runningwithrewards

Living a balanced life with lots of creative food, exercise and exploration!

To Leash or Not to Leash?

This post is neither running nor nutrition related, but more a general post and request for advice.

Conor and I are the proud parents of a wonderful black lab mix.  He’s a medium sized dog (quite small for a lab), weighing in at about 40 pounds.  We adopted him about a year and a half ago, and totally hit the doggie jackpot.  He’s loving, sweet, and playful.

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His absolute favorite thing in the world to do is play fetch.  It combines his love of chewing with his affinity for running (not inherited from me I can tell you that much!).

We are fortunate to have a large open park in front of our apartment complex (about 3/4 the size of a football field).  It’s a public park, meaning it is the property of the county, not the apartment complex.  In our county, it’s mandated that all dogs be on a leash unless in designated dog parks.  But, we have a very dog friendly complex and many of us use the park to allow our dogs time to play in the evenings, usually off-leash.

Recently we dog owners have been the brunt of a back lash against the lack of leashes.  We’ve received notices and emails reminding us that our lease requires leashes on apartment property, and that the county does as well in the park.  Most of us have chosen to risk a civil ticket in the park area in order for our dogs to be able to experience the park, play together, and run around freely.  Still, this has been a contentious issue of late.

Last night, Conor and I were accosted approached by a fellow dog owner.  While throwing with Leroy, the owner of a small terrier type dog approached us holding her dog.  As she came up to us, her dog pretty much lost it.  He started yelping and barking and making an incredible fuss.  She said, “Garble Garble….” We heard,  “BARK BARK BARK YIP YIP.”

“What?  We can’t hear you.”

“Something something dog on a leash something….”  BARK BARK HOWL YIP

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“What?”  Conor went up to her so he could try to hear her.  I couldn’t really deal with the sound, so I stayed back and continued to throw with Leroy.  She continued, “you really should keep your dog on the leash.  It’s the law.”

I responded, “we know, but he’s a really good dog, never goes up to other dogs, and never runs off.  There’s no one around, no one else uses the park, and this is his absolute favorite time of day.  It’s worth the risk to us.”

BARK BARK YIP YIP anger from the owner HOWL YIP YIP squirm squirm

She said something along the lines of “Well, it also protects owners of other dogs.  My dog is ‘dog-aggressive’ and can’t really deal with other dogs.  He gets extremely aggressive when other dogs are off leash.  You guys should keep yours on a leash and abide by the policy.”

So, while she was really trying to take some of the blame on herself due to her dog, the sheer volume of the noise her dog was making turned the conversation into a confrontation, and she became quite angry.  We continued back and forth, until she finally walked away in disgust when we wouldn’t concede.

Conor and I were pretty upset by this  At first we were angry at being attacked, and being so constantly antagonized lately by management in the building and now this.  But, Conor took a step back from my indignant retort, and in response to my complaint that she should just train her dog better, he said, “ya know, maybe she adopted him and he was traumatized or abused.  It’s not her fault the dog is like that.  We could have had that with Leroy but we got lucky.”  Okay….he has a point.  But still, as the owner of the disruptive dog, shouldn’t she be the one to shelter her dog?  “Well yeah, but she should be able to walk her dog, her dog deserves it, and it’s not her fault he freaks out around other dogs.  Plus, she has the law on her side”  Hmmm….

I’m mainly writing to vent.  I’m not sure who/what is right here.  Yes the law requires people to leash their dogs, and probably for good reason.  But, if we choose to risk that with a well-behaved dog, (who, by the way is pretty anti-social [a problem for another day!] and actually ignores most other dogs when walking by) who absolutely loves to run in a park that is otherwise not used, shouldn’t we have that choice without being accosted?  She walked up to us, causing the consternation of her dog.  Additionally, other dogs being leashed wouldn’t really help her dog.  Dogs, other than my anti-social pup, by nature go up to other dogs to sniff, smell, and say hello.  A leash doesn’t stop that really.  The owner would have to pull back forcefully to prevent the animals from this interaction.

