Friday, June 29, 2012

A Toast

Ten years ago, I married the love of my life.

Saying yes was the best decision I have ever made.  In this past decade, I have laughed more than I have cried and smiled more than I have frowned.
Also, my husband makes a mean Radler.
We were blessed to share our special day with family and friends, and I feel it's only fitting to share today with some of my best blogging friends and you, my readers, as well as my sweet husband.

In looking for an appropriate anniversary cocktail with which to toast such a special occasion, I wanted something that was, in some way, similar to how I might describe my marriage.

The sgroppino is just that cocktail.  It is sweet with a bit of a bite, effervescent, refreshing, and, because it's basically an adult slushie, bunches of fun.

I first learned of the drink from Pamela over at My Man's Belly; she created a lovely cranberry version that I absolutely drooled over.  However, I opted to go for the traditional lemon version for today's post, as lemons can be found all over Arizona, where my husband and I met, married, and live, so it's only fitting.
Additionally, the lemon sgroppino is the perfect venue to use a bit of the limoncello that we made last year (you can read about the process here, here, and here) instead of the vodka.

  • 1 pint lemon sorbet (recipe below)
  • Prosecco
  • Sprigs of fresh mint (optional but totally worth it)
Spoon sorbet into chilled (or not) champagne flutes, 2/3 - 3/4 of the way.  Fill the glass with the Prosecco.  Top with a sprig of mint and serve immediately.

Lemon Sorbet
(adapted from Cooking Light)
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 1/3 - 1 1/2 cups lemon sugar (depending on how sweet you want the sorbet) OR the same amount of sugar and 2 Tbsp freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup limoncello
  • 1 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice* (about 5-6 large-ish lemons)
  • 1/3 cup fresh mint, torn
In a medium saucepan combine the water, sugar (or sugar and zest), and limoncello over medium to medium-high heat.  Bring to a soft boil and stir just until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Remove from heat and add the lemon juice and mint.  Cover and chill overnight.  Strain to remove solids, and pour the lemon mixture into your ice cream maker; freeze according to directions.  Spoon into a freezer-safe container and freeze for at least two hours.
Since the sorbet is made with limoncello, the mixture will remain soft, which is actually perfect for the spgroppino.

*I know it's been said before, but do not - DO NOT - cheat yourself by getting store-bought juice.  It isn't the same.  The fresher the juice, the better the taste.  Trust me.  Ream all the things.

So, as promised, a toast to my beloved.

Marriage means commitment.
But then again, so does insanity.
Sometimes, we're not sure which one we picked, but I've never regretted a second.
I wish nothing for us but all the love, all the joy, and all the laughter in all the years.

I hope that you are enjoying all of the Cocktail Week posts.  In case you've missed any...
Make sure, too, that you check out the finale tomorrow - Wanna Be a Country Cleaver has a lavender lemonade - one of my favorites ever - I get a virgin one almost every weekend in summer, Inside Nana Bread's Head is pouring some raspberry mojitos (a girl can NEVER have too many mojitos), and Bakeaholic Mama is making us a funfetti martini.  Funfetti.  I'll take seven.

What is the best/worst marriage advice you ever received?
What was your favorite wedding gift?
Newlyweds and soon-to-be-weds - what's been the most interesting part of the wedding ride thus far?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Workout Wednesday - Cocktail Week Edition (Or, A Shandy is Dandy, but Nothing Rhymes with Radler)

I fully admit that I never really cared for beer until I studied in Germany.  That summer of 1999 was when my world was rocked to its core.
To my credit, you can't really call the carbonated yellow water that is generally offered at college parties as real beer.  Sorry, Keystone Light, but you certainly didn't make a connoisseur out of me.

So imagine the overwhelming joy at my first sip of a Pils vom faß (the pilsner on tap) at a local Regensburg restaurant my first full day as a student abroad.
Oh, my stars.
It was like hundred of tiny fairies were dancing on my tongue.

Full disclosure: Radeberger is from Saxony - not Bavaria.
Regensburg is in Bavaria, home to the 1516 Reinheitsgebot (purity law), which mandated that beer could only be made of barley, hops, and water (the law was lifted in 1988).  Thanks to many a Samuel Adams commercial, you probably already know that Bavaria grows the world's best hops.  You can infer from that, then, that Bavarian beer is some of the best in the world, specializing in Helles (light), Weißbier (like hefeweizen), and Pilsner, as well as the smoky Rauchbier.  You can also get a slew of other styles of beer, so if you have a hankering for a Dunkel, don't fret - you'll find it.

Another Bavarian contribution to the annals of beer history is the Radler.  Shortly after the end of World War I, cycling became extremely popular across Germany.  One innkeeper, Herr Frank Xaver Kugler, came up with the idea to have a bike path leading from Munich through the forest to his inn - the Kugler-Alm.  Thus, cyclists would stop off at his inn for something refreshing to drink on those hot, humid summer days.

Herr Kugler was not prepared for the thousands of cyclists who took the opportunity for a little weekend cycling.  Frantic, he mixed some of his remaining beer with a lemon soda and served it up, calling it a Radlermass (Radler - cyclist, Mass - liter of beer, the amount that was served) and claiming he had done so to ensure that his dear customers would remain safe and on their bikes on their way home (translation: don't drink and bike).

The cyclists loved it, and it became an instant hit.

Originally made with a Dunkel, as Bavarian taste evolved to the lighter beers, the Radler evolved as well.

