Saturday, June 26, 2010

summa-time and strawberries (part 1)

It's now officially summer and that means I can't walk 10 steps at the farmer's market without seeing beautiful bright red strawberries.  Irresistible, right?

Especially when they're as big as your palm!  Check this puppy out!

Since we're swimming with strawberries this time of year, we're trying to get creative with how to use know, other than just wash-and-eat...which happens too and is the reason we purchase double the berries we plan on using. 

Every Sunday I bake a batch of muffins for us to eat for breakfast in the car on the way to work.  What better summa-time muffin than a strawberry muffin?!?  Why are strawberry muffins not more popular?  I didn't really want to make plain old strawberry muffins, I wanted to spruce them up with something.  Wanna know what else abounds in the summa-time?  Basil.  And there we have it...strawberry basil muffins.  Don't freak out.  It's amazing.  You like strawberries and mint, right?  Well basil has that same fresh flavor that pairs so nicely with sweet sweet berries.  Trust me, it's good.

See the basil???

I used this blackberry muffin recipe as a model, but you'll see how much I change things up (and make them a wee bit healthier)

Strawberry Basil Muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup 0% fat greek yogurt
1 tsp milk (sometimes I leave this out if I don't have milk)
1/2 cup sugar
4 tbsp melted butter
4 tbsp unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp vanilla
12 oz fresh strawberries, quartered
chopped basil (I didn't measure, but I used somewhere around 3tbsp I think)

Preheat the oven to 400deg.  Spray a regular 12-cup muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray.

Sprinkle a spoonful of sugar over the strawberries, add basil, stir.  Set aside.  (I did not do this but I wish I had.  Macerating the berries brings out the natural sugars and juices which would mix nicely with the basil)

Combine dry ingredients (flours, baking powder, salt) in a medium bowl and set it aside.  Combine wet ingredients (except berries) in a separate bowl.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring gently to combine.  DO NOT OVERMIX.  You want to stir just until the dry ingredients are moistened.  Then add the strawberries.

Divide the batter evenly between the 12 muffin cups (I actually use 16 cups for smaller muffins...whatever you choose).  Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the tops look slightly brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean.  Let cool for a couple minutes before removing from the pan.



The boy chef wannabe got ahold of some berries as well and made something interesting.  Stay tuned for that...

Friday, June 25, 2010


I'm way behind on blogging.  I have 3 posts that I've started to write (meaning I've given them titles) and have failed to write about my last 2 weekends of marathon training.  The empty posts will just have to wait because I really don't feel like being 3 practices behind.

The last two weekend practices (#3 and #4) I ditched.  Yep ditched.  I'm antisocial.  Just kidding (or am I?)  Actually practice #3 I didn't completely ditch, I just didn't have the time to mess around with a shoe clinic, coach's comments, and a 6 mile run that would keep me out until noon.  I had things to do before I left for Denver and didn't want to bum around all morning.  So instead, I crawled out of bed at 5am, shoved some leftover muffin in my mouth and drove up the hill to meet my fantastic mentor Shannon in PV at 6am so we could get our run out of the way and then meet up the rest of the team at the shoe store for the clinic.  Seeeee...I'm not all bad for ditching...I had good intentions and still got my 6 miles in.  Actually it was a great run.  There's a lot less pressure when I'm just running with one person.  We kept a really comfortable pace and chatted the whole way and time flew.  Lovely.  And I didn't feel like a train wreck later in the day.  I have yet to figure out why...maybe because I kept my heart rate really low.  We met the rest of the team for shoe clinic, then I messed around with some shoes and had to drag myself away before buying another pair of running shoes.  I can't tell you how much I love buying running shoes and workout clothes.  It's a real problem.  I don't like fashion, you see, I like comfort.  This is why my work clothes are years old and I have a new lululemon tank almost monthly.  Problem.  Please fix me.

Anyways...I spent the next week in Denver with the family.  Maybe that's for another post.  There's too much to say but I somehow can't muster the energy to talk about it.  It's hard...least of all for me probably.

