upon servings does wonders to brighten the flavors and tickle your tongue.

----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Split Pea Soup
serves 4 when served with bread
based on Molly Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook

Equipment
2 qt. slow cooker (or a big pot and lots of time)
sharp knife
frying pan
stirring utensil

Ingredients
1.5c dry green split peas
3.5c water
1 bay leaf
1t salt

2T oil
0.5 onion, minced
3 stalks celery, minced
1 potato, thinly sliced (2-3mm thick)
2c sliced carrots
2 cloves garlic, minced
0.5c chopped tomatoes
0.25t thyme

0.25c freshly chopped parsley
Dijon mustard, pepper for serving

Directions
1. In the slow cooker, combine the split peas, water, bay leaf and salt. Cook on high for 3-4 hours. (If you don't have a slow cooker, simply simmer this, covered, for 3-4 hours.)
2. Saute the onion, celery, potato and carrots in the oil until the potato and carrot begin to brown slightly. Add the garlic and chopped tomatoes; saute for an additional 5 minutes. (This looked good enough to eat plain!!! I may make this for lunch some day.)
3. Add the vegetable mixture to the slow cooker, along with the thyme. Let cook for an additional 15 minute.
4. Just before serving, add the mustard and parsley. Serve with toasted hunks of bread, in warm bowls.
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----

The ingredient list is long, but you probably have most of the things on the list already. The process couldn't be simpler.

Each serving has just under 400 calories, with around 20g of protein, and less than 10g of fat. (You could cut the fat by using just 1T of oil.)

If you're a carnivore, chorizo would be good in this, as would the more traditional ham. (Great way to use leftover Christmas ham!!!)

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment or emailing me at piquantprose [at] gmail [dot] com.

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12.19.2011

La Farine Challenge

This story is a little bit haphazard, but bear with me.

A few weeks ago, I attempted to bake muffins. Instead I ended up setting off the smoke alarm, spilling burnt butter all over the oven floor, and throwing out perfectly good cranberries. Not a good start to our first apartment.

To remedy the situation, and bolster my spirits, Dan purchased a T-shirt from my favorite bakery--La Farine. My next baking adventure, wearing the T-shirt, was much more successful--the banana bread disappeared within 24 hours.


The success was clearly due to the good graces of the La Farine fairy. To ensure future baking success, Dan went on a search to find a La Farine apron, also sold in their stores. 

Unfortunately, there was only one left--an apron that had graced the mannequin of their Fruitvale location. Having only frequented their Solano, Piedmont and College Avenue stores, we immediately jumped on the opportunity to visit a new location, and sample the goods.

The apron is awesome--I made brownies from Alice Medrich's cookie book last night. There are very few brownies remaining. (Oops.)

We also determined that it's impossible to compare La Farine products from different stores without side-by-side comparisons. Over the next few months, we plan to acquire the follow baked goods from various La Farine's for comparison:
- sour baguette
- sour batard
- an assortment of cookies (bisous, chocolate pecan, peanut butter, etc.)
- chocolatine
- frangipane

Of course, the closest La Farine is approximately 4 miles from our apartment.. a journey that must be accomplished by bicycle. (This is our attempt to neutralize the calories of french pastries. Not sure that's possible.)

We'll keep you posted on our progress! And the apron should make an appearance in some upcoming photos.


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12.12.2011

Butternut Squash

Maybe your knives are sharper than mine, but I think butternut squash is a pain to prep. Most recipes call for peeled, cubed squash, which just counts me out right away.

So when I came across a recipe in the Moosewood cookbook for butternut squash soup with pre-cooked squash, I went for it. (Especially necessary seeing as I'd already cooked the squash just to get it off my counter.)

One of the biggest problems with butternut squash is its overwhelming sweetness. The flavor is too strong to conceal in sweets, and it's too sweet to hide in savory dishes. (We tried a butternut squash chili--it was too sweet to be hearty chili.)

This recipe counters that with the addition of mushrooms and curry powder.

P.S. No blender required!!!

----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ------
Butternut Squash Mushroom Soup
serves 4
adapted from the Moosewood Cookbook

Ingredients
3T butter
0.5 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
6-10 medium brown mushrooms, sliced
1T cumin seeds
2T curry powder
1c vegetable stock
1c water
1 butternut squash, pre-cooked to softness and scooped from its skin
salt + pepper

Directions
1. Melt the butter over medium-low heat in a heavy bottom saucepan. Add the onions and a dash of salt, stirring to coat in butter and cooking until just softening.
2. Add the celery and carrot, stir and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes.
3. Add the mushrooms and cumin seeds, stirring every minute or two, and cooking until the mushrooms are browned and fond is forming on the bottom of the pan
4. Add curry powder, stock and water, scraping the fond off the bottom of the pan. Stir to coat the veggies and mix the curry.
5. Add the butternut squash and stir again. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes, periodically mashing the squash against the side of the pan with a spatula (unless you want chunkier soup).
6. Add salt and pepper to taste.
---- ----- ------ ------ ----- ----- ------

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12.08.2011

Adventures in our new kitchen!


Dan and I have been cooking on our own for a few weeks now, and we've been getting along nicely. Having a gas stove has helped me with the transition. (I grew up cooking with gas, so I find electric very confusing.. I always look below the pan to see how hot the flame is.)

A few notes:
1. Menu planning is super helpful. We're on a pretty tight budget, which means we try to use everything we buy--that's a lot easier to do when you have a plan for what to buy. We still have a few grapefruit languishing in the back of the fridge, but we're using up our produce appropriately.

2. Slow cookers are AWESOME. Dan and I generally don't make it home from work/gym until around 7:30 or 8pm. (Last night, we finished our workout at 9!!!) It's really nice having dinner ready to go when you get home. We also use it for oatmeal!

So far, we've made oatmeal, beans, lentil soup and chicken tortilla soup. I expect it will continue to get heavily used.

3. I'm out of practice baking!! I tried to make muffins this weekend, and ended up setting off the smoke alarm. The butter/sugar didn't incorporate very well, and ended up bubbling over the edge of the muffin pan onto the oven floor. I spent 30 minutes scrubbing out our oven today, and it's finally usable again.

