Sunday, December 13, 2009

Pear Salad with Walnuts and Greens

Last night, we went to see our friend Tom in his latest stage performance: Osacar Wilde's "An Ideal Husband". Prior to the movie, we had our friend Steve over for a casual dinner. I told him to keep his expectations low, since I was just serving the Minestrone and some salad. When Todd and I took a walk in the late morning to get our daily weekend infusion of coffee (hers) and mini blueberry scones (his), we stopped at the corner grocery. It's a little market with a Greek influence and I occasionally go there when in need of a head of lettuce. I noticed yesterday that the pears looked nice, so I picked out one of those as well. Later, when trying to decide on a salad for dinner and wanting to incorporate the pear, I realized I needed some cheese and a few other things. I was about to hop in the car and head over to Whole Paycheck when I decided it was both more efficient and socially responsible to instead walk back to Christo's, the corner store. Here, I picked up some Feta, a French baguette (apparently imported daily from the North End), seltzer, and a custom cut piece of Parmesan wrapped in a piece of wax paper, the price written on it with a Sharpie. I was enamored by the cheese in the wax paper. It seemed so Old World to not have something wrapped up air tight.
In addition to the salad lending itself well to the sustainability of my community, it was also a nice accompaniment to the soup. I think gorgonzola may have been a better choice than the feta since it would pack a little more punch. For the record, I only had a tiny bit of cheese on mine as part of my detox (see last post).

Pear Salad on greens
1 head of butter, red or green lettuce, torn into small pieces
2 handfuls of walnuts, toasted
1-2 pears, sliced
1/8 cup red onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup crumbled feta, gorgonzola or bleu cheese

1/2 cup salad oil (canola)
3 tblspns apple cider
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tspn celery seed
1/2 tspn salt
dash pepper

1. Divide the salad ingredients amongst 4 -6 plates
2. Put the dressing ingredients in a jar with lid and shake till well blended. Pour over salads.

Minestrone Soup

My original plan was to come home from England on Friday, and do the last 'cross race of the season on Saturday. I knew I wouldn't be in the best of shape, after switching time zones and not having had much time to run or ride while there, but figured I'd just go out and have fun with it. Unfortunately, I was in much worse shape than I even anticipated. After having almost no sleep for 6 out of the 8 nights there, getting sick partway in as a result, not being able to exercise, and having a not so great diet, I was totally wrecked by the end. I spent most of yesterday, my first day home, walking around in slow motion, trying to accomplish little things, but too foggy to do so. Probably adding to this, it's the first time it's been really cold this year. When I left, we were embarking on unseasonally high temps at almost 70 and when I got home it was in the 20s. I think this blast of cold added to my body's need to bring things down a notch, so there was no racing for me. Instead, I am going to slowly ramp back up into running and riding, and spend this week having a "casual" detox. My diet last week consisted mostly of dairy, pasta and bread. This week I will focus on vegetables and grains and try to eat as little of the aforementioned as possible.
The second I stepped out of the airport Friday evening and felt the cold wind, I knew I wanted some soup to soothe my soul. I stopped at Whole Foods on my way home to get a few veggies to make some minestrone. I got a mix of things, versus sticking to one season. Upon consulting my Moosewood Daily Specials cookbook and seeing they had a minestrone recipe for summer, autumn, winter and spring, I realized that I would like to stick to seasonal veggies and spices next time. But, for now my standard mix n' match minestrone would do. The trick is to not put too much of any one thing, especially something with a stronger flavor, like broccoli. There are many variations to the veggies I will add (often using green beans which I did not for this one). I could've sworn I had blogged this before, but couldn't find it, so here it is.

1 tblsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, diced or sliced, however you like it
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 small russet potato, diced
2 cups water
4 cups veggie broth
1 tspn oregano
1 small zucchini, sliced and cut in half moons
1/2 cup small pasta, such as orzo or elbows
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 14 oz. can kidney beans
4 or 5 leaves of kale or swiss chard, chopped
1 tblsp red wine vinegar (or red wine)
salt to taste
pepper to taste
1. In soup pan, heat oil on medium heat. Add onion, carrots and garlic. Sautee for 5 minutes.
2. Add tomatoes, broth, water, oregano and potato. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer for about 15 minutes.
3. Add zucchini and pasta. (I sometimes cook the pasta separately, especially if I'm using elbows, and then add it when I'm serving at the end. Otherwise, it gets really soggy in the leftovers.) Simmer for 10 more minutes.
4. Add peas, kale or chard, vinegar, kidney beans, salt and pepper. Simmer for about 10 more minutes. Serve.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Todd's Sweet Tea

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It includes all the components for a perfect weekend. I get four days to cook and eat a lot, and spend time socializing with family and friends who I don't necessarily see a lot. I usually start Thanksgiving day with a running race, and the weekend typically includes some other bike riding and running activity as well. The one sketchy factor is the weather. I can remember being at running races where it was 20 degrees and snowy, and other times where it was 65 and sunny, and everything in between. But, alas, the weather is always unpredictable. This year it was gray and rainy for much of the weekend.
Not only was the weather dreary, but my food contributions for the weekend left much to be desired. We had Thanksgiving dinner up in Maine with Todd's family. I did help with some of the peeling and chopping, but my only addition to the meal was a salad, which was nothing at all exciting. Just the usual greens with cranberries, apples, walnuts and feta with a balsamic dijon vinaigrette. Yawn.
Then, on Sunday we went to the annual Turkey Hoist party started by my friend, Eugene. This year it was hosted by Keith and Michelle at their lovely refurbished home on a lake in Ayer. Lauri, who was visiting from Colorado and needed a little break from family time, accompanied us. According to my last name, I was supposed to bring an appetizer or side dish, but since I thought we'd be late, I instead brought a dessert. This was a bad decision on my part because we got there right on time for dinner, there weren't enough side dishes and my dessert was terrible. I would have totally enjoyed making some fun grain or potato dish, and instead made a slightly healthy pumpkin dessert and didn't enjoy the process, nor the outcome. I still haven't quite gotten over this, but I figure writing about it may help purge my bad feelings of missed cooking/ eating/ sharing opportunity.
Since I emerged from the weekend without a fun recipe to share, you will instead get the iced tea recipe I make for Todd. This is mainly because I am about to leave to London for 8 days, leaving Todd tea-less for much of it, and he may try to make it himself. Todd likes his tea much sweeter than I do. It took me many tries to get just the right tea/sugar/lemon combination to get it just the way he likes it. I've tried using honey and also agave nectar for sweetener, but it seems he likes the cane sugar the best. The pitcher we have makes a four day supply for him, and since I made one last night, he should be out by Saturday. You can check in with him to see if he makes more or opts for a Nantucket Nectars Half and Half from the convenient store up the street...

Sweet Todd's Sweet Tea

10 black tea teabags
2/3 cup sugar
juice from 2 lemons
24 oz boiled water
24 oz cold water

1. Boil water, then let sit in kettle for a few minutes to cool down just a bit.
2. Pour hot water into pitcher over tea bags. Let tea steep for 5 to 10 minutes.
3. Add sugar slowly and stir to help dissolve.
4. Squeeze lemon juice into mixture being careful to not get any seeds (using a lemon squeezer gadget comes in handy here).
5. Add cold water and chill for 8 hours before drinking.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Tempeh and Potato Curry

I have to admit it - yesterday while I was putting together the photo slideshow for my bike club's yearly banquet, I felt some slight pangs of regret and was wishing I had raced a little more this season. As I browsed photo after photo of crazy cyclists jumping barriers, running up muddy hills with their muddy bikes hoisted over their muddy shoulders, and navigating tight corners on a wet, off-camber hill, it made me a bit sad that I didn't get to do that more. The affect cyclocross can have on you is a mix between using crack and giving birth - it's wildly addictive and you quickly forget the severe pain when it's over and want to do it again very soon. (I should probably point out that I've never done crack or given birth, so perhaps a different analogy is in order.)
There were several reasons I didn't do many races this autumn. I was intending right from the start to not let it consume the whole season. Last year, Todd and I spent nearly every Saturday and Sunday at races and we were pretty wiped out by Thanksgiving, so I didn't want to repeat that. Also, this year Todd stopped racing early on, and I must admit, it was certainly much more difficult to get out of bed really early on a weekend to drive an hour and a half to a race on a rainy day all by myself when he was all warm and snuggled under the comforter, still sleeping. At some point, I also got myself all worked up and nervous about it and was a little low on confidence, which squelched my motivation.
I could go on with reasons (a.k.a. excuses), but I won't. The upside is that I really did do some fun things in lieu of races and spent time with some folks I may not have otherwise. Susan and I had a couple of great mountain bike rides at Great Brook. Just last Sunday, Mike and I spontaneously went to a matinee after I chose at the last minute not to race that day. I can't remember the last time I went to the movies during the day. Then I came out to a cleared up sky and took my new single speed out for a spin. I had a few play dates with Sallie. I killed most of one Saturday reading a book, etc. etc.
I only have the opportunity to do 1 or maybe 2 more races, given my trip to England next week. And I'm not going to dwell in the past or let regret root itself inside of me. I am, instead, going to be appreciate the fact that I have so many options and the freedom to do all these wonderful things.
This past weekend was a great example of just that. Saturday was gorgeous and I raced at Shedd Park in Lowell. On Sunday, I had a fantastic run around Mystic Lake under grey and chilly, yet exhilarating skies. In the evening, I went to the banquet where I felt in awe of the size of our club and the great people that are part of it. Tonight, a little tired, I had a mellow evening and cooked this curry dish, perfect for a rainy, cold almost winter day.
This curry sauce comes together so quickly. I will definitely be making it again.

