Thursday, January 17, 2013

Smitten Adventures in the Kitchen

I'm sure there are lots of Smitten Kitchen fans out there. I sure am! For Hannukah I got her new cookbook, and finally got a chance to crack it open these past few weeks.

Just looking through the cookbook was so enjoyable. The beautiful photos make my mouth water. I tagged at least 15 things I want to make out of there already. I love the tips she gives as well for each recipe, including how to prep ahead of time or store.

So, my first recipe was Mushroom Bourguignon. I had Beef Bourguignon. over vacation when my sister made Julia's version, but this looked intriguing. Lighter without the beef, but had the same flavor profiles. And because mushrooms have a dense, meaty texture, they were perfect as the vegetarian alternative. While, not really vegetarian, because you cook it with beef broth. But definitely lighter.

A little cookbook propping. 

Sorry for the bad lighting! Doesn't look so lovely in the pot, but tastes so good!

It was a hit! And was better the next day as it got thicker. It was so rich and flavorful without feeling heavy. We had it just on top of a few thin sliced roasted potatoes.  Next time I want to do egg noodles as the base like she suggests in the cookbook.

My next attempt was gnocchi. IT was a fail and therefore there are no pictures. Not because of her recipe, but some mistakes I made. I'm going to attempt again and blog about it. The mistakes were on my part and not following the recipe as closely as I should have.

Well, it's nothing some pumpkin chocolate chip cookies can't fix!

10 mile race training plan

So..... that 10 mile race I signed up for ? Kind of a spontaneous thing, but now I'm signed up. That will be the longest distance I've ever run, so it scares me. 10 miles is LONG for me given that my longest run ever was the 10k in the fall. But I'm going to see how training goes and try and give it a shot. After my issues with shin splints this fall, I'm a little worried about my legs holding up, so I'm trying to do a lot of cross training.

First step= training plan.

I tried to find a training plan that incorporated lots of cross training. I found this Hal Higdon 10 mile novice plan and it seemed to fit what I wanted. I wanted to switch things up a bit in terms of days he wrote the plan for (I like long runs on Fridays since I'm not in the school), so I made my own plan based on his. I ended up just using Higdon's mile distances as the only set thing each week, and the rest is blank so that I can do whatever type of cross training I"m in the mood for.

Here it is....It is not done by days of the week, but in my mind it starts on a Monday with the "stretch and rest" and goes from there. I like that it's flexible. Like this week (1/14) I did a rest day on Sunday and did my "run and strength" on Monday. I then fill in whatever cross training I do each day. I've already missed or changed a few things, but I'm letting myself do what works with my schedule and feels good. I want to stick to the long runs as much as possible though.

I'll keep updating on how it's going over the next month or so. Ahhh, it's so soon!

Stretch and Rest
Cross train
Light Cross train
Run (long)
Cross train
Run  & Strength

2 mile
Tabata class
3 mile
4 mile
Stair and elliptical
2 mile & Strength
3 mile

 tabata +ellipitical
4 mile
2 mile & Strength
 2 mile and strength
2 mile
 2 mile and tabata

2 mile

2 mile & Strength
3 m

4 mile

5 mile

3 mile & Strength

4 mile

6 mile

3 mile & Strength

3 mile

4 mile

3 mile & Strength

5 mile

7 mile

3 mile & Strength

5 mile

8 mile

3 mile & Strength

3 mile
Cross train
2 mile run & strength
2 mile or rest

Friday, January 11, 2013

(Food and Drink) Adventures in Maine!

I'm still trying to catch up with everything after the holidays and getting back to work.  So more on my race training plan (10 miler in march..ahh!) and recent cooking adventures to come soon.

But, let's back up first. Portland, Maine! I was surprised with a trip to Portland over New Years. Our days consisted of walking through snowy Portland, eating, drinking, and more eating. Such a great foodie city! Tons of independent restaurants, cafes, and bars, with a lot of them focusing on local ingredients. I'm not going to include ever meal we had, but I'll focus on the highlights.

