Archive for August, 2012

Family Ties

August 31, 2012

We’re here in Hilton Head, South Carolina, for a family beach vacation. It has been raining pretty much the whole time we have been here until today.  Family holidays can be a be a bit trying under the best of circumstances, but with 5 people of differing interests trapped together in the rain, it doesn’t get easier.

We get up, eat, I work out ( if I can) and then we eat again. I have been to the outlet center 3 times in 4 days.  Yesterday, I couldn’t go to the gym because everyone else was antsy to get their shopping on. At night we eat again, and come home to scream at the television, while watching the Republican National Convention. Yesterday, the storm took out our T.V. and Wi-Fi for a bit. We almost declared a state of emergency!

I have not posted lately, due to lack of inspiration and Internet service. I also have a rule that I don’t post anything that I know will offend others. I am about to break that rule, because you just can’t make this stuff up. It is official. These people from whom I came are not normal.

Today was finally a gorgeous day. My desire was to spend as much time outdoors and as active as possible.  Be careful what you wish for: I did not plan on participating in what turned out to be the “Hairdresser Mini-Triathlon.”

I spent the morning on a quiet 2-hour bike ride on trails and on the beach. After lunch, B and I went for a swim, while the men went to play golf.

Nana* had a late afternoon appointment at the hairdressers. As she was preparing to go, she realized that they took her car. “ No problem, “ I said, “just take the other one. The keys should be in the house somewhere.”
Nope. Mr. Genius* and his sidekick* went off golfing with one car and both sets of car keys.  We tracked them down and they agreed to leave the keys at the pro-shop for pick-up. I offered to ride my bike over and get them.

Nope again. Mr. Genius and his sidekick also had the combination to the bike locks with them.  It is important to note that it is not possible to contact Mr. Genius directly, as his cell phone is in the house in a plastic bag of rice, trying to recover from a late afternoon swim during a rare hour a few days ago when it was just thundering, but not yet raining.

I put on my new Nike running shoes, purchased at the local outlet center during a monsoon, and ran the 2 miles to pick up the keys, in record time. As I returned dripping with sweat and breathing heavily, Nana realized that they gave her the keys to the car they had, not the one that was here. Now Nana can’t leave, and they are stranded with no keys for their car.

Nana calls the sidekick and “rips him a new one.” I intervened and got the combination to the bike lock. I jump on the bike, rode like the wind to the golf course, locked up the bike and drove the car home for Nana.
Nana made it to the hair salon, and Mr. Genius will have to ride the bike home, get the other car, and go pick up his sidekick at the golf course. He will have to do this in golf shoes, as Nana took off with their sneakers in the car, just to be spiteful.

The good news: I like my new running shoes, my knee is healing well and I burned about 800 calories in activity, which I may need to consume in alcohol tonight.

The weather channel just upgraded the weather from stormy to sunny for  tomorrow and we might get another beautiful day in before we leave.

We will have to make another stop at the outlet center on the way out of town, because my new running pants still have the security tag attached to them. Apparently when the alarm beeped when leaving the store, Mr. Genius didn’t think to check the bag in his hand to see if it was the problem.

Family: You can’t live with ‘em, and you can’t live with out ‘em.

To be continued…

*names have been changed to protect the guilty

photo: indigo jones

How to Separate an Egg

August 28, 2012

Separating eggs is a messy, but necessary task. Many recipes call for just the yolks, or just the whites.  Some use both, but they are required to be added separately.

If even a little speck of yolk gets mixed into the whites, they won’t whisk up properly, resulting in flat soufflés and baked goods.

Traditionally, the egg is separated by cracking it open, and passing the raw egg back and forth between the shells, until the white slips out, and then putting the yolk into a different bowl.

For those who don’t mind getting their hands a dirty, the egg can be poured into your palm and the white will drip out from between your fingers into the bowl, leaving you holding the yolk.

Always use a perfectly clean, dry bowl for the egg whites, and make sure your hands are also clean, and oil free. Egg whites are fussy, and they won’t cooperate if they come into contact with other substances. Conversely, a little of the whites will not effect the reaction of the yolks when cooking. It’s best to use a small bowl for separating the egg whites, and then transfer them one by one to a larger bowl once they are separated cleanly. That way, if there is any contamination, you will only waste 1 egg, not the whole batch.

Just when you think there are no new techniques to handle this common kitchen task, something truly innovative comes along.

Today, I came across a YouTube video, of a very unique way to separate eggs.
The egg was cracked carefully into a bowl, so that yolk remained intact. An empty plastic water bottle was placed gently on top of the yolk, and when it was squeezed, the yolk was vacuumed up into the bottle, unbroken.  Truly amazing!

It just goes to show you, there are lots of ways to separate an egg!

Happy Baking!

photo: Glasshouse Images 

Pack Rat

August 26, 2012

I am packing for a much-needed week away at the beach in South Carolina. It will be a very casual family holiday, and the house we are staying at has a washer/dryer.

