Sunday, September 25, 2011

Couch Time and Sweet (Potato) Revenge

Seems checking in with you folks has become a Sunday evening tradition.  It's nice to form traditions in your life :)  I just finished with my weekly Overnight Oat making tradition for the week.  I tried 4 different mixtures (non too extravagant) of oats, groats, egg white, cocoa powder, cinnamon, flax, bee pollen, wheat germ etc.. If only I had some almond butter.  Honestly, you aren't doing yourself right if you don't try a spoonful in your next warm bowl.

This weekend saw a lot of couch time.  Which I can honestly say is less rare for me up here than it used to be but still not exactly my favorite thing to do too much of on the weekends.  Couch time can be good though :)  Although Netflix, I have to say you are making it far less enjoyable..

But despite keeping the couch warm, I also got to do a nice and challenging 42 mile ride with the Sound Cyclists as part of both a world wide event called Moving Planet and a dedication to a section of a newly constructed portion of the Norwak River Valley Trail bike trail in Wilton.   Members of the club I ride with every so often led different distance rides all ending back at the beginning with a picnic and a ribbon cutting ceremony which I never caught.  My ride group was small, about 6 people. We were the faster group doing the 37 mile distance.  Some of the roads I had ridden before, but others were new and fabulous and showing early signs of fall.  We missed a couple cues on the route that gave us both some extra mileage and some extra HILLS.  Ouch!
The cycling Gods must have a deal with Mother Nature.  Rain filled the skies all of Friday, but the clouds parted Saturday morning just in time for the ride!  However, the fate of the clumsy prevails in all situations and my clumsy self locked her keys in her car just moments before the ride.  Luckily, I at least had all of my biking gear, so I didn't have to miss the ride and someone THANKFULLY lent me some glasses to wear.  Due to the rain the roads were very wet..and when you're following someone 6 inches off their tire in a pace line everything off of their back tire..well goes pretty much up in your face.  I would have been pretty miserable with chunks of sticks, leaves and rainwater in my eyes for 42 miles.
Post ride muck
Following the ride and the keys rescue from AAA I was PUMPED for some Razorback football.  There just happens to be someone in my office is from Alabama.  So I had rallied him and a few people from work up to meet at a local sports bar down the street to watch the game.  Though I need to head back into NYC to the Madhatter at some point because it's just more fun to watch the razorback game A. With Sound and B. with a least ONE hog call.  Sadly, the Razorbacks let me down and so did the delicious sweet potato fries I indulged in at the bar.  But that's a different story...and why I ended up on the couch for evening #2 of the weekend.  FAIL!

So in part because I didn't make it to the grocery store and because I was bummed about staying in, tonight for dinner I decided to take revenge on the cursed sweet potato fries.  And how? By making my better and far more delicious home made sweet potato fries.  Sweet potato fries are a blessing and curse to me.  They are so delicious! And irresistible! Whenever I see them I have the undeniable urge to EAT them all!  But, unless you make them yourself, anywhere else you get them most likely destroys them(and your stomach) with mysterious oils and batters.  Not that I haven't had some tasty sweet potato fries at restaurants before..but you never know what you're going to get.
My sweet potato fries are baked, topped with Chilli Powder, Cumin, Salt, Pepper & Paprika (but this time I used Tumeric).  They cook over rosemary (preferably fresh, but I'll take what I can get) and are sealed with olive oil spray.
My mother taught me how to cut sweet potatoes. She'll be happy to know I didn't lose any skin.
ze spicy medley!
I don't know how people can eat regular potatoes.  Honestly, they have no flavor and are far inferior when it comes to texture.
At first I had them cut into bigger pieces.  Then I thought, "Hey, if I cut these into smaller pieces there will be MORE of them and they won't be gone so fast!".  Brilliant!  There definitely is an optimal size but it really depends on how you like your fries.  Also, some like to peel the skin, which I think works pretty well, especially for sweet potatoes.  But I just can't seem to bring myself to discard the nutrient rich skin.
Easy and Delicious Hot dinner for one.  Obviously I was focusing on the more IMPORTANT part of the meal
I was inspired to make this after catching this recipe over at another blog edibleperspective: sweet-taters-beer.  But sadly I had no beer to bathe my little guys in so they were good, but obviously not nearly as awesome as they possibly could have been.  I'l have to put that on the list for next time I make em.

