Friday, September 19, 2014

End of Summer

 The past four or five weeks have been a whirlwind of busy. They have been so rewarding socially and personally. However, I'm kind of ready to get into the calm, steady, soup-simmering on the stove, coziness of autumn. I love sun and heat more than your average person from the PNW, but I was happy it rained today. We needed it. I needed it.

I finally got my driver's license at the end of August. I was pretty thrilled, as you can imagine. It still seems surreal. We got together that night at Faby and Jackson's, sort of to celebrate, sort of just as an excuse to throw a dinner party like we do. Faby wanted to light-up her alley before the end of summer, and she did just that. Dave's mom, Dianne, was also visiting, and it was such a lovely evening. We feasted on watermelon and feta salad, a bulgar salad, grilled veggie kebabs, grilled pecorino, olives, tzatziki, grilled prawns, oysters, chicken, branzino, and of course lamb. It was all so good, but the branzino was especially memorable. I haven't had fish that was so good in awhile. Faby did it perfectly. For dessert we had karithopita, a Greek walnut cake I made, with a plum compote and homemade vanilla ice cream ala Kyley. I have to make that cake again. So, so good, even plain for breakfast. ;)
 
I worked most of the next day, Friday. I got off just early enough to go to dinner with Dave and Dianne at Atalua, a newish tapas, Spanish restaurant in NW Portland. There was a significant wait, but we passed time playing rummy at a nearby bar. That dinner was amazing. I'd go back for the veal on brioche sandwich alone. I don't know if it was confited, or braised, or what, but it melted in your mouth. It caught me by surprise with how good it was.


Running where there are palm trees
  Saturday morning I was off to LA for a Labor Day weekend getaway with Darby to see Nikki. It's so wonderful to see both my mint ladies so happy! I began my time by getting a long run out of the way. It was hard to do when I just wanted to play, but very necessary. I had fun exploring by foot, and really enjoyed the change of scenery. At one point I even caught a glimpse of the Hollywood sign, but I never managed to get a closer view of it. The new environment was nice, but it was definitely hot. It's been hot in Portland this year too, but I went through my liquids faster than normal. I finished it despite the heat, and once the long run was out of the way, we could just relax.

Most of the weekend revolved around eating, which was of course okay with me. We ate yummy Mexican food, and lots of ice cream, amongst other things. The culinary highlight for me was a trip to Pinks. :) I had the Rosie Dog with jalapenos and plenty of mustard added. Yum. Aside from eating, we did a lot of site seeing. The Santa Monica beach was beautiful! I loved playing in the water, but it was a little rough for real swimming. Luckily we made up for that later in the evening in Nikki's super awesome community pool.  Monday we went to Grand Central Market for brunch. I tried a new food, birria, a Mexican goat stew/soup. The goat flavor was pretty intense for breakfast, but I'm glad I tried it.
Our dogs
Birria


The Thursday after Labor Day, Dave and I took the train up to Tacoma for my cousin Justin's wedding weekend. We had a special role, the caterers. We prepared a taco buffet for 120 people. My cousin and I first did all of the shopping for ingredients and supplies. Afterwards we just chilled out, and mentally prepare for all that needed to be done. Honestly, it was more work than I realized it would be. I ended up working from about 8:30AM to 9PM. I sat down for a bit somewhere in there, mostly just nibbling on,(tasting) the food I was preparing. I let Dave sleep in, but he was by my side for all but two hours of that. As long as the process was, I enjoyed it immensely. We didn't have professional equipment, I'm used to, but that made it more of a fun challenge. It felt so good, so right, to be doing large batch cooking once again. I miss it so much. Friday we began the braised pork, browned off ground beef for taco meat, made green and red salsas, prepped ingredients for salad.

Saturday was the big day. I woke up earlier, and drank a cup of coffee sitting down before I began. I made rice, heated and seasoned black and refried beans, and made guacamole. We reheated the ground beef in the oven. Then we had to pack everything up in my cousin's truck to haul it to the wedding. My mom and brother were there to help out with that. Justin had put my grandma's broken refrigerator in the back of his truck. We stacked the hot food in the refrigerator section, insulating and padding with towels for warmth, and to prevent too much movement. We filled the freezer part with the cold ingredients. Once I figured out how to start the truck, we were off.

