Sunday, June 27, 2010

Third Tri's a Charm

I am spent. I did my third triathlon today, the Iron Girl Atlanta. It was my second Iron Girl event, and I'm glad I registered for it. I had a different experience than last year, when I was like a Muppet on crack - SUPER excited, all day, even after the race when I was really, really, really tired. Today, however, was a day of high's and low's. I still enjoyed the experience, but it was a completely different one than last year's.

Let's start at the beginning: yesterday. We attended a pool party, at which I (smartly) decided not to partake in any alcoholic beverages or food (burgers, hot dogs, the usual... although it looked super tasty), but Dave rather enjoyed himself. So much so, in fact, that he was awake all night dealing with "stomach issues." Thanks to his being awake at 3:40 am, he noticed that I wasn't up at 3:30, as he thought I was supposed to be, and he was able to wake me up in time to get on the road by 4 am. Didn't you set an alarm, you ask? Of course. But on the iPhone, you can set the DAY you want to wake up at particular times, not just the time. So, I made a huge error yesterday in setting my alarm for 3:45 am on SATURDAY instead of Sunday. How many PhD's does it take to set an alarm clock?

When things like this happen, it reminds me that everything always works out the exact way they're supposed to. High point!

Before jumping in the water, I was crazy nervous. Terrified. It was the same feeling I had at Iron Girl last year; oddly enough, I wasn't that nervous before the triathlon I did earlier in the month. Maybe it's because Karl was freaking me out yesterday with talk of crocodiles in Lake Lanier, or maybe it's just because I realized that I've trained for 2 years for triathlons, and the event day is the culmination of all the hard work I've done for the year, so I felt extra pressure to meet my goal of finishing in under 2 hours. It's also super easy to become insecure waiting around to jump in the lake, especially if you're like me and prone to social comparisons. There are people of all body types who compete in triathlons, and I think part of the process if you're an athlete of any kind is accepting the body that you have - the one that God has so graciously provided for you to use while you're here on this earth, the one you've spent countless hours training with in order to prepare you physically for the day, the one that you've hopefully fueled properly with good nutrition - and trusting it to do its job for you on race day, which is to finish strong, in the very best time that you possibly can. Still, it's sometimes difficult to accept that all the training in the world won't necessarily translate to a stereotypical, ripped physique. I'm looking at you, fellow 29-year-old who was about 6' and 115 pounds with incredible muscle tone... or 46-year-old who was closer to my height but had abs of steel... Here we have a "low point" as a result of nerves, self-doubt, insecurity and social comparison.

Related side note: I weighed myself on Friday for the first time since December 31. It was my new year's resolution to stop obsessing with how much I weighed, and start focusing instead on how I felt, listening to what my body told me it needed as far as food goes, and letting biology figure out the rest. I will say that I've gained weight (I'm now at 131) and lost body fat percentage (hanging in there at 22.2%). I have felt better, mentally and physically, the past 6 months than I've felt in a long time, I've had time to worry about more important things in life, and I've finally stopped trying to calculate how many calories I've burned versus how many calories I should consume every day. And, my husband thinks I'm hot. So, I'm happy with that.

The first real "high point" of the day was the swim. I swam hard today. I courageously stayed in the middle of the pack as much as possible, swimming over and around people. I was winded within about 4 minutes, but eventually found my pace and finished the 1/3 mile swim in 11 minutes - exactly on target! I ran, ran, ran to the bike transition, feeling great.

Then, there was a "low point" on the bike. Actually, the whole bike ride was a big downer. The front part of my shin started hurting. I was going at a slow pace. I wasn't passing as many people as I hoped. 52 year olds were zooming past me. My gears weren't shifting smoothly. I was wishing I'd been courageous enough to get clips before the race (everyone I know who uses clips has one major, epic fall, usually resulting in some sort of serious injury requiring an ER visit and stitches, and I wasn't prepared to handle that before this race). I dropped, and lost, my water bottle at about mile 3 of 17. It was hot. There were near vertical hills to conquer. I was getting tired, and focusing too much on the fact that I wasn't pedaling fast enough and was worried I wouldn't have any energy left for the run. It was just a downer, all around. In hindsight: I should've corrected my thinking. I should've stopped beating myself up and fretting, and instead should have focused on smiling more, having a positive attitude, enjoying the course, and having fun. Lesson learned, because today's bike was no fun at all.

