Runnin’ With the Sun

Holy cricket, it was hot today!

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We were promised a slightly warm and stormy day, but instead we were bestowed with a scorcher! I can’t complain about the weather, because I love it to pieces, but I do have to admit it makes me a little nervous how erratic the weather has been the last few years. Climate change is a scary thing.

Nonetheless, I took advantage of the clear and sunny skies to head out on a run after work.

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I really should say run/walk because I’m trying not to push myself too hard. I think I gave myself knee pain last year from mixing up the length of my runs too much when I’m not truly a runner. I started off with 1.1 miles, walked for a bit, ran for a bit, etc. In the end, I ran a little over 2.5 miles and walked about 1.5 miles. I tried to sprint a few tenths to get my heart rate even higher, but I started to get reaaaally warm. My elbows actually started sweating. Whose elbows sweat? It was kind of weird.

I am still trying to break these shoes in from last summer. I found this great link through the wonders of Pinterest that show different ways to lace shoes based on the shape of your feet. I have a high instep, a wide forefoot, and my heel tends to slip so I adjusted my laces for the high instep and heel slipping first.

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The shoes were definitely more comfortable than when I used them last year, but still not quite right. I read somewhere (I am always reading something somewhere) that you should actually buy running shoes a size up than you normally wear, so maybe these just aren’t allowing my foot enough room for running? I think I’ll try the wide forefoot and parallel lacing techniques and if neither of those work, I’m just going to have to spring for new running shoes. Good running shoes are so expensive, but I guess it beats the cost of a gym overall.

I didn’t feel like cooking tonight, nor did I feel like eating anything hot so I opted for a cold wrap filled with all sorts of tasty things.

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Bean spread, red bell peppers, red onions, feta cheese, and pickles. Mmmm. I made the bean spread on Sunday with one can of cannellini beans, one can of northern beans, 1 tbsp of olive oil, 1 tbsp lemon juice, 2 tbsp za’ater, and salt and freshly ground pepper. It kept getting better and better as it sat in the fridge, and it was a perfect protein for my wrap tonight.

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And so colorful! I had some salt & vinegar Pop Chips along with my wrap.

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I love these babies. I’ve tried the jalapeno ones now as well, and both varieties are equally delicious. They are so light and crunchy with the perfect amount of zing. And while they may not be good for you, they aren’t bad for you either. Definitely the healthier choice if you’re in a chip kind of mood.

I have always been kind of particular about chips. I don’t like potato chips, and I rarely go out of my way for kettle chips, but I love Target’s brand of Archer Farms blue corn tortilla chips with flaxseeds. The flaxseeds give them such a nutty flavor, and they are amazing with salsa or on their own. But these Pop Chips are definitely giving them a run for their money as my favorite.

What are your favorite kind of chips?

Salad Nicoise

002I couldn’t write a thing before showing you how beautiful my dinner was last night. You guys usually don’t see curry because, let’s face it, it looks like the pile of stuff Dr. Sattler picks through in Jurassic Park…you know what I’m talking about. But Salad Nicoise? As beautiful as it is delicious.

It was raining when I left work yesterday afternoon as it’s supposed to every day this week. Boo. Hiss. I think even the weather forecasters are a little peeved. So much for running. The sun peeked through a few times and it was still warm, so feeling my spring restlessness, I decided to do an hour-long workout: No More Trouble Zones.

Still one of my favorite videos. And it’s been so long since I’ve done it that it was very refreshing. And the feeling I had afterward? Pure gold. Things I wish I could bottle: summer days, the scent of old books, and the burst of endorphins after working out.

Dave had a wonderful suggestion for dinner last night using the leftover potatoes and green beans from grilling out: Salad Nicoise. There are many variations on the salad, but the best I’ve ever had was made by Dave’s dad. When we were living in Illinois with Dave’s parents several years ago, Barry made Salad Nicoise for my family for lunch when they came to visit, and my dad still talks about it to this day as the most perfect meal ever.

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Variations of Salad Nicoise include: tuna or salmon, anchovies, green beans, tomatoes, hard boiled eggs, olives, red peppers, shallots, artichoke hearts, and potatoes, usually served with a vinaigrette.

