Return to the Stove

I know, I know — zero posts for nearly two months, what gives? Well, now that I have a quarter of a year at my new job under my belt, spending more time on my fitness and healthy eating goals may be justified again. And chronicling said pursuits, of course.

What have I been doing aside from working? Well….

My brother visited in October for 11 days and we explored New York, D.C., and State College together. All explorations were naturally accompanied by great food.

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This was a Turkish restaurant by the UN. Such a great night.

… Dave and I ran a 50-mile relay race with five friends. It was an amazing experience — the weather, the beauty of central PA, the company, the running. I am hooked on this event and want to do it every year we live here.

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This is me passing the baton, a shiny purple wrist-band, to my team mate. Who knew that volleyball jacket from 2001 would serve me so well? This was the third chilly-weather race I’ve done in it.

(That guy, by the way, was the best team mate ever. He ran 6-minute miles and volunteered to take the most difficult legs. Definitely made up for my 11-minute mile pace….)

… I indulged in everything fall — Pumpkin beer, apple cider, haunted houses, pumpkin pie/ice cream/lattes, and of course, pumpkin carving.

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We created these beauties with our friends the night before Halloween.

… And, I did very little cooking. I was bad. If I cooked, I just used old recipes I already had. Busy-ness will do that to you. October was seriously insane. So was September. But the insanity isn’t going to stop anytime soon, so it’s time to step it up!

I have a new fitness plan that plans out my fitness priorities from now until I turn 30 (June of 2015). Essentially, this means I have progressive running goals assigned for each month plus an additional exercise priority, like swimming, biking, fitness classes, or Yoga. The plan is to work out six times a week with one rest day.

Then, at the beginning of each month, I actually map out how I will be exercising on each day. This month, I will be running 3 times a week, shooting for 3 miles each time at a 10-minute pace. I expect to reach that closer to the end of the month. Right now, I’m still slow as a snail.

This month, my supplement exercise, if I can call it that, is fitness classes at Kinetik Fitness. I went for the second time tonight and it kicks my butt. I love it though. It’s totally different from what I would do on my own and also from any other fitness classes I’ve done. Each class is different and members never know who will be teaching on any given day and what they will be asking you to do. The workouts combine cardio and strength training and are often done in circuits, with partners, etc.

And, since I’m talking about stepping it up, I also am focusing on cooking new things again. Tonight, I made not one but two dishes without recipes. I know making up dishes may not necessarily sound appealing, but I really want to get very good at intuitive cooking. If there is such a thing.

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The first meal — our dinner for tonight and lunch tomorrow — is a cauliflower/broccoli/potato casserole. All I added to the vegetables was almond milk, garlic salt, pepper, and Trader Joe’s vegan cheese.

Maybe it’s because I was super hungry from my workout, but this was delicious. I went back for seconds for sure.

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The second dish — our dinner tomorrow and lunch Thursday — is a shrimp curry. I was pretty proud of this one since it was my first real attempt at making curry myself. Basically, I was at the store, contemplating buying the glass jar of curry sauce, but the ingredient list turned me off. Too much unnecessary stuff. So this is a basic mix: coconut milk and curry powder.

The other ingredients are: olive oil, shrimp, red and green peppers, paprika, garlic salt, and garbanzo beans. I later added brown rice to let the curry soak in and make it very, very tasty for tomorrow evening.

Here’s to November, fitness, and home-made food!

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Fall Inspiration

Know that feeling when you have been pushing yourself in a particular part of your life for a while and then all you want to do is enjoy the fruits of your labor? That’s kind of how it’s been for me with food in the last few weeks. I spent a lot of time earlier this year discovering and making new recipes, so now I just kind of have my routine of making my favorites every week and don’t look for new ones very often at all…

This has been going along with a general absence of running in my life, picking sand volleyball, tennis, and hiking over logging lonesome miles this summer. I will have to change that tendency rather quickly because Dave and I have agreed to participate in a relay race in late October- the Tussey Mountainback! We’ll have a team of 7 or 8, but I’m not sure yet what leg(s) we’ll each be running. But regardless, training must begin now. I’m excited to be doing something new and to enjoy this event with friends. And I think I’m scared of it enough to actually get moving again.

As far as new recipes go, I’ve found a few and am committing to making them all sometime in the next few weeks. That should give me some fresh stuff to blog about as well. Because really, who wants to read about me eating quinoa stuffed peppers for the umpteenth time? I know I don’t.

