Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Drumroll please

So, the big announcement.  Yes, ahem, I have a real job!  It comes with my own office and everything.  I have colleagues.  I get to wear suits all the time (wait, is that a plus?).  Most awesome of all perhaps is that I now have an answer to the question "so what do you do?"  It's fabulous.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Shrimp Bruschetta

Big news tomorrow people.  But for now, someone (Hi Kate!) told me I needed to update more, so I'm updating.  Things have been busy around here with the introduction of Calvin and I haven't been around my computer very much, hence the lack of posting.  He gets all spastic when I leave him alone for more than 30 seconds at a time and does things like attempt to eat my shoes or devour a refrigerator magnet (like he did the other night).  Here's a picture of him looking particularly awesome with his new dog sunglasses.

Calvin, looking like a bad ass.
He's not especially fond of them yet, but he needs them since his albino eyes get all squinty otherwise.

Oh, and hey, a new recipe.  An awesome new recipe that is super tasty and really easy to throw together but seems kinda fancy when you serve it to people.

Shrimp Bruschetta
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
About 8 good-sized basil leaves, chopped
1/2 - 1/3 red onion, depending on size, diced small
4-5 large tomatoes, chopped into small pieces
3-4 cloves of garlic (or however many you choose, depending on your love for garlic), minced
1 pound peeled shrimp, chopped into smallish pieces
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Red wine vinegar
Sea salt
1 loaf of garlic bread
Parmesan cheese for topping

First, chop up all of your veggies and herbs and toss them into a big bowl together.  Next, heat up a dollop of olive oil in a pan over medium heat and add your shrimp and garlic cloves.  Saute them together for about 3 minutes, just long enough to get the flavors to meld but not so long that you start browning the garlic.  If you want to make the recipe even easier, use frozen peeled shrimp (the small size).  It makes them easier to chop up and it's hard to tell the difference since there are so many other flavors going on.  Once your shrimp and  garlic are done, put them into the bowl and toss with your olive oil and vinegars.  I didn't give precise amounts since it's a matter of personal taste, so just taste it frequently until you're satisfied.  Toss a little bit of sea salt in there and you're done.  You'll want to let it sit for about 10-15 minutes, so while that's happening slice and heat up your garlic bread.  Top each slice with the shrimp mixture and serve with Parmesan.  This makes a lot, so you can have it for a main course for about 4 people and you'll probably still have some left over.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Vegan Experiment - Results

Huh, well getting the last V.E. post up has taken me a little longer than I thought it would.  Things have been busy around here.  Partially this is because I had an interview yesterday morning that I think, finger and toes and arms and legs crossed, went very well.  Hopefully I'll hear something soon and then I can be a real lawyer after 2 years of being a computer monkey.  Partially it's because we decided to have Thanksgiving at our house, so there's been a ton of grocery shopping and preparations going on.  And partially it's because of the large beast pictured here, who came to live with us on Sunday.  His name is Calvin.  He's a 1-year-old, 77 pound albino doberman who was rescued from a breeder in Georgia.  He enjoys chewing up pillows, trying to play with our cats (who are understandably disturbed by his presence), and laying on the couch like a giant, furry throw pillow.  He's a big goober, but we love him.  #10 of the 101 things accomplished!

Anyway, so, the results.  I am happy to report that with the exception of the honey face masks I didn't cheat, although I was sorely tempted my last night.  We went to the Roller Derby on Saturday night and, not realizing that we would be there for four hours, I didn't eat much beforehand.  I was so starving that when we got home and Max attempted to eat the vegan chili leftovers I may have threatened him with bodily harm.  With that exception though, I'd say it went pretty well.  My skin cleared up a lot and I definitely felt better knowing exactly what was in my food at all times.  The stomach problems were a little annoying, but they went away after the first four days or so, after which I felt fine.  As for the recipes, there are a couple that I'll definitely be making again.  The scones, for sure, and the enchiladas.  The pizza and chili are also keepers, and Pancakes a la Calvin will join the weekend breakfast rotation.  As for the rest of it, it was certainly good, but I don't know that I'd make it again.  I'm glad that I've learned the trick to getting tofu to fry up well and most everything was certainly good, but something has to really knock me out to join the rotation or my recipe collection would get kind of unmanageable.

