Friday, December 10, 2010

It's December?

I walked around without a jacket this afternoon. In December.

I'm in denial that there are only 2 weekends until Christmas.

I should go shopping soon. Instead I'm building playlists and catching up on blogs.

In an effort to get myself in the Christmas mood, I browsed through some old holiday photos...
(kinda miss the old home...definitely miss the tree.)

And built a Christmas playlist (just a few of my old and new faves):

Last Christmas - Jimmy Eat World
Christmas Lights - Coldplay

To kill a little more time (well, not really, it helped as I made a present), I also built a Brain Escape playlist. A what? Yeah, brain way beyond a chillax playlist. Songs that completely calm me down no matter how crazy the day gets. For some reason, I always get in the mood for these songs during the holidays. Must be the weather.

A sampling for you guys:

Getaway Car - Audioslave
Home - Michael Buble
Don't Panic - Coldplay

Really random selection, but it puts me at ease. What puts you in the holiday mood? What takes you away from the craziness of life?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Spirit fingers

Apparently I need to be around runners and races all the time...

As you know, I originally planned on running the California International Marathon as marathon #5 this past weekend. Of course, shortly after signing up and getting everything squared away, my legs decided they had other plans for me.

I couldn't let running buddy (lost count, but let's call her SF running buddy) travel to Sacramento alone...especially after I convinced her to run! So I packed my cheering gear and hopped on a train headed north to Sacramento.

I traded this familiar view (the ride between DC and Metropark)

for this one (the ride between Emeryville and Martinez)

Just a couple notes:
  1. Amtrak here is definitely not the same as Amtrak on the East Coast. This was like riding a double decker NJTransit or MARC train. So weird.
  2. Downtown Sacramento on a Saturday afternoon...DEAD. Interesting.
I walked from the train station over to the expo before walking over to our hotel. Yes, I'm trying to load up on the walking. No, I don't like it.

SF running buddy (will now be referred to as SFRB) got in shortly after I did and we settled on an early dinner at Kru. I stuck with my standard rolls and tried a Spicy Tuna Hand Roll. Not really into it...way too much fish per bite.

Do you get crazy sweet cravings after eating sushi? I sure do. We did a little Yelp search and discovered nearby Mochii Yogurt. In addition to offering tasty (and pretty tart) fro-yo, they also make a ton of flavored mochi! I sampled the Tiger's Blood which was an interesting mix of fruity flavors...I think there was cherry and maybe a hint of berry and citrus?

I couldn't commit to it in my yogurt, so I went with the standard Tang with Yogurt Chips and Strawberries. There were a few too many chips and (I can't believe I'm saying this) the yogurt was a little too tart for me to finish my cup. Still tasty, though!

I also walked away with a little bag of mochi for you know, emergencies.

A bunch of the Yelp reviews said Mochii was pricey, but I was shocked at how much cheaper it was than say, Tuttimelon or any other place I've tried. Clearly I've been living in expensive cities for too long.

We were up SUPER early the next morning so SFRB could catch the shuttle to the start in nearby Folsom. I went back to sleep for an hour or so before beginning my run/walk to my cheering spot at mile 21. See, SFRB is speedy. Did I mention her goal was to qualify for Boston? Yeah, I didn't have a ton of time to get to 21.

I ran/walked a total of 8 miles (to mile 21 and back) and it felt AMAZING to get moving again. Part of me really wanted to run the whole thing, but I knew that even this was pushing it just a tiny bit. Ugh.

I soaked up the perfect weather (very light mist and 50 at the start, warming up to the mid 60s) and scenery...
Palm trees on one side, regular trees on the other and autumn leaves at my feet. So bizarre.
Crossing the bridge as the elite runners pass through (around mile 22)
A serene river photo
Stalking the crowd for SFRB!

After seeing all the lonely patches at the end of the race, part of me was glad I wasn't running. I've really only run big races and the crowd support is what gets me through the last few miles. Then again, another part of me was frustrated that I couldn't run...especially with the perfect conditions. Ah well. At least I was a cheerleader.

Oh, and SFRB...ROCKED the marathon. She knocked THIRTEEN minutes off her PR and BQ'd. O heeeeyy! I'm living vicariously through her :)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Reading is fun.