So here is some inspiration —

Poblano White Chili
Eggplant Parmesan
Falafel with a Twist
Creamy Avocado Spaghetti Squash
Peppered Pumpkin and Potato Ragout

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September 10, 2013 · 10:54 pm

Caffeine Confessions

My Friday morning was dragging by yesterday. After a week of meetings on various exciting Penn State community initiatives and reading several academic articles about taking online education global, my enthusiasm and passion were all used up, and I just wanted to go home, sit on the couch, and watch Netflix with Dave. We started watching Orange Is the New Black  on Thursday and are totally addicted now. My longing for him, the couch, and Netflix was so great, in fact, that I decided to go home for an extended lunch. Dave was working from home and agreed to make Turkish zucchini fritters, so here is how I found him when I got there:

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Using our favorite cook book, Sultan’s Kitchen. The fritters were delicious and the episode we watched thrilling. An hour and a half later, it was time to drive back to the office, and I was still as burnt out as in the morning, which wasn’t good since I had two more meetings on the calendar, both of which would require some good energy.

So, desperate as I was, I decided to stop at Starbuck’s. Surely a grande vanilla soy latte isn’t going to matter that much against my pursuit to quit caffeine, I told myself. Before I knew it, I arrived at work, half of the glorious beverage already finished, half of it in hand to bring to my meeting. Holy cow. After three weeks of no coffee at all (I am avoiding it due to its bad effects on the liver and caffeine’s effects on hormonal balance), it really hit me. This was great because I was able to lead the meeting, which lasted more than two hours, pitch ideas that excited everyone, and chat happily about Germany and whatever else. I went back to my desk, breezed through some work, and then had an equally great meeting with my boss. 5 p.m. almost came too soon – I had all this motivation to work through my to-do list.

But sure enough, when it was time to go, the good feeling was wearing off, I had a slight headache, my surroundings were spinning a little bit, and I had a sudden starvation feeling like I always do after ODing on caffeine.

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Help?

I drove home to pick up Dave. We had plans to go to dinner and then to a musical my co-worker was in, The Music Man, performed at the Mt. Nittany Middle School.

We went to to Olde New York, which hilariously enough has that name but serves traditional German food.

I got a glass of Pinot Noir, at this point too dizzy to reason with myself about not wanting to throw alcohol on top of my caffeine condition. And we ordered the baked brie plate as an appetizer. I couldn’t imagine that there was enough food to take away the burning feeling of hunger in my stomach.

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For my main meal, I had a black bean burger with fries. Of course the burning hunger feeling was soon replaced by feeling way too stuffed, thirsty from all the salt, and a little dizzy still. Wow, caffeine, you’ve truly outdone yourself. I’d love to say I learned my lesson, but I’m afraid I won’t be able to forget how much better my afternoon at work was thanks to my Starbucks infusion. Not good. Not good at all.

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Dave got their giant German Schnitzel with Spaetzle and red cabbage – his favorite meal there. Even he got out his phone to document the madness. He finished it all, so we could bond over our post-meal discomfort at least.

Hello, America. Thanks for another over-sized Friday night dinner and subsequent nausea.

We drove over to the middle school and walked around a bit. It was absolutely beautiful outside and we had some time to kill.

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I wish this picture could convey the amazing smell of freshly mowed grass, the sunset view on the mountains all around us, and the feeling of perfect, crisp, late-summer air. But it can’t. So here is me in front of Mt. Nittany.

The show was awesome and lasted almost three hours. When we got back, we were still uncomfortably full and still enamored with the night’s beauty, so we took a midnight walk around the neighborhood.

This morning, I’m back to treating my digestive system the way it wants me to – with organic berries in oatmeal and fresh, organic carrot and celery juice.

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Ag Progress Days

Dave had a demanding day today, working on a project for his professor with a very short turn-around. So when I picked him up on my way home from work, we decided to go on a 3-mile hike to get his mind to relax.

On our way through Pine Grove Mills, traffic was backed way up due to traffic inbound from the fairgrounds. We entered the left turn lane, waiting to turn across traffic to go over the hill, but the cop directing traffic was signaling to the middle lane, so we went there only to discover he wasn’t really pointing to us. We were more or less committed to that lane at that point, so we just went on ahead to check out the source of the traffic, which as it turned out was the Penn State “Progress Days” agricultural festival – a long-standing State College end-of-summer event hosted by the ag school and about every farm equipment manufacturer under the sun.

Traffic went on for an insane amount of road, and we wondered if every single person in the state was just now returning from the fairgrounds. Eventually, we arrived at the site and parked. We walked around, enjoyed the view of the green central PA hills, had some vegetarian stir-fry from the Pennsylvania Vegetable Growers Association booth, looked at historic farm equipment, some corn, silos, and tractors, and then finished off our tour with some ice cream from the Penn State Creamery booth.