That said, however, I wouldn't want to be vegan forever.  For one thing, it would have been nice to have a snack while at the Roller Derby, but instead I kind of suffered.  I'm just not prepared enough at all times to have options at the ready for every occasion.  Another problem is the general mess it created.  I mean, my kitchen was always in a state of near disaster because of the sheer volume of cooking I was doing.  All in all though, I'll definitely keep some of the ideas and I won't be eating as much dairy or processed crap anymore because I just felt better without it.  So, lesson learned and all that.  Plus, an experiment is always kind of fun, if only to challenge myself a bit.  I'll keep posting any good recipes that I come across, and I'll let you know how Thanksgiving goes, since it's semi-vegan due to the presence of non-carnivores.

But that's not all.  I would be remiss if I didn't end this post with a big thank you to a certain special something.  So thank you, dishwasher, for your all your hard work.  Without you all of this would never have been possible, and your hard work and dedication were an inspiration to me.  May you relish the little vacation that you're enjoying right now before all hell breaks loose tomorrow for the holiday

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Days 6 & 7 - Pancakes at Last!

Sorry for the lack of posting yesterday.  There's a lot to get through, so let's see...

Thursday Night
"Snobby Joes" and Onion Rings
I made Vegan Sloppy Joes and Baked Onion Rings from The Post Punk Kitchen.  The sloppy joes (or snobby joes, as they're called on the website) were pretty good.  I was getting really sick of lentils by that time though, so I don't think that I enjoyed them as much as I might have otherwise.  The onion rings, on the other hand, were quite tasty.  I mixed up the recipe at first, adding only 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs rather than a full cup.  As such, my onions weren't as coated as they should have been, but they turned out well anyway, better than a regular onion ring to my thinking.  I apologize for the totally awful picture, but it was late and kind of dim in my house and everything just looks washed out, even my happy yellow plate.

I was so ready to throw in the towel yesterday.  Somewhere around 5:00 I decided that I was tired, and headachey, and just wanted to order a pizza, dammit.  I didn't want to cook or clean and I was sick of beans and lentils and everything else.  I was sick of my kitchen being a mess.  I really wanted a damn pizza.  But, I persevered.  I realized I hadn't had any coffee all day, thus explaining the headache, so I got some caffeine in me and invited my brother and my mom over for dinner.  Dinner was quite tasty - vegan chili with faux sausage crumbles and baked tortilla chips for some crunch.  Plus wine, naturally.  I'd made chili before a bunch of times so I just decided to wing it.  This is what I came up with:

Vegan Chili
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large (very large in my case) sweet onion, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped up very small
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tube of vegan ground sausage substitute - I used Light Life Gimme Lean ground "sausage"
1 Tbsp cumin
3 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 Tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 bay leaves
1 large can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained
2 Tbsp tomato paste
3-4 cups of veggie broth
2 15-oz. cans of beans, drained and rinsed - I used one can of black beans and one can of white beans
If you want - 1 big chunk of ginger, added with the beans to make them easier on your stomach.  It won't change the flavor. 
For garnish - tortilla chips, chopped green onions, cilantro, and Toffuti Sour Supreme (a sour cream substitute)

Heat oil in a large soup pot and add onions and celery, sauteing until translucent (about 8 minutes).  Add garlic and sausage substitute and break up with your spatula until it starts to brown.  Add spices and saute for about 1 minute until everything is mixed together.  Add bay leaves, diced tomatoes and tomato paste and stir in.  Add about 2.5 cups of veggie broth.  Bring to a boil.  Once it's boiling, turn the heat down to low and simmer for about 45 minutes (or longer if you'd like).  At the end, add the beans and enough of the leftover broth to get the chili to your desired consistency (I used about 3.5 cups total).  If you're using the ginger, add it at this point.  Continue to simmer for about 10 more minutes to get all of the flavors to meld together, and then add any additional spices to your liking (mine was pretty spicy already, so I left it alone).  Remove the bay leaves and the ginger piece (I hadn't yet found mine in the mass of chili and my brother accidentally ate it, prompting a "what the hell?").  Serve with tortilla chips, green onions, cilantro and sour cream.