And tasty!

Since I wasn't hosting a post-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving dinner this year, I totally jumped at the opportunity to host and cook a feast for book club last night!

This month's book selection...
Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

Apparently I'm not really into reading fiction...I realized this as I searched and searched for a potential book. A friend suggested Shanghai Girls since it also took place (for a little bit at least) in San Francisco. So fitting!

It took awhile to get into the book, but once I got past the first few chapters, I found myself completely engrossed. In fact, I actually gasped on the bus while reading and almost got misty at one point!

Overall, I thought it was an entertaining read. I even found myself really hating one of the characters - she was incredibly annoying and frustrating. I'd recommend it for a long plane ride.

My imagination went wild with appetizer possibilities! There have been a couple things floating around in my head and this was the perfect opportunity to test them out.

Edamame Miso Crostini w/Shiitake Mushrooms
Pulled Chicken Adobo over Coconut Rice Patties
Chicken Banh Mi
Tofu Banh Mi
Bulgogi Sliders with Kimchee Mayo and Cucumber Apple Salad
Zesty Baked Crab Rangoon

These were supplemented with some wine, cheese, and sweet treats from guests, of course.

Edamame Miso Crostini w/Shiitake Mushrooms
1 package frozen, shelled edamame, defrosted
1 tsp white miso paste
1 tsp chili garlic paste
2 tbsp garbanzo beans
1 tsp sesame oil
1 c shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp sherry

Puree first five ingredients together with an immersion blender. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Saute mushrooms and garlic powder until mushrooms start to soften, stirring frequently. Add sherry and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Spread edamame mixture over toasted bread and top with some of the mushroom mixture. If desired, sprinkle with sea salt before serving.

Verdict: Not my favorite. Not at all. I didn't realize that this would end up with a really funky texture. It looked like Play-Doh...or maybe wasabi. So weird. I also wanted a smoother texture spread. Not a fan.

Pulled Chicken Adobo
3 boneless skinless chicken thighs
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
4 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp coconut milk
2 bay leaves, broken in half
1 tbsp freshly cracked black pepper
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp soy sauce
4 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp coconut milk
1/4 c chicken broth
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp vinegar
1/2 - 1 c chicken broth

Combine first ten ingredients in a shallow dish and let chicken marinate at room temperature for 10 minutes on each side.

Heat oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Place chicken in pan, shaking off excess marinade. Cook for 3 minutes on each side.
Pour in marinade, soy sauce, vinegar, oyster sauce, coconut milk and chicken broth. Stir, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes.
Let chicken sit until cool enough to pull apart. Shred chicken and set aside.

Remove bay leaves and any fatty chicken bits from the saute pan and melt butter over medium low heat, scraping up any brown bits. Whisk in flour and cook for 1 minute. Continue whisking as you add soy sauce and vinegar. Gradually whisk in chicken broth until a thinner sauce is formed.

Strain out large bits and stir 1/4 c of sauce into shredded chicken.

Coconut Rice Patties
2 c short grain white rice
1/3 c coconut milk
2/3 c water
1 tsp salt

Place ingredients in a rice cooker and cook. Allow rice to sit until cool enough to handle.

Wet hands and gently form small patties and place on a baking sheet. If you have a hard time forming the patties, gently press the rice into a mini muffin tin.

Heat oven to 350 and bake for 10-15 minutes.

Verdict: The adobo turned out DEEELICIOUS! The rice patties, however, ended up a little too crunchy since I left them in the oven for too long. Oops. Flavor was still good though...I'd even eat them as not patties ;p

Bulgogi Sliders
1 lb sirloin, cut into 1 inch cubes
1/4 c dark soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp sesame oil
1/4 tsp sriracha
1 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp sugar

Combine ingredients in a bowl and let marinate for at least 2 hours.
Strain liquid and place half of the beef in a food processor. Pulse until smaller bits form, but not until pasty. Place in bowl and repeat with the remaining beef. Form patties and grill to your liking.

