Friday, January 31, 2014

Tonight's Dinner: January 30, 2014

It was a rough morning.  I remembered while brushing my teeth that I had forgotten to marinate the chicken for Chinese New Year dinner.  My mom would have had my head if I forgot that.  I pretty much slapped on my makeup so that I would have enough time to prepare the chicken.  I’m drained and still have to actually make the dinner tonight.  So I’m going to keep it brief.  Nick made dinner anyway so I can’t really add much information except that this was one of the best steak sandwiches I’ve ever had.  When I bit into the sandwich, I was actually able to bite through the meat.  Usually, when I have a steak sandwich the meat is too tough to bite through and I end up pulling the whole piece out.  We used left over porter house from Harris Ranch.  I guess if I want a good sandwich I need to buy expensive steak. 


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Tonight's Dinner: January 29, 2014

Tonight we had a difficult time trying to figure out what we wanted to do for dinner.  I wanted chicken sandwiches again, but Nick didn’t seem that enthused about the idea of eating the same thing twice so I set my mind to ravioli in a tomato sauce. I think we’ll do a sandwich tonight since I’ll be prepping all of my Chinese New Year food for our big feast tomorrow.  The ravioli themselves were really good, but the sauce was kind of bland. We added a lot of herbs, but it was kind of just standard.  Not terrible, but not really worth writing a recipe for.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Tonight's Dinner: January 28, 2014

I have been so lazy when it comes to working out.  Maybe I’ll get a burst of motivation soon to train for my upcoming races and marathon.  The good thing about not working out so much is that I’m back to cooking.  Like I said before, the balance between working out and cooking is hard for me to manage.  If I workout, I don’t cook.  If I cook, I don’t work out. Lately, my teeter-totter has been leaning toward the fat-kid side.

I had picked up some ciabatta rolls from Costco on Monday to make sandwiches for lunch to try to quell the urge to sample all of the Mexican restaurants within walking distance.   My shrunken stomach is no longer shrunken.  I’m going to need a girdle soon to keep it all in.   The bread was so soft and chewy that I could probably eat the whole bag sitting in front of the TV crying over Downton Abbey.

My lunch time sandwich was so good that I decided to make sandwiches for dinner too.  I had bought one of those giant packets of chicken thighs that consist of size smaller packets.  It’s the rows and rows of pink meat wrapped in heavy duty plastic that makes you forget that the stuff inside used to be alive. Like the pork I had gotten a few weeks ago, I bought a week’s worth.   Because it’s almost a dollar cheaper per pound, I buy the bone-in, skin on variety and debone it myself.   The bones can then go into a stock, but last night I just tossed them because I don’t have room in my fridge right now to make a stock.

I marinated the chicken for about an hour before Nick grilled them.  When marinating, I left the skin on since it’s easier to grill.  Nick likes it, but I peel it off before eating.  The chicken was so good that I think I might do a repeat and make the same sandwiches again for dinner tonight.  Surprisingly, the apricot jam didn’t make the marinade that sweet.  I think by adding the vinegar it helped cut that sweetness while also bringing out the flavor. I will definitely be using this recipe this summer for barbecues.  I also bumped up my rosemary-garlic mayo by roasting the garlic in the oven before adding it to the rosemary-mayo mixture.  It added so much extra flavor without that garlicy bite that lasts for days in the back of your throat.

Savory marinade
3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp EVOO
2 tbsp vegetable stock
1 tsp apricot jam
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp black pepper
1 tsp kosher salt
Mix all ingredients together.  This will work for any meat protein.  Let marinate for at least an hour.  If grilling, note that the sugars from the apricot can easily burn. 


Not all of the ideas I come up with on a whim turn out as well as the chicken.   I was trying to think of a healthy alternative to making fries to go with our sandwiches.
  1.  Because I didn’t have potatoes
  2.  Because I’m starting to look like a potato

While on my walk with Emmy I thought, chips!  Zucchini chips!  That didn’t turn out so well and I’m glad that I only used one zucchini.  During the baking process, the slices decided that they would rather glue themselves to the foil rather than being eaten.  I may try them again because the bits that we were able to peel off were quite tasty.  Here is the series of mistakes I made:
  1. Sliced them too thin.
  2. Didn’t grease the foil.  Next time I will try a Silpat.
  3. Initially baked them at too high a temperature.
  4. Left them in the oven to keep warm.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tonight's Dinner: January 27, 2014

After going to Costco and fighting the crowds, I was quite tired and grumpy so Nick made dinner.  I was planning on just boiling up some ravioli and opening a jar of tomato sauce, but he wanted to make something more elaborate.  This week is going to be hectic with Chinese New Year on Friday and the Super Bowl on Sunday.  Not to mention, a bridal shower and dinner in the City for the New Year on Saturday.   Planning Friday’s dinner has consumed me.  I have to get Emmy bathed, the food purchased and prepped while also finding a giant can of chili for the potluck that we’re going to on Sunday. My Costco doesn’t sell large cans anymore so I’m going to have to find time to go to Smart and Final.

