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?



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?

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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.

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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.
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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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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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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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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.

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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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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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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.

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

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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.

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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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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.



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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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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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.

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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