To make the tortilla chips I just chopped up the leftover tortillas that I'd made for the enchiladas, put them in a bag with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt, shook them up, and baked them for about 10 minutes at 400 degrees.  They weren't at all like store bought tortilla chips, but were thicker and less salty.

I wish I had a picture to post of the chili, but we pretty much ate it all, which is a good recommendation.

And now, pancakes!  I got up super early this morning to go for a run with some girls that live in my new neighborhood and decided that it would be a great morning to test out Calvin's pancake recipe.  I'm pleased to say that they more than lived up to my expectations.  They're yummy and thick and the perfect vehicle for maple syrup.

Flax eggs
Pancakes a la Calvin

1.5 cups unbleached flour
2 Tbsp wheat germ
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 cup oatmeal

2 flax eggs (to make a flax egg, put 1 Tbsp of whole flax seeds into a coffee grinder and pulse them until they're finely ground.  Then add 3 Tbsp water and whisk together.  The mixture will get gooey and egg-like in its consistency.  For this recipe, make two of them)
1 cup almond milk
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
Water as needed to thin batter (I used a little bit less than a quarter of a cup)

Make your flax eggs.  Mix all of your dry ingredients together and then whisk in the wet ingredients.  Make like you would regular pancakes.  Mine made 11 pancakes total.

Pancakes with maple syrup after a long run = happy, happy me.
So today is my last day of the experiment.  I have no idea what I'm going to make for dinner tonight, maybe edamame pesto and french bread (if I can veganize something that relies so very heavily on butter).  I'll report back tomorrow with the results of the experiment!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Day 5 - Almost There!

You, my friend, are a tasty little slice of vegan heaven.
Vegan enchiladas officially rock my world.  Not only were they really fast and easy to make, but they taste incredible.  Not much like enchiladas, really, but they didn't have to.  I was a little scared when I first tasted the hummus/nutritional yeast "cheese" sauce, because on its own it mostly tasted like powdery hummus, but when added to the tortillas and veggies it blended in with the dish perfectly.  One note on the recipe - mine definitely made for more than two enchiladas.  I got three out of the deal (lucky me!) and could easily have made a fourth had I not run out of space in my baking dish.  I also added a little bit of ginger to the dish to take some of the bloat out of the beans.

Given that I'm completely incapable of going to the grocery store without forgetting something (in this case, three separate times), I decided to make my own tortillas for the enchiladas.  They're quite simple and tend to hold up to toppings much better than store bought.  The recipe I used comes from this site on Texas cooking and provides some useful tips on getting your tortillas to come out well.  The recipe was for "chewy flour tortillas," although I subbed in some almond milk for the regular milk (with no change in the taste or texture).  These tortillas tend to be a bit smaller than store bought and mine always end up looking slightly crazy since I have no patience for making them perfectly round, but like I said, they don't tear or break if you overstuff them.

Oh, and speaking of the dreaded bloat (I know, such a lovely topic when writing about food.  Sorry about that), after some research yesterday I found that it's perfectly normal to walk around looking three months pregnant when you first change your diet.  I also found some natural remedies online that seemed worth trying.  I already knew that ginger and chamomile make for stomach-calming teas, but I didn't know that fennel seeds will also help.  Due to my distaste with looking like I'd eaten a whole cow rather than just veggies I combined the three of them.  I normally don't much like fennel because of the licorice taste, but combined with some grated ginger, agave nectar, and a chamomile teabag it was quite pleasant and really seemed to help.  And thank goodness, because that was going to make me one cranky temporary vegan.

I also got some good news today from my sister.  I told her about my pancake disaster the other day and she said that her husband, Calvin*, has a stellar vegan pancake recipe.  I can practically taste the maple syrup right now.