Finally, I made it to the run transition. I threw off my helmet, took a few swigs of water from my emergency reserve bottle at the transition station, and went for it. For those of you who have never experienced running after riding a bike for an hour and 11 minutes and swimming 1/3 of a mile before that, lemme just tell you: it's weird. Your body says something like "under no circumstances are you going to run right now," but your mind says something like "RUN! GO! FASTER!" The run, I will say, felt like another low point, but ended up being the best part of the day. First of all, when you start running in the tri, you feel like you're crawling. Or, at least I do. Low point. My pacing is completely screwed up. I feel like I'm barely jogging, but I'm always going faster than I expect. Today we had a definite "mind over matter" situation. I would not let myself walk until at least mile 1, where I knew I'd have the chance to drink some water and walk for a little while. Sure enough, the mile 1 water/Gatorade station came, and I took one of both. I sipped the Gatorade, which was risky since I never drink Gatorade during a workout, and dumped the water all over my head. Heavenly! I told myself that if I could run the first mile, I could definitely run until mile 2, and I nearly made it. My body shut down going up a hill, and I had to walk up to the top. On the walk, I turned the "low" into a "high," promising myself that I was going to run the remainder of the course after I got to the top of the hill, and I did!

During the run, when I usually focus on something like staying healthy, or motivated, or rainbows and kittens, I told myself something kind of shocking: it's time for a break. I have the Peacthree Road Race next weekend, and I think I'm taking a serious break after that. I'll still be working out, but probably not as much for a while. I get the sense that I need some recovery, and that thought actually motivated me more. So, sort of a "low point" was realizing that I needed to rest for a while. I made up my mind that I probably shouldn't add on to my swim, or run, and probably shouldn't sign up for an Olympic distance tri next spring.

But then, after the race was over, I noticed a man who'd had his legs amputated, above the knees. When he turned around, I noticed that on his prosthetic leg, right where the back of his knee would have been was a bumper sticker that said "Iron Man Finisher." And I thought, well, crap. If he can do an Iron Man, with no legs, who am I to say that I can't do more than I just accomplished? High point: inspiration to do more. Eventually.

I felt the greatest when I realized that my pace on the run was 8:07, which is crazy fast for me. Yay, endurance! And I also felt pretty great when the race was finished.

Other assorted high points for the day: that ice cold Aflac sponge you get as you walk through the finish chute; the week of June 23, 1973 was an incredible week for music, as I found out on a rerun of Kasey Kasem's American Top 40 on XM 70s on 7, during the drive back; La Parilla with the Baesmans for lunch; 2 1/2 hour nap; dinner with the Changs at Taco Mac.

Low point: soreness and exhaustion. Lots of it.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Some Things that Actually Happened Yesterday

Two non-food-related stories.

Story 1. Yesterday, I went into Office Max to pick up a case of printer paper. I walked right past the post-it notes, the ink pens, the Sharpies, the calendars, the colored notepads, and all the other office supplies I hold dear, and picked up a 20 pound box of copier paper, placed it in my cart, and wheeled on up to the cashier to check out and go on my way. The following conversation ensued between me and a male employee. We'll call him "Max."

Max: (looks in my cart, with disbelief, and looks at me) You mean you lifted that box ALL BY YOURSELF?
Me: (thinking to myself... oh Lord... here we go.) Yep. I sure did.
Max: (staring in disbelief, still) Well, you don't have to worry about picking that up again; I'll bring it right out to your car for you!
Me: Ok. Thank you.
Max: I mean, *laughing & grabbing my arm* look at that, you've got such little arms!
Me: (infuriated and offended) Hey. I might be little. But I'm strong. I swim. I've got muscles. I can handle it. But since you offered so nicely, I'll LET you bring this box out to my car.
Max: So do you have a rewards card with us?
Me: No. Is it free?
Max: Heck yeah it's free! Here, sign up for it.
Me: Ok. (note: not even creepy Office Max employees can stop me from the potential for office supply discounts.)
Max: (observing me as I fill out my Office Max rewards program form, where I'd just written my name) Laura, how are the kids?
Me: (thinking: is he talking to me? I'm going to ignore him.)
Max: Laura, how are the kids?
Me: (continuing "ignore" phase, failing to look up.)
Max: LAURA! How are those kids?
Me: Are you talking to me?
Max: *dumbfounded look*
Me: First of all, I don't have any kids. I have a cat. And second of all, I don't even go by Laura. Anybody who knows me, knows that.
Max: (nervous laugh and sorry excuse about how he thought he knew me)
Me: That's ok.
Max: That actually worked on a girl one time.

Story 2. Last night, Dave and I went to SweetWater for Jack's birthday party. It's the first time we'd been back to the brewery since our wedding day. Lots of nostalgia ensued.

