Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Marathon Salad

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
-J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

The past week has been undoubtedly bizarre for many many people and I for one can say that between the political blindside and the fear that’s crept over us from that AND running my first full marathon on Saturday, I’m left feeling mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted.


But, the good thing about having to run 26 miles after the confusion that resulted from last week’s election is that running is the most cathartic thing I know how to do. Besides focusing on breathing or the pain that the body feels, I do a lot of general thinking, in this this case 4 hours and 26 minutes of distractive, stream of consciousness thinking. It's unavoidable. And naturally while running I couldn't help, in light of the week's events, thinking about the word “running” itself, what it means, and how it applies to our lives right now.


Running of course was what I was doing. Moving my legs and my feet, hitting the pavement to try to make 26 miles go by as fast as possible. It means being considered for something, as in "in the running" or "running for president." And after that happens it can move on to mean having control over something like when you "run the show" or on a bigger scale "run the entire country." This word can be used in so many phrases like "Obama had a really good run" or "I think our new president is going to go in there running with scissors."

But in a time when we feel so confused and so hurt, when the news makes our blood run cold, we need to remember to not run away from the problems and horrors that await us. And we also shouldn't act out and run amok causing even more chaos and turmoil. Because running also means moving forward and making something continue to work, the creation of productivity. We need to hit the ground running in our efforts to support each other and causes that we believe in, to do good in this world. And even if we feel like we're running on empty, we cannot stop. It may be a morbid thought, but we are constantly technically running out of time so why not put our efforts into bringing positivity into the world and making a change while we can instead of dwelling on the facts that we cannot. We need to hold onto and run with the idea, no, the Truth, that love trumps hate. Always. I just had to look around at the marathon to see all the good that exists around us, all of the hope and dreams and the support and encouragement of friends and families, my own and others.


And when the weekend full of cathartic thinking was done, I did start to feel better and ready to stand up and fight for my justice and that of those at risk of having it taken away. So I tossed aside any pity party attitude and made myself what I have thus dubbed Marathon Salad. Why? Well, because I spent the past 2 weeks eating nothing but pasta and race day eating the entire contents of the junk food aisle plus beer and all I wanted was some greenery in my life. It’s loaded with lots of energizing protein and nutrient-dense ingredients. It’s creates a sustained sense of fullness, a necessity to anyone aiming for greatness in every way, who needs the energy for battles ahead. But I do think it would be a great meal to have the night before a long run too. And it’s hella delicious.


The idea for this salad started when I got an email for this one from Bon Appetit a while back. I love this because it’s a non-recipe, one that you make more on intuition. You squeeze a lemon over kale and rub it with your hands until it breaks down, finishing it off with olive oil salt and pepper. The rest is a “do what feels right” combination of cheese, nuts, seeds, and any extra veg you may want. I also recently got an awesome autumnal salad from Taylor Gourmet that was topped with thin Italian style breaded chicken cutlets that I loved so much I’ve been craving them for weeks. Naturally I just decided to make them for myself. This salad is a really happy marriage between the two, a playground of flavors and textures – salty, crunchy, sweet, juicy, earthy, tart, chewy – that I couldn’t get enough of. My exhausted body is thanking me already. Now onward and upward!


Marathon Salad
Makes 4 servings
Both recipes adapted from Bon Appetit

Note: Images show the salad with roasted Brussels sprouts too but I could probably do without the extra effort next time.

Salad Ingredients
2 large bunches of kale, ribs removed and washed, dried, and torn into irregular pieces
1 lemon
olive oil
2 tart apples, cored and diced
½ cup pepitas, toasted
2 big handfuls of cubed smoked aged cheddar
salt and pepper, to taste
Breaded Italian chicken cutlets, recipe follows

For the Chicken
6 small boneless skinless chicken cutlets, pounded to ¼ inch thickness
¾ cup flour
2 eggs
2 tsp. mustard powder
2 tsp. parsley flakes
¼ tsp garlic powder
1½ cups panko breadcrumbs
¼ cup grated parmesan
salt and pepper
8 Tbs. olive oil, divided

Wash and prep all of your salad ingredients and then begin by making the chicken cutlets. In a large clean workspace, set out 4 large plates with a wide shallow bowl in the middle. Place your raw chicken in the first plate. Pat it dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Pour the flour into the second plate. In the middle bowl, whisk together the eggs, mustard powder, parsley, garlic, and salt and pepper with a fork. On the fourth plate, combine the breadcrumbs and the parmesan. Leave the fifth empty.