The week ahead of me is filled with more than my brain seems to want to handle at this point.  A lot of stuff going on at work this week but at the end of it a lot of fun!  I haven't begun to prepare for my trip home as well as for my two rounds of visitors that will follow upon my return.  Forgive me my friends if you find me scatter brained.  But if you know me I'm sure you wouldn't be expecting anything else.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Hit that Line, Hit that Line. Keep on Going!

Post 65 mile slaughter on my legs!
I'm tired.  Body is aching.  I can hardly lift my limbs.  This couch is the only place I belong right now.  But, this is the good the good kind of hurt.  Yes, hard earned PAIN.  Some might wonder why one would "punish" themselves in such a way.  But if it is possible to feel exhilarated by your exhaustion, then that is how I felt today after completing 65 miles for Bike the Beach from Jennings Beach in Fairfield.  And THAT is why I endure the pain.  For 3 years now I have done 1 or 2 crazy long rides each year on my bike.  I love them.  I still can't imagine doing a full century, unless I road more often, but with no official training regimen I'm pretty amazed that I can complete as far as I've gone.  It feels like an all day adventure.  The movement of pedaling feels more than natural after a while.
And today was PERFECT for riding.  It started out a little cool and I wore WAY too many layers as usual but throughout the rest of the day, it was a sunny, breezy mid 60s fall like day.  The ride went along several of the beaches from Fairfield to Darien and then took a climb up into the hills and winding roads of New Canaan.  I mapped what I think the full route was here: Route.   For the most part it wasn't too challenging except for a few climbs half way through.  The wind gave us a run for our money, especially near the water.  But I road with a bunch of guys who did a good job keeping a pace line going for the most part.  I found myself repeating the Razorback Fight Song in my head as we rode, having just watched the game the night before.  I'm just glad I kept up!  We road along the beach, past McMansions, under railroad tracks, OVER railroad tracks, past my house, up into small town wooded neighborhoods, through a couple of high trafficked towns, busy churches and on around back down to some pretty inlets before heading back along the shore the way we came.
The WORST part was the last 5-10 miles.  This seems to be the case with all of my long rides.  Your legs just run out of steam and you've run out of food fuel and you're way past the last rest stop.  All you have is the short distance to the finish and it seems twice as long as the entire rest of the ride was.  They were the SLOWEST 5-10 miles.  This is probably the worst shape I have ever been towards the end of one of these long rides.  I think it was a mixture of the type of fuel I used (mostly sugar/gels, no salt) and the fact that the wind was against me and I had lost my pack.  I broke away with one guy in our group, kept up with him for a while and then lost him as my legs started to give.  At that point I was left behind our lead guy and somewhere ahead of the other 3 who road with me.  It's a long, lonely road as a lone rider on the final stretch.  I passed by a few other cyclists on the ride, but my focus could not be deterred.  I was a lone rider, repeating "Don't pass out, Don't pass out" over and over in my head.  The first thing I did when I arrived at the finish was sit down on the ground, take off my shoes and lean over in exhaustion.  If the rider ahead of me hadn't come up with some salty potato chips, I don't think I could have made it to the food tables.  Almost immediately I started to recover..even though my legs were tighter than ever.  In the end we finished in a  little over 4 hours (5-6 if you count rest stops).
Post ride we hung out around the cars and had some cold brews, subway sandwiches, cookies and hummus and recounted the GLORY of the day having forgotten that we were all most likely cursing ourselves 30 minutes prior. And I made sure to stop on the way home to get myself some more treats.  Custom Fro Yo, it's been too long :)

The kind of Guinness you can drink after riding a bike all day
Every topping imaginable!

