Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Farewell Fare for a beautiful spring day

I am once again about to head out on the road for a bit to San Francisco, DC, San Diego and Belgium, so I decided that last night I wanted to actually spend sometime in the kitchen cooking a nice farewell dinner for my mom. I had to cook a meal to hold her over for a month or two of my cooking. I needed to make something that was not super time intensive, but also didn't want it to be too easy. I like to exercise my skills in the kitchen just the same as any other skills. I had enough things rattling around in my brain however that I was not able to go strictly original recipes. Instead, I thumbed through the Food and Wine Annual Cookbook 2009 and selected a few for inspiration. Turned out that I only actually followed one recipe strictly, one similar but using a few exchanges and one using elements from several different dishes from the massive 440 page compendium.

It was truly a beautiful spring day yesterday. Like most years, Seattle went from the dark murky depths of winter to a bright brilliant spring, practically overnight. I swear it was snowing last week (ok maybe two weeks ago) and now the sun is shining, the birds are chirping happily outside my window in the morning and the sun comes up early, early, early. Spring makes me carve light and fresh ingredients. Spring makes you lighten up, I always can tell when spring is coming as I stop craving winter veggies and heartier preparations. The roast vegetables of yesterday become the steamed crisp veggies of today. For my salad course, I decided to make Food and Wine's Green Bean and Tomato Salad with Tarragon Dressing. I halved the recipe actually, though I found it entertaining that that still made a supposed 6 servings. I guess I forget that I eat about 10x more vegetables than the general population. 1 serving under that auspice would have amounted to about 3 green beans, 4 cherry tomatoes and a 1/2 tsp dressing. Ok maybe I am exaggerating but still. I made the 6 servings and that was the perfect amount of food for two people with the rest of the items I prepared. To accompany the salad I also made a Broccoli Soup with Cheddar Crisps, which is a vegan soup (without the cheddar crisps of course) and is incredibly light. The creaminess comes from pureeing instead of cream, so the soup itself is very healthy and light. Even the Cheddar Crisps are surprisingly light and pack a huge amount of flavor in a small package, so you get an intense (and crunchy) cheddar flavor in the soup, without infinitely decreasingly the health value. I made the Broccoli Soup recipe very much my own, but kept the Cheddar Crisps as Food and Wine suggested. Though admittedly, it is hard to change a recipe that has 1 ingredient! Finally, I made a Dijon & Horseradish encrusted Salmon, which was tangy and moist. The soup was definitely the favorite item of the meal and I am looking forward to the leftovers today.

All in all, it felt so great to be in the kitchen. I miss it, I miss my kitchen, my tools. I love spending a good 4 hours a day in the kitchen, thoughtfully making each of my meals, but it is just not a reality right now for my day to day life. Someday, when my job is to cook, write, eat, share and enjoy (and run, of course) then perhaps I will have that opportunity. I hope that happens, I plan on making it so somehow! In the meantime, enjoy these recipes and happy Spring!


Dijon-Horseradish Encrusted Salmon

Ingredients


  1. 2 6-ounce Salmon Filets.
  2. 1/2 cup prepared horseradish
  3. 1 tablespoons kosher salt
  4. 4 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  5. 1 tablespoon dried italian herbs
  6. 1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
  7. 1 tablespoon sugar
  8. 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar



Directions


  1. Preheat the broiler and line a baking sheet with foil. Place the oven rack 4-5 inches from the broiler.
  2. In a small bowl, blend the horseradish with the salt, Dijon mustard, italian herbs, ground pepper, sugar and sherry vinegar to form a paste. Slather the paste all over the top of the salmon filets and place skin side down on the foil covered baking sheet.
  3. Broil salmon for 6-8 minutes, until the top starts to get golden. Turn the oven down to 375 and bake for an additional 6-8 minutes until the salmon is opaque.

Broccoli Soup



Ingredients


  1. 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  2. 1 large leek, chopped
  3. 3 small celery ribs, thinly sliced
  4. 2 garlic clove, minced
  5. 1 1/2 pounds broccoli, cut into florets
  6. 4 cups vegetable stock
  7. Salt and freshly ground pepper
  8. 1/4 tsp paprika
  9. 1/4 tsp cumin
  10. 1/2 tsp chili powder
  11. Cheddar Crisps, for serving



Directions


  1. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the leeks, celery and garlic and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 7 minutes.
  2. Add the broccoli and stock to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat until the broccoli is tender, about 10 minutes.
  3. Transfer the contents of the saucepan to a blender and puree until smooth. Season the soup with paprika, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper and serve with the Cheddar Crisps.


Cheddar Crisps


Ingredients


  1. 2 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely shredded (1/2 cup)




Directions


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Sprinkle the cheese on the sheet in four 2-inch rounds. Bake for 18 minutes, until darkened slightly. Blot the crisps with paper towels and let cool on a paper towel. The majority of the oil from the cheese will be completely removed through the blotting and drying, leaving an incredible crisp "cracker". Makes 4 crisps.  Crisps courtesy Food and Wine Magazine.





