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?