Thursday, March 31, 2011

It's my jam

Since I've been rocking the treadmill a lot lately, I've needed some serious tunes to keep me going. I have no idea how anyone runs more than 4 miles on a treadmill. I start to go crazy around 3.5 miles and that's with music blaring, TV on and a treadmill facing a big picture window. Respect.

For everyone that can't stand running indoors, here are some trusty tunes that I've had on repeat lately:

Easy - Groove Armada
Valerie - Mark Ronson feat. Amy Winehouse
Ooh Wee - Mark Ronson, Ghostface Killah, Nate Dogg, Trife & Saigon
People Everyday - Arrested Development
Kiksu (Original Mix) - Albert & Kyau
Rocketeer - Far East Movement
Let Me Think About It (Club Mix) - Ida Corr & Fedde le Grand
H.I.A - Chemical Brothers
So What'cha Want - Beastie Boys
La Bomba - Ricky Martin
It Began in Afrika - Chemical Brothers

I'm always looking for more music, so please share what songs get you motivated at the gym!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Working it out

If you haven't noticed, I've been on quite the group fitness kick lately. In addition to pilates and my latest obsession, Burn, I've added TRX to the mix.

TRX combines adjustable straps suspended from (very sturdy) ceiling beams with music and cardio. You basically use your own body weight to workout. By slightly adjusting angles, you can make your workout easier or more challenging.

A friend forwarded a promo for a free unlimited intro week so I totally jumped on it. I love free. My first class was an Endurance Training class, which I had no background info on. I (foolishly) squeezed my 2 mile run in during lunch and figured I'd be fine for my 7pm TRX class. Nope. Had no idea what I was in for.

So, in great contrast to Burn, this class was mostly guys - there were only 4 ladies, one of whom was the instructor. Equipped with a basic knowledge of how to adjust the straps, a thumping soundtrack and no shame in looking like a fool, we started the 55 minute 'oo, it hurts so good' sweat session.

The endurance training class is targeted toward people that participate in endurance sports like marathons, triathlons and the sort, targeting muscles and areas endurance athletes need/use the most. A little cardio is thrown in, you know just for fun, and reps are longer (we were doing 8 20 second reps with a 10 second recovery in between). 

It was in this class that I discovered how weak my upper body and core are as I struggled with a suspended leg plank. It was challenging and I think I'm still feeling it in my abs 4 days later.

The instructor was super helpful and kept us going. She took some time to walk around and correct/adjust our form, which I totally appreciate. I got my butt kicked and absolutely loved it.

The next class I took was Power Stretch. I figured at 8:30 on a Sunday morning, it wouldn't draw a big crowd, but it sure did - every strap was taken! This class was the exact opposite of my first one. I knew it was going to be mellow and a stretching class, but I honestly didn't expect to be anxiously watching the clock. Friend and I agreed that the moves really didn't require the TRX and most bothered my knees even with a thick mat. Needless to say I probably won't be taking that class again.

Why do I like TRX? Same reason I'm into bootcamp and Burn - probably because of my gym/workout ADD. The 55 minutes zooms by when you're sweating it through a variety of exercises. It's definitely fad-y, but I'm ok with that. Still on the fence if I'll be returning post-free intro week. It's convenient to my home, but I think I still might prefer Burn and its super small classes. We'll see. 

In the meantime, my core and booty are getting whipped into shape! I'm hoping this puts a little more speed into my step...I'd like to see another half marathon PR this year and no more injuries!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Leafy Lentil Soup

Lately I've had soup on the brain so it seemed only natural I use a bunch of the greens I snagged at the farmers' market in a big vat o soup. This is a slight variation on another lentil soup I made and I think it's more than slightly better. I don't know if it was the chicken apple sausage or the Red Russian kale (or a combination of both?) that made the soup slightly sweet, but it was delicious! Enjoy!

Leafy Lentil Soup
2 c green lentils
2 links chicken apple sausage, chopped
3 small leeks, thinly sliced
1 carrot, sliced into thin disks
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tomato, diced
1 bay leaf
2 c kale, coarsely chopped
1 c Red Russian kale, coarsely chopped
1 c rapini, coarsely chopped
6 c low sodium chicken broth
2 tsp salt
2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 tbsp hot sauce

Heat butter and olive oil in a stock pot over medium heat. Saute sausage for 4-5 minutes or until they start to brown. Stir in leeks and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add carrot and tomato, cook for another 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in salt, pepper, hot sauce, bay leaf and lentils and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add greens and broth and bring to a boil. Lower heat and cover. Cook for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

March ingredients used: carrots, kale, leek, rapini

Monday, March 28, 2011

Simply Asian

Simply delicious.