Green Bean–and–Tomato Salad with Tarragon Dressing


  • TOTAL TIME: 30 MIN
  • SERVINGS: 12





Ingredients


  1. 2 pounds green and yellow string beans
  2. 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  3. 2 medium shallots, minced
  4. 2 tablespoons chopped tarragon
  5. Salt and freshly ground pepper
  6. 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved




Directions


  1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the beans until just tender, about 4 minutes. Drain the beans and spread them on a large baking sheet to cool. Pat dry.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil with the shallots and tarragon and season with salt and pepper. Place the beans and tomatoes in a large bowl, add the dressing and toss well. Transfer to a platter and serve.

    The cooked beans and dressing can be refrigerated separately overnight. Bring to room temperature before tossing. Recipe from Food and Wine.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Smooth Operator

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My nutritionist would be proud. I made a smoothie. I like smoothies, especially after hard runs or races, they are a great way to get in calories without taking much digestive effort or space. My nutritionist recommended that I start drinking a smoothie in the morning before my first run in an attempt to increase my calories. And for me, breakfast is so limited by not being able to do gluten, eggs or dairy that smoothies provide an opportunity for creativity and a variety of flavor profiles. Also, what is easier than throwing a bunch of ingredients in a blender and flipping the switch. Voila, deliciousness and nutrition-ness. Ok, so I just made up another word but thats ok. In fact it usually takes me longer to clean my blender than it does to actually make the smoothie. I tend to keep a bunch of bananas on hand and keep my freezer stocked with 3lb bags of various frozen organic berries and fruit, which makes it even easier.  Whether you need a quick meal on the go (what is easier to transport and eat on the move than a beverage!) or a quick and amazing recovery drink, smoothies are the way to go. There are endless possibilities! I am keen on designing a peanut butter chocolate smoothie (chocolate almond milk!) as well as a mocha smoothie. Most smoothies (even a peanut butter chocolate smoothie) are about 250-300 calories, are packed with antioxidants and teeming with nutritional value.


Acai berry peach smoothie


Ingredients:




  • 1 small banana

  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk

  • 1/2 frozen packet acai berry juice

  • 1 heaping tablespoon of Berry Greens or other powdered greens

  • 1/2 cup frozen mixed berries

  • 1/2 cup frozen peaches


Directions:

Blend and enjoy. If it is too thick, thin with more almond milk or water!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

I pledge allegiance

I pledge allegiance to myself and my commitment to creating wonderful food. This is my monthly lament that my hectic travel schedule has kept me out of the kitchen as much as I'd like. It is a big bummer to me. Makes me feel unlike myself. I want to be moving further into the food world, instead of away. I dream every day of opening a little SLOW food cafe (gluten free of course) or a little food shop. I dream of writing, enjoying, living, breathing food. That is what I want for myself. I have realized over this time of "homelessness" that while dreaming is a beautiful thing, hoping and wishing only go so far. Sometimes when it comes right down to it, you can't wait for the right time, you just make it so. And I have decided to make it so. I do not know how I am going to make my way and stay in the food world, be able to carve out a life and means therein but I am keen to try. I am committed to try. That means renewing my pledge to myself to create and cook and blog. It means exploring the possibilities of taking culinary courses or even (should funding find me) going to culinary school. Work on my books, both recipe and novel. I am taking the plunge and creating my world.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Boston Marathon: Running against the wind

I came into Boston feeling hugely positive about the race. Not because I was feeling like I was guaranteed a fast time or even that I was at the peak of my fitness, but because mentally I had worked through my lagging self-confident and had finally realized, Damnit, I deserve to be there. And by there, I mean in the elite women's start.

I am not a huge fan of giant races. They stress me out. I cannot even imagine wanting to be in a throng of 10s of thousands of people. That stressed me out just thinking about it. Even going to the expo, I did it on Friday, so I could avoid the rush. I don't really get into the whole scene very much at all. It just not my thing. When Monday morning, I was just ready to go and get going. I kinda felt like an over rip avocado or something after waiting the whole weekend to get racing. I got up at 5am race morning, fiddled around and was outside the Fairmont Hotel at around 6:30am to hop on the elite bus to the start. I chatted with a few of the other waiting ladies and we piled onto a nice plush bus (not a school bus) and relaxed while others came on the bus. My Team USA 100k teammate Meghan Arborgast got on the bus and I hastened her to sit next to me. We fell into chatting when our other teammate and super speedster Michael Wardian got on and we caught up with him. Soon someone came on the bus and told us that we didn't need to share rows since there was another bus that was completely empty, Michael took advantage and Meghan and I just stayed put and chatted. We rolled to the race start with a police escort and were promptly ushered into the church just at the start line where there was coffee, food, water, mats to lie down on and best of all, the cleanest portapotties you have ever seen. I mean, I actually used a portapotty no one had been in yet. What an experience. I was truly living the life! I chatted with the same gals as pre-bus ride and then got to spend some time talking to Michael Wardian, since we didn't get a chance to catch up on Saturday when he was at the expo (and I didn't make it into town). Pretty soon, we were outside warming up and time was ticking away to the start. I didn't really feel nervous ever or out of place. Kara Goucher and the other elite women didn't strike fear into my heart or make me feel like I didn't belong (neither really or imagined). I just felt like I was where I was suppose to be. Sure there was no way in hell I would keep up, but that doesn't mean I don't deserve to be there. Pretty soon we were kicking off our warmups and leaving our bags behind in the church and lining up to be paraded out in front of everyone. It was actually surprisingly warmer than had been anticipated so I didn't wear a hat, but wore a pair of throw away gloves, my black Moeben fleece sleeves, and shorts and singlet. More importantly, I rocked what were probably the best socks in the entire race:


I figured, if you can't beat them, wear better socks. After about mile 5, I had lost track of the number of shout outs I had gotten because the crowd loved my socks so much. I figured, I am here to have fun, maybe run a fast time, but mostly enjoy myself. I also wore them as a shout out to my pink-knee high socks running crew back in Seattle and my beloved peeps there. I knew I would stand out in the elite women's field (that big tall girl in the back), but a little added humor never hurt. Off we were paraded to the start and we had a few minutes to warm up again before we were let loose.

Ignore Kara in the front, who is that freakishly tall girl there in the back with the shades?
Photo courtesy of Runnersworld.com


After so much waiting, anticipating, nutritionally powering up and tapering, we were off in the blink of an eye and on our way. We started out really slow. I mean really slow. I was sitting in mid-pack just waiting for everyone to disappear off into the distance. It felt so easy, I was enthusiastic. Meghan and I had decided to stay together and try to pace for a 1:20 first half and then see what unfolded for the second. When we passed mile 1, I asked her what our pace was, hoping that it was a 6 min/mile and just felt so easy. but she replied it was a 6:30. Good grief, that is slow, considering we need a sub 6:15 pace to get us through to a 1:20 half. Apparently it is the slowest first mile in a number of years. It was dumb in my opinion, but hey it meant I got a little camera time running behind the big dogs. After mile 1 things sped up and we did as well. Despite the fact that I had been hydrating, hydrating, hydrating for as many days, I felt a little parched. The front of the pack departed and we found ourselves as the middle pack, dropping a decent sized group off behind us. 

And that is when we realized that the forecasted wind was very prevalent. As they had predicted, there was a very strong headwind and no matter how many corners we twisted around, we found no reprieve. I was enthusiastic and encouraged by the massive crowds that lined the whole course. The famed downhill start didn't really faze me or feel all that downhill really at all. Come on, I am a mountain runner who thrives on precipitous drops and then turning right around and heading right back up the mountain the other direction. We averaged about 6:15-6:20/mile depending on the whims of the wind. Not the pace we had hoped for, but felt pretty manageable. I grabbed a sip of water at pretty much every opportunity and chatted with Meghan where I could. I tried to stay focused on pushing myself, but not meting out too much energy and later bonking. 

At mile 10, I got a boost from seeing my friend Jamie cheering me on from the sidelines. I was feeling the taxing the wind was putting on, and trying to maintain goal pace just never got easier. Every 6:15 effort was feeling like pushing 6min/mile, etc. It was a grunt. I imagined it would have been nice to be lost in a crowd of 26,000 people including lots of tall guys who could have broken the wind. By races end, a few fellow runners estimated that we had lost 5-7 minutes because of the wind. I wonder at least a for a moment if I could have gotten my goal time of 2:47 if I had taken the regular start and simply tucked in amongst the speedier (but much more numerous) dudes.

We approached the halfway mark and I was feeling a bit tired. I perked up a bit though as the crowd got denser (the crowd is pretty solid the whole route) and I searched the town to find Jonathan's family who were on the right by the church (so I was instructed). They were holding a giant sign with my name on it and I waved wildly and got a huge boost. We went through the halfway in 1:23 and some change. I knew that the second half of the course was slower and that I wouldn't be able to hold pace if the wind kept up. And it did. Soon after leaving the town of Wellesley, we hit the college where the famous Wellesley girls provided a deafening roar of cheers. If nothing else, when running Boston, whether you are out there alone like I was, or running in a sea of people, you can't help but feel a sort of rockstar status as you are carried 26.2 miles on the cheers of supporters. I started to fall off pace, but Meghan told me to get on her shoulder and tuck in for a rest, but after hitting an aid station, I dropped back to encourage her to run her race and pace. I was hoping I would recover quickly and pick it up again but the wind was just unrelenting. I had moments where I felt like I was not moving or that I was about to go Mary Poppins style backwards down the street.

