Exorcise the Demons

Normally my brain space is occupied with cooking and recipes.

But lately I’ve been thinking a lot about exercise.

In his book Food Rules, Michael Pollan famously suggests that we

Eat food

Mostly plants

Not too much

It simplifies all of the confusion surrounding food, diets, scientific research and recommendations.

I believe the same simplistic mindset can be applied to exercise.

Be active

Be consistent 

Don’t do “too much”

1. BE ACTIVE

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Somehow, exercise became synonymous with being a gym rat. I would argue that true exercise are the things you do in your daily life that have the added bonus of keeping you fit. These are the things you either have to do like cleaning the house and shoveling snow or the things you do for fun like playing a pick-up game of basketball or walking the dogs. Every move you make is an “activity.” I think of exercise as just a more “structured” activity.  Don’t beat yourself up if you had to mow your acre of land with a push-mower but didn’t make to the gym in time for spin class. You worked plenty of muscles mowing. Now, if you have a riding mower and haven’t walked more than 20 feet today, get your ass on a treadmill.

2. BE CONSISTENT

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I think this is probably the most important concept for anyone trying to be more active or exercise more. It really doesn’t matter what you decide to do, it only matters that you are consistent. When I first started exercising, I loathed the gym and the thought of running made me vomit in my mouth a little bit. So I did something I was already good at.

I walked.

And I committed to walking for 20 minutes at least three days a week.

It may not seem like a lot, but I knew that I could accomplish that consistently.  Over time, the walks increased, I added yoga and eventually I picked up my feet and started to jog-sloooooowwwwwly. I knew that if I wanted exercise to become part of my lifestyle, I would have to enjoy what I was doing so I took things slowly until I was ready for more.

Note that being consistent does not mean doing the exact same thing over and over again.

Which leads me to my next point…

3. DON’T DO TOO MUCH

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Don’t go all out, guns blazing, and try to run a marathon after you’ve been a couch potato for 20 years.  You probably could do it, but at what cost? Is the risk of injury, broken toe nails, and grueling training schedules really how you want to make your foray into an active lifestyle? Its hard to get motivated to be more active when spend all of your free time recovering.

Or maybe you are fit enough to run a marathon.

It doesn’t mean you have to train for one year round. It’s no surprise that in a country where bigger always equals better, that exercise that is harder, longer, and more demanding is scarily becoming the trend.

It’s more natural to choose a variety of activities, take breaks from doing repetitive exercise, and let your body rest so that it can rebuild and repair.

Think about it.

Back in the day, farmers worked the land all spring and summer-an extremely physically demanding task.

And what did they do in the winter?

They rested.

They rested so that they had the strength and energy to do it all again next  spring.

I realize that in this day and age, we don’t have to gear up to till hundreds of acres of land, but if you spent the summer running, biking, hiking, and racing, feel free to take it in a different direction for a while.

Do some yoga, lift heavy things, or try some high intensity interval work-outs.

Doing the same workouts for years on end is a sure fire way to burn your muscles and bones out.

And I’m really trying to be a 90 year old professional ski jumper.

So I need to keep myself healthy until then.

I’m sure this goes without saying, but I’m not a freakin’ doctor, I’m not a trainer, and I really have no formal education in exercise other than picking the brain of my ninja friend.

So please consider these observations and not advice.

In other words, don’t sue me.

A law suit would surely affect my future ski pro status.

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Quit It

Well, well, well.

Look who’s back.

I’m talking about me, not you.

I took  a little hiatus.

I let myself get totally caught up in the whirlwind of the holidays, family get togethers, and weekends filled with everything and nothing.

It was glorious.

I thought seriously about quitting the blog.

Except I hate quitting.

The nice thing about a hiatus, though,  is that it gives you the space to put things into perspective.

So I took a few months to put my life into perspective.

I realized that quitting doesn’t always that mean you are giving up.

Sometimes it means you are changing your course.

Sometimes it means stopping the things that aren’t good for you.

Sometimes it means setting something aside so you can focus on more important things.

I don’t want to quit the blog.