*Funny story about the name Calvin.  It's not his real name, but I didn't know that for about 9 years.  In fact, I didn't know that until the signing of the marriage certificate, when I inquired as to why his nickname was on the paper.  I thought we just called him Keith (his real name) because Calvin was such an unfortunate name to be stuck with.  So now I just call him Calvin anyway because it amuses me.  Sometimes I'm so brilliant I practically knock myself out.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Day 4 - Vegan Pancake FAIL

I was so excited for pancakes this morning.  I got up early, went downstairs, started coffee and the batter, and promptly realized I might be a little screwed.  See, I didn't have the egg substitute called for.  No matter, I will grind up some flax seeds and make flax eggs.  Or I won't, because a mortar and pestle aren't so good for flax seed grinding.  Okay, I'll use half of a banana and just mush it up really well.  Not happening.  I mixed in my banana, set the pan going, and ended up with the stickiest pancakes ever.  Those things were not coming out of the pan without a fight.  I informed Max that we would not be having pancakes, but he responded with "but they smell like bananas and pancake and I want some."  So he got some.  They weren't pretty, but he claimed they tasted good and ate about 5, so I believe him.  I had a green monster since I was sick of messing about with the batter and had to go to spin class.  Eh, I'll try again, because I really want a vehicle for getting maple syrup into my mouth.  Maybe a coffee grinder would work for flax eggs.

The pizza I made last night, however, was a total success.  Apparently my pizza dough was mad at being left out of the recipe/photo extravaganza the other day, because it continued to rise in the fridge and exploded out of its plastic wrap, but it survived.  So, without further ado, the recipes:

Vegan Pizza Sauce - adapted from All Recipes

1 6 oz can tomato paste
6 oz warm water
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
2 tsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp agave nectar
3/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp each of oregano, marjoram, basil, black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (it's spicy this way, so decrease cayenne and flakes if you want less heat)

Put all ingredients into a bowl and whisk together.  Leave in the fridge for 30 minutes before use.

Wheat Pizza Crust
1 tsp natural sugar
1.5 cups warm water
1 packet yeast
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
2 cups wheat flour
1 - 1.5 cups all purpose flour

Prime the yeast by dissolving the sugar into the warm water and sprinkling the yeast on top.  Let it rest for about 5 minutes or until the yeast mixture gets foamy.  Mix in the salt and knead in the wheat flour with a dough hook on your stand mixer (if you don't have one, you can do this by hand.  Just start with the dry ingredients, prime the yeast mixture, and knead the wet ingredients in slowly).  Once you've been going for about 5 minutes, add 1 cup of AP flour to the mixture and knead until a ball forms.  At this point, I move the dough to the flour coated counter and knead the rest of the AP flour into the ball along with the olive oil.  You should flour or oil your hands before doing so because otherwise you will end up a sticky mess.  Put the finished dough ball into a lightly oiled bowl and coat the dough, then let rise for about an hour with a towel over the top.  Once it has doubled in size, punch it down, reshape the ball, and allow to rise for 45 minutes more, so that it has doubled in size again.  At this point you can shape your crust or put it in the refrigerator for up to two days (or freeze it).

Once you've got your dough and sauce ready, have at it.  I shape the dough by hand and put it onto a lightly oiled cookie sheet, but you can roll it out too.  Just crimp the edges a little bit so that your toppings don't slide off.  Preheat your oven to 425 and bake the pizza dough alone for about 7 minutes, so that it starts to get puffy and golden.  Take it out of the oven, spread pizza sauce on the dough, then add your toppings.  I used mushrooms, chopped spinach, onion and tomato, then covered the whole thing with Vegan Rella faux mozzarella cheese.  Boy is that stuff sticky.  It was really hard to grate, but it melted and tasted (mostly) like real cheese.  Anyway, stick the whole thing in the oven and bake for another 8 minutes or so until your "cheese" is melty and starting to brown/bubble on top.  Let it sit for a few minutes before cutting, and serve.  Mine was definitely fork and knife pizza because of the abundance of toppings, but it was delicious.  Spicy and full of veggies with melty cheesiness on top.  The recipe above will make for about 12 square slices, so it's enough to feed at least three and probably four people.