That being said, I was in Denver for practice #4 and missed it completely.  There was no chance in heck that I was going to run 7 miles in Denver without oxygen, so I opted to wait until Sunday when I'd be back in CA and could breathe in some smog-filled oxygen.   And so I did.  And hated it.  I hated the route actually.  Usually we run up in the hills on a nice soft train.  This route went down by the beach on the same road I used to run over and over when I lived in South Redondo.  Don't get me wrong, running by the beach is kinda awesome...for awhile.  But when you realize you're pounding concrete as hard as you can and there's no shade and no relief and no dolphins, it's not fun anymore.  I felt a headache coming on around mile 2.  Not saying I got a headache at mile 2, I just knew I would getting one later because of the insane amount of pressure in my head.  The headache came full force later in the day and couched me for my entire Saturday.  Please tell me why...I can't figure it out.  I know what you're gonna say, though.  Dehydration.  I had a water bottle in my hand, ok?  The only thing I can really think is that I was dehydrated from the air in Colorado and the plane ride the day before.  Let's hope so because I can't imagine another headache like that after tomorrow's 9er.

I'll attempt to remember what I consumed almost three weeks ago...

#3 (6 miles grrrrreat)

pre-run nutrition:
the night before: maybe this is when I had salmon and cannelini beans with jen?
the morning of: blackberry muffin?

during: one bottle of water

post-run nutrition:
immediately after: coconut water and some puffins and water
breakfast: ?

#4 (7 miles with headache)

pre-run nutrition:
the night before: whole wheat pasta with mushrooms and peas and parm (yum, by the way) and a red velvet cupcake that boy made for me for my return-to-LA surprise!
immediately before: green juice and puffins and water
during: one bottle of water

post-run nutrition:
immediately after: coconut water (watered down), bottle of water
breakfast: sprouted grain english muffin with egg and cheese
...then i ate everything I could find for the rest of the day because headaches make me want to eat my face off

Friday, June 11, 2010

happy friiiiiiday!

Dear blog,

Thanks for helping me remember what I'm supposed to do today:

* nice long bike ride
* catch up blogs
* update training log
* fundraising email
* call mom
* buy dog food
* buy replacement water bottle for long runs
* send out facebook messages about fundraising
* update budget
* curse blogger for being difficult today
* begin packing for Denver (requires packing list!)
* laundry
* bake muffins for boy's breakfast
* yoga?
* prepare fundraising materials to take to Denver

That's all I can remember now. Thanks!


...still getting to know you (second practice)

I forgot my camera again for second practice.  Don't feel bad, I also forgot my heart rate monitor and my new running shoes; I was wearing a super old pair of expired running shoes turned dog walk shoes with gigantic holes in the toes.  My mentor said, "...that's OK, you'll be needing holy shoes for this run."

Coach talked for an extraordinarily ridiculous amount of time before we set off for our run.  Fundraising tips and necessary information.  Her favorite fundraising tip is "Be Relentless"...(I hope you know what's coming to you! Donate now and I won't bug you).

We start off every run with some dynamic stretching exercise...aka we do funny looking moves in the grassy area and make fools out of ourselves.  We kick our own butts, do some lunges, and some weird hip opener thingies.  We look ridiculous.  I wonder if it's really good for us, or more for coach's entertainment.  Perhaps both.  

We were on for 4 the hills.  Not toooo bad.  I consider myself lucky that I'm best friends with the PV Hills from my triathlon season three years ago.  I knew exactly what to expect.  I started off really slow.  Like way back of the pack slow.  I ended up passing a bunch of people along the way, and found myself running with one of the mentors, also one of only two guys on the team.  We chatted, mostly to prove we were both running at "conversational pace."  I was actually surprised at how easy conversation was while I was running. I generally prefer to run alone, so having someone to talk to seems weird, but at least I knew I was pacing myself appropriately!

The 4 miles seemed easy, especially the downhill.  Like I said, I've mastered the down...gravity really helps.  Sometimes it seems like my scientific background is giving me the advantage on the downs.  I saw people slowing down and walking.  Do they not understand how much less work they have to do going down because of our friend gravity?   Unfortunately for me, the downhill on this run is followed by about a half a mile of slightly uphill to finish out the run.  Down to up is a hard transition because you're used to the turnover of the downhill, and trying to maintain that when the slope goes positive, whips your breath right away and makes that last little bit really dreadful.

Stretch, water, coconut water, and then I took off to finish my Saturday much like the previous Saturday.  Starbucks and the farmer's market.