But sometimes other things are more important.

So I’m quitting.

Not the blog, silly.

I’ve still got shit to say.

But I’m quitting adhering to ridiculous self-imposed routines.

I’m quitting worrying about how other people will react.

I’m quitting doing things that drain me.

And my job.

I totally quit my job.

It drained me in a way that rendered me totally ineffective as a human being.

So now that I’ve rested and some of my human-ness is beginning to return, I have the mental capacity to string words into sentences and press a button on a camera.

Except now I’ll only do it when the inspiration strikes and not when I’m trying to adhere to a self imposed quota of blog posts.

Didn’t know I did that, did you?

I’ll tuck the rest of my oddities away for another day.

For now, we’ll return to the food.

I was watching a completely obnoxious cooking show about “How to live to 100″ that was both irritating and engaging at the same time.

In other words, I loved it.

And I loved the idea of “Cheesy Cauliflower Popcorn” that showed up at the end of the episode.

Could it be true?
Could a vegetable really taste like crunchy, buttery popcorn?

The answer is no.

No it can’t.

There was nothing poppy or corny about it.

But it was pretty tasty.

And making cauliflower tasty is a feat in and of itself.

So I consider this a success.

That, and the fact that it makes eating an entire head of cauliflower feasible.

Not advisable, but feasible.

Roasted Curry Cauliflower

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1 head cauliflower

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 teaspoon curry powder

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

pinch salt

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.

Cut leaves and stem from cauliflower.

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Using hands, break cauliflower into small bite-sized pieces.

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In a large bowl, mix cauliflower, canola oil, curry powder, garlic powder, and salt.

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Mix until each piece is well coated.

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Place on foil lined baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, stirring half way through the cooking time.

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Put on a movie and enjoy a big bowl of……..cauliflower.

Save A Lot

I hate daylight savings time.

That extra hour of sleep for one freakin’ day is just not worth a five o’clock sunset.

It was barely afternoon before the darkness settled in today.

Everywhere.

If I were a better photographer I would have taken photos in the bright morning light.

But I was busy with Target practice.

What’s Target practice?

Oh, that’s just when I go to Target and practice enormous amounts of self restraint by not spending over $100.

You should try it.

It’s really a work-out in willpower.

Also a work-out in willpower?

Figuring out what to do with 189 pieces of leftover Halloween candy.

I think it’s cute how people post all these recipes with leftover Reece’s Pieces and Snicker’s bars.

As if there is EVER any leftover chocolate candy.

Anyway, I got most of it taken care of, but I had a bag of cinnamon candies that have been haunting me.

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And since it’s already dark outside, why don’t you pop up a bowl of  Candied Corn and settle in for a good movie night?

This makes a small batch because, well, I only had a handful of candy left.

Deal with it.

CANDIED CORN

2 tablespoons popcorn kernels

1/4 cup cinnamon candies

1 teaspoon canola oil

sprinkle salt

Place kernels in a brown lunch bag and fold the top over.

Microwave for 2 minutes or until the popping has slowed.

Yes! 

You can really make air popped popcorn like this!

Pour candies and oil into a small saucepan and cook over low until liquified.

Be careful because the syrup is very, very, hot.

Pour the hot syrup over the popcorn and stir quickly as the candy will begin to harden almost immediately.

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Enjoy the darkness.

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HALLOWINNING

I’m trying to convince my husband to let me be a stay-at-home wife, but he’s not having it.

The thing is, work is really starting to interfere with my recreational time.

In my fictional life, I spend all my time at home cooking delicious recipes and organizing my home.

In my real life, aint nobody got time for that.

Well, maybe I would have more time if I didn’t spend 7 hours of my Saturday burning caramel popcorn that I was trying to make for a Halloween party.

WHY IS CARAMEL SO HARD!?!?!

I barely had time to put on my Halloween costume.

Which is less of a costume and more of a fantasy.

It’s what I really want to be when I grow up.

Liberated women everywhere, be warned.

This will shock and terrify you.

A true Halloween horror to the feminist movement.

I want to be a 50′s housewife.