Vegan pizza, you totally surpassed my expectations
P.S.  On another note, I think I'll be wearing leggings for the rest of the experiment, because being a temporary vegan has turned me into a bloat monster.  Seriously.  I've been drinking ginger tea like it's going out of style.  Any vegans out there who can tell me if this is normal?  Because it is sure is annoying!

P.P.S.  OMG HARRY POTTER COMES OUT TOMORROW!  Am I a huge nerd?  Yes.  Am I so excited?!?!?!  Yes.

P.P.P.S.  Meet Goblin, the evil kitten that I keep talking about.  She's cute, but really bad.

Hi, I'm Goblin.  I like to climb onto things that are way too high for me.  Then I forget how to get down and leap right off, knocking over Liza's wine and turning her computer off.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Experiment Continues - Day 3

I woke up cranky today.  For one, the evil kitten woke me up several times last night and then decided to wrestle Mosquito (our other cat, who is practically a saint compared to his tiny minion) directly outside the bedroom door.  Three floors at her disposal, and right outside our door is where she chose to start a cat fight.  Awesome.  It's also cold and rainy outside and rather gloomy.  So, since cooking something new usually works to make me feel better, I decided to make applesauce today.  I had the necessaries on hand and it makes your kitchen smell all autumny and homey, so I got to work.  Plus, I really want to make apple cinnamon swirl pancakes tomorrow morning to go with my newly purchased maple syrup.

Natural Apple Sauce - makes about 2 cups

About 5 or so apples - I used homegrown fujis
A couple of tablespoons of agave nectar (or honey)
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 lemon, juiced

Chop your apples up into pieces about 1 inch in size.  You'll want to discard the cores, but leave the skins on.  Once they're all done, dump everything into a pot, put about 1 - 1.25 cups of water in there and boil them until the apples are tender, about 15 minutes or so.  The apples give off some juice of their own, so don't worry if the water seems a little shallow.  Once the apples are tender, discard the cinnamon stick and let everything cool off for about 20 minutes.  Finally, use an immersion blender (or a regular blender) to blend everything to your desired texture.  Enjoy the lovely smell in your kitchen.

As for dinner last night, the vegan mac and "cheese" turned out really well.  I didn't have any tahini, which the recipe calls for, so I left it out, and I added a bit more salt than was called for, but it was really good.  Even Max thought so.  My dad is still dubious, as he says that Max has a vested interest in keeping me happy, but as a cheese loving woman I was quite pleased with the results.  Here's the link for the recipe if I left it out yesterday.  Angela from Oh She Glows calls it "Healthy Comfort Food," which it certainly is.  I had some leftovers for lunch today with a few spoon fulls of almond milk to make it creamier and it was even better the next day.

In other news, Max inflicted some cruel and unusual punishment on me yesterday when we went out for a drink.  I have a thing for cheese in general, and I LOVE cheese fries.  Love them.  Especially bar food cheese fries with malt vinegar on top, enjoyed with a good beer.  So that's what he ordered, along with a cheese steak.  And then proceeded to eat them while I looked on, practically drooling because I wanted some so so much.  But hey, if I can resist that temptation, I should be okay for the rest of the week.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Day 2 - My Stomach Hurts

I don't know what it is, maybe too much kale?  Maybe a bit too much wine last night?  Maybe I didn't get enough sleep because of the small, evil kitten?  Who knows, but I woke up with the worst stomachache this morning, and I had a meeting to go to at 10:00.  Not my favorite combo, since I just wanted to go back to sleep.  The experiment must go on, however, so I just had a green monster to try to get rid of any possible wine hangover, a little bit of coffee, and some peppermint tea to calm the stomach.  I'm going to go with ginger tea next, since ginger helps everything.  If you're ever feeling gross, just put some fresh ginger into a tea strainer, let it seep for about 5 minutes, and add some honey (or agave nectar if you want to veganize).  It helps almost immediately and is really comforting to boot.

