Sunday, January 29, 2012

My Long Weekend

Chinese New Year in Koh Samui was great.

But I think I equally enjoyed the last four days I've had around the house.  Although I slept through TWO hot yoga sessions I did manage to get some good exercise in and make some food.

Thursday I tried Zumba for the first time.  For those of you who don't know, Zumba is an aerobic dance class with mostly latin-inspired music.  For me, it's a chance to flail my arms around like a lunatic and burn a few calories.  I didn't like it as much as Body Jam, but it was still fun.

Both Saturday and Sunday Justin and I got some good long walks in.  Saturday we left from the condo and walked along the Park Connector until we got into the city and then picked up groceries.  I wasn't wearing my Garmin watch but we estimate that we cleared around 8k's.  Sunday we headed to MacRitchie Reservoir and power-walked our way through about 9 or 10 k's.  I was wearing the Garmin that time but I didn't charge it and it died around the 7k mark.  I'm really not very reliable.

In terms of recipes...well I made a good attempt, at least.  And I even tried to cross a few things off my bucket list but since I wrote "something good with lentils" I can't cross it off, because I was not happy with the outcome.  They were watery and bland.  Fortunately Jenna at EatLiveRun  has a fantastic looking stew involving red lentils so I'll try that for round two.  I love this girl's website - if you need a new recipe - check her out!!

I also attempted to cook some VERY expensive lamb shanks from the Swiss Butchery.  I don't know what happened but the meat was not satisfactory.  There was tons of fat running through it which made it hard to both cut and eat.  I think I needed to keep it in the oven for longer but who knows.  I will consult some friends down under to see if they can help me next time!

I did manage to make a great pizza on Friday night.  The crust came out very crispy considering I don't have a pizza stone.  I also baked some super easy chocolate chip muffins.  You can find the recipe here and they turned out very good.  Luckily I made a half-batch because there is only one left!!

'Twas a great week off of work - here's hoping for good things to come in February!!  With Houseguests, Waitangi Day, Valentine's Day, and other great reasons for good food I'm sure I'll have lots to share!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Thai Cooking Class!

In Asia we all just celebrated the Chinese New Year holiday - bring on the year of the Dragon!!!  How cool would it be to be born in that year huh?  I, on the other hand, was born in the year of the Rat...far less impressive.

Anyways, Justin and I spent the last 5 days in Thailand - Koh Samui to be exact.  Our good friend Ben was celebrating his 30th there and a bunch of us decided to join him.  5 days of partying, tanning, swimming, snorkeling (have I made you jealous yet??) and it was time to get back home.

One of the highlights of our trip though, was when Justin and I took a Thai cooking class.  We've taken one before in Chiang Mai last Christmas - and to be honest I think that one was better.  For anyone headed that way, it was called the Thai Farms Cookery Class and it was fabulous.  The one we just took in Samui - pretty much the only one on the island, was slightly different, but the food was equally delicious.  Here's just a glance at some of the fresh and exciting ingredients that we not only used but learned a lot about as well.

We ended the class by eating our Massaman Curry, Spicy Prawn Salad and Fried Spring Rolls along with the other classmates and a few Chang beers.  We were absolutely starving and the food didn't disappoint!

The positives of taking this class are that you get to learn a lot about the ingredients that go into the food.  They are some great recipes that would definitely impress guests and you can meet some really fun people as well.  Both the cooking classes that I attended give out copies of the recipes for you to take home and there is always more than enough food.  Justin and I are both big eaters and I don't think we ate even half of our food - great leftovers for later though!

Although some Thai recipes are incredibly easy, some are difficult, require a lot of preparation and great timing.  I would definitely recommend anyone try spring rolls, chicken cashew-nut (or any other type of stirfry) and Mango Sticky Rice - all of these are easy recipes that even a beginner cook could make as long as he/she had good instructions.  Thai curries are also easy to make - but the paste requires A LOT of ingredients, some that would be particularly difficult to find in North America.  I have used store-bought curry pastes in the past and though it might take a few tries to get a proper balance of paste to coconut milk, I find they are a great alternative to making your own.

