8.21.2012

The Lightweight Eats

Have you noticed that I've been writing more and more about exercise, and less about food and cooking? Yea, me too.

Do you get tired of typing in the .blogspot.com every time you visit my blog? Yea, me too.

Is Piquant Prose a bit non-descript? Yea, probably.

Fortunately, I'm a woman that believes in solutions, not problems.

Check it out:
http://www.lightweighteats.com

To read more about why I made the switch, check out this post.

From now on, I'll be posting exclusively on lightweighteats.com, so make sure to update your bookmarks!

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

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8.20.2012

Date Night!

To finish off the first weekend of our honeymoon, Dan and I headed out to our local movie theater for $5 Sunday movies.

We both got all dressed up, because how else could you possible enjoy a $5 movie?

Yes, he does wear this exact outfit to work.

I definitely don't wear this to work.

We saw the new Bourne movie. It was certainly entertaining, but some of the camera work was a little sickening (we had to sit pretty close to the screen) and it left a lot of unanswered questions. Personally, I think movies should be able to stand on their own, even if there is a sequel planned. This movie really didn't--it was basically a set up for the next movie. Disappointing.

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8.19.2012

A Weekend in San Francisco

Warning: Our weekend was almost entirely technology free, so no pictures.

Dan and I got married in January, but because of work commitments were unable to take our honeymoon. Since I have four weeks off of training, and Dan has vacation time to use, we decided to take a honeymoon of sorts this month.

Instead of a traditional one-week vacation, we are taking multiple mini-vacations in the area. First stop: San Francisco!

Dan took Friday off of work and we headed in to the city for some touristy fun. We had a hotel near Union Square and spent most of our time in the downtown area on Friday. I only brought shorts and a thin jacket, so we spent at least an hour trying to locate some acceptable pants--it was very cold in the city!

Friday night, typical of my luck, I had a hankering for ramen and we happened upon a ramen shop mere blocks from our hotel! It wasn't the most incredible ramen I've had, but it hit the spot and warmed us up nicely.

Saturday, we enjoyed breakfast buffet at the hotel, before trekking up and over some of San Francisco's hills to Fisherman's Wharf. We considered taking the cable cars, but the 200+ person line changed our mind.

Instead, we burned some calories before heading out to lunch at Greens, an all-vegetarian restaurant serving primarily local and organic food. Dan had a southwestern style omelet, with chili, potatoes and some spices. I had polenta topped with wild mushrooms, peas and poached eggs. Delicious!

For dessert, Dan and I split a mocha and a few slices of banana bread, topped with cinnamon vanilla butter. They considered it a breakfast pastries: we thought it was decadent enough for dessert. Still, the food was decadent and delicious and made no apologies for the lack of meat.

We had considered an ice cream sundae at Ghirardelli square, but after lunch found any more eating completely unnecessary. Instead, we trudged back over the hill and found some place to sit and rest our feet. People watching in San Francisco is a treat.

For dinner, Dan and I grabbed some salad and met up for a double date! We sat in Union Square enjoying good company and good food until the setting sun caused us to shiver our way home.

Since I haven't had a weekend at home for awhile, Dan and I are spending Sunday back in our apartment catching up on life.

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8.15.2012

Off-Season Training Begins

After a long set of travels home, and most of yesterday off from exercise, it's time to get started with off-season training!

Between now and mid-September, the California Rowing Club has scheduled down time, where we can let our bodies and minds recover from the season. Of course, racing in Canada got me super pumped for training again--great timing.

To kick things off, I started with a nice hour-long swim in my grandparents pool this morning. I didn't used to be a huge fan of swimming, but a good suit, goggles that fit and a swim cap really help. The hour went by pretty fast, and I feel like I got a pretty decent workout in.

Post-Swimming: You can almost see the goggle marks.

After swimming and a quick shower, I headed to lunch with Dan. I was a bit early, so I got a chance to work on a book in the park near his office while I was waiting.

Enjoying summer weather in the park.

We went out to HRD, a super popular Korean-American diner. Since we were on the early end of lunch, the line had fewer than 40 people in it. We both got bibimbap. It was pretty good, but the stuff we had at the Korean place near my parents house was really much better. The vegetarian options were also pretty lacking.

This afternoon, if Dan makes it home from work on time, we're probably going to head in to the gym to do some weight lifting. The off-season is a great time to add muscle, because I don't have to weigh in. To gain muscles, you have to gain some weight, a rare luxury in the world of lightweight rowing.

Tomorrow, rowing and running with friends! Very excited!

In other news, expect a major blog update pretty soon. It's been in the works for a few months, but I think I'm almost ready for the big reveal.

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

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8.13.2012

Final Day of Racing!

Sunday morning, after our practice, we ate and headed back to the course for some racing. After meeting with our coach briefly, we headed out about 30 minutes prior to our race to warm up.

Nothing dramatic happened whatsoever. We locked on to the starting dock, all the crews were ready to go, and the race started on time. Our goal for the first half of the race was to find our rhythm and to establish ourselves with the leading crews.

Lane 7, to our left dropped off quickly in the first 500 meters ( although managed to hang on decently through the rest of the 2000m). Our biggest competitors were to our right, in lanes 2 and 4. While we kept our eye on them, most of our focus was internal--if we rowed well and applied our power together, we knew we had what it took to stick with the field.

By the halfway point, we were up by over a length on the field. We took 20 strokes to defiantly open the margin, and successfully put ourselves in a dominant position. While we had used a lot of our energy in the first 1000m, we knew we could at least hang on. We kept on eye on our margins, and focused on keeping ourselves calm and together.

The margin opened slightly more in the last 500m, but our lack of sprint told how tired we were at that point. We won the race by almost 7.5 seconds, also helping clinch the team efficiency trophy in the process (calculated on percentage of races won).

Not quite an Olympic medal, but I'll take it!



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8.12.2012

Catching up on Sleep

On a normal day of practice, I row between 20 and 35 kilometers, bike 15 miles, and occasionally lift weights, plus countless miles of walking. Friday, I rowed 5k, plus maybe 3 miles of walking. That night, as I tried to fall asleep, my whole body was shaking and quivering with its extra energy. It's a good thing I practice 10-12 times a week! It took me almost 4 hours to fall asleep, including almost an hour of stretching.

Although I was tired on Saturday, I avoided napping. Instead, I headed down to the course for an hour long steady state row (easy-medium effort level), and spent the afternoon watching my teammates race.

Unexpectedly, my 4pm snack of triscuits and toast with jam became dinner when I fell asleep at 6pm. Normally, this is a really bad idea, because I wake up at 10 pm bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready for breakfast. This time though, I managed to keep my eyes shut until the 6AM sunshine woke me up.

This morning, we headed down to the course to row our quad once more before our early afternoon race. The practice helped get some of my jitters out, and helped my body feel more normal after lots of sleep and lots of rest. Hopefully my nerves stay calm until our race ends--I will be focusing intently on steering straight and rowing well to keep my mind off of our opponents.

Updates to follow shortly! Less than 2 hours until race time!


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8.10.2012

Racing: Day Three

Today was much less eventful than previous days. With no weigh in, I ate breakfast and headed down to the course for my first and only race of the day. Three other girls and I raced in the senior women's quad--four rowers, eight oars--in a heat with top three advancing to the final.

We placed second in a relatively conservative race. The final will be held on Sunday.

After that race, I was done for the day. I headed back to my host family's house for a shower before adventuring through town.