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The whole “working outside of the home” thing was way overrated.

I don’t think women in the 70′s considered the consequences of their actions.

In what universe did it seem like a bad idea to let someone else go to work everyday and bring home money for you?

So anyway,  as the bewitching hour neared on Saturday, managing my time got a little tricky,

I had no time to cook up a Halloween treat.

And I burned the shit out of 7 batches of caramel.

I didn’t have any more time to burn.

So I mixed up a no-cook honey caramel concoction.

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And added bourbon.

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Because bourbon is timeless.

NO-COOK BOURBON HONEY CARAMEL SAUCE

1 cup honey

2 tablespoon non-dairy butter

1 teaspoon bourbon

1/2 teaspoon molasses

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine.

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Collect award for best costume.

Halloween Winning

Even though I look like a scary mess in this photo.

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HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

The Roaring Twenties

I feel like I’m supposed to say something really profound here.

You know, this being the last day of of the last year of an entire decade of being a twenty something.

I’m sure I’m supposed to have come to important life realizations, looked back fondly at the crazy, bad, awesome decisions I made over the last ten years, and reflected on how much I’ve grown as a human being.

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Instead I realized  that I married Smokey The Bear’s long lost brother.

Perhaps I should be in some sort of existential crisis state where I round up all of my regrets and ruminate about time lost.

Except that’s all very serious and whiny.

And I try not to do that outside of my own head.

So here it is.

The last hurrah of my roaring 20′s.

Which naturally occurred the weekend before my 30th birthday.

Because I don’t go out during the week.

Because I’m old.

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But not too old to celebrate a good craft beer.

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Beer builds bridges into the future.

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As a thirtysomething. 

A time when getting kitchen appliances is more exciting than kicking ass at keg-stands.

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I love you new-used Vitamix Blender.

I’m desperately clinging onto my twenty something self.

But somehow ready to embrace what my thirties has to bring.

 After all, the Thirties is when prohibition ended.

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And to that I say, party on.

Role Reversal

My husband came home looking all sad panda the other day.

The doctor told me I have high cholesterol.”

Guess all those late night runs to the border for 4th meal caught up to you, eh?

“She told me to stop eating so much meat.”

You don’t say.

“And no more fast food.”

Well, how about that.

“Do we have any vegan cookbooks?”

Why, yes. Yes, we do.

“Do they have pictures.”

No. No, they don’t.

If only there were some sort of vegan cookbook with pictures of how to make everything.”

Yes, Husband. Wouldn’t that be neat if there were some thoroughly documented vegan recipe log with pictures and step-by-step instructions?

Yes, that would be really neat.

DO YOU EVEN KNOW ME?!?!

Then husband said he would like to learn how to cook.

“Can you teach me how to cook something?”

Sure. What do you want to learn how to cook?

“Sandwiches.”

Sandwiches?

DO YOU EVEN KNOW ME?!?!?!

And how the hell do you not know how to make a sandwich?

Sorry.

I lost my cool there.

Yes, Husband. I can teach you to make a sandwich.

A man sandwich.

First, get into your bare feet and head to the kitchen.

Just kidding.

First, wash that stank off your hands.

This is a basic hot sandwich recipe that can be customized to your extremely finicky palate  liking.

MUSHROOM STEAK SANDWICHES

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16 oz. portobello mushroom caps

2 medium onions

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon canola oil

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

Slice the ends off of the onion and peel away the skin.

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Cut in half length-wise.

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Put cut side down and then slice into strips.

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Add onions to skillet.

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Slice mushrooms.

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Add to the onions.

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Add the soy sauce and any additional seasonings.

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Seriously. Experiment with the spices.

This is how you learn to cook.

For this batch I added 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and 1 teaspoon maple syrup. It had some heat!

Cook for 15-20 minutes or until peppers are cooked but still a little chewy and firm.

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Serve on crusty bread with mixed greens or herbs.

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Don’t worry Husband.

I know you dislike parsley trees in your food.

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I will hand pick each piece of greenery off of your sammich.

Better eat fast.

You still have all those dishes to do!