So if you're craving Thai after reading this post, go out and buy yourself some new ingredients - grab one of those dusty cookbooks on your shelf or check the web - and experiment in the kitchen!!  Here's my super-easy Green Curry Recipe if you wanna try one.  It will take you less than 30 minutes.  Enjoy!

Speedy Green Curry (for two)

1 packet of Green Curry Paste (about two tablespoons)
200 mL coconut milk
200 mL water
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts - cut into bite sized cubes
An assortment of veggies - simple can be red onion and green pepper but it would be great if you could replace the pepper with some long bean
Thai basil

Pour coconut milk, water and paste into a large wok and bring to a boil.  Add diced chicken and poach in the curry.  Keep the curry boiling steadily as the chicken cooks, about 8-10 minutes.  Add chopped veggies and basil and boil for another 3-5 minutes - until they have reached desired tenderness (veggies will continue to cook after removed from heat so under-done is best).  Top 2 large scoops of the curry onto a bed of rice and devour!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Recipe Bucket List

The other day I was once again perusing/scanning/creeping around the world of food blogs for inspiration.  Then I came across this blog - which I have read before but I most certainly did not see the author's genius "top 100" list of recipes she desires to bake.

Can you say "Eureka" when it isn't really your own idea??

This works out perfectly for me.  I'm constantly reading food blogs, magazines, cook books and whatever else I can get my hands on.  I'm always seeing great recipe ideas that I'd love to try (to either duplicate or re-create) but I always put the book/magazine nicely back on the shelf and completely forget about those recipes.

So after a bit of research, reflection, and surveying, here's my preliminary list - one that I will hopefully keep adding to as I find more inspiring ideas.


a beautifully decorated cake
upside down cake
the perfect cupcake
Mint Slice
Black Forest Cake

Yorkshire pudding (with holes!)

Crispy Calzones

Home made pasta noodles
butternut squash gnocchi

Spicy Mango Salsa

Chicken Rice
Tom Yum Soup
Wonton Soup

Jalapeno Poppers

Beef Bourguignon
Roast Turkey, Stuffed

Home made Granola
Satisfying Lentils
Steamed Chicken in Banana Leaf
Something delicious with Quinoa
Minestrone Soup

Grapefruit Margaritas

Something with Figs

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Workout Wednesday: Terry Fox Run

Last Sunday was the annual Singapore Terry Fox run.  It's organized by some of Justin's colleagues so it's an easy way to get anther competition into my running routine.  Knowing that this run was coming up motivated me to run more frequently and push myself harder than I have in a while.

It was a really fun run without a whole lot of hoopla and best of all it raised money for a great cause.  I sometimes wonder if Terry is able to get a glimpse of what he created during his short life.

I finished the run in 57 minutes flat - not my best but not my worst either.  It has given me a good benchmark for the year.  I've already said to Justin that we will run another 10k in a month in the hopes of reducing our times.  There's a vertical run (10k plus stair climb up a skyscraper) at the end of Feb that I'm pretty sure I'll enter.

Lesson learned: if you feel yourself slipping in your exercise routine - sign up for something competitive.  This doesn't have to be a run - it could be a sport, a mountain climb, a swim - anything!  I find once you shell out a bit of money and tell some friends - your ego and your wallet will keep you training regularly!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Roasted Garlic and Cauliflower Soup

I love roasted garlic.

Sometimes, I just wanna take one of those little brown cloves and pop it into my mouth, just to see what it would taste like.

I don't really like cauliflower.  Which is why adding roasted garlic to it is such a great idea.

Let's face it.  It's the new year and we're all on a bit of a health kick.  Soup can be a great part of that because it is low in calories, full of veggies, and keeps you full and satisfied.

I still want a chocolate brownie covered in caramel sauce.  And a lemon cupcake.  But hey, roasted garlic isn't bad for second place!

