Monday, September 27, 2010


A long time ago, long before I discovered running, I had another obsession love.

I was never a great tennis player, but I enjoyed playing and that's what matters the most, right? The sound of a new can of tennis balls being opened, hearing the ball as it hits the sweet spot of my racquet, watching as a ball zips just past the top of the net...LOVE.

Jamie was so kind to bring my trusty racquet when he flew out here over Labor Day and I finally busted it out this weekend. This racquet and I go way back. 15 years ago (15?! For real?!) my mom let me take tennis lessons and I was hooked. My racquet has been with me since day one and has seen me through some pretty sweet shots as well as some teen angsty/un-sportsmanshipy moments. Note that the picture cuts of the top of the frame...many a paint chip was left on high school tennis courts. Sorry buddy, I won't beat you up anymore.

Selin and I met up late Sunday to work up a little bit of an appetite before we started on this week's mystery box dinner. It's been awhile since I last hit a ball around and boy was it frustrating trying to get back into things. I also started feeling really old. I used to be able to run and dive for shots like no one's, not so much ;)

After about a half hour of hitting, we headed back to check out the contents of this week's mystery box and plan dinner. It was like a mini Iron Chef episode haha. In this week's box: Genovese basil, Fino Verde Basil, peppers, cherry tomatoes, Early Girl tomatoes, cucumbers, spinach, kale, dates and wax beans.

We brainstormed for a bit and settled on making a Kabocha Squash and Kale Risotto with a Beet and Fennel Salad. Best part about this list only had 5 items on it. FIVE! And that included wine.

Kabocha Squash and Kale Risotto
1.5 c arborio rice
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1.5 c kale, chopped
1/2 kabocha squash, chopped
1/2 onion, minced
6 c chicken broth, warmed
1/4 c parmesan, shredded

Heat butter and olive oil in a large saucepan. Saute onion for 1 minute. Add squash and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add kale and cook covered for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in rice and cook for 1 minute, making sure all grains are coated. Pour in 2 cups of chicken broth and cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed, stirring frequently. Pour in 1 cup of broth and cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed, stirring frequently. Continue until all 6 cups of broth are used.

Season lightly with salt and pepper and stir in parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Beet and Fennel Salad
3-4 beets, roasted and sliced
1 bulb fennel, shaved
handful wax beans, blanched and sliced
white balsamic vinegar
sheep's milk feta

Combine in a bowl and serve chilled.

Fabulous Sunday night dinner!

I woke up this morning with a very strange urge to bust out the tennis racquet again. Since I knew it would be too hot to run (and by too hot, I mean like barely 80 degrees. I'm a baby.) I packed my racquet and clothes for a post-work workout. I took note of the ball wall yesterday and was determined to put in at least 30 minutes of hitting and running time.

Um, I was surprisingly sweaty and it felt SOOO good. It's been a long time since I've done a non-running sweat sesh! To close out the evening, I hiked up my hills instead of bussing home and watched as the sun set on this wonderfully clear evening!

Tonight's dinner was an experiment with quinoa pasta. Eh.

Quinoa Pasta Salad
1 package quinoa pasta shells, cooked
1/2 english cucumber, sliced into discs and quartered
2 Early Girl tomatoes, chopped
1 green pepper, diced
8 peppadew peppers, chopped
2 links chicken sausage, cooked, sliced into discs and halved
3 tbsp basil, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tbsp champagne vinegar
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1.5 tbsp olive oil

Whisk basil, garlic, vinegars, olive oil, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Set aside.

Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl and slowly pour in dressing to coat everything. Chill for 10-15 minutes before serving.

I was disappointed with this quinoa pasta thing. I love quinoa. I love corn. Both are in these little gluten free nuggets! I think they have a weird texture that I'm just not feeling. I paid close attention to them so they wouldn't overcook (the package says in big bold letters 'DO NOT OVERCOOK') and I think they're still too hard. They're funky. Blech.

I'd totally sub in regular pasta or even brown rice pasta next time because the rest of this salad ROCKS. The garlic and basil dressing AND the piquant peppadews were AWESOME. Yuuummy.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A week of experimenting

This week I conducted a few experiments...

I played with some brown rice pasta

and cut dairy out.

Why? Well, brown rice pasta looked like fun. I like pasta, I like brown rice...duh. The dairy was more of a let's see if my stomach feels better without dairy thing. Happy to report both were successful experiments!