Anyway, dinner last night went swimmingly.  The recipe, as I said, comes from Vegan Yum Yum, and has some good tips for getting fried tofu to actually act fried, rather than the generally floppy texture that I always end up with.  I think the cast iron pan was key, but holy smoky kitchen.  Due to the marinade smoking up half the house, my clothes and hair smelled like a Chinese restaurant when I was done.  The dish was super good though, and I had some leftovers for lunch today, along with another scone.

Well hello there kale.  Are you the reason I have a rumbly in my tumbly?

Dinner tonight is sort of a gamble.  I'm going to try to make vegan mac and cheese with, obviously, no real cheese in sight.  The recipe is from one of my new fave blogs, Oh She Glows, and her recipe looks really tasty, but I'm still a little sketched out by the idea of using nutritional yeast as a cheese substitute.  Sounds tasty, right?  Anyway, details and photos to come tomorrow.  For now I'm off to make some ginger tea.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

V-Day, or Day One of the Vegan Experiment

Today (Sunday): Day 1 of the experiment commences.  For breakfast I had a Green Monster smoothie.  Mine was composed of 2 big handfuls of spinach, 1/2 cup of pomegranate lime juice, 1 cup strawberries, and 1 cup of almond milk.  Oh, and I had coffee with almond milk too.  Lunch was some peanut noodles with broccoli that I cooked on Friday night.  Soooo good.  Here, have a recipe:

Peanut Noodles
One pound whole wheat pasta
1/2 jar natural peanut butter (must be natural, otherwise it comes out not only un-vegan but kind of gross)
Juice of 4 limes
1/4 cup-ish of soy sauce
1/2 bottle of tabasco or sriracha to taste (must be either one of these or, as the creator of the recipe says, "your noodles will taste like ass")
4 inches grated ginger
Rice vinegar and veggie oil to thin as needed
Bunch of broccoli
1-2 blocks firm tofu
Cilantro garnish, if you feel like it

Put all sauce ingredients together and cook them over low heat until homogenized
Cook pasta
Cook broccoli
Chop up tofu and toss in the sauce
Mix together and eat

Simple, right?  And so tasty.  It's Max's favorite food.  And now, on to the baking.  I wanted to do it all at once so that everything was simple and laid out for the week.  On today's agenda: sandwich rolls, whole wheat pizza dough, and ginger chocolate chunk scones (I'm excluding the pizza dough from photos/recipes since I'm not actually making the pizza for a day or two and the recipe is pretty standard).

Whole Wheat Sandwich Rolls
The recipe for these comes from A Bread A Day.  I changed a couple of things, like subbing raw sugar for both the refined sugar and the brown sugar.  For the "brown sugar," I mixed the raw sugar with a little agave nectar and figured it would work just fine.  Who says baking is a science?  The rolls came out pretty well, not as puffy as I thought they would be, but otherwise just fine for my purposes.

See?  Sort of thin, but I think their color complements my table nicely.

Ginger Chocolate Chunk Scones
The recipe for these babies comes from The Post Punk Kitchen, an awesome source all around for vegan recipes.  Plus, the recipe for these in particular is sort of hilariously written.  They are SO good.  I ate one with "butter" as my afternoon snack.  I did use unsweetened chocolate, because I was under the impression that vegans don't eat refined sugar due to the refining process.  As such, they aren't sweet, but they are super tasty.
The scones, hanging out outside, because that's totally normal.
Scones, ready for their close up.

As you can imagine, my kitchen was sort of destroyed after this baking extravaganza.  I cannot bake and be clean at the same time.  I'm no Martha Stewart.  My stuff tastes damn good though, which is the whole point.  For dinner tonight I'll be making pan fried tofu with kale and stir fried noodles from Vegan Yum Yum.  I'll try to get a good picture, but my kitchen isn't so good with the light after the sun goes down, so no promises.