So, on the cooking front, I did not really do much of today..frankly I didn't do much of anything except ride a bike, eat and lay on the couch.  For the first time in a LONG while, I indulged in a nearby restaurant take out.  (Might be regretting the Indian I drink Ginger tea..)  
BUT to indulge you, because I can.  Here is a small dish I tried from a recipe over at The Gracious Pantry.  It's basically baked sweet potato and apple, glazed with an agave, orange juice and clove sauce and topped with almonds.  Very easy to do and the first time I ever used an Apple Corer!
I see you! Through this sweet fuji apple
I boiled the sweet potato for about 45 minutes, then pealed the skin off.  I skinned the apple and de-cored(word?) it.  Sliced them up and baked for about 20 minutes as I heated up the sauce on the stove. One potato and 1 apple ended up making 2 side servings.  Tasty!

Layered food is always the best kind of food, am I right?
Until next time.  Enjoy the happy times my friends/family, many of you I will see soon.  Also, keeping with the theme of creating things from scratch.  Head on over to my pal Cassy's site, Knit the Hell Out and see her grand early Birthday creation she made for me!  <3

Monday, September 12, 2011

Messy Soup

So I made soup!  About a week ago..and I'm still eating it..and still cleaning up after it as well.
If man hadn't invented freezers, there would be no prolonged enjoyment of foodie goodness
I'm beginning to think my wallet is starting to suffer from the new fuel that has ignited my Foodie desires.  But I think that's why Man invented soup.  It's warm, cozy deliciousness, mixed with its grand ability to be preserved (if you have a freezer) make it the perfect endless take to work meal.  It's also open to side dishes and crunchy toppings and other great partners.  Granted it is a little early for "soup season", but hey if I keep all those extra jars in the freezer long enough it might actually BE fall by the time I crack them open.

Bring on the magic of soup!
I love making soup.  It's so easy.  It's like making chili.  We can be scared to make soup..sometimes there are a lot of ingredients. But honestly, once you throw everything in the pot and let it cook, you really can't go wrong.  It's like a crazy shmorgasborg of good can you REALLY fail!?
1st Step: The Chopping
Bought these little guys at the farmers market.  I was told the seeds were hot but the pepper sweet.   THROW IT IN!

Vegetables palate..the only art I've ever really been able to create, although it's Mother nature that does all the work.
Have I mentioned before that I love chopping?  It's so methodological and calming.  And look at the pretty things that result!  
2nd Step: Bring on the Heat!
So I sauteed these pretty little chopped veggies for a little while.  Then added muh spices :)

My only complaint here is that I might have chosen some different spices.  It called for chili powder and cumin..but I think that makes it taste too much like chili..maybe something a little lighter..
The juices
3rd Step: Liquids
Now after I added the vegetable broth, tomatoes and beans..I just had to play a waiting game.  Next, the directions said I needed to use a hand blender to blend the ingredients.  I've had a hand blender for a year or so, given to me by my fabulous mother at my request when I first started getting into cooking.  I have YET to use it.  I think I was either afraid of it..or just haven't made anything that required it (so really, avoiding it).
It sounds so easy..just turn the sucker on and blend.  Right?
Apparently you need a license to hand blend and I don't have one.  Either that or my soup was just too shallow..who knows..  Basically..I turned it on the lowest setting, crossed my fingers and stuck it in!
4th Step: Hand Held Soup Churning
Not to sure about this
Okay obviously it was 9 o cock at night and I was making soup..not really primed for pictures..but here is me before I decided to reek havoc on the soup via hand blender in hand.  You can't tell in the picture surprisingly..but the burner to the left was the actual burner that the soup had been simmering on...GO ME for being completely oblivious and being too busy taking pictures of myself and blending away at my soup to notice that my cord was gracefully laying on the hot burner.  FAIL
Epic Fail # 2 - soup gone wild
This reminds me of the time I was hanging out with my sister at her apartment back in college.  We decided to make some strawberry champagne smoothie type drink.  My sister puts everything in the blender and before I can shout she's put the sucker on full blast and strawberries, champagne and orange juice are exploding all over the place.
Sadface, bean souped
Well, despite my inability to use a hand blender I think it all came out okay.  I kept thinking I didn't blend the ingredients enough, but basically the black beans and tomatoes were liquified, giving the soup a slightly thicker consistency but retaining all the vegetables.
This don't look pretty, but sure did taste it!

