Monthly Archives: March 2010

Ditchin’ the kitchen

Shades of my former life today.

That is: a girl who ate whatever she wanted and who wasn’t on a budget.  Also known as: lots and lots of eating out.  Or: awesomeness.

Not that I don’t love cooking – but man it was nice when I woke up this morning and realized I had plans for both lunch AND dinner out with friends.  What a lovely respite!  And a chance to hit up some awesome restaurants.

Without further ado….

Today’s EAT: First, lunch.  I met a good friend and her adorable daughter for a girls’ catch-up lunch at Le Grainne in Chelsea.  Croque monsieur = simple, cheesy, hammy heaven.  With lots of sandwiches and salads under $10, this place is awesome for lunch and one of my favorites in the area!

And, um…it just so happens that Billy’s Bakery is across the street.  Hello, cupcake.  Of course we stopped for a little treat.

My tummy had barely recovered from the deliciousness by the time dinner rolled around: a meetup with some friends at Green Table inside the Chelsea Market.  (Yes, lots of hangin’ in Chelsea today!)  There was Mac and Cheese on the menu and I was unable to resist.  However, I did go for the side portion, along with a delicious salad.

Going to bed with a full belly tonight, and love the fact that I didn’t log a single minute in the kitchen to make it happen.  Ahh…the good life.

Today’s DRINK: I can’t remember what wine we had with dinner, but I do know that one of them was PINK!  Rose wines are totally a summer thing in NYC and sipping one made me so giddy.  Can’t wait until the days of sipping chilled pink wines on sunny patios.

Today’s RUN: An easy 6 miles (52:00).  I really intended to also do some lower-body lifting today, but it never happened.  Oh well.

Reason #332 why cats rock

Because they don’t have to be walked in a torrential downpour.

Seriously.  I love dogs and can’t wait to welcome one to our family someday.  But as I was sloshing back from the gym through flooded streets in the freezing rain, I most definitely thought to myself: I’m so glad I don’t have a dog in the city.

I suppose there is a sort of community that springs up from this shared misery of city-dog-owners on days like today.  You can see it: they are huddled under awnings or commiserating under dripping umbrellas, leashes in hand, while their shivering dogs strive to do their business on the soggy sidewalk.  Every now and then one breaks away to collect a waterlogged pile of poo and,with a grateful yet sympathetic smile that pities the owner whose pup has yet to discharge, return to the comfort of indoors.

Meanwhile, my two feline piles of fur spent today sacked out on the bed, completely oblivious to the raging storm.

It’s good to be a cat.  And a cat owner.  Win win.

Today’s EAT: I wish I could say tonight’s dinner was “healthy and delicious!”  But alas, it was one of the two.  Can you guess which?

I’ll give you a hint: those bones were licked clean.

When I saw bone-in beef short ribs in sale this week, I couldn’t resist.  They rank among the fattiest cuts of meat out there, but holy smokes are they delicious.

I followed this fairly classic recipe, making just a few modifications (no celery, dried herbs, none of the food processor nonsense – I just chopped things fairly small).  I think this was the first time I’d made short ribs since the sad demise of my crockpot.  (Which was truly a tragic day.  It did not survive the move last August.  But it’s probably okay, because I don’t really have room for it in my itsy bitsy kitchen anyway.)

Anyway, it was delicious.  I served it over mashed sweet potatoes with a side of french green beans.  On a stormy day like today, worth every hearty bite.

Today’s DRINK: I’m going to let you in one one of my favorite techniques for justifying midweek lushery: cook a dinner that requires wine, and then you *must* open a bottle…and then, well, it would be a shame to let it go to waste, right?

Especially a delicious bold cab like this one:

A rodeo-themed Cab called “The Show?”  Get out. Of course I had to buy it.  It was a tad pricy for my normal wine budget – I think it was $13 – but it’s well worth it!  Not just a catchy label, this one.  I’d definitely buy it again.