Tempeh and Potato Curry
1 lb small waxy potatoes, no bigger than a small lime, cut in half
2 tspns sea salt

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
scant 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup canned diced tomatoes
3/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups green beans, trimmed, chopped into 1 inch pieces and blanche

8 ounces tempeh, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
a small handful of cilantro, loosely chopped

splash of coconut milk or cream (optional)
1. Using a steamer, salt the potatoes with a teaspoon of the salt and steam the potatoes until tender, 20 to 30 minutes, depending on size
2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet melt the butter in the olive oil over low heat, add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes, until soft
3. Add the cayenne, curry powder, turmeric and cumin seeds. Stir for about 30 seconds then add tomatoes, water, and remaining salt. Let simmer for a few minutes, then remove from heat and puree. You could whirl in a little coconut milk here if you wanted.
4. Put back in the skillet, add the tempeh and let simmer on low. When the potatoes are done, add them along with the green beans. Blend and serve sprinkled with cilantro.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Risi e Bisi

Uh oh. I think I just entered a new phase of addiction. I am working from home today and took a walk up to Quebrada Bakery to get my morning coffee. I got in line, and when I was asked what I wanted, I ordered a MEDIUM coffee. This came out of nowhere. It wasn't pre-meditated. Is this how it happens for other addicts? Upon reflection, it seems my addiction phases have gone something like this:
  1. "Social" coffee drinker: I'd have one here or there, if I was with a friend having a coffee or if I felt super tired at work, or I knew I needed a second wind to be up late.
  2. Every day, aspiring coffee drinker: I got a coffee every day, but couldn't finish a small. There'd always be a 1/4 or 1/3 left in the cup, gone cold. This lasted a couple of years, I think.
  3. Wanting to quit: I decided I didn't like to be an every day coffee drinker, and I should drink green tea instead. I tried that a few times, but never got around to really quitting.
  4. Every day, full small: Most days, I finished my entire small. This has been going on for months.
  5. Medium-sized coffee drinker: Day One. I'm not even sure I'll finish it yet. It just scares me that I even ordered it.
I still don't put sugar in my coffee, so I have that going for me, and I only have one a day. But, maybe this is a sign? If I don't stop now, will I be a three a dayer in another year? Where will it end?

On a lighter note, I bought a new cookbook: Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special. It's all soups, stews and salads - my favorite things to make! This is the first recipe I've made from it. It's very simple, only a few ingredients, similar to the brown rice, greens and cannelini bean dish I make, but this is more risotto-like. It's a good option if you feel like risotto, but don't feel like all the stirring.

Risi e Bisi
1 tblspn butter
1 tblspn extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
8 cups veg broth (the tomato-less No Chicken kind)
1 tspn salt
1 cup raw arborio rice
2 cups baby peas or frozen petit pois
2 tblspns chopped fresh parsley
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt and ground black pepper to taste

1. Warm butter and olive oil in a soup pot until the butter melts. Add the onions and sautee on medium heat for about 10 minutes until golden.
2. Add the stock and salt and bring to a boil. Stir in the rice, lower to a simmer, cover and cook 20 t 25 minutes until rice is tender.
3. Add the peas and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the parsley and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4. Serve immediately and top with remaining cheese.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Three Bean Chili with TVP

My hives and I just recently reached our one year anniversary. I didn't feel much like celebrating. While they are much better than they were a year ago, or even a few months ago, I'm tired of battling itchiness. I've tried many, many things. There's still a lot of evidence pointing to the culprit being something in my house since they started not too long after I've moved here. I've got a suspicion that they've got something to do with mold. So, now, I'm trying to think beyond environmental mold and pay attention to what I eat that would be considered "moldy". Well, it's pretty much everything. Since that is overwhelming, I at least decided to cut out a couple of more obvious sources. One is Quorn products. They are made out of mycoprotein which is a fungi/mushroom. We were eating Quorn about 2-3 times a week, and I read an article about how some people were having a hard time digesting it, so I figured I'd experiment with taking it out of my diet for a bit. I am now trying to find replacements. The Quorn crumbles worked well in several things I made. I'm playing around with TVP (textured vegetable protein) to see how we like it. I made a chili with it recently and thought that came out pretty good.

Three Bean Chili

1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tblspns red wine
2 cups dry TVP
1 tspn oregano
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup chili powder
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 10.75 oz can tomato puree (I think I may have used a 14 oz can)
1 14.5 oz can kidney beans (drained)
1 14.5 oz can pinto beans (drained)
1 14. 5 oz can black beans (drained)
1/4 tspn crushed red pepper
1-2 tspns salt
3 tblsns cider vinegar

1. Sautee onions and garlic in a little red wine and water (use canola oil in place of wine and water if you'd rather)
2. While onions are cooking, reconstitute TVP according to package directions (usually 1:1 ratio TVP to boiling water)
3. After onions are soft, mix in oregano, bay leaves, TVP, chili powder, tomatoes, tomato puree and beans.
4. Simmer uncovered for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally
5. Add red pepper flakes, salt and vinegar to taste. Cook 15 more minutes.
6. Serve over rice, or on it's own.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Quinoa Spinach Cakes

As if making up for the dreary Saturday we had yesterday, Mother Nature bestowed upon us a most spectacular autumn day today. It was one of those days where the light was amazing and everything looked like it should be on a New England postcard. I spent the day at Harold Parker State Forest in Andover for the Wicked Ride of the East, a mountain bike ride organized by NEMBA. There were so many "postcards" all around us. The light was shimmering on the many ponds we passed. The vibrant colors from the trees reflected off the water. There were carpets of bright yellow from the fallen leaves. I was thankful for this, not only because I appreciate the beauty we can see right outside our doors, but because it offered me moments of respite from the CRAPTASTIC ride I was having. It was one of the worst days I've had on a bike in recent memory. Actually, I should be correct in saying that it was one of the worst days "not on a bike" because I was rarely on my bike. I was mostly pushing it over slippery things, and riding a few feet every so often.
I had very little idea what I was getting myself into when we started out on the pink trail (advanced) vs. the white trail (beginner). It was only after riding the first 3 miles (which felt like 23 miles) that I asked, "How long is this route anyway?" The answer: 20 miles. Now, in general terms, this really isn't very long. But when the gazzilion little rocks and roots covering the trail have been rained on the day before, this lovely little scenic trail felt more like an obstacle course covered in ice. The more I slipped on things, the more I lost my confidence, the more I got off my bike, and couldn't get into a rhythm, and I continued to lose confidence leaving me unable to ride things that would normally be easy. I should add that in all this, there were a lot of people sharing this trail with me, meaning as I was trying my best to navigate, a group of faster riding guys would come up behind me, so I'd have to pull over and let them pass. It was frustrating and not very fun. I tried my hardest to focus on the positive (the scenery, and sharing the day with Todd). I was ready to sell my bike by the end of the ride. I've since decided against that, but I'm still very discouraged and thinking about ways to improve my technical skills on a mountain bike, so I can enjoy tough conditions.
We ended the afternoon by hanging out with some friends, and I tried something new for dinner. Nobody got physically hurt, and all is well here in Arlington. These are a good basic recipe, but I feel it needs a little something to give it some zing. I had a salad with lots of goat cheese that was a nice accompaniment, but I'm wondering about adding goat cheese right into the patties. The recipe had it served with a yogurt sauce (plain yogurt, lemon juice and dill) but I don't think that added much to the flavor.

Quinoa Spinach Cakes

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1 1/2 tblspns red onion, minced
1 tspn garlic, minced
2/3 carrot, grated
2/3 summer squash, grated
1/2 10 oz bag frozen spinach, defrosted, water squeezed out
zest of one large lemon
4 tblspns unbleached flour
1 tspn baking powder
1 egg
2 tspns salt
1/2 tspn freshly ground pepper

1. Cook quinoa (rinse quinoa, then add water, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes until water is absorbed.) Let cool.
2. Preheat oven to 425. In a bowl, combine all ingredients. Oil a baking sheet. Divide the mixture into 8 balls and flatten into patties (about 1/2 inch to 3/4 of an inch thick) onto the baking sheet. Cook for about 20 minutes, flipping after 10 minutes, until light brown and crispy.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Black Bean Soup

It recently occurred to me it was weird that with all the soup making I do, I never make black bean soup. I may have tried it before, but not in my recent memory. So, I decided to make some the other night, and thought, paired with spinach and mushroom quesadillas, it made for a nice weeknight meal. The soup was pretty good, and it's pretty quick to pull together. But, the quesadillas were bland. I didn't spice the veggies when I sauteed them, and I bought some already shredded cheese to save time. I should've just shredded my own cheese. It would've had a lot more flavor.
I looked at a few recipes and combined them, so hopefully this is accurate. I'm not sure I remember exactly what I did. This would be a good base for a black bean chili, just add more veggies to make chunkier, and spices to add more kick.