In the afternoon, I headed back to the course to see my teammates race in a variety of events: the under 23 mens four, the senior men's four (with a first place finish and a trophy!), the championship eight (the most prestigious category), the women's double (congrats on making the final!) and the women's pair (with a second place finish in the final).

It was fun to see so much success from my teammates. I look forward to sharing in their successes in the future, as I get faster.

Tomorrow, I have the day off of racing. I'm planning to go row my single on the practice course so my body doesn't get too stiff. I also look forward to watching a few more races.

Next race: 1pm local time on Sunday

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8.09.2012

Racing: Day Two

Once again, I woke up early and headed over to the course to weigh in. While I had to sort out some details regarding lanes and semifinal assignment, I eventually got word that I would be racing in the first of two semifinals.

Clearly, the stress of the previous day had taken its toll on my body. I weighed in at 57.8 kg (127.4lbs), a full pound lighter than yesterday and the lightest I've weighed in since high school (which was only from extreme dehydration).  Took it upon myself to have a giant breakfast after weigh in: a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, half an apple (bees were very interested in the other half), a bowl of yogurt with granola and a banana, and a large muffin. I washed it all down with a healthy dose of water.

The remnants of breakfast:



Lunch involved a large salad, with beans, corn, cucumber, homegrown tomatoes, and lettuce. I had had triscuits and toast with butter, plus lots of trail mix. (I love Trader Joes trail mix, which is precisely why I only buy it on rare occasions when I think I'm going to need some comfort food.)

After lunch, I headed over to the race course. It's much cooler today than yesterday,with intermittent showers. I did some calisthenics to warm up and, after discussing strategy with my coach, headed to launch my boat. This time, I remembered my hat, but forgot my socks. My feet are pretty blistered from walking in the heat and rowing sock-less, but I survived.

Lots of scrapes, at least for a non-runner:



My race went pretty well. I didn't make the final, and placed 6th of 7, but I felt like I deserved to compete in the race: I was very close to 4th and 5th, who had made it to the semifinal on more than just dumb luck. I have a lot to work on, but a lot of time to make improvements. This race gave me a good idea of what I need to work on.

I'm now done weighing in for several months, so I can eat just about anything. Unfortunately, I'm stuffed from all my eating this morning! I'm also used to how good my body feels when I fuel it properly, and I'm not sure I'm ready to give that up just yet.

I did walk in to town and got a donut at the local Tim Horton's, but it didn't even come close to the donuts of my childhood. I was also craving salty more than sweet, but didn't feel like committing to sitting and eating French fries, especially with the looming rain clouds.

Tomorrow morning, I race in the open weight women's quad, in which I am the smallest rower by 3.5 inches and 35 pounds. It should be a fun race, and I'm looking forward to the experience. Hopefully we qualify for the Sunday final!

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8.08.2012

Bruises Galore

One of the disadvantages of rowing the single versus a multi-person boat is being solely responsible for carrying your equipment around. While we usually make it look easy, singles weigh 30 pounds and have plenty of sharp edges. They also are long, awkward and tend to blow around in the wind.

As if that wasn't bad enough, there are also oars to consider. Carrying a boat in one arm and two oars in the other is exhausting, and it took its toll on my body today.


This sweet bruise is one of three--the others are on my shoulders. I'm hoping that tomorrow involves significantly less holding and carrying of boats so my body can recover. At the very least, all that lifting should help make my "tiny muscles" (direct quote from my coach) a little bit bigger.

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Race Day!

Warning: very long day = very long post.

Last night, my nerves got the best of me, and I had a lot of trouble falling asleep. At 5:15 AM, when my alarm beeped my awake, I was tired, but feeling ready to go. At 5:45, I headed over to the race course and found a test scale. At 58.5kg, half a kilo under the weight limit, I changed into my unisuit and headed to the official weigh in scales.

Got my unisuit yesterday!
It was all very anticlimactic. In my unisuit, I handed the officials my ID, let them know my race time,  stepped on the scale and seconds later had a thumbs up. They noted my accepted weight in their race schedule and stamped my arm.


I enjoyed a quick breakfast with some other post weigh in lightweight girls, off to race the women's pair. After eating, I headed to my boat, and went out in the water for the first row in  my boat. It was a bit crowded, but calm conditions and good traffic control made the row a good start in the new boat.

Each boat and set of oars have slightly different properties--different lengths in the water, blade sizes, stiffness, weight distribution and more. While the boats all have similarities as well, it does take some time to get used to a new boat. The boat's reaction when you put your blades in the water is very different, and can be a very stressful moment if you don't know when to expect when you apply pressure.

After months in a boat that was a size or two too big for me, the biggest thing I notice is how small everything feels. From the shoes to the width of the boat, it all makes me feel just a little bit bigger--good in a sport where size is an advantage and half of the game is mental.

I spent the morning resting and refueling, although I probably did a bit too much walking around. I went down to the course early to get in a longer warmup in a separate practice area. My race was schedule for 1:24pm, and they called us to the dock to launch 30 minutes before the race. Normally, crews spend upwards of an hour on the race course before the race begins. Launching the boat, warming up and arriving at the start 5-10 minutes prior to the race all take time.

Nonetheless, I made it through my warmup and was waiting at the starting area just after 1:15pm. I watched the umpires line up the boats and send off the first heat in my event at 1:18pm. The races being on six minute center, this was perfectly on time, except for one detail: I was in the first heat! They sent my race off six minutes early without me, and with no announcements calling me into place.

It was incredibly embarrassing, and stressful. I immediately approached an umpire and informed her of the error. They attempted to contact the chief referee while I watched the second and third heats line up and start their races.

While I should have known that I was in the first heat and therefore should have been lining up, it was ultimately the responsibility of the officials to make sure they didn't start a race early without a rower present. As the fourth and final heat sat ready to race, I was ready to accept my fate and row home.

However, lady luck had different plans for me. Just as the officials began to poll the crews, part of the starting commands, safety launches came speeding in calling for all crews to clear the water. Thunder and lightning had moved in with the intermittent rain, and for safety reasons all racing was delayed an hour, until the weather cleared.

Two things happened during this hour long delay. First, the chief referee had an opportunity to hear my protest and make a decision. I was to row in the fourth heat, which had yet to race, but my time would be counted in the first heat, in which I was scheduled to race.

Second, the wind changed from a headwind, which causes slower times, to a reasonably stiff tail wind. This pushed my times nearly a minute faster than the girls in my heat. I expect to race in the semifinals tomorrow, although I'm still waiting on official word tonight. I'm not sure whether I deserve to race in the semifinal, but I do know I'm going to give it my best shot tomorrow, and hope I come away with a great race under my belt.

Overall, it was an emotionally draining day. Between nerves, embarrassment, anger and stress, I am completely wiped. I think I will more than make up for last nights lack of sleep tonight.

Wish me equal parts luck and skill tomorrow. I never thought I'd be hoping for another weigh in.

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8.07.2012

St. Catharine's

After too much traveling, we arrived in St. Catharine's, the home of the Canadian Henley, mid-afternoon yesterday. The climate is a big change from temperate California. We spent most of the day at the course, rigging boats and staying in the shade.

I'm borrowing a boat from a local club, and didn't have access to it yesterday, so I really didn't exercise much. After less than 3 hours of sleep and a lackluster lunch (a protein bar, almonds and fruit), I didn't mind the break.

Three of us are staying at a host family less than a mile from the race course. Luckily for me, one of the family members is vegetarian, so I enjoyed a vegetarian hot dog on toast with a side salad for dinner last night. It was great to eat normal food after a long trip.