Brown Rice Penne with Sausage Peppers and Onions
1/2 bag brown rice penne, cooked according to package
2 links cooked chicken/turkey sweet basil pesto sausages, sliced
1/2 bell pepper, sliced
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1/3 c cherry tomatoes
1 tbsp jalapeno, thinly sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp white wine

Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Saute onions until they begin to soften. Add sausage and cook for 4-5 minutes or until sausage starts to brown. Add white wine and scrape up brown bits. Add peppers, tomatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir in pasta and cook for 1 minute. Serve immediately.

I kinda love the brown rice pasta, aside from the shape (package said penne, clearly not penne). Reheating the next day for lunch made the noodles a little softer and they had the texture of rice noodles in asian dishes. I LOVE that texture...sort of gelatinous but still firm.

The only downsides:
  1. It doesn't pack that much fiber.
  2. It's pricy compared to regular pasta.
Ok, onto the dairy. My belly hasn't been too happy with me lately and I couldn't figure out why. Jamie convinced me to conduct a little experiment where I avoid all dairy products for the week. It was surprisingly easy. I jotted down everything I ate for the week and how I felt during the day and during runs. The only bad belly experience involved SALAD and white bean hummus. Go figure. Two things I love.

Since my experiment ended today, I celebrated by cooking dinner and topped it with some sheep's milk feta. Duh.

Sausage-y Harvest Blend Filled Squash
1 acorn squash, halved and roasted
1 1/4 c Trader Joe's Harvest Grain Blend
2 links cooked mango chicken sausage, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 c spinach, chopped
1/2 c cherry tomatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp white wine
3 tbsp currants
1 tbsp tarragon
1 3/4 c water
2 tbsp feta, crumbled

Heat olive oil in a pot and brown sausage (about 3 minutes) before stirring in onions. Cook for 2 minutes or until onions become translucent. Add white wine and scrape up brown bits from sausage. Add currants and tarragon; cook for 2 minutes. Stir in spinach and cook until it begins to wilt. Add grains and stir well. Pour in water, add tomatoes and bring to a boil.

Lower heat and simmer covered for 10-15 minutes or until all liquid has been absorbed. Scoop into acorn squash halves and top with feta. Bake for 5 minutes at 400 degrees.

I really enjoyed this meal. Usually I don't like raisins, craisins or anything like that in my savory dishes, but I've been trying to be open minded. Currants = awesome in my book. They're small enough that you only get a tiny hint of sweetness in each bite. It went well with the slight sweetness of the sausage too! Very excited about leftovers :)

I know this was a really quick post, but I'm off to bed...last long run (not including next weekend's 12k race) before Chicago! Happy weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

It's heeere!

Race day is so close I can smell it! :)

So I'm definitely suffering from training burnout. How do I know this? Well, I'm no longer looking forward to my long runs...I just want race day here. NOW. Who knew I'd get so antsy?

How am I maintaining sanity? Apparently by doing some speed and hill work. Hill work??'s pretty tough to avoid at this point. I'm going to embrace the hills. It'll only make Chicago seem easier, ya?

Tonight's run was FABULOUS. I met up with the running group for a breezy 5 miler that went over Fort Mason, through Fisherman's Wharf, along the Embarcadero and back. My legs were feeling particularly speedy and I whipped that puppy out in 44 minutes! Woooo! I even closed it out with a charge up the Fort Mason hill. Definitely feeling it in the booty, but nothing a little extra stretching won't fix!

And I had the pleasure of closing the run out with this lovely view:
Now the important question...who else, aside from Val and Jessica, is running Chicago??

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Burn out and stock pot

I'm not entirely sure what's going on, but I was too burnt out to get my run done this weekend. I had an AMAZING run on Tuesday (I can't remember if I mentioned it already). I was feeling particularly speedy and the weather was nice and crisp. I whipped out a mildly hilly 4.36 miles in 37 minutes. Jeebus! 8:38 pace! It felt awesome! So why o why was I too tired to get more than 4.5 done this weekend?? UGH.

Maybe it's this random cough I've had since Thursday. Or maybe it was the discovery of this tasty treat...
O yeah, that was dessert on Friday.

Or maybe it was the introduction of something new?
Allow me to introduce you to my gummy vitamins. Yep. GUMMY. Vitamins were discussed for some reason during our last book club meeting and I mentioned that no matter what brand and no matter how much food I eat beforehand, I always feel pukey. Apparently I wasn't the only one! Someone suggested I give gummy vitamins a try, so I picked up a bottle this week. So far, so good!

Or maybe it's just burn out. It might be burn out. I really feel like I need to get this 20 in, but maybe my body just doesn't want it to happen. I'm fairly comfortable at this point going into Chicago with a few 16-18 milers under my belt. I mean, I maxed out at 18 last year before MCM because of my achilles and I was fine. I know I'm capable of doing the distance...maybe I just need time to clear the head and legs. We'll see how this week goes...

