Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Love List (Fall 2013)

Some things I've been a little obsessed with lately...
The October issue of Real Simple:
It's got tons of awesome recipes, including 10 different ways to use butternut squash!
Pumpkin candles, pumpkin tea, pumpkin beer, pumpkin coffee, pumpkin butter...oh, yeah, and pumpkins.
The Isabel Dalhousie books:
I'm just finishing the fourth in the series and adore them. Perfect reading for rainy days.
 If crosswords and Sudoku got together, their offspring would be the mighty codeword puzzle. I found a book of these at Barnes & Noble and am now totally addicted.
This free site offers videos for all levels of practice. It also allows you to search by length of video (20 minutes or less, 20-40 minutes, 40-60, etc.), or by type of yoga. I love the hamstrings, neck & shoulder, yin yoga, and post-run videos. Great way to fight off tension headaches!
My "blanket" wrap:
I bought this at a local used clothing boutique. Jared calls it my Native American blanket. It's so comfy, and I love the pattern.
Vintage Pink:
 Holy smokes...this store is dangerous. I found a white rolling cart for our kitchen, a blue lamp for the living room, and a gnome for the front yard. It's on the east side of Portland - good thing it isn't closer or I would probably go broke.
Saw this with a girlfriend over the weekend, and it was adorable! Great for Pride & Prejudice fanatics and casual moviegoers alike.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Grilling is for Girls: REAL SIMPLE Beef, Bacon, and Egg Burgers

Last night signaled the end of my grilling challenge! Every week Jared's been in medical school, I made a different burger from Real Simple's June article "Top This." It was a really fun adventure for me; at the beginning I needed some help from Jared in lighting the grill, but pretty soon I was confident enough to do things all alone. Yesterday I got the grill to start on my first try.
The final burger was total comfort food - like a breakfast sandwich, but even better. I went with whole wheat English muffins, and an heirloom tomato from a local farmer's market.
Maybe it's just because I'm getting better, (or maybe the prep time is one of the shortest listed), but this took me less than 30 minutes from lighting the grill to sitting down at the table. It also had the simplest steps (I thought) and simplest ingredients.
After lighting the grill, I chopped up the bacon into fairly large chunks and mixed it with the ground beef and ground black pepper.  I formed patties, which looked pretty large, especially considering I had bought a little over a pound of beef instead of 1.25 pounds.
Once these were on the grill, I used the first four minutes to do some dishes.  I flipped the burgers, and then started on the English muffins, eggs, and tomato.
I cooked Jared's two eggs a little longer than my egg since he doesn't like super runny yolks.  I toasted the muffins in our little toaster instead of grilling them.  (Our grill is pretty small so there isn't much spare room.)
I took three slices off the tomato for myself.  Jared is not a fan of tomatoes, so I get the heirloom all to myself!
The burgers were done in about nine minutes total.  The last step was simply to put everything together.
For mine, I put the tomato on top of the bottom half of the muffin, added the burger, then the egg, and topped with the rest of the "bun."
These were incredible - and so filling!  Usually Jared has eaten two burgers every week (one night he even ate three) and this time he could only finish one.
I would say my favorite burgers of the whole challenge were these "breakfast" burgers, and the Salmon-Scallion Burgers. But all the recipes were definitely worth trying, and now I have a new skill under my belt.
Can't wait till next summer - I'll be grilling everything in sight.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Grilling is for Girls: REAL SIMPLE Mushroom Burgers with Fontina and Cornichon Relish

Tonight marks the end of my summer grilling challenge! Here's my recap of last week's grill: the Mushroom Burger.
We've tried portabella mushrooms before, and, try as we might, neither of us can bring ourselves to like mushrooms. For this recipe, I decided to substitute regular old ground beef for the patty.
I couldn't find ciabatta rolls at Trader Joe's, so I got this incredible ciabatta loaf instead. I also had to look up cornichons online - I had no idea they were basically mini pickles.
I set out all the ingredients and started heating the grill.  This time I wish I would have made the relish before putting the patties together because the grill time for the beef was so short.
I got it all worked out and toasted the bread in my normal toaster to save time while the burgers were grilling.  This one was pretty simple compared to some of the other recipes.  I just had to put the cheese, relish, lettuce, and burger patty together on the ciabatta!
These were so delicious. The relish was fun and the burgers were juicy.  The toasted bread was just perfect, especially since I got to cut it to the size I wanted.  (Sometimes there is just too much bun, you know?)
I served the burgers with our new favorite beer, Swill, from 10 Barrel Brewing Co. in Bend.
So yummy!
Tonight we grill the final burger!  I've been saving the Beef, Bacon, and Egg Burger for last.  And we have finally gotten some fall weather here in Portland, so it will be the perfect comfort food.  I'll let you know how they turn out.
In case you missed my other burger adventures, here they are!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Murder Monday: Isabel Dalhousie, Hannah Swensen, & Powell's City of Books