Take one of your chicken cutlets and coat it in the plain flour. Then dunk it into the eggs. Coat all sides then lift it up to let the excess drip off. Transfer the chicken to the plate with the breadcrumbs and press the crumbs onto all sides of the chicken. Place the finished breaded cutlet onto the fifth empty plate until all of the chicken is coated.

Heat 4 Tbs. of the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat. Cook half of the chicken for 4 minutes per side until golden and cooked through. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and repeat with the remaining oil and chicken. Set aside to rest while assembling the salad.


In a large bowl, add the kale and the juice of the lemon. Use your hands to scrunch the kale, massaging it with your fingers and coating with the lemon until it is wilted and shiny. Drizzle over a few Tbs. of olive oil while tossing the kale to coat it. Add salt and pepper and give the greens one final scrunch with your handsso that the salt melts into the dressing. Add the apples, pepitas, and cheddar. Thinly slice the chicken across the grain and arrange over the salad. Top with salt and pepper as desired.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Halloween Carrot and Black Sesame Cake


Try to make plans with me these days and you’re likely to get the response “Sorry, I’m busy.” And looking back I think I’ve spent the last 4 months mastering the art of busyness. Should I be worried about this?

At first I thought it was a way to avoid as much FOMO as possible, thinking that if I planned out long weekend trips and vacations each Friday through Sunday, booked my nights with softball games and marathon training, and cultural events, how could I possibly miss out. But it’s been the opposite. Instead I schedule myself out 2 months ahead and subsequently have to shut down everything that comes up later.



No, I think the “busy complex” comes from something more along the lines of FOBU (fear of being useless) and the ever-dreaded thought that if I fail to make plans then my life will be empty and meaningless. I definitely know this isn’t true but I’m sure the mindset came from spending my college time and several years in my 20s with a terrible case of FOHF (fear of having fun) and did homework and avoided human interaction as a weekend hobby. Luckily those days are long gone. And so are the bad acronyms, I’ll stop that now.


But October has been especially abundant in busyness between my sister’s wedding, 18-mile runs, and back-to-back weekends gallivanting around theme parks for their seasonal Halloween openings. So when this past Friday came around complete with a sinus infection and a previous night of 4 hours sleep because I hung out with Anthony Bourdain and José Andrés instead, I succumbed to life’s pleas for me to, just this once, relax and not have plans. So that’s what I did, if you count baking a loaf cake and bingeing on Six Feet Under as not having plans.



This recipe has been circling around a lot in the past few weeks. That’s because it comes from the newly arrived cookbook “Everything IWant to Eat” which I don’t actually own but people are keep freaking out about it and posting recipes. And I hopped on the bandwagon because a loaf cake that’s colored like Halloween and tastes like Asian fusion spice cake very much calls my name.


The cake (though I keep wanting to call it a bread since it’s loaf shaped and leaning on the savory side of things as far as cakes go) lived up to my high expectations after all the hype. It’s a vegan recipe and I think that by using neutral flavored ingredients like oil, applesauce, and almond milk instead of rich eggs and butter, it really allows the savory nuttiness of the black sesame seed crust to shine though along with its earthy and sweet carrot, ginger, and cinnamon costars. The moisture of the carrots keeps the cake from getting dry too. In fact, over the course of 24 hours I think the cake has only become more tender, moist, and flavorful. Did all of this stop me from giving it a healthy swipe of butter though? Well of course not because, butter. I mean, if I’m going to be giving up my social life then that’s the least I can allow myself to make it all bearable, right? ;)

Happy Halloween Everyone.