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Dave cooked the salmon in a pan on the stove, and it turned out beautifully. He also sauteed some red onions (since we never ever have shallots in at home, and I haven’t figured out why). Unfortunately, we had no eggs in the house after our semi-drunken feast two evenings (well, morning,) prior, so we weren’t able to hard boil any. It would have been nice to have, but I honestly didn’t miss them with all the other fun flavors.

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Dave asked me to mix up my lemon caper dill sauce in lieu of vinaigrette, which was a fantastic suggestion.

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I never measure anything out for the sauce: I just mix together plain nonfat Greek yogurt, capers, dill weed, some freshly ground pepper, garlic powder, and a pinch of salt. It’s best to let it sit for awhile, because the flavors get even better as they marry. So good with salmon.

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I added a few green olives and a pickle to my plate for even more flavor, and holy cricket, this salad was delicious. (I told Dave I want to start using ‘holy cricket’ in conversations after watching Harry Potter again). I could eat it once a week and not get tired of it. I think this salad is going to start making regular appearances in my life.

What are you favorite salad toppings?

P.S. Apparently people have been having trouble commenting on the blog, so hopefully I have fixed that problem! I am still playing around with the features on here, so forgive me.

First Cookout of the Year!

That’s a lie.

It was not our first cookout of the year. But it certainly felt true, since it was the first cookout where I was wearing flip flops instead of winter boots and a t-shirt instead of a faux fur lined parka.

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I am in love with this weather. My sister and my husband are already lamenting the dripping humidity ahead, but I’m holding my “Bring on the heat!” sign.

I also love having cookouts with this guy.

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Dave and I were both a little worse for the wear after yesterday’s fun and excitement so we decided to play it low-key today with simple fare: burgers, potatoes, baked beans, and green beans. However, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to start our meal with oysters and clams.

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The oyster shells are so interesting, almost like a rock formation.

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How cool is that?

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And how delicious is this?

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I topped my raw oyster with a smidge of cocktail sauce, and it was salty, ocean-kissed perfection.

The clams were a bit harder to open, so Dave smashed one against a rock to open it, and the others we cooked for a few minutes on the grill until they opened. I honestly was not a fan of the clams. I tried one raw and one cooked, but both were just too bitter for my liking. I guess I have expensive taste! (The blue point oysters were $1.29 each and the clams were about 89 cents).

We stretched the cooking process out as long as possible to enjoy the beautiful day. I was shocked when I looked at the clock and discovered it was nearly seven o’clock…and we hadn’t even put most of the food on yet! I normally go to bed by 7:30pm to wake up at 3:30am, but I knew there was no way I was going to get my eight hours in. Spending time outside took precedence over sleep yesterday.

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Mmm….sweet potatoes.

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We also baked a bunch of small yellow potatoes to keep on hand for leftovers.

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Burgers. It’s almost farmer’s market time again, so I’ll be able to get my humane-certified meat a bit cheaper. I’m definitely looking forward to farmer’s market season!

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And green beans.

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We cooked these on the grill, then tossed them in a dressing of 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tsp dried dill weed, 1 tsp whole grain mustard, 1/4 tsp each of salt and pepper. It’s a simple dressing, but it works so perfectly with the green beans. The mustard I used was one I received from my sister for Christmas last year: whole grain mustard with whiskey, and it is so good.

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At about 8:00pm, it was finally dinner time (or brunchupper time, since the only thing I’d eaten so far was saltine crackers).

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It was the perfect “first cookout” meal.

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I topped my burger with provolone cheese, red onion, tomato, spinach, ketchup, and dusseldorf mustard (aka, the perfect burger).

Everything was delicious! I am looking forward to using the grill a lot more this year during the week, since I have more daylight hours with my new schedule than I did last year. It also gives me an excuse to soak up some extra Vitamin D. Bring on the heat!

Super Saturday at S. A. L.T.

I was definitely feeling the burn in my legs and back from my runs the last two days, so I decided to go easy on myself and do some weight training yesterday with Bob Harper.

Twenty minutes of the Beginners’ Pure Burn Super Strength was the perfect amount yesterday morning to wake my arms up.

After my mini-workout, I made myself a delicious green monster smoothie for brunch around 2:00pm.