Additionally,  while pondering the whole curfuffle this morning, I walked Leroy (on his leash mind you), as I do every morning.   As we turned a corner, a friend in the building was out walking his two dogs on leashes.  One of them is smaller than Leroy, went up to Leroy and sniffed.  Leroy kept walking and ignored the dog as per usual.  The other dog, who’s probably about 65 pounds and much taller than Leroy, lunged at him in excitement, then jumped on me.  Now, I know these dogs and I know that dog is just super happy and excited in the morning so it doesn’t bother me.  But, it still evinces a lack of control by the owner, which is NOT hampered in the slightest by his being on the leash.  I wondered how the woman from last night would have responded.  The owner was in full compliance with the “law,” but her dog would have been much more threatened by that leashed dog, than if Leroy walked by her dog leashless (in compliance with the spirit of the law I’d argue – that he keeps to himself and isn’t a threat to other dogs/people).

I mean, look at this guy!

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So cute.  Who could be afraid of him :)

What do you guys think?  Should we bite the bullet and limit his freedom and happiness for the very vocal minority?  Should we move away to the country?  Should everyone just keep to themselves and not act as citizen enforcers when they’re mainly displeased by their own plight?  Hmmm…

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Quick Three Bean Chili, Bulgar Salad, and Muffin Fail

The first week of the new year has gone well! After a few days of the vegan diet, I already felt an increase in energy (despite not sleeping terribly well!) I did Zumba Thursday night, ran 3 miles at a steady pace on Friday, and 4 miles at an interval pace on Saturday.

I have a couple recipes for you guys. I’m trying to put more of a precedence on cooking in the hopes of eating out less which will mean eating healthier and cheaper!

First up, a quick, Crock Pot Chili. I read somewhere that black eyed peas are gonna be all the rage in 2014…For good reason, apparently they are “meant to bring good luck and prosperity in the new year.”  The good luck vibes go back pretty far, as the Jewish tradition of eating black-eyed peas at Rosh Hashanah dates back to the Talmud!  Perhaps the good luck can be attributed to their fabulous nutritious attributes.  They are low in calories (only 70 cal per serving), with 3 grams of protein.  So, while they have a slightly lower protein content than other beans, they are still a great source of soluble fiber.  It doesn’t stop there though, they also have a ton of potassium, zinc, and iron.  Yuuuummy.

So, I picked up some black eyed peas, red kidney beans, sweet corn and stewed tomatoes.  I had to go into work on Sunday, so I threw it all in the crock pot and let ‘er rip!  The fiance doled us both out healthy servings, having the table set when I came home :) #totalwin

Ingredients

  • 1 can each: Black eyed peas, Dark Kidney Beans, Light Kidney Beans
  • 1 small can sweet corn (no sauce or syrup)
  • 1 can fire roasted stewed tomatoes
  • 1 can stewed tomatoes
  • 1/2 tbs each of: chili powder, cumin, oregano, basil, red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tbs each of: smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder
  • 1/2 bag of chopped baby carrots, raw

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I put it on high for 4 hours, and everything melded together beautifully.  Conor said it was one of my best chili’s :)

For lunches for the week, I went to my go to lunch salad recipe.  Here’s the thing, even as a vegetarian, I’m not a salad fan.  Bringing a plain lettuce salad to work for lunch is about the surest way to guarantee I’ll go out.  Maybe I just haven’t found a dressing I like.  Alas, I like these grain-based ones much better!

Basic Grain and Greens Recipe

  • Dark leafy Greens

(I prefer kale, often I lightly steam it, or spinach)

  • Grains

(I used bulgar wheat this round, but I’ve also used quinoa, amaranth, barley, freekah, and other grains!  They’re fun to play around with, you can find a good variety at Whole Foods or Trader Joes)

  • Veggies

mix your colors and cooking methods! (I like to always have an orange and green, this time I used steamed sweet potato and green beans, but you can use carrots, peppers, broccoli etc)

I also threw in some roasted beets for texture.  Just buy the canned sliced beats, drain them with a paper towel, and roast at 400 for 20 min on one side, 10-12 on the other.  Sprinkle with seasoned salt.

I season each element as I cook it.  My go to’s are garlic powder and seasoned salt.  If it’s a little dry, I add soy sauce.  I don’t have a sodium issue, and actually have really low blood pressure so sodium isn’t an issue for me (thankfully!).  For a little kick, I love me some Sriracha.  YUM.