You can get a Radler anywhere in Germany now; many breweries even bottle it and sell it on shelves.  But unless you're at a German restaurant here in the states, you'd be hard pressed to find one.  Most English pubs will offer the British version, the shandy (half beer - usually an ale - and half ginger beer or ginger ale).  I like the shandy and will often order one when I'm out at a pub, but I prefer just to make my own Radler at home.
There is, of course, the story of The Incident at the "German" Restaurant in Which No One Knew What a Radler Was Nor Would Anyone Make Me One Once Defined.  It was ugly, folks.  Then the poor waiter tried to convince me that the specialty of the house was a traditional German dish; for the record, anything with cranberries is NOT German; cranberries are indigenous to America.
Also, German chocolate cake is not German.
But I digress.

The Radler is the perfect drink when you want something a bit sweet but not "girly" sweet, something bubbly but are out of Prosecco after your indulgence in Peach Pie Prosecco Palmers, or something light but not a light beer.
And it's easy, too.

  • German "blond" (preferably Bavarian, if you can find a good one) beer - pilsner, helles, etc. (I like Pilsners, but others will tell you that a light lager is the way to go - use what you like - I've even used Hoegaarden)
  • Lemon soda - this is hard to find in the States, so I recommend 7Up or even Fresca (in my opinion, Sprite and Sierra Mist are too sweet); don't use Mountain Dew or other fake-y "citrus" sodas.  That will just make it gross.
Combine equal parts in a tall pilsner glass (or, really, any glass that you want).  Enjoy, preferably with some bratwurst and sauerkraut slathered with thick, spicy German (or homemade) mustard.

Seriously, it's that easy.

Since American sodas tend to be a bit sweeter than the lemon soda you will find in Germany, I generally use a little less of the soda than the beer.  We also are in the "pour the soda in first" camp, but it really doesn't seem to matter.  The Husband would also like me to let you know that if you add the soda to the beer, that foamy head will be created, which, in his estimation, is a complete waste of time and beer.
The important thing is that you find the combination that tastes best and is most refreshing for you.  Especially after that long, grueling bike ride.
Or that feat of mowing the yard in the sun.
Or just because.


Hopefully, you're enjoying this virtual pub crawl we're calling Cocktail Week.  So far this week we've sampled:
...and we've only just begun!  Still on tap this week are at least six more lovely drinks to wet your whistle and keep you cool, so make sure that you come back for another round tomorrow!

Monday, June 25, 2012

An Adult Arnold - Because it's Cocktail Week!

This week, my favorite partners in crime and I have once again circled the wagons to bring you Cocktail Week.  Considering that The Husband was out of town for nearly two weeks and will be doing so again soon, this week couldn't come soon enough for me.
With the temperatures now solidly nestled in to the triple digits during the days here, I thought it was only appropriate to start off with a cocktail that is both refreshing and malleable - my effervescent version of the ubiquitous Arnold Palmer.
Both The Husband and I love iced tea, so much so that we have two large iced tea dispensers; that way, when we run low on one batch, we can begin another.  At no time is this more necessary than the summer months.  But even tea can get tiresome if you don't change it up every so often.  So sometimes we have Arnold Palmers, the combination of equal parts lemonade and iced tea.  And that's great, especially when you want something a touch sweet.  If I want something really sweet, I'll make sweet tea (which, sidebar, is not just tea into which sugar has been sprinkled - sweet tea and sweetened tea are two different concoctions, and they must not be confused).
But sometimes you need something bubbly.  And fruity.  And kind of spicy.
A few weeks ago I made a cinnamon-raspberry-infused iced tea that was just lovely.  This time, we're going for another fruit that basically screams summertime: peaches.

I totally get why they were in Prufrock's love song.
Peach Pie Prosecco "Palmer"

For the Peach Pie Iced Tea:
  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 large iced tea bags
  • 2 bags peach tea
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 peaches, chopped roughly
Bring water to a boil.  Pour over tea, peaches, and cinnamon sticks; let steep ten minutes.  Remove tea bags.  Bring tea to room temperature.  Leave cinnamon sticks and peaches in overnight as you chill the tea (the longer they stay in, the stronger the taste - we have determined that we love the cinnamon so much that we just let the sticks live in the tea, but you might not be such a fan).

For the Palmer:
  • Prosecco
  • Peach Pie Iced Tea
  • Simple Syrup (plain or flavored, totally optional - I don't use this)
Fill a champagne flute large glass with ice cubes.  Add equal amounts Prosecco and iced tea.  Sweeten if desired.  Take a long drink.  Say, "ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh..."  Repeat as needed.

And maybe you should have some
fresh peaches and cream ice cream.
After all, it's hot out.
Now, make sure that you check out all the amazing posts and recipes offered this week!
Megan at Wanna Be a Country Cleaver made a Raging Aztec Slushie.  I don't even know what that is and I want one. Oh, and to sweeten the pot, she is giving away a KitchenAid blender.  Just head over to her post and enter to win today!!!!
Also on tap today is Carrie at Bakeaholic Mama; she's serving up a raspberry Tom Collins.

Tomorrow, Kat at Tenaciously Yours, is whipping up an amaretto cocktail that makes me feel much more sophisticated than I actually am, and Kirsten over at Comfortably Domestic is making Traverse City cherry mojitos - I'm already making my grocery list!

And keep checking back - we've got lots of delicious drinkables to enjoy this first full week of summer!

What's your favorite way to stay cool in the summer?  Ice cream?  Iced tea?  A frost adult beverage?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Finicky Fridays - Commencing Operation Eat it or Starve

I've mentioned that HRH is a picky eater before (here and here).  If she were in charge of MyPlate, there would likely be an abundance of ice cream, Goldfish crackers, and grapes, but probably not any zucchini or tomatoes.
It's a constant battle in the kitchen.  On the one hand, I want to make sure that my family eats a variety of healthy (and yet delicious) foods.  On the other hand, I don't want my child to sit there, eating nothing.  She's a little too young to understand how fortunate she is to go to bed hungry only by choice - or else I'd be laying on the guilt thicker than Tammy Faye's makeup.
A few weeks ago, my friend Megan posted this picture to my Facebook page:

Of course, it made me chuckle a bit laugh out loud for ten minutes, but at the same time, it made me cringe.  At myself.
Buddy Hackett said, many years ago, "My mother's menu consisted of two choices: take it or leave it."
I definitely haven't been in that category as a parent.  I have been so focused on making sure HRH doesn't "go hungry" that I've been compromising and letting her eat her small window of "HRH-approved" foods.  While many of those foods are fruits, it's really not acceptable to allow her to set limitations.