Halloween Carrot and Black Sesame Cake
Makes 1 loaf
Adapted very slightly from Jessica Koslow’s Everything IWant To Eat

2 cups all-purpose flour
1½ tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground cardamom
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup almond milk
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and finely grated
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¾ tsp. salt
2 large carrots, coarsely grated
½ cup vegetable oil
2-3 Tbs. black sesame seeds

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a standard loaf pan. Whisk together the flour, cinnamon, and baking powder in a small bowl.

In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, brown sugar, applesauce, almond milk, ginger, vanilla, and salt together. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture. Once mixed, stir in the carrots and then the oil until thoroughly combined. Scrape the batter into the loaf pan and sprinkle liberally with the sesame seeds.


Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let it cool completely in the pan before removing and slicing. Store, covered, at room temperature.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

You, Me, and a Big Sexy Bowl of Red Cabbage


Sounds like the title of a romance novel right? Wait, you mean I lost you at the red cabbage part? Now hold on, don’t run off so fast. I know that a bowl of red cabbage elicits images of the scene in Willy Wonka where Charlie walks into the house disappointed by yet another evening of cabbage water soup. But trust me, this cabbage is different. This cabbage is truly sexy.


Imagine, if you will, a vegetable transformed. This one starts peppery and slightly bitter, refreshing and crunchy. But as it spends a good hour in a pot cozying up to crispy bacon and sweet caramelized onions, big chunks of crisp fall farmers market apples and a hefty dose of syrupy balsamic vinegar, things happen. The cabbage becomes tender throughout, staying a little al dente in the pieces closer to its core. All of the flavors condense into this sweet and sour glaze, making the glossy and slippery leaves of cabbage a nearly addicting treat, almost as if it were turned into candy. But there’s a smokiness that hides in the background too, masked somewhat by the sharpness of the tangy residual sauce that bubbles away beneath the cabbage, but rounding out the sweetness that exudes from the onion and apples.




This braised cabbage, in all of its sensual glory is without a doubt one of the greatest fall staple foods for me. It’s quick and comforting. It warms the house, perfuming it with smoky and sweet smells. Not to mention it makes an enormous number of servings. So for me, it was the perfect dish to tuck into the week before my sister’s wedding, a week of cooler temperatures and gloomy rain, a week of practicing my speech and sorting through logistics. In fact, even though I paired it with salt-roasted potatoes and bratwursts, there were several nights where all I managed was scooping some of the cabbage onto a plate, heating it up, and cracking open a beer. Few things are more comforting for me and more exemplary of the Fall season. Simple, yes. Bruise-colored in color, yes. But still hella sexy, definitely yes.


Braised Red Cabbage with Apples, Bacon, and Balsamic
Serves 4 as a main, 8 as a side
from Jamie Oliver's Cook with Jamie

Ingredients
Olive oil
½ lb. bacon, sliced thinly crossways
1 Tbs. fennel seeds, thoroughly crushed
1 onion, sliced
2 apples, peeled and chopped into 1-inch chunks
1 red cabbage, removed of outer leaves and the core and chopped into large chunks
¾ cups balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
Chopped parsley
Butter


Pour a glug of olive oil into a large heavy-bottomed pot and heat over medium-high. Add the bacon and fennel seeds and cook, stirring frequently until the bacon is crisp. Add the onion, stir, and put on the lid for a few minutes. Remove the lid and stir in the apples and the cabbage. Season with salt and pepper. Add the vinegar and mix well. Put the lid on the pot and cook over low heat for an hour, stirring every now and then. Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired. Serve with a bit of butter and a handful of the chopped parsley. Even better with bratwursts and these salt-roasted potatoes.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

#Coloradical: A Heady Tale

“I was halfway across America, at the dividing line between the 
East of my youth and the West of my future.”
 –Jack Kerouac, On the Road

What are we if not but a conduit from one experience to the next? And I don’t mean some sort of stationary channel. No, instead one that is freely moving like a sprinkler, one that changes in every moment between which the experience enters and exits, yet is caught eternally in this cyclical space where the ever-growing past shapes this boundless future. With a life that never ends in experience, never refuses to characterize you as those experiences infinitely and ultimately become part of you, is it then possible then to really know yourself?