This morning, I headed back to the course and found and rigged my boat. I'll be rowing a pink boat in my single races!! It's also, fortunately, a model of boat I've rowed in before--the club I coached at last year had an identical boat that I used several times and really enjoyed rowing. Afterwards, I found a scale.

The regatta has very strict weigh in procedures. Lightweights are only allowed to step on the official scale once on the day of their weigh in. If you are not at or under the target weight, you are disqualified from the regatta. There is no test scale; the official scale is only open from 2-4 pm for practice.

A lot of clubs at the regatta have scales for their lightweights and I found one to test my weight. Over a half pound under the limit, with minimal breakfast in my system, my level of concern dropped significantly. After real breakfast, grocery shopping and lunch, I'm feeling fueled and ready to race.

This afternoon, I will go for a short row in my boat to make sure it's rigged comfortably. Afterwards, it's rest, a small dinner, and getting ready to weigh in and race tomorrow!

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8.06.2012

Travels!

The last month has been filled with reading. I have devoured several books, mostly nonfiction, and haved queued several more for reading. I've also been taking advantage of the free book samples for Kindles, and reading tidbits about all sorts of interesting topics.

While I hope to share some of my learnings with you, for now we'll focus on the present. I've now been training for three months at the California Rowing Club and it's time to make my racing debut. I'm currently en route to a new country, Canada, to compete at Canadian Henley, one of the major summer races.
At JFK waiting for my 2nd flight.

While I've competed previously as a lightweight, this experience will be totally new for me. In collegiate racing, weigh ins are completed the afternoon before racing, giving you 15-20 hours to recover.

Much like wrestling, a lot of lightweight rowers sweat out some water weight in order to make the 130 pound weight limit. Generally, this amount is restricted to a few pounds because of the adverse affects on performance. Still, losing even a pound of water can affect your racing performance.

At Canadian Henley, as with most international racing, weigh ins are completed the day of the race. While this is a fairer approach, and perhaps safer (it discourages significant water loss), it can also be more stressful. If your weight fluctuates unexpectedly, e.g. due to travel, you no longer have the safety margin of a night's sleep.

In addition to day of weigh ins, I will also be weighing in multiple days. In college, our races were all single day affairs and only required one weigh in. Provided I progress from the heats to the semifinals and then finals, this race will span three consecutive days. This forces me to recover from weigh ins with strong awareness of the following days.

To help, I've taken some steps to ensure smooth weigh in the first day, so the second and third (*fingers crossed*) days go well:
- Hydrated like crazy on the plane, as well as before and after departure. I brought two water bottles and filled them both before getting on the plane. While it might seem counterintuitive to drink water when you might have to sweat it out two days later, it really helps keep your body functioning normally.



- Kept my weight below the 130 pound mark. Although my weight fluctuates some on a weekly and much on a monthly basis, I paid special attention in the weeks leading up to my departure. By hitting the 129 marker, my concern is on keeping my body functioning normally, not trying to lose weight while traveling.
- Brought normal food. I tend to eat really poorly when I travel, especially since JetBlue has free snacks. This time, I brought roasted sweet potato, grape tomatoes, apples, nectarines, almonds, rice cakes, and a protein bar. These are all foods I eat regularly, and they are helping my body feel more normal. I'm limiting my indulgences to one package of cookies and some orange juice on the flight.

I've also heard that compression socks can help with swelling and fluid retention in long flights. When I find the $60 to drop for a pair, I might experiment. In the meantime, I will stick with the recommendation to get up and walk around--easy to remember when you've had two liters of water and some orange juice!!!

What do you do to feel normal when you're traveling? Any recommendations?

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7.03.2012

Tidbit Tuesday

A little known fact about me:

My all-time favorite fruit of all-time is definitely the white nectarine. Not as tart as it's yellow cousin, it's juicy, decadently sweet flesh reminds me of summer. The freestone version are by far superior, and crunchy is preferable to sweet--even the less ripe version of these fruits tend to be plenty sweet. My favorite way to eat them? Removed from the pit and cut into 8ths (or 6ths, if you prefer).

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6.29.2012

Menu

Every Thursday night, I plan our menu for the next seven days. First, I go through the fridge and figure out what's leftover from the previous week. Then, I go through and list seven meals, first using up what we have, then adding in new ingredients. (I get a lot of my recipes and ideas from FoodGawker! Love the iPad app!) I underline anything we don't already have and add it to my shopping list for the Friday market.

Because I go to the market weekly, I have a pretty good sense of what's in season, and what's available. Sometimes, there are new, irresistible surprises, like last week's okra. We expect the menu to be a bit flexible to account for those wonderful surprises--it's why we often have leftover veggies at the beginning of the following week!

Here is this week's plan:


Right now, we're loving fresh corn! Dan picked up 12 ears for $2 at Safeway this week. We're also enjoying salads dressed with Casa Sanchez salsa--it's incredibly easy, and incredibly delicious!

Fresh tomatoes made my lunch list. Dan's not a fan, so I eat them by the handful when he's at work. I also picked up some pre-sliced mushrooms this morning--looking forward to adding those to my tomato soup! (Dan usually takes any leftovers for lunch at work.)

Normally, we eat out once a week or less, but Dan requested that we go to Arizmendi and get pizza for dinner this week. We're also planning to celebrate my parent's wedding anniversary with dinner out.

What are you eating this week?

6.21.2012

Beverages

I post a lot of food recipes on here, but rarely do I post about what I drink.

In our household, we consume four main beverages: water, tea, coffee and milk.

Both of us drink plenty of water, and get even more through the copious amounts of fruits and vegetables we eat. We drink almost exclusively water with lunch and dinner, usually at least 12 ounces each. In addition, I drink water throughout the day--I keep waterbottles filled around the house for easy sipping.



I'm also a regular tea drinker, and drink most of the tea in the household. My favorite brands include Celestial and Stash teas. I'm partial to Chai tea, peppermint, green tea/mint combos, and sleepytime. I've also been known to drink English breakfast tea and Good Earth original. I drink all of my tea unsweetened and only put milk into chai tea.

 

During the summer months, I drink less tea--I'm not a big fan of iced tea, and 80 degree weather and hot tea don't really jive.

Both of us drink coffee, although Dan drinks much more. (His work supplies free Peet's coffee!) I regularly am gifted either free drink cards at Peet's or Starbucks gift cards that cover a substantial portion of our coffee expenses. We also have free coffee in our apartment building. We try to limit our purchases of coffee (especially the fancy drinks) to dates and special treats.

Finally--milk. Growing up, I pretty much didn't drink milk--a few too many experiences with sour milk, and a general dislike of the stuff meant it was not a regular household purchase. A few years ago, I sought to cure my milk aversion by trying the good stuff: Strauss milk. Local, organic, non-homogenized, glass bottle, grass fed, delicious milk. It worked!

We drink 2% milk. We like the taste best: not too watery, not too thick.
We've since transition to slightly less expensive homogenized carton milk, but we still insist on drinking local, organic and not ultra-pasteurized milk. We're not snooty: it just tastes that much better. It's a bonus that's it's better for us, the cows and the environment.

Most of my milk is consumed on cold cereal, or in combination with chocolate: chocolate milk or hot cocoa. Very rarely do I drink a glass of the cold stuff. Still, I usually manage to sneak in at least one glass daily. We go through at least a gallon of milk per week.