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  • mango chunks
  • pineapple
  • strawberries
  • peaches
  • bananas
  • mango juice
  • unsweetened vanilla almond coconut milk
  • water
  • ice cubes
  • spinach

Delicious and very filling. I’m glad it’s smoothie season again; they always taste like summer in a glass.

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I read quite a bit of poetry yesterday, replaced the wiper blades on my car, and then Dave and I went for our first bike ride of the year. We biked to the gas station to fill our tires with air and it was a pretty short ride, but it felt wonderful. I love how biking feels like flying.

We invited our friends Shelby and Cory over for a pre-dinner cocktail and chatted for awhile before heading to S.A.L.T., a new restaurant in De Pere featuring upscale comfort food. Several members of our group had been to the location before when it was a bar and were amazed at how it changed. This was my first time there, and I absolutely loved the atmosphere–it was dimly lit (my favorite), classy, and very inviting.

Image source: greenbaynightlife.com

We waited at the bar a bit for a table, so I ordered a specialty cocktail from the menu: Prez Tommy Jeff, which was sage, fresh oj, ginger beer, and lemon tree bitters. They had a nice selection of beer, wine, and other inventive cocktails.

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The Prez Tommy Jeff tasted just like a summer walk in the forest: fresh, aromatic, and very earthy. I loved it.008

The bar had an entire wall of windows and glass garage doors facing the street, so it was really fun watching all the college kids stagger through the town. People watching is so fun.

As soon as we got to our table, I ordered a dirty Tanqueray martini, which was absolutely perfect. It’s so easy to screw up a martini when the amounts are off, so I love when I order them at a bar and they are smooth as glass with the perfect amount of dirty. Good, fresh olives are always a plus, too. S.A.L.T. didn’t have bleu-cheese stuffed olives like Bleu, but I won’t fault them for it.

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Each place setting had mason jars already filled with water for each guest.

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I really like the mason jar trend, and I love it even more that the server automatically gave us water without having to ask. Someone told me when I was young that that was the best sign of a good restaurant. The atmosphere away from the bar was just as cozy.

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And the menu was…incredible.

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I wanted to order every single thing on the menu, and between the group of us, we pretty much did. Dave, Shelby, Cory, and I decided to get a bunch of small plates and share, so we ended up order nine different small plates. The waitress staggered their arrival which worked out really nicely for us, but it was strange eating half our food before anyone else was served.

My favorite of the night: Mussels with Ham and Hennipen (a Farmhouse style ale).

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I don’t know if the ham added that much for me, but the broth was so amazing: creamy, rich and very well rounded from the beer. The watiress brought out some toasted baguette slices to soak up the broth, which was wonderful on its own. I forgot how much I loved mussels–they are so good! I think Dave and I will start incorporating them into our dinners more often.

Then there was the Middle Eastern Plate.

017It came with fresh, warm pitas, baba ganoush, curried hummus, olives, dried apricots and dried figs. We probably could have skipped this since we eat most of these things regularly, but it was definitely a good sharing plate.

Then there was the Seared Rainbow Trout.

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This was Dave’s favorite. It was served with roasted almonds, green beans, and a lemon caper aioli. The fish was cooked perfectly. It was tender and flaky, and the lemon caper aioli was a flavorful and moist accompaniment. The green beans were delightfully al dente and wonderful with the sauce as well.

Then there was the Tandoori Quail.

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The quail was served over a couscous salad with sambal-apricot chutney. The quail was juicy, savory…amazing. I didn’t really care for the couscous (I think the couscous I make is better), but I could have eaten just the quail and been happy.

Then there was the S.A.L.T. Seviche.

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Shrimp and cobia served on a salt block with avocado, ancho, cucumber, mango, radish, and citrus. This one definitely won the most points for presentation. The Himalayan salt block was such an inventive and attractive way to serve this dish. Unfortunately, I found the cobia to be a bit too salty from sitting atop the salt block, although the boys disagreed. I read that women have more taste buds than men so they require less salt for taste–maybe that’s why?So…not my favorite, but still good.

Then there was the Tobacco-Smoked Pork Belly.

