Monday, January 31, 2011

Spinach Artichoke Di...Pasta?

Temperatures dropped a bit today so I found myself craving a hearty, warm dinner. Unfortunately, I didn't get out of work until late-ish so I also needed something quick. Tonight's dinnertime experiment:

Spinach Artichoke Penne
1/2 lb penne, cooked according to box
1 c artichoke hearts, chopped
2 1/2 c baby spinach
1 small shallot, chopped
2 links chicken sausage (I used Aidells Artichoke & Garlic), chopped
1 tomato, diced
2 tbsp dry white wine
1 tbsp olive oil
light sprinkling chili flakes
slight dusting parmesan cheese
salt & pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Brown chicken sausage (I like mine pretty brown so they aren't too mushy) and stir in shallot. Cook shallot until translucent and add white wine. Cook for 1 minute before stirring in tomato and artichokes. Cook for 2-3 minutes and slowly stir in spinach. Cook until spinach begins to wilt, stir in chili flakes, parmesan, salt and pepper. Pour over penne and mix well. Serve immediately.

If you salt your pasta water properly, you really won't need the extra salt at the end. The artichokes, parmesan and sausage add just the right amount of salt and flavor to the dish! Quick, easy and delicious! It also doesn't hurt that it looks a little like springtime in a bowl :)

I got a couple packages in the mail today and one of them was from Foodbuzz's Tastemaker Program. It's been awhile since I've opted in to receive samples and I completely forgot about this one. Hooray fun surprise!

This sample came from Pure Dark and timing couldn't be better! I've had this random sweet craving lately, plus Jamie's on his way here at the end of the's hoping these samples last ;p

I got a sample of the Classic Bark - sheets of immensely deep dark chocolate studded with cherries, roasted almonds and caramelized nibs and the Chocolate Slab - a thick slab of dark chocolate. AMAZING. I broke into the Bark and holy delicious.
It's just the right level of darkness for me and the nuts and nibs were great crunchy additions! Didn't get a cherry (at least I don't think I did), but that's fine with me...ahhh love!

Great start to the week! could have been an even better start to the week had I been able to get to the gym, but alas, it was not in the cards. It's probably for the best. After yesterday's run, my calves were crazy tight/sore...even after a decent stretching session! Ah well, looks like the rest of my evening will involve hanging out with the Stick. My trusty buddy.

Good news is that I'm finally getting back into running pretty consistently. It's still really frustrating doing super short runs and spending more time stretching/stick-ing than actually running, but I know it's all for the best. GAH. Anyone have good workout suggestions for someone with severe gym ADD?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Spills and Thrills Along the Dumpling Road

I bike for dumplings. That should totally be a sticker on my helmet.

It's true, I went for my second long-ish ride and once again the destination was soup dumplings in the Richmond. What can I say? I love soup dumplings. I love the cute little parcels sitting in the steamer waiting for me to attack. I love how carefully you have to bite into them so you don't scald your mouth with the juicy goodness inside. I love that there are so many places to find them in San Francisco :)

The road to Shanghai Dumpling King was a long and bumpy one. I took the same route Jamie and I took last weekend and was doing pretty well until I approached The Wiggle. Wheel got stuck, I toppled over and ta da...first big spill on the new bike. Had to happen some time, right? I just wish it didn't happen while I was all alone :\

Ladies & gentlemen, repeat after me: always wear a helmet.

Always. I landed knees first, then hands then a little bounce to the front of my helmet. Enough for a wee bump. Now, imagine if I wasn't wearing one.

I was a little freaked out, so I called the friend I was meeting up with (who conveniently happens to be a nurse and brought me stuff to clean up with) and Jamie to make sure I had someone to talk to just in case anything went wrong. I eventually got back on my bike and pedaled my way to the meeting point in Golden Gate Park. Everything felt fine, minus the burning in my knees.

Once I stopped in the park, I lifted up my capris to find out that I had some crazy scrapes on my knees and calves. Thankfully there weren't any major gashes. Hurrah. I biked all the way to the Great Highway while friend ran and since I got to the ocean before she did, I sat and soaked up the amazing weather. Ahhh. Gorgeous!
Everyone was out and about and the waves were huge! Once friend caught up, we sat for a little while longer appreciating the scenery. Hey, it's what weekends are for!

