Monday, November 18, 2013

Finding inspiration in the kitchen

Over the last couple of months I've really focused on getting back into the kitchen. This probably doesn't surprise those who know me, but I once considered culinary school rather than a traditional university. Coming home after a long day and cooking myself a nice meal while enjoying a glass of wine can almost be meditative.

My goal has been to really focus on my eating - increasing fruits and vegetables, decreasing processed ingredients, and saving money by having quality meals on hand rather than grabbing something quick and easy. Yes, cooking for one can be a drag, but hey, you're worth it, aren't you?

I had previously looked at Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs, but for a variety of reasons never signed up for one. A friend at work told me about one nearby that didn't have a long term commitment or upfront cost. The week to week option fits my lifestyle completely, if there's a weekend I know I will be busy and unable to prepare meals, then I simply don't sign up for a share.

The CSA and Pinterest have also made meal planning fun and interesting. It's forced me slightly out of my comfort zone by making me try things I have cooked with little to no times before, like cauliflower, eggplant, brussel sprouts, Romensco, etc. I do my best to pick recipes that are interesting and don't require a large investment in additional ingredients.

Yes, all of this is very time consuming. Fortunately I know before pick up what will likely be in my bag. Meal planning probably takes a couple of hours, and I carve out Sunday to cook for the week. I've learned that if I don't use the fruits and veggies when I get them, then it is likely alot will go to waste. The plus side is that grocery shopping takes probably about half the time since I only have to go in for a few ingredients, and don't wander the aisles and risk impulse buying.

This week's bag had: tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, Romanesco, red potatoes, garlic, shallots, eggplant, and cranberries. (Note: The cranberries were a substitute, another reason why I love this particular program. I was supposed to get mushrooms but asked if I could get something else instead.)

How everything got used:

Tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce where cut up for salads.

Shallots (and local honey from a prior week's bag) - Chicken with Honey-Beer Sauce

Brussel sprouts - Maple, Balsamic and Bacon Brussel Sprouts

Cranberries (and the rest of an open bottle of red wine) - Spiced Cranberry Sauce (placed in freezer until Thanksgiving.

Broccoli and red potato - Broccoli Cheddar Soup

Cauliflower and garlic (and a butternut squash for a prior week's bag) - Butternut Squash & Cauliflower Casserole

Eggplant - Eggplant stuffed with eggplant, onion, and ground sausage with Bechmel sauce. (The recipe I found was not very good, so I kind of winged this one. It came out pretty good.)

Romensco and garlic - Romanesco and Rigatoni (I also added in some diced pancetta that I had in the freezer)

Lots of great things to eat this week (and leftovers to freeze for busy weeks)!

What's your favorite seasonal thing to make?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Diva's DC wrap up

So, we left the winery about 1-1:30, and sure enough, ended up back on a long, winding road of standstill traffic. Waze traffic app kept increasing our estimated arrival time back at the hotel. We continued calling the hotel to alert them of the situation. We had no idea if they might charge us for being so far past check out time or not.

Finally, after another hour in the car, we told them just to pull everything out of our 3 rooms and we would sort it all out when we got there. They had 3 weddings arriving and needed to turn over those rooms quick.

We finally arrived back to the hotel after 3pm. The housekeeping staff had packed up our items, and arranged them by room number on the floor of their office. They apologized for having to take everything out, and we apologized repeatedly for them having to be in the situation to begin with. And, they never charged us for the extra time. If you're ever in the Leesburg area, please check out the Holiday Inn at Carradoc Hall. The staff there were so great to work with. In the days following the race, we found out that people staying at the official race host resort were charged an additional night (I think close to $300).

After gathering our belongings and saying our goodbyes, we finally grabbed something to eat before heading home. I finally walked in my front door around 6:30, still in my running clothes.

The next day I had a massage. I told the therapist, who has treated me after many races before, about the horrors of the day before. As she worked on me, she continued to comment that she was seeing problems I'd never come in with before, specifically in my feet and ankles. All we could presume is that it was from the surfaces the day before. Needless to say, I'm grateful I saw her that day.

Long and short, this is obviously a race I don't plan or doing again. And, I honestly would be surprised if local authorities even grant the permits for 2014.

The good news is that while my Fall started off poorly, I had lots of great surprises ahead of me.

Miss Part 1 or Part 2.