026This was served over miso-creamed corn. Creamed corn is definitely a comfort food for me. We never eat it at home, but I loved it growing up so it was a wonderful way to be reintroduced. The pork belly melted in my mouth and had a wonderful smoky flavor from the tobacco.

Then there were the Scallops, Potato, and Ham.

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Seared diver scallops served over Benton ham and creamed potato. I don’t think I need to tell you how amazing the scallops were. I have never had a bad scallop in my day (of the four (?) times I’ve had them). I was surprised how well the scallops worked with something as heavy as potatoes, but the the combination worked quite well together: the creamed potatoes were amazing. I probably ate more of the potatoes than anyone else, because I couldn’t keep my fork out of them.

Then there was the Shrimp Rossejant ‘n’ Grits.

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Gulf shrimp served over creamy cheese grits and spicy tomato sauce. I told you last week that shrimp & grits is one of my new favorite foods, and this dish only proved that statement to be more true. I have no idea what the stick things were (classy, I know) atop, but this dish was incredible: plump and juicy shrimp, buttery cheese, and rich tomato sauce….it was just as good as Dave’s. 😀

We finished our dinner with another round of mussels, this one cooked with chorizo and wine.

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At this point, I really couldn’t appreciate the mussels as well as I would have liked because of how full I was, but the few I had were almost as  incredible as the first.

The dessert menu looked equally incredible.

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I was drooling over the S.A.L.T. sundae which was salted caramel gelato, candied bacon, cocoa nibs, cashews, and straight scotch, but there was no way I would have been able to enjoy it after dinner. Next time! Because there will be a next time.

We basked in our fullness for awhile at the table.

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We had a pretty late reservation (8:30), so we weren’t being rushed to leave as the dinner rush was over by the time we finished our meal.

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The only bad thing about having so many friends is not getting to talk to them all during dinners out. Our table was so large that I barely got to speak to my friends at the north end of the table. Fortunately, that changed when we went back to the bar for another drink. I ordered the Jamaican 2-Squeeze (unpictured, but it looked just like my first cocktail) which was made with Uncle Val’s gin, ginger beer, and Jamaican #2 bitters.

I love gin and I adore the spiciness of ginger beer, so this cocktail had the perfect amount of punch for me. No one was ready to call it a night yet, so we ventured over the bridge to a bar called The Vault.

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There was a live band, and the lead singer was a guy we know from the grocery store–small world! It was nice hearing live music, and it wasn’t too loud in the bar, which is always a plus. I like being able to chat at bars without having to shout.

032What was even more amazing about this bar were the prices. I thought my bill was wrong when I got it because it was so inexpensive. Love when that happens! After bar close, we still weren’t ready to call it a night.

035Dave and I invited everyone over to cap off the evening, so we had another cocktail and talked poetry and World of Tanks (a new obsession among many of my friends) while Dave and Shelby whipped up a snack.

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At this point, it was about five hours after we had eaten dinner but I wasn’t really hungry and just had a bite. I’m not even sure what they created–I think it was toasted English muffins with sauteed mushrooms, friend eggs, cheese, and smoked paprika. Very tasty!

When we heard birds chirping, we knew we finally had to call it a night. I face planted into bed at about five am and slept til ten this morning. Such a great day, and a wonderful experience at S.A.L.T. I will definitely be there again!

*Note: We asked the waitress what S.A.L.T. stood for, but she said the name is actually not an acronym (they just thought it looked cool), so they invite customers to create their own. My brother suggested Seven Angry Lion Tamers. I haven’t thought of one yet. What would you name it?

How Chelsea Got Her Groove Back

Yesterday was a good day.

I came home from work a little later than usual due to my yearly performance review, which was as stellar as ever. It was absolutely beautiful, perfect Chel weather: bright and sunny, green grass, birds chirping. It is amazing how good weather boosts my spirits. I wish I could bottle it and keep it throughout the winter for a little pick-me-up.