I can't believe that in all my visits to Portland, I'd never done an exclusive post about Powell's City of Books!  Well, last weekend, I finally got a chance to take some photos, so now I can share with you one of my favorite places in the whole wide world.
I took Jared's bike to the shop on Saturday, which put me downtown with some time to kill.
I've been making great use of the Multnomah County Library System, but had only indulged in one trip to Powell's since we moved in August. I figured there was basically no better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than poking around amongst the shelves!
My first stop was the magazine section, to the right when you walk in the front doors. I have a subscription to Real Simple, but my experience with subscription sign-ups is that they take several months to get rolling, so I bought this month's issue to tide me over.  (Side note - my subscription copy arrived in the mail this week.  Oops on me, but yay for Real Simple!)
I saw a book that reminded me of my dad...
...and another that reminded me of some dear family friends who introduced us to "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah."
I love how the whole store is organized by "room" and there are signs everywhere telling you which room to go to for the books you want.
I actually had more than browsing on my plate.  Jared needed an anatomy coloring book for school, so I went to find him the latest edition. 
Then I toodled over to my very favorite section in the store - the mysteries!!!
They have my all-time favorite, Agatha Christie:
As well as two new (to me) authors.  I'll start with Joanne Fluke.
I picked up "Fudge Cupcake Murder" in the library a few weeks ago, because the title sounded fun and the cover was adorable.  (Not sure if this is my dad's criteria, but he's the man who taught me about "spine trolling," so I owe him a nod.)  I mean, a baker who solves mysteries and gives treat recipes every other chapter?
Well, I was pretty disappointed.  Honestly, I only finished the book so that I could write this little review.  The language and sexual content were all very mild, but as I told Jared, "Usually I can't finish books because they're too graphic.  This one just isn't very good...but it says 'Best-Selling Author'!!!"
I felt like it could've been a great novel if someone had edited out about a third of the book.  The characters and the Minnesota town were endearing and fun, and of course the baking in conjunction with crime-solving was a great little twist.  But the author seemed like she had never heard the phrase, "Show, don't tell."  We got Hannah Swensen's daily life and thought process in painstaking detail. 
My biggest frustration with this book was the sheer wordiness of it.  I felt like it was repetitive, saying the same thing over and over again, redundant, and over-emphasizing every point in case you didn't get it the first time.  (See what I mean?)
However, I must say that the actual solving of the murder, along with the red-herrings and revelation of the villain, was well-done and interesting.  If you love baking and don't mind verbosity, these could be an enjoyable series.
And now, the fun part: my new favorite mystery writer, Alexander McCall Smith!
My mother-in-law told me about his No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, but when I couldn't find the first book at the library, I picked up his Isabel Dalhousie series and fell absolutely in love.
It takes place in modern-day Scotland, and makes you want to light a fire and snuggle up with a plaid blanket and a cup of tea.  Isabel is the editor of a philosophical journal, and her internal monologues and debates about the ethical implications of everyday life are a treat to read. 
These differ somewhat from the standard mystery novel.  You are treated just as much to Isabel's personal life as you are to her "moral obligations" to others.  Solving the mystery is crucial, but usually takes a surprising turn.
I absolutely recommend these delightful novels...and of course I bought the third in the series: The Right Attitude to Rain.
My haul included a $4 Dombey & Son, my Isabel Dalhousie novel, Amateur Detectives, Jared's coloring book, my magazine, and a handy blue bag for all the loot.
This set me back about $50 - most of the books were used.
If you ever come to Portland, don't miss Powell's City of Books!  Parking can be a bit of a challenge, but any hassle is absolutely worth it.  Set aside a few hours, browse the shelves, checkout, and then spend some time reading and people-watching in their delicious cafĂ©.
And in the meantime, grab a copy of The Sunday Philosophy Club and head to Edinburgh!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Filthy Fifty + A Peek at Our New Box (CrossFit503)

Happy Friday!
This is practically the first weekend since the move that we don't have visitors from Seattle!
Last weekend we had three different groups come down, including Heidi from Mercer Island CrossFit:
She joined us for the Saturday WOD at CrossFit503, our new workout home-base.
Filthy Fifty is a benchmark workout, and I was kinda sad not to be able to tackle it RX. 
My shoulder seems to be all better but my calf is still having issues, and I'm always terrified of ripping my hands, so here's how I scaled:
CrossFit503 provides a bunch of mini-whiteboards and dry erase markers, which is REALLY handy for those of us who lose track of where we are during a WOD.  I put a halfway line for some extra motivation. 
I did box step-ups instead of box jumps, and my pull-ups didn't give a lot of "jump" since the box I had was too low.  Those took me a long time.  I RX'ed the kettlebell swings at #35.  The lunges were pretty easy for me, but I decided to do V-ups instead of knees-to-elbows after the 50 pull-ups.  50 V-ups are no joke!!!
The push press is one of my best movements, so I got through these at RX weight pretty quickly.  There is only 1 GHD, so the whole class did supermans instead of back extensions.  I always dread wallballs, but I have been pushing myself to use the 10' target that hangs from the ceiling to push my power and accuracy.  I kept a good attitude and kept my elbows narrow, and kept plugging away until I had 50. 
See the red strip on the right? That's our WB target!
I love burpees - this was the one movement where I didn't take any rest.  My final challenges was 15 calories on the air-dyne instead of the 50 double unders.  Walking over to the bike even seemed tiring, but I was able to finish strong.  I was figuring about 30 minutes for this one, and I did it in 31:48.
This was my first time actually doing Filthy Fifty.  Benchmarks are so fun because you can always try to improve the next time!  My goal is a stronger calf and tougher hands so I can RX.
We are really thankful to have found an awesome box so close to home.  Love the facility, the coaches, the programming, and the community!  Can't wait to check out the "Yoga for Athletes" class tomorrow.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Grilling is for Girls: REAL SIMPLE Lamb Burgers with Tangy Fennel Slaw