So, I have officially launched Operation Eat it or Starve.

That doesn't mean that I'm plunking down a plateful of mystery hash (or, as my mom called certain menu items, "Spinach Blob" and "Noodle Blob" - no lie) and expecting her to eat it.  I want eating new foods to be a comfortable experience, so we're looking for a balance here.
Intrigued by the studies that show children prefer 6 to 7 different colors and interesting patterns on their plates, I have been trying to be creative and artistic in my efforts to offer her both "safe" and familiar foods coupled with new foods.
I say trying because I am not the most artistic person ever.  Defense Exhibit A: my drawing of Princess Aurora (as requested by HRH).

Notice the rose red lips.

The good news is that cookie cutters are good for more that creating shapes out of cookie dough.  The even better news is that The Internet has great ideas that I can copy to my little heart's content.

In: creative, fun food platings at meals
Out: snacks - unless plates are (for the most part) cleaned

In: excitement about beets and squash
Out: badgering

Here are some snaps of what I've tried this week.  I can't take credit for any of the creativity, but I can take credit for the less than perfect adaptations of plating ideas that I found online.

Watermelon rain cloud, carrot lightning,
blueberry rain, apple umbrella (with cheese handle),
and brown rice path
(this looks way cooler with a red apple)
HRH ate the carrots, part of the apple, and the rice.  Maybe a few bites of the cheese, too.  She had been introduced to everything on this plate before, so everything should have been safe.

"Eating Nemo"
Brown rice sea floor, apple anemone, carrot seaweed,
watermelon mini-fish, peanut butter sandwich fish
with cheese stripes, and grape bubbles
The carrots and apples were all eaten, as were the cheese stripes and half the peanut butter fish.  The green grapes were getting a little soft and "yucky," so those were left after a close inspection.

Cheese sun over a rainbow of strawberries, raspberries,
carrots, mango, kiwi, blueberry, and blackberry,
nestled between banana clouds
I ended up eating most of this.  Except the cheese, which HRH consistently eats.  I even made a cocoa-peanut butter-agave spread that I thought she should use to dunk (or just eat with a spoon...), but I was, apparently, mistaken.  Good thing I like it.

Last night's dinner was our first big jump, as I began adding new/different/scary/unknown foods into the mix.
Squash and carrot sun overlooking a brown rice butterfly
(body - black beans, design - cheese and beets, antennae - carrots)
fluttering over a squash-grape-raspberry flower bed
Again, the cheese was eaten first, as were the carrots, raspberries, and red grapes (which seem to stay "crunchy" longer than the green ones).  Then this conversation happened:

HRH: I want milk, please.
Me: You can have some milk after you eat one piece of squash.
HRH: But I want it.
Me: You can have some milk.  But first I want you to eat one piece.
HRH: I don't like it.
Me: Remember Elmo teaches us to try foods two times before we decide if we like them or not.  Please try one piece.

At which juncture she selected the smallest piece of squash, inspected every centimeter for about five minutes, licked it, sniffed it, put it in her mouth, and gagged before spitting it out.
No milk was offered for that Oscar-worthy performance.

So far, my opponent has proved tenacious and stubborn.  Not that I expected a miracle (otherwise this post would be addressed to the Catholic Church about how I need to be sainted immediately), but I was hoping that the melodramatic gagging over the world's smallest piece of squash would be less... melodramatic.

Currently, I'm concocting a few ideas for the Ms. Food Face plate as well as how I can perhaps use chopsticks to trick convince HRH to even try some tofu.  But I'll also be happy if she eats the watermelon and Bing cherries that she requested last time we were at the grocery store.

Did your parents have creative or sneaky ways to get you to eat when you were little?
Or did they have any horrifying foodstuffs that served only to create food aversions?
What creative plating ideas have you seen or tried?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Workout Wednesday - June 20

My arms are killing me today.
At the end of the second week in the Hundred Pushups Challenge, participants are directed to do a second baseline "max out" set.
If you recall, when I started this project, I maxed out at 5 pushups.
Sunday, then, after a nice rest day, I maxed out at 16.
OK, so we've still got quite a ways to go until we get to 100, but by my math, 16 is more than five.
And more is more.  So there's that.
Thanks to my awesomeness of 16 in a row, the training plan made a big jump in Week 3.  As in from 33 total to 45.
That meant sets of 10-12-7-7-9.

This was the first attempt in which I only managed to do the minimum number of pushups in the last set.  I've been priding myself on being able to go at least 2 or 3 further, but it wasn't in the cards yesterday.  And it certainly wasn't in my muscles, either.
Today, I am quite sore, so I'll make sure that I am well rested for tomorrow, when I'm supposed to do 50.
Double Gulp.
One of the nice things about this app is that it offers me the ability to redo days or weeks.  If tomorrow is rough, I will probably repeat Week 3 next week in order to make sure that I can do proper, good-form pushups and not phone it in with sissy-pants, fake-y ones masquerading as the real thing.