Roasted Garlic and Cauliflower Soup

1kg cauliflower
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp each of dried basil, oregano, cumin, red pepper flakes
1 bulb garlic
Olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 ribs celery
2 bay leaves
2 cups chicken broth (low sodium)
2 cups water
1 cup skim milk
1 tbsp cornstarch

Cut cauliflower into florets.  Toss in a large bowl with 1 tbsp olive oil and all spices.  Lay evenly on a baking sheet and bake at 200 degrees C.  Cut the top off of one bulb of garlic and drizzle a second tbsp of olive oil over the top.  Wrap in tinfoil and toss into the oven with the cauliflower.  Roast for 30-40 mins, until the cauliflower is nice and brown.  You may want to leave the garlic in for an extra 10-15 mins.

Meanwhile, dice onion and celery and saute in a large pot for 5-7 minutes.  Add bay leaves, garlic, broth and water and bring to a boil for 5 minutes.  Add cauliflower and continue to boil for another 10 minutes.  Remove bay leaves and blend soup until creamy.

In a small pot, add milk and cornstarch.  Heat and stir for a few minutes until the cornstarch is thoroughly mixed into the milk.  Do not let milk boil.  Gently stir into your soup.

Garnish with a bit of cheese, fresh parsley, or if you're feeling naughty, some bacon.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Workout Wednesday - first of 2012!

I'm back into it folks...

After weeks of Turkey dinners, Christmas cookies, birthdays, end-of-school celebrations and "I'm in New York!" treats, I am in need of some serious boot camp-ing.  I have actually posted a picture of Jillian Michaels in her skimpy athletic gear next to my mirror.  She is pointing at me.  It's kinda scary.

But hey, it gets me to the gym!

I've really been mixing it up this week.

I started with a hot flow yoga class on Thursday (I love this stuff).  Man, did my body HURT after that class!  My muscles are really in need of some toning and flexing!

Since then I've moved on to Body Pump, Body Step and several runs.

Variety is the spice of life, right?

This weekend, I'm going to spend some time thinking about specific goals and milestones I want to achieve in my health and fitness lifestyle.  Sure, I'll throw in a couple of 10k runs but what else???

From my very small reading pool, I'd love to hear from you!  What are your H&F goals for 2012??  What crazy things do you think I should get up to??  I'll take any and all suggestions and I'm really looking forward to trying some new things!

Friday, January 6, 2012

December, in a Nutshell

The month of December was a blur.  So much happened that I didn't even have time to BLOG about it!

I really have to find a way to be more consistent with my postings.

So what was I so busy doing, you ask?

Here's the re-cap:

I ran the Singapore Standard Chartered Half Marathon.  It was actually a pretty good run for me considering I've spent the last few months eating baked goods instead of training.  With a time of 2 hours and 17 minutes it wasn't my best run, but I was happy with it.  I was especially happy that I was able to find Justin after the race, amongst tens of thousands of runners and even more spectators!  An interesting experience, but I think my next half marathon will have to be outside of Singapore - I need a change - and a more agreeable climate.

I completed my Christmas Baking!  After weeks of talking about it, I made some old favourites and experimented with some new recipes as well.  It was relaxing but also time-consuming.  I think next year I'll cut down since I don't have that many people to eat these cookies and I think my work colleagues are getting overwhelmed by too much sugar.  Not to mention the five pounds of butter it took to make it all and the fact that those Christmas M&M's cost $8 - yikes!

I went home for the holidays and New York for New Year's!  Man it was rushed but I managed to fly home,  plan and execute my Mom's 50th birthday party, finish Christmas shopping and wrapping, pick Justin up from the airport, attend 3 Christmas dinners, met up with as many friends as I could for quick dinners/lunches out, drove to Buffalo to fly to NY, enjoyed 4 nights in NYC, and even got a few exercises in during that crazy mayhem.  I definitely got grouchy and cranky at times, most of it coming out on Justin but it was great to see everyone.  Thank you so much to everyone who made time for us, let us sleep at their places, and cooked for us.  One day we'll be able to return the favour, I hope!!

Here's to a great 2012 for everyone!  I've got some great new recipes to try out in January and lots of exercise to do in order to burn off all my turkey dinners!!