What don't we drink? Juices, sodas, and alcohol! It is a very rare occasion indeed that we drink either juice or soda. The former we consume in its raw form--fruit! The latter? It's just not something we think has a place in our diets.

As for alcohol, neither Dan nor I has a particular taste for liquor, and we drink it only on rare occasions, in incredibly sweetened drinks.

What do you drink during the day? Water? Soda? Juice? Do you drink differently on weekends and weekdays?

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

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6.19.2012

Salad Days

Eating meat is not yes or no. Generally speaking, I don't eat meat. Am I vegetarian? No.

There has been much press recently about the negative health and environmental impact of eating meat. Many officials and public figures have advocated a transition to a 100% plant-based diet. But that's a lot easier said than done!

It's difficult to suddenly eliminate a huge calorie source, and a huge focus for so many meals. A good starting place? Simply eat less meat. Start focusing your meals on the grains and vegetables--use meat as a seasoning.

These two salads do just that. They incorporate small amounts of incredibly flavorful meat. In the first, the salad uses leftover roasted potatoes, corn and high quality bacon to mimic the flavors of corn chowder--in a lower calorie, veggie-ful salad.

The second salad uses the oil from a can of sardines to dress the salad--infusing the whole dish with the savory, salty goodness of sardines. Add croutons for extra carbs and crunch.

----- ----- ----- ----- ------ ------
Corn Chowder Salad
serves 2


1 lemon, juiced
2T olive oil
2t mustard, honey or finely minced garlic (to emulsify)
1t fresh thyme, chopped

8 cups spring mix, washed + dried
1 cup leftover crispy roasted potatoes, or other roasted potatoes
1 cob corn, kernels only (or 0.5 can of corn kernels)
4 strips good bacon, cooked and chopped
other chopped veggies as desired (carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers, etc.)

1. Mix the first four ingredients together and whisk well to emulsify.
2. Toss the dressing with the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Serve at room temperature.
----- ------ ----- ----- ----- -----

----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Sardine Salad
serves 1

1 can skinless/boneless sardines in olive oil (I used Crown Prince)
0.5 lemon, juiced, or 2t balsamic vinegar

4 cups spring mix, washed + dried
4-6 ounces cucumber, diced
1 medium tomato, diced

1. Add lettuce, cucumber and tomato to a medium bowl.
2. Break up sardines gently with a fork and add to bowl. Drizzle the oil from the can over the salad.
3. Finish with the lemon juice or vinegar and toss to combine.
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ------

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6.18.2012

Pantry Philosophy

Before we had a dining table, or even pots and pans, in our new apartment, we had an assortment of dried goods, snacks and even produce. I saw a well-stocked pantry as an absolute necessity.

Now, I'm not so sure.

In my family, most bulk goods are kept at an equilibrium supply. My parents have a decent sense of what and how much they use of any given pantry item; it is restocked before supplies reach critical levels. For example, they always have enough pasta on hand to last until their next trip to Costco.

This allows them to buy in appropriate quantities and take advantage of bulk purchase deals as appropriate. It also means ingredients are always on hand for a quick dinner or impromptu baking session.

This works for most of the ingredients they have in the house, but things change. For example, when my mom stopped eating gluten, the store of flour was suddenly useless. Or, when my dad went on a risotto kick, the equilibrium store of arborio rice increased; when the kick ended, we were left with a lot of arborio.

Dan's family is on a different end of the spectrum. Items are purchased on an as-needed basis. Most items in the pantry are fortuitous leftovers from previous cooking adventures.

Because of the damp climate on the Oregon coast, dry goods don't last as long--so this style is as much practical as necessary. It does also allow for more creative cooking: menus are planned freely, instead of around pantry items.

There are a few downsides, though. Trips to the grocery store are frequent--a difficult task with no car. There are also often leftover ingredients, in quantities challenging to use up. Impromptu cooking is also made more difficult, and I'm no good with creativity when I'm hungry.

Dan and I are working our way towards a middle ground. There are a few things that are challenging to get (white whole wheat flour, nutritional yeast, or good cheese, for example) that we like to keep stocked at all times. We try to replace these before we finish them off.

Most other things, we are trying to replace after we've used them up completely. For example, we are working our way through our supply of wheat bran--purchased for a this muffin recipe--and don't plan on replacing it until we want to make bran muffins again.

We're hoping that as we eat down our pantry a bit, we can also get a better grasp on what our food budget really is. Since we'll be replacing items as we use them, we're hoping for a bit more consistency in our spending.


How do you stock your pantry? Any new ideas?

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6.17.2012

Vegan Chili

Dan and I really like chili. It's great plain, with bread or over rice; it freezes well; it can be warming or summery; and the vegetarian stuff is pretty darn healthy.

When we go shopping for non-produce items, we alway pick up any sale canned/frozen goods that might be good in chili: beans, tomatoes, corn, etc. Over the past few months, we accumulated pinto beans, kidney beans, fire roasted garlic tomatoes, frozen fire roasted green chiles and some canned corn. Since we had leftover black beans in our freezer, we slow cooked a batch of white beans and made some chili!

Here's what you need:
1-2 cans of tomatoes (if whole, squish with your hands before adding)
1 can corn
4-6 pounds of cooked assorted beans (note: a 15-oz can is approximately a pound)
green chilis (canned or frozen)
cumin, to taste
chili powder, to taste
about 0.5c of nutritional yeast

Add the first four ingredients to a big pot. (You get bonus points for sauteing onion, garlic and cumin seeds in the pot first.) Bring to a simmer and let simmer for 10 minutes, or until the tomatoes get a little saucier. Add cumin and chili powder, tasting as you go. Simmer for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Before serving, add nutritional yeast.

Note: nutritional yeast is a common vegan cheese substitute. We found that it leant a really nice savory, creamy, thick texture and flavor to the chili, and was probably the single most important ingredient. Look for it in the health food or bulk section of your grocery store--or ask for help finding it! Cheddar would be an ok substitute, but nutritional yeast is strongly preferred.

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6.13.2012

Pesto Kale Pasta

Our local farmer's market has basil at incredible prices. Basil is one of my favorite flavors: it reminds me of summer, gardening, fresh mozzarella and eating outside.


A few weeks ago, we got a tremendous amount of basil and almost immediately processed it into a huge jar of pesto. Our pesto is distinctly garlicky, with a few hunks of parmesan and pine nuts ground in, and plenty of fruity olive oil.

We use it on lots of things: sandwiches, rice bowls, pastas, salads, crackers...

Most recently, we combined it with kale, white beans and pasta to create a quick and easy dinner.

We used white beans because of their neutral flavor and soft texture--a great way to add creaminess to a pasta dish without busting out the dairy. We made a big batch in our slow cooker to use in chili and the leftovers went into this dish.

The next day, I added some fresh corn to my leftovers and it became a whole new meal: crunchy, sweet and lightly summery, instead of warm, creamy and comforting summer flavors. Make it either way.