The wedding was beautiful. They got married near Elma, Washington at the Mineral Lake Resort. The bridesmaids wore red cowboy boots and carried sunflowers. The groomsmen sported secret identities, super hero t-shirts under their shirts. My cousin was beaming, and Heidi was absolutely beautiful. I'm so happy for them.
The food was a success. We were on time, even with me driving the truck. The hot food was still hot. We got rave reviews. "Do you have a catering business?... You should." Those words were music to my ears. Justin and Heidi were happy with it. We were happy, and proud.We had too much food, but we wanted to have more than enough. The pork was probably the highlight for the meat eaters. I thought people would go for the more gringo style beef taco meat, but I was wrong on that.


This past weekend I began getting our house organized. Some things were cleared out for a garage sale the weekend before Labor Day weekend. The cleaning/unloading process turned the house into a giant mess. Sass moved out Labor Day weekend while I was in LA. We didn't really have time to do anything until this past weekend, so we were sort of just living in chaos. Saturday morning we moved our bed to the master bedroom. Then when Dave went to work, I spent all day tinkering here and there, and slowly getting the downstairs organized. We still have more to do. This weekend will have to be another productive one, but it's starting to feel cozy, and it feels like it is a lot more me. I have my metro rack back in my kitchen, complete with my cookbooks, which I love. On Tuesday a slipcover for the couch arrived, and while it looks perhaps a bit frumpy, it's a major improvement over the hideous pattern of the couch, and a cheaper improvement than a new couch.

 I love that it's just the two of us. Living alone as a couple for the first time is as exciting to me as living alone solo the first time. We haven't had much time off together, but the time we do have is great. We have mostly been cuddling up, watching Once (Upon a Time). Hook? Kind of reminds me of Dave, but with darker features and an Irish accent. Ooo la la.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Maintaining

It is time for my four week check-in. I wish I had better results to report, but most of my measurements did not change, and the others did not change significantly enough to get excited about. I did see the lowest number I've seen on the scale in ages, but I know how easily that fluctuates, and I'd rather be losing inches. The report is I did a good job maintaining.

It is better to maintain than gain, but I would really like to be losing. I have noticed with myself when I start to feel more confident, I am less likely to make the healthiest food choices. I think, "I look great! I can eat what I want." I am currently marathon training so I have burned those extra recently consumed calories this month, but it's that mentality that causes me to yo-yo when I stop exercising.

I don't want to gain again. I need to challenge myself to be the best to my body, even when I feel amazing. It is putting in a lot of work. I deserve and need nutritionally dense foods, and beverages. I am going to step it up the next four weeks because I want better results on September 12th.

I also need to raise my strength training bar. I believe I have only been going once a week. Starting Monday, on the mornings I don't run, I am going to start getting up twenty minutes early for some interval training. There are exercises I can do without the gym.

It is going to be a busy four weeks. I am ready for some butt kicking!


Sunday, August 3, 2014

July

July was an enjoyable month for me. It was full of a balance of delicious food, and hard work. My schedule also changed so that I now have a full-weekend: Saturdays and Sundays! That is practically unheard of in the restaurant industry, unless you are in charge and writing the schedule.

Dave and I went to Tacoma for the Fourth of July. It was nice to see family. I was also able to catch up with a few old friends. I'm not the greatest at staying in touch, probably because what my schedule has been since I moved to Portland, and it's sad how quickly time flew by between hangouts. However, it felt great to end the time without visits, and meet my friends' children, and gab about life.

I reached a tiny fitness milestone, which I am so happy to report. I started doing overhead presses with weights at Aleda, the gym Faby gifted me a month-long membership too, back in January. I progressed to 12.5 pounds in each arm by the time I finished my month. I have been stuck at that weight since February, able to do some reps of 15#s, and for awhile two sets. I've been lifting more regularly recently, and a little over a week ago, I finally did three full sets of the fifteens. I felt myself beaming in the gym. Next up are twenties. (I started them on Friday, but I only did five reps at first, and came back to do one more a bit later. It will be challenging.)