We eventually got going again and trekked another mile to meet another friend at Shanghai Dumpling King. Luckily friend got there early (11:30ish) and snagged us a spot at a shared table. No waiting in line this time! Woohoo!

FINALLY, time to try the famed Shanghai Dumpling King soup dumplings!
We split 2 orders of the soup dumplings and an order of pan fried pork buns. The soup dumplings were good, but not as good as I expected them to be. Honestly, I think I prefer the ones at Shanghai House. The meat and soup are much more flavorful in my there's never really a wait. The pork buns can be skipped - mushy wrapper and not much flavor.

Afterward, friend 2 and I hopped on a bus with the intention to hang out in Alamo Square Park for a bit. I attached my bike on a bus for the first time

The video doesn't lie. It's really only 3 steps and there are labels! I promptly realized I need to work on my upper body strength since I had a rough time lifting my bike high enough.

It took longer than expected to get to the park so we paused at a random cafe for a sweet treat and outdoor seating. It was there that I got my first glimpse at this gem:
O yes. Golf ball sized bruise on the knee. Guess that explains why it hurt a little to jog. Hm. Advil + Ice + Elevation = my afternoon.

Friend split off to head to an appointment and I hung out for a little longer to soak up the sun and think about my route home. I decided to bike the whole way (avoiding the crash scene, of course) and logged in a total of 11 miles for the day. Not too shabby!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Recap and Revelation

I've been pretty slammed with work since we last spoke, so I came to the conclusion that weekday posts just aren't going to happen. It's tough...after a day at the office and now trying to squeeze in gym trips (b/c pathetic attempts at 2.5 milers are really not going to prepare me for my spring races) the last thing I want to do is look at a computer screen. Hell, I'll admit it...I don't even want to shower, knowing I'll just have to do it again in a few hours!

So that's my deal...I'm going to stop stressing and post whenever I have fun stuff to post about. Fab. I know you guys don't want to hear about my dinner salads. Any fun lunch spots I explore, sans camera, can now be found on Yelp because it just seems like an appropriate spot for them.

Ok, moving on to a recap of this week...

Since I had Monday off, I took the opportunity to clean and get things in order. Jamie and I set off on a mid-morning jog (enh, more like a rough 3 mile shuffle...eek) that ended with a banh mi lunch. Originally we planned on going to Saigon Sandwich, but after some thought, we opted for a closer spot with seating options.

I picked up a banh mi at Out the Door the last time I ran errands and thought it was pretty good. I still think Saigon Sandwich is the best in the city (and the best deal), but Out the Door has really moist chicken and great bread (doesn't cut the roof of your mouth, but it's still crusty). At $8.50, it's one of the most expensive banh mis I've had, but I consider that extra $5 a convenience least for me.

Naturally, we ordered one 5-Spice Chicken and one Saigon Roast Pork and swapped halves. One thing I do appreciate about Out the Door is that they give you jalapenos on the side so you can adjust your spice level. My recent Saigon Sandwich experiences have been crazy spicy, so I'm cool with this little break. Personally, I think the chicken is way better than the pork, mostly b/c I'm not into dry meat. AND the chicken is better here than at Saigon Sandwich. Hm, maybe SS is the way to go for pork and OTD is for chicken cravings? Ah HAAA!

We picked up the missing ingredients for Jenna's Chicken Parmesan with Pepperoni (read: chicken. HA) and then we were homebound.

Jamie's flight didn't leave until late Monday evening so we had a late-ish dinner...super easy to prepare! I made a few modifications based on what we had in the apartment/what I could find at the markets nearby.

3 chicken breasts, butterflied
1 egg, beaten
1/2 c flour
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 c panko
1 1/2 tbsp Italian seasoning
2 tbsp olive oil
1 jar marinara sauce
1/3 c fresh mozzarella, coarsely chopped
1/4 c parmesan cheese, grated
10-12 slices pepperoni

Preheat oven to 450 and spread some marinara sauce (just enough to coat) on the bottom of a shallow baking dish. This is a trusty standby I've been using lately:
It can be a little boring, so I usually dress it up with some garlic powder, salt, red pepper flakes and fresh tomatoes.

Combine flour, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a dish.

