Making every bite count

11 January 2010

Running, yoga and burritos

I try to live each day to exhaustion. Today, I succeeded and surpassed that goal, yet I'm still bursting with energy. 
6:30 alarm became 6:45 and eventually 7:15. I slept in my base layer of running clothes, layered up and warmed up with my Whittle My Middle exercises. I ventured into the 19 degree morning for a 25 minute run. Slow and steady, I ran around Newport. 
My day was busy and uneventful. I spent a good deal of time talking about running clothes and races--and my impending doom, I mean strength training challenge--with my coworker. 
After work, my favorite yoga class of the week: Led ashtanga primary series at Yogasana. Class started at 6:30; I got into my car at 8:12. That's about 90 minutes of yogic bliss. We did primary series through bhujapidasana, then added hanumanasana for fun. My right side splits are almost back, and my left are as good as they ever were. I am respecting my edge and not pushing. Torn hamstrings are painful and take a long time to heal. I speak from experience. 
Tonight, we focused on lengthening the neck, observing and nurturing the backbends throughout primary series. 
In addition to deeper, more obvious backbends like urdhva mukha svanasana (upward facing dog) and urdhva dhanurasana (full wheel), there are mini backbends scattered throughout: in utkatasana (fierce/chair), in tadasana/samasthiti (mountain), in virabhdrasana (warrior). Not just a chance to lean back, these backbends are a chance to open the chest, allow the heart to lead and lengthen and strengthen the neck. 
I twisted deeply in my marichysana series, binding in C and D and allowing my forehead to easily rest in B. My nose and knee were intimately acquainted tonight. 
In ardha baddha padmottanasana, my nose met knee for one breath on right, one on left. I held utthita hasta padanghustasana on right, save a couple of touches against the wall with my elbow. On left, I didn't fully extend in B, but I held myself. 
My vinyasas felt strong; I took one step closer to my heels in urdhva dhanurasana. 
Sirsasana wasn't quite on, but I practiced for 15 minutes when I came home and threw in adho mukha vrksasana (handstand) for fun.
I returned home to half a burrito from La Mexicana smothered in hot sauce. The perfect dinner, along with a 3 oz pour of Chakana Malbec 2006. 
I made spicy almond noodles (ginger/garlic/almond butter/hot pepper/tamari over whole wheat angel hair with snow peas and onions) for lunches, and a batch of black bean and lentil chili is in the Crockpot Fred's mom left here on New Year's. I've never really used a crockpot; vegetarian cooking is quick, but this should be a nice change. 
A long soak in an Epsom bath was necessary, and now I'm in bed with Paolo Coelho's "Eleven Minutes," most of which I read in French a couple of years back. I'm going to finish it in English, then return to the French to see how much I remember. 
My French is AWFUL these days; I rarely speak it though I have two French friends. Working on that. 
Tomorrow I have day two of half marathon training group. We've only got a three-mile run, then Im heading to Trader Joe's to pick up groceries--yay, gift card! I'm getting up early for yoga--the goal is primary series in the A.M. Oh, and my 100-pushups challenge test is at 10:30. My arms are sore, so I'm a bit nervous. 
Wish me luck.

08 January 2010

Simmering beans and an exercise in passive voice

Life is quieter, less complicated. More complicated at the same time.

It's a Friday night, and I dropped him off at a jazz club to celebrate a friend's birthday. I hit the grocery and silently roamed the aisles, sticking to my list, getting excited over coupons and minding my budget.

I led with my heart all day. A small victory in the battle of good and evil.

Black beans are simmering in the rice cooker, dotted with garlic, cumin, onion, hot pepper flakes and a bit of salt. Tonight, I parboiled the beans with baking soda for 15 minutes, drained and rinsed, then rinsed the rice cooker. To the cooker, I added half an onion, a handful of dried tomatoes, 4 cloves of garlic, 2T cumin, a hearty pinch each of pepper flakes and salt. That cooked for a minute, until I could smell the spices, then I added white wine, about a cup. In went my pound of beans.

They’ll become the basis for black bean hummus, to be eaten with raw carrots (me) and cauliflower (him) as snacks all week, and chili (dinner and lunch for a couple of days).

Planning menus makes me feel very much in control of what's feeding me. And with

The tomatoes were from the farmers market. I dried them with oregano and olive oil this summer, in the dehydrator my grandmother gave me. It's no Excelsior, but it was free!

"Tether" from "All That We Let In" plays in the background, Amy's and Emily's voices bringing me back to 2003, when I was just out of college and felt like I ruled the world, and I did, through a haze of rum and diet Coke. My, how life changes. I love the Indigo Girls. Since 16, they've been my favorite.