Black Bean Soup

1 onion, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1/2 bell pepper, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 1/2 cups veggie broth
2 15 oz cans black beans, undrained
1/2 tspn salt
1 tspn cumin
1 tspn chili powder
dash of cayenne
lemon juice from 1/2 lemon
1 tspn cider vinegar
1 1/2 tbspn arrowroot (or cornstarch)

1. Combine the first 5 ingredients in a soup pot. Bring to a simmer and simmer for about 10 minutes.
2. Add 1/2 can beans and spices. Simmer for 5 more minutes.
3. Puree soup (this is where my coveted immersion blender comes in handy)
4. Add the rest of the beans to the soup.
5. If using cornstarch, mix it with water, then add to soup. If using arrowroot, add directly to soup. Also add lemon and vinegar. Heat and stir til the soup thickens. Serve.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Creamy Tomato Soup

Help! Does anyone have any ideas what to do with the rest of the can of tomato paste when every recipe only calls for 1 or 2 tablespoons??!

Life has been super busy, which is why it's been a month and a half since I've posted anything. I've had lots of things I've wanted to write about, and have a couple of unfinished posts hanging around, but just don't have a lot of mental energy at the moment. I have finally reached my "light at the end of the tunnel" - the time in which things should become more manageable at work. I have been looking forward to this for a while. I can focus a little more on cyclocross racing and other things that I'd like to give my attention to, like reading, writing and cooking (not arithmetic, that's for sure).
This is probably my favorite time of year for cooking, so I'm happy to get back into it. I made chili a couple of weeks ago which was the perfect thing to have after a very muddy 'cross race. This weekend, Todd requested tomato soup. He rarely requests anything specific, so when he does, I'm on it! My mom and I had tried a tomato soup recipe in August when tomatoes were in season. It called for roasting the tomatoes. It was really quite bland and not something I'd make again. So this time, I just used canned tomatoes, and found a recipe to make on the stovetop. I thought it was quite good, and I used the cream like it called for since I was in the mood for something a little decadent, but I don't think it needs the cream. We had the soup with some grilled cheese sandwiches made from sourdough bread, Cabot cheddar and a little dijon mustard. It made for some nice casual comfort food on a chilly evening.

Creamy Tomato Soup
2 tblsp butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small carrot, finely diced
2 tblsp flour
2 lb fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped or 1 28 oz can crushed or diced tomatoes with juices
2 cups veggie broth
1 tblsp tomato paste
1 tblsp fresh basil or 1/2 tspn dried
2 tspns fresh thyme or 1/2 tspn dried
1 bay leaf
1 cup light cream or milk
salt and pepper

1. In a large non-reactive pan melt the butter. Sautee the onion and carrot for 3-5 minutes.
2. Add flour and stir constantly for 1-2 minutes without allowing to color.
3. Add tomatoes with juices, broth, tomato paste, basil, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer for 15 minutes.
4. Blend in batches or use a super cool immersion blender to puree.
5. Return to pan and add cream/milk on low heat stirring frequently until warmed up.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Beet and Cheese Tart

The end of summer is upon us, and after what was such a short summer season here, weather-wise. No, it's not officially the autumnal equinox yet, but Labor Day weekend is over - the symbolic end of summer. The kids have gone back to school, it's no longer appropriate to wear white shoes, and the air has turned crisp.
For the long weekend, pretty much everyone I knew was in Vermont, either for the Green Mountain Stage Race or for a weekend of mountain biking at Kingdom Trails. Todd and I opted to stay home having just been away and spent money on a vacation to Oregon. Our friends, Howie and Elizabeth, also decided to remain in Massachusetts and invited us to their home in Merrimacport for an overnight stay. They just moved there last year to a gorgeous and cozy home right across from the river. I have often joked to them that if they ever need someone to house-sit that I'd love to come do it since it would feel like a vacation. When they invited us to stay over they said we would get the B&B treatment, and they took this very seriously!
We came up Saturday afternoon and started things off by getting drinks and walking over to a dock to chill riverside while the sun was getting ready to set. After that, we were treated to a most amazing dinner of grilled flank steak (? I really don't know my meats) cooked to perfection by Howie; sauteed whole small carrots; grilled asparagus and potatoes; and (drum roll please) a most delectable beet tart that was clearly not something one could just whip together at a moments notice. This was a labor of love. Dinner was followed by truffle, tea, and conversation on the porch.
In the morning we were greeted in the kitchen and offered several different breakfast options. Since I have yogurt and granola pretty much every morning of my life, this was very exciting. I opted for variety with waffles, fruit, omelet and oatmeal. Then, Eugene joined us and we headed out for a guided tour of the area by bike. We did a loop around the lake, then stopped back at the house for lunch. After refueling, we went back out towards Newburyport and made a few stops. One at a gallery where H&E had some of their artwork showing, and one at the gelato shop where I had the most delicious nutella flavored gelato. Have you noticed the eat, ride, eat, ride pattern? I work well on the "treat system" - ride and you will be rewarded with something tasty. We actually scoffed down some of the previous evenings leftovers when we finished!
There are so many things I admire about Elizabeth (no offense to Howie because he's pretty cool in his own right). She has many talents as an artist, she is graceful, she is actively and sincerely supportive of her friends' interests and endeavors, and she has a most calming presence, just to name a few. But, my favorite thing about her is her daily quest for beauty. She does this in regards to the simple and the more grand. It makes every experience with her all the more special. Whether she is choosing a path on which to take our bikes, or putting a bowl of fruit together, she does so with the most aesthetically appealing option in mind. I'm guessing this is what makes her such a good artist. I thoroughly enjoy seeing things through her lens.
Even at our B&B stay, she took time to include little details that added to the whole experience. She put beautiful fresh flowers in our room, picked from her yard (I know my flowers about as well as I know my meats); she put an "M" (for Michele) made from thyme branches on top; and when we left, she assembled a bunch of flowers to take home wrapped in newspaper and a gold tie.
Like I said, it's always a special experience for me when I spend time with Elizabeth, but, unfortunately it does not happen enough. So, now, when alone and looking to make certain choices, I find myself wondering, what would Elizabeth do? Which path would she take? Perhaps this will allow me to incorporate a little more beauty into my life.

Elizabeth's Beet Tart

Crust (makes enough dough for 2 crusts)
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
3 tblspns sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 large egg yolks
1/4 cup ice water

1. In a food processor, mix flour and sugar til just combined. Add butter and process til it resembles course meal, about 10 seconds.
2. Lightly beat eggs yolk and water. With the processor running add yolk mixture in a steady stream until dough holds together. Do not process more than 30 seconds.
3. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide into two pieces. Put each on a piece of plastic wrap. Flatten and shape into discs. Wrap and put into refrigerator at least one hour or freeze for up to a month.

Tart filling
all purpose flour for dusting
1 1/2 disks of the flour recipe from above
1 1/2 lbs of red and golden beets (without greens)
2 tblspns extra virgin olive oil
coarse salt
1 lb goat cheese, softened to room temperature
4 oz ricotta cheese (scant 1/2 cup)
2 tspns finely chopped fresh thyme, plus about 1 tspn whole leaves
freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated fontina cheese

1. Preheat oven to 375. On a lightly floured surface place 1 1/2 disks of the dough next to each other. Roll out to 1/8 inch thick. Press firmly into a 9X13 rimmed baking sheet, leaving a 1 inch over hang on all sides. Press edges of dough under to create a double thickness; press firmly against the pan. Prick dough with a fork. Refridgerate for 30 minutes.
2. Line shell with parchment or foil; fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, remove weights and parchment. Let shell cool completely. Leave oven on.
3. Trim all but 1/2 inch of stems from beets and rinse thoroughly. Toss with oil and 1 tspn salt. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and cover tight with foil. Roast until beets are tender 45-60 minutes. When cool enough to handle, peel beets with a paring knife and cut into thin rounds.
4. Raise oven temperature to 425. Stir together the goat cheese, ricotta and thyme until well blended. Season with pepper. Spread mixture over tart shell filling all the way to the edges.
5. Arrange beets over cheese mixture, overlapping slices slightly and alternating colors. Lightly season with salt. Sprinkle fontina and thyme leaves over the top. Lightly drizzle with oil and then season with salt and pepper. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Serve warm.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Quinoa Tabbouleh

Today was my first day back at work after two weeks vacation. It was difficult getting back on a structured schedule. I was really enjoying getting up whenever I wanted and then doing whatever I wanted for the whole day. I have no problem occupying myself for hours upon hours of time. Of course, the "doing whatever I want" part typically requires some money, even if it is just buying a double shot soy latte to sip while I sit in the sun in Davis Square reading my book, or getting some veggies at the farmers market to try some new recipes. There are also the larger expenses, like paying rent to have a place to put my bed so I can sleep till whenever I want, or purchasing plane tickets to have an adventure in Oregon. Because of this, I'm not anticipating being deliberately unemployed at any time in my near future, but I have begun daydreaming of ways to have something other than a five day work week and be financially stable.

More on that at another time. Right now I'm still trying to relish in all the little spontaneous things I was able to do during my unstructured time. One day, it was disgustingly hot and humid. I was too hot to ride my bike or run, and there's not really any good place close by to go for a swim. So, I decided for an urban method of cooling off: going to the movie theatre. I'm sure this used to be much more popular before central air conditioning was commonplace, but since we don't have this modern creature comfort, and I don't get to the movies enough, it was a good excuse to do just that.