4. Toasters are awesome--and prevent a lot of burnt bread.

We're continuing to enjoy our first month cooking on our own--it's a terribly fun adventure.

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11.16.2011

Vegetarian Sandwiches

Growing up, I thought of a sandwich as meat and bread, occasionally garnished with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles or condiments. (My family didn't do PB&J.) I relied on the sandwich as a lunch staple.

When I gave up meat, my view on sandwiches had to change. It was easy to just replace the meat with tofu, or eat endless grilled cheeses, but I had bigger plans for the humble sandwich.

Some of my favorite veggie sandwiches:
- chickpea salad sandwich
- tomato, pesto, parmesan sandwich
- avocado or hummus + carrot/cucumber/beet/other crunchy veggie matchsticks
- grilled cheese (add tart apple slices to make it 'gourmet')
- sauteed mushrooms with melted (swiss) cheese
- mayo, tomato, cucumber, open-face, on fresh baguette
- nutella and fresh berries (make sure to use nutella on both slices of bread!)
- quesadillas with corn, tomato and bean salsa (I know, not really a sandwich)

What's your go-to sandwich?

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11.14.2011

How To: Fake a Grilled Cheese

All my life we've had a griddle for making grilled cheese sandwiches. Today, I was planning to make one for lunch using that very griddle, but all we had was frozen bread. I decided to toast the bread and then griddle the sandwich... but a lot of things went wrong.

First, I couldn't find the cheese planer, so I had to cut thick slices of cheese with a knife. If you have much grilled cheese experience, you'll know that thinner is better.

Second, I discovered that our toaster has a different interpretation of "bagel setting" than my dorm toaster. For most toasters, bagel settings only toast one side of the bread. (This thaws the bread while leaving one side per slice unbrowned and therefore griddle safe.) Ours just toasts it longer on both sides.

Starting a grilled cheese with almost burnt toast and thick slices of cheese is a recipe for disaster, but the microwave saved the day.

To fake your own grilled cheese, thoroughly toast two slices of bread. Layer one slice with ample cheese and microwave for 20-30 seconds, or until the edges start to bubble. Put the second slice of toast on top, flip and microwave an additional 20-30 seconds, or until the cheese is melted.

Your toast will stay crispy, your cheese will be melty and there will be one less pan to wash.

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11.11.2011

First Apartment Food Essentials

Dan and I are moving out of my parents house and into our very first apartment next week! In retrospect, the week before Thanksgiving was probably a poor choice.

Why, you ask?

Well, this is our very first time living on our own, without a dining hall.. so we have NO idea what kinds of staple foods we'll need, or how much food we really eat. And if you've ever been grocery shopping Thanksgiving week, you'll know it's something to avoid at all costs.

We've got one shot at grocery shopping, so I've been trying to adequately prepare. Here's my preliminary list:

whole wheat flour
white flour
bread flour
sugar
brown sugar
honey
butter
baking soda
baking powder
yeast
vanilla extract
steel cut oats
rolled oats
polenta
dried black beans (+ cans for the first week!)
canned chickpeas
brown rice
cinnamon
nutmeg
cloves
allspics
cumin
thyme
paprika
dill
dried onion
salt
pepper
crackers
cereal
canned corn
canned tomatoes
pasta
nuts
oil
vinegar
eggs
bread
tortillas
veggies
fruit
frozen spinach
frozen berries
milk
ice cream/sorbet
chocolate
cheese
tofu
lunchmeat
chicken breasts
peanut butter
jam
dried cranberries
canned pumpkin
graham crackers
cottage cheese
soy sauce/Sriracha sauce

We don't really have a menu plan, because we're not sure when we'll start living there versus living at home. (Our furniture won't arrive for a day or two.) Some meal ideas:
- veggie/tofu stirfry (although we won't have many condiments..)
- make your own (vegetarian) tacos
- pasta with chickpeas and veggies
- polenta with black beans and veggies
- savory oatmeal
- broiled tofu and veggie sandwiches
- savory pancakes

We will probably also end up eating out a few times, and/or taking home a lot of leftovers from Thanksgiving.

Anything I'm missing from my shopping list? Any easy recipe recommendations?

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11.04.2011

Remix: Homemade "Trail" Mix

Trail mix is an absolutely ridiculous food for normal people to snack on--the whole idea was to make an incredibly nutrient dense, long lasting food to take on hikes where you eat 5000 calories a day.

On the other hand, it's a convenient snack--it's got enough calories that when lunch plans fall through, my secret backpack stash saves the day.

So instead of scrapping the idea altogether, I decided to work a little bit of magic on the original formula.

The updated formula:
1/2c nuts + 1/2 chocolate chips + 1c dried fruit + 2c cereal = 4c trail re-mix

Last time, I mixed pecans, chocolate chips, dried cranberries, and honey nut cheerios. I also recommend honey bunches of oats. Use whole grain, fortified cereals for an extra nutrition bump.

WARNING: Cereal does (slash should) go stale, so this stuff doesn't last forever. Keep it in an airtight container, and use it within the week.

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10.28.2011

Feeding Schedule

My days start early. At least three mornings a week, I'm out of the house by 5:10AM. On many days, my evenings end at 8PM. I usually return home during the day, but the schedule doesn't jive with a normal breakfast, lunch, dinner schedule.

I'm sure those of you that exercise before work or have long commutes understand. If I eat at 5, I want lunch at 10, then dinner at 3, and I'm starving again by 8.

At first, I tried to make it work. I ate a normal breakfast--or at least as normal as it gets when breakfast occurs between 5:00 and 5:05AM. After morning practice, I would stave off hunger as long as possible--usually until 11AM.

Sometimes, lunchtime would also require coordination with a workout, which either pushed it forward to 10AM or back to noon.

With this strategy, I was so hungry during afternoon practices, I'd basically eat another meal.. except that meal would consist of snacks I could shove in my bag on the way out the door. By 8PM, I was no longer ravenous, so I skimped on dinner--one of the healthiest meals of my day. End result: I was hungry again by bedtime, an hour later.