As soon as I got home, I threw on some exercise clothes, grabbed my Ipod and headed to my trail for a good run. I consider it “my trail” since I’ve used it so many times in the last few years–it’s a great one! I don’t mind sharing it with others, though. Just not too many…

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I walked for a little bit to warm up my legs, then decided I had to at least bust out a mile to match yesterday’s. My legs were a little bit stiff and sore and my Ipod wasn’t working (Itunes hates me), so I enjoyed the trees and the time to think. I passed a few other travelers, mostly elderly people walking their dogs and a few parents bike riding with their children. After I passed the one mile mark, I also passed another runner, and it is a major faux pas to stop to walk when you are passing another runner so I kept going until I hit 1.3.

I walked for a few minutes, then did my “run til you’re tired, walk til you’re bored” trick to finish out three miles. I couldn’t help smiling as I walked back to my car. I felt like I got my groove back.

My family and I planned an impromptu dinner out, so I got ready, and we headed to Pasquale’s, a Chicago-Style Italian Restaurant.

003According to one of the women who works there “The food is really good, the service is mediocre.” I’ve been to Pasquale’s a few times before and always enjoyed it, so I had no qualms. I prefer stretching out dinner to enjoy the experience rather than eating as fast as I can and being shoved out quickly to turn over the table. One of the many reasons I prefer not to eat at chain restaurants.

There is only one large table at Pasquale’s so we sat at the bar until it opened up. I ordered an oatmeal stout beer to enjoy while we waited.

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Mmm…I love a good stout. This beer was really dark and flavorful, exactly what I was in the mood for.

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And good company! None of our significant others could make it at first, so it was nice just hanging out with my family for a little while. The big table was clearly enjoying their meal, so I ordered another beer at the bar. The waitress recommended “Dirty Bastard” to me.

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It had more of a bite than the stout, but it was also a little creamier. As soon as we finished our second drinks, the table opened up and the rest of our party joined us. Perfect timing!

I planned on having a salad for dinner, so I ordered some fried pickles to share with the table (80/20 philosophy!).

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I ended up eating most of them myself…they were really good. They had a bit of a spicy kick to them, which was unexpected, but nice.

Given the weather, I was in the mood for something light, so I ordered “The Greek,”, which was “greek olives, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, green peppers, and Feta cheese on a bed of romaine lettuce with our Greek oil dressing.”

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Basically my perfect salad. I only added a little bit of the dressing before diving in. Simple, but delicious.

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It was served with crunchy, buttery garlic bread points as well. This is probably the best dinner salad I’ve had anywhere for the price: $7.50. A lot of times dinner salads t restaurants aren’t enough to fill me up, but this one was perfect. Unfortunately, even though I was very happy with my meal, there were a few disappointments: my mom ordered blue crab ravioli and was served squash ravioli, the waitress forgot to bring out a few things, and my dad said his sandwich didn’t have “a whole lot of love put into it” (aka, very bland).

Still, the experience was nice, and it was wonderful hanging out with the fam. We debated going out for a few drinks, but we have another dinner out planned tonight so we decided to wait. I went home to my Davy (who had to work late), ate some mint cookie crunch ice cream, and fell asleep on the couch watching Arrested Development.

 

First Run of the Year!

Something I definitely need to remember:

I’ve really been slacking off in the exercise department lately. Sometimes I feel like I am in a constant battle with my body. Every summer I have tons of energy, love exercising, lose a bunch of weight, and am usually pretty happy about life.

075Every winter, my energy drops, I gain weight, exercise becomes a chore, and I forget what it’s like to be truly happy. After a long talk with my doctor a month ago, I finally agreed to go on anti-depressants. I wasn’t sure if I was going to share this on my blog, but I decided I have nothing to hide: I refuse to be ashamed of who I am. I have clinical depression and seasonal depression. Aaaaand I don’t want to.

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I’ve had it (them) for awhile, and I’ve tried to stave it off the best I can. It’s much easier in the summer, but I just can’t make it through the winter on my wits alone anymore (and I don’t think Dave can handle it either 🙂 )– that double dose is killer. I’m hoping medication will only be a temporary fix, but my doctor really thought I should give it a try. And when I thought about the fact that I have spent six months (November-April) in this state, it was kind of a clear choice. I’m not wasting half a year feeling miserable–I want to enjoy life!