----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Pesto Kale Pasta
serves 4-6


1 lb shaped pasta
1T olive oil
1T chili flakes
15 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed with the side of your knife
3 bunches kale, washed, gently dried and chopped (feel free to remove the stems--I think it's a pain)
2 cobs of corn, kernels only (optional)
2c cooked white beans
0.5c pesto

1. Bring copious amounts of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente--usually 2-3 minutes short of time indicated on package. RESERVE 2 CUPS OF COOKING LIQUID BEFORE DRAINING.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large, wide, lidded pot. (We used our wok. A dutch oven would also work.)
3. Add the chili flakes and garlic, stirring gently for 1-2minutes or until fragrant.
4. Add the kale to the pan, stir/toss to combine, and cover. Cook for 10-12 minutes, or until wilted. If all the liquid evaporates, add 0.25c of pasta water.
5. Stir corn kernels and beans into kale and let warm.
6. Meanwhile, add pesto and 1c of pasta water to pasta pot; bring to a boil and let thicken for 1 minute. Stir in pasta and simmer for 2 minutes. There should still be some sauce left--if not, add pasta water, 0.25c at a time.
7. Gently combine pasta, sauce and vegetables. Serve in warm bowls, with extra parmesan cheese.
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6.11.2012

Water Bottle Review

When you row, you only stop very briefly to catch your breath and drink water. It's important that when that break comes, you get the liquid you need. I've had a lot of different water bottles, and used them well.

My first water bottles were all Nalgenes. They carry a lot of water, which is definitely a plus if you're going for a long session. They're also great for gulping, which is important if you've got a limited amount of rest time. The screw top also keeps the drinking surface clean, which is nice when your bottle rolls around in the bottom of the boat.


Downsides? They take two hands to open, which is really inconvenient if you're trying to hold an oar, or steer a bike. (They also don't fit into water bottle holders on bikes--go figure.) The little leash that holds the cap on is also incredibly flimsy. A little duct tape goes a long way, but expect a decapitated bottle within the year.

They're also really big, which means they don't fit well in backpacks, or tucked into the back of a sports bra. If you expect to be short on hands to carry your bottle, the cap loop is only good as long as it lasts.

When I bought my bike, I also got these standard cycling water bottles.

I use these as my standard practice water bottle, bringing two for longer practices and hot days. They deliver a solid stream of water without spilling all over your face (no matter how jerky the ride). I can also use these with one hand, which is super convenient for riding bikes and rowing. They've got a tall, slim profile which fits well in my backpack and tucks nicely into the boat.

The little divot is ok for gripping, but otherwise these bottles lack a good carrying mechanism. You can stick them into your sports bra or spandex, and they're light enough to manage, but with two bottles it gets a bit trickier. The spout also tends to get pretty grimy. I suppose it's good excuse to wash them more often, but sometimes one practice will render the squirt top disgustingly salty.

My newest acquisition is a CamelBak bottle with a straw.



This is great for stationary biking, running and for just around the house. Because of the straw, you don't have to tip your head back to drink--a big plus if you're trying to stay balanced on the treadmill. It's also really fun to drink out of the straw, and I definitely drink more water when I have it around the house. The closure mechanism is very secure--don't worry about leakage.

Unfortunately, the straw also doesn't let very much out at a time--not good for gulping. It's also a little bit unwieldy--the flip top mechanism is difficult to use one handed and the loop isn't super comfortable for carrying. Finally, the straw makes packing in ice a bit difficult--you can fit ice but there has to be some wiggle room left.

The ultimate advice? The best bottle for you depends on what you're doing! I use my CamelBak at home, and my squeeze top bottles at practice. When you purchase a bottle, really think about how you're going to be using it--is tipping your head back ok? will you need a lot of water at a time, or just a few sips? how much water do you need and how cold does it need to be? how will you be carrying it?

Try going to a store that sells athletic equipment, preferably one with knowledgable salespeople. Ask for their opinions, and let them know your particular situation. They may be able to direct you to the best bottle for you.

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6.10.2012

Only in the Bay Area

Dan and I had a spectacular weekend of adventures. After Saturday morning's practice, I hurried on home to spend some time with my husband. After a quick search online for weekend happenings, we headed over to BART for a quick ride into San Francisco.

We popped out at Embarcadero station, a quick 12-minute ride from our apartment (and less than $7 round trip!), and wandered out onto the giant plaza.

After some looking around we found this:







The World Naked Bike Ride was suiting up (down?) and getting ready to ride. Naked events are certainly not unheard of in the Bay Area, but they're still quite the experience.

After watching people sunscreen places that had never before gotten sunscreen, and marvelling at their boldness, we continued on to the Ferry Building to enjoy the farmer's market.

The market near our apartment is in all ways superior, but we enjoy wandering around and sampling from the various vendors. We tasted fresh stone fruit, dark chocolate almond brittle and even some Humphry Slocombe ice cream! (I'd never had it before.)

We also stopped in for a simple lunch: cheese from the Cowgirl Creamery and Acme bread.


We had their wagon wheel cheese, a lightly aged mild and creamy cheese, along with little sour torpedos from Acme, all enjoyed in the sunshine on the water front, with a view of the Bay Bridge.


From there, we walked about 15 minutes down the main drag to Union Square, where we did some shopping. We stopped at the Apple store to play, and then headed to Williams Sonoma, where I had a gift card. We also wandered the shops and malls, and did some much needed clothes shopping for Dan.

For dinner, we just headed to the basement of the mall (also attached to the BART station), where there are tens of booths serving incredible food! In the mall! We finished off our meal with another sample (or two) of hazelnut gelato.

Sunday morning, after work for me and a workout for Dan, we ventured out into the 85 degree heat. Our original plan was to go to the $5 movie at our local theatre, but tickets sold out as we waited in line. Instead, we wandered about another local farmer's market a block away, toured some work of local artists, and then headed to a nearby coffee shop to cool down.

After all of this adventuring, we came home for some rest and relaxation, and enjoyed incredible rice wraps for dinner. The instructions are simple:
Cut up a bunch of veggies (cucumbers, radishes, carrots, bell peppers, corn, lettuce, etc.). Make this peanut sauce. Soften rice wraps in warm water. Fill, fold, dip, eat.

It didn't heat up the house, and the easy clean-up is leaving us some time to enjoy the now reasonable weather.

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6.08.2012

Blueberry Chocolate Hazelnut Yogurt

I love yogurt. I also love Nutella. One of these things is obviously better for me, so I tried to make it taste a little bit more like Nutella. It's probably one of the best desserts I've had in awhile.

There is a distinct hit of hazelnutty chocolate, with each crunchy nutty bite, accompanied by the sweet tartness of the blueberries and the twang of the plain yogurt. If you're not a fan of plain yogurt twang, try subbing greek yogurt, as it's milder; beware, though, that with stirring it will lose much of its thickness.

If you're trying to make something for a dinner party, this would also make a great dessert parfait--embellish plain granola with hazelnuts and dried blueberries and layer it with chocolate yogurt. Add a pretty layer of fresh sliced strawberries on top for bonus points.

----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ------
Chocolate Yogurt with Dried Blueberries and Hazelnuts
serves 1


1.5T unsweetened cocoa powder
1.5T powdered sugar (***note: you can also use 2.5-3T of sweetened cocoa powder)
1c plain low fat yogurt
20 hazelnuts, toasted
0.25c dried blueberries (or sub dried cherries)

1. Put the cocoa powder and powdered sugar in a bowl; whisk together with a fork or small whisk.
2. Add about 0.25c of the yogurt, and mix thoroughly with the cocoa powder. One the mixture is homogenous, add the remaining yogurt and stir until mixed.
3. Sprinkle the nuts and dried fruit on top.
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6.07.2012

Rowing with Olympians

Two weeks ago, the U.S. men's 8+ raced in Lucerne, Switzerland at the final Olympic qualification regatta. After failing to qualify for the 2012 Olympics the previous summer, the boat--and qualification--became huge priorities. In Lucerne, they raced to a gold medal, earning one of the few remaining spots in their category.