Running is going well. The GPS on my new phone is not accurate, so I have been running with time goals, not mile goals. I give myself twelve minutes per mile, taking into account that even my slowest half marathon, and my marathon last year, were faster than that. So today for my long-run of week three, I ran for 2:12. I counted it as an eleven miler, but it was likely farther than that. I feel great; I feel strong. I also swam for the first time in awhile this past week. That was admittedly challenging, but I'm going to try to do it once a week, for cross-training, so I'm sure it will get easier.

On having weekends off: It is amazing! Never take your weekends for granted, friends. I've enjoyed them immensely so far: going to farmers markets, cooking, baking, cleaning, running, and plenty of downtime too. Last weekend Darby and I drove out to Cannon Beach. I actually drove, heyo! It was a perfect day on the coast. It was in the seventies and the sky was perfectly clear, giving us a chance to cool of a bit from Portland. (We have had more than our PNW share of ninety degree plus days. I'm not complaining, but the coast was refreshing.) We had lunch at Mo's. Fish and chips hit the spot. We chilled on the beach for awhile. I walked barefoot in the sand. Then we had happy hour, and headed home.
 


Dave and I have, as usual, been eating and drinking well. I have a weakness for summer produce, and I've been splurging on fruit and veggies. We have eaten many healthy meals and snacks, but also some not as healthy ones too.

Braised pork and chili ragu, polenta

Eggs over baked potato, sauteed zucchini, potassium-rich breakfast

Amazing breakfast to come home from a run to on a Friday


Elk burgers! Grilled corn, roasted potato wedges










I made a blackberry blueberry clafoutis last weekend. It is a custard cake, almost part pancake, and so easy to make.  I followed this recipe. It was soooo good. It is supposed to be served warm, but I had it cold for breakfast a couple of mornings too. 

I have also, after having a delicious pisco cocktail awhile ago with Faby, wanted to try making pisco sours, probably the most popular pisco drink. I believe I have tasted one before, but I've definitely never had one of my own nor made them. I followed the recipe from Imbibe, except I used lime juice. It was perfect, and might be my new favorite summer drink. Try them out, but be forewarned: one gave me a happy buzz. 

 August is shaping up to be a busy month. I have some fun plans to look forward to, but we also have to gear up to maybe move too. I'm still not sure what is going to happen with that, but here is hoping we either find a great place, or get to happily stay put. We are having a garage sell next weekend, which will be work in itself, but it will be nice to unload some clutter.

Dave should be home soon. I'm making dinner, and then we are going to check out a new taproom near our house. That is a major neighborhood upgrade!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Happy Progress

I'm very pleased with what I've accomplished in four weeks. My weight did not significantly change, but many of my measurements did, and those mean I'm really getting leaner.

Weight: 167.4
Hips: 43 (no change)
Tummy(love handles/belly button) 41.5(-1.5)
Waist: 32 (-1)
Left thigh: 24(-.5)
12.5(-.5)

They are tiny changes, but I feel them, and I am proud. I have been consistently running four times a week, in preparation for the Seattle marathon training which I began this week. The past two weeks I've gotten in two strength training sessions, but did zero and one the two weeks before. I'd really like to get that number up to three or four sessions per week. I know how good each one is for me! My diet is the same. I make many wise choices, but I throw in some bad (fun!) choices too. I accidentally ate pizza four days this week... oops.

Here's to another month of progress!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Little By Little

I failed with my own challenge. I hurt my leg a few days after my half marathon which made me unable to run. I took a month off from running to fully heal and be safe. I worked out occasionally, but I did not come anywhere close to my plan.

I have been slowly getting back into running. I'm in a phase that I've been calling "pre-marathon training," but really it's just the beginning of training. I created a 20 week plan for Holly and I to follow beginning week of July 14th, and I have to be ready for that. I will finally get in my four days this week. There was progress even in my failure. My diet, and the exercise I did helped me to lose a little weight in this time. (mostly after I started running again)

I'm not giving up on my weight loss efforts. I have a lot of work to do, and I'm excited to be able to run once more.

Here are some real numbers to measure my progress in the future.
168.8#s Fri morning, post-run, pre-breakfast
43" in my hips, and my dreaded love handles
33"waist
24.5"left thigh
13"left arm

Time for breakfast!

Friday, May 2, 2014

50 Days Until Summer

We hit 90 degrees on May Day. It feels like Portland skipped spring, and went straight into summer, but then if you look ahead at the forecast for next week, you are reminded that this is the PNW, and the rain will return.