I saw Jules and Julia. It's about an almost 30 woman, feeling a little lost and like her career is meaningless, so she takes on a self-imposed challenge to cook all 500 recipes in Julia Child's cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking over the span of a year, and to keep a blog recording her experiences. At the same time, it tells the story of how Julia Child got her start in cooking. It was a cute movie. It made me cry a lot, but it wasn't sad. I just seem to cry at almost anything these days. It did resonate with me in several ways (e.g. cooking blog) and I had just booked a trip to Paris the day before so it was fun watching the scenes of Julia living in the City of Lights.

It made me wonder when exactly I started to enjoy cooking, and what it is I like about it. There was no particular turning point. It's not something I had a love or talent for at a young age, and I'm still not a very good cook. But I do enjoy it. I like chopping - I find it relaxing. I like the creative aspect, rummaging around in the cupboards and fridge to find some things to toss together for a tasty meal. Mostly, I like being healthy, and doing this by eating fresh unprocessed foods as much as possible.

I've come a long way from my start of being a vegetarian over 20 years ago. In the beginning, I really had no idea what I was doing and was pretty much just a carbivore and even the carbs I ate weren't good choices. I didn't look or feel very healthy. I remember one meal I used to make a lot: chopped up potatoes, cooked in the microwave, white minute rice, and iceberg lettuce salad, all with fat free ranch dressing on it. Ewwwwwww. This was in the no fat craze days. Eventually I started realizing that my blood sugar was all whacked out and this wasn't the best way to eat. Then, I got some cookbooks and would follow everything step by step, afraid to veer from the directions. Over time, I learned better what went with what, figured out some good sources of protein, started experimenting, and tried to eliminate things like high fructose corn syrup from my diet.

Anyway, here I am today eating whole grains and beans pretty much every day and still learning a lot. That's another thing I enjoy- no matter how much you cook, there's always more foods and ways of cooking to explore. Here's a new quinoa recipe I made the other day. It's got adzuki beans in it, which I like to eat because they're even higher in iron than black beans and chickpeas (my other favorites). This recipe is simple and light, good for a summer's day. I think you could add some feta for a heartier type salad.

Quinoa Tabbouleh
1 cup quinoa, rinsed in a sieve
2 cups water
2 medium ripe yellow tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup minced red onion
1 can adzuki beans, drained and rinsed
1 bunch parsley chopped (leaves only)
3 tblsp chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup canola oil
2 tblspns fresh lemon juice
fresh ground pepper

1. Boil the water in a medium saucepan. Add quinoa and some salt, cover reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until all water is absorbed.
2. Place the cooked quinoa in a large bowl to cool. Add tomatoes, onions, beans, parsley and cilantro.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, some salt, pepper, and lemon juice combine with salad. Chill for an hour then serve.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Summer sautee with Israeli Couscous

I'm just not a morning person. Maybe that's why it feels to me like morning people outnumber non-morning people by at least 2:1. They seem to be everywhere, all perky and showing up to 9:00 meetings having already accomplished several other things. It's not that I want to sleep into late morning or early afternoon and waste half the day away. Getting up at 7:00-7:30 is fine by me. I just don't want to be required to have to actually DO anything taxing at that hour. I wish I could be one of these people who gets up at 5:00, leaps out of bed and onto their bike or into their running sneakers and gets their workout done for the day. But, I'm just not. Every once in a while, I get up and run or ride when I really want to get a workout in and know I can't do it in the evening, but there is no leaping involved. It takes everything I have to drag myself out of bed after pressing "snooze" a couple of times. When I was swimming regularly a couple of times a week, I did that in the morning, mostly because it was too much of a pain to deal with wet chlorinated hair in the evenings. In order to get that started, I actually had to plan to meet a friend who I didn't know very well at the time, so didn't want to not show and have her be upset with me.

Also, from what I gather, in order to be a morning person, one has to go to bed earlier. It seems many people I know are actually going to bed at the same time Todd and I are sitting down to dinner at 10:00. I know this is bad for me and probably contributes to the fact that I often don't sleep well and rarely feel rested when I get up in the morning. But, it's really hard to break the cycle, especially when you live with another non-morning person, and even more so when they are unemployed and have no structured schedule to abide by. I could try to get to work earlier, so I could leave earlier, get my workout done earlier, so I could eat earlier and get to bed. But the fact is, I'm just more alert and productive in the evenings. I can literally feel myself perk up at about 4:00 in the afternoon at my desk, and that's about when I'm really ready to get going. I also feel a lot better running or riding in the evenings vs. doing it in the morning since I'm not feeling very alert at that point.

Summer has really finally arrived here in the northeast and it's darn hot. Since I've been trying to turn the stove on as little as possible and keep dinners simple, you'd think that would move our dinner time back a little, but it really hasn't. This is one dish I made last week that I really liked.

Summer Sautee with Israeli Couscous
1 cup Israeli couscous
1 tspn and 1 tblsn olive oil
1 1/4 cups water
1 tspn salt
1 tspn oregano
1 small onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small summer squash, sliced
1 small zucchini, sliced
1 cup frozen peas, rinsed
1/4 cup more fresh basil chopped
1 small bunch fresh spinach chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
goat cheese to taste
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat the tspn of oil in a small saucepan. Add couscous and toast until light brown, about 5 minutes. Be sure to stir often. Add water, salt and oregano. Bring to a boil, then cover and turn down to a simmer. It takes about 10-12 minutes to cook.
2. In sautee pan, heat the tblsn of oil. Add onion and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add squash and zucchini. Cook for about 10 minutes, then add peas. After a couple of minutes add spinach, tomato, and basil. Cook for a few more minutes then turn off heat and sprinkle goat cheese, salt and pepper. Put couscous in bowls and pour veggie sautee over it to serve.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Succulent Summer Squash Sautee

Dear Driver,

When you come upon me on the road, you do not need to pull all the way over the yellow line completely into the other lane into on-coming traffic to avoid me. Not moving over at all is also not a good option. When I can almost feel your car door on my thigh (or your horse trailer as another example), this is unnerving. Moving over just a couple of feet is plenty of room. Giving me the finger, throwing something or yelling at me when I am as far over to the right as I can possibly be, is totally unproductive, upsetting and unsafe. I am not another cyclist you may have been aggravated by in the past for doing something they shouldn't have. And, if you have anger issues and/or an ego which leads you to believe I do not have a right to be on the road, that is not my problem. Find another way to release your anger (like exercise), and/or get over yourself. It's really scary to be out there sometimes amongst ornery drivers in very large vehicles.

I am not saying that every cyclist is on their best behavior out there. I know they're not. Many ride side by side on roads that are not wide enough or quiet enough to be doing so. Some ride over in the middle of the lane, for no apparent reason. Some may run a stop sign or a stop light into traffic causing cars to have to slow when they shouldn't need to. But, I do believe these are the exceptions. There are a lot of us out there who are just following the rules and being safe as we try to: stay fit; do something we are passionate about; train so we can compete; see the places we live out in the open instead of out a car window; be social and have fun. We are not trying to piss you off. Is it really that bad if you have to slow down a little bit? I urge all of you who have ever uttered an angry word or had a negative thought towards a cyclist to get out there on a bike. At the very least, you may put yourself in our shoes for a bit, and have some compassion. Or, you never know, you may actually like it, catch the fever, and become one of us.

Terrifyingly yours,

In the couple of trips I have taken this summer, I have expected to encounter drivers who are more cyclist friendly. Not the case. In Vermont over Memorial Day weekend, I was appalled by drivers (and I definitely notice a theme of men in big pick-up trucks) yelling, giving the finger, and being generally obnoxious gunning their engines to get by us. On the Cape this past week people seemed obliging when it came to stopping for cyclists on the bike path, but didn't seem to know what to do when approaching us on the road. They were either veering way too far into the other lane or not giving us any room at all.

I'm not really sure what the underlying issue is, but I think it's many. Some people simply don't understand the rules of the road and don't know what to do when they happen upon a cyclist. Others are just generally aggressive drivers and think anything that slows them down is an abomination that should be dealt with through rage or whatever actions they see fit. And some people just have it out for cyclists. My own personal explanation is some of these folks just feel guilty because they know they should be out exercising, but aren't, so they subconsciously take it out on us. That may sound crazy, but these are the things that go through my head when I'm out on the bike for hours by myself, trying to contemplate the behaviors I witness.

Anyhow, enough ranting. We had a few decent rides down the Cape. One was a 40ish mile loop from the house in Chatham, that wasn't fairly flat and not very scenic. Another was a mellow 30 mile ride out to Nickerson Park by way of bike path, and my favorite: a mountain bike ride at the Trail of Tears in Barnstable. I can't wait to get back there again.

We followed up our rides by some great meals. Kathy and I had brought down the wares of our farm shares and we were able to toss the ingredients together to create tasty dishes. This one was my favorite.

