Sunday, December 13, 2009

Do they know it's Christmas time at all?

This happens to me every year I think. It's just that every year I forget. It's Christmas time again. I am happy for that. My tree and the accoutrements are up around the house. Gifts have been purchased (some have been wrapped). I've watched White Christmas and have my Christmas mix playing whenever I log into Pandora - but it just doesn't feel like Christmas to me yet.

It's such a sad feeling for me every year. I wait for that Christmas spirit to smack me upside the head. The kind where you walk outside and the cold air and snow smell like the holidays and even though it stays bitterly cold inside your car until the heater really kicks in you're happy. Or when you go to a Christmas party and the house/apt is so warm from all the body heat, food and hot drinks it feels as if you're always standing at the hearth of the fireplace. The smell of sugar cookies.

Nowadays, I don't get into the full blown Christmas spirit until right around Christmas Eve-eve. And at that point it all flies by so fast I can't absorb everything I want to savor fast enough.

I think it's work that does it. Even with holiday parties and Secret Santas, work still has its steady routine that really doesn't vary. I think it's not having the winter break to jump start everything. Your whole semester builds up to the onslaught that is finals week and then there is this huge, overwhelming relief - Christmas. You go home. There's a change of pace. Everything is different, everyone is happy and everything rings of Christmas spirit.

I'm not sad, really. I'm actually really relaxed and content with life...just wanting to feel that high.

I'll get there. I just wish it would come faster.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Tempeh Curry, a love story. Chapter 1

My oh my it has been a long time! Nearly 3 weeks. Blog, you don't get the attention you deserve.

Anyway, lots of things have been going on lately - but it's this beauty of a dish that has caused me to blog again.

It was my first attempt at curry, and I'm more than positive it won't be my last. I'd go as far to say that the vast flavor profile of curry dishes matched with the fact that their main ingredients can be improvised so easily leads me to believe that my budding love for making curry may rival my long standing passion for making chili.

To think this all started with a restaurant as unassuming as Thai Kitchen.

Before I get into my first attempt, I owe photo credits and the foundation of my recipe to 101 cookbooks, a blog I've mentioned before. In case you feel like spicing up your own dinner menu sometime soon, I've included her recipe, in it's entirety below. However, even though this was my first attempt, I didn't follow her recipe to a T and so I also included my notes later.

This curry has a bit of kick to it - so if you're cooking for a spice-sensitive crowd, scale back a bit - and season to taste at the end. Also, the recipe has you steam the potatoes. I couldn't find my big metal steamer, so I rigged one using a metal strainer suspended over a large pasta pot with a lid on. There was a bit of a gap, and it probably took longer than it would have otherwise, but it worked. A pasta pot insert would work too. In the end, the potatoes just need to be cooked, so you could boil them or even roast them (oven at 375F) - both slightly different approaches, but fine workarounds. As far as the cooking fats go, if you like to cook with ghee or clarified butter, you can substitute that, or even coconut oil.

1 1/2 pounds small waxy potatoes no bigger than a small lime, halved
2 teaspoons fine-grain sea salt

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
scant 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup canned diced tomatoes
3/4 cup water
splash of cream or a dollop of creme fraiche

8 ounces tempeh, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
a small handful of cilantro, loosely chopped

Bring a few inches of water to boil in a large pot. Place the potatoes in a steamer (see head notes), sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the salt and cook until tender throughout - about 20 - 30 minutes, depending on how large your potato pieces are.

In the meantime, in a large skillet, melt the butter in the olive oil, add the onion and cook over LOW heat until they are soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cumin seeds, curry powder, turmeric, and cayenne pepper, wait about thirty seconds, then stir in the tomatoes, water, and the other teaspoon of salt. Remove from heat, stir in the cream and blend with a hand blender - (or leave it unpureed if you like!). Note: you might need to transfer it to a bowl to puree, then return it to the skillet.

Once the curry is back in the pan, add the tempeh and bring barely to a simmer. Let the tempeh cook for 5 minutes or so, then add the potatoes when they are finished steaming. Transfer to a large family-style bowl, and sprinkle with cilantro before serving.

