Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Workout Wednesday

My knees hurt.

I have a half marathon to run on Sunday morning.

These two statements don't go well together.

A small part of me is thinking that I shouldn't run this race on Sunday because I'm going to be in pain the whole time.  But a larger part of me is saying that I'm a pansy and should suck it up for a couple of hours and do this thing or else I'll regret it forever.

This battle has been going on in my mind for the last week or so.  I've tried extra stretches, training on treadmills, and I even bought some new shoes, but nothing seems to be working.

I'm actually getting more excited about this race than I have been for the past few months.  I'm  looking forward to accomplishing it and even though I probably won't make a PR I'll feel pretty darn proud of myself.  I guess that's why I sign up for these things in the first place - to have something measurable to work towards and then feel a sense of pride and, dare I say, power when I've completed it.

I just hope I can complete it.

Maybe I need some NEW measurable goals other than running my butt off.  Any suggestions on what I should try next?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A great potluck choice

Ok here's the second Thanksgiving treat that I made.  It's not really Thanksgiving-ish but it is certainly delicious.

There's just something about making your own bread that is so ultimately satisfying and wholesome...the smell of the dough, the way it rises, and of course, its taste when it's still warm - heaven.

This one's great to bring to any potluck because the toppings are already on it!  From Company's Coming: Cooking At Home

Olive and Thyme Focaccia

2 1/4 cups flour
1/4 oz. instant yeast
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup sliced, pitted black olives
1 cup warm water
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, sliced thinly
1/3 cup fresh grated parmesan
2 tsp fresh thyme
1/2 tsp coarse salt

Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl.  Add water and first amount of olive oil.  Mix until soft dough forms (it will be sticky - I use lots of flour to keep it going).  Turn onto lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes until smooth and elastic.

Grease and Flour a 11x17 inch baking sheet (square or round)  press dough into the sheet so that it is nice and thin.  It doesn't need to be perfect.  Cover with wax paper and let stand in a cool oven (with light on) for 45 minutes, until doubled in bulk.

Take dough out of oven and press your finger into it randomly all over to make little indentations.  Drizzle with 2nd amount of olive oil and sprinkle onion, thyme, parmesan, and sea salt.  Bake at 475F or 240C for 25 minutes until golden.  Allow to cool and slice into squares or wedges with a pizza cutter.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanksgiving - US version

Why do Americans and Canadians celebrate thanksgiving in two different months?

I actually decided to google that, because at the Thanksgiving I attended yesterday I was asked several times to explain the difference and sadly couldn't.

According to the good people at the ever-reliable and never biased (ha!) Toronto Sun, Canadian thanksgiving is celebrated in October to give thanks to a successful harvest - a tradition that has been passed down for thousands of years, from my knowledge of ancient Mesopotamia Harvest Festivals and feasts were celebrated even then.  Martin Frobisher brought the tradition to Canada during his search for the Northwest Passage (good luck, buddy) in 1578.

American thanksgiving on the other hand, didn't come around until after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Bay in 1620.  Because of their lack of preparation for winter, by November they were out of food and the Natives in the area held a feast for them (or something of that nature).  THEIR Thanksgiving is also in thanks to those generous people who helped them out.

So there you have it folks, the difference between Canadian and American Thanksgiving.  Here's a couple of bread recipes I used for the party I went to and they were highly popular.  The first one comes from one of my favourite blogs and the other comes from a Canadian cookbook called "Cooking at Home" (from Company's Coming).

Buttercrust Rolls

4 1/2 tsp dry active yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, unsalted, softened
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
4 1/2 - 5 1/2 cups flour
1 egg white + 1 tbsp warm water for wash

Dissolve yeast into water in a small bowl and let sit for around 5 minutes until is gets foamy.  Set aside.  Meanwhile, head the buttermilk (just until there are a few bubbles around the side of the pot) and add the butter stirring so the butter melts - don't let it boil!  Turn off the head and stir in the sugar.  Let cool for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, sift the flour and baking soda.  Make a little well in the flour, pour the salt in, and then cover it up.  Pour in the yeast and the buttermilk.  Crack two eggs into a small bowl and beat with a fork for a few seconds.  Add them to the batter as well.  Mix with an electric mixer (but use the "kneading attachments" that look like little spirals instead of the egg beater ones we normally use) on low for about 5 minutes until the dough forms a nice round and smooth ball.  I added 4 1/2 cups flour at the beginning and then added about 1/3 or 1/2 cup more during this process.