Today’s RUN: Speedwork on the treadmill.  One of these days I’ll be more creative with my interval workouts, but today I went for a tried-and-true set of 6 X 800M repeats at 5K pace at 1% incline with 60-90 seconds rest in between.  I started out at 6:45 pace and worked my way down, with the last one at 6:15 pace.  (Note: I haven’t run a 5K in a while.  So I really don’t know what my current pace is.  I’d be pretty happy with that pace though.)

Does anyone else feel like a bit of a tool doing speedwork on the treadmill at the gym?  I feel like people are looking at me and wondering why I keep running super fast and then stopping.  And why there is sweat flying off of me in every direction.  I know that runners probably get it, but I think I was perplexing to the two older ladies who were walking on the treadmills down the row today.

He actually did it

My husband ordered Girl Scout cookies on eBay.  12 boxes.  I can’t believe he actually did it.  Nor can I imagine what we are going to do with a dozen boxes of cookies.

Girl scout cookie party, anyone?  With White Russians perhaps?

When I grow up

Today was a rainy Monday, and my mood matched the weather: bleh.

Last spring, when the hubs graduated from business school, I quit my very comfortable and safe consulting job to try my hand at freelancing for a year.  After an amazing summer of world travel and general care-free-ness, we settled in New York City and then…

…well, as it turns out freelancing is hard.

I miss my office and having co-workers around; I miss happy hours (obviously); I miss not waking up every day and having to hustle my butt off trying to find work so that I can contribute enough to our household income to bring our budget into the black (barely).

I have always said I’d love to work from home and work for myself.  Well, I’m living my dream.  And it’s damn hard some days.

Today I spent a considerable amount of time scanning my college alumni directory to see if any of my former classmates might be good people for me to network with or generate leads from.  I went to a very selective, professionally-driven school, so it’s not surprising that every entry seems to be “lawyer” or “doctor” or “president of blah blah blah.”

And then there’s me.  Wanna-be freelancer.  Wearer of pajamas on the couch at 2 PM.  Who talks to her cats all day.

What the heck have I done with myself for the last eight years?  Why does everyone else seem to have it figured out but me?

In short…how am I nearly 30 years old and still don’t have any clue what I want to do with my life?

I know that I’m not the only one who feels this way.  Actually, I think it’s a fairly common sentiment among today’s 20- and 30-somethings.  An intense anxiety about finding true happiness in our careers and a reluctance to settle for anything less.  We watched our parents’ generation work for the same companies for decades, surviving the drudgery, neither miserable nor happy.  We don’t want that.  We want to find the dream job, the elusive career that allows one to truly say that they love going to work every day.  And we’re determined keep switching jobs and collecting graduate degrees until we find it.

Does that job actually exist though?  Are we setting ourselves up for failure with this relentless quest for career nirvana?

I do know one thing.  The grass is  greener on the other side.  I love that I am trying out something that I’ve always wanted to do, but I’d be lying if I didn’t spend some days wishing I could just go to an office, clock in,  fill out some TPS reports, and clock out.

(And collect a paycheck, of course.  Oh paychecks…how I miss you!)

I guess I will figure it out someday.  Or…not?  Who knows.  Honestly, in many ways I don’t feel like a real adult yet, so maybe I’ve got some time to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.

Today’s EAT: One thing that my flexible freelance schedule allows me to do is to play Martha Stewart.  Quite literally, tonight, with this MS Lighter General Tso’s Chicken:

I *really* liked how this came out.  It tasted like real restaurant Chinese.  No, better than restaurant Chinese, because the chicken was nice and juicy and not totally greasy.

Mods:

  • I used a red bell pepper and some chopped french green beans instead of snow peas.
  • I used a bit more than 1 TBSP of oil to fry the chicken in.  Maybe even 2.  Worth it.
  • I doubled (and then some) the red pepper flakes.  Spicy = good!

Today’s DRINK: The hubs did not want any wine tonight (hiss boo, hubs!), and I didn’t want to open a bottle just for me.  Instead I sipped on a Brooklyn Pilsner with dinner.