But pushups aside, I'm starting to worry about my summer running schedule.  While I'm not officially officially training for the half marathon yet, I'm in pre-training training mode, and I want to go into that official training confident in my running strength.
But then there's this:

Ignore the 75° (especially because my other weather app is telling me that it's actually 80°).  Pay more attention to the three 111°s in a row there.  As well as the "lows" for the week.
Even at 4:30 AM, it's hot.  And the pavement?  Even hotter.  Yuck.
I know I can leave Zooey at home, but I shudder to think of what symphony would erupt at home if I left her at home to go for a solitary run after "our" alarm goes off.  I may have mentioned how loud a coonhound can be.  When she's distraught, she's louder.  When The Husband is woken from a dead sleep, she's probably louder still.
Plus, I am never opposed to creepers thinking my girl is a fierce, barking, frothing Doberman whose ears haven't been cropped instead of just an excitable coon dawg who wants to let you know how happy she is to be running.
So this weekend, once The Husband is done with his conference that's keeping him busy all this week, we need to have a family meeting about the possibility of a gym membership or the obtaining of a treadmill.  I hate don't love the treadmill, but it certainly can serve a purpose when times are tough hot.
That being said, if I deem that it will be cool enough Saturday morning, Zooey and I will be seeing this once again:

Yes, I'm hooked.

How do you deal with extreme weather conditions when you are trying to train/keep up your exercise routine?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Times - They Are a Changin'...

...and so is this blog.
When I started this little online journal, I figured I'd focus on what my family was eating, and that was that.  But as all teachers know, constant monitoring and adjusting is The Thing to Do.
After monitoring the past few months especially, I've noticed a shift.  While I'm still posting about food - what I ate, what I made, what I bought - I am posting more and more about my other healthful practices.
Namely, running and other physical activity.
Thus, it's time to rethink The Objectives and take a good look at what results I now want this blog to net.
But don't fear - there still be lots of Food Blogging going on - stay tuned especially for next week when my favorite Partners in Crime and I have another special, fun week planned for you.
But don't be surprised if there's also a post or two on how to work those calories off in order to get back into those Favorite Jeans.
After all, it's all about balance.  And a second slice of pie.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Father's Day Letter

Dad, I just want you to know that even though I am still so pissed at how you didn't take care of yourself, resulting in you not being there to see me graduate, marry, and have your granddaughter, I love you and miss you so much every day.  You would have loved HRH and probably spoiled her beyond measure, and you and The Husband would probably have had a lot of fun ganging up on me to make fun of me for for something... anything (like the compression sleeves I am still currently wearing after having slept in them last night).

I hope that I can be as monumental a parent as you were.  You taught me to give of oneself not for any glorification but because it's the right thing to do.  You taught me that sometimes it's OK to have some "slow" food and that the house doesn't have to be spotless to have a great time as a family (hence the state of our front room right now).  You taught me that some days need to be reserved for lounging and lazing.  You taught me to love to experiment in the kitchen and to enjoy every second of life.  You taught me that learning is vital and for everyone, no matter what some stupid high school counselor might have told YOU.
My only wish is that you had taken better care of yourself so that you didn't miss all those milestones in my life.  A piece of iceberg lettuce and slice of tomato on a burger does NOT count as a salad, and not all clear liquids adequately hydrate the body (I'm talking to you, vodka on the rocks).  Cigarettes... do I eve need to start?  And of course, there is more to physical activity than watching golf on TV.
I know you felt that since your dad died too soon that you, too, were going to have too short a life.  You kind of wrote your own book there, didn't you?
As much as I want to follow in your footsteps as a parent and kind, loving individual, I have to write my own ending.  I want to be there for HRH's milestones.  I'm kind of selfish like that.
So I am eating better, I am watching my own body move, and I am doing my best to give of myself to those who need someone to be compassionate.
I miss you, Dad.  And I hope that all of the lessons you taught me help make me a role model for my own daughter.
Happy Father's Day, Dad.  I love you.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Word of Warning - When You Hit the Trail, the Trail Hits Back

Since I've come back from my Pat's Run slump, I've been running almost completely naked.
In case you're not a runner and sat at attention there, running "naked" means that I'm not strapping on a GPS or heart rate monitor to constantly tell me my pace, speed, etc.  I'm not actually running naked.  I can't imagine how uncomfortable that would be.
For me or any passers-by.
Anyway, I say "almost completely" because I still take my phone, on which I have my GPS, but I have set the GPS to stay quiet and not give me any feedback; it only tracks my mileage overall.  I'm using that because we have already established that I am TERRIBLE at The Maths and thus need some extra help in calculating when I need new shoes (I am due for a new pair but am holding out for the end of the month).
I've been working hard not to obsess about how far or how fast I am going (or not going) and to just have fun running instead.  If it ceases to be fun, I really don't want to do it anymore.  But since it's getting hotter here in the Valley of the Sun, I've been sticking close to home on the canal, making for a bit of a Groundhog Day-esque running experience.
What's a girl to do in order to spice things up around here?
I've been thinking about adding trail running for a while now but had originally planned to hold off until the weather started cooling back down this fall, but when Kat called upon the Running Pack in the Sky for this weekend, I could not help but heed that call.
Zooey and I went for our usual run Friday morning along the canal, and as we ran, I decided that I just needed to stop saying "later."
So "later" became "tomorrow."
As in today.
While it's been hovering in the low 100s during the day, the Arizona nights are still cooling off, so I knew that as long as I kicked off as early as possible, both Zooey and I would be all right.
My location of choice was one of our favorite hiking spots - San Tan Mountain Regional Park, about 30 minutes away in Queen Creek.  I mapped out a route that was mostly a loop (there was a bit of out and back) that ended up being just slightly longer than a 5K, which was about as far as I wanted my first trail run to be.
I'm crazy.  Not stupid.
Usually, Zooey and I get up at 4:30, but since the park doesn't officially open until 6AM, I timed my alarm to make sure we got there shortly after gates opened.