The whole affair was just too complicated, and involved eating the wrong foods and the wrong times, in the wrong quantities.

I've tried several different variations since then, but the one I've settled on seems to work best: it minimizes grumpiness but lets me eat just the right amount of food.

5AM: big breakfast--usually cereal with a little bit of fruit
8AM: small snack, like a piece of fruit, or a piece of chocolate (like I said--it minimizes grumpiness)
10:30 or 11AM: small, healthy lunch, with a focus on fruits and vegetables--usually a veggie sandwich with fruit and veggie sticks on the side
2PM: small snack
4-5PM: snacks during practice--usually fruit, crackers or a PB&J on whole wheat
8PM: dinner + dessert (yes, dessert is a daily requirement)

My work schedule isn't constant, so there are numerous variations on this plan. Still, I'm happy to have a plan that works most of the time.

How do you juggle meals with work commitments?

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment or emailing me at piquantprose [at] gmail [dot] com.

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10.07.2011

Mondays

Mondays are by far my favorite day of the week. So while everybody else celebrates Friday, I'd like to give Monday a little bit of love.

I lucked out--I love my job(s).

I'm currently coaching two rowing teams--a junior girl's program (for high school students) and a master's men's program. I work 30-35 hours a week between the two programs, but have the middle of my day free to train, cook, clean, and catch up on wedding planning and the housing search.

The schedule is the biggest downside. With four early mornings and four late afternoons, finding time to eat dinner before I'm a total zombie can be a bit of a challenge. We're hoping to shorten my commute a bit with our own place.

Mostly, though, coaching is everything I could want in a job.

First of all, I have to be a jack-of-all-trades--politician, motivator, tactician, scientist, engineer, builder, improviser, safety advisor, public speaker and much, much more. It means I'm constantly learning, and forcing myself out of my comfort zone.

Second, I can inspire people to do incredible things. The examples are endless: The girl who couldn't run a mile a month ago, but this week ran 2 miles as part of the workout. The guys beat their 20 minute test speed on their thirty minute test--all because they believed in the training. The ones who have lost weight, and gained fitness, who touched their toes, or completed a squat. And in turn, it inspires me to do incredible things.

Third, it's hard work. School has rarely challenged me. Rowing taught me to work hard, and for that, I love rowing.

As a new coach, I'm definitely in over my head--who knew coaches used training plans? and did teambuilding exercises? and motivated athletes? Who knew motorboats were so difficult to start and maintain? And that rigging rowing boats was so complicated? So I have to work hard.

But the reward far surpasses the effort, and for that, I love Mondays.

What do you love about your job? Let me know by leaving a comment or emailing me at piquantprose [at] gmail [dot] com.

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9.16.2011

Sandwich for Lunch

Lunch today:
Fresh sourdough baguette with olive oil mayonnaise, thick slices of heirloom tomato, and pan-fried tofu seasoned with oregano.


Quick, easy, fresh, filling and flavorful. All the makings of a good sandwich.


On an unrelated note, I've been enjoying lots of smoothies recently, including my first GREEN smoothie! It was better than anticipated, probably due to the masking effects of peanut butter.

9.08.2011

Angel Island

After finishing a tough project last week, Dan took Tuesday off of work. The lucky guy got to celebrate his birthday with a four day weekend!

On Friday, we didn't get to celebrate much, but we did get a Prince(ss) cake for dessert. I think Princess cake and chocolate cake are tied for my two favorite kinds of cake.

This weekend, we also went out to Angel Island State Park with my mom. My mom hiked patiently around the island while Dan took lots of pictures (which he has yet to send me--nudge, nudge).

The park is absolutely beautiful, with views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge, the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge (all interesting to a civil engineer), as well as all of the surrounding land masses.

It was a little bit hazy out, but the sun was bright enough to totally roast both Dan and I!

While the two of them were walking, I ran 9.5 miles around the island--my long run for the week. It was really fun to run some place new, even though it was pretty hilly.

In other news, my second coaching job has officially started! Woohoo! Looking forward to making some boats go fast.


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9.01.2011

Post-Workout Bars

To help muscles recover after a hard workout, experts recommend consuming calories within 30 minutes of exercise. In particular, they recommend a ratio of 4g of carbs to 1g of protein.

These bars are a little bit high on the fat, thanks to the coconut, but otherwise provide a good ratio of protein to carbs with no funky ingredients. They're a handy, tasty snack to eat with a glass of water post-sweat session.

----- ----- ----- ----- ------
Chocolate-Coconut Energy Bars
makes 16 100-calorie bars
adapted from No Meat Athlete


Ingredients:
1.5c black beans (I made these from scratch, feel free to use canned)
0.75c mashed squishy bananas
.25c honey
0.5 lime (zest and juice)
0.25t salt
1.5 oats or other rolled grains
0.75c cocoa powder
0.25c almond meal (or whole wheat flour)
1c shredded coconut

Directions:
1. Combine beans, bananas, honey, lime zest and juice and salt in a food processor until thoroughly combined.
2. Add the oats, cocoa powder and almond meal. Pulse until combined.
3. Add the coconut and pulse a few more times to combine.
4. Spread the mixture in a greased 9x13 pan. Optionally, sprinkle the top with extra coconut and press it in lightly.
5. Bake for 16-18 minutes at 350°F. Cool, slice and pack in snack baggies.

Approximate nutrition:
1 bar
103 calories, 20 calories from fat

Total fat: 2.5g
    Saturated: 1g
Total Carbohydrates: 18g
    Dietary fiber: 3.5g
Protein: 3.5g
----- ------ ------ ------ -----

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8.31.2011

10-Minute Dinner

The other day, Dan and I got home at 7:15 starving, with no plans for dinner. So we emptied the fridge and acted fast.