 Kai-lan with Shiitakes and Tofu
1 bunch kai-lan, sliced into 1-inch pieces
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 c oyster sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp mirin
1 tsp chili garlic paste
1 tsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp sugar
3 tbsp water
1 c shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 c firm tofu, diced

Heat oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Combine oyster sauce, sesame oil, mirin, chili garlic paste, soy sauce, sugar and water in a bowl; set aside. Saute garlic until fragrant, then add kai lan. Saute for 3 minutes, then add mushrooms and about 8 tablespoons of the sauce mixture. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add tofu and cook for another 3-5 minutes. Taste and add more sauce if necessary. Serve immediately over rice.

March ingredients used: garlic, asian greens

This dish makes me happy. Partly because it's comforting and the flavors remind me of some dishes my mom used to make and partly because I love the variety of textures in one bowl. I ate mine over some brown rice so I had the crunch of the kai lan, the softness of the tofu, the squishiness of the mushrooms and a slight bite from the rice. Mmmm...delish.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

In with $20...

Out with $6. I think that's a successful shopping trip, no?

We finally got a break from the rain and I enjoyed a stroll around the farmers' market after my TRX class (more on that later). It was a surprisingly busy day at the market, but there was still some good produce to be found! Here's what you'll be seeing this week:

Two varieties of kale: regular and Red Russian. According to one of the farmers, Red Russian kale is a little tougher and a bit sweeter than the regular variety.

Leeks, taters, and A carrot. I'm still not sure why I only bought one carrot.

Kai-lan, or Chinese broccoli. I was excited to see a huge table full of asian greens - bok choy, yu choy, you name it!

Broccoli Rabe - I'm seriously obsessed with the bunches I get from Happy Boy Farms. They're not as bitter or tough as the ones in the grocery store and they cook pretty quickly since the stems aren't super thick. Love.

Cara Cara oranges! C'mon, you knew that was coming :)

Stay tuned for my creations!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Finding a balance

Finding a balance between work life, running life and life life can be pretty tough. It's even harder when you're not much of a planner. Since I've had a lot going on lately, I've found that planning is necessary if I want to stay sane and be social while training. 

Here are a just a few things that have worked well for me:

Color me organized
Setting up a detailed, color-coded calendar keeps me on track and ensures I don't miss any important events. 

Once I know what races I have coming up, I devise a detailed training schedule and map it out on my calendar. That becomes the base for all future planning. I know it sounds lame, but training has to be a top priority no matter what your skill level. Plus, spending hundreds of dollars on a race (registration, travel, lodging, etc.) automatically bumps it up on the priority list.

Naturally this is synced with my phone so I get friendly reminders all the time. 

Sweat it out with friends
Get your friends motivated and keep yourself in check. Research group fitness classes in your area and recruit a couple of friends to check them out with you. Catch up over coffee, drinks or food afterward.

The group fitness classes I've come to love (bootcamp, Bikram and Burn) were introduced to me by friends. It's not like we were hanging out and chatting in class, but working out together lets you squeeze in much needed QT with friends. The great thing about group fitness classes is that you have to sign up and pay in advance. I don't know about you, but that makes me less likely to bail.

Make workout dates
This sort of goes in line with group fitness. If you're not into spending money on classes or hanging out with large groups, set fitness dates with friends...friends that will hold you to it. This lets you multi-task - chat and workout! Some buddy-friendly activities: biking, running, urban hikes, tennis.

Run errands
Literally. If you have to go to the grocery store, office or need to pick something up, make it part of your running or riding route. I've planned long bike rides to meet people for lunch and carried portable bags on runs to the grocery store. Multi-tasking. Embrace it.

Lunchtime quickie
The lunchtime workout doesn't work for everyone, but if you have access to a gym (or shower), take advantage of it. Even if you're not a fast showerer/changer, you can still get a 20-30 minute workout in. To make the most of those precious minutes, I've found that running intervals is best. For easy runs, I've maxed out at 3 miles during lunch. Beware of the post-gym glow. I stay pink for at least 20 minutes after I get back to my desk. Eeh.