So I learned my lesson, blenders are not for children.  Maybe on my birthday in less than 3 weeks I'll be old enough to wield one...
In other news, the weather is beautiful this week and I hope this weekend is too because there are two things I want to accomplish: Razorback game and Bike the Beach (time for the long tours, 62 miles!)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Farmers Marketeering

I started my morning early this morning.  This is reminiscent of my weekends back home.  I went out the night before, had some silly fun and this morning the sun woke me with a crazy energy.  I spent my morning filling time before my coffee shop opened across the street (yes I'm calling it MY coffee shop - it's right across the street).  After taking a walk to a hidden dock I had never been to, I went over and had a bagel and iced coffee.  So good!  Caffeine is growing on me again.
Was a beautifully cool morning this morning - overlooking the inlet & the distant Oyster Fest
Rosalita, resting in Rowayton (say that 3 times fast)

Later, Rosalita and I took a new adventure.  Based on the knowledge of the roads I have gathered from my group rides I mapped out a way to get to the farmers market I've been going to by bike.  It's about 13 miles away.  Here is the route I took (Click Here for Map).  Ended up being a perfect route, even though I road during high traffic times.  It was a great morning although the heat hit quick!  When I went to go get my coffee I almost gave up on a ride all together because it was a little chilly.  That's how the mornings have been here lately..fall/winter is slowly creeping back (NO!)  So of course I over dressed and was sweating up a storm (perfect for farmer's marketeering :) ).  I usually like to go to farmers markets as grungy as I can, I feel a little more "earthy".  Although...Not in the town THIS farmers market is in.  Back home the farmers market was where the true blooded local crunchy folk went.  Now, the big difference between the locals back home and the locals in this town..well about a 3.5 times higher per capita income for one.  But then again New Canaan IS one of the most affluent communities in the country.  Apparently in 2008 it was ranked #1 by CNN Money with the highest median family income (Wiki).  Despite, so far this is the best farmers market I have found. But I can't say I identify with the community surrounding.  Also, I do have quite a few complaints about their support of cyclists.  1. Not a bike rack in site  2. I was cut off by 2 motorists and 1 pedestrian 3. I saw a cyclist carted off in an ambulance!!  Need I say more?  Apparently those Beemers and Asten Martens have the right of way..
But despite that, within a one block get a little flavor of "Crunchy Folk"
Fresh Peaches!

My friend bought this prize pepper.

Colorful veggies, so many choices of beautiful goodness!

He was singing about sandwiches, made me want a PBJ!

These magical beverages a local vendor makes are called "Cold Roman".  It's a proprietary espresso blend with a splash of cream.  They also have excellent regular iced coffee.  This is usually our first stop.

Carrot Shocker?

I came away from the farmers market with some Apple Pepper Hot Sauce.  All the ingredients (all 4 of them) come from Connecticut within a 35 mile radius.  I already tried it on egg whites and it is pretty tasty!  Can't wait to get some brie and crackers and try it on that.

Today, I plan on laying on the couch in my filth until I absolutely HAVE to shower and get ready for a friend's birthday party at 7.