And for that, I am grateful.

Tonight I sit, on a stool made by my grandfather and father, at the island in my kitchen, in my apartment that was once the Sunday School rooms of the church.
I'm dipping my toe back into writing personally. This time, this is for me. A chance to reflect, to slow down, to breathe.

I don't want wine. I want water, to hydrate me for the first day of half marathon training.

I'm in a strange, introverted mood, perhaps influenced by the two days I've spent holed up in the apartment avoiding the snow. Thursday I worked from home, and today as well. Tonight's journey to Kroger were my first steps beyond my living room.

Last night, I was energized: I cleaned the kitchen, cooked dinner, did two loads of laundry (though those along with two others from last weekend are folded and in limbo, awaiting their safe returns to closets, shelves and drawers. Soon. Tomorrow, perhaps.), planned next week's meals, helped my sister with her French homework and tutored my mother on the intricacies of Facebook.

Today I felt lethargic. Work dragged, though I was plugging away at interesting projects. I noshed. I snacked. I unnecessarily carb-loaded. Tonight I crave fruit.
I cleaned the kitchen, trimmed the cat's nails, practiced yoga (standing primary series, held for 7-10 breaths). And now I'm listening to the kitchen timer tick away the minutes, tapping away, as the beans simmer.

Back to yoga.

Slightly cliché and unusual for me: Incense was burned, Krishna Das was played, clothes were stripped. Poses were held. Breathe was stretched.

Head touched floor in Prasarita Padottanasana A and D; hair touched in B and C.

Nose met knee on left and right in Parsvottanasana and Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana. The nose and the knee are quite keen on each other. Like other marvels of the body, they fit together perfectly.

Utthita Hasta Padanghustasana was held on left throughout A-D; on right A-B before faltering.

This year's goal: lead with the heart, drop the shoulders, lift the chest, and pull the belly in. Well, that's really four goals. Those are the running motivations for deepening my practice.

Along with a daily headstand (to come after I sign off) and stronger, more fluid vinyasas, the aforementioned are fueling me. Body, mind, spirit in harmony.

Feeling happy.
Feeling content.

Forgive the ramblings. Tonight, I write, but I do not edit.

05 January 2010

Under construction: lost my template :(

So... in trying to edit my template before transferring to WordPress to my new domain, I deleted my pretty pretty template.
Thus, we have the Green Monster. And not the good kind. :(
Give me a week, and all will be fixed.

22 December 2009

My Best Granola

If there is a better combination than yogurt, fruit and granola, I haven't found it. In my breakfast fantasies come true, thick, creamy, tangy Greek yogurt provides a base for tart and sweet fresh berries, while crunchy, sweet and salty granola offers a delightful contrast in flavor and texture.

Granola is PRICEY! There are a few brands I really like, but I can't justify buying a small bag for $4, when I can make pounds of granola for much less.

Once you know the basics of granola making, your imagination and pantry are your only limits. I started making my own a couple of years back, and honestly, I don't use a recipe anymore. I have two versions: a molasses one and a maple-almond butter one, but I never measure or use the recipes.

It isn't a science. You need oil, sweetener, some dried fruit, nuts, seeds and maybe some spices.

I prefer molasses or maple syrup for my sweetener, coconut oil to crisp it up, and plenty of ground flax and chia seeds for nutrition and flair.

Most often, I make the almond butter-maple granola. It's really easy.

Maple-Almond Butter Granola

1/2 c maple syrup

1/4 c coconut oil

1/4 c almond butter

1 T cinnamon (or more if you prefer your granola to have a stronger cinnamon flavor)

2 1/2 c. rolled oats

1/4 c ground flax

1/4 c chia seeds

1/2 c chopped nuts/seeds (almonds, walnuts, pepitas)

1/4 c unsweetened coconut

1/2 c mixed dried fruit (cranberries, blueberries, raisins)

liberal sprinkle coarse salt


Mix maple syrup, coconut oil and almond butter together. If your coconut oil is at room temperature, you might need to melt it first.

Mix oats, coconut, and cinnamon together, then add to wet ingredients.

Pour onto a baking sheet in an even layer. (I use a silicone baking sheet liner, but you can coat the pan with nonstick cooking spray if you prefer.) Bake at 300 degrees for about 30-40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. I like my granola to be somewhat "raw."

Immediately upon removing the granola from the oven, add the chia, flax, seeds/nuts and dried fruit. (The fruit swells and gets sticky in the oven, and raw nuts/seeds retain more of their nutrition.)