Combine panko and Italian seasoning in another dish.

Dump egg into a shallow dish and get ready to do some breading! First coat a chicken breast with flour and shake off the excess. Dip into the egg and then immediately coat with the panko. Set aside and repeat with remaining chicken.

Heat olive oil in a frying pan and brown chicken for 2 minutes on each side. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until fully cooked. Remove from oven and blot on paper towels.

Place chicken in baking dish on top of sauce and coat with remaining sauce. Sprinkle with half the parmesan cheese followed by pepperoni, mozzarella and remaining parmesan.

Bake for 15 minutes or until cheese melts and serve with spaghetti.

Ok, so a couple things...
  • I know fresh mozzarella wasn't the wisest choice, but for some reason I couldn't find ANY regular mozzarella. WTF.
  • Bad sauce choice. You know how I mentioned it could be pretty boring? Yeah, REALLY boring in this. I seriously could have used some Prego or something.
  • I really only like pepperoni when it's crispy on a pizza, so Jamie and I were thinking maybe this would be great if we chopped up the pepperoni and crisped it up first. Sounds genius to me!
Not bad for a quick weeknight meal!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Why I love my new home

Mid 60s in January, not a cloud in the sky, great weather for wandering, exploring, and sitting and reading in the park.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Dining about town

Apparently we took on a bit more than we could chew the other day when we went on that 15 mile bike ride...

Originally we planned on taking a Sunday morning bike ride to run some errands before an afternoon jog. Enh....not happening. It hurts to sit. Gah! How do people bike every day?? Am I just supposed to get used to this?

We decided to take a 5 mile errand-filled walk instead and stopped for a quick lunch in the Marina. We popped into Marina & Kebab on Chestnut since they had a bunch of delicious looking wraps and platters. I went with the Chicken Gyro Wrap
Jamie got the Lamb & Beef Gyro Platter.
My wrap was pretty good, aside from some dry pieces of chicken, and Jamie's lamb & beef was seasoned well. They had a few other dishes I wanted to try, so I might return next time I pass through.

Our dinner plans brought us to the Mission where we paid a visit to Foreign Cinema for their Dine About Town deal. For $34.95, certain restaurants are offering a 3-course dinner or $17.95 for a 2 course lunch. I was really excited to hear about this since this is pretty similar to DC's Restaurant Week (which I loved). It's a great way to explore new restaurants that might normally be out of your price range!

The walk into Foreign Cinema takes you away from the hustle and bustle of the street and into a movie theatre setting with a long red carpet corridor to the host stand. We lucked out and got seated on the patio where they had plenty of heat lamps to keep us warm.
They play a movie on a big white wall and there are drive-in movie speaker boxes that line the sides so you can actually hear what's going on. This month's movie was Harold & Maude and while we didn't actually watch it, it was good background noise.

We sipped on some drinks as we perused the menu (I just had to get a glass of the Roederer Estate Brut Rose even though it was a splurge glass and Jamie began his Oregonian evening with a Bridgeport IPA) and started with a half dozen oysters. Jamie had an oyster craving so we split a mixed half dozen since we wanted to sample a few different kinds. It was interesting to taste the differences between the three. Unfortunately, I can't remember the names of any of them! I do know that we got 2 from Oregon, 2 from Nova Scotia (Saint Simone maybe?) and 2 from Washington. Ack.

Foreign Cinema's menu changes daily, so writing about our meal is going to be tough since nothing we had is on their website :( Jamie started out with a Sardine and Quinoa appetizer and I had a simple Arugula Salad with shaved cheese and pistachios. For our main courses, Jamie got the Orechiette with Mushrooms (with just a hint of lemon zest) and I got the Seafood Stew (with a spicy papadum on top). Dessert was a fluffy and slightly sweet Gingerbread Cake with Meyer Lemon Creme.

Overall, I liked the experience at Foreign Cinema, but the food was nothing spectacular. I liked my salad for its simplicity, but our entrees were definitely over salted. Our meal wasn't horrible, but looking at the regular prices, I would have expected a better meal.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

It's dinnertime

Since you can only do so much dining out/burning money, Jamie and I settled in for a nice, post ride home cooked meal. Originally we had planned on making Jenna's Chicken Parmesan with Pepperoni (totally up Jamie's alley), but as soon as we were settled and ready to make dinner, we realized one ingredient was missing.
O yeah, that one. Kinda important, no? So we had to rethink dinner with what we had. Pork chops in the fridge, coconut ginger rice in the cabinet, salad fixins. Perfect.