My health routine is okay lately, but I know I need to step it up. I certainly haven't been doing enough strength training, and I barely run enough. The good thing about long distance running is even if you only exercise two or three times a week, a two and a half hour run on Sunday has to sort of make up for it, right?

It's no wonder I'm stuck. I still feel more fit than I did at the end of last year, since my hard work in January, but I'm not improving. I still have work to do. Is there a better time to put pressure on than before summer?

My goals for the next 50 days:
1. Four strength training sessions/week. I miss the burn! I will start that Monday. I'm running a half on Sunday, and I want a PR.
2. Four runs/week. Marathon training doesn't really begin until Mid-July this year, but I've done a lot of speed training lately, and I don't want to lose my hard work.
3. Eat healthy/sensibly, but allow myself a cheat day. Lean protein, lots of fruits, and veggies. Some carbs, but not the processed ones.
4. Cut back drinking to once/week, save for special occasions. I'm pretty sure alcohol is the culprit for many of those hard to shed pounds.

I'm looking forward to transformation. Then marathon training will begin, and I should be able to maintain.

On driving:
It is another summer goal. I want to get my license in three months, before August. I got my permit on Friday. Kyley took me out practicing on Tuesday. Darby took me out yesterday. Both said I did better than they expected. I did better than I expected. I just want to get more comfortable, more fluid and natural with the motions. It is a lot of fun. I look forward to the freedom it will bring me. I hope short trips to the coast, Leavenworth, and the Olympic Peninsula are in my future.

After my driving practice on Tuesday, Kyley stayed for dinner. We opened a bottle of rose, perfect for the beautiful day. We nibbled on cheese, proscuitto, and olives. I grilled a leg of lamb, which I marinated overnight in red wine, herbs and plenty of garlic. She made tzatziki while I began a giant salad. Dave and Sass joined us in time for dinner.

It was a lot of lamb, so there was plenty leftover after all of our snacking filled us up. Dave has Thursdays off, so he was on dinner duty last night for after my practice with Darby. Darby and I were able to sit and chat in the back yard enjoying some Cerulean Gewurtztraminer while he cooked. (Don't worry we shared the wine with him.)He made another giant salad, Dave style. There was bacon in the salad, and bacon fat in the dressing! It was delicious, albeit not as "healthy" as I was hoping for when I requested salad. :) We ate that with the remaining lamb, reheated on the grill, and mashed sweet potatoes. Then I broke out Sass's birthday present a week early, a firepit. He was very excited, and in no time the sun was down, and we were all sitting around a warm fire. It was a wonderful evening. I'm enjoying spring.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Belated Twenty-nine

Seriously? 29? How can that be? I moved to Portland at a fresh, naive, inexperienced twenty-two. I am sure somewhere I wrote down what I expected the remainder of my twenties to bring. I'm also fairly certain that I did not follow that path exactly, but here I am, happy, and healthy.  

My birthday was certainly the best since I've been in Portland. On the real day, Dave and I went out to a neighborhood Mexican joint. Then we rented Frozen and had beers, and lit a mini salted caramel chocolate cake from my bosses. (I love Frozen. I bought it this last weekend.)

A couple days later the major celebration took place. My closest friends came over for a dinner party. Dave moved the giant dining room table to the center of the living room, so we could all sit around it. We started with sparkling in the backyard, while it was bright and sunny. Then when it cooled, we moved indoors. We drank plenty of wine. Faby brought tapenade, cheese, and delicious bread. I lit tea lights. Ryder amused us all. Dave presented bacon-wrapped smoked meatloaf, and brussel sprouts in a bacon cream mushroom sauce. I felt so very loved. We had so much fun. It was truly unforgettable and perfect with amazing company and delicious food. It felt elegant and special, sitting around a giant table. Faby made me a beautiful cake: white cake with poppy seed pastry cream and tangerine curd.

That weekend Darby, Nikki and I continued festivities. We began with brunch at Tasty and Alder. Then after a quick stop at Multnomah Falls, we headed to Hood River for wine tasting. We checked out a new to us spot called Cerulean. I definitely would go back there, and recommend it to anyone. They had delicious reds, including a couple Italian styles. I bought a bottle of their Gewurztraminer because Dave loves sweeter whites, and spring is here. We ended our trip with pizza to go at Double Mountain. :) It was such a lovely time with my Mint ladies.