While I did some crafting for a baby shower that I’m hosting Nick made a delicious dinner of chicken-mozzarella ravioli in a creamy sauce with chicken, mixed dark greens, and squash.  

Monday, January 27, 2014

Tonight's Dinner: January 26, 2014

On our LONG drive home we stopped at Harris Ranch to buy steaks.  These things were so huge that I could barely eat any of it.  After our giant lunch in Altadena and then sitting in the car for five hours, I didn’t really burn enough calories to eat a full steak.  I had a few delicious bites and then we packed it up to save for another night.

My mom made rice pilaf and asparagus to go along with our gigantic porter

Today's Lunch: January 26, 2014

Before we hit the Grapevine, we decided to stop for a bathroom break and lunch.  We found a place called Jim’s Burgers while rerouting from a place that was closed.  Jim’s wasn’t half bad.  Their grilled cheese sandwich was delicious and their burgers had a great char flavor.  I had ordered a Jr. burger and a grilled cheese sandwich, but then wanted a corndog too.  I’m surprised that Christopher and I haven’t eaten my parents out of house and home.

Christopher and I shared an order of chili cheese fries. I thought
it was interesting that you could taste a hint of turmeric in the

My Jr. Burger was pretty junior.

My dad got a double cheese burger.

Christopher got an avocado burger and there was a ton
of avocado in it. 

Ooeey, gooey, grilled cheese.

Spartan Trifecta Part 1

Tonight dinner was a bust.  Another foot-in-mouth meal. We probably ate the worst thing that you could have before a big race. Taco Bell.  My dad, brother, and I were on the road headed down to Southern California for another Spartan Race and didn’t have many options for dinner.  Since I had to work most of the day, we had a very late start to our drive and didn’t want to stop for a long meal.  While other people were posting pictures of pasta dishes for carbo loading, my brother and I posted a 12-pack of hard tacos.  I’ve been told that Taco Bell plain hard tacos are the “healthiest” thing that you can order from a fast food restaurant.  I’m not so sure about that, but I’ll choose to believe it this time.  We didn’t end up arriving at our hotel until 1am and we had a 9:30am start time.   We did try to have a protein-packed breakfast before the race to make up for the terrible food that we ate the night before. 



My dad did a great job and we finished the 5 mile, 15 obstacle race in about three hours.  We didn’t want to rush and run the race and end up getting hurt somewhere down the trail since it was my Dad’s first obstacle race.  We had people approaching us to tell us how awesome our dad is.  Christopher and I were gracious, but really in our heads we were saying “we know”.  Where as my Dad told people that we were up for adoption. 


My Dad's socks started out white.

This was actually an obstacle.  We had to climb up and walk

Friday, January 24, 2014

Tonight's Dinner: January 23, 2014

I really should have taken a picture of all the chopped vegetables before they went into the wok.  They were gorgeous.  There is something about an array of fresh vegetables that makes me really happy.  I also get giddy off of looking at the abundance of fresh meat in the grocery store. I’m a weirdo like that.  I was one of those bad kids who liked to poke their finger into the soft, red flesh of beef slabs to see it squish down.  Got in trouble for it every time, but it gave me a sick satisfaction that made the scolding worth it. I’m pretty sure that it forced my mom to buy those pieces of meat.  Anyway, all of the brightly colored vegetables under the pot lighting of my in-law’s kitchen were so much prettier than how they look in my tiny apartment.  In my rush to get dinner on the table, glamour shots for my vegetables were sacrificed. I was trying to get dinner on the table quickly since my in-laws normally eat around 6pm and that’s when we got to their house.  Nick was doing his laundry there and I had already had a dinner planned so I just transported it all to cook at their house.  Since the chicken had already been frozen, I couldn’t put it back in and didn’t want to waste it.  Cooking for them actually helped me clean out our fridge of some vegetables. 