I had a conversation about a year ago on a first date with someone I met online. With the combination of a few drinks and my ubiquitous nerves, I thought it was a good idea to start talking philosophy and the meaning of life and whatnot, as you do on a date with a stranger.  I forget the context but I know at one point I arrogantly proclaimed to be confident in knowing who I am, what I’m looking for in life. “Well then, who are you?” he asked. And it caught me off guard. Between frantically searching for answers and repeating a cycle of “oh fuck oh fuck…” in my head I eventually, blushing and sputtering, came up with some bullshit response. “Oh, you know, it’s more of a feeling. One that can’t be summarized into words.” Uhhhh, riiiight, I think that’s the point where my “definitely crazy” checkbox was ticked for sure. But I never forgot that moment. When faced with answering what should be the easiest question there is, on the subject matter I thought I knew best, I was dumbfounded.




“Who am I? Where am I going? What do I want?” says the me now, one year later. Reality check: the me then had no clue. The me then could not have even imagined the ways I’d be stretched and pulled and squashed back together over the course of 365 days. Yes, my essential foundations are the same of course, my morals and beliefs relatively unchanged, but I’ve still not remained who I thought I was then, who I thought I’d still be now. “Who am I? Where am I going? What do I want?” says the me now, one year later.




This is a thought that went through my head a lot ever since, much more than it really ever used to and especially in the 6 days I very recently spent in Colorado with my three best friends. And I know how that seems, how that elicits a “Damn Katie, how much weed did you smoke in Denver?" sort of conclusion but it’s not like that. Well, not entirely at least. Besides being a celebration of 10 years of our friendship together, this trip from the start was decidedly a “soul search” of sorts. Being in our mid 20s, we’re all at a bit of a crossroads in life, or see that coming shortly. All of us needed that time to go off to the middle of nowhere, with the people who we trust best and start to figure this changing little life out. So that’s what we did. We laughed, we danced, we sang, we hiked, we relaxed, and we ate…a lot.





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The trip began as all trips do, by accidentally loading all of our belongings into the wrong rental car and locking the keys inside before even leaving the parking lot. Oh wait, that’s not how they usually start? Well, that’s embarrassing. Anywayyyy… The trip began as all trips do, with lunch. We picked a spot at random, close to where we were planning to get snacks and supplies, and swag near our Denver AirBnB, and Uber Sausage turned out to be a great place to start our several day eating and drinking spree. I went with their Colorado Buffalo sausage, a spicy buffalo bratwurst with berry chipotle sauce, cabbage and queso fresco on a baguette and we all had a round of Upslope beers and tots (their dipping sauces were the bomb!) for the table.



Later that night after seeing a Chainsmokers concert at Red Rocks and burning off mass amounts of energy dancing to 6 straight hours of electronic music we went to VoodooDoughnuts for a 2:00am “snack”. And I mean snack in that way because these doughnuts are enormous and extravagant. Imagine a voodoo doll shaped and decorated doughnut longer than your hand, filled with raspberry jelly, topped with chocolate frosting and completed with a pretzel stick needle through the heart. Yep, it’s a thing. So is it a coincidence that this is what we were eating when we started watching the 5th season of Great British Bake-Off (which we continued to watch and finished throughout the duration of the trip)? I think not.


We started the next day with brunch at Snooze, a restaurant that does breakfast and does it well and knows that every brunch is better when tequila cocktails are involved. From what everyone else at the table was saying, don’t skip the Bella Bella Benny or the Breakfast Pot Pie, and whatever you do, make sure you get an order of the sweet potato pancakes to split with the table. Our server brought us one of these giant pancakes on the house and we were all amazed by it. 