Today’s RUN: Day off!  I hadn’t had a full day off in over a week, so I relaxed and didn’t even leave my apartment today.  (It was a fine day for staying inside anyway, given the craptastic weather.)

That’s how I roll

Things that are on my short list for “Favorite Food in the World”:

  1. McDonald’s french fries with lots of ketchup
  2. Cherry Garcia ice cream
  3. Pan fried Thai noodles (pad thai, pad see ew, etc)
  4. Pizza slices, New York style
  5. Cheese, particularly goat cheese

Hey, guess what!  I like junky food.  It really is a miracle I’m not obese.

However, there is one food that tops them all in my book, and it’s actually relatively healthy.  Behold, the Vietnamese summer roll in all of its glory:

Also called fresh spring rolls or goi cuon, it is basically a delicious little salad bound by a rice wrapper and dunked in rich peanut sauce.  I am somewhat obsessed with these and could literally eat them every day.  When I was traveling in Vietnam last summer, I was on a major mission to find the world’s perfect summer roll.  (Which I did, in Saigon – pictured above!)

I even took a cooking class in Hoi An and learned to make my own, wrapper and all!  Beautiful and delicious, no?

Oh wait, um, that’s not so beautiful….that’s a sweaty (but very happy!) amateur chef!  These are beautiful, and it’s really quite remarkable that I made them from scratch:

Being that they are my favorite food in the world and all, it’s not surprising that I woke up craving them after staying out way too late and drinking too much beer last night.  I promptly placed a SeamlessWeb order to Cafetasia to get my summer roll fix.

Far from authentic, but satisfied the craving nonetheless.  Traditional summer roll fillings include shrimp, rice noodles, shredded carrot, and herby greens.  These had no shrimp and tofu instead.  No matter – at the end of the day they are simply a vehicle for the delicious peanut sauce.

(Full disclosure, I also inhaled a carton of Pad Thai, see #3 above.  Hey, at least it wasn’t McDonald’s!)

Do you have an unusual favorite food? A lot of people find my summer roll obsession rather weird.  But I just roll with it (ha).

Today’s EAT: Dinner was simple.  Pesto chicken sausage with caramelized onions and whole wheat pasta:

And salad, of course.  Tomorrow is grocery day and it’s about time – the pickins are slim around here!

Today’s DRINK: Before we talk about today’s drink, we must talk about yesterday’s drink.  Or the several beers at the bar that resulted in the summer roll craving this morning.  (And by “morning” I mean 11:30 AM, when I finally rolled out of bed.)  Wine was the last thing on my mind tonight!

However, when the hubs mentioned opening a bottle to have with dinner, I relented.  We’re sipping this Rootstock Sauvignon Blanc this evening:

It is light and delicious and reminds me of summer, in spite of the fact that it’s like 30 degrees outside (brr).

Today’s RUN: I dragged my beer-laden butt through a rather unpleasant 5 miles (42:00) this afternoon.  I felt like garbage but it’s my own fault (see DRINK, above) so I suppose I can’t complain too much.

P.S. – I probably would have just succumbed to the circumstances and taken the day off, but for the brand new Training page I added this week – see tab at top!  Accountability.  It actually works – who knew?

Chicken, little

Here is a surefire sign that you’re getting old: It’s Friday night, and instead of getting pumped about going out, you are really excited to cook an awesome recipe that you’ve been waiting for all week and then collapse onto the couch in your pajamas.

And, party people, it would be one thing if I could say I had a really stressful week at the office.  But as you probably know I spend most days on the couch in my pajamas.  Sigh.  Yep: definitely getting old.

Anyway.  I feel somewhat redeemed by the fact that dinner was, in fact, awesome.  Cornish game hens are one of my all-time favorite things to cook, and I went with one of my all-time favorite recipes (see below) resulting in a orange-y, herby, buttery mess of mini-chicken:

Awesome.