But despite that, I felt mentally and physically good. I just resolved to relentless move forward as hard as I could. I felt happy enough, not vexed at all that the day had no conspired to aid me in running a 2:47 or faster. I even had a pie in the sky goal of a sub 2:45. Some days just don't conspire to make that happen, I was just happy that that didn't move me, stress me or change my race. I just kept on keeping on, enjoying the day, playing with the crowd at times and keeping a smile on my face. Boston is NOT a fast course inherently and it rarely has ideal conditions. I am confident that I will run my 2:47 sometime, and maybe even sometime soon. I clipped along and around mile 20, a cyclist rode up next to me to warn me and protect me on the coming media vehicles and lead men. I chatted with the cyclist and watched as the blazing speed of the lead men's pack overtook me and disappeared up the hill. The hills of the second half were definitely bigger than the first and I kept wondering which hill was Heartbreak Hill. I hadn't even looked at the course description or ever paid attention to where Heartbreak Hill was. I figured there would be a lot more hubbub around it (a sign even), so I just took it up each hill as hard as I could. 

I crested the hill after mile 20 and just kept on hammering. I had taken a half a gel around mile 18 and a VESPA and decided to pop a Clif Shot around 22. I took about a half of the gel I had so cleverly stashed in my Moeben sleeves (Moeben is the best and Shannon is an amazing generous sponsor who had a great debut to the marathon crowd at the Boston Marathon Expo, go on girl!). I finally saw the Citgo sign and knew (at the very least) that was still a ways to go and often makes people feel like they are closer than they actually are. 

I felt good. I pushed as much as I could. My pace up the bigger hills had not been spectacular but I knew with about 2 miles to go that I would definitely break 3hrs, and certainly break 2:55, which would give me my 3rd fastest marathon time ever. The crowd got more dense and more dense. I headed under the tunnel, urging myself forward, feeling nothing but good, but still feeling like I didn't have another gear. Emerging from the tunnel, I just let the crowd carry me. I have never felt such a feeling of having a crowd cheer you on. And for me, it really was just for me as there was no one with me. I turned right on Hereford Street, then left on Boylston, the massive crowds swelling against the railings. They cheered and cheered, but went while when I raised my hands like a cheerleader flapping indicating raising the volume. I was encouraging them and so they went crazy. That felt pretty cool. I drained every ounce and sprinted to the finish line, crossing the mat in 2:53:20. Not a bad days work.

From the finish line, I was personally escorted to the VIP finishers tent and brought my bag and given my medal, etc. I saw Meghan who had rocked it out to a stellar 2:49 (and 2nd in her age group!) and we rehashed the race. She said and I agreed, " I hope they play up how windy it was out there, that was ridiculous." I changed my clothes and headed out to meet up with my friend Megan and her son Max who I am staying with while in MA (who also enjoyed their own VIP day including the VIP breakfast and sitting in the finish line grandstands). 

Boston was an experience. I am happy to have had it. Do I feel bad that I didn't run my goal time, not at all. I am very pleased that I ran a good race, that I had my head in the game and that I dealt with what I was given with grace and without being moved. I stood up and toed the line with the best in the world and I finished 36th out of over 11,000 women and 30th in my age group (18-39, not really an age group, eh?) in which the majority of those 11,000 woman are in (more than half). I am proud of myself. Really. Running a good race isn't just about the end result. It is about the journey. I have run faster races and hated every minute of it, does that make it a better race? Is that really the point. Boston is not a race about PR's and speed, it is about celebrating what it took to get where you are. It is about celebrating the journey that you are privileged enough to be able to complete. People work their whole life to make it to Boston and to be a part of something that is pursued like that is a blessing. I had a good time. Will I be back, nah. I got my fill. Onward to bigger and better things. The life "to-do" list just got a big item checked off.

Congrats to everyone that ran!


Heading to the finish line.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Ready as I'll ever be


It's almost time. Usually I would say that I don't spend much time thinking about a race, fretting about it or contemplating its deep inner meaning or chewing the fat on what my mentality going into the race is. But for some reason, Boston just feels different to me. In alot of ways, I don't really even consider Boston an "A" race but in other ways it feels bigger than anything I have ever done. And over the past few days, I have turned the corner on my feelings, attitudes and mentality going into Boston. I am ready, ready as I'll ever be. 