Stay tuned for my next blog: The tale of messy soup and why I will never use a hand blender again.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Sweet Delights - Labor of Love this Holiday Weekend

With these cookies I could bake me up a husband!  
Well, one could dream :)  But, last time I made these cookies was a little over a year ago on the birthday celebration of my two lovely friends Cassy and Susan.  I took leftovers out to the bars and one guy actually professed he wanted to marry me after having one of my cookies.  I like to think it was my fine baking skills and not the late night alcohol munchies :)  Today the cycling group I've recently started riding with (Sound Cyclists) held their annual picnic in Greenwich.  It's  kind of an end of the summer celebration even though riding will still continue for the next few months.  We had to bring a side dish or dessert and after deliberating over these cookies and this Sweet & Sour Chocolate Bark I decided to go with the simple and delicious Dark Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies.  A) Because it was something I could easily whip up and B) when at Fresh Market looking for ingredients for option 2 I realized it was going to be too much of a $ investment for cookies I was giving away to people who were still semi strangers..  Maybe someday I'l give it a try and modify it based on what I have on hand.
These cookies are pretty simple.  Because they don't have any sugar (agave nectar instead) or butter (some almond butter) and only use 1 egg white per batch I wouldn't call these decadent cookies.  They are a clean eating freak's version of a chocolate oatmeal cookie.  But with the cinnamon and nutmeg and of course the DARK CHOCOLATE, these cookies are both tasty, light and versatile!  They use Whole Wheat Pastry Flour but I actually recommend Spelt because that's what I had to use for my second batch and I think they actually taste a little better..
The ingredient line up - can you tell who I think the star of the show  is?
This has got to be the simplest recipe ever.  It is especially shown by the fact that after making one batch I realized that it was going to be way too small so while the first batch was cooking I whipped up another batch before they were even done baking (about 9-10 minutes).
mmm the dry goods - spices, oats and flour

Whisk it good!
The hardest part of this whole process was NOT to nibble.  Are you shocked? WHY would you not take a little taste of that delicious chocolate??  Well, basically I knew I would be going to town "checking" my finished product that I wanted to make sure I had prepared the sufficient amount of room in my stomach.

I liked chopping the chocolate by hand because I think all the chocolate dust makes the cookies even more bold with dark chocolate goodness
Voila! Dark Chocolate lover's dream.  Note - always remember to spray your tin foil (oops) 
Well, I wouldn't say that my cookies were a hit...but they were a little over powered by all the other hefty strong man desserts at the picnic.  I did get a lot of comments..but when you are competing against fudge brownies, milky way cake and pecan really can't consider them in the same court. I would recommend them dipped in milk, hot tea or with some yogurt on top.  Or you could stick them in the microwave for a few seconds and make the chocolate all melty again.  Also, I added the nutmeg as a option..I think maybe next time I'll put a little less or skip it all kind of over powers the flavor.  Another option could be use honey or maple syrup with the Agave to give it more sweetness..just thoughts.

So there you have it, a quick recap of my culinary explorations this weekend.  But this weekend was delicious  in more ways than one.  Today began with a 30 mile ride with the group mentioned above through beautiful, scenic, historic roads in New York and northern Connecticut.  Rural here is a lot different from Arkansas.  Mostly because that is where you will find the super rich who manicure their massive tree filled yards and stone built walls.  But while I risked crashing to gawk at many a castle, the roads here really are beautiful in and of themselves...expect lots of pictures in the fall.  So many trees, winding roads and old historical tucked away houses and towns.  A cyclists heaven.  I think I saw more bikes than cars the first 2 hours of the morning.