Don't sweat it
It's taken me awhile to accept it, but it's ok if you miss a workout. It's ok if you want to bail on a 2 miler if you've had a really rough day and all you want is to grab a beer with long as you don't make it a regular occurrence. It's also ok to shift workouts around to work with your schedule.

Happy training season :)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Beety Couscous Salad

I still had 2 roasted beets in the fridge from last weekend (I decided that cooking them would buy me some time) and didn't have a clue as to what to do with them. I went with easy and familiar. It was a brilliant choice.

Beety Couscous Salad
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
pinch salt
2 beets, roasted and diced
1 c israeli couscous
1 1/4 c low sodium chicken broth
1/2 tsp tarragon
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp champagne vinegar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat in a saute pan. Add onions and cook until translucent, stirring often. Reduce heat to medium low and cook for another 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar, salt and sugar. Reduce heat to low and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove onions from pan and set aside.

Heat saute pan used to cook the onions over medium high heat. Deglaze pan with 2 tbsp chicken broth. Add 2 tbsp olive oil and couscous. Stir vigorously for 1 minute to toast the couscous and make sure each pearl is covered in the olive oil. Add tarragon, salt and garlic powder. Pour in remaining broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 10 minutes.

Toss couscous with olive oil and vinegars; stir in onions and beets. Chill and serve.

March ingredients used: beets, onion

I don't know why I love this simple couscous salad so much. The beets were perfectly sweet and tender and they were great with the very subtle dressing! Plus, you can't beat the rich color :) Yum.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Eat your veggies with every meal

Or make every meal full o veggies!

Armed with a pound bag of mixed greens from the farmers' market and a couple other fun salad toppings, I prepped 3 days worth of salads. Why? Because I actually had time to and that's just what I do!

I'm usually pretty good about bringing lunch to work. I've found that the only days I cave and buy lunch are the days I'm either too rushed to make a lunch or make a really lame rushed lunch. I love the rare productive evening where I can prep for the week :)

Yes, I take the term big salad seriously. Those are the large round containers. I like to prep a nice big salad base (greens and a few key toppings) that I can simply toss into a tupperware, add a couple other toppings and take with me to work. Super easy. 

Since mixed greens don't have much going on as far as texture is concerned, I like to add a variety of crunchy toppings. I see salads as a great way to experiment with new raw veggies. Like this guy, for example:
Blog friends, meet Watermelon Radish.

Not much of a looker until you slice into it...

Gorgeous. My radish wasn't as brightly colored as other specimens, but I still thought it was pretty. Since this guy has a pretty peppery flavor, I decided to shave some onto my greens for a slight crunch and bite. Whether or not it plays well with the fennel I sliced into the salad, is yet to be determined.

After the crunch factor was added, I tossed in a few of my standard salad toppings: corn, chick peas, pickled beets, arugula, and avocado. Then my salads were ready for the fridge. Dressings vary from straight balsamic vinegar to salsa to a scoop of hummus. Easy, fast and tasty when you're rushing out the door. Every so often I'll crumble some cheese onto my salad even though my doctor says consuming cheese on top of that much ruffage is just asking for trouble (sorry, TMI). 

March ingredients used: arugula, avocado, fennel, radish

I know I'm not the only salad lover out there. What are some of your favorite toppings? Any must try dressings?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Pasta with Broccoli Rabe and Squash

I've come across a few recipes lately that combine pasta with ingredients I wouldn't normally consider using. Cannellini beans, squash, breadcrumbs...weird, yet intriguing!

I had half a kabocha squash on hand so naturally I paired it with pasta.

Pasta with Broccoli Rabe and Squash
2 c kabocha squash, cut into bite sized pieces
3 leaves fresh sage
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
3 c broccoli rabe, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 tsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp chili garlic paste
1/4 c pasta water
3 c cooked pasta (I used brown rice penne)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss squash and sage with 1 tbsp oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Spread out onto a baking sheet and roast for 15-20 minutes. Set aside.

Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large pan. Saute onions and garlic for 2-3 minutes on medium heat. Add broccoli rabe and cook until greens start to wilt. Stir in fish sauce, chili paste and squash. 
Reduce heat and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add pasta and pasta water and cook for another 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently. 