Whenever I make cornish hens, I wonder why I don’t make them more often.  They are inexpensive, quick to roast (relative to an actual chicken, anyway) and have tons of flavor.  Eating them can be a bit of a mess, I suppose.  After the first couple of bites, the fork is relegated to the role of auxiliary tool and it’s all about picking that tender meat off of the bird’s delicate bones with your fingers.  Yum.

Sayeth the hubs: “Restaurant quality.”  And then he did the dishes.  What a guy.

Today’s EAT: The recipe – Roasted Orange-Herb Game Hen.  I’ve made this so many times that I have my own list of tried and true modifications:

  • I used two hens and the hubs and I each had a whole one.  Hey, I’m a hungry girl and it’s Friday night – I ain’t splittin’ no bird!  Besides, I like the way they cook better when you cook them whole instead of halved.  Increase the cooking time to 50-55 minutes.  It’s worth it.
  • I always add lots of thin orange wedges – a whole orange’s worth – to the pan with the hens.  Some stuffed in the cavity, some just placed around the birds.  I add them to the reduction of pan juices to make the sauce at the end and they are delicious.
  • Used dried herbs.  Dries rosemary, dried thyme, and poultry seasoning.  Klassy!

Little chickens were served alongside garlic mashed potatoes (no recipe here – just potatoes, soy milk, butter and garlic!) and Honey Glazed Carrots.

(Oh, and the hubs and I broke the wishbone of my bird after dinner.  He won.  Unfair!)

Today’s DRINK: White wine two nights in a row!  I would have loved to have served a nice Pinot Noir with dinner, but I didn’t have any on hand.  Instead I went with this Bonterra Chardonnay:

As usual, a TJ’s cheapie.  It’s okay, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to buy it again.

Today’s RUN: Day off today!  I did drag my butt to the gym to lift, though.  My strength training has been seriously lacking lately.  Between trying to run 30ish miles a week, go to yoga a couple of times, and lift a couple of times, it sometimes seems like a challenge to fit it all in!

Anyway, today’s workout.  I did my “ten things” workout and picked ten things to work my arms/chest/back.

  • Bench press: 2X10 with 70lb bar, 1X10 with 75lb bar
  • Shoulder press: 3×10 with 15lb dumbbells
  • Low row: 3×10 with 5 plates
  • Lat pull down: 3×10 with 6.5 plates
  • Headbangers: 3×10 with 30lb bar
  • Upright row: 3×10 with 40lb bar
  • Bicep curl: 3×8 with 20lb dumbbells
  • Assisted pull-up: 3×8 with 52lbs assist
  • Assisted dip: 3×10 with 46 lbs assist
  • Push up ladder 10 down to 1

I was particularly happy to get the push-up ladder done without having to go onto my knees at all!  55 “real” push ups, yay!

The cookie crumbles

“I have some very bad news,” says the hubs tonight, brow furrowed.  He takes a deep breath.  “You know our Girl Scout cookie order?”

Gasp.  NO!

Apparently a mix-up in his office has led to us NOT getting our Thin Mints and Samoas this year.  And now…I fear it’s too late.  The Girl Scout Cookie Selling Season has passed.  There must be something we can do, though – right?

“Well,” says the hubs, “I contacted Girl Scouts of America of New York.  In theory, someone is calling me back.”  I can’t help but snort.  No, he didn’t. I study his face – he’s dead serious.  Yes, he did.

What about eBay? I suggest.

“eBay,” he muses.  “Interesting.”  I have to giggle.

He continues: “There are some people in my office selling their extras, but it’s, like, the lemon ones.  And the trefoils.”  He practically spits with disgust.  “I mean, who orders that?  I kind of want to find them just so I can punch them in the face.”

Ah, my hubster.  So passionate, and so resourceful.  I have a good feeling that we’ll get some hands on some Girl Scout cookies yet.

But certainly no trefoils.

Today’s EAT: Running club night means no cooking for me!  The hubs put together some fancy pizza – a plain Amy’s frozen cheese pizza dressed up with pesto chicken sausage and grilled onions.