My kitchen, totally destroyed.  There's more, but I can't work the panorama on my phone.

The Vegan Experiment

Now that I'm not running all the time, I was wondering what I should do with  myself.  The solution?  Go vegan for a week.  Pretty appropriate after I just posted an entry featuring an entire dead bird.  I don't really know why I chose that, but I wanted to see if I could do it and I've read that foregoing dairy can help the skin, which I really need right now.  So, one week, no dairy, no meat, no refined sugar or any of those other things that vegans aren't supposed to eat (there's a huge list.  I looked it up online and was a bit daunted).  Think I can do it?

Yesterday (Saturday): shopping day!  Going shopping for vegan food is kind of hard, and took me about forever.  First I had to read a ton of labels, and I already cheated a little bit because my enchilada sauce has sugar in it (less than 2%, I swear!).  Whatever, it's not like I'm foregoing my honey face masks either, so I'm already in the hole.  Anyway, first to Stauffers, which my father refers to as the Mennonite Wegman's, a fairly accurate description.  How I love their bulk foods aisle!  Then to the health food store, then the regular grocery store.  Oy.  $80 later I came home and unloaded all my fancy new purchases, having already done the menu planning.  A stocked fridge makes me so happy, even if there isn't any cheese in it.  Oh, and for future reference, if I refer to butter, it means vegan buttery spread.  Sunday begins the actual experiment, so stay tuned.


So, as you know, I've been working on my list of 101 to do in 1001 days. Just this past Saturday I officially completed #1 on the list: run a half marathon. I think I'll probably do another, but #2 (the whole marathon) is looking a little dubious. I'm leaving it up, for now, but we'll have to see.

But on to the new stuff, or the fairly new stuff anyway, since I already told y'all I'd done it. It being #21: roast a chicken. At the time that I actually completed said task I was moving and there was nothing to be done for pictures, but now I have my camera back and can post the goodies (for now, anyway. Did I mention that Max thinks he dropped the camera case (with battery and charger) in an Amish field? An Amish field that I walked through, finding no trace of the camera?). So without further ado, the chicken:

The chicken, all dressed up and ready to go into the oven
The chicken before: first, I mixed up a bit of salt and pepper, some chopped fresh thyme and dried rosemary with a good sized dollop of soft butter. Then came the icky part. It goes something like this: insert fingers under skin of chicken. Massage until skin is no longer connected to chicken, but be careful not to tear it. Work the butter/spice mixture under the skin. Ewww. But wait, there's more. After you've got your spice mixture under there, crush some garlic cloves, as many as you want, and rub them up under the skin too, placing them at strategic points so that they roast as the chicken does and you get a yummy skin. Once you've done the skin, get all the bits out of the chicken cavity and put some garlic, a little of whatever spices you're using, and a couple of lemon wedges into the bird. Then rub the whole outside with a generous helping of softened butter and more herbs/spices (mmmm, healthy. Not really, but it tastes a damn site better than dry chicken). While you're doing all this, preheat the oven to 450. Put the chicken on a rack, breast side down, and place the rack onto a pan that has some water in the bottom. If you don't put water down there, the fat is going to hit the pan and you will smoke up your entire house. Not fun. And remember to keep checking your water levels so that it doesn't disappear. Now you're ready. Stick the chicken into your oven, let it go for about 10 minutes, then turn the heat down to 375. This way you get some crispiness on the skin (at least according to the many articles I read).

You'll have to wait a while for this one to cook. I read a bunch of different things, but my chicken, which was about 7 pounds, took around 2 hours to cook. Around the 1.5 hour mark (maybe a bit earlier), I flipped it over so that the breast side had a chance to crisp up without the breast drying out. It had one of those little pop-up thingies and I also used a meat thermometer to gauge doneness. While I was waiting for the last 20 minutes or so, I did a quick gravy with the pan drippings, some flour for thickening, and a bit of milk, and whipped up some mashed potatoes. Yum! And look at that crispy skin...sooooo good. So good, in fact, that I made another one a week later. Chicken conquered!