More running fails, means more kitchen successes. This evening, I experimented with fideos...well, I made my version of the dish. Far from the traditional version, but tasty.

I grabbed some items from the cabinet along with more mystery box items and got to work.

Kitchen Cabinet Fideos
2 c cut spaghetti
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
3 tbsp adobo sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
1 can diced tomatoes in chiles
1 bay leaf
juice of 1/2 a lime
2 tbsp white wine
handful cilantro, chopped
2 1/2 c chicken broth
3 small carrots, sliced
1 pepper, diced

Heat olive oil in a stock pot and saute onion and garlic for 1 minute. Add spaghetti and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in wine for 1 minute, then add adobo sauce, stirring to coat.
Pour in diced tomatoes and cook for 1 minute before adding carrots and peppers.
Add broth, bay leaf, lime juice, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle in cilantro and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Serve immediately.
I thought it was pretty tasty for a random attempt. I'd like it to have a richer/deeper flavor...beyond just tomato. I think maybe some smoky chili powder? Some cheese? Cocoa? Hm.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Eat your veggies with every meal

I've been in a major cooking mood since Labor Day weekend so I invited a friend over for a low key Friday dinner. I knew I had to use up the beets and spinach from the mystery box...that was pretty much all I knew when I set off to Whole Foods that afternoon.

Low Key Friday Menu:
  • Roasted Beet and Arugula Salad
  • Spinach and Feta Stuffed Chicken
  • Orzo Pilaf with Currants and Artichokes
You know that Lean Cuisine commercial where it says chopping and peeling at the end of a long day can be relaxing is a myth? Obviously they don't know me. I find peeling somewhat calming. I don't do it very much, but I liked sitting down briefly to peel my gorgeous golden beet
Oh, and you know, taking a few photos for you guys.

I also like taking my aggression out on an innocent bunch of fresh, locally grown spinach
I love the sound my knife makes as it runs through those crisp leaves and the resulting ribbons of green. Obviously I'm not in Lean Cuisine's target market.

Anyway, recipes are here for you to enjoy...forgot to snap a photo of the salad, but really, it was a salad. I'm sure you know what one looks like ;p

Roasted Beet and Arugula Salad
1 c arugula
1 c spring mix
3 beets, cubed and roasted (I used 1 golden and 2 red)
1/4 c pistachios, lightly toasted
handful cherry tomatoes, halved
goat cheese, crumbled
2 tbsp champagne vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/4 tsp maple syrup
1/2 shallot, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together vinegar, mustard, maple syrup, shallot and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Place salad greens in a bowl and pour 1/2 the dressing over and mix to coat. Top with beets, goat cheese, pistachios and tomatoes. Toss before serving.

I think this is my new go-to vinaigrette. It goes great with bitter mixed greens and some juicy, sweet cherry tomatoes.

Spinach and Feta Stuffed Chicken
2 chicken breasts, butterflied into 4 pieces
1/2 c chopped spinach
1 clove garlic
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp chili garlic paste
1/4 c sheep's milk feta crumbled
8 toothpicks
1 tbsp olive oil

Heat olive oil in a pan and saute garlic for 30 seconds before adding spinach. Saute for 2-3 minutes or until spinach starts to wilt.
Set aside to cool.

Once spinach has cooled, combine in a bowl with feta and chili garlic paste.

Place chicken breasts on a cutting board and divide the mixture evenly among the four pieces.
Carefully roll chicken up and secure with two toothpicks. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat a pan with 1 tbsp of olive oil and brown chicken on all sides. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for 2 minutes.

Rolled chicken is my safety. It must be since I've stuffed and rolled chicken a few other times. I think they are easy, foolproof and nice to look at! The sheep's milk feta was a must buy for me at Whole Foods after Wednesday's dinner. SOOO good. The chili garlic paste only gives a slight kick...such a slight kick that I almost forgot I used it.

Orzo Pilaf with Currants and Artichokes
3 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
1 c orzo
1 tbsp butter
1 1/2 c chicken broth
2 tbsp dried currants
1/4 tsp oregano
3 artichoke hearts, quartered

Heat butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Saute orzo for 1 minute in the butter, then add pine nuts and oregano. Pour in chicken broth and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir in currants and artichokes and cook for another 5 minutes or until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Currants. Random, I know. I saw them and felt compelled to use them. The amount I used wasn't really noticeable, so I'm sure it could use a smidge more. I liked it and so did friend. That's all that matters, right?