Once again, a record of my intake is here so I can check back and see what I did.

pre-run nutrition:
the night before:  happy hour at fraiche, lots of good stuff
the morning of: some puffins and glass of watered down green juice

post-run nutrition:
immediately after: 24 oz water, then 2 servings of coconut water
breakfast: Starbucks chocolate & banana smoothie and spinach, feta, egg white wrap
lunch/snack: delicious Afghan food from the farmer's market, beet salad with avocado and peas
dinner: strawberry polenta with scallops

drank a bunch of water throughout the day.

I think I prevented this week's headache somehow.  I could feel it coming so I stuffed myself with food and water.  Something made my tummy funny post-run (which is better than during the run!) so I'll watch out for that in the future.

Tanks for listening!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

getting to know you (first practice)

FYI, the material in this post occurred in the past. I waited to post it to make sure my website would be up when you read it.

Today was my first day of practice with the South Bay Team in Training marathon team.  It was the third practice for everyone else.  I showed up to run in a bright pink tank top (my most comfortable one).  Everyone else was wearing their white Team in Training shirts.  I'm pretty sure I stuck out luck a sore thumb in my fluorescent top.  The team manager made me change into one of the white team shirts...short sleeves.  Darn it!  Apparently they have to be able to identify us all or something while we're out running.  As if my hot pink wasn't identifiable! Oh well, such is life.

Practice started off with a lot of chit chat.  OK, announcements actually, and they were quite important.  Our coach, Gail, is awesome.  Just awesome.  I'd actually met her before, three years ago when I was becoming a mentor for triathlon team and she was then a mentor for the marathon team.  She has a great personality, is super chatty, and kind of entertaining to listen to (she has four kids and her PTA and mini-van stories are hysterical). 

My favorite part of the "pre-practice chat" was Mission Moment.  During Mission Moment, participants stand up and talk about why they are busting their butts early on a Saturday morning to run around while fundraising for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  The Mission Captain spoke today.  Her story started much like mine - she originally got started with TNT just for the heck of it, to get some training and participate in an endurance event (in her case, the Boston Marathon) while raising money for a good cause.  A few years later, her husband was diagnosed with colon cancer.  Although LLS does not directly support colon cancer, she felt comforted from her experiences with TNT and LLS, with the knowledge that there are people out there really trying to make a difference.  She cried as she told us her husband did not survive.  She continues, in his honor, to help support cancer research.

I will say, it gives me a funny feeling in my tummy to hear how much of the mission moment talk deals with honoring those that have not survived their battles with cancer. I know I'm doing this to honor and support those that have survived and will survive.  Since I can't be right there with my family through all of their battles, I'm doing this for them so they know they will always be in my thoughts.  I can't wait for my opportunity to share my Mission Moment.  I'll tell them about my sweet nephew who is just learning to talk.  I'll cry. Maybe they will too.  But there's nothing like starting off a long run with some serious reflection on life and appreciation for what we have.

Today we ran 3 miles in the beautiful hills of Palos Verdes.  I trained here for my triathlons and the marathon I did on my own.  Being back there, running in the hills, makes me really happy.  It's peaceful and comforting, in a knee-pain and blister kind of way.  I didn't actually get blisters this time, I'm sure, but one day I'm sure my feet will hate me.  They'll get over it. They always do.  I love running in the hills for the very reason that what goes up must come down.  Running downhill along the trails is incredibly liberating.  Gravity mostly pulls you down, you just have to keep your feet moving.  It's almost like gliding.  A lot of people slow themselves down going downhill...I just let myself fly.  It was the best 3 miles I've run in a long time.

After practice, I treated myself to a quick and healthy-ish breakfast and iced tea from Starbucks, and a trip to the farmer's market.  This may become my new Saturday routine!  Although, I'll definitely need to attack the farmer's market with a plan next time so as not to get completely overwhelmed by things that I'm "sure" I'll be "needing" this whole raw milk...yeah...

The following information is really for my own personal records, but feel free to read on.  I warn you, though, it's not particularly interesting. 