Spray a large bowl with cooking spray and place dough into bowl.  Cover with a tea towel and set in a warm place for about 1 hour.  Dough will double in size.

Preheat oven to 375F or 190C.

Take dough out of bowl and place on floured surface.  Knead lightly and then divide into golf-ball sized pieces.  Roll them out into tubes and tie into knots, like a pretzel.  Place on a lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart and brush with egg wash.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly golden.  Serve warm with melted butter!

Next bread recipe to come soon!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Workout Wednesday round two!

I was scheduled to run 18k in preparation for my half marathon which is only TWO WEEKS away.

I ran 10k.

3 days late.

It was fine, except for the fact that my knees felt like they were two pieces of grinding metal - heat, sparks and all.  That's probably not surprising since I haven't really been running all that much the last few weeks.

My new theory is that I will run for as long and as often as I feel like it.  So WHAT if I have a half marathon in 2 weeks?  So WHAT if I don't have the perfect body? If I'm not having fun with it, then I shouldn't be doing it.  I already do a whole bunch of stuff EVERY DAY that I don't have fun doing.  I don't want running to become one of those things.

Despite the knee pain the run was fantastic and seems like this week is a "renaissance" (that's what I'm teaching these days) of my motivation into exercise.  All I have to do is stop watching so much TV so I can get everything else done that I've got on my to-do list.

By the way, watching the Big C - it's hilarious.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Strawberry Banana Granola Bars

I'm feeling kinda proud of myself for sort-of inventing a dessert!

In comparison, it is much easier to experiment with savory dishes as you can substitute chicken for beef, mushrooms for peppers, thyme for rosemary, and while the dish might not come out PERFECT, it usually isn't completely ruined.

Baking on the other hand, is a different ball game.  You can't just take out the flour, add double the butter, or switch brown sugar for white.  These changes can not only drastically change the taste of your dish, but it can completely alter the chemical reaction that occurs in the oven and leave you with a goopy (or rock hard) mess.

Yesterday I succeeded in drastically modifying a dessert-type recipe and it turned out surprisingly well!

While exploring various food blogs that I'm addicted to, I came across this recipe for Baked Raspberry Oatmeal.  While it sounded good, it just wasn't exactly what I was looking for.  Although I wanted to make something healthy (and with only 1/3 cup of brown sugar this is guilt-free), I did NOT want to make Oatmeal.  Ugh, my only memories of eating oatmeal were from Brownie camps that I attended as a child.  I have always, even as a kid, been a big eater.  However, those mornings when I was given nothing but a bowl of runny oatmeal I just DID NOT EAT.  Even still to this day I can't even look at Justin when he has a bowl of it for breakfast.  The consistency just completely freaks me out.

This recipe is not oatmeal.  And it is without a doubt, the healthiest dessert I've made - other than popping the top of a fat-free pudding cup :)  It's actually so healthy I will even say that you could have one of these for breakfast.  I mean, there's fruit, rolled oats, milk - isn't that a balance meal??

So if you're craving that irresistible strawberry-banana combo then give these a try!  They're not rich, creamy, or overly sweet - they really just remind me of a chewy granola bar.

Strawberry Banana Granola Bars

1 tbsp unsalted butter
2 somewhat ripe bananas (not black, but not edible), cut into 1 cm slices
1 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon, divided
1/4 tsp gound nutmeg, divided
2 1/4 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup slivered almonds, divided
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup flour
1 cup milk
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups frozen strawberries, thawed and halved

In a small bowl toss sliced bananas with 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp brown sugar and 1/8 tsp nutmeg.  Melt butter in a small skillet.  Add banana mixture and cook for 3-4 minutes, gently mushing the bananas up a bit until you get this chunky looking caramel-type consistency.

Remove from heat and gently add half of the strawberries.  Set aside.

Pre-heat the oven to 200C or 375F.  Line an 8inch square pan with baking parchment.

In a large bowl, mix together the remaining cinnamon, nutmeg, oats, half the almonds, brown sugar and baking powder.

In a small bowl, mix together the milk, egg and vanilla.  Slowly add the wet to the dry, stirring until just combined.  Gently stir in the banana-strawberry mixture.  Pour batter into baking pan.  Top with remaining almonds and strawberries.

Bake for about 30-35 minutes until cooked through (when a knife comes out clean).  Allow to cool and slice into desired size.   For added sweetness you can dust with a bit of powdered sugar or drizzle with a small amount of honey.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Beef and Black Bean Enchiladas

MMmmm...I just can't seem to get enough Mexican food these days!