Previously, on Sunday, I tried to take a trip to both get errands done and see some beautiful roads.  The result was I wasted my entire day, missed lunch and came home with hardly anything to show for it (except these flowers below)

Here I am Sunday (pre errand failure), fueled by my Soy Iced Chai, excited to adventure forth to explore!  (little windy..and I lost my sunglasses)
Also, I have found my second home - Mad Hatter Saloon.  I will be there for every Razorback game possible, where the bar will be overflowing with migrated Arkansans.  I've never been more thrilled to call the Hogs! :)

And finally, BREAKING NEWS!!!  To the limited group who reads this in AR, I look forward to seeing you Sept 30th-Oct 4th (Happy early Bday to me!)  So excited to come home during my favorite time of year and finally see my sister, who just got back from France and I haven't seen in 9 months.
Tonight, unless I find myself being called by the couch or the bar down the street, I will be attempting some Black Bean Soup!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Earthquakes, Hurricanes, Chaos and Insomnia

Okay so pretty doomed title.  It doesn't really sum things up properly, but since I'm up way past my non-existent bed time and I haven't posted in a while..I figure those are the major categories right now.  I feel I've learn to work off of little sleep lately, sometimes I'm even more productive..let's hope this works tomorrow as I would like to be productive at work and go on the Friday night bike ride with my new found cycling group as well.

In other news, the northeast is a relentless adventure of natural/environmental theme!  Since I moved here in January, I have experienced the largest amount of snow fall in the history of CT, my first earthquake and my first hurricane(er Tropical storm) I don't know if that's a sign or not.  Technically the earthquake wasn't much, but to me the fact that I felt it and it took place all the way in Virginia baffles and amazes me.  I was sitting at my desk and all of the sudden my chair seemed to be moving in a funny way.  It was almost a slow rocking..not a shaking.  I thought either A) I had started to tap my leg in an off manner or B) I was having a little anxiety earthquake in my mind.  Both of which are equally possible in my case.  But, after ignoring this strange sensation I was ready to forget about it until I looked at my coworkers face (whom I was talking to at the time). Right away we both knew we had experienced the same sensation and were totally internally freaked out about it.  Anyway..never would have guessed earthquake but thanks to just a curious Google search and confirmation from a friend in DC I came to find out it was indeed an earthquake.  Pretty crazy.

So that was a long paragraph describing a 10 second event..but pretty unique in my books so I'll just go with it.

Hurricane Irene was a little bit more of a drawn out adventure.  Luckily the area I live in did not sustain any major damage.  A few poor trees lost some appendages and flood waters reached pretty high levels at high tide, but all receded and power was restored within a day.  Much, much luckier than I would say at least 75% of the state.  And for that I am thankful but also thinking of those out there who weren't so lucky and hoping that they can put things back together again soon.  

For a while before the storm started I heard that my apartment was in a mandatory evacuation zone.  A friend and I who both live alone in this area were connecting throughout the day trying to figure out our "action plan".  Given both of us come from land locked areas of the country, we really had no idea what actions to take.  In the end we got more information and deduced that we were NOT in the mandatory evacuation zone (or so we hoped) and decided to stick it out down here together.  I cleaned up my apartment, unplugged all my appliances and carted my hurricane survival goods (flashlights, beer and a hefty supply of tuna packets) over to her place.  From her place we had an excellent view of the mysterious disaster which was approaching us.
Enjoying the pre tropical storm breezes from my friend's balcony overlooking the inlet
 Yes I was THAT close..if potentially torrential flooding and flying debris occurred.  Thus why calming fluids were necessary.
Shadow creatures - entertainment without power

eerie increasing wind and rain
The tropical storm didn't really hit until the next morning.  It was good to not have to ride it out alone, but it really passed by pretty quickly and occurred mostly in the morning.  I woke up and watched the high sustained winds and thrashing gusts but my friend slept through most of it.  Later, after some early morning rigging the gas stove, omelets and rummy we ventured out to survey the damage.  Already we started to see people filling the streets, like tourists out to gawk.
This is the street I usually walk down from the parking garage to my apartment
my street - very little damage..lots of cars

This guy was fighting an endless battle - the winds stayed pretty high throughout the rest of the day.  But he would have no leaves on HIS yard!
there WAS pretty heavy flooding here..
man down
The wind literally blew us down the street

So, a little change of pace from my usual food.  It seems that there are 4 circles in my life - social, work, exercise, food..and seldom do they simultaneously "click".
Until next time.  Enjoy my favorite month! September!