We retrieved our first beers, and walked outside. I put on my sunglasses, reached into my purse and whipped out a beer koozie for my beer glass. Here's interesting conversation of the day #2.

Dave: (shaking his head, like "NO") Really? You can't be serious.
Me: Of course I'm serious.
Dave: (hanging head and shaking it in disbelief)
Me: Why else would I carry around an emergency koozie, in my purse, if I wasn't going to use it at opportune times? It is hot out here. And my beer will get warm if I don't use the koozie. And my hands will get cold. Besides, I guarantee you I won't be the only person here tonight who uses a koozie for their beer glass.
Dave: Alright. I bet you WILL be the only person here who has one.
Me: Fine. Bet on.
Dave: Awesome.

(we go back to drinking and eating our pizza, never actually determining what I'd win, or he'd win, if either of us won the bet.)

2 hours later...
Me: OH MY GOD can I just tell you how excited I am to see that you have a koozie on your beer glass like I do?
Random Stranger Woman that I Do Not Know: (odd look) Well. Thank you.
Me: I mean, really. That's awesome.
Random Stranger: Cheers to that! (cling glasses)
Me: Can I just point you out to my husband? We have a bet going.
Random Stranger: Well...
Me: DAVE! DAVE! LOOK!! (pointed at Random Stranger's koozie-covered beer glass as she holds it up)
Dave: Oh. Wow. Guess you won!
Me; Thank you. That's all. Rock on.
Random Stranger: You're welcome.

Dave offered to take me out to La Parilla for margaritas and drive us home afterwards... but he does that anyway on a regular basis. I'm still trying to figure out what he owes me for his disbelief.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Best Little Marinade Ever

Dang. Thought I had come up with this delicious little marinade on my own, but as it turns out, I've made it before.

Here is Giada's roasted chicken with balsamic vinaigrette recipe. Anyone else wish Everyday Italian would come back? Anyway. I somehow did this one from memory, almost exactly, when I was getting ready to grill some chicken tonight that would adorn the top of a big plate of angel hair dressed in my makeshift pesto.

My marinade (which I think would make a dang fine salad dressing) was to squeeze into a bowl the juice of half a lemon, about 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, good pinch of salt, pepper, some honey, and some dijon mustard, whisking in some extra virgin olive oil at the end (yielded about 2/3 cup of marinade/dressing... adjust ingredients to your liking).

Pour over some chicken breasts (may want to save some of the marinade to dress chicken with post-grilling), marinate in fridge for 30 minutes. Grill. Enjoy.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Phil's has the Best Butts

It was Team Dawmilam vacation week, and we spent the past 4 days in beautiful, sunny, lovely Panama City Beach, Florida. Look how pretty!

To answer the first question everyone's been asking: NO, we neither saw nor smelled oil, thank God. The beaches were pristine, except for kelp that had washed ashore, which is common this time of year. The water was as clear and emerald green as I've ever seen it. Calm, too! I got to do some open-water ocean swimming for the first time ever, which was awesome! I'm sure I looked super hot out there with my reflective anti-fog goggles while everyone else was in sunglasses. The only non-awesome parts of the swim were (a) major sunburn because I'm an idiot and forgot to reapply on my face after being out in the water for so long, and (b) nasty salt water lips upon emerging from the deep. Bud Light and water seemed to fix the latter problem, but the sunburn lingers. Terrified to swim even in the shallow water alone, Casey was my wing-woman, keeping a general watch for where I was and floating nearby on her noodle, except for when she saw a jellyfish and swam the other way, which resulted in a pretty funny conversation about whether it would be better to save me if I was drowning, or for her to save herself from an impending jellyfish sting.

But, this isn't a philosophical, life-death debate blog. It's a food blog! And food was plentiful on this trip. Like, way too plentiful. There was a moment yesterday morning, packing my cooler for another 6 hour beach day, when I realized just how much I had eaten/drank since Wednesday and... I was sort of mortified. However, tomorrow is a new day, and I start a new week of being healthy and super active, so... let me tell you about the amazing food I ate!

Of course, we had our usual: dinner (twice!) at Schooner's, which was coincidentally only half a mile from our condo (yes, we'll be staying there again). The crab, peel & eat shrimp, and grilled grouper were all delicious, as were the hush puppies. Mmm, hush puppies. Then we went to Sharky's, and I enjoyed some delicious Mahi-Mahi (grilled, again), and everyone else got yummy plates of "fried" that I picked off of. The fried popcorn shrimp were delicious this time! Lunch every day was turkey sandwiches and chips, snacks were beer & Cheetos (baked, thank you), our nightly board-game-time snacks were cheese & wheat thins, pizza, cookies, or whatever else we wanted, and our nightly drink was a traditional "Sex on the Beach," something I didn't realize I was good at making! (vodka, peach schnapps, cranberry, orange, and pineapple juice for those of you keeping score... the more pineapple, the better...just ask Casey!).