Yesterday, they returned to Oakland to continue training for their next challenge--the Olympics.

Rowing on the same water as and sharing a boathouse with Olympians is not new to me: both the men and the women trained in Princeton for much of my time there. In fact, we shared a locker room with the women who won gold in 2008. And yet, it seems that only now, as I try to earn myself a spot amongst these athletes, do I realize what they have accomplished.

Spending most of my time in Princeton rowing as an openweight, I never had any hope of competing with the women I saw in USRowing gear. At 5'7", I was two inches shorter than the minimum height for consideration and four inches shorter than most of the athletes that were asked to try out.

I never considered that it was more than height and pure talent that got these women to the camp--it was hundreds of hours of training, extra erg tests, blisters, sore muscles and a lot of heart. Now that I have subjected myself to just four weeks of the same, I am in awe of what these athletes have done. I am blessed with the near perfect size for lightweight rowing, and yet size and talent will not be enough.

As I watch the Olympics this year, I have a new appreciation for what the athletes have truly accomplished. While they are all blessed with an extraordinary amount of talent, they have all also earned their places, through blood, sweat and tears. The world is too big of a place to get to the top on talent alone.

6.06.2012

Racing

Sit ready. Attention. Go. Don't flip. Splash. Accelerate. Splash. Please don't flip. Splash.

Last weekend, we travelled down to a local race course to do some 2000 meter racing. We faced off against each other, racing amongst boat classes and genders. Winners were calculated by comparison with world record times.

There were 10 entries total: five men's pairs, two men's singles, two women's singles and my lightweight women's single.

While I've raced at the course before, this was a completely new experience for me. In all of my previous races, I've had somebody else in my boat telling me how to execute my starting sequence, when to shift from the frantic strokes off the start into my base cadence, and when to push during the race. Not this time.

As the men's pair approached me, I heard the quietly uttered instructions from their bowman to push away, but the remainder of my racing passed in silence. No coxswain, no bowman, no set race plan. It was all up to me.

While this could have made the race stretch on forever--eight and a half minutes of full pressure silence--I found it liberating. I could develop and execute a race plan as conditions dictated. A strong tailwind off the start asked for a higher stroke rating in the first 500, and a delayed shift from high strokes to base cadence. An opponent's push at 750 meters was countered with a push back at 800 meters. The sprint began naturally at 350 to go, as we exchanged the lead in a demanding fight for the finish line.

I learned a lot from those four races: Stay in the moment. Race the race you're in. Have a basic plan, but expect it to change. And, most importantly, nine minutes is a long time, and I better get faster so I never have to race for nine minutes again.

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6.05.2012

Mint Ice Cream and a (brief) Book Review

I love dairy products, and ice cream is no exception. But with no car to get to and from the store, bringing ice cream home is a challenge.

Problem, meet solution.



To celebrate the arrival of our ice cream maker (thanks, Jim!!) and ice cream book, we made mint ice cream from Humphry Slocombe's ice cream book.

If you've never heard of Humphry Slocombe, it's an ice cream shop in San Francisco, known for its mind bending flavor combinations. They use a basic custard base for almost all of their ice creams, and then jazz it up with cool add-ins and flavorings.

The book was a fun read--humorous but to the point, with plenty of self-deprecation. It's got plenty of reminders that ice cream is supposed to be delicious, and you should flavor it as you see fit.

Since we had mint languishing in our fridge, I used their Pepper and Mint recipe. Essentially, you steep the mint in the custard base while it cools, then strain and freeze. Dan and I found the recipe to be overly salty, and the pepper flavor didn't really come though. (Dan didn't even notice I added pepper.)

The recipe also says it makes 1 quart, but it did a pretty good job of filling our 2 quart maker. Maybe the constant stirring makes a fluffier ice cream, but if you've got a smaller ice cream maker, decrease the size of your recipe!

Otherwise, the custard provided a nice creamy texture, and an incredibly minty flavor. We are finishing off this batch soon, and looking forward to trying new flavors ASAP! Coming soon: graham crackers + honey, almond brittle + vanilla (if the almond brittle lasts long enough that is)

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6.01.2012

10-Minute Easy Dinner

Sometimes, eating healthy means relying on other people to do some of the cooking for you. We rely on our slow cooker, and a few pre-packaged "convenience" foods to help make good dinners faster.

Pre-washed lettuce (it was on sale!), bottled dressing, and pre-made salsa took bean and cheese burritos and made them a meal. And despite 5 of 7 ingredients coming from a package, our dinner was flavorful, healthy and fresh.

It definitely wasn't the most budget friendly of meals, but some conveniences are worth the money. Even with some expensive choices, we fed both of us for around $8 (around 1200 calories total). Not a terrible deal.

burritos:
100% whole wheat tortilla (Guerrero) + pre-sliced medium cheddar (Tillamook)
Black beans (made in slow cooker)
medium red salsa (Casa Sanchez)

side salad:
pre-washed organic spring mix (Earthbound Farm)
bottled dressing (we didn't really like the dressing, so I won't recommend it)
carrot chunks

To help save money in the future:
1. Make too much salad dressing and keep extras in a bottle/jar in the fridge. For us, it's really hard to find vinegar/mustard free bottled dressing, two things Dan hates, so we usually make our own.
2. Wash extra spring mix/lettuce, and keep it in a plastic bag with a paper towel in the fridge. It lasts for 3-5 days that way, and makes a second salad really easy.
3. Make really big batches of beans in the slow cooker, and freeze the extras. We use them in salads, burritos, soup, etc.
4. If you're buying pre-packaged items, plan your meals around what's on sale--sometimes it makes it as cheap as making your own! We bought the salsa, the spring mix and the bottled dressing on sale, and got some great deals.

Do you rely on any packaged items? What do you recommend?

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5.31.2012

Healthy Eating.. Even when you're Really Hungry

When I'm really hungry (and I mean burned 1000 calories before 9AM hungry), the last thing I want to do is think. Unfortunately, coming up with healthy, interesting, new ideas of things to eat requires quite a bit of thinking.

Fortunately, I have a couple of sidekicks. First off, I have an invaluable book: Culinary Artistry.

Steamed kale? Boring. Steamed kale with a drizzle of garlic oil and some lemon juice? Delicious.

Plain honeydew? Old news. Honeydew with lime juice? News.

Sure, none of these combinations are absolutely brilliant, but they do take a significant amount of thinking out of the process.

My second sidekick: lists. I currently have three lists: breakfast ideas, lunch ideas and snack ideas. (We plan dinners on a weekly basis, and hope to never need a list.) To make sure I get enough of the right nutrients, I oftentimes plan out my meals the night before, drawing on these lists and things we have in our pantry to make delicious food.

It makes the 20-minute ride home infinitely more bearable to have plans for rye crackers with avocado and tomato waiting your return.

To save you some time and energy, I thought I'd share one of my lists with you! These snack ideas are sorted into sweet and savory, as well as they can be. Also, they are meant as snacks for somebody who trains for upwards of 5 hours a days--consume with caution.