----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Quesadillas and Bean Salsa
(serves 2)


Ingredients:
6 corn tortillas
3 oz. shredded cheese
1 can black beans
2 tomatoes
1 can corn (or kernels from one pre-cooked cob that's sitting in the fridge waiting to be made into salsa)
1 lime
1 green onion
1t cumin
cilantro to taste

Directions:
1. Divide the cheese between tortillas and make 6 open-face quesadillas over medium heat. (You'll probably need to do this in batches. Or, you can make 3 normal quesadillas and then peel them open.)
2. While the cheese is melting, drain, rinse and mix the black beans and corn in a large serving bowl. Finely dice the tomatoes and green onion, and add.
3. Add the juice from your lime, sprinkle on the cumin and chopped cilantro, and toss to combine.
4. Serve the quesadillas. Apply salsa liberally. Never apologize for the consequences.
----- ----- ----- ----- -----


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8.29.2011

Dessert Ideas

When I think dessert, I think ice cream, cake or cookies. But there are so many alternatives that are easy, healthier treats. Below are just a few examples to kickstart your dessert creativity.

1. Hot cocoa
The extra serving of milk will get you protein and calcium, as well as vitamin D. Use half cocoa mix and half cocoa powder to get a more interesting, less sugary cocoa. Also try adding cinnamon and nutmeg, or mint extract.

2. Candied nuts
Take 0.5c nuts, 0.25c water, 0.25c sugar and cook them in a saucepan over medium high heat until the liquid browns and thickens. Let cool briefly and enjoy. Use walnuts for the highest dose of omega-3s.

3. Frozen bananas
Peel a banana and put it in the freezer when you start cooking dinner. By dessert time, it will taste exactly like the banana ice cream in Ben'n'Jerry's Chunky Monkey--that is to say, incredible. This is a great way to use up slightly old bananas.

4. Frozen blueberries or grapes
These can be pre-frozen blueberries or you can take a pint of blueberries/grapes on their last leg and throw them in the freezer. I suggest letting them warm up for about 5 minutes before digging in.

5. Baked pear
Slice a pear in half and scoop out the seeds with a grapefruit spoon or paring knife. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and a bit of butter and put it in a 400°F oven until the pear is soft (~10-15 minutes).

6. Chocolate sorbet with raspberry jam
Good chocolate sorbet is a great alternative to chocolate ice cream, and good raspberry jam makes it feel infinitely more sophisticated. Please don't use Smuckers...

7. Nutella on a banana or whole wheat bread
Nutella is quite easily enjoyed straight from the jar. If you'd like your jar to last longer than a week, though, it is equally scrumptious when diluted with banana or whole wheat bread. Plus, you'll be adding some extra fiber to your diet.

8. Chocolate- or vanilla yogurt-dipped strawberries
Of course, summer strawberries on their own are an acceptable dessert. But to make it feel a little bit more special, melt some chocolate chips in the microwave with a dab of butter and dip away. This is also good with the sickly sweet store bought vanilla yogurts.

9. Microwave cupcakes
Ok, making a batch of cupcakes is admittedly dangerous. I'll make 12 and the next day we have no cupcakes left. Fortunately, microwave cupcakes make one cupcake at a time--much safer. There are tons of recipes out there!

10. Whipped cream
Although you probably ask for no whip on your morning frapuccino, it's actually a pretty innocent dessert. Instead of filling your bowl with ice cream, fill it with cold whipped cream and enjoy with a spoon.


What's your go-to dessert? What do you make on special occasions?


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8.26.2011

For the Love of Vegetables

Do you love vegetables? I do.


I love all sorts of vegetables. Raw vegetables, cooked vegetables. Root vegetables, fruit vegetables. Steamed, baked, fried, grilled and boiled. (Ok, mostly the middle three.)




I've always liked vegetables, but in the past few years, I've really come to love vegetables. How can you love vegetables, too?

First, buy fresh vegetables and never look back. (Ok, maybe in the middle of winter you can look back and buy frozen vegetables, but definitely don't touch the canned stuff! Gross!) Fresh vegetables have more texture, sharper flavor and are more versatile.

Second, learn how to cook your vegetables. This requires copious amounts of taste testing straight from the pan. (You will burn your mouth at least once.) The idea is to try the vegetables as you cook them so you get a feel for what level of done-ness you like most.

Third, never, ever forget the salt. Vegetables tend to be bitter, and salt counteracts bitterness. You don't need a lot.

Fourth, pay attention to how vegetables make you feel. When I eat vegetables, I feel cleaner--like that clean feeling you get right after you've brushed, flossed, shaved, bathed, and pulled all of your stray hairs off of your neck. Eating tons of vegetables eliminated 99% of my stomachaches. Just try it and see.

Finally, if you don't already love vegetables, starting tracking your daily calorie intake. You'll start to love vegetables when you compare the calories in a cup of ice cream (290) and a cup of vegetables (24).

What's your favorite vegetable? Mine is green beans.

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment or emailing me at piquantprose [at] gmail [dot] com.

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8.24.2011

Wedding dresses

My hair has been all sorts of lengths over the course of my life. (I promise, this is relevant.) The one thing is had never been is static. I'm always cutting it way shorter, or growing it out. I rarely get the same haircut twice.

The same is true of my weight--I have a real problem with consistency. This spring was the most constant I've held my weight for a long time, and even so, my shape was changing as I added muscle and lost fat.

By the spring, I was a bundle of muscles.
Today, I took my mom and my best friend wedding dress shopping! It was great fun. Still, I realized as I was trying on the dresses: I'm being asked to try on a dress that I won't wear for another 6 months.

One of the dresses I tried on today.
Even though there are alterations between now and then, I'm nervous about maintaining my weight, particularly as I continue to lose some of the muscle I gained this past year.

How do you stay the same size? Or are you the same way--always gaining or losing? 

Let me know what by leaving a comment or emailing me at piquantprose [at] gmail [dot] com. 
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8.22.2011

Chickpea Salad

I mentioned before that I've had some trouble adjusting to eating at home. One of the things I've been struggling with is the abundance of fat in the foods we normally eat.

Most of the fats are good fats, but they are still calorie rich and not particularly filling. At only 135 pounds, I need to consume a lot fewer calories than my parents, and have to work out a lot more to burn the same number.