So, it was a fairly typical beach vacation, food-wise, except for Phil's BBQ in Eufaula, Alabama. That particular restaurant made it an exceptionally good foodie beach trip. On the drive down, we were *this close* to stopping at a Mexican restaurant near Columbus, but I was driving and missed the turn (typical) so I kept on going, thinking we'd make it to Dothan before our next good food chance. Then, I saw it.

One glance, and we knew: Team Dawmilam would have our beloved barbecue for dinner on the way to the beach.

What we found, readers, was a hole in the wall place that had THE BEST ribs either of us had ever tasted. Dave ordered a plate of them with baked beans and cole slaw, and I ordered my usual: pulled pork sandwich with a side of potato salad. Oh. My. Goodness. It was heaven on earth. It was at that moment, when I bit into one of his ribs that was so perfect it didn't even need sauce, that I realized I love eating meat, and can't imagine my life as a vegetarian. I would miss low & slow cooked pork products too much.

Sides were STELLAR. They tasted like my grandmother would make. I wouldn't doubt it if there was a grandmother back there somewhere, cooking the potatoes until they were the perfect amount of "done," stirring them with copious amounts of mayonnaise with no guilt or shame or second thought about the fat content. The baked beans had a deep molasses taste, and the cole slaw was perfectly dressed. Oh, and the sweet tea - the sweet tea! It was sweeter than any tea I had ever tasted. This is coming from a girl raised in a family full of diabetics who refuse to quit the sweet tea habit... you can only imagine the level of sweetness that tea jug contained. I was super happy. We gorged ourselves, and enjoyed it so much, we decided to stop back by on the way home today. We both ordered a rib platter, and we ate nearly every single bit of food on our plates (which was a lot). Doesn't that look amazing?

omnomnom nom nom nom

That little side of macaroni salad? Tasted JUST like something that I would have eaten at a family reunion, potluck, or church supper years ago. That macaroni salad was a masterpiece. Perfectly balanced ratio of mayonnaise to other seasonings. In fact, I was so inspired by it, that whenever I got home, I pulled out my very own edition of Calling All Cooks, the compilation cookbook that any self-respecting Southern woman has in her kitchen. Both grandmothers have it, my mom has it, my aunts have it, and come to think of it, it might be the one thing all my female relatives have in common, actually. Lemme tell you something: people like Willadean Cooley and W. D. Cameron and Mrs. Robert Adams (yes, many contributors submitted their recipes under Mrs. Husband's Name...) don't have a thing over Paula Deen. Look at this page of cornbread recipes I stumbled upon while browsing for the macaroni salad recipe (unsuccessfully):

Cookbooks that have recipes calling for "Golden Flake pork skins" and just straight up "fat" are alright by me.

My point? Go to Phil's next time you find yourself in Eufaula. Get you a rib plate with any sides you want. And tell me they don't kick Dreamland's "butts."

Monday, June 7, 2010

A Tale of Two Tzatzikis

I am on a Greek kick lately, with no real explanation as to why. I bet Dave's getting tired of having some variation of a yogurt-dill-lemon-garlic sauce at least once a week, but that's just the price he has to pay as I'm becoming comfortable with a new set of ingredients/flavor profile.

I have never been to Greece, but I hope to go as soon as things calm down over there. Until then, I'll play with Greek-ish food and pretend I'm on the Mediterranean coast. Although nightly entertainment on this particular Mediterranean coast involves a 17-year-old cat who likes to torment chipmunks that hide in the gutter... and a husband who tries diligently to "rescue" the chipmunk by flooding him out with the water hose (to no avail, I might add)... and while we're dining on our "lanai" (read: tiny little concrete patio) every few minutes we hear a frantic sound of little chipmunk claw on metal gutter, while Chloe sits patiently, just outside of the chipmunk's view... yep, my life is pretty awesome!

Tonight, I present to you a Tale of Two Tzatzikis. No shame: I am so proud of coming up with that title.

I researched several yogurt-dill-sauce recipes, and decided to try two versions tonight. The first one (on the left, above, in the yellow bowl) is the chunky version, while the one on the right is the food-processored version. The ingredients were the same, and they are as follows:

1 7-oz container Greek yogurt made with 2% milk
juice of half a lemon
one big garlic clove, minced finely with salt into almost a puree
couple tablespoons fresh dill
some salt
one cucumber, seeded, diced, salted and drained of excess water (dice up the cucumber into small pieces, toss it with salt, and allow to sit in a colander for 30 minutes to drain)

For the chunky version: just mix all of the above together, cover with plastic wrap, chill for 1-2 hours before serving.