Using rotisserie chicken from Costco, I made a healthy chicken stir fry.  I had seen packets of the rotisserie chicken meat at my local Costco.  They were most likely chickens that they couldn’t sell so they pulled the meat off the bones and packaged it up.  That is fine by me as it saved me time. It would be great to make chicken salad out of the meat also since you don’t have to do much to the chicken. The only problem was that I didn’t realize the chunks of chicken were huge!  I cut open the packet and dumped it into the wok with my vegetables.  By then it was too late to pull out to chop up.  So be it.  I added very little salt, maybe two teaspoons to the whole wok since I used oyster and soy sauce. 

Rotisserie Chicken and vegetable stir-fry 

2 red bell peppers, chopped
2 green bell peppers, chopped
1 spicy red pepper, seeded and sliced
3 broccoli crowns; cut up
5 stalks celery, thinly sliced
3 carrots, sliced at an angle
2 tsp ginger, minced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch green onions, sliced
3 tbsp parsley
1 rotisserie chicken, chopped up
2 tbsp oyster sauce
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp oil
2 tsp sea salt
Brown or white rice 
In wok, boil water to blanch the broccoli.  Blanch broccoli and then shock with cold water.  When chopping, separate the white ends of the green onion from the green tops.  In a dry wok, heat oil until rippling over high heat.  Add ginger, garlic, and whites of the green onion.  Cook, tossing constantly, for 2-3 minutes.  Add peppers, carrots, and celery.  Stir fry until vegetables become soft.  Do not let veggies wilt or shrivel.  They should remain their bright color. Add a splash of water if needed to help cooking and prevent scorching.  Add broccoli, chicken, parsley, green onions, oyster and soy sauce, pepper, and salt.  Mix until incorporated and heated through.  Serve over rice. 
Note:  I separated my mis en place into these steps:
                Bowl 1: broccoli
                Bowl 2: ginger, garlic, green onion ends
                Bowl 3: peppers, carrot, celery
                Bowl 4: parsley and green onion tops

Unfortunately, I started using Listerine which I’m convinced chemically burnt off my taste buds.  I thought the texture of all the vegetables was really good.  There was still crunch to them without being under cooked, but I really couldn’t taste a whole of anything.  My mother-in-law went back for two helpings of the stir-fry, which has never happened before so I think this was a good recipe for them.  

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Tonight's Dinner: January 22, 2014

Tonight I headed to the gym for a short workout.  I don’t know what it is with me, but when the pressure is on to get in shape for races all I want to do is sit around… as if I don’t already sit all day at work.  I’ve had to really force myself to make my gym membership worth it.  With this drought,  I joked that I would go there just to take showers, but now I’m actually thinking it’s a good idea since I haven’t been getting  my money’s worth with the workout portion.  It might get me to work out more too.  

Tonight’s workout consisted of:
30 minutes stationary biking
3 minute plank, 2 minute, 1 minute
45 second boat flutter kicks, 30 seconds, 15 seconds
2-1 minute rockers in pushup position on a stability ball. I put my hands flat on the base and rocked slowly from left to right for full body toning. 

When I got home, I immediately started dinner.   I’m still trying to get used to brown rice, but whenever I make it I don’t want to eat it.  I had defrosted turkey thighs and decided to do a simple garlic and rosemary rub.  It was really easy to do and pretty healthy as I only used about two table spoons of extra virgin olive oil for both thighs.

Garlic-Rosemary Turkey thighs
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 springs Rosemary, minced
2 tbsp EVOO
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Mix garlic, rosemary, and EVOO in small bowl.  Generously pepper both sides of the turkey.  Sprinkle a little bit of kosher salt on both sides.  Using two fingers, separate the skin from the turkey thigh and add garlic-rosemary mixture into the pocket.  Put remaining mixture on the top of the skin.  Bake covered with foil for 40 minutes.  Uncover and bake for another 20 minutes.

I chose to salt and pepper the turkey separately instead of adding it to the garlic mixture so that I could control how much salt we were using on each piece.  I used very little and I think this recipe would be fine without salt if you are really trying to watch your sodium intake.  The downside of using very little salt in my cooking is that when I eat at restaurants a lot of things taste very salty to me and I wind up feeling extremely bloated the next couple of days.