So, I like messing with this recipe.  No matter what, you get a filling and fulfilling, protein, fiber, vitamin packed lunch that I can actually look forward to.

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The rest of my Sunday morning was spent making vegan blueberry muffins.  Now, I won’t post the recipe, they were a total fail.  They were heavy, flavorless and dry.  Boo.  I got the recipe from Forks over Knives which I totally love.  I’ll tweak it, probably mix in some regular flour or pastry flour with the whole wheat flour, add some apple sauce for moisture perhaps.  But hey, ya win some you lose some ;)

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Side note-I don’t normally use so many canned goods.  My other alternative to the chili was going to be a tofu stir fry, with plain tofu and fresh veggies.  I just didn’t have the time for the chopping/prepping amidst the trial prep, so I went with the easier option!

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Welcome Back and Happy New Years!

I’ve been noticeably absent the last, oh year or so!  Sorry about that.  I felt a little burnt out on the blogging this time last year, and also felt the quality had gone down a little in my content. 

I’d really like to get back in it though!  With this new year comes a great deal of new aspirations and excitement.  First and foremost, I need to get back on a healthy track.  Much to my chagrin, I’m joining the masses with this nutrition trend!  But, for good reasons. 

2013 was a wonderful year for a lot of reasons.  I got engaged, moved in with my soon to be husband (<3 <3), went to Spain, made time for friends and family, and embarked on wedding planning.  Unfortunately, for a lot of other reasons, it was not a terribly healthy year for me.  I really let 2013 get away from me.  While I kept up running a bit (average about 2-3 days a week with some sporadic breaks for injury/sickness/laziness), it was not in a competitive way at all, and in fact I didn’t have one race the whole year…eesh. 

Probably more importantly, I let my nutrition completely fall by the wayside.  I’m still a vegetarian, but not a healthy one :/  LOTS of chocolate, snacking, big portions, and not nearly as many veggies as I used to get.  I didn’t cook lunches for myself as much as I did before either, so there was a fair bit more eating out (also not healthy for the budget!).  With the lack of nutrition came a gain in weight, not a huge amount, but still probably a solid 8-10 pounds of not good weight, accompanied by a loss of muscle from the lack of working out (#euphemismforfatgain).  I tried to get remotivated many times, but other than those runs and the occasional gym class, it wasn’t terribly successful.  Plus, with the added weight and lowered fitness, the running was exceedingly hard.  4 miles is my standard go to, and considering I trained for a half marathon less than a year and a half ago, that’s not terribly impressive.

Reasons why?  Well, lots of excuses.  Right around the time I got engaged (March), I started a new schedule at work.  This schedule is exceedingly more stressful, emotionally taxing, and draining than previous schedules I’ve had.  Perhaps because of the added stress, while at work I would raid cookie and candy jars with reckless abandon. I would come home virtually every night, and feel like a complete zombie.  I was sleeping more (mainly because of the lack of consistent 5:30am workout wake up calls!) but still felt exhausted and tired every day (dangerous combo of bad nutrition with stress).  I couldn’t drag myself out of bed, and starting the day already tired led to bad food choices, and the cycle just kept going. 

Add onto the work stress was wedding planning.  Endless vendor visits on weekends, and every spare moment at work spent researching and researching some more.  So many phone calls and charts!  While my fiancé has been super supportive and accompanies me to all the vendors, he can’t make phone calls at work and his internet access is pretty restricted so I was mostly on my own in the research and planning department.  Still, much of the excitement of the pending nuptials was dulled for me by the stress of planning the wedding while things at work were already so stressful.  Hard to see the forest through the trees as they say!

Thankfully, I’ve reached a turning point!  Towards the end of December, things at work finally calmed down (partially due to the holidays and partially do to finally being used to the schedule).  After a flurry of wedding work, we’re done with the big stuff.  We still have a lot of details, but mostly fun stuff we can do in our spare time.  I’ve finally been able to take a step back, and get excited for the wedding!  And being married to this wonderful man <3, and the wonderful times we have ahead.