I've been trying to create that gap by eating lower calorie, lower fat lunches. I came up with this low fat, vegetarian alternative to chicken/egg salad.

----- ----- -----
Chickenpea Salad
makes 6-8 sandwiches

Ingredients:
1 15-oz can chickpeas
2-3 cups of mixed vegetables/fruit (I used cucumber, bean sprouts, grapes and corn)
2T mayo (to make vegan, sub with hummus or another 0.5 avocado)
0.25 ripe avocado

Directions:
1. Drain and rinse the chickpeas and place them in a big bowl. Mash them using your hands or a potato masher until they're a bit chunky.
2. Add the avocado and mayo/hummus, mashing everything together.
3. Chop the vegetables and fruit into 1cm pieces, and stir into the salad.
4. Serve on toasted 100% whole grain bread.
----- ----- -----


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7.15.2011

Giving Blood

Yesterday, Dan and I gave blood. In the past, donating has taken me out of exercising for a few days or more, but this time I'm feeling a lot better.

Blood Donor

First, we both made sure to hydrate really well before going in to give blood. Our dinner Wednesday night also involved both spinach and beans to get our iron levels up.

Before we went in to donate, we went for an easy run together since we knew we wouldn't be able to exercise for at least 5 hours after donating. We actually ran to the donation center since it's only a few blocks from the house.

Both of us had good iron levels and were well hydrated. We finished our donations in 5.5 and 6 minutes. (He was faster.)

Afterwards, we both made sure to drink a lot of water. Dan ate a quarter of a watermelon to help replenish fluids, and I had a huge salad and a lot of extra glasses of water. We still both woke up thirsty this morning and will probably continue to hydrate well throughout today.

I was hoping to get in a bike ride this afternoon, but we decided to go see Harry Potter tonight instead! We're going to have an early dinner and head to the theater so we get good seats. I may still get in a short run, but we're just eating lunch now, so we'll see! I'm definitely feeling up to running or biking, as long as I continue to hydrate.

Have you ever donated blood? Did you enjoy the experience? Let me know what you think by leaving a comment or emailing me at piquantprose [at] gmail [dot] com. 

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7.14.2011

Apricot Explosion

This summer has been pretty lame for fruit and vegetables so far. Some late May and early June rain really messed up the California produce crop, which I'm sure many of you non-Californians are noticing as well.

Peaches and nectarines are just starting to really make their way onto the produce shelves; cherries barely had a season; strawberries are still overwhelmingly expensive and just now starting to look good; and avocado prices are beyond reasonable. Even watermelons are expensive still.


So to make summer feel a little bit more like summer, we bought some of the quintessential California summer fruit--apricots!

7.09.2011

Intake Adjustment

I've been at home for a few weeks now, which is where Dan and I will be living until we find jobs and a place of our own. For the first week, it was primarily Dan, my mom and I at home cooking, so a lot of the food was similar to what I'd been eating before--very veggie-centric.

Then my dad arrived.

Right now, there are a lot of special food requests in our family--I'm not eating much meat, my mom isn't eating gluten and Dan has his own food preferences (like not liking vinegar). My dad is doing his best to accommodate those requests, but he's pretty stubborn in his food ways.

A few stalwart features of my dad's cooking:
1. Animal fats (yes, plural--dishes almost all contain multiple kinds)
2. Meat
3. Glutenous carbs

Some recent examples:
- Corn chowder which contained bacon, a half stick of butter and copious amounts of half and half and milk (it would have been all half-and-half if we'd had enough)
- Dinner plans for tonight include 4 8+ oz. steaks for 5 people. If I were eating meat, that would be at least a serving and a half of meat for each person.. since I probably won't have any, that's two+ servings per person
- Several nights ago, dinner consisted of pasta lightly sauced in tomato-pepper (and bacon!) sauce. Total vegetable intake: half a tomato, 1/8th of a pepper. Plus the bowls we used easily held 8oz. of cooked pasta.

Transitioning from food where I could eat massive quantities for only a few calories with foods like roasted broccoli or steamed kale, I'm having a really hard time.

First, I feel awful all the time. It's amazing how terrible I feel from not eating enough vegetables. I'm tired all the time; I feel bloated; I don't have the energy to exercise; my stomach has been bothering me regularly; and I really have little motivation to do much of anything.

Second, I'm having trouble controlling my calories. I've managed to maintain my weight at around 134, only around 2 pounds heavier than I was during the season, but it's been a huge struggle. I've been cutting back on dessert, trying to watch my snacks, eating smaller lunches and just generally having to pay a lot more attention. It's not fun.

I'm hoping to work more vegetables into my lunches. I've been eating a lot of fruit with lunch, but it just doesn't work as well as vegetables to make me feel good. I'm also hoping to get a little bit stricter about eating meat with dinner--it really leaves me feeling kind of icky. Finally, I'm working on decreasing my portions with dinner--it's nice to wake up a little bit hungry in the mornings and that just hasn't been happening recently.

----- ----- -----
Tomato salad
serves one

Ingredients
2 ripe summer tomatoes
1 leaf of fresh basil
1T olive oil
salt
pepper

Directions
1. Cut up the tomatoes.
2. Chop up the basil leaf.
3. Toss the tomatoes with basil, olive oil, salt and pepper.
----- ----- -----


How do you handle eating other people's food? Have you ever stayed at somebody else's house for a long period of time? Let me know what you think by leaving a comment or emailing me at piquantprose [at] gmail [dot] com.

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7.05.2011

Teamwork

The best kind of cookie is the kind where your sister browns the butter, mixes the dough and stashes it in your freezer for emergencies.

I stole this picture from my sister's blog,
because ours disappeared too fast.
{Image Source}
Even better when your dad preheats the oven for you.

Better yet when your fiance gets you both a big glass of milk for dunking, so all you have to do is put them into the oven and come back 10 minutes later to absolutely amazing cookies.

That is the best kind of cookie.


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Remix: Vanilla Meringues

If you've ever tried these vanilla meringues from Trader Joe's, then you probably know that they taste a lot like Lucky Charms marshmallows--excessively sweet with a hint of fake vanilla.