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I was told it would take awhile to feel the effects, but after several weeks, I think it’s finally kicking in. With the sunshine yesterday, I was eager to get outside and soak up some Vitamin D (I’ve been taking a supplement, because my Vitamin D levels are also very low). I grabbed my Ipod and my new set of earphones that I ordered off Amazon.

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I think this is my fifth pair in the last two years! Artemis loves to chew through cords, the little bugger, and I ended up throwing the last pair away, just because they were so horrible. They fell out of my ears even while sitting down.

I went to the trail and was happy to find that it was no longer snow-covered or flooded–huzzah! After I walked over the bridge, I swore I could make out my mom through the brush and trees, even though it was a few hundred feet away. I felt kind of creepy but I walked up to the fence and peered through and finally shouted “Mom!” when I discovered it was her; she’s a horticulturist and just started tending the grounds at the condo/golf course that she takes care of spring through early winter. It was a really nice (and kind of weird) surprise, so I chatted with her about ten minutes before taking off down the trail again.

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I intended to just power walk, but I got an urge to run a half mile in and just went for it. The last time I ran was the day of Warrior Dash last year (lame-o), so I thought I would only run about two-tenths of a mile. But I felt pretty good after that, so I kept going.

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Then I hit half a mile. Then seven-tenths. And since I got that far I figured I might as well try for the whole mile. Boom! I power walked another half mile to finish it out. I didn’t have my pedometer with, so I’m not sure how fast I was going; it felt like a 10 minute mile, so definitely nothing too crazy fast.

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The new ear phones I bought were great–they hardly moved at all during my run. I’m a huge fan of the wrap-around ear buds for running. After I got home, I actually wish I had pushed myself harder, but I have plenty of time for that. Three months until the next Warrior Dash, so I’ve got to be quick about getting my mojo back.

After I was pumped full of endorphins, I decided to make myself a quesadilla for dinner using the grilled cheese method with cast iron pans.

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I used two whole wheat tortillas and filled them with 1/2 a cup of refried black beans, 1 1/2 oz of shredded cheddar, and a handful of spinach.

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I topped my quesadilla with plain Greek yogurt and salsa. I never even buy sour cream, anymore: plain Greek yogurt is much more versatile than sour cream with more protein, less fat, and pretty equal flavor.

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Unfortunately, I still have to work on getting my bread and tortillas crispy. Maybe I’m not turning the heat up high enough before I press my sandwiches? My tortilla wasn’t very crispy, but it was still delicious.

Here’s to a new summer season—may it live long and prosper!

Sushi Wednesday

You know what sucks?

Image source: saturdayeveningpost.com

Doing dishes.

We never had a dishwasher growing up, so my first experience with one was while working at Nicolet Restaurant with a commercial dishwasher that had the dishes clean in three minutes flat. When Dave and I moved into our first apartment together, I insisted the dishwasher was broken–“It’s been on for almost a half hour! I think something is wrong!” Dave laughed at me.

I actually don’t mind doing dishes by hand once in awhile and, when I’m baking, I do dishes as I go so it’s a piece of cake. But it is quite irritating that no matter if you’re cooking for two or twelve, you use the same amount of pots and pans. And who has the energy after cooking to wash dishes? Pfft.

Thursday night’s dinner was a two-pot meal: one for the pasta, one for the chicken and sauce. Then the colander. And the tongs. And the spoon. And the spoon rest (ramekin). The plate for the chicken to rest. The dinner, plates, the glasses, the utensils. Sometimes it just seems like too many dishes for only two people!

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Now, Wednesday’s have become one-person days. Dave took a new position at his job which includes an overnight route in the middle of the week. That means I see him Tuesday night when we go to bed, and then I don’t see him again until Thursday afternoon. I thought I would hate it at first, but it actually makes the week go by much faster, and then Dave and I have the weekend to do fun things together.

So what have I been cooking for myself on Wednesdays? Nothing.

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Wednesday is “Sushi Wednesday” at our local grocery store, so it’s become “Sushi Wednesday” for me! The specially marked packaged sushi rolls are only $5, so I’ve taken to buying three rolls and then having half for dinner Wednesday nights and half for lunch the next day.

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I usually buy one specialty roll, one roll with brown rice, and one spring roll. Last night I had a Black Dragon Sea Roll (with eel), a brown rice Spicy Inari Roll (with crab), and a veggie spring roll.