The rest of the day, we meandered around the city, stepping into whichever brewery or bar looked best. First Draft Taproom was a cool spot with a wall of pour-your-own beers on tap using a fancy card reading system that lets you try as much or as little as you like and tallies up your total for when you’re ready too settle up at the end. We made our way over to Our Mutual Friends Brewery afterwards, a quirky little place with some awesome brews, especially their raspberry sour beer. And across the street we stopped at Finn’s Manor for cocktails in their great outdoor seating area.






We ended the night with a fantastic dinner at Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox, a former brothel turned restaurant with so many innovative dishes and cocktails and pictures of boobs on their walls. We started with the fried cheese curds and cream cheese stuffed shishito peppers. For my main I got their special that night, a roasted half chicken topped with paper-thin fried lemon slices alongside braised red cabbage, salt roasted potatoes and a foursome of pickles and relishes. An ensemble of a bit of sweet from the chicken, sour pickles, salty vegetables, and bitter lemon, this was undoubtedly a winner of a dish.

Our last meal in the city was at the appropriately named Four Friends Kitchen for another fantastic brunch. While all of their dishes were great, be certain you get the house made potato chips with pimiento cheese dip to start. They may make you a little more full than you should be before a main dish but it’s worth it. Still hungry? Well, Ice Cream Riot has you covered, that is if ridiculous ice creams flavored like favorite childhood cereals, candies, and snacks between two pop-tarts sounds good to you.






We spent the rest of the trip staying in my cousin’s cabin out near Buena Vista, about 2.5 hours southwest of the city, with the obvious choices of frozen pizzas, mini-bagels, and granola bars to get us through. We may have eaten all of the cheez-its and chips the first night, thereby demolishing 2/3 of our snack supply…whoops! Our days were refreshingly free of too many plans though. While we did splurge on a day at Mt. Princeton Hot Spring Resort, the rest of the time we went on walks and hikes, chilled at a local brewery, sat on the back porch of the deck taking it all in. And by the end it was hard to say whether it was the city part or the mountain part we liked best. The thriving food and beer haven or the brilliance of those views and their majestic vastness. The city, like the past, so diverse and bustling, sometimes gritty and sometimes beautiful. The mountains like the future, upward-facing, the end unknown. They were so drastically different, two ends of the spectrum, but it felt like both were essential to making such a perfectly balanced vacation. Both had their place and we caught that sweet spot in between.





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 “Who am I? Where am I going? What do I want?” said the me now, one year later. As I continued asking myself this during our time in Colorado, I hit a moment of revelation. Maybe I don’t need to find an answer to this. Maybe it’s less about defining my bundle of experiences that slip through me from future to past into thought or words or trying to force an idea of what my life should be like and more about reacting to experience in the ways that feel right and taking it day by day, minute by minute, and just simply living. Yes, we spent a lot of time talking about our hopes and dreams and ideals and identities, and that's completely ok. We can’t eliminate thought of the future. But, trying to figure out my meaning and purpose did not matter when standing in awe before a glistening lake and the mountains looming ahead of me. It didn't matter when I was in the company of my best friends, together on the couch watching the finale if the Great British Bake-Off. I was surrounding myself with those that don't worry about who I am, with experiences that made me happy, excellent food, gorgeous scenery, moving music. And I figured as long as I'm doing that I'll be ok, I'll be me, and the world will present itself to me as it may.

This realization hit me hardest in a moment during the trip at the Chainsmokers concert. I clearly recall feeling my body as if it was nothing and everything, being aware of the millions of particles that make it up but as though they were all weightless and free-floating and the breeze that washed over me was actually moving through me and I was as happy and as carefree as I think I possibly could be. And then their song "Closer" came on and the lights blindingly danced across my eyes so I closed them and sang along, "We ain't ever getting older, we ain't ever getting older, we ain't ever getting older..." and I was at peace.