With all that said, I’m sick of how I’ve been feeling and am determined to get back on the right track :)  <plus, the thought of fitting into the wedding dress helps on the motivation front!>  So what are my “resolutions” you may ask?  Here we go!

  1. More positive attitude generally Now, this is often a goal of mine.  I tend to be impatient…to put it mildly.  And I also tend to complain a lot, especially when I’m stressed.  Every year I try to get a little better, and while 2013 started off well, I’m sad to say I fell off that wagon pretty quickly.
  2. Fix my nutrition.  I’m not going on a diet, I’m trying to get back to a general state of healthfulness.  I’m going to go mostly vegan at least in these beginning stages.  The cheese and chocolate just has to go.  I’m sure this will greatly increase my energy and make me feel more balanced, which will help me with….
  3. Improve fitness I would like to start racing again.  It keeps me motivated and I also enjoy racing.  In the beginning of the year I’m going to focus on toning up (ahem wedding ahem) using muscle training and high intensity workouts.  Once I’ve lost some weight and gained some muscle, I want to return back to cardio land.  I want to compete in a triathlon.  If you remember, I tried this last year.  Can’t say I was terribly successful in that I had to change the Cherry Blossom into a 5K and never got terribly far in triathlon training.  But, I know I can do it.  Running has never been my forte, and triathlon could be a fun experience.  I’m a decent swimmer, and as my fiancé informs me, apparently have a good build for biking.  He has high hopes for my biking abilities! So, why not!  This probably wont come until late summer/early fall, but it’s on the horizon :)

So, there you have it.  I hope to update you all soon with more specifics and a training plan.  Otherwise, Happy New Year!  Anyone else have resolutions they’d like to share??

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Cherry Blossom 10 Miler – Training Week 1

Well hello there!  I haven’t posted my workouts yet, as they’ve been a few days on, a few days off, which isn’t terribly interesting to read.  But now, I have a written down plan (which you know I like) so hopefully I’ll stick to it!

As I mentioned, I’m training both for the Cherry Blossom 10 miler on April 7, and with the New Triathlete Program through DC Tri Club, goal race of June 2.  I’m trying to combine the two programs.

The DC Tri Club program is, well, not gonna fly.  It includes about 2 hours of exercise for the whole week, 4 days worth.  That’s just not going to cut it for me to actually get ready for a running race, or to survive a triathlon.  So Instead, I’ve turned to Conor, a Tri vet to help me formulate my plan.  It’s still in the works, and I’ll post it when I finish, but as of this week, here’s what we got.

Monday:  Off (I ran Saturday and swam Sunday)

Tuesday:  Run – Build pace for 5 miles

I did the Back on Pointe daily workout, which included jumping jacks, squats, tricep dips, crunches, lunges and leg lifts, plus some wall push ups.  I love using these work outs as short warm ups to get all the muscles in the body moving and ready to go.  This is integral before 6am ;)

Then I just settled in for a long-ish run, with the goal of 4, maybe 5.   I gradually increased the speed by mile, going 6.0 for the first, 6.1 second, 6.2 third, and 6.3 for fourth plus a half mile (I forgot to switch), with the last half mile being at 6.4mph.

I had to take a bathroom break about 2.5 miles in, but felt mostly pretty good.  The 5th mile was tough though, my legs felt super heavy.  Overall not a bad workout.

Wednesday:  Run: 3×1 mile with strength intervals in between

Started with Back on Pointe again: jumping jacks, tricep dips, crunches and obliques.  I omitted some of the ab work, mainly because I felt fat (had approximately 6 pounds of pretzels yesterday, straight up wheat all in my belly!) so I wasn’t feeling focusing on that area!  But, I incorporated the warm up with my own strength intervals:

  • 10 frog jumps
  • 10 squats
  • 10 fast squats (not locking knees in between for continuous muscle tension)
  • 16 jumping lunges
  • Alternate between: 15 leg lifts and 15 side leg lifts OR 20 calf raises in 3 positions (forward, toes in, toes out)

I did this interval before I started, and between each mile.  I used the stupid incline treadmill (you know one of those old ones that pretend to be flat and are really about 1.5%) so I have to admit the miles were pretty tough.