009Then I whip up a quick peanut sauce for dipping the spring roll into–it is my favorite dipping sauce and stir fry sauce. It is so friggin’ delicious, I cannot get enough of it.

  • 2 tbsp powdered peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • pinch of ginger
  • pinch of garlic powder
  • dash of red pepper flakes

* This makes just enough for my dipping sauce, but I usually triple it for stir fries.

Dave loves sushi, so I feel kind of guilty enjoying it without him. Perhaps I should take to making things he doesn’t like but I do on Wednesdays, but those are few and far between: the only things I can think of are mac n’ cheese and cauliflower. I’ll have to ask him for suggestions.

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In the meantime, Wednesdays will be “Sushi Wednesday” for me, and it will give me something to look forward to on a day that might otherwise be lonely.

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The best part? No dishes.

Two Nights, Two Dinners

We had one sheet of leftover puff pastry after last week’s Salmon en Croute which made for a really random dinner Tuesday night. We picked up a wheel of brie at the grocery store last weekend, and I was trying to find out a way to round out what would have been just a meal of brie en croute (I’ve done it before…).

I rolled the puff pastry out and used only 2/3 of it for the brie en croute.

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This one was accented with whole grain mustard and some leftover ribs from a few nights before. It was really delicious, but not my favorite; I still love jam and nuts with my brie. Although the one we made with smoked salmon previously was friggin’ awesome.

Since I had a 1/3 of puff pastry left, I brushed it with olive oil and added some chopped grape tomatoes, sliced mushrooms, feta cheese, and basil to make a pizza-thing.

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Our conversation as I pulled it out of the oven:
Dave: What is that?
Chel: It’s like a pizza-thing.
Dave: You made a PIZZA THING?!

It’s a good thing people don’t see us in our natural habitat. We’re very weird. 😀

I also made a heap ton of roasted veggies, because I could eat them every day for every meal and not get sick of them.

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It was a very colorful, somewhat fancy, and kind of a weird dinner, but it worked.

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Plus, look at all that natural light! It makes me happy that the sun is thinking about sticking around for awhile. Although it does make it infinitely harder to go to bed at 7:30pm when the sun is glaring through the curtains into the bedroom.

Dave and I were talking about pasta last weekend for some reason. We don’t eat a lot of it, because I tend to be in the mood for it more than Dave; he’s still scarred by the fact that we had it twice a week when we first moved in together. Our meal rotation was pretty much big sandwich, pasta, frozen pizza, ramen and/or something we actually cooked. It seems weird now that we didn’t cook much then, but I attribute it to going to school full time and working part time–maybe we just ran out of time? Even still, when we made pasta, we always made our own sauce.

We had a lb of thawed chicken tenders in the refrigerator, so I found a way to incorporate them into a delicious dinner by using a recipe from The Pioneer Woman.

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First you cook the chicken in a dutch oven over medium-high heat for about two minutes per side.

Then deglaze the pan with some wine, then add tomatoes, tomato paste, and salt and pepper to taste.

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After it has come to a boil, remove it from the heat and add plenty of whole garlic cloves and fresh herbs.

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Add the chicken to the sauce, lid it up, and pop it in a 400 degree oven for an hour and enjoy the wonderful smells. In case you missed the recipe, here it is. I altered it slightly by using only one 28 oz can of diced tomatoes, then adding a cup of whole grape tomatoes and a cup of vegetable broth instead of the second 14 oz can of whole tomatoes.

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I have never had baked tomato sauce before, but it was scrumptious. The time it spent in the oven brought out the sweetness of the tomatoes and made the flavor so much rounder. I served it on top of whole grain spaghetti with some shredded Parmesan on top.

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Pasta, I missed you.

Italy vs. The South

I think I have another favorite food.

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Some days when I am lazy and don’t feel like cooking, Dave takes the reins on dinner and wonderful things happen. If you were from the south, you might say these were “the best darn tooting shrimp n’ grits I ever ate.” If you lived in Italy, you might say “the combination of succulent marinated and sauteed shrimp over a bed of creamy polenta was simply mouthwatering.”