March ingredients used: rapini/rabe, onions, garlic, herbs

Overall, it was a surprisingly delicious dish. Not as heavy as I thought it would be! The fish sauce adds a nice salty/briny flavor, but next time I might sub in some anchovies...I do love anchovies with garlic and broccoli rabe!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Artichokes with Sausage and Lemon

There's no denying my love of the following things: artichokes, sausage, and Tyler Florence. Unfortunately, I had a mediocre experience with all three the other night. 

I've had my eye on this recipe for Artichokes with Pork Sausage, Lemon and Sage for awhile now and I figured now would be the time to test it out since artichokes are in season! I made a couple minor modifications that I didn't think would make much of a difference and I just wasn't that impressed by the final product. Don't get me wrong - it wasn't just wasn't as good as I had thought it would be. I ate dinner and all I could think was meh...all that work for this?

Seriously, the only recipes I follow all the way through are in all of Tyler Florence's cookbooks. He has never steered me wrong and the photos/descriptions are always pretty close to the real thing. That is why I was so shocked. Sadface.

Here are the modifications I made. Maybe I'll give this another go with no modifications. Agh. Still can't get over how blah this meal was.

My modifications:

Sausage - I used two turkey brats because I couldn't find a plain pork sausage and I was in a turkey sausage mood. I know pork is pork and it always lends more flavor to a dish than turkey, but I don't know how much saving the pork sausage would have done to the dish. Maybe a spicy pork sausage?

Onion - I didn't have a shallot on hand and I didn't have anything milder than an onion. I minced it up super tiny.

Potato - I had a handful of fingerlings leftover so I thought I'd throw them into the dish. They were pretty small so I figured they would cook fairly fast.

Bake - So the original recipe doesn't call for baking, but I wanted the tots to cook and soak up the flavor.  I browned the sausage instead of cooking it all the way through and placed it in the dish with all the ingredients. Baked it covered for 15-20 minutes and dinner was done.

March ingredients used: artichokes, herbs, lemons, onions, potatoes

This was also my first time cooking with whole artichokes. What an experience. It's a whole lot of effort and dinero for a whole lot of nothing. I have a new appreciation for prepared artichokes. 

I learned how to prepare them by watching a bunch of videos online and stuck with the original recipe for steaming. Exciting.

As those steamed, I enjoyed a glass of the wine I used to steam them.
O hello sauvignon blanc, long time no sip!

Stephen Vincent 2009 Sauvignon Blanc
Fantastic! Crisp, not too acidic and slightly fruity. I thought I tasted a hint of nectarine, but whenever I say that the tasting notes always say melon. Apparently my tastebuds confuse melon with nectarines. I picked this bottle up at Whole Foods mostly because it was the most reasonably priced bottle. What a pleasant surprise. At $12.99, this is definitely going on my list of bargain bottles! 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Red red wine

Sometimes red wine makes me think of UB40. You know, for no particular reason.

I picked up a bottle of red (sometimes Billy Joel runs through my head as well) while running errands and planned on enjoying a glass or two with dinner. I can't really say I enjoyed it.
Chateau de Gaudou 2008 Cahors
Blend: 80% Malbec, 15% Merlot, 5% Tannat
The first sip felt a little slimy. Do you know what I mean when I say slimy? It's like it's too soft on the palate and just didn't have enough tannins. Then, after I let it sit for a little while, it tasted too acidic. It was weird and not for me. I was pretty disappointed since the last bottle of Cahors I had was pretty freaking if only I can remember the name of it!

Now, I can't just leave you guys hanging with a bad wine experience! Here's a wine I tasted at dinner while cousin was in town.

Arrels Grenache 2004
Slightly acidic and pretty tannic at first. I sampled this as part of a 3 wine flight and found that the first wine was too acidic and the third wine was too tannic. This one was perfectly in between! Looking back at all the blends I love, they all use a little bit of Grenache...maybe I was just meant to enjoy this wine :) I'l post more information as I find it.

Have you sampled any must-try reds lately?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Chicken, Brussels Sprouts & Taters

All playing well together.
After Saturday's successful trip to the farmers' market, I created a pretty well balanced dinner with a bunch of ingredients currently in season. Some elements were more successful than others, but I've noted modifications in the recipes below. Hope you enjoy them!

To start things off...
Mixed Greens with Fennel and Roasted Beets
Mixed salad greens
1 beet, roasted and cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 avocado, sliced
1/4 c fennel, shaved

1 1/2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp champagne vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp tarragon

Whisk together all vinaigrette ingredients and toss a small amount with the mixed greens (you don't want to douse them in dressing). Add fennel, beets and avocado on top. Toss before serving.

