30 Nov

Fall Bucket List Reassessment

I know that there is still technically one more month of fall, but with December nearly here and Christmas lights on display, the idea of winter is starting to set in and the feeling of autumn is fading.

Remember how I made a bucket list for all the things that I wanted to do in autumn? Well, I did them.

Do the Run for the Cure 5K (Check!)

This was our 7th year participating in the Run for the Cure which is a major fundraiser for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. Our team raised over $2500 and I had tonnes of energy to blast out this 5K.

Me and My Sister at the Run for the Cure

Go Apple Picking (Check!)

Despite the fact that the lady at the PYO Orchard was practically encouraging me NOT to pick any apples on the evening that I went out, I got a 15lb bag of crazy good Golden Delicious apples and ate them all.


Picking Golden Delicious Apples at Wagner’s

Make a recipe from the Apple Cookbook my friend Tina bought me (Check!)

I didn’t blog about this, though I don’t know why.

I made an apple chutney and I also tried my hand at apple strudel. The filling of said strudel was to die for but the crust was atrocious. I should have taken a hint to use store bought pastry or phyllo when the recipe in the cookbook actually said: “making the dough can take decades of practice”.

I still ate the whole thing.

Buy a yellow cardigan (Check!)

I basically haven’t stopped wearing this since I bought it.


First of many wears of the coveted yellow cardigan

Run the Hot Chocolate 15K (Check!)

9.3 miles on Chicago’s waterfront on a beautiful November day, followed by hot chocolate and fondue. It could have been better (ya know, without the whole runner’s trots business), but I had an awesome time doing this race with Vicki and Tina and I can’t wait until we do another race together.


Showing of my Hot Chocolate 15K race swag

Hand out full sized chocolate bars for Hallowe’en (Check!)

Why we don’t get more than 10 costumed children banging down the doors to our house is beyond me. Kids these days, yeesh!


The loot at the Menzies’ for Hallowe’en. . . and we couldn’t even give it all away.

Bake a pumpkin cake (Check!)

Okay, so it was cupcakes. . . close enough. These bad boys were really good. The cupcake reminded me more like a muffin, but when you put the buttercream frosting on it they were delicious. There’s a reason I haven’t made them again– because they would be devoured.


Pumpkin Cupcakes with Spiced Buttercream

Watch one of the Husband’s students’ football games (Check!)

I watched not one, but two such games! Why?

Well, first I watched a regular season game . . .


Laser’s vs. Aigles Football Game

. . . and then Matt’s team made the championships. Which their team won for the first time ever!

Congrats boys, way to end the season.


Lasers Coaches. Matt is second from the left.

28 Nov

Arbitrariness

A) I chopped my hair this weekend. It’s been years since the last time it was this short. I had gotten tired of it being long and all over the place.

It feels really good now, but I can’t help thinking that it looked better when it was long.

Haircut

B) Anyone who knows me knows that, generally speaking, I like to stand. I stand when everyone else is sitting. Sometimes I stand to read a novel. At home I like putting my laptop on the kitchen counter so I can stand to surf the internet.

So my desk job doesn’t exactly fit my love of standing. Finally, after 5+ years as a desk jockey, I’ve gotten fed up with sitting for 8 hours a day so I hacked a standing work station at my cubicle with a couple of boxes. And now I spend maybe 4 hours a day standing at my desk. It feels good.

I’m considering making something a bit less provisional, but the boxes seem to be working for now.

Standing Workstation (1)

C) A new Moksha Hot Yoga studio opened up on Ottawa St. in Windsor. Moksha is basically Bikram with a different name and a better logo.

I went with a couple of girlfriends on Sunday to the 90 minute class and I sweated so much that I came home 2 pounds lighter.

Instead of buying a single class pass I picked up the 2 week unlimited pass. I fully intend to go as many times as possible in the next 2 weeks. That’s the way I roll– when I pay for something I want to get my money’s worth. (And that’s why I don’t eat at buffets).

Moksha logo

26 Nov

Date Night: Wine Tasting

It’s November. It’s practically December, actually, and Matt and I just yesterday managed to go on our October Date of the Month: wine tasting at some local wineries for their Taste the Season holiday open houses.

So we haven’t exactly been very good about making time for each other, I guess. On weeknights we usually do our own thing. I read or bake or practice guitar while Matt plays video games. On weekends we spend a lot of time together, but it’s usually in the company of other people.

In fact, our date for this month ended up being with other people, at least partially.

Yesterday morning my dad and his girlfriend mentioned that they were planning on hitting the local Essex County wineries too, so of course we had to meet up with them.