Serves 4 - 6.

This recipe was inspired by the Potato with Tomato Curry recipe in Lora Zarubin's I Am Almost Always Hungry. Published by Stewart, Tabori and Chang in 2003.

And if you're interested in what I did...

First, I hate boiling water. Boiling water to me is just that... "like watching water boil." I'm far to impatient. So if you're like me you'll find that tossing all the cut up potatoes in a covered glass dish and microwaving for 10 minutes gets the job done in a fourth of the time.

Second, I couldn't find tempeh in the grocery store the two different times I looked. I've found out where it is since then (of course) and plan to use it in a later dish, but I substituted tofu and thought it worked well. Another substitution I made was coconut milk for cream. Coconut milk is pretty common in thai dishes and it adds the creaminess the dish is needing. It worked beautifully. I also omitted the butter and used only olive oil.

Third, I would contend that you NEED to puree the sauce. The sauce is the soul of curry dishes and if I would have left it chunky I know it wouldn't have been nearly as good. Immersion blenders are awesome, but if you forgot to put that one on your wedding registry my blender got the job done with no problem.

Things that I'll do next time...

One is that I won't be as afraid of the salt shaker. To hop on my RD soapbox for just one minute, two teaspoons of salt is a bit of overkill. Hello! That's two days worth of sodium! I know you're not eating the whole dish...but come on! Anyway, I literally stood over the pot, salt in hand, and just couldn't bring myself to salt a dish that much. I omitted the salt on the potatoes completely and only added 1/2 teaspoon to the sauce. Salt does add "umph" to a dish, and after eating my first attempt I probably will add 3/4...or maybe...just maybe 1 whole teaspoon next time. But I'll also be a little more heavy handed with the curry powder which will help compensate. Two teaspoons though! My heart couldn't take it.

Next time around I'll also only par-cook the potatoes until they're about 3/4 of the way done and add them into the dish before the tempeh/tofu and let them finish cooking thru on low for another 5 minutes...then add the protein...then let simmer for another 10 minutes. The reason for this is that I think the potatoes need to absorb some of the flavors of the curry sauce. Just like chili tastes better on day two, this curry dish would really POP in your mouth if the potatoes melded more with the sauce. As it stands, the potatoes are kind of a bland "ying" to the spicy curry's "yang" which you need otherwise the flavors would fight with each other. But I think if you let the potatoes be kind of a...canvas...or carrier for the sauce the whole dish would be more complete in each bite.

All in all, I can't wait to give these spices a whirl again! If you give the dish a try yourself, or if you have your own curry dish recipe, please share! Like I said, a dish as interpretive as curry can be taken in so many different directions I'd love to hear what others have done.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I was previously unaware that I suck at life

My schedule is shifted today and so I get be at home, relaxing my Tuesday morning away. After sleeping into an astounding 7:30am I did some internet surfing to catch up on my blogs. I implore you to watch this beaut that was posted on a blog I frequent:

There are a couple of avenues you can take when writing about this jem of a youtube video. I'm just going to share with you my thoughts over the past 8:00 minutes.

1. This has got to be the cardio equivalent of running two 4-minute-miles.
2. No, my 26 year old body would NOT be able to jump rope on its knees, on a hardwood floor nonetheless.
3. Do you think there's a restriction on how long you can grow your ponytail before it gets caught in the rope? Or would that be just another trick move they'd work into the act?
4. I suddenly feel very out of shape cardiovascularly, despite having just run a half.
5. In grade school I knew all the jump rope tricks: how to "jump in", the double jump, backwards jump, the side-to-side, the criss-cross ALL while singing "Cinderella, dressed in yella'...", but unbeknownst to me, I sucked.
6. The girl in gold with the scarf and sunglasses clearly saying "Oh, my God!"...I relate to her sentiments exactly.
7. Oh my gosh, they are STILL jumping!!
8. I like how they smile and wave so politely after the end of a trick, as if to say "Yes, I can do a double roundoff back handspring while jumping rope. Can't you?"
9. Footloose! Nice song choice!
10. This needs to be blogged about immediately.
11. Where on Earth do you join a club like this?
What were your thoughts?