I found this recipe for Miso Glazed Pork Chops on Foodgawker and modified it a bit to work with what we had in the apartment.
Miso Glazed Pork Chops
1 tbsp miso paste
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp white wine
1 tbsp mirin
1/2 tsp garlic powder
juice of half a lemon
3 boneless pork chops

Whisk all ingredients together and marinate pork for 20 minutes on each side. Heat a grill pan and cook for 3 minutes on each side.
Spoon marinade over pork and bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes.

Served with some coconut rice and a big bowl of salad
Well balanced dinner!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Beers, Bacon, Bikes and Bao!

To celebrate Jamie's arrival, we met up with a few friends in the Haight to check out Magnolia Pub & Brewery. I came across it on Yelp after searching for beer-heavy places for happy hour. The reviews intrigued me and I was looking forward to sharing a new neighborhood adventure with Jamie. Ta da!

It was a 2-bus trip, but I thought it was worth it. We were dumped off right across from the bar and it looked pretty cozy from the outside. We walked in and it reminded me of an old diner/coffee shop more than a bar. It was standing room only, so we moseyed on over to the bar and waited for friends. I started with the Kalifornia Kolsch and Jamie got the Piper Pale Ale. Mine was kinda wee for some reason and our total came to $9. Enh, maybe no happy hour special??

I really liked my second beer - the Proving Ground IPA. They offered it as draught or cask and I went with draught mostly because I had no idea what cask was. Later on I found out that cask beers are a little warmer and are a little less carbonated. Interesting. Personally, I enjoy a chilly, bubbly beer.

We eventually decided to do dinner so we grabbed a table in the small dining area. To kick things off, we ordered some Devils on Horseback (goat cheese-stuffed dates wrapped in bacon).
DELISH. Perfectly crisp on the outside and the dates were massive. Just a note, they came 2 per order, but they are able to work with odd numbers.

Jamie and I split a 1/2 lb Prather Ranch burger with pepperjack cheese. It was beefy and paired perfectly with the Blue Bell Bitter (my favorite beer of the was like a Boddington's with just a little bit of a bite). We also split the Seafood Boudin Sausage (bay scallop, rock shrimp, nutmeg with dirty rice), which was pretty bland. I wasn't into the texture of it or the lack of flavor in the dirty rice. Meh.
Overall, I really liked Magnolia. Turns out they have a pretty sweet Tuesday happy hour deal...I'd definitely check it out. Totally worth the 2-bus trip!

We were up bright and early this morning and headed off to High Trails Cyclery to pick up Jamie's Christmirthday present. We had such a great experience while buying my bike so it seemed only natural to return for Jamie's.
He was determined to get the guy's version of mine, but after a couple test rides, he went with one just a step up from mine. Fancy.

We immediately headed off on our crosstown adventure that was supposed to take us approximately 6 flat-ish miles to lunch and then another 4 miles to Ocean Beach and along the Great Highway. Sometimes I have mapping fails. We all know this by now!

After biking downtown and through the Castro, we made our way through The Wiggle, a mile long zig-zag that is known for being fairly flat and biker-friendly. Perfect!
The Wiggle dumped us out at the eastern-most side of the Panhandle and we made our way through the quiet bike path and took a quick pause. Then we had to take a little detour to deal with a flat tire (thankfully we rocked the smart phones and found out The Freewheel Bike Shop was just a couple blocks away). A few minutes later we were back in action and on our way through Golden Gate Park.

Then we hit a random slew of hills as we were mere blocks from our destination - Shanghai Dumpling King. I could just taste the xiao long baos! SO HUNGRY! After huffing and puffing up a large hill, I just wanted to sit and enjoy a piping hot, savory, meaty soup dumpling. It just wasn't in the cards. The wait was much longer than we were willing to deal with so we biked a couple blocks over to Shanghai House. I've been here before and they have delicious xiao long bao, but I just had my heart set on trying SF's 'best shanghai dumplings'. Ah well, maybe next time.