Add a sprinkle of kosher salt and toss well. The salt really brings out the sweetness and other flavors. Makes 15 1/4-cup servings!

Calories: 197.5
Total Fat: 11.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 5.3 g
Protein: 4.0 g
I gave away this granola to friends and family this year. It was a big hit!

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20 December 2009

Peppermint Bark

1 package dark chocolate chips
1 package white chocolate chips
6 candy canes

Remove candy canes from wrapper, break into small pieces, then place in a blender or food processor and pulse until mostly crushed.

On the stove over low heat, melt each chocolate in a bowl set over a saucepan. Stir often, until chocolate is almost melted, then remove from heat and stir again.

Spread waxed paper over two baking sheets. Using a spatula, spread 3/4 of the dark chocolate over the sheet pan in an even layer. Sprinkle half the candy canes over the chocolate. Repeat with the white chocolate. Drizzle the remaining dark chocolate atop the white chocolate bark, and drizzle the remaining white chocolate over the dark chocolate bark.

Let harden, then break into small pieces.

03 December 2009

Le grand retour

Friends, I have been remiss. Alas, my day job is fully satisfying. 'Tis my dream: To be surrounded by fully supportive, wonderful people whose mission aligns completely with my moral and ethical code.

I sleep well.

Except for tonight.

Lately, my dear old blog has been neglected, as hass my creative spirit. I no longer photograph food. I come home from yoga, a run or the gym starving, like those damn vampires in the series I dislike so much. I am, as Heather so eloquently deemed it, hangry.

My food is quite often a mishmash of Mexican or a conglomeration of Korean foods. But it's good and plentiful. I miss sharing recipes and taking notes. I feel too cool for school after three summers of sniffing produce and feeling up tomatoes. Have I gone hard, like the supermarket produce that has once again begun to appear in my cart?

I vow to return. Weekly, or better. I'm good enough (better, actually), smart enough, and doggone it, people like, nay, love me.

It's time to prioritize, focus on me and share my good eats.

But first, I must learn how to photograph food to save my life.

04 January 2009

Time for a change.

Hello, old friend. Remember me? I'm the dedicated nutrition-focused foodie who started you all those years ago. I've neglected you. It's not you, it's me. My new job involves a great deal more writing than did my last job, though my last job was reporting at a busy daily newspaper. I write about and discuss food all day long. When I come home, I still cook, but I don't feel like writing about food. I'm putting you to rest, but I'll add new recipes to a different site, Find my recipes here.

I need to take a break from public or semipublic writing for awhile. I need to write for me. No one else. Princessveggie was fun, and I promise to return.

I will very infrequently post here, and I'll sometime be posting nonfood related blogs at

Love, Stepf

24 September 2008

What $40 will get you at Findlay Market

1/2 lb raw milk gouda 
1 dozen farm fresh eggs
1 loaf harvest bread (with polenta. rye and buckwheat)
1 green pepper
2 yellow peppers
basket orange slicer tomatoes 
2 lbs heirloom tomatoes
1/2 of a monstrous watermelon (the other half will be my friend Jenny's) 
bundle of sage
bundle of tarragon
bundle of parsley 
bag of spinach
4 small knob onions

That made last night's dinner. I made a batch of pesto, added two tomatoes to the remnants still in the blender and pureed. Cooked up some whole wheat shells, to which I added the sauce and briefly cooked. Chopped another orange tomato, some basil and a 1/4 yellow pepper. Served alongside creamed spinach. 

Yesterday's brunch, again from my market bounty. 
Two slices harvest bread with a poached egg, a slice of gouda and one tomato sprinkled with tarragon. There is also a sad example of an egg cooked in the cast iron skillet.  

I lived in Athens for four years, but I rarely left campus and only left the city limits on my way home. There is an entire world beyond the four greens of OU, a world of organic, local farming, a rich agricultural history and plenty of quirky foods. (Schnuckelputz and pawpaws? Only in Athens County.) 

Until today, I hadn't tried a paw-paw, and I mistook them for plums yesterday. 

21 September 2008

Things I've made recently

Sadly, photos are lacking
My larder is stocked with: 
1 pound of gave-rosemary glazed roasted almonds
6 jars of kimchi for my co-op
40 jars of pear sauce with molasses and cinnamon (yes, 40. and they're not here. They're at Chad's, ready to be distributed.) 
3 trays of roasted peppers
2 trays of oven-dried tomatoes 
countless ice-cube trays of pesto (sans parmesan so it freezes better) 
1 jar tarragon vinegar
1 bottle hot sauce 
endless jars of salsa (all gone, thanks to Fred)

Why I do what I do...