For the food processor version... take a guess... throw it in the food processor!

Tonight's sauce was served with a sweet potato that I diced into bite-size pieces, tossed with extra virgin olive oil, salt, fresh thyme, and dried oregano, then roasted in a 375 degree oven for 35 minutes, as well as cedar-plank grilled salmon, that I marinated for 20 minutes in a combination of lemon juice, olive oil, salt, dill, thyme, and lemon zest. I preferred the pureed version on my fish (which was pretty tasty), but plan on snacking on the chunky version tomorrow. It's a whole lot like a very southern cucumber salad, made with mayonnaise, sour cream, vinegar, salt, and dill. The yogurt version is much healthier.

I think in the future, if serving as a sauce to top fish or chicken, I'll definitely be pureeing it. However, I am anxious to see how both hold up in the morning, after they've been in the fridge overnight.

And I also hope that overnight Chloe has sweet dreams of catching that poor little chipmunk she's been chasing for 3 days straight.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Eat like a Triathlete

I competed in my second triathlon yesterday, along with Amy (one of Lindsey's roommates) and Jayme (a colleague - history professor at GHC, to be exact). We all survived, and made great time, too! It was Amy's third tri, my second, and Jayme's first. Jayme and I are already scheming about ways to get our fellow GHC co-workers and everyone we know, basically, to join us next year... if you're reading this blog and not currently in triathlon shape, you should just make up your mind to be in that sort of shape by this time next year.

Anyway, I thought it would be neat to tell you how I ate for the tri and afterwards, since this is a food blog and all. Prepare to laugh, as I'm pretty sure I violated every rule out there about proper nutrition. Actually, the more I think about it, the more I think that I totally negate any healthiness that might be associated with triathlons in the way that I eat after the race is over. I'm seeing a pattern here... the half marathon was the same way...

First: hydration. I ramped up my water consumption to 2 1/2 - 3 liters a day, for the 5 days leading up to the tri. This was up from my usual 2 liters a day. I figured with all that water going in, I had a little room for alcohol: one glass (a small one, 5-6 ounces) of wine with dinner every night. I did have a beer and a fruity drink at the impromptu pool party on Wednesday... but pool parties don't count towards regular food/drink consumption, right?

Second: fuel. I really did eat pretty healthy stuff all week, for the most part. You saw what I posted last week: salad, salad, salad. I focused pretty heavily on fruits, vegetables, protein, and carbs. The night before the race, I had a small salad with a little bit of leftover chicken, along with a ginormous bowl of penne with tomato sauce that I made out of onion, garlic, tomatoes, basil and parsley.

Third: race morning. I am a creature of habit, to a fault. So, it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that I ate my usual breakfast: frosted mini-wheats (exactly 25 bales) and coffee - as soon as I woke up at 4:30 am. I drank an iced coffee with soy milk instead of a hot coffee, though; then I inhaled a banana as soon as I got everything sufficiently set up in the transition zone, about an hour before the race started. Some people strongly disagree with coffee before any athletic event. I strongly disagree with me not having coffee upon first waking, no matter what I have going on that day. I may have been the most cheerful person Jayme's ever seen at 5 am...

Fourth: post-race. Hydration is pretty important, so I chugged a liter of water between the time the race was over and arriving back at home. I also had half a peanut butter sandwich and a Gatorade. It got super hot on the run - and I thought I might die. But I also thought I might die in the lake, too, and then the song "You Might Die Trying" came in my head, and I did just fine after that. Dave Matthews Band is a good luck charm, apparently.

But, I digress. When I finally got home, I was in desperate need of a shower, and famished. Fearing I might pass out if I didn't consume something fast, the very first thing I did was hit the blender for a fruity drink: soy milk, some sort of fruit juice (I don't even know what I grabbed; whatever I saw first!), leftover pineapples, and frozen blueberries. That provided enough protein and sugar to get me through a shower, and by the time Dave and I got to the barbecue restaurant for our anniversary lunch, I was still starving so I pretty much inhaled a plate full of pulled pork, potato salad, macaroni and cheese and Texas toast. Oh, and a big glass of sweet tea washed it all down. Did I mention the macaroni was swimming - literally, swimming - in melted butter?