Well, we are over halfway done with the six burgers in my grilling challenge!
If you missed the other escapades, here they are:
This week we went with the Lamb Burgers with Tangy Fennel Slaw.  I had to hit up two different grocery stores since Trader Joe's didn't have lamb and some of the other ingredients.
I always start by getting out all the ingredients.  Then I put them away after using them.  This helps me avoid forgetting anything (which I have done in the past). 
I ripped my hand doing pullups at CrossFit on Monday, so I had to enlist Jared's help.  These burgers were actually some of the most simple (and fast) of the bunch, but I needed him to mix up the ground lamb with the spices and make the four patties.
I got the grill going (lit it myself two times in a row now!) and worked on the fennel slaw.
It was really simple, and smelled great with the fresh lemon juice.  I went out to flip the burgers after they'd been on the grill for about 6 minutes...and forgot to set a timer for remaining cook time.
I worked on the "lemon tahini dressing" next.  I am too cheap to buy $7.50 in tahini when I almost never use it, so I used peanut butter instead.  It actually worked really well!  I also replaced the mayonnaise with Greek yogurt since we both hate mayonnaise.
All of a sudden I realized I hadn't heard a timer go off, so I went to check the burgers.  I should have taken them off right then, but I didn't want them to be under-cooked, so I waited another two minutes (probably 8 total on the second side).  Then I was scrambling to wash the lettuce and split the brioche buns, which I should have done earlier.
Finally, I was ready to assemble it all:
Honestly, these were our least favorite of the four burger recipes so far. 
Part of it is due to the fact that I overcooked the burgers...the other three were moist and these were a little dry.  The texture combo of brioche bun, crunchy fennel, and "Tahini Dressing" was great, but the flavors in this just weren't as compelling as the other burgers.  However, these were the most filling, especially since for once I bought the recommended amount of meat.
Since these were so dry, instead of reheating the two leftover lamb patties, I have been breaking them up and using them in soup.  I get really creative with leftovers since having the same exact meal over and over can get boring fast.
Next week's dilemma: The Mushroom Burger.
Try as we might, Jared and I have not been able to get on the mushroom for meat kick.  Do we try again with these and hope the relish and fontina cover the flavor and texture enough?  Or do we go big and crazy and try buffalo meat instead?  Or do I go with ground pork since I used turkey for the pork burgers? 
Help me - what should I do?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Grilling is for Girls: REAL SIMPLE Ginger-Scallion Salmon Burgers with Miso Yogurt

Welcome back to Adventures in Grilling!
This weekend, we had some med school friends treat us to some pickings from their (local, organic) garden!  The haul included some green onions, so of course I knew this was the week for the salmon burger recipe.
I bought most of the ingredients at Trader Joe's, but went to a local hippie grocery store for the salmon...I find that the fish at Trader Joe's isn't always the best.
Thankfully I read the recipe ahead of time: these burgers require 30 minutes of chill time in the fridge before grilling.
I ignored the first step of the recipe for prepping the carrot slaw.  I went straight to step 2: prepping the burgers.  We're on a money saving kick, so I went with 3/4 lb. of salmon instead of 1 and 1/4 lb.  I kept the rest of the ingredients the same except for the breadcrumbs, of which I used a little less.
It took me about 20 minutes all told to prep the burgers, but I had to skin and de-bone my salmon, which probably added a fair chunk of time.

After I put the salmon patties in the fridge and set the timer for 30 minutes, I went back to step 1: the slaw.  Usually I don't like slaws, but this one was very different and fun.

The carrot slaw took me about fifteen minutes to prepare.  I put this in the fridge with the patties and used some of the remaining time to do some of the dishes from prepping the patties and slaw.
When there were about 5 minutes left on the timer, I went down to the garage to get the grill!
After the grill heated up (Jared helped me start it again), it was time to add the salmon burgers.  Mine were a little smaller since I'd done less salmon, so I went with about 4 minutes per side instead of 5.
 Chilling these in the fridge made them hold together really well.  As the burgers were finishing, I toasted the buns for a minute or so on the grill.

Then I put it all together!  I decided not to do miso since we usually avoid soy.  Just the Greek yogurt was delicious on these!

Jared ended up eating three of the burgers!  All that studying makes him hungry.

I paired my burger with a pinot grigio.  It was so good with the spicy carrot slaw!

Seriously, if you haven't tried one of these burger recipes yet, you are missing out.  Every burger we eat ends up being my new favorite!

I think next week might be time for the lamb burger.  And who knows?  Maybe I'll even start the grill myself.