Sunrise at San Tan
Friends, I am here to tell you this - trail running is awesome.  Simply awesome.
Also, on a related note, I am quite certain that getting out of bed will prove next to impossible tomorrow.
The trails at San Tan are appropriate for hikers, cyclists (there were about a bazillion there this morning), and horses; there are some deep dips on several trails, and on all of them, there are inclines, declines, and washes, which are usually dry.
It was the hardest run I have ever gone on.  I think, quite honestly, that it was a greater workout than even my half marathon.
In other words, trail running totally kicked my ass.
Call me a masochist; I can't wait to go back.

Zooey couldn't wait to get going, as anyone who
was at the park could hear...

Not quite as gorgeous as in the spring,
when the ocotillo is in bloom.

What do you do to change up your running (or other exercise) routine?
Have you ever gone trail running or hiking?
Do you run naked or fully geared?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Favorite Food Friday

When I was pregnant with HRH, I wanted pizza.  All.  The.  Time.  My poor husband, who loves pizza himself, got so weary of it that when I wanted pasta he almost celebrated the chance to not eat pizza.
I continue to love pizza (it's weird that HRH doesn't like pizza; you'd think it was like mother's milk to her... especially since I suspect my milk actually tasted like pizza), and although I could probably eat it more than once a week if I were given free reign, I don't.
Sometimes we go out, but more than not of late, when I want pizza, I just make it myself (insert sound clip of small child yelling, "I DO IT MYSELF!").
This also helps make sure that I win the Deep Dish vs. Thin Crust debate (The Husband is pro-Chicago-style; I am a fan of New York pizza).
I have played around with various crust recipes but have found my best success with the crust in the Peas and Thank You cookbook; it's light and bakes up nice and crispy.  This week I subbed a small bit of whole wheat flour for the whole wheat pastry flour to get a little bit denser, chewier texture.
When I make pizza, it's basically Whatever Possible Toppings Are On Hand flavor.  I feel like I've come a long way in my belief of What is Allowed as a Pizza Topping; when I was small, it was only pepperoni, black olives, and, when done appropriately, sausage, white onions, and cashews.  The first time I saw artichoke hearts on pizza, I was mortified.  Now I find them delectable and will regularly order them when eating out.
This week, my toppings included yellow summer squash, apples, arugula, and caramelized onions that came right from our CSA share as well as sun-dried tomatoes and part-skim mozzarella cheese.  I don't generally use sauce - red sauce has never been my favorite, and while I really do love white garlic sauces, I don't need the calories that my favorite ones add (the approximate number is a bazillion).  So I just brush the crust with olive oil.  I did plan to add some minced garlic, but I forgot, as I did with the Kalamata olives
The one thing that I think ALL pizza crust recipes need to include is this:

Before shaping the crust, sprinkle an ample amount of cornmeal onto your shaping surface.  Right before you put your pizza in the oven, sprinkle your pizza stone with cornmeal as well.  This will help prevent the crust from sticking to anything.

See?  Ample.
I mean, I guess if you were going to shape your crust on a pizza pan, this wouldn't be a big deal, but since we have a pizza stone that we use in the oven and on the grill, it's a Necessary Step.

I can't guarantee that all my pizza creations are as veggie-fied as the one I made this week, but hey, when I make it myself, it's bound to be a healthier version of one of my favorite splurges.


If there is anything tastier than baked cheese, I want to meet it.

Pizza is the exception to my "no seconds" rule.
Every rule has to have exceptions.

What is a food you could eat at least once weekly for the rest of your life?
What is your favorite pizza topping combination?
Red sauce, white sauce, or no sauce?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Workout Wednesday - June 13

The Husband returns from the first of his (almost) back to back trips tomorrow.  Before he leaves again Saturday evening, I'll get at least one run in.  However, since we 1) don't have a treadmill 2) aren't members of any gym 3) live in Arizona where it's really hot 4) have a 3-year-old who can't just hold down the fort while Momma goes for a run, it's difficult to get a run in while he's gone.  Yes, I KNOW that I could probably suck it up and go out for a run in the later morning after HRH is off to daycare but before it hits triple digits, but since I run with Zooey - and LOVE running with Zooey as much as she loves running with me - I can't justify taking my black and tan girl out when I know the sun in going to be bearing down on her.  Plus, while it might be in the 90s when I go, the pavement will likely have already reached the 110s or more, and I don't even want to think of how hot the blacktop will have already gotten.
Yes, it is true that we can fry eggs on the sidewalks here in the summer.
We are also not opposed to driving with oven mitts on.
So what to do in order to keep the activity going while The Husband is out of town.
Thank heaven for the App Store.
I'll admit it - while I really really really wanted an iPhone, I wanted but at the same time didn't want an iPad (I'm not totally sure why).  But now that I have one, I wouldn't give it up.  Not only is HRH learning German (the other day she pointed to her eyes and said, "There are Augen!") and how to add with the apps I've gotten for her, but I have found some fantastic apps for myself to help make my cross training easier.
Of course we've already talked about the Hundred Pushups Challenge.  At first, I was just going to keep a spreadsheet to log my weeks of pushups; a simple sum formula was all I needed.  But it has been absolutely worth it, thus far, to download the Hundred Pushups app to keep track of everything (Matt over at For the Sole, who initiated the challenge on Twitter, is also using the app, and you can check out his post about it here).

This is a snap from last week;
I'm up to 27 thus far.
I'm not going to lie - even though I am only about a quarter of the way to 100, I'm already feeling the difference in my arms.  The first few days were killers; I was so so so so so so SO sore.  Ouch.  But I sucked it up and got over it.
But two dozen pushups three times a week isn't cutting it.  And while I'm not training now, I've already picked out my next half marathon and plugged my training schedule into my calendar; I'll be starting in August.
I've got to get my cross training in.