But wait! There's more! We went to visit Dave's parents in Cumming immediately after. Needing a little fuel to get me through the 45 minute drive, we stopped at Chick-fil-A for a chocolate milkshake (hold the whipped cream, as if it mattered at that point). More water was consumed on the way there and back, bringing my total water consumption to at least 2 1/2 liters for the day. That milkshake was SO worth it, by the way. No talk in the comments section about how many calories those babies contain. As a reformed, obsessed calorie counter, I know, and I do not care.

Then, I crashed. I was suddenly soooooo tiiiirreeeddd. I don't know how I made it from the car to the couch, but I did, and slept for 2 hours. This is very unusual for me, as I generally dislike naps, especially those that may threaten my usual sleep schedule - as one from 4:30-6:30 pm may do.

As soon as I regained coherence, it was time to eat again! I had a larger than usual bowl of the leftover pasta, this time topped with extra parmesan and goat cheese.

And a glass of wine.

And a piece of leftover wedding cake.

Today, still in "I did a triathlon, yay! Let's eat more!" mode, I had my usual breakfast (see above), a banana, half an omelette (I had many moments of FAIL in the kitchen today; while I wanted more for lunch, it just didn't happen... I'll leave it at that), and then since it was such a bad day for me to do anything (I was seriously failing at everything today), Dave and I went to Taco Mac at 3:30 and had beers, chips and cheese dip, and wings.

And I had another piece of wedding cake.

And I'm about to eat dinner. :)

Reason #1 to do a triathlon: they are awesome for your self esteem. Reason #2: you eat ALL weekend long, without giving it a second thought.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Grilled Chicken and Corn Salad with Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette

Yesterday, I picked up my very first basket from the local Farmer's Market Basket warehouse (props to Jayme for suggesting it!). I signed up to get a small basket every other week, but I may have to increase either the basket size or delivery frequency, as I was so super impressed with what I got for $10: a bunch of lettuce, bananas, apples, peaches, green onions, a HUGE sweet potato, 3 ears of corn, a super delicious tomato, and a cucumber. It was worth it to have someone else assemble a basket of goodies for me, and save me the time of perusing different market stands or the produce section to figure out what I wanted to cook with that week. Plus, a lot of the produce was from local farmers. After what felt like a super long day at work, I was revitalized just by making dinner, since I challenged myself to use as much of the basket as possible last night. I came up with the following:

Yes, I realize I am on a major salad kick. Don't be fooled into thinking I'm super healthy, though. The healthiness of dinner is sufficiently balanced with my nightly post-dinner snack habit: chocolate truffles (if I have them), ice cream (probably the healthier option, as at least it's Edy's Slow-Churned low-fat) or graham crackers covered in Nutella with a glass of milk.

Oh, and I was halfway done with this salad at the point I took the picture. Oops!

I realized that I had some chicken breasts in the freezer, and some nearly-bad avocados and a half can of black beans hanging out in the fridge, and I knew that I wanted to grill that precious corn, so I did a little cookbook scouring and came up with a dressing that I thought would match everything else I'd have going on in the salad. I ended up with a little lettuce and tomato left over - which will go to good use in my carbo-loading dinner tonight (triathlon tomorrow!). Here's how I made my tasty noms salad.

Grill the following:
* 2 chicken breasts, butterflied or split into portions of equal thickness for uniform grilling time, that have been marinating in Dale's sauce (or soy sauce if you don't keep Dale's in your fridge)
*grill them until they reach an internal temperature of about 155-157, remove from grill, cover with tin foil, and allow to rest for 5 minutes before chopping or shredding with your fingers to go on top of the salad

* 3 ears corn, husked, drizzled with olive oil and tossed with salt (throw on the grill and rotate about every 4 minutes until all "sides" are sufficiently cooked)
* once the corn is cooked, allow to cool slightly, then remove the kernels from the cob with a knife so you can add it to the salad

In the meantime, prepare the rest of the salad:
* dark green lettuce, rinsed and rough chopped
* diced tomato
* diced avocado
* some black beans, out of the can, drained and rinsed
* green onions or scallions, diced

Set aside and make the dressing in your blender, mini food processor, a sealed container, or a bowl with a whisk:
* couple tablespoons of cilantro (yay, herb garden!)
* zest of one lime
* juice of 2 limes (anyone else noticed that the limes this year are just not that juicy?)
* twice as much extra virgin olive oil as there is lime juice
* generous pinch of salt
* about 1/2 - 1 teaspoon chili powder

Assemble and enjoy!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Caprese Salad

I love Caprese salad. Don't let the fancy-sounding name fool you: it's one of the easiest and most delicious things you'll make all summer. I brought Lindsey some basil from my overflowing plant yesterday, and she put me to work creating this masterpiece that I think both Ina AND Giada would approve of:

I had a little too much fun being a food stylist yesterday, if you can't tell...