Boston is different. It is 25,000 people all who have struggled and fought to qualify and be there. It is the best of the best competing for $736,000 in total prize money (top 15 men and women). And I am a part of that. And that feels pretty cool. To me, it is one of those life "to do" things and checking it off the list is an accomplishment. And then there is the fact that I, little old me, is in the elite women's field. I have joked and made light of the significance of that, but it is a big deal. And it has been hard to not feel intimidated by it. I mean, as hard as I have trained, I am still going to find myself being pushed to the right hand side (per the instructions we are given) by the escort vehicles of the blinding speed of the lead men's pack. I am going to be one of the "slower elite women now being passed by the lead men" (as a commentator pointed out at the NYC Marathon on TV). I am going to be a standing at the start line with a bunch of women so tiny I feel like a linebacker, whose dust I will be eating in a matter of minutes, miles, moments. There is a strong possibility I will run the course completely by myself caught between the flying fast females at the front and the pursuing masses behind. I realized after going to the expo yesterday, that trying to not acknowledge my intimidation or not accepting the gravity of the situation was doing me and my ability to race well on Monday a huge disservice. Fact of the matter is, I am prepared and ready to go out on Monday and run MY race and achieve MY goal. My goal is to get the Olympic Qualifier. My goal is to get a PR. I have prepared and perhaps my chance will come. I don't know if I have managed to successfully fix my nutritional issues enough or if my legs are up to the challenge. What I do know is, for the first time in many months, I am excited and enthusiastic about the race. I am looking forward to it. It will be fun. Instead of moping, wondering what I could have done better or feeling unnaturally hard on myself, I am going to actually go and run the race first. Novel concept huh?I am finally learning that I can allow myself a mentality that is predicated on confidence instead of self-doubt, I can allow myself to positively envision the reality I want instead of fearing the worse.  And I am going to go into this race without dread, without trepidation. When I don my F35 number, I am going to do so proudly because I have earned it. Just as everyone else toeing the line on Monday has, I have earned the spot in which I stand. 

And so, no matter what happens on Monday, good, bad or otherwise, I am going to infuse each step with passion, with pride and with confidence. And even more importantly, I am just going to enjoy the hell out of the journey.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Lunch Ladies

My sister has been in town for the past week and thus I had the opportunity to do something I don't do very often: lunch. Yes, I just verbed a noun, but that is ok. What I mean is, I don't often go out to lunch in Seattle. I am a big fan of salad at lunch and Seattle has a seriously (offensive almost) lack of salad places. Or maybe I just got spoiled by the number of build your own salad places in San Francisco. Needlesstosay, I tend to make lunch at home most of the time. But with the sister in town, I had the chance to try a few places I have been meaning to try but either 1) had no one to lunch with and it is a definite "lunch spot" (Homegrown) or 2) wasn't intrigued enough to make an effort to go crosstown for dinner (Boom Noodle). Both provided interesting and delicious offerings and were on the whole, worth trying.

Boom Noodle

After a nice run with my sister today, we headed over to Boom Noodle to try it out. She was wanting Pho (which Boom does not have) and I wasn't in the mood for it, so I suggested Thai food (which Boom does not have) and she agreed, but I wasn't truly in the mood for that either. That is when Boom popped into my head. I looked up the menu while she was in the shower and it looked to be just the ticket. They had a salad or two I could choose from and a selection of warm and cold noodle bowls she could select from, so it seemed the perfect compromise. We headed over to Capital Hill a bit after 1pm and slid ourselves into the seats at the end of one of the long communal tables. There is a big part of me that finds Boom ironic. Or maybe I find it more an imitation (and hopefully a good one) of a place I frequented when I lived in London called Wagamama. Everything about Boom from the restaurant decoration, to the language about the restaurant seemed to ping of Wagamama influence. And that is not a bad thing, imitation is a sincere form of flattery.

While we were seated and greeted by our waiter, that is where the expeditiousness ended. My sister and I were very hungry and considering the very empty restaurant, you would expect speedy service, but my sister and I were nearly passed out with hunger by the waiter came back round to even offer us a drink (I mean more than 10 minutes without a single visit). We ordered our food and drinks quickly with him and looked forward to our lunch.

We started with a side of green beans with natural sea salt. They had a tax day special which included 15% off the entire bill and a special on Sapporo. My sister grabbed one and I tucked into a cucumber mint fizz (which is a very refreshing and crisp virgin drink). My sister ordered the Tokyo Ramen and I ordered the Baby Mizuna Salad. I asked the waiter to hold the lima beans, since according to the menu there were lima beans in the salad. The waiter curtly said, "there aren't lima beans in the salad. They are cannellini beans." Really? As someone who is allergic to lima beans, I notice when there are lima beans included in things. I grabbed the menu and pointed it out and said, "if it is cannellini beans, that is fine, but not lima beans".  My sisters soup came pretty quickly, but my salad took another 5 minutes. Once it arrived, I was kind of confused as to what would take it longer than my sister's soup, but I was too hungry at that point to care. Ultimately, my salad came without any beans and frankly I didn't miss them. The salad had roasted kabocha squash, grilled chicken, bell peppers and shiso yuzu dressing, topped with crisp taro chips. It was lightly dressed and very fresh. I had to beat my sisters chopsticks away from sneaking bites with, well, a stick, it was so delicious. My sister's soup really hit the spot: braised pork, tamago & bamboo shoots, soy seasoned chicken-pork broth. All in all, good food, not profound and service seriously leaving something to be desired. My sister remarked that she wouldn't go out of her way to come back and I agree. It is not a new go to spot for me, but would be somewhere I would go if I was already in the area and hungry (and possibly willing to wait, though the cocktails may make it worth it).