Kimchee Mayo
1/4 c mayonnaise
2 tbsp kimchee, minced
1/4 tsp sriracha

Mix ingredients together and let sit for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Cucumber Apple Salad
1 /2 c seedless cucumber, finely diced
3 tbsp apple, finely diced
2 tbsp scallion, minced
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1/4 tsp sesame oil
1/4 tsp sugar

Combine ingredients and chill for at least 1 hour.

Zesty Baked Crab Rangoon
1 package wonton wrappers
1 egg
4 oz cream cheese, softened
6 oz crab meat
1 tbsp scallion, minced
1/4 tsp Maggi seasoning or Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp lemon zest
splash soy sauce
squirt sriracha

Combine cream cheese, crab, scallion, Maggi or Worcestershire, lemon zest, soy sauce, sriracha, salt and pepper in a bowl.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment or foil. Spray with nonstick spray and set aside.

Lay out wrappers and place a teaspoon of the crab mixture in the center. Swipe egg on two sides of the square wrapper, fold over to make a triangle and pinch sides to seal. Fold corners in to meet each other and seal with egg.
Bake for 5-7 minutes on one side, flip and bake for another 5 minutes or until golden brown.

MUCH better than my first attempt.

Also, courtesy of Saigon Sandwich (my fave)...
Chicken Banh Mi and Tofu Banh Mi. It was my first time trying these flavors and I think I might stick with my standard roast pork. Ta da.

Have you read anything fun lately?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Meet my new buddy

Yep, I'm now the proud owner of a bike (thanks for the Christmas present, Jamie :D)! I've been pretty bummed about the no running thing, so Jamie and I went to test out bikes when he was here over Thanksgiving. I fell in love with this one and it came home with us (even after a little bit of an incident involving me and an oncoming Muni bus).

Right now I'm still getting used to the whole riding with traffic thing, since the last time I owned a bike I was 12 and riding on a dead end street. Since I don't have a lock or a rear blinky light, I can really only ride over the weekend from and to my apartment...I should be able to get ample road practice that way, right?

My plan is (once I'm comfortable riding, of course) to bike to and from work and get some longer rides in on the weekend. Hello, cross training! Nice to finally meet you! I'm pretty nervous about venturing into the open road...any advice for a newbie? I know there are hand signals for turning, the bike lane doesn't mean you are always safe, and I'm not allowed to ride on the sidewalk...basic stuff.

Do I make left turns like a car? Do I make left turns from the bike lane? Jeebus. So much to learn. I think for now I'm sticking to Crissy Field. Wish me luck!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving Recap

This shouldn't come as a surprise - Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love cooking for large crowds and getting together with friends and family for this day of feasting.

We spent this Thanksgiving with Selin's family and had an amazing time. There was plenty of cooking, eating and drinking for all!
On the menu:
Baked Camembert and Caramelized Onions
1 wheel camembert
1 sheet puff pastry
1 large onion, sliced and caramelized
2 chives

Preheat oven to 400. Roll out puff pastry on a foil lined baking sheet. Place camembert in the center of the puff pastry and top with onions. Gather opposite corners of the puff pastry and pinch at the top. Tie chive around top.
Bake until golden.

Slice into the crispy crust and unleash the delicious goo inside!
Great w/some crackers or, if you're really into cheese/are starving, on its own. The bolder camembert made this more flavorful than a standard brie en croute. Just saying.

The appetizer kept us full as we continued working on the rest of dinner...

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Mixed Greens with Roasted Beets and Goat Cheese

Roasted Root Vegetables
3 parsnips, sliced
4 carrots, sliced
1 large onion, sliced
1 bulb fennel, sliced
1 japanese sweet potato, peeled & sliced
olive oil

Preheat oven to 425. Toss all ingredients in a large bowl, spread out on foil lined baking sheet.
Bake for 40-45 minutes.

We tossed in some of the fennel tops for flavor/fragrance since the bulb was tiny. No biggie.

Italian Sausage and Bread Stuffing (adapted from Gourmet)
1 (3/4- to 1-pound) round Italian loaf, cut into 1-inch cubes (8 cups)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 lb sweet Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
1 lb hot Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 medium onions, chopped
4 large celery ribs, chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp rosemary, minced
1/2 tsp sage, minced
1 tsp thyme, minced
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup heavy cream, divided
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (2 oz)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preheat oven to 350. Spread bread out on a baking sheet and bake until just dried out, about 10 minutes.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers, then cook half of sausage (mixing hot and sweet), stirring and breaking it into small pieces, until golden brown.