Here's how you make this basic LBDelicious summer staple.

fresh tomatoes, your choice of variety
fresh mozzarella (either in water or vacuum-packed in plastic... just don't even bother if you're using shredded)
fresh basil leaves
salt & pepper
extra virgin olive oil
balsamic vinegar

Slice up tomatoes so they're about 1/2" pieces. Slice mozzarella in a similar way. Make sure your basil is rinsed and patted dry. Arrange tomatoes on a plate, top with the mozzarella, then the basil, then lightly drizzle the oil and vinegar over the salad. Top with salt and pepper. Enjoy!

There are a few variations that you may want to try out, like my particular favorite: Caprese sandwich. Yummmmy. One of Team Dawmilam's favorite memories centers on this sandwich, and is from the day that I moved to Lexington. We happened upon the Lexington Farmer's Market downtown, and we purchased some delicious tomatoes and basil. I think I ran to Kroger to get the remainder of the ingredients, and we made ourselves a tomato, basil, and mozzarella sandwich topped with the oil and balsamic combo (let it get all nice and soaked in the bread before you assemble the sandwich... yum!). We devoured those sandwiches and felt nice and refreshed for the big move, and also felt like it was the best sandwich either of us has ever eaten. To this day, I sometimes think about just how good that sandwich tasted! And, I often recreate it at home in the summer. French bread is really the key ingredient there.

Having a party? Make Caprese skewers! Purchase bocconcini, which is fresh mozzarella just in little balls (usually purchased in water), and grape tomatoes. Skewer the tomatoes and mozzarella balls, set aside. Make a dressing out of the balsamic and oil (whisk together briskly in whatever portion you think tastes good, with salt and pepper), and drizzle the dressing over the skewers. Top with the basil, after it's been chopped finely (the dressing will help the basil stick to the other ingredients. Want a heartier appetizer? Dice up that leftover French bread and put a piece of it on each skewer!

See? I love Caprese salad. It's fresh, healthy, delicious, and one of my favorite things about summer. I hope you make it and enjoy it as much as I do.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Greek Summer Salad

Day #2 of "official summer" brings perhaps even less productivity than Day 1. Yesterday, I ran several errands and was "domestic," turning that delicious leftover pork into a hawaiian pizza with caramelized onions and pineapples (my ohana loved it, mahalo!), watched a fascinating documentary about North Korean gymnasts, and fell asleep on the couch at 9:30. I told myself that today, I would work on articles. Alas! Lindsey called yesterday and suggested an impromptu pool party/run. I need to run, and I also need a pool party, which means I should take advantage of these activities as suggested. Articles can wait until later.

As my contribution to the impromptu pool party for people who can have random pool time in the middle of the day in the middle of the week (ie: teachers/grad students on break... so sorry, Amy & Anna, Lindsey's roommates who have to work all year round), I'm bringing my favorite side dish/snack item for the summer: a Greek vegetable salad. It is in my fridge about every two weeks, as it's easy, cold, refreshing, healthy, and tasty. Oh, and it's pretty! Look at how colorful:

Whenever I feel the need for a snack, this tends to be what I reach for if it's available. I'm sure this is not an original recipe, and I can't remember where I pieced it together from, but here's my version, perfected over multiple tries, with a few optional ingredients.

Greek Summer Salad
1/4 cup really finely diced red onion (optional)
1 large cucumber, diced and seeded (scrape seeds out with a spoon)
1 tomato, diced
1 jar artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed, and quartered
handful of kalamata olives, diced
1 cup cooked orzo pasta OR 1 can chickpeas, rinsed & drained (I like both, depends on if I feel like cooking pasta or not)
some feta cheese (optional)
1 tablespoon plain vinegar
dried oregano
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2-3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
juice of half a lemon
handful of chopped parsley

Place diced cucumber in a small plastic container, sprinkle with a little salt and about a tablespoon of plain vinegar. Make sure cucumber is coated in the vinegar/salt. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, then drain the liquid. It's amazing how much liquid comes out of those cucumbers.

Meanwhile, combine the onion, tomato, artichoke hearts, olives, and pasta or chickpeas in a medium-sized bowl. Make the dressing by combining the oregano, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and maybe some pepper. Add drained cucumbers to the veggie mixture, then top with parsley, then combine with the dressing. Allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes before serving - this salad gets a little better with each passing day. Top with feta (optional) immediately before serving.