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Dave had the bittersweet mint flavor and I went with “Peachy Paterno.” Maybe you will find that name as disturbing as I did when I first learned of it (if you’re familiar with the whole Penn State football scandal), but I’m used to it now. Also, I recently learned that the university has been donating the net revenue from the flavor’s sales to a Child Abuse charity. So that’s good, I guess.

Great night in central PA!

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Two Ice Creams

More one-on-one Catan playing occured tonight, and, far from wanting to share resources with my opponent, I made sure we each had our own ice cream.

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I had the coconut milk mint flavor and Dave had coconut milk chocolate and peanut butter 🙂 🙂

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I just had a few spoons of it and some almonds – I decided I had all of the food varieties over the course of the day and didn’t need much more to eat. Drinking Kombucha daily makes me much more satisfied with small portions these days!

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Homemade Mashed Potatoes

It all started at the grocery store yesterday when Dave brought three packets of instant mashed potatoes to the cart, proclaiming he wanted to buy them because they are “so good.” I asked if I could look at the list of ingredients, which was about as long as a book chapter. I pointed to some scary names and asked him if instead I could make my mom’s recipe for him. 

This sounds awfully home-maker wife-ish (brrrr), but I really want our grocery cart to be as healthy as possible. Eating out is a different story and we splurge often there. Also, Dave readily agreed when I told him the recipe had cream, butter, and nutmeg in it – maybe the nutmeg intrigued him the most.

So today during lunch I called my mom just to confirm that I remembered the recipe right – I hadn’t made it in about seven years and never think of it anymore now that cream and butter rarely appear in my refrigerator. Turns out, her version is actually made with milk, so I “unhealthyfied” it in my memory. It was too late though. I had already bought the cream and wasn’t going to throw it out without using any of it.

So after work, I set to making very high-calorie mashed potatoes.

Ingredients:

– 5 small to medium sized potatoes, peeled and cooked in salt water
– 1/2 cup cream
– 1/4 water (my mom recommended this to thin out the cream. Her recipe would take 2/3 cups of milk)
– 1 tbsp butter
– a generous amount of nutmeg

Mash the potatoes up with a fork at first, melt a tablespoon of butter over them, pour in the cream/water or milk, and then use a mixer until you have a nice, smooth consistency. Then add as much Nutmeg as your tastebuds call for (I used a lot). 

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Here is the not so appetizing photo of the result, although I promise the potatoes were delicious. I poured the vegetables over them awkwardly to re-warm them up a bit (I was cooking various dishes at once, so I got a bit distracted). There is also some tilapia pieces on there, which are barely worth mentioning.

Now I have to go and make some dark-chocolate covered strawberries to enjoy during yet another game of Settlers of Catan!

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Obsessed.

I’m surprised I found time this weekend to help a friend develop a marketing strategy for her new business, go on a hike with Dave, and grocery shop and prep meals for the week considering we’ve been absolutely OBSESSED with this game:

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It’s Settlers of Catan mania at our house. Just to illustrate – we played three games on Friday night with some friends, which made us stay up wayyyy past our bedtime. We enjoyed decadent snacks during this, such as baguette with brie and smoked salmon and dark chocolate covered almonds (no pics though). The others had beer, too, but I stuck to my home-brewed Kombucha with pride.

Then, yesterday, Dave discovered a version you can play with two people, which only made us more addicted. We spent our Saturday night hovered over the game board, then all of Sunday morning, and we’re about to play more.

Despite this craziness, I have some food pics to share 🙂

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These are two-ingredient muffins a la hungryhungryhippie.com. It’s so genius – all it takes are four eggs and 3 cups of shredded zucchini plus a pinch of salt.

I’m excited to try these for breakfast tomorrow along with this other goodness inspired by Elise:

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Aside from making the two cutest loaves of banana bread ever, this recipe is so insanely delicious that I doubled it and made two this time (I subbed maple syrup for the stevia in her recipe only because that’s what I had here). It’s so moist and flavorful and will make for the perfect start to my week. Seriously, knowing I have a delicious breakfast waiting for me will make getting up at 6 a.m. on a Monday so much easier.

The rest of my food prep was focused on lunch-making and assembling some salads for dinner, which contained a lot of left-overs, such as salmon, avocado, goat cheese, and roasted pine nuts.

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I also started my second batch of kombucha. I’m making twice as much this time because the stuff is perfection and let’s be real, I want to drink it every day.

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As I’m waiting for it to ferment, I will have to rely on the expensive bottled stuff, but I would rather not go without it for a week. Making twice the amount should help avoid this in the future, though.

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Almond milk for organic berries and Green Superfood smoothies in the a.m., kombucha for an energy-boost in the afternoons. Bring on the new week!

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