April has been a great month with busy weekends. Dave and I went to our first murder mystery dinner. That was fun! He was so handsome.

I'm training for another half-marathon. I have not been running as consistently as I should, but I'm doing okay. I believe I'm on track for a PR, but not going to come in under two hours like I hoped. I got an eleven miler in the first Sunday of the month. It was slow, but it felt good. It was incredible that day, so afterwards I walked to the nursery to buy plants and seeds and did some planting in our garden. Hopefully they will be fruitful.  We had our first destination BBQ of the year at Washington Park with a few friends on the 13th. Afterwards I blew off running for more quality time with Faby. We started with Argyle in the park. Then we indulged ourselves at St. Jack's. The cocktails were outstanding, and the duck confit poutine frites and marinated octopus were delicious.This past weekend I went home for Easter. Mom and I made scallops and prawns for dinner on Saturday night. On Sunday I did a little speed training, and then we had family brunch at my aunts.

Okay, time to skedaddle so I can eat my late dinner! I'm having leftover braised chicken in a garlicky, tomato, preserved lemon and white wine sauce with a baked potato. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Tinker Bell Half Marathon



 I signed up for the Tinker Bell Half Marathon last July. I had been craving a Disney park for months, and this opportunity seemed like way too good of an excuse to go to Disneyland to pass up. Faby volunteered to go with me. Her family lives near Anaheim, so we were able to stay with her parents and help with the cost. It was such a wonderful weekend.

We woke up just before 4AM Saturday morning. Faby and I walked ourselves to the Jeld-Wen Field Max station, toting our luggage, rushing because we feared we would miss the Max. The beginning of our flight began with views of sunrise over Mount Hood. We were both in awe of how gorgeous it was. I took photos, but they did not come close to doing the sunrise justice.We slept a bit on the plane. I read a little Divergent. It was a short trip to Ontario, CA, and then her dad and brother picked us up, and we went to have tortas, and I had a giant horchata. My torta had braised pork, and bacon, avocado and Oaxacan cheese. It was so delicious, but I could only eat half.

After our breakfast, we went to Faby's house, dropped off our luggage, and drove to Downtown Disney with Faby's sister, brother, and niece. Downtown Disney is almost as exciting to me as Disneyland. I adore the World of Disney store. I picked up my race packet, and became so excited about the race. We enjoyed a wonderful lunch in Downtown Disney at Uva. I ate plenty of shishito peppers and a salad, and we shared a picture of sangria. Then we drove to Newport to watch the sunset. We came home to the dinner Faby's mom had worked all day to prepare, chili rellenos. They were so delicious.



The next morning we woke up again before 4AM. My race began at 5. We got there a bit late, but it all worked out wonderfully. The race was so much fun. I had spent hours working on a bright yellow tutu the Thursday before, and dressed up like Snow White. It was far from my best time, but it was certainly the most exciting half marathon! Running into Disneyland before the park opened felt like a childhood dream. I nearly cried seeing the castle. I ran by Darth Vader, Sleeping Beauty's Castle, Cinderella, It's a Small World. I was exuberant with joy. Faby's sister and niece, Betty and Elena, and Faby, cheered me on around the six mile mark. Being cheered on by strangers as Snow White gave me such a happy feeling. I had stomach problems which resulted in some walking, but otherwise, my body felt great, and did well with the running. Nitiya also ran the race, and although she started in a later corral than I, she ran fast enough that I was able to see her near the finish line. :)




After the race we ate a quick breakfast, I changed, and we rushed to the park via the monorail. We got most of the rides in over the course of the day. I could not stop smiling. I even introduced them to the Enchanted Tiki Room. I ate a turkey leg for lunch. The protein was perfect after the half marathon. I could not finish it all, so wrapped it up to save the rest for a later snack. I think the highlight of my day was having a little girl near me in line say to her father that I looked like Snow White. Then he had to tell me. We took a break from rides to watch the Seahawks defeat the SF for the NFC Championship! We watched it on the ESPN screen outside the restaurant in Downtown Disney. I was surrounded by 49ers fans, and winning felt so good. After the game we caught the Disneyland fireworks.  We ended our night at Space Mountain, before heading home and falling asleep very quickly. Faby's niece did incredible considering our lack of sleep, and I had so much fun exploring Disneyland with a child.