OK, I admit it - when I trained for London's Run, I used my pilates and yoga DVDs for my cross training.  And I love them.  I loooooooove pilates.  But it didn't really give me the results I was looking for, partly because as I got busy, it was too easy for me to cheat. "Oh, I have a ton of grading to do; I can't possibly fit in that 30-minute video today."
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I KNOW - I need to make time.  Stop it.  We've all made that excuse.  Don't pretend you haven't.

This is where my other favorite apps have come in.
Daily Workout was the most expensive app, at a whopping $3.99, that I have purchased.  But within the full workout, I get abs, arms, butt, cardio, and leg workouts that start at 5 minutes apiece (they go up to 10 minutes, and there are different levels of workout intensity), so I can space them apart but can NOT make an excuse that I can't fit the workouts in here and there.
The format is simple, so it's extremely user friendly.

This is the ab workout.
There are three intensity levels;
you can select 5-, 7.5-, or 10-minute workouts.

You can see the list of each exercise in the workout.
If you choose the 5-minute option,
you would do each of these for 30 seconds.
Once begun, the instructions are on the screen, and the audio posts which exercise comes along.  I do recommend going through the workouts before completing them to make sure that you know how to do each exercise; even though there is a video of the instructor modeling it, it's always best to make sure you're not confused.
Except I still confuse left and right, but whatever.
The minimum time requirement that I have for this during a cross training day is 20 minutes - 5 minutes each for abs, arms, butt, and legs (although I don't do them in that order; I like to change things up a bit and make that a game time decision).
The cardio is reserved for my regular "running" days, although since it's not actually running (there is running in place), I guess that this, too, counts as cross training.  Nuances.
Also at 5-, 7.5-, and 10-minute increments with different degrees of intensity, I can repeat these sessions a few times throughout the day while HRH is otherwise occupied and still attend to her 3-year-old needs.
The only one who isn't thrilled about this arrangement is Zooey, who has had to slum it with boring walks, but since she has been playing hardcore in the new kiddie pool with HRH (and drinking about a bazillion gallons of water in the process), she's been sacked out by 8:30 every night anyway, so I think she'll survive these few weeks before we can head back out for our usual 4:30 AM dates.

Mooooo-OM!  I'm trying to sleep!
I also downloaded the free version of the Daily Workouts Daily Yoga app; this is great for travel (all of these apps, in fact, are compatible with both the iPhone and iPad at the App Store - I can't speak for non-Apple-based phones).  I do prefer my yoga DVDs for a good evening relaxation workout, but when I am in need of some relaxation or gentle stretching without a great deal of time, it's perfect.
Since I decided to use my vacation time to get back in the habit of cross training, I've already seen a difference in my strength; today I had to change the water jugs out (instead of usually waiting for The Husband to do it), and I was almost surprised at how NOT heavy those 5 gallons were.
My overall objective is to start my half marathon training stronger than when I began training for my first half marathon.  Not just able to lift more weights or do more pushups, but a stronger runner.  I know that the cross training will help with both.
Plus, my butt is gonna look GREAT in jeans.

Disclosure: all opinions expressed in this post are my own and not influenced by the makers of any of the apps that I mentioned in this post.  I purchased all these apps without being instructed or requested, and I have in no way been compensated for my opinions.  However, if the makers of these apps would like to shower me with gifts, I have no issue with that.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Oooh, Heaven is a Place on Earth

Lovely little bundles of sunshine
Today was one of those just wonderful days.  Not like a "OMG I WON AN OSCAR" type wonderful - wonderful in its simplicity.  I'm not sure what transpired to bring such a fantastic set of waking hours after such a rough semester, but I am still reveling in it before I head to the Land of Nod.
First things first - HRH let me sleep in this morning.  All the way to 7:30.  Granted, she did wake me up screaming bloody murder at some point in the middle of the night, and when I raced in there to see if she was OK, she was in the throes of some night terror, hollering "I just want my grass to grow!"  Not sure what transpired to upset her about bare patches in the lawn, but I'm just glad that she was able to calm herself and return to a regular, peaceful sleep so that I was able to do the same.
After getting up, we made big plans.  In order to get a peaceful shower, I started her favorite, Beauty and the Beast.  Once I was clean, we slathered on sunscreen, got dressed, and got in the car.
First stop - Bergie's to pick up our CSA veggies.  And a lavender lemonade for me.

Makes 92° feel like a mere 85°.
Which ended up being for both of us.  Mmmmm.... I love lavender lemonade.  So much in fact that I want both a lemon tree and large lavender plant just so that I can indulge whenever the heck I want.
Once veggie-fied and quenched, we headed across the street to the Gilbert Farmer's Market, where I picked out a few purple and orange cherry tomatoes while HRH made friends with a gorgeous Rhodesian Ridgeback (who was only too happy to offer her a few kisses in return for her affection).  His owner and I discussed how much we love the market, especially for tomatoes.  His comment - "I hate buying them at the grocery store.  They're dry and taste like cardboard."  Amen, brother!
We also picked up a few peaches and some gorgeous squash blossoms.
Now, I've only had squash blossoms stuffed with cheese and deep fried.  Delicious; I can't lie.  But really, not the best option out there.  Surely there had to be another, healthier option.
Thank you, Tasty Kitchen, for not disappointing with your avocado salad stuffed squash blossoms!  You had me at avocado, and then I read that there was no frying involved.  The freshness stays in tact!
Ironically, another Gilbert Farmer's Market afficionado, Inspired RD, found the exact link I did and prepped them for lunch today and has already posted about how lovely the recipe is.
In other words, when you get your hands on some squash blossoms, make this recipe.  You will not be disappointed.
Since The Husband is out of town visiting his parents and baby brother (text: "Cracken rum and cream soda is amazing!" - glad you boys are having fun at the lake), I texted my girlfriend Danielle and asked her to come for dinner, which she gladly did, bearing wine (I love her) and a gift for HRH (HRH loves her, too).  Danielle follows a gluten-free diet, so I wanted to make sure that I didn't have anything that would have gluten in it but would feature those amazing tomatoes and the summer squash that I received in the CSA share for the week.
Basically a no-brainer: tostadas.
Before I prepped dinner, though, HRH and I had to test drive the new kiddie pool that I had promised her for ages.  Once re-slathered with sunblock, we spent about two hours splashing about, jumping into and out of the pool, and spraying Zooey down with the hose.  There is something magical about the combination of a preschooler and a basic plastic pool.  I think I had more fun in that 5-foot diameter pool today than I have in those pools that allow me a floating chaise with a drink holder.