Transfer with a slotted spoon to a large bowl and repeat with remaining sausage.

Pour off fat from skillet. Heat butter over medium heat. Add onions, celery, garlic, rosemary, sage, thyme and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper, stirring occasionally, until golden. Add vegetables and bread to sausage.

Whisk together eggs, 1/2 cup cream, chicken broth, cheese, and parsley, then stir into stuffing and cool completely, then drizzle with remaining 1/4 cup cream. Cover stuffing and chill.

Preheat oven to 425 and bake stuffing, covered tightly with foil, until hot throughout, about 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake until top is golden and crisp, about 20 minutes more.

I've made this stuffing for the past couple of years and it's always a crowd pleaser. This year, I cut the bread a little bigger than usual and baked it a little longer without foil. The result: a crispier stuffing...yum!

Also present, but not pictured: Mashed Potatoes, Red Wine Braised Short Ribs, Turkey (duh), Circassian Chicken, Scallion Rice, and PIES!

Delicious thanksgiving!

How did you spend your turkey day?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Northbound and Monterey Fun

Immediately after our morning hike, V and I set off on our scenic drive north to Monterey. Normally this trip should only take an hour, but when you put two camera happy ladies in one car, it takes about two.

We didn't really get a chance to snap any fun pictures on the way down since we wanted to get to the campground before it got too dark. This time around we managed to stop at almost every scenic overlook along Highway 1. AMAZING.
Once we hit Monterey, we headed straight to the convention center so V could pick up her race packet. It was a pretty good expo...decent vendors, not too crowded, a separate section of fun gear (they even had wine glasses and mugs engraved w/the half marathon logo). We zoomed out of there pretty quickly since we had lots planned for the evening!

We checked into the Asilomar Conference Grounds and got settled before heading out on a pre-dinner sunset drive/photo shoot. Our hotel was conveniently located in Pacific Grove, just west of downtown Monterey (and the race start) and just east of Pebble Beach.

We really didn't have a gameplan for the evening aside from finding a spot to catch the sunset on the beach (armed with cameras, of course), food and drink. Equipped with a handy dandy map, we set off to find 17-Mile Drive. You have to pay a $9.50 toll to wind through this 9-ish mile road, but it's totally worth it. We stumbled across beach



Originally we were just going to sit and enjoy a nice glass of wine while watching the sun set, but we were so hungry (apparently we forgot to eat ALL day...too many beautiful distractions, I guess) that we decided to splurge on dinner there.

We waited a few minutes for a table on the patio at Stillwater Bar & Grill. When we finally sat down, all we wanted was some wine and snacks. Pronto. Service was HORRIBLE. Pretty sure they forgot about us a few times. Ah well, it gave us time to chat up our table neighbors who were visiting from LA. Hey friendly people!

After our large glasses of wine arrived, we settled on an order of Atlantic & Pacific Oysters on the Half Shell
LOVE oysters. MMM.
Next up, since we needed something more substantial, we noshed on some Monterey Bay Crispy Calamari (Haricot Verts, Local Baby Artichokes, Meyer Lemon, Chipotle Aioli).
The veggies were actually a pleasant surprise...clearly we weren't paying attention to the menu details. Ha. These were pretty rich so there was plenty leftover.

Onto the main course! V needed to load up on calories (um, half marathon prep?) so she went with what looked like an AMAZING Cheeseburger w/Bacon
Our nice table neighbors gave us the heads up that the Garlic Fries were a tad greasy, so V got them 'well done'. Perfection.

I was kinda boring and went with the Hearts of Romaine with Organic Salmon (Spanish White Anchovy, Crostini, Nicoise Olives & Stillwater's Classic Caesar Dressing).
What can I say, I was in major ruffage withdrawal from the past couple of weeks. I took EVERY opportunity to chow down on crispy greens. Deliciously light.

Cheers to a fun weekend getaway!