Boom Noodle on Urbanspoon

HomeGrown


I saw HomeGrown coming to life over numerous runs past the location and when my sister and I were looking for a lunch spot last Friday, I remembered that I had been keen to try it. I was hankering for my usual lunch salad and was interested in trying out a restaurant that seemingly was perfectly in line with the way I eat (local, organic, sustainable). My sister was down and we made a bee-line for Fremont to try it out. It was just a bit before the lunch hour rush (before noon) and was a bit busy but not yet slammed. The menu was very extensive, written on large blackboards on the wall and included a checklist of the meat offerings, showing which were local, organic and sustainable. They had both hot and cold sandwiches, salads, soups and sides (including delicious sounding vegetable fires-parsnips and turnips). They have half soup, half salad, half sandwich combinations. My sister opted for a half BLAT and half soup. I opted for a full-sized chicken thigh salad with cranberries and avocado (which was an addition). They had Kombucha, which of course made me happy. Our food came quickly, despite it being busy and this being a relatively new operation.


My sister really enjoyed her sandwich. It was very flavorful, the bread not too crisp and all the ingredients tasted as better quality ingredients do: more flavorful and delicious. Her soup will very flavorful, was the consistency of baby food. It was essentially a puree instead of a soup, which is fine if that is what you are into but doesn't compliment a hearty sandwich the same way. My salad (below) was exactly what I was hoping for, except it seemed kind of small for a full size salad. It seemed more like a side salad to me and was definitely still hungry after eating it. The dressing (which I got on the side) was a very simple lemoney vinaigrette. It had been really hard for us to decide what we wanted as so many items on the menu seemed intriguing and mouth watering. After trying some selections and enjoying the fresh, local, organic and hugely flavorful ingredients, both my sister and I were keen to try more. As we got up to leave and were bussing our table, I glanced over the counter to where they were preparing the food and saw, to my relief, a prep cook making a full size salad. I exclaimed to my sister, who was as baffled as I that anyone would think that portion of salad was a full size (its a salad for goodness sake), "look that wasn't a full sized salad". She peered over the counter and we saw a good sized bowl being prepared for someone's order. The guys at the counter overheard me and asked what I was talking about and I explained that they accidentally gave me a half salad when we had paid for a full. They immediately packed me up another half salad to go and really, it was a minor oversight. I was more pleased to see that the portion was actually good-sized than to worry about a minor misstep so early after they opened. I will definitely go back.

So two lunches, two different experiences, both worth while and satisfying!


Homegrown Sandwiches on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Slow and Steady

Sometimes it is easy for me to forget that I am not even 4 years into my running career. I put pressure on myself to have it all figured out, to be running every workout with discipline and focus, to be vigilantly strength training, stretching and nutritionally perfect. And then when I fail or am not where I want to be, I am frustrated. Which is ridiculous! I have plans to run for many many years and I have many trail/ultra examples of women who are kicking butt and 20 years my senior. I mean Ultrarunner of the Year Kami Semick has nearly 20 years on me and she would smoke me everytime! I look forward to many many years of good healthy fast running. So why am I so anal retentive about being there now? Why, as a person you has notoriously good patience, am I so impatient with myself? Why am I so hard on myself?

With Boston looming, I have alot of feelings of uncertainty. After getting hurt back in February, my confidence went down the tubes. Subsequently, due to a busy travel/work schedule some of the plans I had made went down the tubes with my confidence. I wanted to be running-centric in my life and instead, I managed to end up two weeks prior to race day wondering if I am going to even be able not to make a fool of myself or if I can even throw a stone at my goal time. I started off this year feeling good, strong, fast and light. Now I feel poorly, weak, slow and heavy. Not good. I have made some errors along the way, not had time for things I wanted to incorporate (mainly a consistent strength routine, plyos, etc). My biggest error has been along the way in my nutrition. Fast Foodie failing at nutrition? Say it ain't so! Well, I eat all the right things. Just not enough. Part of not eating enough is that I have a good deal of digestive issues that I have been trying to sort out for about 2 years. I have added and subtracted foods from my diet, tried this that and the other thing and mostly resigned myself to feeling like crap. I never have an appetite which I find strange as a runner. No appetite means it is easy for me to not get enough calories in because my hunger is not there to remind me. I make sure I get alot of calories at meals, but I know based on how I feel and my blood work, that I am just not getting it right. My doctor at Seattle Performance Medicine recommended I go see Sally Hara at ProActive Nutrition. We talked for about an hour and a half and while she didn't tell me anything profound, it is helpful to have an outside perspective. If I really want to do this running thing right, I need people and I need to relinquish control and let my people do what they do best. I need to listen and execute what they tell me. I need to follow the plan and treat it like I treat my training schedule.

