Weekend Adventures: Ft Lee Historic Park

My camera has been dormant for way too long.  It’s been a long hard winter.  Today, I finally took him out for a spin, and I realized how much I missed him.

What was supposed to be a bike ride, turned into an outing that brought me to the Mitsuwa Marketplace in Edgewater, NJ then to the Ft Lee Historic Park just a couple miles north of there.

Fish

It’s a small park, easily traversed and filled with history.  It was fun going from placard to placard reading about the defenses and battles that took place during the Revolutionary War.

Gorgeous day to get reaquainted.

Ft Lee Historic Park - GW Bridge

Ft Lee Historic Park - GW Bridge

Ft Lee Historic Park

Ft Lee Historic Park - Cannon

Ft Lee Historic Park

Ft Lee Historic Park

Ft Lee Historic Park

Ft Lee Historic Park

Ft Lee Historic Park

Ft Lee Historic Park - Loose Cannon

Ft Lee Historic Park

Ft Lee Historic Park

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Cornmeal Chedder Buttermilk Biscuits

Bike Reflection

After a long hard winter, my bike finally came off the rack and went outside.  It’s been awhile since I rode, but with less than a month till the Go the Distance for Autism ride I was doing, it was time to become reaquainted.

It was a nice ride, albeit a bit chilly.  Relatively flat, to Northern Westchester standards.  We stayed mostly on the North County trail, to keep it relaxed and car free.  26 miles later, I was done, tired and hungry.  Legs, we have some catching up to do!

Corn Bread Biscuit

Cornmeal Cheddar Buttermilk Biscuits (adapted from The Food Network Kitchens)

I was going to make chili as my dinner of the week.  I usually always make cornbread to go with it.  But, I was feeling lazy and particularly uninspired to whip up another batch of cornbread.  So I googled cornbread and buttermilk (to use up the last 3/4 cup buttermilk I had) and this popped up.  A nice little hybrid of two things I really like!

I basically followed their recipe for Cornmeal Buttermilk Biscuits, except in the midst of putting all my dry ingredients together, a thought popped into my head.  Can I add cheddar?  Only one way to find out!  I quickly shredded up a cup of extra sharp cheddar and added it in after I had cut in the butter by hand and before adding in the buttermilk.

This recipe is super duper simple and only requires one bowl and a clean countertop.

I let the butter hang out in the freezer for a few minutes to chill out again after cutting it up to make sure it was extra cold.  I also kept the buttermilk in the fridge until its time to add it into the batter.

Since I am the only one eating it, I just made life simpler and patted out the dough into a rectangle (I didn’t fold it as many times as the recipe had called for) and used a bench scrapper to divide into six pieces.  I’m also afraid of my oven, so I baked it for 20 minutes in a 400 degree oven until they were about golden brownish on the tops.

The end biscuit isn’t sweet at all despite the one teaspoon of sugar.  The cheddar cheese is subtle and the cornmeal gives it a nice crunch.  It’s crummy enough to go really well in chili.  They are probably best accompanying something rather than on their own with a pat of butter.  If I did this again, I’d probably add a half cup more cheese and a good dose of black pepper to give it an extra oomph.

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Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Treats with a touch of Chocolate

CrossFit 14.5

Crossfit Open 2014 is now done!  I finished 14.5 today, and it kicked my butt very badly.  I can’t wait to attempt to get out of bed tomorrow!

14.5 consisted of a 21-18-15-12-9-6-3 rep scheme of Thrusters and bar facing Burpees.  For women, the weight was 65#.

65# for thrusters is a bit heavy for me.  55# is challenging and I can only manage those in small sets.  I knew this going in, but I didn’t think another 10# was going to be too bad.  I so was wrong.

65# is heavy, and halfway through the 21 initial reps, I realized this was a poor choice.  There was no time cap for this workout.  It was for time.  So I had to finish what I started.

I slowly chipped away at it.  Mostly 2 at a time, which also meant I was cleaning 65# everytime I dropped the bar, which was a lot.  That didn’t help my poor fatigued muscles.  I actually started looking forward to the burpees.

Slowly but surely I was getting there.  I was frustrated that I was taking so long.  I started feeling bad for my judge having to watch me struggle through it so badly.  I was dripping in sweat, making all sorts of noises and faces I can only describe as not my most attractive.  I swore.  I wanted to stop so badly.