With all the projects coming in to grade and exams starting next week, I was definitely in the mood for some comfort food.  And this was comforting!

I used the same sauce as from my Chicken Enchiladas Recipe (inspired by blogger skinnytaste) but really wanted a more hearty filling.  

In Singapore ground beef can sometimes be found in a "lean" version but there is really no proof that it is lean at all.  I can't remember what cooking show I was watching at the time but I saw someone mince their own beef.  I thought "perfect! I can pick any cut I want and just mince it up!"  So I grabbed some eye of round from the grocery store, cut it into large cubes and chucked it into my food processor.

This was too easy.  And the mince was super fine and tender - it was great!

Hope you try the recipe!

Beef and Black Bean Enchiladas

2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
dash of chili flakes
1/2 tsp ground cumin
3/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
salt and pepper

300 grams minced lean beef
1 cup black beans
1 medium diced onion
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp montreal steak spice
Dash of Chili Flakes
1/3 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup tomato sauce or salsa

6-8 whole wheat tortillas
Cheese for topping, around 3/4 cup

Saute 2 garlic cloves in a small sauce pan.  Add all the other "sauce" ingredients, stir to combine and simmer for 5 minutes.  Set aside.
Spray skillet with cooking spray and add onion and garlic.  Saute until softened, around 5 minutes.  Add beef and saute until cooked.  Add beans, spices, broth and tomato sauce.  Stir well so all spices combine.  Continue to simmer for 5 minutes.

Pour 1/3 cup of enchilada sauce onto the bottom of a 9x13 glass baking dish.  Place 1/2 cup of beef mixture into each tortilla.  Roll up tortillas and place, seam side down, into the baking dish.

Top with grated cheese and bake at 200C or 375F for 15-20 minutes - until cheese is all nice and melty - serve with a generous dollop of sour cream.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

I've been wanting to make a chicken for a while now.  I've never actually cooked a whole chicken before.  Due to last night's experience I probably won't again...

Doesn't that just look so...British?  It was delicious, thanks to Jamie Oliver's recipe (sticking a lemon up the butt is his secret).

Unfortunately it was quite the experience getting to this point.  First, I mis-read Jamie's recipe and didn't realize until 6pm that this chicken was going to take 2 hours to cook.  My bad.

The best part though, was another mid-reading.  When I read the label on the chicken I assumed that "with head and feet" meant that these "appendages" were tucked away neatly into a little separate bag that I could throw away - immediately.  This is the way it works with Turkeys back home - there's a little sack inside that has some of the "sweetmeats, etc" that you can use, or discreetly toss.  This was not the case last night.

The feet and head were still on the chicken.  I'll spare you photos.

Part of me is thinking right now, is this how it normally is?  Am I just an idiot for thinking there wouldn't be a head and webbed toes on my chicken?  

I didn't give up, though at the moment of meeting eyes with that little chick I wanted to.  I toughened up quickly, grabbed my pink apron, heavy-duty scissors and giant wok knife and hacked away at the neck and legs of that bad boy until the job was done.  I left that kitchen a completely different person.

It was a good meal but seeing the face of that chick-chick was almost enough to make me go vegetarian.  Almost.

I'm probably better off buying a cooked bird at the grocery store for $12, no?

Part 2 comes tomorrow when I make a soup out of the carcass.  Geez I'm sounding like a real carnivore today.  Maybe I should donate some money to PETA to make myself feel better.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Workout Wednesday!

Welcome to another new blogging gimmick!

Reflecting on my past blogging I have noticed a few things.  First, that my blogging decreased significantly in October (I do have excuses! Let me know if you want to hear them!) and second, that my blog is pretty much all about food.

Since this blog is called recipes AND running I realized that I needed to make more of an effort to incorporate my fitness regime (or whatever you wanna call it - I might call it panting like a dying cat) into this blog.  Ta Da! I bring you Workout Wednesdays, where I talk about some sort of interesting (hopefully!) workout I've had over the week.

So what was so interesting about this past week?

Well for those of you who haven't heard me brag with excitement, I have recently become a GYM MEMBER!

I haven't had a gym membership since I was in university!  Upon graduating I moved to Toronto where our condo building had its own gym (which I only used sporadically) and when we moved to Singapore we have always made sure that our condo has gym facilities.  This has worked very well over the past 3 years.  I was (and still am) truly convinced that I did not need a gym membership in order to be healthy.  I have always had a lot of knowledge of health and fitness and I even managed to lose quite a bit of weight over the last few years without forking over a small fortune on a downtown gym membership.  I even trained for a half marathon without having to pay ANYTHING.