We took the train from Boston. It had snowed the night before, so it was a beautiful snowy ride through New England.
Ocean views from the train

Our first stop was Duckfat Restaurant for lunch. It is a cozy little restaurant that was filled to the brim with customers. We waited for about 25 minutes and then got a seat at the counter. Their speciality is their Belgian style french fries cooked in duck fat. Holy amazing! And you get to pick from their many dipping sauce options. We decided on the Aioli and Sweet and Spicy Mustard Mayo. So rich and delicious. 
They tasted as good as they look.

For my main course I got a salad. It was one of my favorite salads ever. Thinly sliced brussel sprouts and romaine, pickled leek, apple, Parmesan cheese, and a lemon herb vinaigrette. I got a duck egg on top. It was so fresh and crunchy, and all the ingredients played off each other so well. 

Salad Heaven!
We spent the rest of the afternoon walking through the city. It is filled with cute boutiques, pubs, and great ocean views.  That night we headed to Boda for dinner. It was recommended by the waitress at Duckfat. It was delicious modern Thai, with lots of "tapas" like options. We got great spicy Thai wings, mussels in curry, and a pad Thai. It was too dark for photos unfortunately.

Day 2 included more walking and city exploration, a trip to Shipyard Brewery (pumpkin beer heaven!), and a visit to Maine Mead Works. This is a hidden gem. They showed up around the facility and described the ancient method they use to make the Mead. We also tasted a bunch of their meads, including a seasonal spiced mead and a cranberry mead. Fabulous and they were so friendly.

Mead it up!

In between this all, we went to Micucci's, which was recommended by a friend. From the outside it looks like a non descript brick building. When you walk in you are suddenly transported to Italy. Think old school Italian, including a deli and every Italian shelf ingredient you can imagine. And everything was big! Giant jars of tomatoes, olives, oil, and any other item needed for an Italian feast. In the back you stumble upon what we came to Micucci's for....Pizza! There is a little room in the back with a window that serves their famous Sicilian pizza slices. There was already a line waiting for the next batch of traditional, handmade, Sicilian pizza. Apparently lots of people come to Micucci's for the famous pizza. After about 20 minutes, the slices started appearing in the window. I only had a bite (because of the cheese) but it was incredible. The crust was doughy, garlicky heaven. And the sauce consisted of huge, chunky tomatoes. A must have in Portland!
One of the many giant size food jars
Yes, that is one slice. It didn't fit on the plate.
More exploring for the rest of the afternoon, including many wonderful bookstores! The big New Year's Eve dinner was upon us. The trip was planned around this New Year's Eve dinner at Fore Street. My Fiance made a reservation here 4 months ago after it was recommended as the best place to eat in Portland by all his friends who had been there. It was INCREDIBLE! The food was fantastic, and the overall experience was even better(which says a lot since the food was delicious). Just being in the restaurant alone and exploring the menu was an experience in itself. 
Open Kitchen...the chefs at work!

I couldn't get pictures of the food because of lighting, but it was DELICIOUS! Sweetbreads and a roasted half chicken, with fabulous veggies and sides. The best way I can describe the restaurant is like a rustic version of "Kitchen Stadium" from Iron Chef America. The completely open kitchen was the center of the restaurant, and the tables surrounded it. It was like watching a cooking show during dinner. I was in heaven! Their speciality is local and seasonal ingredients, which were on display in their "crisper room".  It was so cool to look into, and it was right in the middle of the restaurant. They also specialize in wood grilled (there's a big brick oven) and spit roasted meats and fish. The menu is 2 pages long and is created each day based on what is available. I can't even imagine how they create that every day. It was an epic menu. 

View into the window of the "crisper". 

They were also so friendly and invited us to come and view the kitchen close up while we were waiting for our table. It really felt like the kitchen was part of the restaurant, as opposed to being behind closed doors.

After leaving stuffed, we went to a local pub we found for drinks and chatting with locals. We rang in the New Year and walked home to fall asleep in the heavenly B&B bed. 