It hit the spot!  I don’t know what we did before we discovered flavored chicken sausages…they dress up any pizza or pasta dish so well.

Today’s DRINK: Time to crack open a new  bottle from yesterday’s haul – Fife Chardonnay, 2008:

It’s not bad!  For the price (under $10) it’s perfectly decent and drinkable.  And after running on a muggy night like tonight, a chilled white wine tastes perfect.  (Hmm, perhaps I should have taken a glass into the shower with me!)

Today’s RUN: CPTC tempo run was 4 miles tonight – a relief, because I was really not feeling up to anything super long or super hard.  I ran the loop in 29:25, which I was happy about, especially since it’s faster than both of the 4-mile races I’ve done this year and felt a whole lot easier.   Hooray for improvements in pace!

I also did an hour of Vinyasa yoga at the gym this morning.

Fear of commitment

Every couple of years, I must undergo a serious evaluation of one of the most important relationships in my life.

We spend every day together.  Pretty much anywhere I go, we go as a unit.  My companion from the first moment I wake up until I shut the light off at night.

Of course, I am talking about my phone.

For several years now, I’ve been solidly on Team Blackberry.  All of those fancy touch phones?  Didn’t trust ’em.  Even as more and more of my friends started sporting those fancy-schmancy iPhones.  My BB was good enough for me.

But now I find myself at something of a crossroads.  I’m definitely not going the iRoute, as iDon’t feel like dealing with the hassle of switching from Verizon.  And also because I hear that they do everything except allow you to place and complete phone calls – at least here in NYC.

Clearly touch phones are the future though.  And I don’t want a dinosaur of a Blackberry while the rest of the world moves on.

Hence the fear of commitment.  Two years is a long time to spend with a phone!  This is not a decision to be taken lightly.

And so, for the last couple of months I’ve been on and off flirting with the Droid:

For some reason I just can’t quite get on board though.  It seems a little…large.  And heavy.  And just…not an iPhone.

I was at the Verizon store last week and I’ve gotta say the salesguy’s pitch was rather weak.  I expressed my Droid concerns (too big!  not as cool as an iPhone!) and he responded thusly:

“This can do so much more cool stuff than an iPhone.  Check it out.”  He loaded an app of some sort that lets you look at the night sky.  Google Maps for the night sky.

Um…okay?  And that’s useful to me how?  Come on dude, you can do better than that.

If you have a Droid…do you love it?  Hate it?  What am I missing here?

At the end of the day, I just want a phone that weighs next to nothing, takes up negative space in my purse, has a infinite battery life, can place calls and send emails, and can entertain me on the subway.

And that can make toast.

Hmm.  Maybe I need an iPhone after all.

Today’s EAT: Chicken dinner!  Except instead of skinless boneless chicken breasts, I made – gasp! – bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, based on this recipe for Roast Chicken Thighs with Shallots:

Delicious fatty skin.  Mmmm.  No, I did not eat the skin.  But cooking chicken with the skin on makes it so much juicier and adds a delicious little layer of fat on everything.  Finger-lickin’ good.

Double naughty: I cooked the sweet potatoes in the same pan, so they cooked in the chicken juices and fat too.  To die for.

Partial redemption: Served sinful chicken and potatoes alongside a very healthy salad with red wine vinegar.

Today’s DRINK: Exciting news – I finally stocked up on some wine!  I’m taking tonight off, but I can’t wait to crack one open tomorrow night after running.

Today’s RUN: Easy 5 miles, 40 minutes flat.  It’s unbelievable how amazing the weather has been for running the last couple of weeks.  Knock on wood.



Intensi-WHAT?

My friend J had been raving about this class at her gym for weeks.

“You’re either going to think it’s brilliant…or you’ll think I’m crazy,” she said.

With a pitch like that, you know I’m in!  So I ventured to the uber-fancy (compared to my neighborhood gym, anyway) Equinox Fitness to meet J for intenSati class tonight.