No one will see us walking around a fancy resort hotel, and we will be frequenting different restaurants each night, so nobody will know if I repeat an outfit. Most of the places we will go are pretty casual (think beachside fish shacks and resort town haunts) so easy clothes are key. No offense to the locals, but Hilton Head, South Carolina isn’t exactly the fashion capitol of the United States.

So why do I have so much stuff? Five pairs of shoes? A huge bag of clothes?  I haven’t even gotten to the cosmetics yet.

I am an editor for God’s sake, why can’t I seem to edit myself?

I am currently re-packing, trying to weed out what I really need, and what could stay home un-missed. I am sure that I still have too much, yet will certainly discover some basic necessity ended up on the cutting room/bedroom floor. And somehow, I will do without it.

I need to remember, it’s all about relaxing, experiencing a different lifestyle and enjoying my family. But if I can look cute doing that, why not go for it?!

I will post from my trip, and  will continue to bring you great articles on food, fitness, fashion and family.

photo: Glasshouse Images

When Life Gives You Lemons

August 24, 2012

When life gives you lemons, there are lots of unusual ways to utilize them!
Lemons, like many other items found in your pantry have a plethora of unexpected uses.

Clean cutting boards:

The acid in lemon makes it an effective cleaner. Squeeze lemon juice on a stained plastic or wood cutting board, and scrub it with the lemon half. Let it soak in for 20 minutes, and rinse it with water. The cutting board will be disinfected, and the stains will be lighter, without introducing harsh chemicals that can seep into your food.

 

Revitalize Dry Brittle Fingernails:

Soak (nail polish free) fingertips in pure lemon juice for a couple of minutes and rinse well, before applying hand lotion. The lemon will lighten discolored nails making your hands look clean and fresh!

 

Soften Brown Sugar:

Adding a long strip of lemon peel to the bag of brown sugar will keep it moist and prevent it from hardening into an unusable lump.

 

Bathroom Cleaner:

A mixture of lemon juice and cream of tartar creates a natural version of “Soft Scrub.” The lemon is a great bleaching agent, and cream of tartar acts as a stabilizer.

Do you have any favorite uses for lemons?

photo: Glasshouse Images

 

Unrecipe of the Week

August 22, 2012

Last night I got home from work totally exhausted and not in the mood for spending much time preparing dinner. I had a few things laying around the kitchen from the night before that I whipped into a great hearty dinner salad.

I love when everything comes together in a way that is worth replicating in the future!

On a bed of baby arugula, I diced leftover chicken breasts, several heirloom tomatoes, and an avocado. I drizzled it with a quick pesto made of a handful of cilantro*, a garlic clove, a little olive oil, the juice of ½ a lime, and some sea salt.

I tossed it with the other ½ of the lime juice and added a crumble of soft goat cheese, and grind of black pepper.

It doesn’t get much easier, or tastier than this!

*I had cilantro on hand, but any hearty green would work just as well: parsley, arugula, basil, spinach, kale…you name it!

Instagram Photos: Indigo Jones

Cycle Snob

August 21, 2012

I admit it. I am a cycling snob.

I am a devoted follower of just 3 instructors, who are all known to be among the best in their field.  Every time I try a substitute, I am disappointed and vow never to stray again. With my knee still not quite ready for primetime, having 2 of the 3 on vacation this week posed a fitness dilemma. Should I be open and give someone new a chance? Maybe this time they will be great.
I open-mindedly (okay, very skeptically) approached classes last week with new teachers thinking it might just provide a shock to my system or at the very least a new experience. Once again, I was disappointed.
I have been trying to figure out the delicate balance between a great instructor and a less than stellar one. I mean, we are essentially riding a bike to nowhere for a designated period of time, with loud music playing. There is only so much variation that can take place. So what’s the big difference?

Pedaling away on a bike that doesn’t move requires motivation and variation. The great teachers keep you going with a constantly changing menu of sprints, standing runs, climbs and flat roadwork. For me, terrain based classes make the ride a more realistic experience.

The lesser instructors get you moving but the responsibility for your intensity is entirely in your hands. The work is often monotonous, with long stretches of single speed, unchanged resistance and not much encouragement. In order to work up a sweat, and get your heart rate up, you need to crank the intensity on your own. The 45 minutes of class feel like an eternity, and often leave you tired, not energized.

The great teachers plan each of their classes out in advance to ensure that you are challenged and get a well-balanced workout. They are often training vehicles which help you build strength and endurance, versus someone who just gets on the bike and pedals away with little thought to how the participants might evolve to meet their fitness goals.

The great teachers push you beyond your limits. They somehow motivate you to move out of your comfort zone and into a place where you never thought you go. They aren’t sitting quietly on the bike. They are walking around, screaming, coaching, encouraging and making you fight for every pedal stroke and every breath. These classes are crazy hard, and without them pushing me, I know I wouldn’t be able to achieve that intensity.

The not so great ones are spinning away on their little platforms, offering very little in the way of guidance or motivation.

As a fellow cycler said today,” I feel like they are talking to the wall or ceiling, and not really resonating with me.”