On our last morning we went to Local 188 for New Year's Day breakfast. It was packed, but we got a table in about 20 minutes. The atmosphere was very unique. It was like a big living room out of an Anthropology catalogue. We enjoyed delicious $5 Bloody Marys and some eggs. 

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It was sad to go, but we definitely want to go back to Portland in the near future(maybe for beautiful spring/summer weather) to explore all the good eats we didn't get to in our short trip!

Center of Portland: the ocean is at the bottom of the hill

Friday, January 4, 2013

Race Registration: Post TGIF martini

I registered tonight for a 10 mile race. After having a strong martini. That will be the longest I"ve ever run (a 10k=6.2 miles is my max). Not sure what I was thinking. It's March 2nd. I'm hoping to come up with some sort of plan that is flexible with work, but we'll see how I do.

Be careful when registering for races after a martini!

Holiday Review (in food)

It's been a long time. I decided to really step away from work and everything over the holidays, and just relax and enjoy where I was and what I was doing...and eating! But I did take many pictures of the MANY delicious things I ate over vacation.

There was very little exercise over break. I was getting over a bad cough/cold, and quite frankly, just wanted to take it easy. There were a few runs along the Hudson in NYC and a couple gym visits. Getting back to regular exercise this week was definitely tough. I was huffing and puffing through my tabata class. But, i got in a 4 mile run today which felt good!

I'm bummed the holiday season is over, but it truly was a GREAT couple weeks. It was one of the nicest times I've spent with family and friends in a long time. I was in NYC (at my sister's apartment) from December 22nd- December 27th. Many of our meals were eaten at her apartment, as she is very into cooking Julia Child recipes. And I enjoy eating it! I barely cooked over the break since I was away, so it's nice to get back to cooking. But I can't say I didn't like eating delicious food that was cooked for me. Let's just say there was lots of wine, cheese, salami, and french dishes while in NYC. We did eat out at a spot in Chinatown and some other places, but I'm going to focus on the home cooked meals.

I then spent a couple days in Portland, Maine over New Years. It was a surprise anniversary trip planned by the fiance. We've never been and it was glorious. Loved it, especially the amazing food scene there. I'll write a post just about Portland soon.

For now, here is Christmas in NYC via pictures. Mostly food pictures....
Where all the eating happened. My sister's beautifully decorated and festive apartment

First dinner after we arrived. My sister made Julia Child's Beef Bourguignon. AMAZING!

Beef served with a green salad(with homemade lemon/garlic dressing, and roasted potatoes. My brother in law is Peruvian and has a way with potatoes. They are simple, but amazing.
Christmas Eve Appetizer plate. This is my father's speciality. A few varieties of salami and crackers. Not shown were olives, and some sharp parm. And wine, lots of wine.
Fondue on Christmas Eve. This is our family's Christmas Eve tradition that we've done or  years. Delish! With a side of green salad and baguette for dipping. AND my fiance has a friend in NYC who contributed homemade tater tots. Imagine a mini potato latke dipped into fondue. It's as good as it sounds.
Salad, "tater tots", and baguette.

Made another night we were there. This was probably the best thing I ate over vacation. My sister made Julia Child's French Onion Soup. Unreal! She stewed those onions for hours!
Julia Child's Garlic Soup. So good. Has a unique flavor that I can't even describe. Almost like what you would image the "essence" of garlic to taste like. Not overpowering, but definitely garlicky. All the Julia recipes my sister made are in her Mastering the Art of French Cooking:Volume I.
And it's not a trip to NYC without lots of time with my favorite cat friend, Sadie!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A little holiday (chocolate) cheer

I had some food photos and recipes to post, but this week has been a blur. Like many people the Sandy Hook Tragedy has been on my mind all week. Working at a K-8  school definitely made it all more real and horrifying to imagine for me. My school did a good job of putting in the safety and emotional supports needed for teachers and students this week. I was also home sick most of this week with gross bronchitis, cold, and fever.