Disclaimer:  I use another treadmill, different brand, in my building and do not delude myself to think it’s inclined so I swear I’m not biased here!

Thursday: Spin class

Whoa crazy Hill Workout!!!  She was like and increase resistance. Increase.  Now sit.  But don’t let resistance off. FASTER! Ahh?!  Great workout though.  She super kicked my butt.  Literally.

The workout consisted of mostly climbs, getting out of the saddle, then maintaining resistance and sitting back down.  She also did a couple songs worth of sprint intervals.  By the end I was dying, but well worth it!

Friday: Run – Yasso 800′s – 5 miles

Return of the Yasso!  Check out my explanation about them here.  Essentially though, They’re just a series of 800 meter sets, as fast as you can go for that distance, followed by a brief walk to recoup.  So that breaks down to .50mi run, .15-.20 walk (depending on how long the treadmill takes to change speed), 10 times.  Buuut, I don’t usually have time for 10 so I usually do 8.

Since I haven’t done them in a while, I tried to ease myself in to find the right speed.

I started the first at 6.7, too slow for a speed workout but I didn’t want to go out to hard and not finish.  2nd set was 7.0, third 7.3, fourth and fifth 7.5.  Feeling confident, I did the sixth and seventh at 7.7, and last and final at 8.0.   Man was that killer!  The 7.5/7.7 range should be about where I’m doing these, or 8/7:50 minutes per mile.

But, I think it was a good way to ease in and see where I should be.  The great thing is you rack up mileage in short spurts, and by the end you have over 5 miles!  Technically I got to 5.3, but because of the walking and the treadmill lag, we’re gonna round down to 5 miles :)

Saturday:  Let myself sleep in – Rest day!  Except that I was at work all day…

Sunday: LSD run –  6 miles

I kept the pace near 10min/mile, though I sped it up a smidge at the end.  I had to step off a couple times, and my legs and lungs were not happy by the end.  Happy to start getting respectable distances in though!

Update to Come:

I finally buckled down and got biking gear.  My tush area really just wasn’t pleased with me.  I got biking shorts, shoes, cleats and pedals, I’ll post more specifics soon…ish. :)

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Blog Updates and New Training plans

Well Hello there!  After a blog hiatus, I’m deciding to try and give it a go again.  A mixture of workout apathy and not much by way of time to post led to a long lull here at Running With Rewards.  I’ve considering throwing in the towel, but hopefully with new motivation will come new inspiration for posting!

First, let’s talk about workout motivation.

After my half marathon, I let my work schedule get the better of me (*cough cough excuse cough cough*) and worked out sporadically at best.  I’d go more time than I’d like to admit without any specific exercise, and sporadic weeks where I’d work out 3 days in a row…only to give up for another long stretch.

Running’s just not cutting it for me.  I’ve never liked it terribly much, and I just can’t seem to get out of bed for it anymore.  So, Enter my new motivators:

Motivator A:  Cherry Blossom 10 Miler – April 7, 2013.   As some of you know, it’s a lottery admission.  I registered last year and didn’t get in, so I thought I’d try again.  And I got in.

Then I thought, “Crap…I have to run 10 miles!”  Eesh.  Considering we’re back to the point where 3 is hard, it’s gonna be an uphill battle.  BUT…I’ve heard it’s an amazing race.  Absolutely beautiful and crowded enough that you get carried through.

Pictures courtesy of Google Images:

Ooooo, Aaaaah.

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Plus, I signed up for the online training program, beginning January 28 which will provide a concrete, 10 week training schedule.  I’m hoping to build up a little base before then, and then jump full speed into the program!  Heaven’s knows I like rules and schedules, so I think it’ll be good for me.

cherry blossom

Motivator B:  I joined DC Triathlon club, in order to participate in their New Triathlete Program (NTP).  DC Tri is suuuuper popular around here, boasting I think they said 1300 members.  Conor has been a member for a little while now, though not overly active in the club itself.  But, as a veteran triathlon watcher, I’ve seen them around as well.  They always seem to be supporting each other and just having fun.

dc tri

So, when he suggested I try their program, my first reaction was “Um, no.”  Second reaction was, “that’s cute honey, but no. Triathlete I am not.”  About a month later though, once he had given up on asking, I had still been thinking about it.  I figured, maybe I’ll just go to the info session and see what it’s all about.  After all, I like training and I bought a bike last year sooo, what’s the harm in just going?