The great ones let you know where you are in the ride. They tell you what is coming up, and lead you through the segment. They let you know how much time you have left in the intervals. It makes it easier to really push your boundaries when you know you only have 30 seconds to go before you can back off and catch your breath.

The music is important, and very subjective. Even if your taste in music is different from the instructors, variation between songs and a good strong beat is key.  A 45-minute playlist of house music tends to blend together into one long song.  The average not so great teacher tends to have the class do a lot of tedious standing runs with a sprint or two thrown in for good measure. Tedious riding and monotonous music makes for a boring ride. ‘Nuff said.

The great teachers are precise, and have the class moving as one unit, or competing as teams. There is no ambiguity in the ride. The not so great classes often become free for alls, with many people doing their own thing to break up the boredom, or make the ride easier or more difficult.

Yes, I am a bit hardcore. I go to the gym to get results, and I love feeling sweaty and breathless at the end of class.  I feel as though I am in the hands of true professionals, who take their work and my fitness seriously. I love the sense of accomplishment when I make it through a particularly difficult patch without pulling back. My goals are to grow and develop my stamina, endurance and strength.

Not everyone feels that way. There are many people who just like the group atmosphere and aren’t interested in facing that feeling of extreme discomfort and pushing past it. For them, there are lots of instructors out there to choose from.

So go ahead and call me a cycling snob. I’m sticking with my 3 favorite instructors, “loyal to the end.”

photo: Glasshouse Images 

Unrecipe of the Week: Homemade Tortillas

August 20, 2012

My family loves Tex-Mex inspired dishes and anything in a tortilla seems to get eaten. Tonight, I served homemade tortillas and they were a big hit!

Surprisingly easy to make, these flour tortillas are a bit smaller and more rustic than the machine formed ones, and taste much better. You can always size them up and make a few less, if you prefer larger ones.

Homemade Tortillas

Mix together 3 cups flour, ½ teaspoon baking power and 1 teaspoon salt. Add 1/3-cup canola oil and mix it with your hands until it resembles fine crumbs. Add 1 cup hot water and knead the dough into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap for at least 30 minutes before using. You can leave the dough out for several hours, or refrigerate it overnight, if you like to plan ahead.

When you are ready to make the tortillas, divide the dough into 12 equal pieces.

Roll them into balls and flatten them on a lightly floured surface. Gently roll them into circles.

Cook them  in a hot, ungreased frying pan over medium high heat until one side is blistered. Stack them up and keep warm until ready to serve.

I filled them with lime-marinated chicken breasts, diced fresh tomatoes and homemade guacamole. Even B loved them!

Bananarama

August 16, 2012

Bananas are high in potassium, and are a great portable snack. They also have lots of other uses that go way beyond food.

Can’t get that pesky splinter out?

Press a banana peel onto the affected area and the nutrients will help ease the splinter out.

Take a shine to it:

Rub the inside of a banana peel onto silver or leather in place of store bought toxic cleaners, and buff with a clean cloth.

Brighten your smile:

Bananas are helpful in removing stains from  your teeth.  Massage your teeth with the inside of the banana peel for several minutes at a time, 3 times per week and watch the sparkle come back to your smile.

Want the peels and don’t want to waste the fruit?
Freeze the bananas and puree them in the blender for a soft serve ice cream alternative. Or dip them in chocolate first and enjoy them as a frozen treat.

Photo: Glasshouse Images

Happy Belated Birthday Julia!

August 16, 2012

“This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook- try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!”

― Julia ChildMy Life in France

Yesterday would have been Julia Child’s 100th birthday.

She left behind a legacy including cookbooks, television shows and most importantly, the idea that cooking is a creative pursuit.  I believe that any vaguely intelligent person can read a recipe and prepare a meal. But to be a really great cook, one must find joy in the process, and have the courage to experiment.

Thank you Julia, for inspiring me and the legions of people who mastered the art of cooking because of you.

Happy Birthday!

photo: Glasshouse Images

Unrecipe of the Week: Homemade Granola

August 15, 2012

I have never been keen on granola, but once I tried this homemade version, I am hooked!

Since discovering the high iron content of dried fruits and nuts, I was inspired to whip up another batch tonight.  It is quick and easy, and has none of the additives found in the store bought versions.  It does pack some calories, so use it as I do: as a topping for plain Greek yogurt and fruit.

Here is the ultimate “unrecipe”. Use this as a guideline and tailor it to suit your taste.

Homemade Granola:

Mix together 2 cups of old fashioned rolled oats (dry oatmeal), 1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut, 1 cup of slivered almonds, ¼ cup vegetable oil, and about ¼ cup of honey. Stir to coat and pour onto a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees, stirring often until golden brown. This should take about 30 minutes. Watch it carefully: it goes from brown to burnt quickly!

Remove the granola from the oven and allow it to cool slightly. Add diced dried fruit to taste. I used a combination of figs, apricots and cranberries. Dried cherries could be a nice addition too. You can also add some additional nuts, such as cashews or pecans. Sprinkle with a little brown sugar to sweeten, and mix well.

Store the cooled granola in an airtight container and enjoy!


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