And that's the way it is.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Europe: Part 1 - Addendum

My beloved farmers market has a name! Today, while perusing the 101 cookbooks blog in an attempt to find a good (but heavily modified) lasagna recipe, I found out the author recently visited Madrid. Because she's got a slightly larger following than myself, her blog was swamped with recommendations of places to visit during her travels. Mixed in with all the posts was a recommendation to visit el Mercado de San Miguel:

In Madrid don't miss the Mercado de San Miguel, a recently beautifully renovated old market with an oyster bar, a juice bar, a culinary bookstore and many other treats, you'll love it.

I thought, "Jeez, that sounds awfully familiar." One google search later and tada! Es el mercado de mi almuerzo perfecto!

Isn't it weird how you're talking about something obscure one day, and the next it's like you can't stop coming across it? I believe things come in threes, so I'm waiting for mi mercado to pop up in conversation again tomorrow or perhaps by early next week. I foresee it being brought up in conversation by someone I've never met before, or have only met briefly. In my prediction this person is male and although he enjoyed Madrid, he thought Barcelona was the superior city, which I will whole-heartedly disagree with. We both will agree that La Familia is not worth the sky-high entrance fee since you can enjoy so much of it from the outside and I think we'll both be drinking a beer.

I'll keep you posted.

y ésa es la manera que es...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Europe: Part 1 (inspired by "pan")

Be honest. When you read "pan" did your internal voice pronounce it with a long "a" or short "a"? If you pronounced it with an "ah" sound, as in the Spanish word for bread, not only is your internal voice bilingual and able to pick up on context clues, it's also correct.

Tonight I made a tasty batch of red lentil soup stolen from a favorite blog of mine, 101 cookbooks. In preparation for the dish, I picked up a fresh loaf italian bread this morning. You know the kind - squishy and crunchy all at the same time. Mmmmmm, soooo good! Well the whole thing got me reminiscing about Europe...

I alluded to the possibility of a post like this a few weeks back. I had the pleasure of hopping the pond and visiting a small handful of countries in Europe this past Spring and (five months later) haven't even managed to upload all the photos from the trip to my Shutterfly account. The problem is that I took upwards of 1000 pictures while I was over there and, keeping you in mind, I didn't want to upload all of them and make you flip through all the junky and/or repeat photos. That, and I had this great vision of writing a caption for every single picture so that it was as if you traveled with me! Wouldn't that of been dandy?! Then summer started and seeing as I was hardly even sleeping in my own bed most weekends the photojournalism project had to be pushed to the back burner.

But back to the bread.

Europe has some particularly awesome, food-journal-worthy food. Breakfast was typically cafe
con leche and a croissant which I never seemed to tire of eating. I still salivate when I remember my "best dinner." But the best lunch I had came towards the very end of the trip while I was in Madrid. At this point I was traveling with some foodie-friends of mine, Abby and Emily, and on our last full day in Madrid we happened across this fantastic outdoor market, the likes of which I can only pray our new CoMo pavilion can even come close to. In one stop, you could do your grocery shopping, snack on some fresh tapas, people watch amid the husle and bustle, AND buy a diabetic-friendly cookbook!


Minus actually buying the cookbook (the majority of my patients don't keep up on their Spanish reading skills) Abby, Emily and I did all of the above. I love that a simple combo of foods can be such a great meal. We got what truly were "cherry red" cherries from some lovely gents at the produce stand, savory cheese that tasted like a softer version of Parmesan a few stalls down and a loaf of still-warm bread from these nice ladies.

It was a three-ingredient feast. Never underestimate how fulfilling fresh and quality food can taste completely unadulterated. My food-loving self had been in Europe for 2 weeks at this point, eating everywhere from pizza wielding street venders to white table cloth and wine list restaurants, and I still don't question ranking this as my favorite lunch. It's a credit to how many calories you can burn by walking all day that I actually lost weight while over there.