Dan and I figured we could tone down the sweetness and mask some of the fake vanilla flavor by adding a chocolate glaze. It was super easy to do and helped a lot. They're still unwieldy, and you'd need a lot more chocolate to completely hide the Lucky Charms flavor, but this saved them from the compost bin.


----- ----- -----
Dark Chocolate Glaze

Ingredients:
1oz 70% cocoa sweetened dark chocolate
1T butter

Directions:
1. Place ingredients in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 1 minute.
2. Stir and microwave for 30 seconds. Repeat until butter and chocolate have melted together.
3. Dip biscotti, strawberries, meringues, etc. into the glaze and let dry for 30 minutes or so.
------ ------ ------

The resulting chocolate layer will be firm enough not to react to touch but soft enough that it doesn't crack with biting.

Happy eating!


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7.03.2011

Training This Week

I started the week off strong with some nice long, hard workouts, but got derailed on Wednesday when my breakfast decided to visit me a second time. After the unfortunate, unexpected and unexplained puking, I wasn't really up to working out much so I took Wednesday and Thursday pretty much off. I made up for it by working out pretty hard this weekend.

Monday: 3x25' on the rowing machine, HR ~145
Tuesday: 50' run
Wednesday: about 45' of easy biking (testing out potential new bikes)
Thursday: 60' of walking
Friday: 2 hour ride on my NEW BIKE! HR ~145
Saturday: 2 separate 30 minute rides, HR ~160
Sunday: 2.5 hour ride, HR 145-155

Yup, that's right, I got a beautiful new bike this week!

{Image Source}
It's a commuting/touring bike, so it's got fenders and a rack standard. It also has internal shifting, so it can have a chain guard. Yay! It's not the fastest bike on the road, but it can carry all of my groceries (and me).

I'm pretty wiped from my ride today, so I'm planning to take tomorrow a bit easier and go for a run (probably for an hour). I'm going to work the HR 150-160 range tomorrow running. Then we'll see how the rest of the week unfolds!


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6.29.2011

Veggie Stir Fry

My mom is currently on a low-gluten diet and I'm not eating a lot of meat, which eliminates two of my family's standby meals--pasta and meat+potatoes. We decided to make this delicious veggie stirfry instead.

A few stirfry tips:
- Cut the veggies small--you want them to cook quickly and evenly.
- Put in the hardest vegetables first (like broccoli or carrots) and save the softest veggies for last (like bean sprouts or bok choy). This way they will all be fully cooked.
- Use a really, really hot pan, and stir often. Adding veggies in stages will help keep the pan hot.
- Good seasonings include: ginger, garlic, soy (or tamari to keep it gluten free), sesame oil and sesame seeds. We also used garlic chives for added flavor and vegetable.
- If you want a sauce, add a lot of wilty vegetables (like bok choy) to get extra water and thicken it with cornstarch.

Our stirfry included: green beans, carrots, garlic chives, celery, bok choy, cabbage and bean sprouts.

This are garlic chives. We cut them into 1-2 inch pieces
and added them with the bean sprouts.



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6.28.2011

Bargain Bin Produce

Our local grocery store has a fantastic bargain produce section we lovingly call "the squishy shelf". Most items on the shelf are between 50 cents and a dollar and range in quality from practically liquefied to merely suffering from a few cosmetic blemishes.

As Dan and I learn to save money and bargain hunt, we're trying to take as much advantage of the bargain produce as possible. Recently, we picked up several pints of blueberries for 69 cents, a bag of 15 apple bananas for 99 cents and several 2-3 pound bags of cherries for 99 cents each.

Of course, with this time of fruit, processing is necessary--nobody really wants to eat 10 pounds of slightly squishy cherries. Our solution? Make sorbet and fruit leather! We're also making dried cherries with our dehydrator, but that's a pretty specialized piece of equipment.

To make fruit leather, heat and then puree fruit, sweetening to taste along the way. (I also recommend adding acid. We have done a cherry-lime puree and we added lemon to our blueberry-banana puree. Apple cider vinegar in an apple puree would also be fun.)

Pour the puree into a parchment lined baking tray and put it in the oven overnight (or until leathery) at the lowest setting. We have a gas oven with a pizza stone in it. The pilot light heats the oven up and the pizza stone keeps it warm, so we didn't even turn the oven on. Other recommendations include inside a (closed, off) grill that has been sitting in the sun, or even just in a sunny spot in the yard (particularly if you live in a dry, hot environment).

We also tried drying fruit leather with our fruit dehydrator, which worked really fast. It's a lot more energy intensive though, and I would only use this strategy if were using the dehydrator anyways.

You can use any leftover puree to make sorbet! Unless you have a serious sweet tooth and heavily sweetened your fruit leather, you'll want to add more sugar in this round. It will help keep the sorbet soft instead of a block of fruit-colored ice. We used an ice cream maker, but there are loads of instructions on how to make ice cream without an ice cream maker. Just make sure you cool the puree down thoroughly before trying to make ice cream out of it.


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6.24.2011

Back on Track

Travelling for 24+ hours to get home really wiped me out. With jetlag dipping my energy levels down to zero just in time for my afternoon workout, my favorite form of exercise became napping.

Now that I'm adjusting to the 8-hour time change, I'm finally back into the swing of workouts. After taking Monday and Tuesday off, I decided that Wednesday also needed to be a short workout just to help shake off some of the stiffness. Thursday was also fairly short, but I got back on the rowing machine and continued to loosen up after so much time sitting on Monday.

Wednesday:
30-minute run, including 1.5 miles on the track, 8' mile pace.
15 minutes of circuits (push-ups, pull-ups, bench pulls, step ups)
15-minute jog with Dan

Thursday:
20-minute jog with Dan
3x10' on the rowing machine at steady state pace.

I'm about to head off for today's workout: 6x800m on the track.


Do you take time off when you take long flights? How do you make sure you workout when you're travelling and jetlagged? Let me know what you think by leaving a comment or emailing me at piquantprose [at] gmail [dot] com.

