A place for creativity in relationships, the kitchen, the gym, the home, the garden and, ultimately, in life.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

In Remembrance

Today is Veterans' Day, a day that comes every year as a reminder that wars are not fought by our government, but by human beings, a disproportionate number of whom are from a very different background from my own. It's hard not to get caught up in the stark unfairness of it all, that those who make the decisions to declare our countries at war are so rarely the ones who end up suffering the very real human sacrifices.

Both my grandfathers served in combat in World War II, a time in which the politics of war are remembered in much simpler terms than the ongoing wars in the Middle East. Good guys fought, bad guys lost. Today we know that soldiers aren't the only ones losing their lives in combat, and simple justifications for war don't really exist. My father's father, who died not at war but in his sleep, peacefully, when I was five, wrote letters home from war that have been immortalized in a collection by a local author, Jack London. These letters help show the human side to war, at a time when war is constant yet elusive, ever-present but rarely considered by those of us lucky enough to live in our insular country.

My grandfather is one of many whose letters are being preserved by The Letter Project. With Thanksgiving approaching, and in remembrance and gratitude to all those who have served, all those whose lives have been lost on any side of any war, and all those who strive for a peaceful world, please take a moment to give thanks.

Foggia, Italy: November 22, 1945

It is Thanksgiving Day and I am on guard duty. I can think of more pleasant ways to spend Thanksgiving, but I am well, warm and have just finished eating a wonderful dinner, so I guess I can't complain too much. For dinner we had turkey and all the trimmings, prepared and served excellently. Many people here were not so fortunate. As I sit here, in a little shack in the army parking lot I am guarding, I can see four old women huddled up against a bombed-out building, not a hundred feet away. They are having their Thanksgiving dinner too, only for them there is no turkey or peas or potatoes or cranberry sauce or pumpkin pie or ice cream. No, they are eating bread, nothing else, just plain old hard brown bread. I am sure the same thing is taking place throughout many countries in Europe. Why must these people go hungry? Why must they suffer for something they aren't responsible for? The ones who got fat under fascist rule are managing to stay fat under Allied rule, at least most of them. I cannot understand why God allows it to be this way.

-Staff Sergeant Ernest Howard, my Dadoo 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Fall Pseudo-Stuffing is Freakin' Delicious!

So last night I got a hankering for some fall flavors when the weather finally turned a bit cooler and gourds are everywhere you turn in preparation for Halloween. A slow Friday night with nothing on the agenda, I wandered through the Central Market aisles looking for inspiration. I gathered a few types of mushrooms (the woodsy flavor always reminds me of fall), some butternut squash, sage and pecans. Aha, I thought, I've got the perfect ingredients for a little Autumn hash. I grabbed a bottle of wine and was busily dreaming up how to cook this little number in under an hour due to the grumblings in my tummy, which is probably why the dish made it from the kitchen to my mouth without the chance for a good photo op.

I used a combination of locally grown white button mushrooms (pre-sliced for convenience) and a small handful of deliciously expensive shiitakes, but you could gather up an assortment of any of your favorite fungi. The wild mushrooms in particular add a woodsy aroma and flavor that just can't be matched by button mushrooms alone. I recently learned the trick to a good saute for mushrooms (here), the main trick being high heat, oil and room for the fungi to breathe.

Another key to this dish if expediency is your goal, is to buy a package of frozen, cubed butternut squash. You could take the time to roast the squash for 45 minutes yourself, but sometimes convenience wins out over bragging rights. But if you've got the time, a good roast would only add to the medley of fall flavors in this stuffing. Somehow, without even really trying, I think I've found my go-to stuffing for Thanksgiving, and it's completely grain free. The boyfriend thought the butternut squash was the regular old starchy stuffing bits, so you can probably fool the diehard grain lovers in your family. And I bet it would be spectacular cooked with some sausage mixed in too. Go crazy!

1 package frozen butternut squash, cubed
6 oz. button mushrooms, sliced
handfull wild mushrooms (or as many as your pocketbook will allow, sliced in large chunks or whole)
1/2 sweet onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp dried whole sage (you can use fresh, but dried keeps way longer)
1/2 c. pecans
coconut oil (olive oil will work too)
salt to taste


1. In a medium skillet on medium heat, dry toast the pecans. Set aside.
2. In the same skillet, heat 1 tbsp oil. Add wild mushrooms and a pinch of salt, but don't crowd the pan. Let brown, then turn mushrooms and finish searing. Set aside.
3. Same skillet (yes, a 1-pot dish!), heat a bit more oil then add button mushrooms. Don't worry about crowding these little guys, they're not as special or delicate as the wild bunch. When they start to shrink in size, add the diced onion. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until all the moisture has evaporated and the veggies are browning. In the last minute of cooking, add the minced garlic. Set aside.
4. In our heroic skillet, throw the frozen butternut squash in and let cook until you get browning on all sides. Throw in the sage, then add back in all the ingredients you've set aside, preferably on one plate to minimize dish duty afterwards. Mix it all together in the skillet and enjoy the intoxicating aroma coming from your now exhausted little skillet.
5. Serve with grilled chicken, sausage, steak, fish, pretty much anything you like, and enjoy!