Europeans know how to bake some mighty fine bread.

And THAT'S the way it is!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Kristy2009: Runner

Just throwing this out there, but today totally feels like a Friday.

Last Friday I was gearing up for this:


Well...the half marathon that is. But hey, if Kristy2009 could go back in time and tell Kristy2000 that she was going to run slightly more than 13 miles (consecutively, within a short period of time) she would have been laughed at. Because Kristy1996 through Kristy2002 hated even running the mile. And I think 80's and early 90s Kristy probably wouldn't have loved the idea either, it's just no one had ever asked her. But back to Kristy2009...

A little before 7AM Saturday morning I lined up with 10,000 other lovely people, said a prayer, and then ran 13.1 miles. It was awesome. I'm not really sure why. Maybe it was because of the endorphins or something, but it was. I can't wait to do it all over again.

I have to say, running has become sort of an anomaly in my life. I really hate to suck at things, and in certain facets my competitiveness has become unhealthy. But despite the fact that I'm not that great at running I REALLY enjoy it, and when I can't run, I miss it. So over the past couple of years I've nurtured this love pretty carefully by protecting it from almost any form of competition, or potential competition. To put it simply, I run solo. I don't run with friends, I try not to ask others how well or fast they run, I abstain from discussing my own training too much, and in the dead of winter you'll find me on the treadmill in the corner. So to spend my otherwise normal Saturday morning run with a few thousand other people has brought about a change. In fact, after stumbling across this snippet on yesterday, I might even say it:

Runner: is a person who RUNS. Period...If you're interested enough in the sport to come here, the chances are excellent that yes, you're a runner no matter how slow or fast you are or whether you ever enter a race or not.

I am a runner.


I also have tendonitis. I think it happened the Tuesday before the race, when I noticed the arch of my right foot ached post-run. So taking the advice of a Physical Therapist (and Boston Marathon finisher) I work with I very reluctantly laid off the running until Saturday morning. Around mile 2 (that's 15% into the race for those of you who are counting) I could tell something was up. Around mile 9 ignoring it wasn't working anymore and I had to take a second to evaluate my options. It went something like this:

Stop running, ice and recover? Umm, no. Keep running? Sounds like a plan.

I'm sorry if my word choice isn't the best, but I'll be damned if I was going to train for 3 months, come dangerously close to quitting the whole ordeal, then miraculously break through my own personal wall, drive 125 miles, run 9 and then STOP!

Besides, once you get into the running zone, it actually takes more concentration to stop your legs from the continual rhythm they've gotten used to than to just keep going. So that's what I did...and later learned all the benefits of R.I.C.E. That stands for Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate. It became an acronym for a reason. Use it.

Now I'm just pumped to run the race again next year because I missed out on the 3 mile "woosh" at the end. The 3 mile "woosh", as I call it, is the final 3 downhill miles of the run which is a special treat after the previous 10 mostly uphill miles. So in my head I was always thinking that if I made it through the first 10, the last 3 would be like a woosh to the finish. Saddly, I wasn't able to put that much pressure on my foot the last 3, but you better bring it KC. I'll see you October 16, 2010.

I'm also thinking about the Nashville Country Music Half in April, but I'm not to keen about 100% winter training. I'll keep you posted. Something else I've been thinking a half in all 50 states. Sounds like a plan.

And that's the way it is :)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A joyful reunion


Sorry, but out of many, many options that was the only way I could think to really start this post. The same way I greet a friend that I haven't seen in a long time. I mean, it hasn't really been that long, but when you've been without internet for 4 days it makes you antsy. I've gone without internet for weeks at a time, but it was voluntary. When it's rudely taken away from you by Mediacom (booo, hisss!!) and you're regularly using the world wide web to pay your bills, get your weather, track your runs, read the news or connect with friends it becomes an unwelcome lifestyle change. With that said, my first web-stop post-internet-drought was the CenturyTel website. After four years of Mediacom-driven headaches I'm making the switch. Stop number two: blog.