Summer Squash Sautee over Pasta
8 oz fusilli pasta
1 tblsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 large or 2 smallish zucchini, sliced
1 small to medium summer squash
2-3 plum tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped fine
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped fine (I have also used some dried parsley and more basil when I didn't have fresh parsley on hand)
some hot red pepper flakes,
6 0r 8 sundried tomato strips, chopped
1/8 cup or more goat cheese
salt to taste
2-3 tblsp toasted pine nuts (optional, but really add some great flavor)

1. Cook pasta. When done, toss with olive oil and a little sea salt.
2. Heat olive oil in large sautee pan over medium heat. Cook onion and garlic and hot red pepper flakes (if using) for a few minutes. Add summer squash and zucchini. Cook 10-15 minutes, or until tender.
3. Add tomatoes, basil, parsley, salt and sundried tomato pesto (if using).
4. Turn off heat and sprinkle with goat cheese and pine nuts. Spoon onto bowl of pasta and serve.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Thai Crunchy Veggie and Soba Noodle Salad

In Anne of Green Gables, the main character, Anne, considers those who she believes will be her lifelong friends to be "kindred spirits". To elaborate for my own personal definition of this term, those who I consider to be my kindred spirits are friends whom I feel a deeper connection with. By this, I mean friends who: I can talk to very easily about a myriad of things; be goofy and laugh a lot with; grow to understand my flaws, and I understand theirs; and, inspire me to be a better person. Often their very presence gives me a little lift, and I may even feel slightly elated after having spent time with them. They are the friendship equivalent of "soul mates" . While I have many longtime friends who I hope will be in my life for the long haul, there are only a few I would consider kindred spirits.

When I meet potential new friends, it's not uncommon to feel a special connection right away. I may walk away from the initial few meetings wanting more - wanting to find out more about this person, and start unpeeling the layers to find out more about who they are and what they are all about. Sometimes these acquaintances turn into long lasting friendships, and sometimes they do not.

As a sort of fun analogy, relationships with food can follow a similar pattern. I may discover a new grain or vegetable, get really excited about it and figure out new ways to use it, and spend a lot of time trying to "get to know it". Some of these things may end up in my permanent repertoire, while others slip by the wayside and I while I like it, it slips from the forefront of my mind.

Right now, I am in the beginning stages of a food relationship with kohlrabi. In the farm share that was donated to me for a couple of weeks, I got some of these odd looking turnip-type bulbs. I found they actually taste like broccoli stalks, and since this is my favorite part of broccoli, I was delighted. So far I've only eaten them raw in salads, but I am told they taste good sauteed. I've eaten them a bunch in the last week, and because I don't think they're that easy to find in the grocery store, I am guessing they will end up as a more of a "seasonal friend" and not one that I spend consistent time with year-round, but we shall see.

Kohlrabi is great just chopped up with some greens for a simple salad, and it worked really well in this noodle dish. I used a bottled Thai peanut sauce, but I do need to get around to making my own one of these days. I usually use the Whole Foods brand, but for this I used the House of Tsang brand. It has a spicier kick to it. Also, I've tried this with both soba noodles and udon noodles and liked the soba noodles best. Other veggies that would work well would be jicama, scallions, and maybe some cucumber.

Thai Crunchy Veggie and Noodle Salad
1 package of soba noodles
2 cups of a mix of red pepper, carrot and kohlrabi, cut into matchstick size pieces
1/2 cup frozen peas, rinsed in hot water
1/4-1/2 cup of Thai Peanut sauce

1. Cook noodles, and when finished rinse under cold water
2. Mix chopped up veggies, noodles, peas and peanut sauce. It can be served right away, but is best when chilled for at least a couple of hours.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Simple Zucchini Pasta Dish

As it turned out, another side benefit to the aforementioned lousy bout of weather, besides my running more, was that I read more than I probably would've otherwise. I've had a good run of books and have really enjoyed the last five books I've read.
First, was Richard Russo's Bridge of Sighs. I've enjoyed his descriptive style in the past and also his ability to develop characters. This book didn't disappoint. There's typically not a lot of action in his books. They usually take place in some sleepy has-been small town and take a look into the lives of some of the eccentric characters that live there.
Second was a book I picked up in the airport in London, The Gargoyle. The cover looked a bit foreboding - a Gothic style with black edges to the pages. The description made it sound like a fantasy novel and while there was definitely an element of the unreal, it was mostly a love story packaged in a creative tale. It reminded me of The Time Traveler's Wife, which you had to suspend judgment of what's believable to get to appreciate a very touching story of a couple very much in love.
Next was Sarah's Key. This was historical fiction and took place during the Holocaust. It took place in France and relayed the story of a lesser known incident regarding Jews in France in 1942. It is very sad, but well done. There are 2 parallel stories - one current day, and one from 1942. There were many subtle connections throughout between both stories.
Then, for a change of pace, I read a graphic novel which was given to me as a birthday gift. It told the story of a relationship through the eyes of objects. It was set up like an auction guide, and each item revealed something about this relationship. It was very clever and I was surprised at my ability to gain a sense of some of the intimate moments and dynamics of this relationship from the descriptions of these objects. There were some notes and letters dispersed throughout, so that helped a lot.
Then, I pulled out an early Ann Patchett book, The Patron Saint of Liars. I've had it on my bookshelf for years. I really enjoyed her other books Bel Canto and The Magician's Assistant, and again, I was not disappointed. I enjoy her writing as well. This book took place in a home for young pregnant women who were sent away to have their babies and give them up for adoption.
Now, I'm ready for a new book and think it's time for some non-fiction. I haven't had much time to read for the last week and don't anticipate much time this week either, but have to set myself up for vacation, which is just five days away...
In the meantime, I'm trying to utilize the vegetables from my donated farm share. My friends, Wayne and Jean are away and are letting me take their veggies for 2 weeks! I've got a bunch of zucchini and I was tired tonight, so didn't feel like making anything too involved. The recipe I looked at had you boiling the zucchini, which I think is a bad idea. I think it would disintegrate. I read a little about salting zucchini to drain it a bit before cooking and decided to try it. I think it worked well, but don't know how different it would have turned out otherwise. It did seem firmer than times I have cooked zucchini in the past. I added beans to the original recipe and didn't think of it until after, but some lemon would probably be a nice addition as well.

Simple Zucchini Pasta
1/2 tspn (or more) hot chili flakes
1 tblspn olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tspn plus 1/2 tspn salt
3 cups of sliced zucchini
5 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz of bowties
1/2 can (or more) cannelini (white kidney) beans
1/2 cup of grated parmesean cheese

1. Put the sliced zucchini in a colander over a plate or in the sink and sprinkle with salt. Toss it so it's evenly coated. Let it sit for 45 minutes.
2. Put the pasta on to cook. Then, heat the oil over medium heat. Add garlic and hot pepper flakes. Let it cook for a couple of minutes, swirling it around in the pan so the oil gets flavored.
3. Add the zucchini. Cook for about 10 minutes or until tender, but not mushy. Add parsley and beans. Cook for 5 more minutes, until beans heated through.
4. Turn off heat and add grated cheese. Add cooked pasta to pan, mix up and add some salt to taste.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Mom's Potato Salad

Wow. It's been a long time since I've posted anything. I'm not sure why, really. Part of the reason is that work has been busy. But I think the dreary weather has been making me feel a little uninspired in the kitchen. Summer seems to have finally arrived though and we've had some really nice days over the last couple of weeks.
During the painfully long spring we had, I found myself getting back into running. Not that I ever totally gave it up, but I had cut back to try to do some more cycling. Then I got an injury after running the Austin half marathon in February. I couldn't run for 3 months. I think it was an IT band injury that I got as a result of running strangely during the race due to some blisters I had on the balls of my feet. I had a great race though. Three months was the longest I've ever gone without running since I started to run over 15 years ago.
So, thankfully I can run again. Between the rainy weather and long hours in work, I find running easier to accomplish than riding. I can get in a good workout in a shorter amount of time, and I can do it in the dark when I get home late. There's also so much less gear for it. Running is pretty simple in that regard: sneakers and some clothes, that's all you need. I've also been trail running again which I really enjoy. I find running on trails mentally engaging and easier on my body than running on concrete.
Anyway, since cookout season has finally arrived, I decided it was time to make some potato salad. I had bought some of those little potatoes that come in red, white and blue, thinking that would be a fun dish for 4th of July. I searched around for an interesting recipe, but then ended up going with a classic - my mom's potato salad. I don't like eggs and all kinds of goop in my potato salad. This one does have mayo, but it's still on the lighter side as far as potato salads go.

Mom's Potato Salad
2-3 lbs of potatoes, chopped into large-ish bite size chunks. The little red potatoes work well, but russet or yukon gold would work fine. You just need to peel those.
1 rib of celery chopped small
4 or 5 scallions chopped finely (more if you like onion. You could also use red onion)
1/4 cup mayo
1 tblspn cider vinegar
1 tspn celery seed
salt and pepper

1. Boil potatoes till tender, but don't let them get too soft or they'll fall apart when you're mixing everything. Drain and let cool.
2. Put celery and onion in bowl.
3. Mix mayo, vinegar and celery seed.
4. Put potatoes in bowl with veggies. Pour dressing on top, and add some salt and pepper. Mix and top with some paprika.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sesame Bok Choy and Cabbage

I know it's silly to complain about the weather since we have no control over it, but I think we here in Massachusetts (all of New England?) are allowed to be a bit whiny. In all of June, I think we have had 2 sunny days. The clouds, the gray and the rain are getting old. Real old. Our summer season is so short as it is, to take this much of it away from us is just plain mean. I know it's only been officially summer since yesterday, but the forecast for the entire week ahead is rain. No end in sight. My bed sheets and towels feel clammy and gross. I feel gross. My energy is lower and I find myself wanting to eat lots of carbs - like the large quantity of pizza I ate for dinner tonight - and lay around reading.