The main course...

Green Garlic Chicken Roulade
2 chicken breasts, butterflied
1 stalk green garlic
2 1/2 tbsp plain greek yogurt
3 tbsp parmesan cheese, shredded
1 tbsp hot sauce

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Puree green garlic, yogurt, hot sauce and parmesan cheese together. Add a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Spread 1/4 of mixture on each breast half, roll chicken up tightly and secure with two toothpicks. 

Place chicken in a baking dish, cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 15 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165. Let rest for a few minutes and slice before serving.

Caramelized Onion and Brussels Sprout Hash
3/4 lb brussels sprouts, shredded
1/3 c caramelized onions
1 tbsp butter
3 tbsp canadian bacon, finely chopped
1/3 c fennel, shaved
1/4 tsp lemon zest

Heat butter in a saute pan over medium high heat. Brown bacon, then add fennel. Cook for 2 minutes before stirring in brussels sprouts. Cook, stirring frequently, for 3-5 minutes. Add onions and lemon zest, reduce heat to medium low and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper.

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes
1-2 c fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp salt
1/2 tbsp dill
freshly ground pepper

Heat oven to 400. Toss ingredients together and spread out on a baking sheet. Roast for 20-25 minutes.

March ingredients used: avocado, beet, brussels sprouts, fennel, green garlic, lemon, onion, potato

For dessert, Jamie and I snacked on a variety of baked goods we picked up on our walk through Chinatown:
Sweet Melon Cake (texture was a little weird...sort of like a shredded vegetable meets spongy texture) and Mini Custard Bun (not what I thought it was going to be, but not bad...moist cake with a tiny little custard bit inside)
Coconut Tart (Jamie was into this one, but I did not care for the texture. It was a moist spongy cake with a whole lot of shredded coconut) and Lotus Moon Cake (the ratio of filling to cake was weird and there was a salty surprise in the middle).

Personally, I wasn't that into any of the baked goods so I ended up snacking on one of the many oranges I collected that morning. It needed to be done.

Monday, March 14, 2011


It's crab season and what better way to celebrate than deep frying a huge dungeness crab and enjoying the tender and crispy goodness? Sounds like a perfect Friday night to me.

Jamie flew in for the weekend and first thing on our agenda: Salt and Pepper Crab at R&G Lounge.

I was bummed that I forgot my camera, but apparently everyone snaps photos of this photogenic sucker. Thank you, Google images, for making my life easier.

So, the crab is taken apart, dipped in a delightfully light batter, fried and then sprinkled with salt, pepper and scallions. It arrives to your table with the pieces neatly arranged under the top half of the shell that is purely for show. Fantastic presentation.

Once it arrives, and you stop drooling long enough to grab a piece of the piping hot crab, the real work begins. O yes, you still have to pick the crab apart. Inside the crispy fried shell are super tender bits of crab meat...almost completely devoid of grease. Amazing.

Of course this crab picking experience is much messier and a smidge tougher than most since your hands get coated with grease and crispy bits. Totally worth it though, especially when you end up with a succulent crab lollipop. Ahhhh!

Not a big crab eater? Well the above photo is the best I could find to depict said lollipop. Basically we're talking about those very rare moments when you crack open a crab claw or leg and find a big honking piece of crab meat. Heavenly.

As I've mentioned before, dungeness crab meat is slightly different from blue crab meat. Clearly they are easier to pick than blue crabs (more meat for less work) and I've noticed that the meat is slightly reminiscent of the texture of imitation crab meat or king crab legs. Blue crab meat tends to be a little less...dense? I don't know. Crab is just delicious.

To supplement the crab (there were 3 of us and I'd say the crab was a good starter), we also ordered the Three Treasures with Black Bean Sauce (bean curd, eggplant and hot peppers stuffed with shrimp meat in black bean sauce) and Sauteed Pea Shoots. The bean curd in the Three Treasures looked like it was your typical fried tofu, but no. Inside the lightly fried skin was a silken tofu stuffed with a little bit of shrimp. Not really a great texture combo, but I did enjoy the tofu before biting into the shrimp.