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6.21.2011

Home to an Empty House

Yesterday was full of travelling! We left Henley-on-Thames at 7 AM British time in order to get to the airport for our 11 AM flight. All went well with the flight and goodbyes were said to teammates in the Newark airport.

After a three hour layover, I caught a flight to Boston and then a connecting flight out to California. When we touched down at 11 PM California time, I had been travelling for 24 hours... and still had an hour to go.

Fortunately, there was a surprise waiting for me at the airport!!! Dan told me he was going to catch a flight down from Oregon on Wednesday, but he ended up booking a flight for yesterday and surprised me as I walked out of the plane. It was so nice to have him there after a really long, uncomfortable day of travelling.

It's always nice to have a man who still think you're beautiful even with bloodshot eyes and feet so swollen they look like stuffed sausages.

We arrived home to an essentially empty fridge as my parents have been off travelling Europe as well, so we had to make do with what we had. We were both too tired to do much more than munch on the two leftover apples last night, but breakfast this morning was a different story.

The only usable ingredients in the fridge were eggs, cheese and carrots (nearing their departure date). I considered omelets but the eggs were old enough that they were really better suited to baking, so I made carrot muffins.

I based the recipe off of my favorite muffin recipe, but with a lot of substitutions due to lack of ingredients. The fact that these turned out pretty well just speaks to the awesomeness of that recipe.

These are incredibly moist and very subtly sweet, with a tender crumb. The carrot flavor is very pronounced but not overwhelming. If you like raisins, a handful would definitely make these a lot sweeter. (I would recommend golden raisins.) Personally, I prefer savory breakfasts, so this was perfect.

After I'd already eaten two of them, I found almond butter in the fridge. A slather of almond butter would have rounded these out perfectly, making an incredibly nutritious breakfast.

----- ----- -----
Not-Too-Sweet Carrot Muffins
makes 12 muffins

6.19.2011

Training on my own

Yesterday was the official end to our season and the beginning of a new world--training on my own.

After spending the whole year with assigned workouts and a team to keep me accountable, I foresee it being somewhat challenging to go out on my own and maintain my fitness. In my year away from the team, it was disappointing to see my fitness disappear--and this time around I have much more fitness to lose.

I plan to transition my training to half running and half rowing-based exercises for at least the summer and then I will assess again in the fall. Dan and I are training to run a 5k in July (although I may enter the 10k race instead), probably this one. (I may also try to run the 5k next weekend. The entry fee is only $7 day of, so I can decide pretty late in the game if I feel like running.)

As I transition, I will be using this blog to track my workouts and log how my training and eating change over the next few months. I will also try to periodically post pictures as hard evidence of how my body has changed. I threw out all my size 6 jeans last week so I have no option but to stay thin!

Today's workout was a 45-minute jog, around 4.8 miles out and back, with some of my teammates, followed by core and stretching.


What do you do to stay motivated training on your own? Any suggestions?
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6.15.2011

Finding Umami

For much of my life, meat was a central part of every meal. I grew up eating a lot of beef and pork, including cold cuts for breakfast. And for much of my life I couldn't really imagine a meal without meat.

Let me rephrase that, I could imagine a meal without meat or a meat substitute. I have never minded tofu, and I learned to like beans a long time ago. But I could never have imagined a meal that didn't involved some sort of concentrated protein source or meaty flavor.

Not eating meat 6 days a week for 6 weeks changed that.

I'm not a vegetarian--I love bacon and sausage and marshmallows way too much. But while most Americans go meatless once a week, I probably only eat meat once a week. I eat meat substitutes maybe once a month. Here are some things I've learned:

1. Soy sauce! Mushrooms! Parmesan cheese! One of the things I've missed most is that really savory flavor. I've learned to add a dash of soy sauce, mushrooms or a bit of parmesan to meals to help bring that to plant-based dishes.

2. You probably get enough protein. (Yes, even if you're an athlete.)

3. Sometimes, you have to be a little bit more flexible. Generally, I'm a very stubborn person--I like things my way. Not eating much meat, I've found that I don't always get what I want for dinner. I went to a barbecue during graduation where more than half of the dishes served were meat dishes, and the remaining options were pretty uninspiring. This happens often.

4. Veggies are cheap. Even fresh ones. When I'm buying things at the grocery store, I find myself wondering whether spending $2 for a big bunch of kale is really a good deal, but jumping at only have to spend $3 for a small block of cheese. And the frozen ones are even cheaper--$1 for a pound of spinach. Sure $2/pound for green beans isn't a great price, but have you ever eaten a pound of green beans? That's a $2 meal right there.

5. It doesn't have to be fussy. Ok, maybe this follows from (3), but sometimes it's okay to have a salad and ice cream for dinner. Or buttered toast and baby carrots for lunch.

Do you eat meat? Do you eat meat substitutes? Let me know what you think by leaving a comment or emailing me at piquantprose [at] gmail [dot] com. 

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6.13.2011

Protein and the USDA

I don't know if you've seen the new USDA food guidelines, but it's now a plate with the different food groups shown in varying sizes. It's a good start to making a change, but there are a few major flaws.


First, the inclusion of dairy is basically excluding vegans from the recommendation. In addition, a lot of Americans are lactose-intolerant, preventing them from consuming a lot of dairy products. I know it says dairy for simplicity sake, but products like soy milk and almond milk should also be considered a part of the dairy category.

Second, I think there should be a bigger emphasis on whole grains, instead of just grains. I have always liked my pasta white (and probably always will) but I think at least half of those grains should be coming from whole grains, if not more.

Third, the separate protein section of the plate is only helping fuel a common misperception--only certain foods contain protein. Of course, this is true--only certain foods do contain protein. For example, table sugar doesn't contain protein.

The list of foods that do contain protein, though, is much more comprehensive that most people expect. For example, did you know that bread contains protein? In fact, it's the protein in flour that makes bread chewy (which is why you use high protein bread flour instead of low protein cake flour).

But let's do a little thought experiment about bread.

Nutrition Facts for 1 slice of white bread
For the sake of example, let's say you're a woman aged 18-59. According to the chart below, you'd need 2000 calories and 60 grams of protein.