You know what, photo editor?  You suck.  Why is my chicken vertical?  Whyyyyy?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Go Liza Go!

Otherwise known as my first Half Marathon EVER Race Recap (and #1 on my 101 list completed)! Can you tell I'm still excited?

Pre-Race: About 7 solid hours of sleep, pretty good when you consider I had to get up all early, but I did have odd, pre-exam jittery dreams about missing the start and deciding to run 13 miles anyway just to show that I could have if I'd gotten there on time. No worries though, since the evil kitten we adopted woke me up 3 minutes before my alarm went off. So, shower, 1/2 cup of coffee and protein shake with almond milk and strawberries and I was good to go, having laid out all of my stuff the night before, down to several wardrobe options in case it was warmer than I thought it would be. It wasn't. It was COLD, so I went with capris, zip-up jacket and running tee plus a headband for keeping my ears warm. I shoved my energy gels (yum!) and paper towels (for tissues) into my pockets, grabbed Max, and off we went.

Getting to the site wasn't so tough, but there was a bunch of traffic. Max dropped me off at the starting line since I saw no reason to delay his trip the local diner, and I wandered around a bit. I met some nice ladies in the bathroom line, then took my place at the start. I knew I didn't want to be too close to the start since I'm more of a tortoise than a hare, so I placed myself about 2/3 of the way back and waited. And ate my energy gel. And waited some more, since the afore-mentioned traffic was causing some hold ups. Anyway, 15 minutes later and off we went!

Miles 1-4: Of course I had to pee. I'd been chugging all that water while waiting for the delayed start. So I stopped and waited (bathrooms were Amish outhouses) and saw the in-front-of-me pack getting much larger and the in-back-of-me pack getting much smaller. Turns out this was good, since I did my thing and then took off, determined to make up time. I was afraid I'd burn myself out, but I just kinda kept going until I realized I was doing 10-minute miles, not the 12-minute miles I'd practiced in my training (told you I was slow).

Miles 5-9:
Not very eventful, except for my newfound speedier pace, which allowed to pretty much catch up to the people I'd started with, until I got to the top of the hill around Mile 8-ish. Suddenly, I was grumpy. My ankle hurt; my stomach was crabby and hungry; I was feeling a little dizzy and tired. So I slowed down and chomped some Clif Shot Bloks, which surprisingly aren't that bad. More like candy than the icky gels, although they are REALLY hard to chew if your mouth is kind of dry. Luckily there was a water station just ahead, after which I started moving at my pace again. Even more lucky for me, about a quarter mile after I started moving again I saw my sister, my brother-in-law and Max standing by the side of the road with a GIANT sign. Total pick-me-up, especially since my sister ran out and jogged along with me (and the sign) for about a block, even with the wind blowing the sign all over the place.

Me, my sister, and the sign

Miles 10-DONE: Oof. My ankle hurts. Like, really hurts. That's okay though, since I only have three miles to go. This was the point at which I sort of started talking to myself (in my head), saying things like "this is just running to ---- and back. No big. You've SO got this." It helped, but not as much as Spectator Moment #2, when I saw my dad and stepmom, which prepped me to get through those last two miles. And about a quarter mile later, when a group of Amish guys said to the little pack I was in "You know, a bunch the ones up further had their tongues hanging out. I bet if you keep going you can pass a few. Great job!" So I did. I picked it up and ignored my ankle, chugged ahead as much as I could, and even managed a thumbs up for the photographer. And then, I was done. And I was done about 25 minutes faster than I thought I would be, thanks to my ill-timed bathroom break and attendant desire not to be the last person over the finish line.

The Results: My official time was 2:14:13 (I was originally aiming for 2:40ish) and I was 691st overall out of about 1350. My overall pace was 10:15 per mile. Yay for me! And no walking, except to get water, since I haven't yet mastered throwing water into my mouth while maintaining forward motion. I'm kind of sore today, and yesterday I felt like I had a cold for part of the day, but overall I feel good. Like maybe I could run a marathon next. Or something like that anyway.