"Splash, Momma!"
I think that Devil Dog probably drank about 8 gallons of water throughout the day, but at least she is sleeping hard after a day with no walk.  I can happily say the same about HRH, except sub nap where I wrote walk earlier.  I love it when I can have fun with both my girls at the same time.

So, about those tostadas....
I picked up some sprouted corn tortillas and toasted them before piling them with black beans and cheese.  This was placed under the broiler until the cheese melted.  Then I piled those tortillas high with some avocado creme (avocado and Greek yogurt with just a touch of salt, whipped in the food processor until smooth and creamy), lettuce, tomato pico de gallo (see below), and the rest of the avocado.
Hey, since this was a vegetarian meal, the least we could do is load up on the good fats in the avocado, right?

Can you see the goodness that is the colors of the rainbow,
in veggie form?????
I have to tell you.... there is nothing better in the heat of summer than fresh vegetables all over the plate.  All of the veggies were picked fresh this week and traveled mere miles to get to my plate.  The freshness came across on the plate; while I added some salt to the pico de gallo, there was no need for salt or other flavorings, since the freshness of the veggies gave us sweet and savory, which matched the different textures - crunchy, chewy, and more - so perfectly.
Just as a note, after I cleaned the squash blossoms, I left on the stems to serve as a "handle."  They were easier, in my opinion, to pick up and eat in one bite that way.
After a lovely dinner, my girl - who was SO tired after such a big day - and I talked with The Husband via video chat before a final snuggle.  She was asleep in two minutes.

So, to review... here is the list of veggies that were on our plate this evening but were still growing last weekend:

  • Orange cherry tomatoes
  • Purple cherry tomatoes
  • Yellow summer squash
  • Squash blossoms
  • Onion blossoms
  • White onions
  • Basil
  • Mint (from my own plant)
  • Red leaf lettuce

And in case you wanted to throw together a chunky pico de gallo that was more than tomatoes, onion, and cilantro....

Rainbow Pico de Gallo

  • 1 cup mixed color cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters (I used orange and purple)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced yellow summer squash, cut into mini matches
  • 1 onion blossom
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp mint, cut into thin ribbons
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp cumin

Toss all ingredients gently in a bowl; let sit at least 30 minutes for flavors to mingle.  Serve over tostadas or use to dunk sturdy chips.

What is the best combination of fresh vegetables that you have had?  
What is one veggie dish that screams "summer" to you?
What was the last "perfect" day that you reveled in?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Friday Recap - Ice, Ice, Pushups

I am officially on vacation for four weeks.  Four, glorious weeks.  Of course, I have a to do list, but I'm also looking forward to having some time to do nothing.  I still haven't seen the last Harry Potter installment, so I've got that on DVR, ready to go.
Of course, summer vacation means summer.  While many places are experiencing cooler than normal weather, it's already plenty hot here, having already hit the century mark for over a week now.  The evenings and mornings are still cool, but that won't last long.
When it's hot, I start to taper off on the coffee and up the iced tea.  This week I made a cinnamon-infused raspberry tea.  It was fantastic.

Can't you hear me just relax, sit back, and have an "ahhhh" moment?
Cinnamon-Infused Raspberry Tea

  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 large iced tea bags (we use Luzianne, but it doesn't matter except that it should be made for iced tea)
  • 2 bags raspberry tea (I use Bigelow raspberry herbal tea)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • handful fresh raspberries

Bring water to a boil.  Pour over tea bags and cinnamon sticks; let steep for at least ten minutes.  Remove cinnamon and tea bags (leave the tea in if you prefer a stronger tea).  Bring tea to room temperature before chilling.  Pour over ice; garnish with more raspberries, if you like.

I only left the cinnamon in for about five minutes, and it's a small hint; ten minutes would really be ideal to have a little snap to it in combination with the raspberries.
So... cinnamon.  It's not only an antioxidant but also a great anti-inflammatory.  So on top of tasting great, by adding a bit of cinnamon, you're doing something good for you.  While I do love me some good sweet tea, unless it's REAL sweet tea, I don't prefer any sweetener in my teas, so the cinnamon was more clear than if I had added any sugar.  The raspberries were slightly sweet, but not cloyingly so, so it was really fresh on a hot Arizona day.  Just know that if you are caffeine sensitive, you should probably not drink the tea in the afternoon; I couldn't help myself and paid the price of having trouble sleeping last night.
Considering I made this batch Thursday and it's nearly gone, I'm certain we'll be drinking a good deal of iced tea this summer.

A tall glass of iced tea is especially refreshing after a round of pushups for the Hundred Pushups Challenge.

Now on pre-sale: tickets to the gun show
(that joke is not going to go away)

Today was Week 1 Day 3, so I actually had 22 pushups that I needed to complete: 4-5-4-4-5.  The last set is actually one in which you have to max out, so 5 is the minimum.  I managed to do 6 in that set before the arms gave out.
I'm definitely feeling it in my arms, but I'm less sore today than I was earlier in the week.  The thought of doing 100 pushups is still daunting, but knowing that I can already almost do 1/4 of that makes me feel like it's attainable.
As a sidebar, I had determined that I needed a "before" shot of me flexing, but The Husband was a little reluctant to do so before he headed out on a business trip, so I have nothing to show right now, but hopefully I'll have that little gem for you soon.  I promise there will be no duck lips.
Confession: I am also doing other arm workouts for my cross training two times a week of late, so I'm hoping that I can gain some more upper body strength faster than if I were JUST doing the Hundred Pushups Challenge.