But I didn’t.  Mostly thanks to people like Bernice, Sandra, Steve and Mike.  Just cheering me on, yelling at me to get back on the bar and keeping me from giving up.

It took me 39 minutes and 8 seconds to finish this.  The top competitors did this in less than 9 minutes.  I probably recorded the slowest time in my gym.  I always have dibs on last.

2 years ago, I was doing thrusters with an 18# body bar and really struggled through it.  Today, I just did them at 65#.  That’s what I call progress.

And now I am so sore all over.  My elbows hurt.

Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Treats anyone?

PBrice Krispies_top

I literally threw this together and eyeballed everything.  If you need more structure, I loosely followed this recipe from somethingswanky.com

Peanut Butter Rice Krispies Treats (adapted from somethingswanky.com)

10oz Marshmallows (I used about 7 oz of mini marshmallows, it was all I had)

1/4 cup peanut butter (I used all natural peanut butter)

5 cups rice krispies (I used 3 cups-ish)

handfull or so of mini chocolate chips

Prep an 8×8 pan.  Lightly spray the pan with a non stick spray then line, sling style, with some parchment paper.

In a medium saucepan (preferably non-stick), over low heat, slowly melt the marshmallows and peanut butter together until it become melted and liquidy, but not boiling.  Stir frequently.

Once melted, add the rice krispies and using a rubber/silicone spatula, toss a couple of times to start coating the rice krispies, then add in the mini chocolate chips and continue mixing until the rice krispies are coated.

Pour into the prepped pan and using the spatula, press into the pan.  Let it cool all the way in the fridge for about an hour to let it set.  Then cut and serve!

PB rice Krispies_side

I like the use of peanut butter instead of butter.  I also like the addition of the mini chocolate chips.  They melt as you are tossing in the hot marshmallow/peanut butter mixture, adding a swirl of chocolate without being too chocolatey (there is such a thing with me).

 

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Weekend Adventures: Cheese Making at the Cherry Grove Farms

February 22, 11:22am

Another trip down to Jersey!

This time, Liz and I attended a wonderful cheese making class at the Cherry Grove Farm in Lawrenceville, NJ.

Cherry Groove Farm Cheese class

It was a tiny class.  We made Ricotta by simply adding lemon juice to some hot milk.  It was strained and we sampled.  I will never buy Ricotta again.

Cherry Groove Farm Cheese class

Next we made mozzarella from some curds, but adding hot water and using our gloved hands to form mozzarella balls.  That’s how they do it!

Cherry Groove Farm Cheese class

Cherry Groove Farm Cheeseclass

After the class, I was excited to give Ricotta another try.  I had tried before, but it didn’t really work out as well.  Plus, this method seemed so much easier.

Generally, one should look to use a high fat content, lightly pasteurized milk if raw milk is not available.  I went to Stew Leonard’s and grabbed Organic milk, which was highly pasteurized.

Ricotta

The steps are super simple.  Bring a gallon of milk up to barely a simmer, or about 180 degF.  I did this over direct heat, but you can do it in a double boiler to make sure you don’t burn the milk if you walk away.  It just takes longer.

Ricotta

Once it comes to just a simmer, I added about 3 tablespoons of lemon juice and looked for it to clump.  It took a lot more than 3 tablespoons for mine to start clumping.  Once it started clumping, I left it alone for 15 minutes before I started straining.  I used some cheesecloth draped over a fine mesh strainer and first scooped out as much of the clumps as possible with my strainer ladle then slowly, in batches, poured the whey through to strain out all the clumps.  This took forever.

Ricotta

Once I poured out all the whey, I set the cheesecloth lined strainer on top of a bowl and put it all in the fridge overnight.

Ricotta

Voila! Ricotta!

Now, what to do with said Ricotta?  How about some Lemon Ricotta pancakes?

LemonRicotta Pancakes

I followed this recipe from thekitchn.com and they came out beautifully.

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

They were light and airy with just a hint of lemon.  The ricotta kept them very moist.  They were pretty delicious.  I had them for dinner, with a glass of white wine, like the classy lady that I am.

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

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Beer Braised Short Rib

Beer Braised Beef Taco

I love reading recipes.  Especially when at the end, I think, I can do that.  Then I do, and I either realize, it’s a whole lot harder than it sounds, or it was really simple and now I have another delicious dish to add to my repertoire.