I must say the pea shoots might have been one of my favorite dishes of the night. I've really only had wimpy pea shoots where the stems were thin, almost like sprouts. These were exceptionally beefy looking stalks of pea shoots and they were simply sauteed with some garlic and were absolutely delicious. Note: they don't list these on the menu, so definitely ask for green veg options!

Overall, R&G Lounge was a tasty adventure and I'd definitely return to try the Peking Duck (no wimpy flat pancakes here, they use puffy steamed buns) or Crab in Black Bean Sauce (essentially the same experience as the Salt & Pepper Crab, but goopier).

Are you a crab lover? What's your favorite - dungeness, king, blue, snow, soft shell?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Farmers' Market Finds

This past weekend, I wandered around the Ferry Building Farmers' Market instead of my usual local one. As you know, I'm not a big fan of the Ferry Building market because it's overwhelming, crowded, a little pricey and sucks me in for hours. This time around I set a time limit and had a general idea of what I wanted to pick up. In and out in 20 minutes.

Here's a sampling of fruits and veggies you'll see this week!

White Guavas (from Washington State) - I just wanted to open my bag and sniff these suckers all day long. AMAZING. I hope they taste as good as they smell!

Mandarins, Cara Caras, Minneolas and Navel Oranges - Yeah, that's a bag full of citrus and I already ate two in one sitting. I thought I'd give the mandarins and minneolas another chance and again, they were too tart for my taste. I prefer the Cara Cara. The end.

Brussels Sprouts - I've never met a brussels sprout I didn't like. I got about 3/4 lb for $4, plus a few extra thrown in from the farmer dude. You know, just for fun. 

Green Garlic - I saw this on my list of things in season, but I had no idea what it was or what to do about it. It was in abundance at the market and luckily there was a very informative vendor on hand to tell me that it can be used as you would use regular garlic, but the flavor will be milder. He had some samples of a green garlic fromage blanc spread over bread. Delish.

I also grabbed a perfectly ripe avocado...though, it was definitely more expensive than at Safeway. Odd.

Stay tuned to see what I do with this week's ingredients!

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Letter M

Today's post is brought to you by the letter M. M for Mandarin Orange.

I'm really not sure why I'm on this random citrus post kick. I think it's because I've been in the dark for so long about all the different varieties? Eh. Whatevs. I'm into the knowledge sharing. 

From the Wiki page:
Satsuma, a seedless variety, of which there are over 200 cultivars, such as Owari and mikan; the source of most canned mandarins, and popular as a fresh fruit due to its ease of consumption.
I grabbed a couple Satsumas at the farmers' market and these are itty bitty suckers! I snacked on one for breakfast and couldn't even handle how small the segments were! So cute. Flavor, not so cute. Maybe I don't know how to pick mandarins, but mine was super tart. Then again, I've only had canned/jarred mandarins before. These will not be appearing on the blog ever again. The end.

I know some of you are thinking: 'WTF? She traded in running posts for citrus fruits?!'

Do not fret. I'll update you guys soon on the running front. I've just been too busy trying to cross stuff off my training list! Want to know what I've been up to? Check out the Training tab. I've got two big races coming up in April and May, so keep any eye out for those pre-race rambles and recaps. 

Miss any other topics? Hate my random fruit posts (seriously, they will stop soon)? Want more wine? Crave recipes that use certain ingredients? Tell me what you want to hear about:

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Comfort zone.

Everyone has their go-to comfort meal. I have a bunch. Today I share with you a modified version one of my favorites, which also happens to be the fastest.

Brown Rice Penne with Spicy Broccoli Rabe
2 c brown rice pasta, cooked according to package
1/2 bunch broccoli rabe, chopped into 1 inch pieces
2-3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 to 1 tbsp chili garlic paste
pinch salt

Heat a pan over medium heat. Saute garlic in olive oil for 1 minute before adding broccoli rabe. Saute for 2-3 minutes, then add lemon juice and chili garlic paste. Cook for another minute or two until greens are wilted. Add salt to taste. 

Spoon over warm pasta and finish with a few parmesan shavings.

March ingredients used: rapini/rabe, garlic, lemon

One thing I absolutely must share: the rabe I got at the farmers' market is much better than any bunch I've gotten at the grocery store. It's slightly milder, and maybe even a little sweeter than ones I've gotten at the store. In fact, I might even go as far to say that I'd serve this to Jamie, hater of rabe.