Nutrition for endurance training has always been really difficult for me, so I'm keeping track for myself to see what works and what doesn't. 

pre-run nutrition:
the night before:  chicken mcnuggets (bad call)
the morning of: 6oz green juice watered-down with 2oz water; 6ish oz cold water

post-run nutrition:
immediately after: 24oz water
maybe 30 minutes after: starbucks spinach and feta egg white wrap; iced green tea
lunchtime: whole wheat tortilla with shredded light three cheese blend, taco bell sauce, fresh tomato slices; water
after lunchtime: smoothie with frozen banana, frozen peaches, peanut butter, almond milk, yogurt, 5 dark kisses; more water
after after lunchtime (seriously, I've been starving all day): half of a cappuccino, half of a North End sandwich, and half of a North End egg roll; more water
dinner: tasting menu at animal!

I've had a headache and been starving all day. Clearly my food/water consumption will need some work as I go along, especially considering this was only a measly three mile run.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

go team!


I joined Team in Training...again!! 

You see, about three and a half years ago, I was new to Southern California, didn't know my way around town except to work and home, and had no friends besides "work friends."  I couldn't stand going to the local 24-hour fitness, which is more like a meat-market than a gym, and running on the Hermosa Beach strand started to destroy my legs after awhile.  I got flyer after flyer from Team in Training, and noticed they had a triathlon program.  I was intrigued and intimidated, but I signed up anyway to give myself an opportunity to something I'd never do on my own, meet some new people, and do something good for the world.  I finished two seasons with Team in Training, raised over $3000 dollars for cancer research, helped mentor other participants, and finished 4 triathlons all in one year.  To be honest, it was a really great experience.  I made friends, discovered my favorite place in California to run and bike, and surprised myself at what I could accomplish.

Then work got in the way, I improved my social life, and that was it for me for endurance events.  I promised myself I wouldn't do any more endurance activity that required me to eat whist exercising (stomach aches plagued me that entire year!)

So...two weeks ago, my brother-in-law was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia.  The next day, I signed up with Team in Training again.  I wasn't really thinking about the endurance event, I was thinking about raising funds and awareness for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  I was thinking about any possible thing I could do to help my family from thousands of miles away.  This was it.  So...marathon training, here I come...again. 

By the sister and brother-in-law have a sweet two-year-old son, Marty.  He was named after my dad.  He's walking and talking now.  He has no idea what's about to hit him. 

This is the link to my fundraising website:

Even if you can't donate at this time, please forward this on to as many people as you can to help me spread the word!

Friday, June 4, 2010

happy friday!

Today IS a happy friday. Why? I don't know...because I said so. I woke up cranky, actually. That'll happen when you plan to sleep in and some needy pup decides he needs to get you up before 7am only to turn around and sneak himself into your spot on the bed. But now I've decided I'm pretty stoked about today. Here's why:

* It's the end of a relative successful week! Boss was out of town, so I was doing my job AND his. I felt like I was playing a doubles tennis game by myself...taking shots from lots of different directions. I think I knocked them all down least no one is currently upset about anything. Maybe I didn't get a lot of MY work done, but that'll happen. Overall I declare this to be a successful boss-less week.

* I joined Team in Training. I'm getting ready to fund-raise and I'm getting ready to train in the lovely hills of Palos Verdes for a race in the lovely hills of San Francisco in the lovely month of October. I knocked out my first week of training with two barre (stretch/strength classes), two decent base training runs, and a super awesome spin class. And I'm still walking! And I get to run in the hills tomorrow, treat myself to a post-run breakfast, and then spend hours at the farmers market gawking at the produce and strategizing my purchases. Maybe I'll remember my camera so you get a good picture of how truly amazing and overwhelming this farmer's market truly is.

* We're going We went to happy hour tonight at Fraiche in Culver City. I am I was stoked because I'ved wanted to try it for awhile and happy hour is was like the perfect opportunity to do so. They have a pretty sweet happy hour menu, and an even sweeter bar menu with moules frites and cheese fondue (two of my favorite things!) and interesting cocktails and these yummy meatball gougere sliders. (I actually wrote this at work earlier, but couldn't post it until now because blogger is blocked at work I didn't have the opportunity...hence the scratch marks).
Gin, fresh strawberries, vanilla infusion, lemon...YUM

Meatball sliders in gougere
(gougere is the pastry part of a cream puff, but savory)

Cheese fondue with apples and bread

Look how cheesy!

Arancini (risotto balls)

Moules frites (mussels & fries)

See?  Isn't that a happy friday? 

Tell me about YOUR happy friday...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

tres leches

This post has very little to do with tres leches, but it kinda all stems from a really hysterical story that I feel I really need to share with you.