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Batch 29

This week hit me like a Mac truck.

Maybe it was all the sugar.

Or the long hours at work.

Or the sugar.

Desserts in this house are a recipe for disaster.

They usually require a vacuum.

Because we can Hoover us some cake and cookies.

So when I was thinking of what to make for the husband’s birthday, it seemed like a terrible idea to have an entire cake seducing us with it’s rich, chocolatey aroma.

Cupcakes seemed like a reasonable alternative for their perfect little portion controlled cakelettes, but the idea of 12 cupcakes lingering on my kitchen counter was enough to make my insulin jump just thinking about it.

So I took a little foray into small batch baking.

And came up with a recipe that makes four svelte servings of chocolate brownie cupcakes.

Not wanting to dirty up an entire cupcake pan, I poured the batter right into four ounce mason jars.

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And when they emerged from the oven all cupcake and crackely, I heaped on some brandied cherry topping.

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Because I can’t pipe frosting to save my life.

And I can’t make frosting if I use all the powdered sugar practicing my skillz.

SMALL -BATCH BLACK FOREST

BROWNIE CUPCAKES

(Makes 4 cupcakes)

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For the cherry topping:

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1  (12 oz.) bag of frozen cherries

1/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons arrowroot starch

1-2 teaspoons brandy

For the cupcakes:

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Want a more traditional cupcake? Omit the baking chocolate in the batter.

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

pinch salt

1 oz. baking chocolate, chopped

1 tablespoon canola oil

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup non-dairy milk, warmed

To make the topping: 

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Cook cherries and sugar over medium heat until heated through.

Add arrowroot starch and boil for one minute.

Remove from heat and stir in brandy.

Transfer to a container and refrigerate until ready to use.

To make the cupcakes:

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Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.

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Stir in the chopped chocolate.

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Make sure to give the chocolate a good chop. This will make it easier for it to melt into the batter when you add the warm milk.

Add oil, vanilla, and cider vinegar.

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Slowly pour in the warm milk.

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Stir until batter is smooth.

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Distribute batter evenly into four, greased (4 oz) mason jars.

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Place jars on a cookie sheet before placing in the oven.

Bake for 12-14 minutes or until top springs back when touched.

Cool.

Top with cherry topping and additional chocolate shavings.

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The best thing about these cupcakes?

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They’re portable!

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HUSBAND!

Hope your first 29th birthday is the best!

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I know my second one is going to be epic.

Spinning My Wheels

You know who shows up to bike races?

People who are really good at bike races.

And then there’s me.

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Peddling faster than I’ve ever peddled in my life and still coming in at the back of the pack.

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It was my first race.

My only goal was to finish all 25 miles.

And pedal continuously.

My strategy was just to ride comfortably and enjoy the journey.

That lasted three seconds.

When I saw the other women in my age group take off at break- neck speed, I wanted to follow them.

They were out of sight in another three seconds.

My next plan was to just hope and pray that I could “out endurance” them.

You know, hopefully they would get tired in the middle of the race and I would sort of just ride on by.

I never saw them again.

At mile 15 my i-pod quit working.

Which is fitting since  cyclists don’t seem to use any sort of technology.

Other than the 3000 dollars of it outfitted on their bikes.

Even still, I felt pretty damn good when I sailed through the finish line.

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I enjoyed a post race beer and the conversations happening all around me.

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That wind at Todd’s Mill was the worst!

Brian wiped out at a traffic cone. He’s at the ambulance.

At one point I had to slow down to 21 mph!

I kept trying to draft but couldn’t catch up to anybody!

Draft?

Huh?
The only draft I know is of the beer variety.

I was clearly out of my element.

But it was fun.

I will learn.

And I will be back.

Now we all know the best part of a race is the carb loading that takes place before hand.

Most people load up on pasta and starchy veggies, but all I wanted was cereal.

The sugary kind.

With no nutritional value other than manufactured supplemental crap.

I spent a week grabbing handfuls of the hubby’s secret cereal stock.

And then I found this.

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Ugh.

He is going to be so cranky when he finds out all his Honey Bunchies of Oaties is gone.