Some people are dog people. Others are kid people. I'm a vegetable person. 

I love 'em, but only in season. Don't you dare feed me asparagus in August, and if you try to feed me a cold tomato, I'll stab you with my fork. 

(Left: A smattering of heirlooms from the Thistlehair Farms booth at Findlay Market.) 
I don't buy produce from grocery stores. 
I keep most vegetables on the counter so their taste fully develops. 
I shun cold tomatoes, lettuce that's straight from the fridge and mealy apples. 
I shop the perimeter of stores. 
I joined a food co-op to ensure I always have local, organic food. 
And I urge you to do the same, if you're able. 
My body, after two years of eating locally and organically, has completely adapted. I'm almost fed up with tomatoes, and the beauties I've roasted, pureed and frozen will tide me over until next year. Sorry, but we're not meant to eat insalata caprese year-round in Ohio, nor should we be expected to endure cold mealy, anemic supermarket Flavr Savr tomatoes. (A misnomer indeed.) 
At left, a salad made from co-op and market produce: Pea sprouts, avocado, tomatoes, basil and balsamic vinegar. 


Breakfast for dinner: Swiss chard pancakes and salmon with maple glaze

Two Fridays ago, Mark Bittman's recipe of the day was for Spinach Pancakes. I substituted Swiss chard, which I steamed in a bit of water. The day-glo pink cooking water went in the batter, too! I altered his recipe a bit: 
3 cups Swiss chard, chopped and steamed in about 1/2 c water (dice the stems, and reserve the cooking water, which is full of nutrients)
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg 
1 1/2 to 2 cups plain lowfat yogurt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 eggs 
2 tablespoons melted and cooled butter, plus unmelted butter for cooking Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl, then add the yogurt, eggs and butter, mixing well. Fold in Swiss chard and the cooking water.
The salmon was cooked very simply. After rubbing it with a spice blend Fred got from Whole Foods, I seared it in a cast iron skillet then briefly broiled it. I removed the salmon to a plate to rest. I added 2T butter to the skillet, scraping up the bits from the bottom of the pan, then added about 1/2 c white wine. After that reduced briefly, I added 1/4 cup maple syrup and allowed all to slightly reduce. (Do this over medium heat if you're not using cast iron, which has enough residual heat that additional stovetop cooking isn't necessary.)
Serve salmon alongside 2-3 pancakes, drizzling with the maple "syrup."
Breakfast for dinner, for grownups. 

15 September 2008

This is what I get for trying to be a locavore.

Thank you, Mother Nature.

I spent every Saturday morning at Findlay Market, where I packed my bag to the brim with local, organic produce. An average of $50 a week, so half could fill the freezer to ensure a bountiful winter. Any salad tomato that was overly ripe went in a bag in the freezer. Romas were halved, doused with olive oil and left in a warm oven overnight. The heirlooms were sliced and diced, mashed and chopped. In sauces and salsas, salads and soups, I lovingly sacrificed the Garden Peaches, the Mortgage Lifters, the Green Zebras, the Chocolate Cherries and the Yellow Romas.
I drove 60 miles with three friends on a muggy and mosquito-filled Saturday, to the largest raspberry farm in the east.
I risked life and limb (OK, so once a car almost hit me while I was on by bike) to transport succulent local plums, a dozen of the season's first red peppers, and some ripe tomatillos home with me.
I froze and canned, refrigerated and stored away.
And then, Hurricane Ike (or his remnants) hit Ohio. Yes. A hurricane hit the Midwest. 75 mile-per-hour winds knocked out power, sent shingles spinning into transformers, starting fires across the city. 
I lost power, but I didn't worry. Surely it would return by the time we returned from a dinner at La Mexicana. But, no, it didn't. Just in case, we stopped to buy a 20-lb bag of ice. The fridge and freezer were on life support and each passing minute meant that my beloved local produce was one degree closer to death (or spoilage). 
Thank goodness for good friends. The power outage lasted another four days, but the contents of my freezer were safely stowed in Sean and Katy's freezer. My bountiful fridge was safe for another day, thanks to that mighty bag of ice and another. I finally took the perishables (eggs from Thistlehair Farms, 2 quarts of organic plain lowfat yogurt, an unopened container of soymilk, some vegan butter and a hunk of parmesan) to work and stashed them in the fridge in my Whole Foods bag for a couple of days. The condiments were left in the fridge with the dwindling ice supply In all, we lost about $30 worth of goods, mostly dried up and unidentifiable condiments. (I don't remember buying blackberry jelly from Trader Joe's, and when was the last time we ate the coriander chutney? It contains cashews!) 
We used the outage as a chance to purge the fridge without guilt of wasting food (the ultimate sin). As Chad had about 100 pounds of apples and pears, the now-empty glass jars were quite useful!
Food was rescued from Sean and Katy's on Friday night, and now all is safe in my freezer (again, purged of unrecognizable leftovers, now mushy frozen veg and bags of scraps for stock). 
What did I do Saturday morning? Went to Findlay Market and restocked, of course!