We went to dinner on Saturday night at Animal restaurant in Los Angeles.  This was one of those restaurants that was featured on Food Network because some celebrity chef (Duff Goldman, Ace of Cakes) decided that something at the restaurant (bacon chocolate crunch bar) was the "best thing he ever ate (with bacon).  Of course, we had to try this bacon chocolate crunchy's the best!  So off we went to animal for dinner and dessert. 

Dinners out these days usually involves sharing lots of small plates.  We had grilled spanick mackerel with fava bean salad and bagna cauda (really yummy); rabbit loin with country ham, hericot vert, and spetzel (holy cow amazing yum...spetzel is my new favorite food); duck confit with apricot, marcona almonds (which are seriously far superior to any other almond), dates, and arugula (also yummy), lamb meatballs (super moist but not spectacular) with gold rice, green garbanzos, and creme fraiche (also holy cow amazing yum...hold the meatballs); foie gras (cause we don't go anywhere without trying the foie) with biscuit, maple sausage gravy (pretty good, quite heavy); and quail fry with grits, chard, slab bacon, and maple jus (fantastically yummy, especially the grits which are my other favorite food and had an amazingly delicious smoky flavor that was certainly artificial but made me jump and squeal a bit with joy when I tasted it).  All of it was delicious and I apologize for not having any photographs.  I left my camera at home since I'm still too shy to take pictures at restaurants.  I did notice at least 3 other people at the restaurant photographing their food, though.  Oh well. Use your imagination.  We lack imagination these days.

Anyways, dessert obviously needed to involve the chocolate bacon crunchy thingy, but gosh I'd just had bacon and wanted something sweet in between so as not to overwhelm my mouth with bacon.  The chef-wanna-be boy suggested that we get the tres leches with dulce de leche.  I was slightly surprised when he suggested that because he's never mentioned a liking for tres leches cake.  When we got our tres leches, we took a few bites, went to heaven (it was that good), and then he said "I was kinda expecting cheese, but this is amazing."  Baaaahahaha! He apparently did not know, when he ordered, that tres leches cake is a hugely famous and delicious cake, not to be confused with triple cream cheese that we are also obsessed with quite fond of.  I tease him because he's not that great with culinary vocabulary and he often mixes up his words.  I wish I could think of another example right now, but maybe another time.  Oh and by the way, the chocolate bacon crunchy thing was not the best thing I ever ate with bacon....DUFF. 

Anyway...what sparked his interest in the tres leches dessert was actually the dulce de leche part.  If you recall, we ate at his restaurant awhile ago, and they served us cheese with dulce de leche.  He has apparently since developed a bit of a fascination/obsession with dulce de leche.  Following our trip to Animal, he proclaimed that he will be making some dulce de leche, but savory, and serving it with scallops.  I did tell him that dulce means sweet, but he didn't care.  He made it happen.

Just to experiment, he took a can of sweetened condensed milk (typically used do make dulce de leche), and a can of evaporated milk (not really used to make dulce de leche...he thinks outside the box), put them unopened in a giant pot of boiling water, and let them sit there while he waxed his car and did some other stuff (3ish hours). 

The sweetened condensed milk did exactly what we expected, and gave us a most delicious dulce de leche.  The evaporated milk was really interesting, though.  It had a deep caramel flavor, but it wasn't sweet at all.  And it really didn't thicken as we expected it would, so it was pretty runny.  He tried to reduce it down to thicken it, but the pot boiled over.  Then he tried to whip it thicker, and he ended up with a foam.  "Oh my gosh you made a foam!"  I proclaimed, and reminded him that we always get foam on our food at fancy restaurants.

So now that we have dulce de leche and not-so-dulche de leche, the obvious thing to do is cook up some scallops. And wild mushrooms.  Right?  Right.

And here we have it:

Seared Scallops with Wild Mushrooms and Dulce de Leche

PS.  We don't really recipe here...unless I'm baking, but even then I make stuff up.  SO I don't have a recipe for this, but that's kinda the point.  Experimenting in the kitchen is super fun and you get crazy weird delicious things that you never thought you'd dulce de leche and scallops!  But IF you leave me a comment requesting a recipe, I would be happy to write one up for you.  But it's going to cost you a comment.