I had the leftovers this morning mixed in with scrambled eggs and it was heavenly. Nothing better on a cool morning.  And if you're like me, you can eat this and pretend that you live in a place with an actual autumn.
Caution: Pseudo-Stuffing may transport you here

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Tabata This

That's me vs. wall ball in Fight Gone Bad '09
Today was Tabata Thursday at CrossFit Central, which means four minutes of hell on repeat for the uninitiated. I really love/hate Tabata. Tabata is an interval training regimen created by Dr. Izumi Tabata based on research that is way more complicated than I can summarize for you. Dr. Tabata demonstrated that athletes who used a four minute protocol of 20 seconds hard work, 10 seconds rest on repeat for 8 rounds showed dramatic gains in their anaerobic capacity and VO2Max (ability to consume oxygen). Read more about the protocol and what you can do with it here. Almost 15 years later, CrossFitters and other performance athletes are doing pretty much "Tabata Anything." This can be sprints, pullups, squats, pushups, thrusters, sandbag carries, anything! And if four minutes of work sounds easy to you, try it. Just try it for two minutes.

Today we did 3 sets of Tabata work: 8 rounds of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off for each exercise. Pull-ups, lunges, wall ball. Oh my god, the wall ball after the lunges nearly killed me. I literally fell on the floor when time was finally called. I was toasted.

Next time I Tabata something, I'm going to play this song on repeat to keep me motivated.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Mutton Busting

This past weekend in New Braunfels at the Comal County Fair, we inadvertently discovered an American pastime heretofore unexplored by us city folk: mutton busting. Not familiar with this spectacle of prepubescent athleticism? Watch this:


Yes, my friends, those are small children riding sheep and being thrown dramatically to the dirt in an arena full of grown-ups laughing. And it is as awesome as it sounds. I can't promise that no children were harmed in the filming of the above footage, but each child we watched get tossed to the ground stood up proudly afterwards and waved to the crowd.

Just because it's so damn cute, here are some other mutton bustin' gems. You're welcome.



Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Date with Fran and Other Crossfit Adventures

For about two years I've kept a log of almost all my workouts, so I can flip back through them and get ideas for new workouts as well as track my progress. I managed this for two entire years, and all of a sudden I can't seem to put pen to paper to keep the log going. So here's the quick and dirty on the past week or two of kick-ass crossfit action.

Last Friday I had the pleasure and pain combo of visiting Coach Crystal Nelson's 8am class at CrossFit Central for my date with Fran. For the uninitiated, Fran is a classic killer WOD comprised of two simple, brutal movements: thrusters and pull-ups. I have a love/hate relationship with both, which means I have a healthy resistance to the lady Fran. But I wasn't about to let on in my class. The prescribed weight for men is 95#, and 65# for women. Being my first time, I went with a respectable 55# and the small blue band for pull-ups (I'm thisclose to getting unassisted kipping pull-ups, but that's another story).

Whoa. Now I know what everyone has been talking about. This was a short but aggressive little workout, and I clocked in at 8:47 with a new rip in my right palm. It was worth it. Here's the deets:

WOD: Fran

Now watch this woman rip it up and see if that inspires you to take the stairs instead of the elevator today.

In other crossfit news, I also managed to do 150 box jumps yesterday, sprinkled with a few dozen handstand pushups (modified by placing my knees on the box, hands on the ground, torso vertical). And this morning was my farewell Therapy Bootcamp WOD to dedicated gal-pal Sarah, who is departing for greener pastures next week. The ladies happily tackled partner wheelbarrow carries, donkey kicks and a short-but-sweet WOD of box jumps, tricep dips, lunges & situps (21-15-9, just like dear old Fran). It was a fun, sweaty way to say goodbye to a dear friend, and we now have an open spot on our team if anyone wants to meet up Tuesday mornings at 7am for a little crossfit fun!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Recipe Half-Win

While I'm sure The Boyfriend would tell you that he loves everything I cook, there are times when I'm better able to please my palate than his. Last night would be a case in point, although he was very gracious about it (well, mostly).  Despite his initial reaction to my concoction, I found it to be a delicious and easy way to use up extra zucchini (Thanks Mel!) that might otherwise shrivel in my fridge for want of a good recipe. See, I want to love zucchini the way I love most vegetables, but I just can't always bring myself to throw it into a dish without wrinkling my nose at it first. I needed a solution, and a healthy one at that, so I browsed around and found some delectable and heavy recipes for zucchini fritters. Mmm, I thought, I can definitely fry me some zucchini drowned in batter! But the health-conscious part of my brain intervened and helped me create a very reasonable facsimile full of good stuff for the body and soul. It may not have done the trick for my vegetable-averse man, but it worked like magic for me. I'll celebrate this one as a half-win, and maybe it will satisfy at least one person in your household as well. You can't win 'em all, right?

Zucchini Coconut Fritters

2 zucchini
2 eggs
4 tbsp coconut flour 
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp paprika
salt & pepper to taste
coconut oil for pan-frying

1. Shred zucchini using a cheese grater or mandoline, then squeeze out the water with your hands. Get messy.
2. Heat 1-2 tbsp coconut oil in frying pan over medium heat, just enough to coat the bottom.
3. In a mixing bowl, scramble the eggs, then add the zucchini and all other ingredients, stirring together.
4. In small dollops, drop spoonfuls of the mixture in the heated pan, pressing lightly to form a disc.
5. Just like a pancake, let one side cook to a light brown, then flip and brown the other side.

I served these warm and with a sprinkle of fresh tomato, but they'd probably be delicious dressed up with (non-paleo) creme fraiche or a pico de gallo. They went great with my sauteed bell peppers and sausage. Good luck and remember to celebrate even the recipes that are only successful for you!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Rainy Days and (Almost) Mondays

It's a day for curling up with a book in your pajamas, sipping hot cocoa and not getting out of bed for this pseudo-Monday. Alas, I'm fully dressed, in front of a computer under fluorescent lights and not likely to see my pj's or bed for quite a while.

I always think of this song on days like today, and imagine myself staring dreamily out a window while the rain pours down, with a paradoxical melancholic contentment. Somehow it makes me feel better.