We were pretty low on veggies since I was planning on doing a chicken and vegetable stir fry for Nick’s parents when we go over to their place to do his laundry.  Luckily, a friend had given us a large bag of home grown Swiss Chard, kale, an spinach.  In a small pot, I tore the large leaves up and cooked them down with a little bit of low sodium vegetable stock.  I also added a handful of baby spinach that I use for my juicing.  Knowing that the greens would wilt down quite a bit, I only added about half a cup of stock and then covered the pot.  They did wilt down as expected and the small amount of stock I used kept them from burning while adding a ton of flavor. I didn’t really know how to cook the greens since I’d never cooked with them before.  I just did what I’ve seen people on TV do, minus the butter and bacon.  I did add a little drizzle of EVOO to the pot to give it some richness.  I let them simmer over low heat while the rest of our dinner was cooking.  At the very end I added some frozen corn and cayenne pepper for texture and kick.   

Greens for two
½ c fresh kale, torn up
½ c Swiss chard, torn up
1 c baby spinach
½ c low sodium vegetable stock
1 tbsp EVOO
 1 c frozen corn
1 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
In a medium sized pot, add kale, chard, spinach and broth.  Bring to a boil.  Add EVOO and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and lower heat to simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Add corn and cayenne. Cook uncovered for 5 minutes.  


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Tonight's Dinner: January 21, 2014

Tonight I headed to the library to pick up some new books for the reading challenge that my girlfriends and I have embarked on.  I’ve committed to reading 24 books in the year 2014.  One of the girls committed to 50!  That’s about a book a week!  I don’t read fast enough to do that, nor do I want to feel like I’m back in college.  I’ve checked off two books from my tally so far.  If I keep up this momentum I may be able to exceed my 2014 goal.  I’ve also rediscovered the charm of libraries.  Things have changed so much since I was a kid.  Everything is computerized and clean.  I remember when libraries had dingy, dog-earred books that I hated touching. I do still think about the germs that are on the books I check out when I get in bed to read, but I ignore them.  I think I may be too clean as it is and my immune system can’t keep up with the world.  What astounded me the most was when I went to return some books.  Emmy and I had walked to our closest library over the weekend.  I was looking for the big mailbox-like drop off box like they had in the old days.  I then saw a man walk up to the building wall and push a button that made a small door open up to reveal a conveyor belt where he put his books to have them transported inside.  The conveyor belt is weight censored and knows when the books have been placed down. What in the world?  Was I transported to the land of the Jetsons? Conveyor belts for book drop off?  I really need to get out more.

After running around the library looking for the books that I wanted, Nick and I headed to Dublin to have dinner at the Koi Palace out there.  We had recently gone to the location in Daly City, but Dublin is closer and has more parking.  We were celebrating an early Chinese New Year as we won’t be able to celebrate next week when the actual day is here.  For the occasion we ordered a suckling pig.  It seems that we find any reason to order one of these little guys.  I try not to think of how cute they are when they are alive because they are so darn delicious.  What we thought was a little strange about their prefixed menu was that some of the dishes were not very Chinese at all.  The beef dish that was served was blatantly an American barbecue sauce and the lobster noodles looked like they had tarragon mixed in and were rather creamy.  Chinese cooking rarely requires dairy.  The food was pretty good, but it was a little bit strange for a Chinese place.  We chalked it up as Chinese fusion.

You can tell the size of the piglet compared to Nick's phone.

Not sure what these are called.  They're something new to
us.  It was a piece of fish in a light batter that was fried. 

Trumpet mushrooms over what tasted like Napa cabbage.

This is the bbq beef.  We joked that they bought Kinder's sauce, but it did
kind of taste like Kinder's. 

Bird's nest soup.  The stuff on top is a fungus but if you look closely, the light
jelly colored small clumps are the bird's nest.  This is another soup that I tend to boycott
because when the nests are harvested the eggs fall out and people die trying to
get the nests out of the caves.  I didn't want to be rude so I ate it anyway.
The bird's nest is edible because it's made up of Swift saliva. 

Silkie (black chicken)

After we ate all of the crispy skin off, they took away our
pig and chopped it up.

Abalone, mustard greens, and get this, fish stomach!  Chinese really do eat
everything.  I had to try it since it is apparently pretty expensive.  It's a little
bit chewy and doesn't have much flavor.  My cousin made a comment that it
tasted dirty. 

Lobster noodles. 

This fish was pretty giant. 

All that was left after we got through it was its tail and two
gumball sized eyes.

Mango pudding and date jello with condensed milk for the mango pudding.