I have wanted to talk about so many things here, and now that I can finally put fingers to keys my brain has become a virtual traffic jam of possible postings. There's no way I can pick one and be satisfied, so instead I'm going to list off some of the things that have been on my mind lately. I wish I could have a vote for which topic you, my readers, would like me to expand upon, but I just don't think there are enough of you. Is it still democratic when less than 10 people vote? So instead I'll get the initial rush out of my system and then focus my brainwaves on the next post. Until then, I give you my mental meanderings...

1. My "hippie" friend Amber is amazing. Whether I get to see her regularly or not she reminds me of what's important in life and in doing so has made me a better person in the time I've known her. This weekend I found out she put in her notice at work and is going to build a cob house and live off the land in Oregon.

2. I love my job. Although it has its ups and downs just like any other human interaction you can have in life I am so completely satisfied by it that doesn't seem...real. It's one of the many places I've been absolutely blessed in life.

3. I've been back from Europe for 4 months and I still haven't posted all of my pictures or shared all of my stories from the experience. And I've been thinking that this blog might be a good outlet for that.

4. I've gone from barely being able to complete the mile run in high school to being able to run 10 miles (soon to be 13) and feeling good at the end of it. It's one of the few things in my life that I'm genuinely bad at, but have continued to do and I don't know why.


Friday, September 25, 2009

Full disclosure and social awkwardness

To be in full disclosure, I have no clue what this blog will entail. We can infer from the history of blogging combined with my own personality it has the potential to be taken just about anywhere. So, the title of this small endeavor of mine fits quite well - buckle up. After I exclaimed one evening "Buckle up!" before starting on a tangent laden monologue, Sara Jaeger thought it would make a good title. Thanks Sara.

So I feel it's only fitting that I start with a completely random, absolutely unrelated story about myself. While killing time before a walk this afternoon I entertained my roommate with this one, and so readers, I share it with you.

*please envision your own Wayne's World fade out hand gestures here*

It was the beginning of my freshman year at Mizzou, and homecoming was in the air. Having been in a sorority at the time, this meant outside of classes, eating, sleeping, and keeping up some standard of personal hygiene, I needed to be spending the rest of my time pomping...but not in a hazing sort of way.

(For those of you unfamiliar with you remember in, say preschool or kindergarten ever doing an art project involving wrapping small squares of tissue paper around a pencil, dipping the tissue in elmer's glue and then sticking the tissue on paper to create 3D designs? If you do, take that art project and multiply it by approximately sixteen 4x8 particle boards put together by about 200 college students into one huge 2-story picture.)

To get this feat done, we all had x number of hours we needed to pomp each week. Looking back, it was probably a good thing I didn't stick with the sorority thing the full 4 years. I just didn't get it. Unbeknownst to me, pomping was a social activity, whereas I saw it as a "get 'er done" sort of activity. So when I had a few hours to kill after my 8am class, well that seemed like a great time to pomp to me!

To get the full effect of this story I implore you to picture an 18 year old me, showing up at the door of a fraternity at 9am with a grin saying "Hi, I'm here to pomp" myself...for a couple of hours...with nothing but CMT to keep me company. Since I wasn't even going to attempt to change the channel on a TV the size of a Ford Focus, in order to entertain myself I invented a game that morning called "Name that Country Star". As a new music video came on I would try to guess the name of the country star singing. Since I hadn't really gotten into country at this point in time in my life I had to resort to guessing "Willie Nelson!" anytime a male singer came on. I was wrong for a solid 40 minutes or so, until Willie Nelson actually came on...and boy was I excited! Because that's the day I finally learned what the dude looked like. He's he one with the braids.

And so now, many years later, when I hear country music I've never heard before I remember that game I came up with a long, long time ago. And that's what brought up the story this afternoon with my roommate. I had no idea Rascal Flatts sang that backwards country song song! Catchy.

And that's the way it is.