Sweet:
fresh fruit
instant oatmeal
plain yogurt
ants on a log (with dried blueberries!)
chocolate milk
milk + cereal
chocolate squares with nut butter
applesauce
granola (w/ milk or yogurt)
rice cakes with peanut butter or nutella
smoothie
graham cracker w/ yogurt, banana
chocolate covered anything
strawberry + cream cheese sandwich
teddy grahams + cream cheese (thanks, wlcrew!)
biscotti
muffins + quick breads
chocolate yogurt (mix sweetened cocoa powder into plain yogurt)
trail mix
granola bar

Savory:
nuts
carrots + hummus (add curry powder!)
rye crackers + avocado + tomato
popcorn
cheese sandwich w/ mustard
salad
bagel pizza
grilled cheese
snap peas + goat cheese
roasted chickpeas
jicama stick + dip
strawberries + goat cheese
cherry tomatoes + garlic oil
crackers + broiled cheese and grapes
oatmeal + broiled cheese
pita pocket + veggies + cheese
tomatoes + parmesan + breadcrumbs, broiled
pasta + parmesan + butter
hard-boiled eggs

What are your go-to snacks? How do you prepare for the worst--hunger?

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5.27.2012

Pumpkin Muffins: The End

I've long been on a quest for the perfect pumpkin muffin. My testing has been neither thorough, nor exhaustive, but after finding this recipe, I've decided to stop looking.

Of course, finding is a relative term. Misreading is perhaps a better way to put it. The recipe clearly says 1 cup of pumpkin, so I added a whole can. I'd like to think this is a major contributing factor to their deliciousness.

I know it's not even remotely close to pumpkin season. In fact, you're probably much more concerned with how to use the plethora of strawberries and stone fruits that are just coming into season.

I'm hoping that you also happen to have a can of pumpkin left in your pantry: it is always wise to stockpile such precious commodities. If so, make these immediately. Strawberries can wait. (Or you can have one for breakfast, with strawberries on the side.)

If not, I'm sorry. Put them on your calendar, sometime in October. (September if you can get away with it!)

----- ----- ----- ----- ---- -----
The Perfect Pumpkin Muffin
makes 6 jumbo muffins (note: if they were regular size, they wouldn't be perfect)

1c sugar
2 eggs
0.25t baking powder
1t baking soda
0.75t salt
1.5c whole wheat flour
0.5c oil
0.5c cold water
1 15oz can pumpkin (yes, the whole thing)
spices: 1T cinnamon, 0.5t nutmeg, 0.5t cloves, 0.5t ginger

1. Mix all ingredients together. No, seriously, that's all.
2. Pour into jumbo muffin cups. (We use silicone ones.) Bake for 50 minutes at 325.
----- ----- ----- ----- ---- -----


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5.25.2012

Full Time Training

Last week Monday, I started training with a local rowing club that specializes in preparing athletes for international competition. Who knows what the future holds, but the present holds lots of exercise and LOTS of eating.

Although I compete in a weight restricted class, training for upwards of six hours a day requires I eat as much food as I can just to maintain my weight and my energy. I carefully track what I put in my body and what I ask of it so that I fuel properly.

Here's what a day of training looks like:
 6AM - wake up
Breakfast: peanut butter banana sandwich with large glass of milk, strawberries
7AM - bike to boathouse, 20 minutes
Snack: 200 calorie energy bar
7:30AM - get boat out, row for around 60 minutes, easy pace
9:00AM - quick break
Snack: chocolate milk, plus a few Belgian chocolates from a teammate
9:15AM - weightlifting, 75 minutes
Snack: almonds and dried blueberries
10:30AM - bike home, 20 minutes
First lunch: cheese roll from a local bakery
Second lunch: oatmeal with spinach, Parmesan cheese and a fried egg, strawberries
Third (!) lunch: leftover chickpea salad in pita, plus sliced cheese, oreos
Snack: mocha from Starbucks, with whipped cream
2:00 - nap time! Plus stretching.
4:00 - second workout, 45 minutes of biking, plus another 50-60 minutes on the rowing machine
Dinner: stir fry with tofu and brown rice, Oreos
Dessert: S'mores cupcake

Despite eating three lunches, and as much dinner as I could stomach, I was still more than 100 calories short of the calories I burned. A lot of my calories came from less than ideal sources--chocolates and cookies.

I'm trying to find a balance between being able to eat enough and eating well, as many of the foods that are good for me are also very filling. I'm working to increase my consumption of whole grains, dairy products and beans, and finding ways to incorporate them into easy snacks.


Expect to see lots of good snack ideas in the future!


Some tricks so far:
- When I menu plan, I make a list of snacks that use the ingredients we have on hand
- We use our slow cooker to make beans and oatmeal, and make extra rice/pasta when we have them for dinner
- Condiments can take something really simple (beans and rice) and put it over the top. One of my favorites: chickpeas, sticky rice, Sriracha sauce, sesame seeds
- When I'm looking for something to eat, open the fridge first; if I absolutely don't want anything in the fridge, then I look in the pantry

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5.24.2012

Warm Potato Salad

Poor potato salad. I think you all know what I mean.

Alas, no more. It is time to revolutionize the potato salad.

It is time to rescue it from horrid dressings, either too bland or too aggressive. It is time to use the potato as a creamy, firm, satisfying base for incredible flavor combinations.

It is time for a new potato salad.

Let's begin with the potatoes. Rinse a few pounds of waxy potatoes (like Yukon golds), then coat them in a wee bit of olive oil and coarse salt. (Use your hands! Rub!) Roast till cooked. (A knife will pierce them pretty easily.)

Of course, you could boil your potatoes. But boiled potatoes are fairly uninteresting, and you might as well get two meals out of this--eat your roasted potatoes for dinner one night, make potato salad the next.

Now, we are ready to make salad!

This salad starts out much like making hash browns--potatoes and greens are fried until crispy. In this case, we use brussels sprouts: the little shreds are cute, and brown more easily than standard cabbage.

The flavors are simultaneously bright, from the vinegar and mustard, and warm from the sprouts and cumin. The light dressing adds just enough punch without overpowering.

This would be good served with bratwurst, if you're into that kind of thing.

----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ------
Warm Potato Salad
serves 2 as a main, 4 as a side

10 small roasted potatoes
30 brussels sprouts
1T cumin seeds
1T butter
1T olive oil
1T apple cider vinegar
1t dijon mustard

1. Cut your potatoes into half inch cubes. Microwave them for 4-5 minutes, or until piping hot.
2. Slice your brussels sprouts crosswise, into quarter inch thick disks. It's ok if little pieces fall off.
3. Heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat in a large frying pan. Once the butter stops bubbling, add the cumin seeds. Cook for 30 seconds to a minute.
4. Add the potatoes. Stir gently, then do not stir for 1 minute. Then, stir (or toss!), and add the brussels sprouts. Stir/toss occasionally until the brussels sprouts are mostly bright green, with a few dark bits.
5. Meanwhile, mix up your dressing: vinegar + mustard.
6. Combine the potato/sprout mixture with the dressing, let cool ever so slightly, and serve, still warm.
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5.20.2012

Pita Pocket Sandwich

Super easy, fun to eat and incredibly refreshing, this sandwich salad combo is a great way to welcome summer.

The dish mingles a familiar flavor palette with a party of textures: the firm bite of chickpeas, the crunch of veggies, the chewiness of pita all coated in a creamy sweet dressing.

After the dressing, the celery is a major player on the flavor front. If you're not a fan, leave it out. The other veggies were what we had--feel free to sub in other crunchy veggies that are languishing in your produce drawer.