ALMOST done with mystery box produce! I leave you with an artsy kitchen shot. I love my random ledge. So handy!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Fun with produce

What do you do with a ton of dill? Make some Wheatberry Salad with Yogurt Dill Dressing!

Wheatberry Salad with Yogurt Dill Dressing
1 c wheatberries, cooked according to package
1/2 large Armenian cucumber, diced
1/2 c cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 tbsp greek yogurt
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp honey
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/2 shallot, minced
3 tbsp dill, minced
salt & pepper to taste

Combine yogurt, lemon juice, honey, garlic powder, shallot, dill, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Set aside.
Combine cucumber, tomatoes and wheatberries in a large bowl.
Pour dressing over veggies, stir and refrigerate for 20 minutes before serving.

Obviously, you can use a regular cucumber in place of the Armenian cucumber...I was just hoping to use as much of my mystery box produce as possible. I topped some mixed greens with this salad for extra ruffage, but it's fine on its own.

Since we still had a ton of produce to get through, Selin and I decided to meet mid-week for an evening of fun with greens. On the menu: Tuscan Bean & Swiss Chard Soup and a Leek & Chard Tart.

I played sous chef so I'm not 100% sure of the recipes. The tart was super easy though.
Leek & Chard Tart
1 sheet puff pastry
1 large leek, chopped
2 stems chard, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
sheep's milk feta, crumbled

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Saute leek in olive oil until it starts to soften.
Season with salt and pepper. Add chard
and cook until both chard and leek are soft and slightly browned.

Spread puff pastry on a cookie sheet and top with greens followed by feta.
Bake until pastry turns golden brown, let cool before cutting.

OMG. So yummy and so easy! The sheep's milk feta was also a great new ingredient. It was creamy and slightly tart with just a hint of gaminess (is that even a word?? eh blogger says it is).

I'm 95% sure the soup was a modification of this recipe from Epicurious. Definitely didn't take 14 hours and she made some meatballs out of chicken Italian sausage to sub in for the pancetta. Great was sort of like Italian wedding soup! A little photo journey to tide you over until the full recipe arrives...

Broth and beans simmering

We dumped in some braising greens (still not sure what exactly 'mixed braising greens' are) instead of chard

Look at how bright those greens are!

What would you do with a bunch of rainbow chard, braising greens and dill??

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mystery Box Theatre

Are you up for the challenge? The challenge of the mystery produce box??

Selin and I decided to go halfsies on a "mystery box" from the Country Line Harvest Rogue Market this past Sunday. I saw an article in the Chronicle about Namu (love) hosting a new Rogue Market on Sundays from 12-3. We chatted about signing up for a CSA box and I thought this sounded like a great option. $25 a box, no commitment and multiple days/locations throughout the city. Another perk, Namu was offering a jar of kimchi with each box. O hey free goodies!

It's super easy to get a box. You simply email the folks at Country Line Harvest (I didn't get around to emailing until Saturday afternoon) specifying the location you want to pick up from, show up with your wad-o-cash and ta daaa!
Massive box of seasonal organic produce.
Produce makes scrappy looking me happy.

In this particular box, we had rainbow chard, braising greens, dandelion greens, spinach, pea shoots, turnips, beets, carrots, cherry tomatoes, a variety of peppers, Armenian cucumber, dill, basil, and flowers. I think that was everything...

For my first meal, I made Salmon with Mustard Shallot Capellini and Pea Shoots

Mustard Shallot Capellini
1/2 lb cappellini, cooked and drained
1/3 c pasta water
2 tbsp whole grain mustard
2 shallot, minced
1 tbsp greek yogurt
2 tbsp white wine
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
handful cherry tomatoes
salt & pepper

In a skillet, heat butter and olive oil over medium high heat. Saute shallot until translucent. Add white wine and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in mustard and greek yogurt and cook for another minute, stirring frequently. Add pasta and cherry tomatoes. Cook for 3-5 minutes or until tomatoes start to burst. Add pasta water if sauce gets too sticky and season with salt and pepper.

Sauteed Pea Shoots
1 bunch pea shoots, trimmed
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp garlic powder
salt & pepper

Heat olive oil in a pan, add pea shoots and garlic powder. Cook until pea shoots start to wilt. Season with salt and pepper.

I topped these with a seared piece of salmon. A simple sprinkle of salt and pepper and a quick sear on both sides. Ahhh.

How inventive are you when it comes to using the ingredients you have on hand? Would you be excited or overwhelmed about a mystery box of produce??