Lastly, there was a bit more success in the "Get My Child To Eat More Than Five Foods" campaign.  A friend of mine posted a picture on my Facebook wall (or timeline or whatever it's called now) of a little girl eating from an ice cube tray.
I promptly did the same thing for HRH's dinner that night.

My picture was not as cute as the one posted on my timeline.
Clockwise, from top left: dark chocolate chips (dessert with dinner is proving to work well, actually), blueberries, sunflower seeds, carrots, raspberries, Buddy Bear ("chocolate bear" laxative that we use to... well, you know), strawberries, red grapes, roasted unsalted peanuts, Goldfish®, cheese, Craisins®, pecans, and green grapes.
I'm sure that my mom will die when she sees that I put chocolate chips in there with dinner, but I've been allowing a small amount of dessert with each dinner.  It's made clear that it's all the dessert that HRH will get.  If she eats it first, so be it.
Same goes with things like Goldfish.  She knows they, like chocolate chips, are a "slow" food (as explained over at Peas and Thank You).  However, being able to get a little bit is better than nothing (something I wish I could teach my students in reference to grades), so the 12 little trays of "go" food and 2 of the "slow" food made for an adventurous meal.  I'm even happy to report that she ate a few of the pecans, although The Husband admitted that he "helped" HRH with that tray.  But by the end of dinner, almost everything was gone.
The chocolate chips tray, of course, was completely empty.
It was so popular that HRH asked to have her breakfast the next morning in the tray, so I think this is another serving dish that is here to stay until she decides that she's willing to eat normal things like macaroni and cheese, salad, or oatmeal.

What creative things have you done of late to get your picky eaters (husbands may be included in this group) to eat their "go" foods?
How many pushups can you do right now?
What's your favorite iced tea (or hot tea - we don't like to discriminate) infusion?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

I Can't Lift My Arms...OOOOH - Cookies!

OK, just to start things off, I need to discuss my newest current obsession: Herbavoracious's sesame-orange sablé cookies.  I finally made them today after drooling over the recipe in the new cookbook.
Oh, my word.  Michael Natkin, you are a genius.  These cookies are like if butter cookies, sugar cookies, shortbread cookies, and those salty little sesame sticks I always eat too many of had a baby and then fed their baby to me.

Side note - if babies tasted like this, there would be fewer people on the planet.

But I digress.

Also, eating babies is completely improper and immoral.  I swear that whole analogy up there was due to the haze of deliciousness that I'm currently in; there is no way you can expect me to remain lucid.

The recipe called for orange zest, but since I had a few fresh limes lying around, I zested them instead.  It was A Good Decision.
The fact that there are still plenty of these babies leftover for The Husband to try and for us to maybe work through in the remaining days of this week says a lot for how far I have come in my quest to stop overeating.  Although I still had 6 cookies today.
So, get the Herbavoracious cookbook, but not just for these amazing cookies.  All of the (vegetarian) recipes are beautiful and mouth-watering, and if I had my druthers, I would probably work my way through the entire book while on vacation.

On a completely unrelated topic, today is the day after Day 1 of the Hundred Pushups Challenge.  I managed to do 14 yesterday, in 5 sets: 2-3-2-2-5.  And so, today, I have to say this:


Apparently, one doesn't tend to us the pectoral and other push-up related muscles very much when running.  Duly noted.
Tomorrow (Day 2) is gonna be rough, folks.  But it will be worth it if I can slither into that tacky shirt (I've actually decided that a tank top is really the way to go) advertising free tickets to that spectacular gun show.

How are you changing up your fitness routine as summer weather heats up?  What is your newest food obsession that you can't get enough of?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Are You Ready... For the GUN SHOW????

First and foremost, I am getting the t-shirt that asks if you're ready for the gun show.

Second, I hope you are ready for the gun show.

Since I've just come back from my running (and, thanks to end of semester, blogging) hiatus, I've been thinking about what I can do this summer to get me focused on my fitness and health without tying myself to my GPS.  I've determined that I am running my second half marathon in November, which means I need to start training in earnest in August.

That gives me about 7-ish weeks.  Maybe more.  I really don't know.  I haven't counted.  My math skills are not what we would call "ninja-like."  Or even "fifth-grader-like."  That's why, people, I teach English.

Anyway, Matt over at For the Sole posted a fun challenge - the 100 Pushup Challenge from Hundred Pushups (we'll talk about the Captain Obviousness of this sentence some other time, OK?).  He decided, rather rashly, one evening, that he wanted to be able to do 100 pushups.  Shockingly enough, The Internet has an app a page for that.  The page has an app for that, in case you were curious (I'm still debating downloading it - $1.99 is awful steep around these parts).

Since misery loves company runners on Twitter love camaraderie, he invited other Twitterers (tweeters sounds, to me, too much like tweakers; I can't be the only one who likes the stuttering sound of Twitterer, too) to join him, and so 21 of us are embarking on this journey.

My initial test of standard (not "girl,") pushups: five.

I can do five standard pushups.

I think I was able to do more in fifth grade for the Presidential Fitness Test.

If I'm going to get myself some arms like Michelle Obama, I need to get on the stick.

Going from 5 to 100 pushups in 7 weeks is daunting, but if I can chip at it little by little, and incorporate three days of pushup-ing into my workout routine, I am bound to get stronger.

Check back - and check in over at For the Sole, too! - to see how I'm managing (and how my 20 fellow pushup-ers are faring).

And yes, prepare yourself for a pic of the t-shirt.  You know you want it.