That’s what happened as I was perusing my latest issue of Cook’s Illustrated.  One of the recipes/articles was Taqueria Beef Tacos at Home by Andrew Janjigan.  I was intrigued.

The recipe seems preety straight forward with no special equipment or fancy kitchen acrobatics required.  So, I gave it a try.

Of course, with my own variations due to some equipment limitations (like no blender, so no sauce), and I subbed out brussel sprouts for cabbage in the Cabbage-Carrot Slaw recipe that was also part of the tacos.  I also nixed the jalapeno and ancho chilies since I didn’t feel like tracking them down.

Beer Braised Shredded Beef (based on Shredded Beef Tacos, Cook’s Illustrated, March/April 2014)

1 1/2 cups beer (I used Brooklyn Brewery’s Local 1)
1/2 cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons tomato paste
6 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed

3 bay leaves
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 large onion, sliced into 1/2 inch thick rounds

3 pounds boneless beef short ribs, trimmed and cut into 2 inch chunks (I found mine at Costco for pretty cheap)

Preheat the oven to 325 degF, with the racks adjusted so you can fit your dutch oven into it.

In your dutch oven, combine the beer, vinegar, garlic, tomato paste and all the herbs.  Give it a good stir, then lay the onion slices on a single layer on the bottom of the pot.

Beef Braised Beef

Place the beef on top of the onions in a single layer.

Beer Braised Beef

Cover and put into the oven to cook for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.  Until well browned and tender (shred it with a fork tender).

Beef Braised Beef

When done, remove from oven, and remove the beef chunks onto a plate and tent with some aluminum foil and let it rest.

When it’s time to make tacos, use two forks and shred the beef into bite size pieces.

I also made a Brussel Sprout Carrot Slaw to go with my mega tacos.

1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
about 6 cups of shredded brussel sprouts (I bought a package of shredded brussel sprouts from Stew Leonard’s, use 1/2 head of green cabbage if you don’t want to shred so many brussel sprouts)
1 small red onion, sliced thin
1 large carrot, peeled and shredded
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro

While the beef was in the oven, whisk together the vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a large bowl until the sugar is dissolved.  Add everything else, then toss to combine.  Stick it in the fridge for at least an hour before eating.

To assemble my mega tacos (mega because I could only find 8 inch round tortillas as opposed to 6 inch tortillas), I put a little shredded beef, some slaw, some queso fresco, and some mango salsa and went to town.

Beer Braised Beef - Taco

It was super yummy.  The beef wasn’t dry, and quite meaty in flavor.  The slaw gave it a nice crunch and lightness.  I really liked it.

Beer Braised Beef - Taco

So much so, I ate it for dinner for the next three days.  Reheating the beef in a skillet gently on a low flame.

Then I still had a huge amount left, and really not wanting tacos anymore.  So I made a quick chili by combining the rest of the beef with a can of diced tomatoes, the rest of the tomato paste, chili powder, and a little water to thin it out a touch.  I also added the rest of some frozen kale I had to make it “healthier”.

It was great as a quick chili.  Still meaty, still good, and nice and hearty when I need dinner after a long work day.

Another recipe to add to the mix.  If I ever come across some cheap boneless short rib, I’ll know exactly what I can do with it!

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Ode to My People

I believe in karma.  I believe that you get what you deserve, and that you should always treat people the way you want to be treated.

So, when I went through this period where I felt unappreciated and uncared for, I wondered if I was telling people how much I appreciated them enough.  I probably wasn’t.  I’m not good with words and especially not good at telling people how I feel, even if it be appreciation and gratitude.

So, here is my ode to you, my people. 

Keep it Real - Quebec City

To my family:  I know you didn’t get to pick me.  You are all brutally honest with me, telling me things I don’t want to hear.  You are hard on me, and have very much to do with my sharp tongue and twisted sense of humor.  Your constant teasing and giving me a hard time have indeed trained me for real world, where it’s not always warm and cozy.  I am still sensitive and somewhat thin skinned, but at least now I won’t be eaten up alive.  Thank you for keeping me grounded and laughing at myself.