Side Note: Remember my bike?

Felt ZW Series ZW100 Womens Road Bike 2010

It’s worked out really well…except I haven’t gotten to use it terribly much because it’s been cold.  I bought it really for the Spring anyway (it’s just cheaper in the fall), and I’m excited to really start using it.

I went to the meeting and you know what?  I’m gonna do it!  I signed up this morning and I’m pretty happy about it.  The club members introduced the program as a really supportive and collaborative experience.  Group rides, runs and swims, happy hours and clinics.  I think the group atmosphere will really help get me motivated, and actually make working out fun again.  Worst case?  I spend 6 months getting to know new people and getting healthy, and discover I am not in fact destined to be a triathlete.  Not exactly a loss :)

Plus, I’ll get some swag to wear to make me feel hardcore ;)

dc tri 2

Both training programs coincidentally begins January 28.  So, until then, stay tuned!

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2012 in review :)

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 3,300 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 6 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Super Easy 5-ingredient Chili Recipe

On these cold holiday season days, sometimes all you want is something nice and warm in your belly to warm you from the inside out.  Last week I whipped up this super easy chili.  I don’t have a crock pot, but I would recommend one for this project if you have one!

Anyhoo, Here are the ingredients:

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  • 3/4 cup dried lentils
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can light kidney beans
  • 1 can dark kidney beans
  • 1 can tomatoes
  • Optional: Chili seasoning packet (This is the “Super Easy” part!)

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Instructions

  • Simmer the lentils in 1 1/2 cup water and 1/3 seasoning packet until they go from bright orange to a light orangey-yellow and fluff up

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  • Add another cup of water, and bean assortment

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  • Add as much more of the packet as you like (I added a little over a 1/3 more)
  • Bring to a boil, then simmer on low until it reaches the consistency you like
  • Enjoy ;)

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Trip to NYC – Good Eats!

I went to New York a few weeks back to celebrate an anniversary.  We had a great trip, filled with Broadway and Bagels.

First and foremost – the eats!  I stumbled upon an article in my VegNews (awesome magazine btw, tons of great articles plus vegan recipes and insights) that totally peaked my interest.  I can’t find the article, but basically it told the back story of this wonderful vegan restaurant called Candle Cafe in New York City.

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The restaurant opened in 1993, after it’s owners – who already owned a health foods store – won the lottery!  They took their winnings and opened one of the first vegan restaurants in NYC.  Thank goodness they won!  Read more about their journey on their website :)   They later opened Candle 79, a more upscale restaurant, and then Candle Cafe West with a similar menu to the Upper East side location.

We went to Candle Cafe East, and it was absolutely delightful.  The menu was fabulous, too much to choose from for sure.  Check it out here.  They had some really interesting salads, including the Aztec salad which had BBQ tempeh and spiced pumpkin seeds, and the Living Crunchy Sprout (cool name!).  The entre’s looked just as fabulous, but we had eaten a late lunch so didn’t indulge   Particularly enticing?  Thai Grilled Tofu and Porcini Crusted Seitan.  Also would have loved to try the Seitan dumplings…can’t tell you how cool it is to see tempeh and seitan on the menu, instead of normal restaurants where if there even is a veg option, its tofu.

Anyway, on to what we actually ate!  We started with a delightful lemonade which was a blended frothy light piece of a lemony sweet cloud.  It was SO good.  Can’t even describe how yummy this was, definitely set the stage for the meal.

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My partner in crime went for a lentil soup, which had great flavor and was really filling.  On the side was house made bread.  Yum!

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I had the BBQ tempeh sandwich with wilted kale and shallot-sage aioli.  The sandwich was awesome.  It was filling and tasty  great textures and really unique flavors.

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The close second choice was the Cajun Seitan Sandwich – “Cajun crusted seitan . . . served on toasted foccocia with ancho chili aioli.”  Whoa.  And the tofu club.  These people have sandwiches on lock.