The lemon juice was a new and pleasant addition to my comfort dish. It definitely brightens it up a bit by adding just enough acidity. Happy belly in less than 30 minutes.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Salmon with Roasted Fennel & Blood Orange Salsa

Since I wanted to use my blood oranges in salsa or vinaigrette form, I did some browsing on Foodgawker for inspiration. I found out that blood oranges work with fennel and both work with tarragon and soon dinner was born. 
Pan-seared Salmon with Roasted Fennel & Blood Orange Salsa
1 1/2 c fennel, cut into bite sized chunks
olive oil

1 blood orange, peeled and chopped
juice of 1/2 blood orange
1 tbsp champagne vinegar
1/2 tomato chopped
1 tbsp shallot, minced
1/4 tsp tarragon
1/8 tsp cumin

1 can white beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 tsp blood orange zest
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1/4 tsp garlic powder

1 small fillet salmon

Heat oven to 425. 

Prepare salsa by combining all ingredients in a small bowl and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.

Toss fennel with salt, pepper and olive oil. Scatter on a roasting pan or foil and roast for 15-20 minutes until tender. 

As fennel is roasting, combine all ingredients for beans in a small pot and cook on medium low until heated through. 

Heat a pan over medium high heat. Cook salmon skin side down for 3-4 minutes (depending on thickness) before flipping. Cook for another 3 minutes, or until done. 

March ingredients used: fennel, orange

Ok, I'll be honest, I could have done without the salmon. In fact, I was happier as I ate just the beans, fennel and salsa. Had I planned properly, I probably would have tossed some jalapeno into the salsa, but I used what I had lying around. Not my favorite dinner, but I was seriously into the bean/fennel/citrus combo. Expect another experiment with those ingredients soon!

For dessert, a sweet treat from Tartine Bakery.

After our Burn class, we stopped into Tartine and since it was my first time there, I had to buy something! I went with the gorgeous Lemon Creme Tart which was just as yummy as it looks in the pictures.

It was a pricey treat, but it was perfect. The crust was just the right thickness and not too crisp or sweet. The lemon filling had just the right amount of acidity and when paired with the homemade whipped cream (which was not sweet at all), a perfect balance was achieved.
As you can see the tart(lette?) was as big as my hand, so I snacked on half at a time. Happiness.

The one thing I'd change: the massive dollop of whipped cream. I ended up scraping off about half of it because I thought there was too much in one bite. Meh. Not a deal breaker.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Blood Orange

Not a pleasant sounding name for such a gorgeous fruit, is it? Today's citrus adventure (if you haven't figured it out yet): Blood Orange

From the Wiki page:
The blood orange is a variety of orange (Citrus sinensis) with crimson, blood-colored flesh. The fruit is smaller than an average orange; its skin is usually pitted, but can be smooth.
I grabbed a Moro and Sanguinello (moro is pictured above) for cooking and was pretty bummed that I didn't slice into some deep red. 

No matter, it still tasted good enough for my cooking purposes! Blood oranges are great on salads, as vinaigrettes and as desserts (think granitas or I've even seen them in baked goods). I paired mine with shallots, champagne vinegar and tomato for a quick fruity salsa. They also go great with some fresh fennel!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Farmers' Market Success

Rainy Sunday? Not going to keep me from visiting the Fort Mason Farmers' Market! I was worried it wouldn't be open on a wet and gloomy day, but turns out they are open rain or shine! 

I was able to pick up a ton of fruits and veggies for under $20! Here's a snippet of fruits and veggies to be featured later on this week:

Broccoli Rabe/Raipini - We all know this is one of my favorite dark leafy greens and I was so excited to grab a fresh bunch for $1.50. INSANE! These are close to $3 at Whole Foods!

Mixed Salad Greens - HUGE 1lb bag for $5! This will definitely work for lunches this week. 

Fennel and Beets - I've never seen such beautiful bulbs of fennel before...and there were bulbs a plenty! Also, these had fronds that were out of control. It was like I was buying a fennel tree! Smelled amazing. The beets were pretty big and the greens were plentiful too. I don't know if I'll be making use of the beet greens since they looked a little yellow...

Citruscitruscitrus - Just when you thought my citrus postings were over, I picked up a few more Cara Cara Oranges, some Mandarins, and a Sangiunello Blood Orange. I'll probably snack on the cara caras and a mandarin and save the blood orange and a mandarin for cooking purposes. Maybe a salad or salsa is in order??