And I didn’t buy any more cereal this week.

Besides this.

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Which I ate in two days.

Shut it.

I was in training.

It’s cool, though.

There’s a reserve box of corn flakes chilling out in the pantry.

From when I was pretending that non-sugary cereal tasted good.

It doesn’t.

But I can make it taste good.

HONEY BUNCHES OF O-SHIT THIS STUFF IS GOOD!

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8 cups corn flake cereal

1/2 cup quick cooking oats

1/2 cup chopped almonds

1/4 cup honey

1 teaspoon canola oil

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.

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Pour honey and canola oil in a microwave safe container and microwave for 30 seconds (or just warm it on the stove).

Add cereal to a very large bowl.

Pour half of the honey mixture over the cereal and stir, making sure to coat as much of the cereal as possible.

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Add oats, almonds, and cinnamon and mix thoroughly.

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Add the rest of the honey and mix once more.

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Pour cereal onto foil lined baking sheets and bake for 5-7 minutes.

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Recipe note: Despite my complicated mixing process, this actually makes better “bunches” if you mix all the dry ingredients and then drizzle the honey over the whole batch and then stir. I guess simplicity is best!

Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Cereal will crisp up once cooled.

Try not to eat half of the batch while scooping it into an airtight container.

Or just eat it.

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And tell your husband to buy his own damn cereal.

KEEP CALM AND PEDAL ON!

Lessons from the Master

I like the idea of Fall but I’m not quite ready for summer to go away yet.

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It’s hard to think about pumpkins, corn mazes and apple picking when the sun is blazing and the thermometer is tipping at ninety degrees.

And that suits me just fine.

The husband and I trying to squeeze in every drop of sunshine that we possibly can until the weather turns cold and we have to trade in our water skis for snow skis and stow away our wake boards in favor of snowboards.

The last sentence probably makes you think we are water sport enthusiasts.

We totally are.

I mean, check this out.

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It’s a rough life.

No, really.

The husband totally got stuck in that floaty tube and then declared he was going on a diet.

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What’s that one where you drink lemonade with maple syrup and cayenne pepper?

You mean the master cleanse?

Yeah, that one. I’m going to do that. For five days. Do we have any lemons?

Let me just start by saying this is a terrible idea.

This is a man who drank a two liter of soda by himself last weekend.

And ate an entire package of Oreos.

And feigned ignorance when there was all but 3 chocolate chips left in the bag.

Also the same man that ate 11 donuts in the middle of the night.

With no recollection of it in the morning.

A five day cleanse consisting of little more than lemon water, maple syrup and cayenne pepper?

This sounds like a terrible idea.

And a delicious cocktail.

Let me know how that cleanse works for you babe.

I’ll just be over here sippin’ on the last dregs of summer.

The Master Craft

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1 cup of water

Juice of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons whiskey

1 tablespoon of maple syrup

Pinch Cayenne Pepper

Ice

Add the water, lemon juice, whiskey, maple syrup and small (tiny!) pinch of cayenne pepper to a glass and stir until well mixed.

Add ice.

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Sip away!

Pumped

There hasn’t been much cookery around these parts lately.

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The extent of meal preparation has involved making banana berry smoothies,  a loaf of peanut butter and jelly’s and eating frozen edamame straight from the bag.

Its been delicious.

But then fall came and smacked me in the face.

And suddenly freezing all of my super ripe bananas for smoothies and banana ice cream seemed irrelevant.

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Pumpkin isn’t allowed in any form until at least September.

A strict rule that I never adhere to.

But now I at least feel less awkward about drinking pumpkin lattes by the half gallon.

Get ready for four months of pumpkin madness.

Starting with butter.

Banana Maple Pumpkin Butter

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BANANA MAPLE PUMPKIN BUTTER

2 very ripe bananas

1   (15 oz.)  can pumpkin puree

1/4 cup maple syrup

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food process and puree until smooth.

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Pour into a small pot over medium-low heat and cook for about 30 minutes or until thick.

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Fall is here.  

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GET PUMPED!