After a truly delectable dinner on the Upper East Side, we headed down to Broadway for a show!

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We waited in the TKTS line the afternoon of the show, and while in line we had multiple recommendations for Bring It On: The Musical.  I had never even thought of suggesting this show, but, the reviews were too much to pass up and we scooped up our tickets.

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SO glad we did!!  It was an unbelievable show filled with totally legit cheer moves and booming vocals, with some added comic relief.  Wonderfully acted and just a really fun and entertaining show.

Then, lo and behold, we *accidentally* wound up at Lindy’s Cheesecake?  Oopsie!  When we went to NYC last year for New Years Eve, we actually did accidentally stumble upon Lindy’s out in Brooklyn, but this time was slightly less of an accident…

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What is Lindy’s you may ask?  Well first off, shame on you for not knowing!  As the child of a New Yorker, I was introduced to NY Cheesecake at a young age…as well as the age old rivalry between Lindy’s and Junior’s.  So I decided it was my personal mission on this trip to settle the debate, once and for all!

I can’t find Lindy’s cheesecake, but maybe that’s because heavenly bodies can’t have a URL.  It was TO DIE FOR.  The cheesecake was creamy and sweet and decadent and succulent and … wow.  SO amazing.  Best cheesecake I’ve ever had.  Seriously.  Man I want some right now…

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Phew.  Hard for me to come off that…As to Junior’s?  Tried it the next day.  NOT good.  As in SERIOUSLY not good.  And it cost $10 a slice!  It was dry, crumbly, not at all creamy, and had hardly any flavor.  Boo.  TOTAL win for Lindy’s.  Debate ended.

To work off the cheesecake we took a walk around Rockefeller Center, and saw the famous ice skating rink.  So festive!

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And then, at the Lego store nearby, a really cool lego rendition of the icon:

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Hard to tell them apart ;)

So what else was on the table? Pizza and Bagels.  Obvi.  Bagels at a Bagel and Bean near Central Park, and they were definitely superior to any DC bagel.  Now, you can get decent bagels in DC for sure, but these are on another level.  Poppy and Cream cheese, of course, because my momma didn’t raise no fool ;)

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After a long walk through and all the way around Central Park, we walked through the Columbia University Campus.  Then took the subway from the Upper West Side to the Lower East side, in hopes of finding a Kettle corn vendor which has the best kettle corn on the planet, which we tasted over New Years.  Unfortunately, because of Hurricane Sandy, much of the waterfront area was closed.  We did however find a really cute farmer’s market…with an unbelievable amount of pickle vendors and Kimchi vendors.  Odd, I know.  After walking through we found a hole in the wall Pizza joint, and settled in for our final iconic food group.

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Greasy.  Crunchy.  And delicious ;)

Our New York venture came to a close, but not before we got a good glimpse of the New Years Ball, which actually stays up all year but is risen I think on New Years Eve to be dropped for the count down.  You can see it right above the 2012.

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Then we had this to come home to:

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Such a good welcome home :)

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Carmelized Tofu

Due to a routine doctor visit, I let myself take a full afternoon off.  And it was lovely!  Time to leisurely go to the grocery store, pick out good ingredients for dinner, marinate and cook tofu, read for pleasure….man was it nice!  Plus, I got to feel slightly scandalous that I wasn’t at work :0

Anyhoo, so what did I cook?  A really fun Carmelized Tofu recipe.  The Boy really likes all things sweet, and has been known to add cinnamon to tofu, so I thought I’d try this one out.  I made substitutions based on what was on hand, but the basic recipe and method was great.  The tofu wound up being super delicious and a totally different spin.

*excuse the cell phone pictures!