Matt and I like wine tasting. Matt has a particularly good palate and can point out flavours in wines to a T. I, on the other hand, rely heavily on the description of the flavour notes. I’ll read the label and if it says, cherry notes then I might taste cherry. Maybe.

I’m like a wine-tasting Neanderthal. “Yum! Taste Like Wine!”

We’ve done tastings in Santorini, in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and in Essex county numerous times. It’s the best to go during open houses or special events because you get free tastings and, if you hit up enough wineries, then you’re bound to get shitfaced on good wine free of charge.

So it sucks when you have to be the driver, like Matt was yesterday.

Planning the RoutePlanning out which wineries to hit up.

Muscedere

We started at Muscedere Vineyards where we sampled nearly all their red wines: a pinot noir, a meritage, a syrah, and a cab sauv. Everything but the baco noir, because, to my taste buds, baco noir tastes like crap.

The Cabernet Sauvignon was my favourite. It had a really nice finish. Their red wines are pretty steeply priced, but we snagged a bottle for Matt parents for Christmas.

Muscedere (1)Muscedere (2)

Erie Shores

Next we hit up Erie Shore Vineyard. They have a super tiny tasting room which was packed with a million people (approximately 8 people, but, ya know, it felt like a lot).

We tried a couple of their whites and a couple of reds. They have a killer Riesling, but we bought a bottle of their Chardonnay which was good, and made better by the fact it was on sale for $8.

They also served a bunch of little treats as well, like Apricots in Riesling which were delicious (note to self: soak dried apricots in riesling).

Erie Shores

Erie Shores (2)Apricots in Riesling (1)
I took pictures outside, because inside it was crazy crowded

Sprucewood Shores

We met up with my dad and Silvia at Erie Shores and then headed down the street to Sprucewood Shores. They always have a really great set-up at the open houses with lots of wine and food to sample.

At this point in the day, I had so many tastings (read: I had a real nice buzz going) that I can’t really remember any of the wines that I had at Sprucewood. I vaguely remember a rose that had a really nice strawberry taste.

I do recall that there were 3 kinds of soup (the apple and squash was delicious) and mulled wine which was a perfect way to cap off the afternoon.

Sprucewood (3)Sprucewood (1)Sprucewood (2)

We finished the day off by having dinner at my dad’s house and then we went home and watched Casino Royale which I had never seen before (yes, I know it’s, like, 6 years old).
I’m happy that we finally got to go on our October date, but now we have 2 dates that we have to do in the ever hectic month of December.

Date of the Month Club

Check out other posts in the Date of the Month club, where Matt and I go on one special date every month of 2012:

January – Bookstore Scavanger Hunt
February – Board Game Night
March – Bowling
April – Detroit Walking Tour
May – Colasanti’s
June – Picnic
July – Next Restaurant
August – Detroit Tigers Baseball Game
September – Detroit Institute of Arts

23 Nov

Good Food: Greens

These three are just some of the dishes that I made recently that are worth noting.

I made them all more than once which is a rarity in my kitchen where I like to try a new recipe almost daily. (okay, maybe not quite daiy, but 4 times a week isn’t unhread of).

Just goes to show that these make really good stand-bys.

This Spinach and Goat Cheese Spiral Omelette from PreventionRD is super quick, so easy, delicious, and makes great leftovers for breakfast. One week I made it just so I could eat leftovers for breakfast every day. True Story.

Spinach & Goat Cheese Spiral Omelette

I’ve also made this Kale and Brussels Sprouts Salad from Bon Appetit, except I used shredded cabbage instead of Brussels sprouts (it’s practically the same vegetable right?).

This dish is really hearty, is a meal in itself, and makes a great lunch. And even dressed the leftover salad is still good because kale and cabbage hold up to the dressing. I don’t think Matt ate any of this, but I certainly liked it.

kale and brussels sprouts salad

These Greek Style Braised Green Beans from The Kitchn are actually cooked beyond the whole crisp-tender stage. Shocking, I know. Who cooks vegetables anymore? These are really tasty and remind me of the green beans that I love from the brunches at the Caboto Club (ie. a local Italian club).

They take a while to cook so they’re a good side dish to leave to it’s own devices while you’re putting together a more complicated entree.

Greek Style Braised Green Beans

20 Nov

New Routine with Lots of Conditioning

I wrote up a new workout routine to get me through the next 4 weeks.

For the last couple months I haven’t been going on a routine at all. I’d do a couple major lifts like squats or bench press or push press at the start of my workout and then do a random ‘workout of the day’ that I found on crossfit websites like this one or this one. I was switching up my workouts every day.