I was reading an article about Kara Goucher and it was listing all her "people" and I was thinking, I need my people! After talking to the nutritionist, I realized that I need to more fully allow others to do things for me. I need to have more trust, I need to let myself be supported. I have great people including:
Coach: Howard Nippert
Nutritionist: Sally Hara
Strength: CrossFit Northwest
Massage: Leah Jurek, Alison Hanks and Oni Roberts
ART: Essential Chiropractic and Wellness
Performance Doctor: Dr. Cooper at Seattle Performance Medicine

While I am in taper now for Boston, I am thinking ahead already to how I will improve my routine and running after. I think what it comes down to is not the running itself (though there are minor adjusts and focus I can do therein) it is about being better about the other stuff. I look forward to coming back and getting into a good strength routine, good core routine, good stretching and flexibility, nutrition, massage. Everything ultimately IS essential in order to keep me running strong for a long time and to continue my improvement. Sigh, it is easy to want to kick myself in the head for not having it figured out NOW, for not doing it perfectly, but I just remember that I am still barely even more than a rookie and that I will blissfully continue to grow and learn and develop in time. I am learning to let go and let be (learning again and again actually), and being patient with myself. I need to listen to one of my favorite quotes:

"Be patient with everyone, but above all, with yourself... Do not be disheartened by your imperfections. How are we to be patient in dealing with our neighbor's fault if we are impatient in dealing with our own?" -Saint Francis de Sales

In alot of ways, realizing my own failings, whether it is nutritionally or in supplementary workouts/support or even in just how I stress myself or my mental state and thought process, makes me excited and invigorated to turn this ship around, to start anew, to have a mini-rebirth. I'll get it one of these days, or maybe I won't, but I look forward to the challenge of trying!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Whiskey Spiked Slow Cooked Beef Chili

I made one the best original recipes that I have ever come up with and then we devoured it before I could take a picture. Ooops. I guess it was that good. After making the delicious Indian Inspired Root Vegetable Stew, I was pondering on some slow cooked beef in a tangy Southwest style sauce. I started this simmering at about 10am. By about noon, I was salivating at the amazing smells that were wafting through the apartment from the kitchen. By dinnertime, I could barely contain myself. I just was so ready to try my delicious dish (other than tasting along the way). I am kind of speechless this was so delicious. No catchy story here today, I have alot of nutrition/running related commentary buzzing in my head but it just would detract. And I don't want to do that. What I want, is for you to make this dish, as soon as you can.  You won't regret it.

Ingredients:


  • 1 can diced fire-roasted tomatoes with green chilis
  • 1 can tomato puree
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 pound chuck roast, cubed
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 anaheim pepper, diced
  • 1 large red bell pepper, diced
  • 20 baby belle mushrooms, chopped and divided (half set aside to be added later)
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper,
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp garlic pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup good Whiskey
  • 2 medium zucchini

Directions


In a large heavy bottom ceramic pot (or in a slow cooker), add all ingredients except the Whiskey, zucchini and half of the mushrooms. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low and simmer for 6 hrs, stirring occasionally or if you do it in a slow cooker put it on high for 6 hrs or low for 8hrs and just let it go. After 6 hrs, add Whiskey, zucchini and remaining mushrooms. Continue to simmer for another 1-2 hrs. The beef will be fork tender. Salt and pepper to taste. Top with your choice of cheese, sour cream, avocado or salsa or any combination there of. For a great hearty meal, spoon the chili over a baked potato or sweet potato. Also would be great all wrapped up with toppings in a tortilla.

Sunny days and good food with Family

Sunday was damn near a perfect day for me. I spent the early morning running through the quiet sunny streets of Seattle and the rest of the day hanging out, talking, enjoying some of my favorite people and also some damn good food. Spring finally peeked its little head out and the sun was shining, it is so refreshing and unexpected considering when I flew in on Thursday night it was still snowing here.

Sunny days and springtime make you feel a rebirth in your soul, well it makes me feel that way. I have been suffering from a serious case of being uninspired. Being busy precipitates that yes, but I think the doldrums of winter just hung on a little too long for my soul to bear this year. Brussel Sprouts left the building (at least the in season, organic) a while ago and I stopped desiring them and I had been anticipating the spring crop of food and with it new and exciting ideas, inspiration and lots of delicious eating. But somewhere along the line, I got stuck knee-deep in the muck (or maybe it was snow/shoe sucking mud) and have not felt like my Fast Foodie self in a very long time. As I was running yesterday morning, trying to shake off an early morning pity party for one, I realized that I needed to snap out of it. I love food! Food and cooking and all things culinary are my inspiration, my passion, it is what keeps me going! So by denying myself that or not jump starting myself in it during this very busy, stressful time is a serious detriment to my psycho/emotional/spiritual life! Sometimes, like yesterday getting out for my run, you just have to force yourself out the door (or when it comes to food, into the kitchen) and within a few minutes you will be utterly blissed out, wondering how you ever doubted that this was a good idea. I am the same way about socializing, I am filled with hesitation and then when I just get out there and do it, I can't believe I almost missed out. Maybe I am just like that in everything!