Ingredients

  • 1/4 c rice wine or dry sherry – I used apple cider
  • 2 ts rice vinegar – I used regular vinegar
  • 1/4 c soy sauce
  • 1 t toasted sesame oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 t minced fresh ginger

  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1 lb extra-firm tofu, patted thoroughly dry and cut into 2 x 2x 1/3-inch pieces
  • 2 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 1/2 c thinly sliced white onion
  • 4 or more dried small red chilies (optional) – I used a chopped cerrano pepper
  • 5 scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced – regular onion

Instructions

  • Marinate and dry tofu (I always use my go to rub for tofu, adds a good base flavor – garlic powder, onion powder, and pepper; I usually don’t use salt because it just absorbs it, and I’ll usually add soy sauce or salt later); I let it sit for about a half hour before starting to cook.
  • Whisk the first 5 ingredients with sugar until sugar dissolves

  • Heat oil over high heat. Lay the tofu squares in the skillet in a single layer
  • Fry until golden brown on one side, about 4 minutes
  • Flip the tofu and immediately pour in the sauce; add the onions and pepper. The sauce will sputter and begin to caramelize.
  • Keep a close eye on it, and move the tofu around a little bit to let the sauce get under it. Continue cooking until the sauce has thickened and become a fairly thick glaze coating the tofu, about 4 minutes more

Yum!  I was really intrigued by how the soy sauce (super thin) thickened when added to the heat and other ingredients.

On the side I just roasted some veggies that were on sale – asparagus and carrot.

Aren’t they lovely?

I chopped the veggies into similar sized chunks, then tossed them lightly with olive oil and Italian seasonings.  Bake at 400 for about 15 minutes and they get all roasty toasty delicious!

Final Product:

Note on ingredient substitutions – Google is a beautiful thing.  Don’t have rice wine or sherry?  Google substitutions.  Google tells me that the point of the rice wine is to add some acid to the mix with some sweetness, and that apple juice can work as a substitute.  I had apple cider on hand and it worked fabulously :)

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Moroccan Butternut Squash Tagine

Well Hello There! I’ve missed you all!  I’m so sorry I’ve been terribly derelict in my blogging duties.  With work and the holidays, I just haven’t found the time.  But, I’ve still been cooking!  I’ll be sharing my most recent recipes with you all in the next few days :)

First up:  Moroccan Tagine. 

What on earth is that you may ask?  While I feel cool saying it, truth is I didn’t actually know what it was until I first found one of these recipes a few years ago.  And it was DELICIOUS.  The general definition is a North African stew consisting of spices and veggies.  The name comes from what it is supposed to be cooked in (a tagine) buuuut, a deep soup pot worked just fine.

But, problem is, I lost that recipe in one of my million moves.  #fail.  Anyhoo, I scoured the internet in search of recipes, and thought this one would be a good jump start.  Here are the ingredients recommended and what I used, and I left off what I didn’t want to add.

Stars of the show:

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 2 small onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper my new smoked paprika!
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste pumpkin puree
  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 sweet potato, cut into chunks Didn’t have any, so I just used extra squash
  • 2 carrots, cut into chunks
  • Added: 3-4 cups chopped kale
  • 2.5 cups vegetable stock or broth, divided
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 20-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Instructions:  Really easy.

  1. Heat the oil and cook onions until soft
  2. Add spices and pumpkin puree, cook until fragrant
  3. Add veggies and toss to coat, then add in the broth and lemon juice.  Bring to simmer.
  4. Cook partially covered over low heat for 25 minutes until everything is tender, then add chickpeas and simmer another 5-10 min.  Add Kale in just a few minutes before finished.  Don’t overcook your veggies (like I did) – remember you’ll be reheating this so cook them until just barely tender.

Yum!  Such a warm, fall stew that makes your belly feel full and happy :)

Notes:  Why pumpkin puree?  Because I didn’t have tomato paste and I figured they have similar consistencies, plus, why buy a thing of tomato paste for 1 tbs, knowing you won’t use the rest!  I had pumpkin puree leftover so I just popped that in.

Also, *someone* (me, cough cough) forgot to get chickpeas and carrots…so I cooked them separately and added them in.  I definitely think the recipe needs them to add more flavors and textures.  Adding them later worked just fine, I boiled each separately and spiced with a similar blend as the tagine, and plopped them in.  They soaked in and melded quite well.

Smoked Paprika?  Usually $6-10.  Trader Joes? $1.50.  Boom.  Bought it without thinking twice!  So excited.  it’s smoky and warm but still has good spice.

It was good…but not quite as good as last time.  I’ll keep working on it because it’s such a great fall/winter lunch.

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