{Image Source}
Also for the sake of example, let's say you ate nothing but white bread. To reach 2000 calories a day, you would need to eat around 30 slices of bread:

30 slices * 66 calories/slice = 1980 calories

How much protein would you get?

30 slices * 2g protein/slice = 60 grams

Broccoli is even better: 3g of protein in 50 calories! (Not to mention fiber, and vitamins.) This isn't perfect--both of these foods would leave you short in fats, which are an important component of a healthy diet. And fats add a lot of calories.

Still, 1500 calories of broccoli would provide more than enough protein for even a typical athlete (90g) and still leave a lot of room for olive oil. (It would also clean you out, with 150g of fiber.)

So next time you think you need to open a can of beans or add a piece of chicken to make sure you get enough protein, think again. There is protein in almost everything we eat, and it add ups fast.

And finally, the biggest problem with this new plate--where's dessert??!?!!!

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment or emailing me at piquantprose [at] gmail [dot] com. 

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6.11.2011

To Shuck or Not To Shuck

We had a cookout after practice last night with grilled chicken, veggies and s'mores to round out the evening. We also had some of the first corn of the season! Yum!

I grilled corn quite a bit last summer, and tried it both ways--husk on and husk off.

Husk on, the corn seems a lot more moist, but it also takes a bit longer to cook and doesn't get those yummy char marks on the corn. (Yes, the same yummy char marks that also cause cancer.)

Husk off, the corn is incredibly delicious, but it cooks a bit less evenly and can dry out in the heat.

Today, we grilled the corn husk on, opened it, realized it wasn't all the way cooked, and put it back on husked to get char marks as it finished cooking. I think this is probably the ideal cooking method, but it's kind of a pain (literally--you'll probably burn your fingers).

How do you cook your summer corn? Let me know what you think by leaving a comment or emailing me at piquantprose [at] gmail [dot] com. 

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6.09.2011

$12 a day

I'm not saying $12 isn't generous, but when you have a $5/day ice cream habit (fueled by all-you-can-eat ice cream in the dining halls), it brings your budget down to $7/day. Since I'm trying to also make up for the two or three days where we didn't receive per diem, my daily budget is really down to about $5/day.

If I had to buy everything from scratch, I almost certainly would fail to meet this budget, but I already had a lot of food stockpiled from the year. Here's an example of what I've been eating. Italics are things that I already had stocked in my pantry or acquired from kitchens or departing students.

----- ----- -----
Breakfast:
Instant oatmeal + nuts + seeds + cinnamon, strawberries, banana + peanut butter

Snack
apple + peanut butter, chocolate chips


Lunch
leftover gnocchi with kale and pesto
bread with cream cheese
bread with hummus or cheddar
banana
chocolate chips


Snack
Banana
Triscuits
Carrots and hummus

During Practice
Gatorade

Dinner
Rice with veggies

Dessert
Free ice cream with chocolate-hazelnut fudge sauce


Snack
Strawberries
----- ----- -----

Perhaps now you understand just how much I eat. This is a pretty light food day for me (other than the quantity of free ice cream consumed). I also eat a lot of fresh (and frozen!) fruits and veggies, which gets expensive.

Generally, I eat very plain and simple foods that are carefully selected and well prepared, but don't make any restrictions beyond that. (Bring on the ice cream! As long as it's made with cream and sugar.) This is especially true now that I'm making everything myself--simplicity is wonderful.

How would you describe your eating habits? Plain and simple? Lots of lowfat/nonfat foods? Full of spices? Let me know what you think by leaving a comment or emailing me at piquantprose [at] gmail [dot] com. 

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6.08.2011

Everyday Veggies: 20 Minute Dinner

Our meal contracts ended at the end of the semester (almost three weeks ago). Because we're on campus training, we are given per diem to pay for our food.

Our budget for this week is $12/day. I know this seems like a lot, but with no cooking equipment, and very few resources (like olive oil, or spices) this is a pretty limited budget. It feels even smaller when you need to eat between 3000 and 4000 calories a day just to maintain weight.

So I've been all about cheap, easy, fast meals. (When it's 95 and you finished practice at 7PM, easy and fast are key ingredients.)

----- ----- -----
20-Minute Dinner: Rice and Veggies
serves 2 (generously)

Equipment
stove
big pot
frying pan
knife

Ingredients
1c white rice ($0.50)
a large bunch of kale ($2)
0.5 small head of purple cabbage ($0.50)
pre-chopped mushrooms (or you can chop your own)  ($2)
0.25 medium onion (optional) ($0.08)
olive oil (as much as you can pilfer from the public kitchen)
chili flakes, or whatever other spices you find in the kitchen

Directions
1. Put the rice and 2c of water into a big pot. (Use more rice to stretch this meal even further.) Turn it to high.
2. Remove the stems from the kale. Keeping them separate, chop the cabbage and the onion.
3. When the rice boils, turn it to low and add the kale to the pot. Put the lid on.
4. Heat olive oil in a frying pan. When it's hot, add the spices and onions. Cook 2-3 minutes, then add the mushrooms and cabbage. Continue cooking until the mushrooms and cabbage are softening, about 5 minutes. (If you like well-cooked mushrooms, add these before the cabbage.)
5. Add the mushrooms/cabbage to the big pot. (The rice should be finished cooking at this point.) Mix everything together and enjoy.
----- ----- -----

This would also be good with some romano grated over the top, or with frozen spinach instead of kale. The spinach would be a lot cheaper.

Still, $5 for two very generous servings was a great deal. (More rice would have made it an even cheaper meal, albeit less nutritious, by stretching it to three servings. Unfortunately, it was the last of my rice.)

The meal was capped off with raspberry sorbet from the The Bent Spoon and chocolate-hazelnut fudge sauce, courtesy of the public refrigerator. (Everybody has left for the summer--these were clearly abandoned by their previous owners.) Free dessert! YAY!


Let me know what you think by leaving a comment or emailing me at piquantprose [at] gmail [dot] com.

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