It was fun, but I needed a set routine because my workouts were scattered so sometimes I’d be overworking some muscles and neglecting others. Also, I was hogging the squat racks for at least 30 minutes some days. That’s something I can’t do anymore now that the weather is getting cold and the gym is getting busier.

I wanted to incorporate some of the same variance in my new routine 3 day lifting routine. So Mondays & Fridays include both strength training and cardio & endurance based supersets, and Wednesdays are scheduled for 2 major lifts + a random conditioning workout (a finisher if you will).

Click over for my new routine:

(See the “Conditioning Workouts” tab too!)

Monday: Snatch, Back Squat, Bench Press, Triceps Push-Ups, Thrusters

Tuesday: Conditioning Drills, “Sled” Work or other HIIT (tabata sprints, spinning sprints, swimming sprints)

Wednesday: 2 Major lifts (eg. Push Press, Deadlift, Front Squat, Bench Press) + Conditioning

Thursday: Conditioning Drills, “Sled” Work or other HIIT (tabata sprints, spinning sprints, swimming sprints) different from Tuesday

Friday: Power Clean & Jerk, Overhead Squat, Barbell Row, Bicep Curls, Push-Ups

Saturday: Yoga or Rest

Sunday: 3-5 mile Run or Rest

I wrote in “swimming” at the last minute into my HIIT days. Over the summer I went swimming few times to do laps and I enjoyed it, especially when I went with Matt and we raced each other! I’m going to try swimming sprints at least once in the next 4 weeks.

18 Nov

Waist Goals Update 2

Remember my waist goal resolution that I set in September with my hopes to lose 6 cm from my waist? Vaguely? Yeah, me too.

I do have to constantly remind myself “You’re trying to lose inches remember?” because my goal hasn’t exactly been at the forefront of my mind. My last check-in was at the beginning of October, so I figured I was due for a post on my progress.

Progress: (the measurements are waist/belly/weight)

Aug 15: 83cm/ 91cm/ 166.8lb
Sep 10: 83cm/ 89cm/ 166.2lb
Oct 10: 82cm/ 89cm/ 166.6lb
Nov 15: 81cm/ 87cm/ 169.4lb

My weight is usually very consistent at 166, but weirdly enough it shot up 3 pounds and yet managed to lose 2 cm from my waist and 4 cm from my belly. (Further proof that it’s not about the number on the scale, people) I’m well on my way.

Aug 31Aug 31Aug 31

Taken Aug 31

Nov 18 (1)Nov 18 (4)Nov 18 (5)

Taken Nov 18

How I’m Following Through with my Game Plan:

Start the Day with Protein

I’ve been lazy getting up lately so my egg breakfasts have been pretty rare. I’ve been opting for smoothies with protein powder, yoghurt, or cottage cheese with frozen berries and honey.

I’ve been pretty consistent about taking protein after every workout too which is great. My health calendar has been helping me keep that on track.

Cut out processed food and white carbs.

Needless to say I’ve been baking a lot of whole wheat and whole grain breads lately. Except maybe for those kaiser rolls. My meal planning for weeknight dinners revolves around vegetables, protein, and whole grains.

Cheat Meal

This is still an issue, as usual, mostly because of the desserts. On my Health Calendar I think I have only 2 days per week where I didn’t eat dessert (my goal is to only eat it once per week), but it’s still better than multiple desserts every day, right?

High Intensity Exercise

This has been going really well. I finish my workout with circuits and complexes with high reps and minimal rest. Of course I always start out with some Olympic lifts or heavy lifting (deadlifts, bench presses, chin-ups, and various forms of squats) and my strength has been improving.

I have managed to eek out a 135lb bench press and 185lb back squats. Beast Mode.

I was doing 4 weightlifting sessions a week, but I’m going to cut it back to 3 and add more cardio. Starting this week I’m going to be reworking my exercise schedule to something like this:

Mon: Full Body Strength Training with High Rep/Low Rest Circuits
Tue: Tabata sprints (20s sprint + 10s rest) or Sled Work
Wed: Full Body Strength Training with High Rep/Low Rest Circuits.
Thu: Tabata sprints (20s sprint + 10s rest) or Sled Work
Fri: Full Body Strength Training with High Rep/Low Rest Circuits.
Sat: Easy Yoga
Sun: Long distance run or Rest

I’ll try posting a .pdf of my new routine this week.