Speaking of dinner, I had a most eclectic combination on my pizza this evening. We went to Za, which is in our neighborhood, and they do try to use local and seasonal ingredients. Tonight had two interesting chalkboard specials, and I ended up getting to sample both of them because of an error in the kitchen - they gave me a free pizza! On one was: strawberries, goat cheese, walnuts, caramelized onions and basil. On the other: asparagus, cheddar, Parmesan, rhubarb and caramelized onions. Neither had red sauce. It's not often you get to have strawberries on your pizza, so it was fun as well as tasty. I would definitely have it again, but I think my favorite was the asparagus combo.

At first I was looking at the bright side of the non-summery weather and taking advantage of still being able to turn the oven on. But, I've moved on from that, and I'm moving towards seasonal dishes. For those of you who belong to CSAs, this recipe will come in handy as you are probably getting some bok choy in your share. My friend, Jean, passed this one onto me. It's simple and few ingredients, but a very tasty, quick meal. I served it over brown rice on her suggestion, and I think this is the way to go. I'm not sure white rice would complement it as well. I also added mushrooms to Jean's recipe and thought it worked well.

Sesame Bok Choy and Cabbage

1/2 lb bok choy, sliced
1/4-1/3 head cabbage, chopped
1 c. sliced white mushrooms
2 tblsp canola oil
1 tspn sesame oil
3 cloves garlic
Bragg's liquid aminos to taste (optional)
2 tblsp toasted sesame seeds for garnish

1. In a skillet or wok, heat the canola oil over medium high heat. Add the garlic, mushrooms and cabbage and saute for 5 minutes.
2. Add bok choy, saute another 5 minutes.
3. Turn off heat. Drizzle with olive oil and if you want a little saltier flavor add some Bragg's. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve over rice.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Black Bean Burgers

I'm not sure what's more remarkable about tonight's dinner - that I made homemade veggie burgers for the first time in over 20 years of being vegetarian or that Todd and I ate dinner at 7:30. Since the weather is cloudy (yet again- this is 3 weeks in a row of rainy weekdays) and my Tuesday night group ride was canceled, I decided to just come home and get some things done. My original back-up plan was to go to yoga, and while I can always use more stretching, I can also use a night of reading. Todd and I typically end up eating dinner around 10:00, so I'm guessing I'm going to be hungry again around bedtime. Good thing I have leftovers.

I'm not sure why I've never made veggie burgers from scratch before. I've made mock "meat"loafs which is very similar, and "meat"balls, but never veggie burgers. I think I got veggieburgered out at one point or something. There was a time when it seemed hard to get anything but a veggie burger as a vegetarian when you ate outside your home, so maybe it just wasn't something I was excited to eat. Making them from scratch is certainly far better than the frozen kind.

This recipe isn't going to totally knock your socks off, but it's definitely a good, basic foundation to use that's not that labor intensive. I plan to mess around with it and see what I can do with it. Don't expect it to be a solid hockey puck type thing like a frozen one. They are a little crumbly. We had them with roasted potatoes and the aioli sauce from a couple of posts ago, and some broccoli. It made a nice casual meal.

Black Bean Burgers
1 14 oz can black beans
1/2 bell pepper, chopped small (I used orange, but any color will work)
1/2 onion, chopped small
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 egg
1 tblsp chili powder
1 tblsp cumin
1 tspn thai chili sauce or hot sauce
1/2 cup bread crumbs (I used Panko style)

1. If grilling, preheat an outdoor grill for high heat, and lightly oil a sheet of aluminum foil. If baking, preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and lightly oil a baking sheet.

2. In a medium bowl, mash black beans with a fork until thick and pasty. Add onion, pepper and garlic.

3. In a small bowl, mix egg, chili powder, cumin and chili sauce. Stir into mashed bean mixture.

4. Mix in bread crumbs until the mixture is sticky and holds together. Add more bread crumbs if necessary. If you are using bread crumbs that are not seasoned, you may want to add a little salt. Form 4 patties using your hands to mash together.

5. If grilling, place patties on foil and grill for 8 minutes on each side. If cooking in the oven, place on baking sheet, and bake 10 minutes each side.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Red Lentil Sweet Potato Curry

I'm 40. Forty. The big 4-0. I think this technically makes me "middle-aged". How did that happen? I know, I know: 40s is the new 30s; It's all how you feel; It's just a number. All that is true. I feel pretty darn good. I am happy. I have a good life. But, I am 40. I have never had any particular plan set for myself, like by the time I'm 40 I'll be making over $100k, have 2 kids, live in a 3 bedroom split ranch in a quiet suburb near the water. None of that. (Which is good, since none of these things are true.) I tend to figure things out as I go along and take experiences as they come. This has worked out o.k. for me so far, but I feel that in my middle-agedness it might be time for me to go about things in a more deliberate manner, because the reality is that I am running out of time to do all the things I want to do in this life! I do set little goals for myself along the way, typically in regards to my physical activities. But, I think it may be time to set some larger goals for myself in order to make sure my next decade of life is a memorable one.

At the moment, however, I am more focused on the physical aspect of things. I spent some time today studying my face in the mirror wondering if I'm aging well, and trying to think of how to get rid of the big crease that runs along the middle of my forehead and the sun spots just above it. Since botox and surgery aren't really viable options for me, I think I just have to live with the current state of things. So, now I just have to go into prevention mode and try to minimize the amount of future wrinkles, spots, etc. I got a facial on my birthday and went from there to a make-up store in the mall where I asked the nice young man to try to make me look 35. And, if he couldn't do that, I asked him to at least make me look less tired. He did have some good suggestions and introduced me to a great under eye concealer and some lip gloss.

So, now it will be time to move beyond the superficial nature of things and figure out some more meaningful goals. On the cooking front, I think my 40s will be the decade of the curry. I have already started exploring that genre and will continue to do so. This is the dish I made on my birthday eve. I cut this recipe almost in half, and it made enough for dinner and leftovers for the both of us.

Red Lentil and Sweet Potato Curry
3/4 cup uncooked red lentils
6 cups water
3 large carrots, peeled and sliced
2 medium sized sweet potatoes, scrubbed and diced
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 cup light coconut milk
1 tblsp yellow curry powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 tblsp chili powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 inch chunk peeled and grated ginger
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp lime juice
1 tsp peanut oil

1. Rinse the lentils. Put in a saucepan with 5 cups of water, bring to a boil and then simmer for 10-15 minutes. Red lentils cook very fast so be careful! Drain and set aside.
2. In a dry skillet (no oil) on medium heat, toast the curry powder, garam masala, chili powder, turmeric, and 1/4 tspn salt. Toast until they become fragrant, then pour into a bowl and set aside.
3. Return skillet to heat and cook peanut oil on medium high heat. Add onions and remaining 1/4 tspn salt. Sautee the onions until they just start to brown. Add garlic & ginger and sautee for another minute.
4. Add the toasted spices, carrot and sweet potato. Sautee for 5 minutes, then add 1 cup water. cover and simmer until potatoes are tender about 10-13 minutes.
5. Stir in lentils and lime juice. Then stir in coconut milk. Let cook another few minutes. Server over rice.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Spicy Aioli Sauce with Roasted Potatoes

Often when I get invited to a party that has a theme to it I go through this cycle: First, I become excited because I think whatever the theme is a really neat idea (ex. Halloween party with 80s movies costume requirement; dinner party with things made with mango; etc.) Next, I am riddled with anxiety because I can't think of a good idea to fit the theme. This leads to me not wanting to go to the party anymore because I don't know what I'll wear/bring. Then, I typically come up with an idea, not being sure if it's a good one. Last, I get to the party and I'm totally energized and impressed with everyone's creativity.

Last night we were invited to a get together where the theme was "food on sticks". The caveat was that really most anything could count since toothpicks counted as sticks. Todd and I waited until the last minute to pick something (as I was experiencing the aforementioned stages). Often when I go out for Spanish tapas, I get a dish called "spicy potatoes" that I've been wanting to try out at home. We decided to make these and put toothpicks in the individual potatoes with the sauce on the side. It's simple and the result was pretty yummy. The best part was that Todd both did the grocery shopping and prepared the food while I was at work (with his unemployed status he is taking over some different household chores). I walked him carefully through the steps over the phone. I had to chuckle when he was reviewing the ingredients to make sure we had everything and when he got to "minced garlic" asked, "Do we have any of this?" Now, he just bought garlic at the store. So, I said, "Of course we do, once you take the garlic you just bought at the store and mince it." I know some people like to buy that jarred stuff, and I'm sure it's fine, but I prefer to use it fresh. I also hate those garlic presses. I think it's more work to clean it, than it is to just mince it with a knife. Todd went with the garlic press and it all came out great. I have to admit, I think I like him even more today. I keep looking at him and thinking to myself, "he made some damn good potatoes last night and he is all mine."

This sauce would also work really well with other veggies, or on a sandwich or roll up.

Roasted Potatoes with Spicy Aioli Sauce
12-15 small new potatoes (we used a mix of red, white and blue ones - fun!), quartered
1 tblsp olive oil
salt and pepper

1 cup of mayo
1 tspn mild chili powder
1 tspn paprika
1 tspn minced garlic
1/2 tspn salt (maybe a little more to taste)
1/4 tspn black pepper

1. Toss the potatoes in the olive oil and a little salt and pepper, and then put into a baking dish. Cook at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, blend the ingredients for the sauce and chill in the fridge.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Quinoa with Zucchini and Black Beans

Last week, like many others before us, we were impacted by the suffering economy. Todd was laid off from his job, and while I am not panicking, I have certainly become more aware of expenditures. I would prefer to take precautions now, so we don't find ourselves in a place where we have to panic down the road. There are some obvious places to make cutbacks. We will not be going on a guided mountain bike vacation this summer like we were thinking. I had been looking into buying a commuter/winter bike, but will be delaying that. In general, I'll be scrutinizing all purchases differently.