Mad Hatter tea party :)
Dumbo!




Faby and I returned back to Portland early Monday morning. The cold was hard to return to, but we were happy to be back to a normal sleep schedule. I realize I probably will not return to Disneyland until I have kids who are old enough of my own. I'm so thankful for this dreamlike experience.


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Roasted Cauliflower Soup

When you toss vegetables lightly in olive oil, and spread them out on a sheet pan, and put them in a hot oven something magical happens: caramelization. Roasted vegetables are one of my favorite things, especially cauliflower, kale, and rapini. I take them out of the oven, drizzle them with a little lemon, and often before the rest of the meal is ready Dave and I will devour a large bowl of vegetables. They make a delicious snack or appetizer.

Roasting vegetables is one of the easiest methods to cook them, but I cannot tell you how many times I see people doing it wrong. From newbie cooks at work, who are unknowingly revealing just how much they have to learn, to friends and family who have simply not been told the important rule, people mess it up. The biggest secret to well roasted vegetables? Spread them out.

Overcrowd vegetables on a sheet pan will release their moisture and steam before they will caramelize. You might eventually get enough color, but the vegetables will likely be overcooked before they develop the color professional cooks seek out. Caramelization equals flavor. Steamed vegetables are delicious in their own when, but when you choose to roast vegetables, you are seeking a different flavor. Think of grilled chicken versus poached chicken, which would you rather have? Therefore, to roast vegetables properly, you often need to dirty another sheet pan or two.

Hot ovens are also the way to go. I've noticed a lot of home cooks are afraid of heat. Baking a cake or cookies? Roasting a bird? Toasting nuts? Go ahead and drop your oven temperature down to 325 or 350. Roasting vegetables? Learn to embrace 450, or 500. Our ovens at work rarely dropped below 500 degrees F. Yes, you'll have to watch what is in the oven a bit more closely, but it will help you obtain the sexy caramelization we want without turning your vegetables into mush. The side of the vegetable that is on the sheet pan will get more color, so don't be afraid to mix them up a bit and turn them over while they are cooking.

With those two rules in mind, this cauliflower soup is souper easy. (Sorry for the pun!) It is very simple, but flavorful from the roasted cauliflower. I learned how to make this at Fratelli. It is vegan as is, and almost all vegetable and water, but you could certainly finish it with a little cream. I like to leave it without the cream so I can have a couple bowls guilt free! 

Roasted Cauliflower Soup (makes 2 qts)
Two heads of cauliflower, cut into larger pieces
one onion, roughly sliced
garlic to taste, 6-10 cloves ought to be good, peeled and thinly sliced
dried small chilis such as arbol (optional, to taste)
juice of one lemon, or 1 T champagne vinegar

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F while preparing vegetables. The soup is going to be pureed, so it is not important that they look pretty, but you want them to be roughly close in size so they cook at the same speed. When oven is preheated, begin roasting the cauliflower. Spread it out onto at least two sheet pans. Preheat soup pot to a medium low heat. Add about a T of olive oil. Add onions and garlic, and a little salt. Sweat the onions and garlic slowly until translucent. The cauliflower will take about fifteen minutes, but keep an eye on it. You want dark color, but you don't want it burning. If you choose to add chilies, remove the stems and throw them on the sheet pan in the last few minutes to toast them. When the cauliflower has deep, dark brown and golden color, pull it out of the oven and add it to the soup pot. Cover all ingredients with water. It should take a little less than two quarts of water. It is better to use less water to start, and thin it out later if need be. Bring the water to a simmer and cook for about fifteen minutes. Puree the soup with an immersion blender.. If you have to use a real blender, do it in batches, and be sure to start the blender on low before turning it up so that hot soup does not shoot out the top. (I made that mistake once with carrot soup at work, ouch!.) When the soup is pureed, you should add a little acid. I recommend lemon juice, or a little vinegar. Adjust the seasoning. I garnished my soup with truffle oil, which is what we used at Fratelli. Yum!