The problem I have is there are a lot of gadgets and gizmos and false advertisements about weight loss and fitness.  I know.  I have a lot of these gadgets and gizmos.  And I don't always use them.  People often get sucked into the belief that there is some sort of "fast-track" to a healthy lifestyle through a particular diet, machine, book, programme, etc.  News Flash.  There is NO fast track.

Except for maybe that machine the celebrities use which freezes their fat cells and then they somehow magically disappear...

Until THAT becomes realistic for the every day girl, we have to do our best with what we have.

For many years, I chose to exercise while paying as little money as possible.  And it worked, because I stuck with it and ate right and had a great support team (Hi Amanda and Dan!).

But it just seemed like the right time to move on to something new.  So I sucked it up, bit the bullet, closed my eyes and paid for that super-expensive, fancy gym membership.

And you know what?  After the initial sting of my Visa sliding through the cash register, I felt fine.  I actually felt pretty darn good.  Perhaps I even felt a twinge of excitement!  Finally, instead of forcing myself onto a treadmill every day I could enjoy the best thing you can give yourself in fitness - variety.  Not only does the gym have a ton of different cardio and resistance machines but it also has a fantastic schedule of classes.  There's yoga classes, core classes, combat, resistance, abs, you name it.  So far I'm having a blast, particularly as I look at myself in the mirror during Body Combat flailing around like a very angry octopus.

This would totally be me if I ever went on this show - I am so uncoordinated!

Phew!  That seemed like more of a life story than a fitness story but that's where I am in my fitness today.  Always eager to try something new and exciting (and, as my husband would say, expensive).

How do you all feel about gym memberships?  A great opportunity or over-rated?

Australia Part 2

Another great restaurant that we found in Melbourne was Bird Man Eating. A woman that we met during our wine tour told us that it was a great place for a Sunday brunch (though not of the Singapore variety).  We didn't have anything specific planned for our last day in Australia and it sounded like a great idea.

The menu was fantastic.  Brioche french toast with marmalade glazed kaiserfleisch, orange pekoe & maple syrup and Red quinoa porridge with apple, honey & cinnamon were just two of the unique and delicious sounding meals.  

Justin went with the braised beans and toast, which came in this cute little dutch oven and had a wonderfully mild chili taste to it.

I love how the plate is served with what looks to be a scrap piece of sheet music on it!

I decided to go with one of my favourite breakfast treats, the banana bread.

Now I'm sure you're all thinking, "how boring - bread and butter?"  Well guess again my friends.  This cinnamon banana bread was lightly toasted and tasted delicious.  And that is NOT butter on the side but a mascarpone with honey and lime!  I had no idea how all these flavours would mix together but the answer was amazingly!

Overall it was a great little brunch and it was great to get outside of the CBD to see a more eclectic part of the city.  After brunch we went for a little walk around the neighborhood, found this great market and enjoyed our last day before heading back to Asia.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Australia Part 1

I'm back!  I didn't fall off the face of the earth or quit blogging - don't worry.

I just spent 9 days in Sydney and Melbourne (and everything in between) which was quite a wild ride.  I was lucky enough to spend a beautiful sunny day on a 4 hour bike tour of Sydney and even got out for a couple of runs while I was away as well (I think my spark is back - but that's another story).  It was a vacation of highs and lows but I did manage to eat some great food including fresh fish and chips, pies and mash, vanilla slice, frozen yogurt, and lots and lots of wine :)

But here's one of my favourite meals of the week.  Last Saturday we took a wine tour of Yarra Valley, about an hour outside of Melbourne.  We stopped for lunch and a tasting at Rochford Estates - home to a couple of great Chardonnays.

In order to get away from the plethora of red meat we'd been eating during the trip I decided to order the Beetroot and Feta Risotto

I do like beetroot but this was pretty heavy on it.  If I hadn't been so sick of meat I probably wouldn't have enjoyed this as much but it was just what I needed on that particular day.

Justin, also a bit tired of the red meat, ordered the salmon and minestrone

I got a few bites of this and it was great.  I had no idea how the chef was going to combine fish and a vegetable soup but he/she did a fantastic job.

Although the weather wasn't fantastic that day the wine was plentiful and delicious.  My personal favourite was Domain Chandon - a sister of Moet.  We were offered a free glass of champagne with our tour and then for only $5 more we were offered a 10 sample wine flight!  I definitely had a nap after that.