The premise is, admittedly, a bit hokey.  It’s basically a high-intensity hour of cardio paired with a constant exchange of positive statements between the instructor and the class.  Imagine a room full of (mostly) women, jumping and waving their hands in the air and shouting things like “I am strong!” in unison.  Yes, it sounds absolutely cheesetastic.

But you know what?  It is actually incredibly fun.   And a great workout.  You know how you go out dancing with your friends and wind up a sweaty mess without even realizing it because you were having a blast?  It’s kind of like that.  We basically did jump squats for an hour and I wasn’t even thinking about it because I was too busy laughing, cheering and trying to keep up with the sequence of moves.

One of the awesome things about living in NYC is getting to try these branded workouts.  IntenSati is the sort of thing you see on Oprah, or written up glowingly in Shape magazine.  For the most part they seem to exist in only in New York and L.A.  It’s fun to be able to try stuff like this while we’re living here!

Sitting here after dinner watching TV with the hubs, I feel oddly….positive.  Maybe there really is something to this positive psychology thing.  Yeah, I am strong.  Rawr. :)

Today’s EAT:  Nothing special tonight.  The hubs was on a work call when I got back from the class tonight, so I threw some frozen dumplings into a pan for both of us and called it dinner.

Today’s DRINK:  I’m polishing off the rest of yesterday’s table white!  Super excited for a TJ’s wine shop run tomorrow so we can try out some new wines.

Today’s RUN:  I went out for a little recovery run in the early part of the day today, in addition to tonight’s intenSati class.  Did my 4-mile route in 31:40.  (Hey there, easy peasy 7:55 pace.  Thanks for coming along today.  Where the eff were you on Sunday?  Ugh.)

Sugar and spice

and everything nice.  That is my mantra for this post, after yesterday’s explosion of negativity about my race!  Here are some positive things about yesterday’s race:

The weather.  It was awesome.  I don’t think you could have asked for a nicer day for running!

The course.  A lap around Central Park, a run down Seventh Av through Times Square, then straight down the West Side Highway to the finish.  The park was a little hilly of course, but miles 9-13 were flat as a pancake.  Lots of entertainment and fun things to look at.  Definitely a great course!

The spectators.  While not nearly as jaw-dropping as the crowd for the full marathon, I was still surprised at how many people were out there cheering on a Sunday morning.  Thanks, spectators!

Da feet.  No agony here!  I often get little blisters or at least hot spots from longer runs, but my feet survived this one unscathed.  Yay!

See, I can talk about my race in a non-whiny way too! :)

In another bout of forward-thinking positivity, I signed up for my next round of races this afternoon!  I updated them on my sidebar and also on the brand-spanking-new tab at the top.  (The sidebar was getting a little long so I chopped it off.)

5Ks, 10Ks and another shot at the dreaded half-marathon.  I’ll nail it next time!

Today’s EAT: I cooked vegetarian for dinner!  This is a rare occurrence around here, as the hubs is pretty much a meat addict, but I’ve seen some great looking tofu recipes lately and wanted to give it a shot.

I ended up not using a recipe though, and just improvising to come up with this:

Crispy tofu with peanut sauce and leeks.  Over whole wheat spaghetti.  I crusted the tofu in panko and pan-fried it in a bit of canola oil; the peanut sauce was a treasure I pulled from the freezer, left over from a huge batch of peanut dip we made for the Super Bowl.  Quick, easy, delicious!  And cheap – tofu is super inexpensive compared to meat.

Today’s DRINK: I opened a bottle of Tres Pinos Tierra Blanca to have with dinner.   And with that, the wine rack is nearly empty.  I never got around to my wine run last week; priority for this week!!

Today’s RUN: Day off of running!  I went to Iyengar Yoga class this morning.  I don’t usually go to this class because compared to the Vinyasa class I usually attend, it’s pretty slow and not as much of a workout.  This morning, though, it was the perfect way to stretch out my post-race legs.