Plan Night Time Snacks

My late night snackiness has continued to be suppressed, probably from all the protein that I’ve been eating. If I do crave something at night I’ve been having some casein protein with yoghurt or some dried or fresh fruit. It’s a little better choice than hot chocolate or cookies.

16 Nov

Food is not a reward

Food is not a reward. This is a philosophy that I try to uphold. Food is nourishing, energy-producing, sustaining, celebratory, and uniting among other things. But for anyone other than the family pet it shouldn’t be a method of positive reinforcement.

So, in some ways I feel like participating in the Hot Chocolate 15K was a bit hypocritical of me and might be setting a bad example.

Let me see if I can explain myself out of this one.

Hot Chocolate 15K

The Hot Chocolate 15K was that 9.3 mile (15km) race I ran in Chicago this month with a finish line party that left participants lining up for mugs of hot cocoa and fondue. 40,000 people registered to run this race (which at $73 after fees isn’t cheap by any stretch) with the prospect of rewarding their endurance with chocolate.

I usually get upset about things like this– that is the association of junk food (or any food, really) with moderate exercise. House-league sports teams giving kids sugary sports drinks during one hour practices; karate teachers handing out Hallowe’en candy after classes; gym dates with girlfriends followed by venti frappucinos; it all drives me insane.

This doesn’t promote a ‘healthy balance’.

A healthy balance is a workout followed by a piece of cake because it’s your mom’s birthday, not just because you finished the workout. No, this sort of activity is just promoting the idea that you can exercise away a bad diet which, guess what?, you can’t.

Hot Chocolate 15K

So if this is the way I feel, then why did I bother registering in the first place? A couple of reasons:

1) I need a gimmick to race. Why would I bother paying and registering and getting up early to participate in a race when I could sleep in and run on my own time for free?

I’m going to get to take pictures with all my favourite Disney characters? I’m in.

I get to a sweet medal or sweatshirt for participating? I’m in.

I get a cup of Ghirardelli hot chocolate at the end of the race on a cold fall morning? I’m in.

2) I wanted to race with my sister in Chicago. We were planning to run the Colour Run (gimmick!) in Chicago this summer but it sold out before we registered. So I looked for another fun run in Chicago on a weekend that she would be in Illinois (she comes home a lot!) and this one fit the bill. It’s long (longer than Vicki has even ever run before) so it really felt like more of an event than just a 5K would have.

3) It was a vacation. Participating in the race gave us the opportunity to make a fun weekend out of it in downtown Chicago that we otherwise wouldn’t have had. And we got to run along the Chicago waterfront which I otherwise would not have had the chance to have done.

4) Most importantly, I didn’t think of the Chocolate as a reward, but as a celebration. There’s a difference. I don’t cap every 9 mile run I do off with bowl of fondue and a cuppa cocoa. This was a special occasion. Getting to sit under the sunny skies in Grant Park with my best friend and my sister and chat about our race experience over a cup of hot chocolate felt celebratory.

Hot Chocolate 15K

It’s hard to feel bad about my race choice when I had such a good time participating and when I really didn’t consider the Hot Chocolate party as a reward for running. But to many participants I think it was, and that kind of thinking can be deterimental to having a balanced lifestyle.

I’m sure I could have found another race for us to do that would have been just as fun and celebratory without the food rewards. I’m going to be keeping my eyes out for one.

15 Nov

How to Shape Kaiser Buns

It’s time for this month’s Baking Partners Challenge. The theme for November is Shaped Dinner Rolls. I’m happy that it was a bread challenge this month because I really don’t need any more desserts around here (except, maybe a few more of those Food for the Gods bars, those were delightful) and because I already make bread all the time.

I decided to do a Kaiser Bun for this challenge. Matt was bugging me to make burgers for dinner one night this week so I figured Kaisers would be a good burger bun.

Kaiser Buns

For this dough itself I actually used a Vienna Bread recipe which has a basis of a baguette dough but includes extra enrichments of a little butter, egg, and sugar making it more tender with a denser crumb and softer crust, kinda like American white bread.

Typically Kaiser Buns are stamped with a press that looks like this:

Kaiser Stamp

I don’t have one of those and I suspect that not many people do, so you can go the “knotted roll” route instead. It’s actually not that hard. Coming from me (ie. the girl who bakes bread for the sole fact that it doesn’t have to look nice, and who has no skills to make anything look attractive) that’s saying something.

The look will be a little less uniform that you’ll get from a stamp, more rustic, but still really “kaiserish” looking. Here it goes. . .

How to Shape Kaiser Buns

For burger-sized buns, divide the dough into 85-115g (3-4 oz) pieces with a pastry cutter.