This is perfect for summer outdoor gatherings because there is NO mayonnaise involved in the recipe, which means it doesn't matter so much if it sits outside for family picnics/potlucks/reunions/concerts/pool days. The vinaigrette is so light and refreshing, and it's perfect for the vegetarian friends in your life. Heck, the whole dish is healthy, yet super delicious. Can you tell I love this salad? :) Anyone else make a similar salad with other things I haven't thought of yet?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Maple-Mustard Glaze

Really? It's been since February that I've blogged? How sad and pathetic. Of course, I've cooked since February - guess I've just kept all my recipes to myself.

But, it's summer, and my teaching load has been reduced from 6 sections to 1 for the months of June and July. Hooray! More time for, well, everything. So what am I doing with myself all summer? In typical LBD fashion, here's a list:

1. Reduce dissertation into neat little articles and publish
2. Revise & resubmit that thesis article that just won't go away
3. Update the blog as much as possible (both here, and at Adventures of Team Dawmilam)
4. Get a tan (laugh)
5. Maintain fitness enough to get through two triathlons, a 10K, and begin preparing for the next half marathon this fall
6. Travel, a lot
7. Work on an assortment of school-related stuff
8. See Dave Matthews Band at least once
9. Watch as much Mad Men, 24, and other worthy tv shows via Netflix
10. Continue to figure out what happened on LOST this year

Yep, that should keep me busy until at least August.

In the meantime, how about a recipe? Of course, again, with no picture. This one falls into the "sounds fancy but was super cheap" category. At my local Kroger on Sunday, I picked up a small, 1.5 pound pork tenderloin (plain - what's up with Hormel shoving all those marinated versions in our faces lately?), for $2.93. Score! Manager's special. I just had to make sure I used it or froze it by yesterday. Sometimes, I like buying food "on condition" that I'll do something with it or to it by a certain date. It's like a game.

I followed the directions provided in my trusty America's Best Recipe cookbook that truly is the very best recipes for everything. And, they did not lead me astray on this one. The grilled roast was delicious - perfectly juicy (thanks, I'm sure, to the brine) and had a tasty, tangy crust on the outside. I served it with leftover rice and some grilled asparagus, and it provided 4 portions. After we ate dinner last night, and I fixed Dave lunch with some of the leftovers, I still have some of the pork in the fridge for me... the next challenge is coming up with how to use those leftovers!

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Maple Mustard Glaze
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine/heat the following until salt and sugar are dissolved:
-about 1/4 cup salt
-about 2 tablespoons sugar
-some black peppercorns
-some allspice
-some crystallized ginger
-about 3/4 cup water
After that's all dissolved, dilute it in 2 1/2 - 3 quarts of ice cold water. As soon as the entire mixture is sufficiently cold, soak a small pork tenderloin (mine was about 1 1/2 pounds) in the brine for at least 8 hours/up to overnight. Make sure your pork is neatly trussed as such:

(if you're like me, and mechanical engineering isn't your strong suit, you'll stand there in the kitchen for about 10 minutes trying different ways to truss the pork, knowing full well you won't be able to do it the way you want to because you forgot to look it up before you started to handle the raw pork, and by the time you realize you should just quit and look it up, you decide instead to whine/curse loud enough so that your husband comes in to check in to see what's wrong but ends up taking over & doing it for you because he's an engineer and is much more efficient at knot-tying than you are... which is okay because I'm much more efficient at, like, cooking than he is. Division of Labor FTW!)

Preheat grill to at least 400. While grill preheats, generously salt, pepper and olive oil the meat (discard the brine). Also prepare the mustard/maple glaze:

equal parts grainy mustard and maple syrup
about a teaspoon of soy sauce
whisk together, use most of it to baste the pork during grilling, and reserve some to serve on the side if needed

Throw the meat on the grill, searing both sides for at least 4 minutes. Turn off one of the burners, leave the meat over one active burner, and roast until cooked through. After it's been seared on each side, start to baste it with the maple-mustard glaze until it's cooked.

Now, about "cooking through"... USDA regulation suggests that pork is cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees before consumption. Foodies will tell you that if you leave the meat on the grill until it reaches 160, the pork loses all its juiciness, and instead you should remove the pork when it's reached 135. I am more conservative with pork temperatures, so I cooked mine until it reached about 152, then covered it and allowed it to rest for 5 minutes, and it turned out perfect, in my mind. True foodies might have complained it was overcooked. However, neither Dave nor I felt that the meat was dry or overcooked, and neither of us got trichinosis either.

We sliced it up into small medallions and really enjoyed this grilled treat. Hope you do too!