Food is one area where we need to consider modifications. We don't dine out frequently as it is, so don't need to make a lot of changes there. But, Whole Foods will definitely be seeing my face less often. For produce, I'm planning to make my way over to Russo's in Watertown regularly and get to farmers' markets whenever I can. I find this tough because I am typically working during the hours they are held, but I'll have to figure out a way to work it into my schedule. (However, Todd may now have some free time during the day...) I will also shop around a bit to compare prices on things like canned beans and canned tomatoes. It may be time to start getting in the habit of buying dried beans and cooking them myself. I'm sure there's a cost savings there, but I'm not sure how much, and whether it's worth the investment of time. Another thought is buying these types of things by the case. I think Whole Foods even offers discounts if you do this. There are also a lot of frivolous items we can do without. For instance, I'm pretty sure we won't wither up if we don't have Tofutti Cuties or licorice Scotty Dogs. But, certain things I'm not willing to sacrifice, like our favorite brand of yogurt (Wallaby), good bread or certain organic items.

Luckily, we both really like rice and beans. Since it's both an economical and nutritious meal, I'm sure it will be making more frequent appearance on our dinner plates. But, of course, we don't want to over-do it. I will be on the lookout for some more variations of grains and beans. Another of this sort of dish that is an old standby for me is quinoa with black beans. The recipe includes zucchini, but I often make it without it, since I try to buy most veggies mostly when they are in season. It also calls for fresh cilantro, but dried can be used as well.

Quinoa with Zucchini and Black Beans
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small zucchini, chopped
1 tblsp olive oil
3/4 cup quinoa (if you want to use more, increase the amount of broth. Use a 1:2 ratio), rinsed
1 1/2 cups of veggie broth
1 tspn cumin
1 tspn dried cilantro or 1/2 cup fresh, chopped
1 pinch cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
1 14 oz can of black beans (or up to 2 cans, depending on how bean-y you want it)

1. Sautee onions and garlic in olive oil until light brown
2. Mix in quinoa, veggie broth, spices (except for cilantro if it's fresh), and zucchini. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes
3. Stir in corn, black beans, and cilantro (if fresh), and cook another 5 minutes until heated through.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Fresh Asparagus Soup

Each season has its good characteristics, and its not so good ones. For spring, on a positive note: the days are longer; nature is very active and there's lots to fill your senses; you can take your wool coat and put it away for a while, and the seasonal food becomes a little "lighter". On its less favorable side: it's hard to have the right wardrobe to dress weather appropriate each day when the temps are up, down and in between; while nature is very active, so are people's allergies; and it starts to get too warm to turn on the oven.

On a bit of a tangent, I wonder if historically people have suffered from allergies to this great an extent, or if because of all the other toxins we are exposed to our bodies are less able to tolerate things like pollen.

Anyhow, when the temps do drop down, I do use that as an excuse to turn the dial on the oven up. I made another pan of roasted veggies the other day, but this time with a blend of winter and summery vegetables. To sweet and white potatoes, I added mushrooms, zucchini, asparagus and tomatoes. I liked that blend a lot. There are also lighter soups that lend themselves well to spring. I made this asparagus soup a couple of weeks ago when we had a few friends over for dinner. It's simple and a fun way to use this spring veggie. I should take this opportunity again to mention how much I adore my immersion blender.

Fresh Asparagus Soup
1 lb fresh asparagus
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup veggie broth
1 tblsp butter
2 tblsp all purpose flour
1 tspn salt
1 pinch ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups veggie broth
1 cup soy milk (I used rice milk)
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 tspn lemon juice
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1. Place asparagus and onion in a saucepan with 1/2 cup veggie broth. Bring the broth to a boil and let simmer until the vegetables are tender.
2. Blend vegetable mixture until smooth
3. Melt the butter in the pan that was used for simmering the asparagus and onions. Stir while sprinkling flour, salt and pepper into the butter. Do not let the flour brown. Allow the mixture to cook only 2 minutes. Stir in remaining 1 1/4 cups veggie broth and increase the heat. Continue stirring until the mixture comes to a boil.
4. Stir in the vegetable puree and milk into the saucepan. Whisk yogurt into the mixture, followed by lemon juice. Stir until heated through. Ladle into bowls and add grated cheese if desired.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Autumn Roasted Veggies with Israeli Couscous

In my last post, a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned I was trying to avoid getting whatever sickness was ailing Todd. I speculated that I may have "jinxed" myself for recently declaring out loud that I hadn't been sick all winter. I also wondered if posting this on the internet could possibly exacerbate the affect of any potential jinxness. Well, I'm here to tell you that I think it did! In a matter of hours I went from the I think I may be getting sick phase to the bed-ridden I want my mommy phase of sickness. I was in bed with a fever and horrible cold, unable to even read a book, for 3 days. I mostly slept, blew my nose and stared at the ceiling. I didn't even get to have any of my Feel Better Soup because I was too sick to go to the store and get the ingredients. I had made some other soup the night before being stuck in bed which was tasty, but didn't have the magical qualities of Feel Better Soup.

Just before getting sick, I had made some roasted veggies with Israeli couscous. It's a very simple dish, but tasty and I think the roasted veggies pair well with this kind of couscous. It's probably the last time this year I will make any winter roasted veggies. The butternut and acorn squashes, and turnips that have been in storage someplace all winter are really getting passed their prime. I will probably try it again with some spring/early summer veggies before it gets too hot to turn on the oven. But, I wanted to make sure I captured this so I remember to make it again next year.

Autumn Roasted Veggies with Israeli Couscous
1 white potato, peeled and diced
1 small sweet potato, washed and diced
1 small turnip, peeled and diced
1 small butternut or acorn squash, peeled and diced
1 medium red onion, diced
2 tblsp olive oil
sea salt
1 tblsp herbs de provence
1 cup Israeli couscous
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar (or balsamic)

1. Toss all veggies in 1 tblsp of the olive oil (or a little more if necessary). Place on a baking sheet, sprinkle with herbs, salt and pepper, and roast in 400 degree oven until tender and beginning to brown. (Probably 30 to 45 minutes)
2. Cook Israeli couscous: In a 2 quart saucepan, heat 1 tblsp olive oil over medium heat and sautee the cousous until lightly brown. Add veggie broth. Bring to a boil, then cover and turn heat down to simmer. Cook until liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes.
3. In small saucepan, simmer cider vinegar until reduced to a syrupy consistency.
4. Spoon veggies over couscous and drizzle with vinegar.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Feel Better Soup

I made a big mistake the other day. I said, "I have not been sick at all this winter despite all the nasty viruses that were being passed around my office..." I should never have said that out loud. It's not that I'm really superstitious, but it seems I have had other instances where I've said similar things and "jinxed" myself. I believe it was around this same time last year when I said, "I've never taken a spill on my road bike." Sure enough, a couple of weeks later I was practicing cornering next to someone at the spring race clinic, when our bikes touched and I hit the ground hard. My seat came flying off, my helmet broke and I tore my shoe. (Is it worse, I wonder to make statements like this on the internet vs. to just one person? Hmm... I guess I'm going to find out.)

Todd has been home sick for almost a week with a really nasty cold and cough. I'm doing my best to take care of myself and avoid getting this myself. But, just in case I do, I pulled out this soup recipe. I call it my "witches' brew" soup because it really is like a magical potion to ward off illness. It doesn't have any eyes of newt in it, but it is also not a soup that you'll be saying, "Yummy! I can't wait to have this again!" It's not offensive, it's just not delicious. It does work though. There have been many times when I've made the soup at the first signs of feeling sick or when I've been sick, and it's either stopped the cold/flu right in it's track or shortened the life of it. Apparently it's the seaweed that is the magic ingredient. It is also the thing that lends to it's not so yummy taste. The downside is there's quite a bit of chopping, and if you're not feeling well, chopping might not be high on your list of preferred activities. It'd be nice if someone wanted to make it for you.

You might be wondering why I didn't make this for Todd while he's been sick, and the truth is I didn't think of it until today. It's too late in the game for him now. I think it's past the point where it might help him. I've been an o.k. nurse though. I did make him some minestra, and was also a nice vegetarian girlfriend and bought him some chicken soup at Whole Foods.

Feel Better /Witches' Brew Soup
2 tblsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk of celery, chopped
6 cups veggie broth
2 large bunches watercress, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup dried green lentils
1/2 cup raw brown rice
1/3 cup wakame or other seaweed (dried is fine)
1/3 cup chopped kale
1 white potato, cubed
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat oil over medium high heat, and add onion and celery. Cook, stirring until softened, not browned.
2. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce to a simmer and cook for 2 hours until rice is tender. (The rice will take the longest to cook).