Needlesstosay, I was proud of myself yesterday because I not only got myself out on a nice run when I was feeling hesitant, I spent a few hours with my good friend Britt and was able to enjoy some of her delicious food. She fed me well (and as she is a Celiac and on the SCD & Body Ecology Diets, she fed me only things that my digestive system was happy with!!). I love simple thoughtful food, it seriously rocks my world. After hanging with Britt, I headed to the store to pick up ingredients to make dinner for my cousin Erika whom in recent months I have become super close with and absolutely adore, her husband and her step-daughter. I spend many a Sunday night at their house and love being able to share my cooking with them (when I am not being lazy and uninspired). It was a fun challenge since 3 out of the 4 of us eat (some) meat (and wanted meat included) and one is a vegetarian. I decided to take a Vegetarian Times recipe that I had been mulling over and throw in my own twist as well as a Food Everyday Recipe for Chicken Paillards. I finished off the meal by introducing my family to Coconut Bliss and boy were they satisfied! While these recipes were distinctly original, stay tuned because as I write this I am slow cooking an amazing Whiskey Spiked Beef Chili with a ton of great vegetables which is completely and totally my own. I have been salivating all day smelling it cook!





Chicken Paillards with Slow Cooked Onion, Arugula and Chickpea Salad



This recipe was super easy and we were able to do a tofu version as well. For the Arugula Chickpea Salad that went over the chicken, we decided to slow cook the red onion since none of us is particularly fond of raw red onion. Turned out to be a brilliant call.


Serves 4

Ingredients


  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (6 to 8 ounces each)
  • (optional: 3 1/2 inch slice of extra-firm tofu)
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for pan
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 bunch fresh arugula (5-6 cups), tough stems removed


Directions


  1. In a cast iron skillet, over medium high heat cook red onions in olive oil until soft and tender, about 20 minutes.
  2. Lay chicken flat; holding a sharp knife parallel to work surface and pressing down on the chicken with your palm to hold it flat, split chicken in half horizontally. Cover with plastic wrap; pound each cutlet with the flat side of a meat mallet or the bottom of a small pan until inch thick.
  3. In a shallow dish, combine 2 tablespoons oil and 1 tablespoon lemon juice; season with salt and pepper.  Add chicken; turn to coat. Heat a large skillet over medium-high; lightly brush with oil. Cook chicken until opaque throughout, 1 to 2 minutes per side.
  4. In a bowl, toss together basil, 2 tablespoons oil, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice; season with salt and pepper.
  5. In a salad bowl toss together chickpeas, cooked onions, arugula and dressing.
  6. Top chicken (or tofu) with salad, salt and pepper to taste





Indian Inspired Root Vegetable Stew





This recipe came from Vegetarian Times this month, I was looking to try something new and different and this recipe had me intrigued due to the combination of Indian spices and dried fruits. The chicken from the previous recipe definitely made its way into the broth once it was plated and I could easily see adding chicken or lamb or beef to this recipe and slow simmering it for a while. I was really impressed with the way the spices and dried fruit played off one another. The dates and dried apricots go in whole and become super soft and sweet. The recipe orginally called for sweet potatoes and turnips, but I swapped those out for butternut squash (less starch), parsnips and carrots. I think the sweet potatoes could have possibly made the recipe unbalanced to the sweet side, so I think my substitutions were a brilliant call. I also increased the amount of vegetables without increasing the liquid making it not super brothy and quite substantial.


Ingredients


Serves 6


  • 1 medium red onion, peeled and chopped (11/2 cups)
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp.)
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 31/2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 Tbs. red miso
  • 3 medium parsnips, diced (2 cups)
  • 3 medium carrots, diced (1.5 cups)
  • 1 large butternut squash, diced (about 2 cups)
  • 8 pitted whole Medjool dates
  • 8 pitted whole dried apricots
  • 1/3 cup pitted, oil-cured black olives
  • 11/2 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Directions


1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, and sauté 7 to 9 minutes, or until golden and soft. Stir in garlic, coriander, cumin, turmeric, cayenne, and cinnamon, and cook 2 minutes, stirring often, or until spices are fragrant. Stir in broth and 11/2 cups water, scraping up any brown bits stuck to bottom of pan.
2. Whisk in miso until smooth, then add turnips, sweet potato, dates, apricots, olives, and ginger. Bring mixture to a boil.

3. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover, and simmer 30 minutes, or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Garnish each serving with 1 Tbs. chopped cilantro.



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