Actually, it costs $1.05.

21 June 2008

Such simple salsas

Now that tomato season is here, those luscious red, ripe fruits are no longer verboden chez moi. All winter long, I shun the anemic, mealy supermarket tomatoes and long for the days when you can smell the tomatoes before you actually see them. Salmonella be damned. If you buy organic, local tomatoes, there is no worry. It's salsa time! Dear friend Katie in D.C. loved the mango salsa we made when I visited last fall, and she commented last week in a fluster. She'd forgotten the ingredient list! Guess what? With salsa, there are no rules, no recipes, no "ingredient list." Out mango version was a bit fancy: tomatoes, red peppers, red onion, jalapeno, mango, a bit of salt, pepper and lime juice.

I'm very fond of pico de gallo: tomatoes, white onions, a bit of jalapeno, cilantro or parsley and salt and pepper.
And tonight I made an "Italian salsa": tomatoes, basil, red onion, green garlic, red peppers, a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. So good. (Photo above.)
I could eat sals plain, as a salad. But it also works as a pasta sauce (the heat from the pasta warms the salsa just enough to release the flavor.), a sandwich topping or a dip.
Salsa can be made with any vegetable, any fruit, in any comination. Roast the veggies or leave them raw -- it doesn't matter. Too bland? Add salt, a pinch of sugar or a dash of vinegar or citrus juice.
I love pineapple with cilantro, onion and jalapeno. Or mango with red peppers. Or tomatoes, green peppers, any onion, any fresh herb, and pretty much anything else you have lying around.
Tomatillos are great roasted and added to a salsa.
Add cucumbers. (Try cucumber, cilantro, jalapeno, and onion.)
The list is endless. Mix and match what you like. Experiment. Fool around with some combinations until you find something that works for you. (ooh, I LOVE raspberry-chipotle salsa!)
Fat-free, fresh, raw, perfect.
Every bite counts.

PrincessVeggie is home tonight... cooking up a storm.

I'm taking a hiatus from my second career as a social butterfly to enjoy my fabulous apartment and my even-more-fabulous boyfriend. We spent the day at the Gaiam outlet (headstand chair!) and Ikea and made our place feel a bit like home. (Our mattresses are happily off the ground, and we've finally got a desk. I needed workspace to get the creative juices flowing again!)
Tabitha, my Little Sister, is here tonight for her first sleepover. After a busy evening spent cooking, we're (well, she's) watching a Disney Channel movie.
To say that my early morning Findlay Market trip was prodigious would be a serious litote, comme on dit en francais. $50 or so later, the fridge is bursting!
2 avocados
5 lemons
5 tomatoes
1 dozen farm-fresh eggs
1 bunch amethyst-colored "green"onions
1 head green garlic
3 zucchini
1 bunch basil
1 bunch cilantro
1 pint mulberries
1 bunch grape leaves
1 pint sweet pie cherries
1 pint strawberries
1 head butter lettuce
1 bunch of the season's final asparagus

(oh, and two homemade chocolate chip cookies to lure Fred from bed...)
This joined the produce leftover from last week--half an overflowing bag of rainbow chard and a head of organic broccoli.
Yeah, I'm a bit overwhelmed. Couple this with two separate batches of beans that I soaked today, and the kitchen was blissfully full of goodies! (Mark Bittmann just taught me that cooked dried beans can be frozen! Fabulous news! No longer will I waste dried beans or worry about hurrying to cook them on a busy weeknight. They're cheaper than canned, and there's no worries about the lining in the cans.)
Hummus is one of the easiest dips to make, and it's one of my favorites. Sure, it's on every menu and in every incarnation, (Jeff Ruby's soon-to-be-no-more Tropicana does an edamame version, how many times have you seen black bean versions, and even lentil hummus.) but it's a classic.
My co-worker Nicole makes really good hummus with lots of cumin and garlic. I made a version of that tonight. Tahini is the key to really great hummus, and so are really soft garbanzo/ceci/chickpeas.
More musings later...