Does one region have a better taste for food? When it comes to cooked cornmeal, I think not.

Dave had a delicious breakfast last summer at the Mustard Seed Cafe in Bellevue and ever since, he’s wanted to make shrimp and grits at home.

We are both well schooled in Alton Brown’s school of thought regarding grits vs. polenta, having watched the episode of Good Eats entitled “True Grit.” Alton: Although there are many, many differences between here – the southern United States – and here – Northern Italy – the absorption rate of water into a tiny grain of cornmeal is not one of them. And that means that grits and polenta are exactly the same thing.”

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Basically, grits and polenta both start from cornmeal and it’s the type of liquid and seasoning you add that determines the dish. While grits traditionally contain whole milk while polenta is cooked in broth or stock. Knowing this, Dave followed AB’s Savory Polenta recipe, with some delicious adaptations.

Savory Polenta 

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for grilling or sauteing if desired
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 5 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup coarse ground cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces Parmesan, grated
  • hot sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large, oven-safe saucepan heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and salt and sweat until the onions begin to turn translucent, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add the garlic, and saute for 1 to 2 minutes, making sure the garlic does not burn.

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Turn the heat up to high, add the vegetable broth, bring to a boil. Gradually add the cornmeal while continually whisking. Once you have added all of the cornmeal, cover the pot and place it in the oven. Cook for 35 to 40 minutes, stirring every
10 minutes to prevent lumps. Once the mixture is creamy, remove from the oven and add the butter, salt, and pepper. Once they are incorporated, gradually add the Parmesan.

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While Dave was cooking the polenta (and I was in the living room watching Bones and running in sporadically to take photos), he pulled out some marinated shrimp to saute.

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The shrimp were marinated in a mixture of lemon juice, fresh lime juice, olive oil, capers, and red pepper flakes and sauteed over medium heat until they turned pink. He topped the polenta with the shrimp and added a poached egg on top.

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This was so. good. I was full, and I could not stop eating it. The polenta was creamy and cheesy, almost like a fine risotto, and the shrimp were so juicy. I added extra hot sauce to mine, and the combination of all the textures and flavors was just…awesome.

I don’t care if you call them grits or polenta, just don’t call me late for dinner.

Teamwork

My husband and I don’t cook very well together in the kitchen. Let’s just say we have different styles, but we both appreciate the other’s ideas. Since we both like to cook, we usually trade off making dinner or we both work on separate parts of dinner with our own space.

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“This is my part of the counter; what are you doing?!”

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“Did you get flour on my potatoes?”

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I need that towel!”

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At least we’re both passionate.

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Last night we had a lovely dinner. I worked on the entree and side dish. Dave took care of dessert. This was especially nice, as we rarely ever have homemade dessert.

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I pretended to be fancy last night and made Salmon en Croute. It was nearly identical to last time’s recipe, only I added some smoked paprika for seasoning. Can I just take a minute to say how much I love smoked paprika now? It hits regular paprika right out of the park.

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The broccoli didn’t look too good at the grocery store last Saturday, and though I would never say I’m Brussels sprouted out, I do think we have been eating it almost exclusively for our dinner vegetable recently. We went with green beans instead, so I roasted them with our really good balsamic vinegar, some salt and pepper.

 

This balsamic from Olivada in Sheboygan is fabulous. It is so sweet and tangy, so syrupy, it makes everything from vegetables to ice cream pure decadence.

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If I can’t find a good balsamic distributor in Green Bay, we will definitely be ordering this online, because I just don’t think we can go back to grocery store balsamic.

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Just as I pulled dinner out of the oven, Dave lowered the temperature for dessert, one of his family’s favorites: Sheila’s Pudding. We ate dinner while Jamie Oliver’s specialty baked in the oven.

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I forgot to add the sauce when I took the photos, but I made a lemon caper dill sauce with Greek yogurt to spoon over the salmon en croute, and the meal was so delicious. With salmon en croute, you definitely get more than you put into the recipe; it’s pretty simple, but the results are pretty outstanding.

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Look at this beauty! Warm peaches, moist cake with a bit of a crunch on top.

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I think I’m a fan of Sheila’s pudding, whoever she is. Now that dinner is what I call teamwork.