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Chickpea Salad Sandwich
makes 4 sandwiches

4 whole wheat pitas

2 cans of chickpeas (or equivalent from dry)
4-5 pickling cucumbers
1 bell pepper
2 stalks celery
0.5 red onion

0.5c plain yogurt
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 lemon, juiced
6 mint leaves, finely chopped
3T olive oil

1. In a large bowl, mix the yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, mint and olive oil. Whisk together.
2. Chop the veggies into 1cm x 1cm cubes. In the large bowl, toss with the chickpeas and dressing. Add salt to taste.
3. Microwave the pita pockets for 15 seconds, or until they puff up. Then cut in half and fill each pocket with the veggie mix.

Serve with napkins and forks, as the filling tends to find its way out of the pita.
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5.13.2012

Two Salads + Grilled Broccoli

We had a barbecue potluck party last night. It was in celebration of graduations and the beginning of summer. Dan and I planned on bringing salads and broccoli, and at the last minute threw together some awesome salad dressings. So awesome that I feel the need to share.

We rounded out our cook out with some grilled chicken and sweet potatoes (wrap them in foil and stick 'em on the grill!). Awesome way to welcome summer!

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Tropical Fruit Salad
serves 6

8-10 cups of mixed summer fruit/berries (we used blueberries and strawberries and bananas)
0.25c white sugar
0.25c water
10-12 fresh mint leaves
0.25c lite coconut milk
1 inch piece of ginger (preferably frozen, or having been frozen)

1. Put berries in a large bowl.
2. Stirring occasionally, heat sugar, water and mint leaves in a very small saucepan until boiling. Cover and let sit for 10 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, combine the coconut milk and ginger chunks, using a fork to squeeze some of the ginger juice out.
4. Once the mint simple syrup has cooled and infused, strain it, and add it to the coconut milk-ginger combination.
5. Pour dressing over fruit and let marinate for at least an hour.
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We imagine this would also be delicious with some sort of alcohol used in place of the water.

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Simple Spinach Salad
serves 6

huge salad bowl full of spinach leaves
1c walnuts, roughly chopped
1c dried cranberries

juice of 1 juicy lemon (0.25c or so)
2t honey
0.25c roasted garlic olive oil

1. Combine the first three ingredients in the salad bowl.
2. Whisk together the remaining three ingredients. Adjust the lemon, oil and honey to taste, and/or add salt. It will taste altogether too garlicky, but look for a good balance of sweetness/tartness, and the right ratio of acid to oil.
3. Dress salad and toss to combine.
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Grilled Broccoli Spears
serves 6


3-4 large heads broccoli
cooking spray
sea salt
bbq sauce for dipping (optional, sort of)

1. Preheat your grill to medium-high heat.
2. Chop the broccoli into long spears, stems around 1/2" thick.
3. Spray the spears lightly with the cooking spray and sprinkle with sea salt.
4. Grill the broccoli over medium heat for around 15', or until tender and just past bright green, with a few decent char marks.
5. Serve with barbecue sauce.
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What do you bring to cook outs?

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

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4.26.2012

Chocolate banana smoothie

Peas are in season! What does that have to do with smoothies you ask?

We buy fresh peas from the farmers market, which requires shelling the delicious peas from their somewhat battered pods.

My first instinct was to throw the pods away, as I've done all my life. With the budget somewhat tight, though, I decided to find a way to use them.

Since they were ugly, I knew that either the food processor or the blender were going to come out to play.

Of course, you could turn them into a sweet pesto, mildly scented with the aroma of peas. However, a sale on basil a few weeks ago left us with a stock of homemade pesto. (By the way, cashew butter makes a great pine but substitute.)

Instead, I decided to use up some of our mushy bananas and make a smoothie. I wanted something low in sugar, high in protein and fiber, and chocolatey.

0.75 container silken tofu
1T chia seeds
1T flaxseed meal
1t vanilla extract
2T cocoa powder
1T honey (or to taste)
10-15 peas pods, peas removed
75-100g banana (1 small banana), frozen
50g milk (scant 1/4 cup)

1. Put in blender and blend until smooth. Let stand for 2-3 minutes to thicken.

It's not very sweet so if you're looking for a sweet smoothie replace some of the tofu with bananas, or add more honey. It is very satisfying, and boasts upwards of 25 grams of protein. It's not light in calories, but let's stop pretending smoothies are ever light in calories. At least this one is decently healthy.

(A high powered blender is recommended, unless you don't mind some pulp in your smoothie.)

2.19.2012

Yellow Cake


I love cake. It is my all-time favorite dessert. The perfect distribution of frosting and filling; the tender, moist inside; the sharply sliced edge -- heaven. Cupcakes don't even compare.

A few weeks back, I made a chocolate cake. At Dan's request, I made a yellow cake this week. Apparently, he loves yellow cake. I didn't know it was possible to love yellow cake, especially when chocolate cake is an option.

Nonetheless, I proceeded with a recipe from a trusted blogger. I used a basic chocolate buttercream to frost.

It wasn't my favorite cake--the crumb was uneven, and fairly crumbly. None of the flavors were overwhelming, which also meant that they were all overwhelmed by the chocolate frosting.

However, it was incredibly easy to frost (didn't even need a crumb coat), sturdy, and way better than the stuff from a box. If you're new to cake baking, or just want something easy (say, for a kid's birthday), this is a good go-to recipe.

Up next: Carrot cake with Ginger Lime Swiss Meringue Buttercream (for those of us that hate cream cheese frosting)


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2.18.2012

Menu Planning 2/18


Sorry for the limited updates: our internet has been a little bit flaky recently.

Last week, we had a few delicious meals, and a few flops. 

Successes:
- Our red lentil soup with coconut curry was flavorful and filling; it left your mouth lightly smoldering from the spice, but the heat never overwhelmed the flavor.
- The hash browns, made with leftover baked potatoes and brussel sprouts, were incredibly satisfying--a perfect comfort food. We added onion and cumin seed for flavor, but otherwise just enjoyed delicious execution.
- I have always been a fan of savory oatmeal, but Dan upped the ante from my microwaved spinach dining hall experience. He lightly sauteed frozen spinach and peas in garlic and green onion to add to our slow cooker oats. Yum.

Fails:
- The idea was to make roasted broccoli and roasted chickpeas and serve them with pasta that had been lightly simmered in stock and then tossed with breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese. A few things got in the way (like not having parmesan or breadcrumbs and two voracious appetites..) and in the end, we had steamed broccoli and mildly heated chickpea noodle soup. It wasn't inedible, but not something worth repeating.
- Our winter squash has been languishing in the fridge, unused. Of course, we'll probably use it tonight, as planned, but any recipe that doesn't get eaten until the last day must have some fundamental flaw. In this case, there are two. First, Dan's not a big squash fan. Second, it's a pretty complicated preparation for a relatively simple meal! Good Saturday night food, but definitely not easy to make.

We were very good about sticking to our menu from last week, but have a few leftover ingredients anyways. The plan for this week primarily uses up those leftovers, with a few new items:

Sunday: Sandwiches with pinto bean mash, cabbage slaw, and optional barbecue chicken
Monday: Lentil red pepper soup from the Zuni Cafe cookbook
Tuesday: Salad with lettuce, bell pepper, carrots and buttermilk dressing
Wednesday: Pan-fried brussel sprouts with cheese polenta
Thursday: egg noodles with ginger scallion sauce, bamboo shoots, snap peas (if they're in season) and pan fried cauliflower
Friday: Buttermilk mashed potatoes with side salad

Snacks
- Oatmeal
- English muffin
- Hard-boiled egg
- Teddy grahams w/ cream cheese
- Triscuits with cheddar
 - Carrots with hummus
 - Applesauce


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

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