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Swiss Chard and Cannelini Bean Soup

Being on Facebook has turned out to be a fun way to socialize. It also has the potential to be a huge time waster if you let it, and there are days I find myself using it to procrastinate doing other, more useful activities. But for the most part, I find it an easy way to stay in touch with people I may not be in as frequent contact with otherwise. It has also allowed me to find people I haven't talked to for many years, reconnect, and learn about their lives. Even the seemingly mundane details can sometimes be interesting, and you can find out little intricacies you have in common with someone.

There are, of course, the naysayers who exclaim things like, "Whatever happened to picking up the phone and having an actual conversation?" These seem to be the same folks who don't embrace technology in general, or maybe just don't have enough friends to warrant a Facebook page, and are secretly envious. Let's be real - I have 206 Facebook friends. If not for Facebook, I would be in regular communication with maybe 25% of them, and less frequently with another 25%. And, no, not all 206 of these people are my BFFs. There are probably a good handful that I wouldn't otherwise have any interest in if it weren't for folks just trying to get their friend numbers up. But, I've had lots of pleasant surprises along the way. For example, connecting with a childhood friend who informed me of an epic-sounding bike ride her Dad is doing that I am now planning to do this summer (the D2R2). Or finding out about one of my favorite musicians who was in town because of a friend's status, and then making plans to go to it with her.

One of my favorite recent surprises, was finding out my youngest cousin, Stephanie, has taken an interest in cooking. It's funny because although there is a 20 year age difference between us (yikes! I just had to do the math twice to be sure this was right), I have discovered we have quite a bit in common. She actually came across my blog because of a Facebook interaction I had with another of our cousins. This resulted in her making one of my recipes and then passing a favorite soup recipe of hers onto me. I have since made it twice. According to Stephanie, this soup is called Minasta and it is one her mom (my Italian auntie - the only real cook in the family) makes regularly. I did a search on line and couldn't find anything by that name, but did find one called "Minestra" that is similar. So, perhaps as it's gotten passed down through the family, both the recipe itself and its name has morphed a bit.

The best thing about this soup is its simplicity. There are no spices, except for garlic, salt and pepper, but it is healthy, filling and comforting, like a cousin to a chicken noodle soup, without the chicken. Twice, I have fed it to hungry cyclists and got a lot of positive feedback, but I need to take that with a grain of salt since they will pretty much eat anything that is made for them after a long, hard ride.

1 large bunch of swiss chard, chopped (kale or escarole could also be used)
1 medium onion chopped
1 or 2 stalks of celery, chopped
5-6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tblsp olive oil
1 15 oz. can white cannelini beans
4-6 cups veggie broth (a non tomato base one like No-chicken broth is best)
1/2 to 1 cup of uncooked brown rice
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat the oil over medium heat and sautee the onion, celery and garlic for about 5 minutes. Add swiss chard and sautee for a few more minutes.
2. Add broth. (The amount of broth you use will depend on the amount of rice you are going to include in the next step- the more rice, the more broth you will need. ) Let this simmer on low heat for about an hour. This allows all the flavors to blend.
3. Add the rice and simmer for 40 minutes. You may find you need to add more liquid if it gets too thick. The amount of liquid you add will depend on your desired consistency.
4. Add cannelini beans, salt and pepper. Let cook another 10 minutes until beans are heated through.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Spiced Lentil Cabbage Casserole

The other day, I was hankering for some cabbage. I had planned to make lentil cabbage pilaf, but wanted to try something different, and found this recipe. Once I assembled in, and was going to put it in the oven, I was thinking, this is going to be pretty boring. Turmeric really doesn't do anything for me as a spice, but I couldn't think of anything to add, so I just went with it. As it turns out, it was pretty darn good. There's something about the combination of brown rice, lentils and cabbage that really works. And sometimes, you just let the ingredients speak for themselves and not add too many spices or complex flavors. I added Bragg's liquid aminos to mine when I was eating it, but Todd did not, and he liked this dish quite a lot, too.

Spiced Lentil Cabbage Casserole
3 cups cooked brown lentils
2 cups cooked brown rice
2 cups shredded cabbage
1 cup veggie broth
1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper (I used yellow, but if you like green pepper that would work well)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 tspn red chili flakes
1/2 tspn turmeric

1. Cook the brown rice and lentils according to directions in separate pans. The rice will take a little longer than the lentils, so start that first. (For rice, bring 1 cup of rice and 2 cups of water to a boil, then simmer on very low, covered, for 40 minutes. For lentils, clean about 1 1/2 cups dried lentils, put in pan and cover with water, by at least an inch, bring to a boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes).
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
3. In a skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add chili pepper flakes and turmeric. Stir for 2 minutes. Add garlic, bell pepper, onion and cabbage. Sautee until cabbage is soft, about 10 minutes. Add peas, and some salt.
4. Add vegetables, rice and lentils to casserole dish, mix and add veggie broth. Bake for about 20 minutes.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Sauteed Brussel Sprouts and Lance Armstrong

A couple of weeks ago, I went to Austin to run a half marathon. I thought training for a February race would be a fun diversion to cycling, yet not interfere with spring training, and keep me in shape throughout the winter. Upon reflection, I can't really say the training was fun. While the long runs were more enjoyable than those I have done in the past because I had Sallie for company, the weather conditions really made it tough. Between snow, ice, wind and really cold temps, it made for some not so pleasant training days. Because of the weather, I also didn't get out for shorter runs as much as I intended, and I only had planned for 2 per week. I finally succumbed to the treadmill in a panic during the last couple of weeks before the race. In terms of keeping me in shape, it turns out that I gained 4 1/2 pounds in the process. I was a bit surprised when I hopped on the scale recently since not only was I training for this race, but still getting on my bike trainer consistently. The race itself was, however, fun. I felt great, had the best time I could've expected, and broke two hours which was my main goal. And, I also got to check out Austin, which is a pretty funky little city.

The day after the race, we went to Lance Armstrong's bike shop, Mellow Johnny's. It's a great shop. We rented some Trek Madones and went for spin around Austin. After riding around in circles for a while and almost getting on the highway, we finally found our way onto a nice bike route. When we got back there was a t.v. camera set up in the shop, and while we were shopping for t-shirts, the woman who was with the cameraman asked if she could interview us for the news. She wouldn't tell us about what because she wanted our answers to be spontaneous.

I should take a moment here to point out that I had just finished a ride, taken my helmet off (think: helmet hair) and had crusty snot on my nose (Sallie later verified this). At least it wasn't my t.v. debut. That was several years ago when I was walking home in my running clothes after doing a road race in the middle of July (think: humid, sweaty hair), and was stopped to be interviewed. I never saw it, but many people I know did and they were all kind enough not to mention my appearance.

After these two experiences, I now understand why people often sound dumb when they are on the news. You are standing there in front of a camera and several people, and expected to spontaneously come up with an answer to a surprise question (while you are pondering the crusty snot on your nose and weather it will be visible to the home viewers). The topic they wanted to discuss at Mellow Johnny's was Lance's $10,000 time trial bike which had just been stolen at the Tour of California. Did we know about it? What did we think about it? He was using Twitter to try to locate it - was that a good idea? So, while it wasn't anything that required any deep thinking, one of my answers still haunts me. When she asked what I thought about his bike being stole I said something like that was too bad that someone would do that and it could mess up his race, but I was pretty sure he could afford a new one. Now, that wasn't very nice, was it? It doesn't really matter if he can afford a new one. The point is that someone stole his property, and not only that, but something that he needed for the race, and would be hard to replace. It doesn't matter who he is or how much money he makes. Well, that was cathartic for me. I've been carrying that around for a couple of weeks. I'm not sure what a really good answer would've been, but I'll ponder that.

In the meantime, my cousin, who also lives in Texas, (wasn't that a fantastic segue?) has asked for the brussel sprout recipe I made for Christmas. Her fiance liked them and so she wants to make some. She's even considering eating them herself. So, of course, I'm happy to oblige and support the eating of brussel sprouts. I wonder if Lance likes them? I'm not exactly sure how I cooked them on Christmas, but it was probably something like this. I like sauteeing them, because it's fast, but roasting them is even more tasty.

Sauteed Brussel Sprouts
Brussel sprouts - I'd probably figure about 6-8 per person, unless they are really small, then a few more
1 tblspn olive oil
water or veggie broth for moistening pan
salt and pepper
a few splashes Balsamic vinegar (optional)

1. Trim the brussel sprout stems. This is a little tricky. You need to cut of the tough part, but I find if you cut off the whole bottom, then the brussel sprouts fall apart as you cook them and you have lots of stray leaves. Once you trim the bottom, peel of and discard at least one layer of leaf and discard. Cut the brussel sprouts in half.
2. Heat a skillet/frying pan on medium heat and add the olive oil. Let that heat up for a minute. (You don't want to make the pan too hot or else the outsides will brown too much before the insides cook.)
3. Add the brussel sprouts. Sautee for about five minutes on one side, then use a metal spatula to flip them and get the other side. If the pan gets too dry, then add splashes of water or veggie broth. Stir every couple of minutes.
4. Cook until tender. This should only take 10 or 15 minutes if the sprouts are fresh. If it's later in the season, it may take longer. After 10 minutes of cooking, if they are not done, you can put a splash of water in and then cover the pan for a minute which will help to steam them. When just about done, add salt and pepper to taste.
5. Optional: when the sprouts are done, splash with a bit of balsamic vinegar, and turn off the pan. This adds a little sweetness to offset the bitter taste. Or, shut off pan and add some grated parmesean.