February 24

To my friends, new and old, close and far:  I don’t make friends easily, and have but a handful.  However you are all some of the most important people to me.  Many of you no longer live close by, and I miss you guys terribly.  But we are going to make this work, and it just gives us so much more to catch up on when we do get to see each other.  Thank you for patiently listening to me ramble on and on about inconsequential nonsense.  For supporting me and pushing me to be better and making me feel safe when taking chances.  I miss our lengthy chats and listening to whatever was on your mind.  So many times I wish I knew the right thing to say, but rest assured, I am listening.  You guys are my rock, thank you for being my friend.

February 1

To my mentors:  You were instrumental in making my career what it is today.  You have provided me support in an environment only we understand.  You ask the tough questions and have provide much needed support in keeping my head above the water.   You call my BS, and push me to think about questions I hope could be answered magically by themselves in due time.  Your understanding and unwavering support has proven me more capable than I thought.  Thank you for believing in me.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

To my colleagues:  In my 10+ years of working, part time and full time, I’ve worked in 5 different places.  Through that, I’ve had the pleasure of working with a huge variety of different people from all walks of life.  You made work fun.  You gave me reasons to look forward to coming into the office every day.  I always enjoyed listening to you talk about work, family and whatever was on your mind.  You guys help me out.  You review my memos, review my projects, answer my questions, even the dumb ones.  You say good morning to me, lunch with me and help keep me from having to eat all the cookies I make by myself.  I can only hope to do the same for you.  Thank you for making work fun.

February 17 12:30pm

My role models:  In the world of engineering, where women are far and few inbetween, you would think a role model would not be easy to find.  I have my role models in people I’ve come to work with and just simply admire.  They set the bar high for me.  One day I want to be like them, in a way.  I watch them succeed and I am excited for them and hope to one day see the same for myself.  Thank you for giving me stars to aim for.

January 7

The 6AM class at Crossfit Westchester:  I know I am not the most sociable person at 6am.  I am super shy and tend to keep to myself, even during daylight hours.  But you were always so supportive, never making me feel bad about using baby weights or finishing a WOD dead last by minutes.  You guys have set the bar high, and I’ve spent the past two years trying to catch up.  But in the process, I’ve surpassed any and all expectations in my abilities.  Who knew I could do a toes to bar or back squat my own body weight?  Thank you for cheering me on (and putting my stuff away when I’m slow or forget!).

February 15 12:40pm

My blog readers:  I started this blog a couple of years ago, with no idea if anyone would read this.  But you do!  Same goes for readers of my other breakfast blog.  And I am always so happy whenever anyone likes a post or even comments!  You can’t imagine how happy I get when someone follows the blog.  It’s always so wonderful to know that someone I don’t know is reading and hopefully enjoying what I have to share.  Thank you so much for taking the time to read all these crazy random posts.

February 23 1:20pm

The chance encounters:  The guy at the pool who suggested I give triathlons a try.  The strangers who gave me a gentle push through kind words of encouragement on the race course during my darkest moments.  Anyone who has stopped to make sure I was okay when I was on the side of a road.  The woman who helped me make change when I forgot that the bus does not take bills.  The woman at the check in counter who upgrades me for a 16 hour flight.  The person who found my mitten and put it somewhere I could find when I went looking for it.  The hostess who did her best to find me a seat at a bar when I decided to have dinner at a busy restaurant by myself on a Friday night.  I have many more, but to all, thank you for being so kind to a stranger.

While a  lot of my people fit into multiple categories, all in all, you are important to me.

Without them, I would still probably be the mousy mute huddled in her cubicle all day wondering if this was as good as it gets.

It isn’t, and with my people, it never will be.

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Butter Mochi, Take 2

Butter Mochi 2

I was wandering around an Asian supermarket the other day when, tucked at the end of an aisle, almost in its own little cubby, a recognizable white box caught my eye.  It was Mochiko flour.  Which got me thinking about that experiment I had before with the Butter Mochi.

Curious to see what it would be like with the proper Mochiko flour, I picked up a box (along with a can of evaporated milk and coconut milk), and scurried home to give it a try.

It’s a very easy recipe, but this time I used:

One whole 16oz box of Mochiko powder

Cut the sugar down to about 2 1/2 cups (instead of 3)

Buttered the pan, and parchment paper with some of the melted butter

Butter Mochi 2

What ensued?  Something way better than I made the first time around.  It had a softer, chewier interior.  It wasn’t eggy.  It was more moist, less cakey dense and not as sweet as the original.  I really like this iteration much better.

Note to self, Mochiko is not really interchangeable with regular rice flour.  It definitely produces a different texture.

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