Roll each piece into a dough snake about 45cm (18”) in length.

Roll each piece into a log about 45cm (18”) in length.

Tie the snake into a regular ‘ol knot.

Tie the snake into a regular ‘ol knot.

Take the “over” end and loop it under and through the centre to make a nub in the middle of the hole.

Loop the “over” end, under and through the centre to make a nub in the middle of the whole.

Then take the “under” end and loop it over and squeeze it down into the whole to make a nub coming out of the bottom.

Then take the “under” end and loop it over and squeeze it down into the whole to make a nub coming out of the bottom.

And voila! Kaiser Buns.

Pre-proofing

Proof the buns until they are double in size (1-1.5h). To finish them off, just brush with water, milk, or egg wash and sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds.

Proofed Buns

Bake at 425F for 10 minutes then reduce the heat to 400F and bake 15 – 30 minutes more (until medium golden brown)

Kaiser Buns


How to Shape Kaiser Buns – photoless directions

For burger-sized buns, divide the dough into 85-115g (3-4 oz) pieces with a pastry cutter.

Roll each piece into a dough snake about 45cm (18”) in length.

Tie the snake into a regular ‘ol knot.

Take the “over” end and loop it under and through the centre to make a nub in the middle of the hole.

Then take the “under” end and loop it over and squeeze it down into the whole to make a nub coming out of the bottom.

Proof the buns until they are double in size (1-1.5h). To finish them off, just brush with water, milk, or egg wash and sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds.

Bake at 425F for 10 minutes then reduce the heat to 400F and bake 15 – 30 minutes more (until medium golden brown)

13 Nov

Food for the Gods

It’s time for another Eating the Alphabet recipe link-up where each month we make a recipe featuring a fruit, vegetable, legume, or whole grain from a different set of letters of the alphabet.

So far I’ve done:

(A or B): Buttercup Squash and Artichoke Pasta
(C or D): Grenadian Oil Down with Cassava (Favourite)
(E or F): Homemade Fig Newtons (Favourite)
(G or H): White Chicken Chili with Hominy
(I or J): Juniper Berry Bechamel
(K or L): Kamut Brioche
(M, N, or O): Caramelized Onions
(P, Q, or R): Pomegranate Glazed Eggplant (Favourite)
(S or T): Fattoush Salad with Sumac

This month’s letters are U, V, or W. I couldn’t think of any interesting ingredient so I picked Walnuts.

Walnuts

Walnuts are super healthy tree nuts. They’re a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats and are good for lowering bad cholesterol (LDL).

I suppose all those health benefits are a wash when you eat them in buttery, sugary desserts like this one, but I’m going for flavour here, not health. If you want you could always just toast them up and put them on a salad instead.

Food for the Gods

One of my favourite gifts to get from people coming back from a vacation is cookbooks from the region they visited. I got a great South African cookbook from my friend Dan who interned there (remember the garbage can pizza?), and last year when my other friend Dan went to The Philippines he brought me back a cookbook of cakes and pastries.

Food for the Gods is the first recipe from that cookbook. They sounded simple to make so I wanted to try them (plus, that name!). I actually forgot that I wanted to make these until I saw Jun Belen’s Filipino Food Blog where he describes them as:

. . . a cross between a crumbly cookie and a moist brownie. They are chewy with the crunch of chopped walnuts and the dates lend a rich caramel flavor with hints of honey. These heavenly confections are the sweet heralds of the Holidays.

Photo Source

I tried them as soon as they came out of the oven: they were good. I waited until they cooled: they were phenomenal.

I’m definitely going to be making these again, and maybe play around with the spices by adding some cinnamon and nutmeg for Christmas.

Food for the Gods

Food for the Gods

Makes 18 Irresitible Bars
Adapted from The Best of The Maya Kitchen Cakes & Pastries

Ingredients

1-1/4 c all purpose flour
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 c. coarsely chopped dates
1 c. butter at room temperature
3/4 c. granulated sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar
3 eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
1 c. coarsely chopped walnuts

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 9×13 baking dish.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Dredge the dates in 1/2 of this mixture. Set aside.

Beat the butter until soft and fluffy. Add granulated and brown sugars and cream together. Add eggs, one at a time beating well after each addition.

Fold in the flour mixture and dates into the creamed mixture. Add walnuts; stir to completely blend batter.

Pour the batter into a prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes. Lower the heat to 300*F and continue baking for 30-40 minutes longer.

Allow to cool slightly then cut into 18 bars.



(Click for more info on Eating the Alphabet)