In addition to these little nuggets of soupy goodness
we also ordered the Vegetarian Goose
It's an odd name for mushrooms wrapped in tofu skin, but I LOVE IT. I didn't love this one, though. I'm used to it being served chilled without sauces. This version was warm, fried crisp on the outside and with some sauce drizzled on it. It was good, but just not what I was looking for.

We also got the Green Onion Pancake
Standard order whenever we're at a Chinese restaurant, but not a favorite of mine. These were a little greasier than I'm used to and they just weren't that exciting.

And to close things out, we had some Pork and Vegetable Dumplings
They smelled very cabbage-y and just paled in comparison to the flavors going on in the soup dumplings. I'm pretty sure they were boiled and the skin was super thick. Yeaahh, not going to order these again. Honestly, I would have been content with two orders of soup dumplings. I love them that much. *drool*

Bellies full of food, we began our trek back to my neck of the woods. We basically back tracked with a few little detours (apparently we went down a few one way streets the first time around) and then we encountered some not so friendly hills. Eeeh.

When we got home, I mapped our little adventure and instead of the planned 10 mile ride with a bus ride back, it turns out we rode 15.3 miles. DANG!
That elevation profile is no joke either. Kinda crazy for someone that's only gone on 3 long-ish bike rides as an adult and someone who hasn't ridden in awhile!

I'm proud of our excursion and the fact that I actually rode in heavy traffic - a first for me - and survived! :) Woohoo! Perfect Saturday afternoon (perfect weather too at around 65 degrees!).

Friday, January 14, 2011

Addicted Much?

Earlier this week, I sat at my computer patiently waiting for registration to open for the MoreFitness Magazine Women's Half Marathon. I don't think I've ever done that before...

See, it will be the sister's introduction to the 13.1 club and I figured, well, if I'm going to fly across the country to cheer I might as well join in on the fun. Plus, I've got beef with Central Park.

The last time we met (NYC Half Marathon 2008), I got my butt kicked by 7 miles of rolling hills and crazy heat. This time I'm coming prepared. Central Park, you ain't got s$#! on my hills!

Enter crazy talk...

I woke up yesterday morning thinking, you know what would be great? If I could finish 10 half marathons before my 30th birthday (which is totally creeping up). Why? I like the sound of 10. It sounds better than 9. Just like 5 seemed like a good number for marathons. I also think it makes the race a little more meaningful. Sister's first, my 10th, another one hooked on running...awesome.

Now, I know there's no way I can properly prepare for the Kaiser Half in February, BUT I was considering this: Oakland Half Marathon (3/27/11). Anyone hear anything good or bad about the Oakland Half?

Again, it's not really critical for me to squeeze #9 in before April (and I won't if I'm not prepared), but I'd like for it to work out. Any other races you know of in California in March?

Enough about my running addiction. Let's move on to this week's food & drink adventure!

Went to happy hour last night with some coworkers and discovered quite a nice deal! We went to Perry's (the Steuart Street location) and they had some pretty decent specials. $5 wine, well drinks and draft beers; $4 domestic bottles; and $5 appetizers. I sipped on a Big Daddy IPA and an Anchor Steam (yay local brews!) and we snacked on some Potato Skins and Calamari to start.

We were all craving real food, so a few of us split burgers. I split a burger with pepperjack cheese and sweet potato fries with one coworker and not only was it filling and reasonably priced at $5.25 each, but it arrived already split for us! I love when places do's less messy and it ensures each person gets just the right amount! I don't even think they charged extra for splitting. Score.

We like condiments.

Happy hour runs til 6:30 and it wasn't too packed on a Thursday evening. Cozy and not too loud...I'd return.

I was a little concerned about how I'd get home afterward. I really hate the commute from my office area after peak transit hours. It usually means my ride is twice as long and involves multiple modes of transport. Boo. I was also trying to be responsible by not blowing money on a cab home. Luckily, I caught a muni train just as it was leaving the station AND was able to squeeze onto a cable car right before the driver pulled the ding ding cord to leave! Phew!

Ok, maybe not the most appropriate ride home considering the only spot left for me was one of the standing/hanging made me nervous. Clearly I did not fall off since I'm typing this ;p

Gorgeous evening, good company, tasty snacks...perfect way to ease into a long weekend :)