They served us a light sponge cake also.  I really liked this and had almost
four pieces.  I need to learn how to make it. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Nut butters

I was surfing Pinterest the other day and came across a recipe for peanut butter.  Ingredients: peanuts.  That’s it!  After I saw that posting I really wanted to try making some for myself.  I bought a pound or so of blanched, unsalted peanuts.  Mistake.  The peanut butter is okay, but lacks flavor.  I keep trying to comfort myself by saying that it’s much better for me than what you buy in the store.  It’s definitely not terrible to eat, but it really lacks flavor.  I would make peanut butter again, but next time with salted, roasted nuts. 

After I had textural success with the peanut butter, I wanted to try other types of nut butter.  Last night I made almond butter and it was SO good.  It has much more flavor than the peanut butter even though I didn’t buy the salted version.  I’m having to make myself eat the peanut butter at work so that I don’t end up wasting it. Once I’m done with the peanut butter I may make almond butter exclusively.  I bet walnut butter would be really creamy since they’re a pretty soft nut, but I’m not very fond of walnuts.  Or macadamia nuts either.  I may just try it anyway to see how it turns out.  Plus, come on, making your own nut butter is pretty neat.  

Almond butter

Tonight's Dinner: January 20, 2014

We had a pretty late dinner tonight.  Not surprising when it comes to me.  I took my new running shoes and Emmy for a short run.  When breaking in new shoes, I don’t like to run long distances.  So far, I’m a little apprehensive of the new insoles that I paid an arm and a leg for.  I think the Mizuno Waves that I got are fine, but the insoles make them feel a little too snug at the top.  It’s only day two of wearing them so hopefully they settle in a little.  I wore them to work yesterday and they were much more comfortable by the end of the day and I sit most of the time. The only problem with wearing them to work is that my slacks are hemmed to fit my ballet flats so it looks like I have floods. I’m really starting to appreciate working mostly men because they could care less if my pants are to short.  Right now the tops of the shoes are making my toes fall asleep, which is why I switched to minimalist shoes.  The shoe salesman told me that he ran with minimalist shoes for three years and then he developed a foot problem so that he now is forced to heel strike.  Since my knees and hips have been hurting so much after even short runs, I thought it was time to make a change.  I certainly don’t want to end up like the shoe salesman.  Such a shame because I had no toe or arch problems with the minimalist shoes like I do with traditional.  I’d rather deal with foot numbness now than replacement hips when I’m 40.

I’m also blaming our late dinner on the fact that the chicken was still a little bit frozen.   Now, I’m not going to toot my own horn again like I did with the Taco Bell, but I do try to make dinners healthy.  As much as I prefer white rice to brown, I caved and am finally jumping on the band wagon.  To spruce it up, I roasted some garlic while the chicken was in the oven and Nick squeezed it into the rice to mix around. It’s a great way to add flavor to pretty much anything without adding a ton of extra calories.  You can Google how to roast garlic, but all you have to do is cut the top part of the garlic off, drizzle olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Lightly wrap it up in foil and put it in the oven for 30 minutes at 375 degrees or higher.  Super easy and adds so much flavor.  You can actually just roast garlic and spread it on a piece of toast.

For the main part of the meal, I had defrosted half a chicken that had been premarinated in garlic and sage.  Our local Sprouts was having a great sale on broccoli, three pounds for a dollar, so I got a few giant crowns.  They also had a good deal on red bell peppers so I had to get some of those too.  Since red bell pepper can be a little bit pricey at times, when it’s on sale I try to buy them.  They are much sweeter than the green, which are frequently on sale and generally much less expensive year-round.  I like green bell peppers quite a bit, but having red, yellow, or orange makes me feel posh.  Is it sad that I think having colored bell peppers is a treat?  It’s probably worse that I’ve put so much thought into how bell peppers make me feel.   Somehow buying a rainbow pack of peppers at Costco doesn’t give me the same fuzzy feeling as getting them on sale at the market even though they are much more affordable from Costco.  Maybe it’s because they are so perfectly pepper shaped, which makes me think they are genetically modified.  In all reality, the u-shaped bell peppers that I’ve been getting from Sprouts are probably just as modified as their perfect Costco cousins.  I digress. 

I threw in two crowns of broccoli and two red bell peppers into the pan with the chicken.  I also tossed in some fried garlic chips that had been left out from last week’s pasta dish. I was sure that they were stale, but I figured that throwing them into a 400 degree oven would perk them back up.  I mixed the veggies with extra virgin olive oil, a tiny bit of kosher salt, pepper, and the garlic chips for flavor.  With the chicken on top I knew that the marinade from the chicken would also run off onto the veggies.  It turned out to be a very tasty and healthy meal, albeit, late.