So, with that being said, I haven't done much cooking this week. But I've been antsy sitting around the house, especially since I love being out at this time of the year.  I did a little project today to get some holiday spirit in my week, and make a little treat for teachers after a long semester (and week). My after school program shares space with lots of teachers, so I like to make little holiday gift thank yous instead of buying random crap that ends up being overpriced.

Growing up my mom always went a little overboard with the gifts she gave my sister and my teachers at the holidays. She would make homemade breads, candy, lemon squares and more. I remember her always being up till 2am the night before putting it together. She was/is definitely hard core.

I'm not quite as hardcore. At all. But, I did take some inspiration from the "bark" she would make our teachers. It's festive, pretty, cheap, and easy.  The great thing about this is that you can use your chocolate of choice and any combo of toppings: peppermint, chopped nuts, caramel, cookie crumbles, pretzels, graham crackers, orange zest. Basically whatever!

To keep it simple and cheap I did toasted coconut and dried cranberries. I would usually also do pistachios to add some festive color, but I was worried about nut allergies at school.  My mom always did white chocolate with cranberries and pistachios.

Chocolate Holiday Bark:

1 lb chocolate of your choice ( I got the big 1 lb milk chocolate bar at TJs, but you could do any dark chocolate for dairy free)
1/4 cup of each topping

1. Grease a baking pan (I use a 9 by 12 inch)
2. Put parchment paper over greased baking pan.
3. In a double boiler(or with a heatproof pan over simmering water pot) melt chocolate.
4. As soon as all chocolate is melted, pour evenly across baking pan.
5. Use a baking spatula to spread evenly (but doesn't have to be perfectly even, and can be pretty thin, like 1/4 inch thick)
6. Sprinkle toppings evenly across hot chocolate (I then press the toppings lightly into the chocolate with the back of the spatula to make sure it is stuck in the chocolate).
7. Place pan in fridge for an hour (or until solid)
8. Break sheet of chocolate into pieces. They don't need to be even but can be the size of your liking.
9. Put in bag and tie with ribbon!( I like to string on a tag with the ingredients as well)


Holiday Partay in a bag!
I'll be in NYC and Portland,ME for the next 10 days or so. Hopefully I"ll kick this cold(knock on wood) before I leave. Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Latkes for the win

Pheewwww. And done!

This week was a blur. My after school program ended it's fall session last night, which means 2 kiddo free weeks ahead. We had our parent night/student showcase last night, which went really well. But it meant a crazy week of preparing and executing the event. Burnt myself out a bit, and per usual, woke up this morning with a sore throat, stuffy nose, and aches. Seems to be what happens after a week like this week.

But I've got some fun things on tap for the weekend, so I'm taking today to rest, rest, rest. Fingers crossed this doesn't get worse. Weekend plans include a Chinese dinner at my fiances organization, and a Hanukkah/winter holidays party at our apartment tomorrow night.

Tomorrow night's party will have some seasonal festive Hanukkah bites including latkes(Trader Joe's- I'm lazy) and some crock pot pot roast (I'll post my recipe after the partay). Additionally we'll have some small bite appetizers, which is my favorite way to eat!

The highlight of last week's eats was a kick off Hannukah dinner at my parents. My mother's latkes are the BEST. So crisp and delicious! Also had some fabulous brisket, chopped salad, and vegan chocolate cupcakes for dessert. I could eat stacks and stacks of these latkes...

Looks like your average salad. But so much more. Chopped romaine, tomatoes, olives, cukes, feta, and lemony dressing.

Latkes and Brisket. Best Ever.

I don't even try to attempt to make my own latkes. First, the smell permeates everything in the house you cook them in, which drives me crazy. Also, I just couldn't make them this delicious!

On another note, I'm doing mostly gym workouts. My run on Sunday ended with my shins getting aggravated again which was frustrating. Just getting overall frustrated with my runs, so trying to rest and take a break. Not liking it though.

And to end things.........

Best Hanukkah gift ever. I don't know where to start because everything looks so delish!