Cannot wait to work my magic on these goodies! Where do you get your produce? Farmers markets? Produce shops? CSA boxes? Do tell.

Sunday, March 6, 2011


The other day I got home to a surprise package with a note from the cousin:

Hooray for treats! I guess living in the land of Ghirardelli, I tend to forget that there are other fancy chocolatiers out there. From the mini book/map in my box o chocolates:
Jacques Torres Chocolate products are hand crafted with premium ingredients selected by Master Pastry Chef Jacques Torress himself. Every ingredient that goes into a Jacques Torres confection is made from scratch - from the marzipan and the marshmallows to the peanut butter. Each piece is a celebration of chocolate in its purest sense, and never contains preservatives or additives.
Makes it sound super fancy, no? I was too nervous to ruin the delicately designed chocolates, but clearly you can see I had no problem eventually sampling a few :)

How adorable are these?? I've already savored the Got Milk Chocolate (milk chocolate ganache with a kiss of cognac), European Peanut Butter (homemade with fresh roasted peanuts and hazelnuts in milk chocolate), and Grand Cru (fine red wine complimented by rich dark chocolate). All deliciously rich and a great treat at the end of a rough day. 

I think they're worth sampling...maybe not such a great idea to have a box full just hanging out in the apartment though ;)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Orange madness

It continues. Today's juicy experiment: Minneola Tangelo

I first came across this interestingly shaped citrus fruit while walking through Whole Foods. I thought it might have been a freakishly navelly orange, but no. Totally different. From the Sunkist website (again, because they just have better descriptions than Wikipedia, not because I'm a Sunkist nut)
Tangelos - a cross between a grapefruit and a tangerine. They are noted for their juiciness and mild, sweet flavor. Orlandos and Minneolas are popular Tangelo varieties.
So I picked up a Minneola on my way home from this morning's 9-miler. Super easy to peel, color was somewhere between a navel orange and my new favorite cara cara orange
I'm not really into tangerines, so this wasn't my favorite citrus adventure, but I'm absolutely fascinated by the flowery scent this fruit gave off. You know how while you're eating, and immediately after you finish, an orange the fruit and your hands have a very distinct orange smell? Not these. It's like citrus meets jasmine tea. Very interesting...and no, I did not put anything flowery on before eating.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Testing the waters

Since I've run into some overuse injuries lately, I've decided it's about time I started cross training and incorporating more strength workouts into my marathon training plan. 

I've got the biking thing down, but that really only happens on nice weekends, so last weekend I tested out this fun new workout a friend recommended. 
A few of us signed up for a Sunday morning class at Burn's Valencia Street location and we were all pleasantly surprised at the 55 minute long butt kicking session. Burn is basically boot camp meets pilates meets random strength training classes you've taken at your local gym. Throw in a super enthusiastic instructor and a good playlist and that's my kind of class!

We did a ton of squats, some arm work with weights and then we spent some quality time with the pilates springboard (which I soon discovered is more challenging than it looks) before jumping into ab work. Let me just say that I was already feeling jello legged and sore 30 minutes later...and I was crazy enough to bike to class! Needless to say, I popped my bike onto a bus on the way home!

I'm still shocked at how sore my abs were - it hurt to use the salad spinner that night. HA! That being said, I'm going back for more. I love the sweat and jello leg feeling. The hurt that hurts so good. I love. Even if it had me hobbling like a fool the next day at work...

After this extremely successful pilates(ish) experience, I decided to schedule a private pilates reformer class with a coworker that is training to be a pilates instructor. I think part of me thought it would be similar to the Burn class...just lower impact?

Coworker is a great instructor; she's super patient and informative (I tend to ask a lot of questions). I felt the burn as we worked on my triceps, abs and some splits, however, it wasn't the burn that lasts. I walked out of there feeling like I got a solid hour's worth of stretching and I will say that my IT band, hips and hamstrings were feeling significantly looser than when I walked in. However, I didn't feel like I got a workout in. Is that weird?

I think I'm one of those people that needs to huff and puff and sweat buckets. I mean, let's think about yoga - the only kind I'm willing to do (and enjoy) is Bikram...where I sweat a ton! Is it any surprise I preferred Burn over regular pilates? I'll give regular pilates one more shot before totally scratching it off my list since this was my first time and I'm going to chalk it up to getting acclimated.