Thursday, July 31, 2008
Monday, July 28, 2008
Above, are some shots of the bicycle and recreational trail that starts in Northfield, New Jersey and ends at the Bridge going into Sommer's Point. The trail is a clean, beautiful and well-marked. It's ideal for roller blading, biking, strolling or jogging. Riding along this trail brought back many memories. The only other time I've been biking along here was in the Summer of 1987. I was 20 years old, living in Pleasantville for the summer with some wacky people I had met that previous winter. To a 20 year old college kid with no other place to go for the summer, the opportunity to live at or near the shore sounded like a fantasy come true. The fantasy quickly turned into a nightmare. Pleasantville is the most inapt name ever given to a town. It was a seedy derelict town, suffering from its proximity to Atlantic City and all the social ills of the 1980's, as well as its lack of proximity to the actual beach, bay or other important body of water. The people with whom I was living were absolutely crazy. The guy, F. P., was from an old South Philly family with vague mob connections; he had delusions of grandeur and fame; he also had somehow recorded an album in the late 1970's that brought him a gold record from the bygone disco era. I remember F.P. getting some friends and I to sing with him, to see if we could somehow form a group to possibly record some songs. It seemed like fun at the time, but there was always a dark more insidious side to his temperament. That next record never happened and someone always wound up disappointing this man/child, which would cause him to fly into a rage. F.P. lived with his mother, Marie, a gravelly-voiced old lady who always talked about her imminent death and her dear departed husband, who was a saint and an old number's runner. I can still hear her cigarette tinged voice, sizing me up and down, "Ya know, yer no skinny minny, doll." "F. bring me another friggin' cup a cauwfee, and where are my cigarettes?." F.P. and his mother smoked non-stop, drank more coffee than Maxwell House could grind, and fought so much and so loudly that I wonder if either of them had any hearing, voices or lung capacity left by the time the 1980's were over. I lasted about 2 months in this den of insanity. I was young, poor, naive and eager to be out of Philadelphia's sweltering humidity for the summer. Sometimes you get more than you bargain for...
On my days when I wasn't working, sleeping off a hangover from my staying out all night at the gay bars in AC, partying with the vampires, I would ride my bike to the beach, to work on my tan. Those were the days before sunblock with SPF 45 and higher! We were still slathering on baby oil and squeezing lemons into our hair to turn it blond. Thanks to my legs of steel and youth, I could pedal fast to get through the rough and tumble parts of Pleasantville and Atlantic City before I could hit the safety of Margate, Ventnor and Ocean City. The bike trail, as it is now, was nowhere in existence back then. If it had been, I may have been persuaded to last longer at the shore; a ride to the family friendly beaches would have beckoned me to explore further parts of the South Jersey shore.
Food memories are so closely tied to my down the shore memories. The photo above is a detail from the Mack & Manco Pizza sign, with surly seagulls looking down at pizza buyers. Fine dining isn't the norm. Back then it was nothing but boardwalk fare. Then as now, there are several must haves on the Ocean City Boardwalk, but not all at once: Mack & Manco's Pizza; Kohr Bros. Custard; Curly's Fries; Johnson's Caramel Popcorn; the burgers & donuts at Browns; Fudge or any kind of candy from Shriver's. Rather than fall completely off my Weight Watcher's Wagon, I was wise and had a slice at Macks and a burger at Brown's. I brought fudge back for Liz, so she could enjoy a little piece of "downtheshore" too.
The Ferris wheel, at Wonderland Pier. At night you can see the Ferris wheel's lights shinning from as far away as Brigantine and over the causeway's for miles and miles. It's a really huge Ferris wheel. It takes 15 minutes for to ride the entire revolution. You get your money's worth and quite a bird's eye view of the surrounding shore towns.
The boardwalk in Ocean City is about 3 miles long. It's great for biking in the morning. I love to ride a beach cruiser or rent a surrey, with the fringe on top, and pedal along with other people in tow. It's such a laugh riot to be one of those bicycle carriages, you feel like you have pedaled back in time. In this shot, you can see the crowds already filling up the boards at 3:30 in the afternoon. Kites are flying in the distance, and the beach is still full of bathers and surfers.
The famous, Ocean City Flip Flop Sign. Immortalize yourself and family and pose with your head popping through the sunglasses!
I was really glad I had the chance to spend the day biking and hanging out with some new friends. The exercise and fresh air were so rejuvenating. I'm feeling ready to take on the triathlon this Sunday, August 3rd. I am delighted to have made the changes I've made in the past year (as well as in the past 21 years too!), as I've now lost 62 pounds and god only knows how many inches. I get a kick out of the fact that I can look back and laugh at my foibles as a young adult, and sigh with relief that I lived through those adventures and came out somewhat unscathed. Biking has been such a constant part of my life, then and now. I'm so happy to be able to reconnect to it and to have the leg and knee power to still ride. If anything got me through my teens and early 20's, it was biking, much more so than therapy and food and vacations at the beach. Well, almost...
Thursday, July 24, 2008
In the meantime, I've been wanting to continue creating photo posts of the week. All of my blog entries contain photos, but I'm borrowing on an idea I saw on another blog - a Photo of the Week Picture Essay. Here are a few cute shots I've spotted over the last week around town:
Chicken Chipolte Taco Trio at El Vez. The best lunch deal in town, beverage, soup or salad and entree $14.95. It's not too crowded and if you have the day to yourself, they make the best margarita's in town. Get tipsy and have a great lunch! Location: 13th & Sansom Streets
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Now, onto the recipes. I had an amazing lentil and egg breakfast at Sam's Morning Glory Diner last Saturday. Lentils and Eggs you say? YES! Whooping good protein. One of the breakfast specials was Red lentils with sauteed leeks, carrots, celery and bits of ham or thick cut bacon, topped with 2 Eggs and served with crisp bacon, a side of grits and their famous biscuit. I didn't say it was low-fat or healthy, it was just darn good. I skipped the biscuit (we saved it for the next day.) When you take out the bacon, lower the fat content and don't add a biscuit or butter to the grits, I imagine the overall meal could be potentially healthy as well as tasty. Lentils cook quickly, they are high in iron, fiber and other good for you minerals and vitamins. Plus, there are so many pretty kinds out there. My breakfast gave me energy and ideas! I've been wanting to rework another recipe liberally "borrowed" from my mostly vegetarian cookery days at the Reading Terminal Market, were we made a lentil walnut salad with blue cheese and onion vinaigrette. It was on of our most popular salads though it was probably higher in fat than I'd like to eat now. The recipe I'm posting is a newer healthier version in honor of a friend, Ms. Alison N., who asked me for some new veggie and lentil recipe ideas. Thought I'd share it with the whole blog-o-sphere world. Here you go Ms. Alison!
- 1 Cup (Dry/Uncooked) Brown Lentils
- 1 Bay Leaf
- 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
- 2 Medium Carrots - small dice
- 2 Celery Stalks - small dice
- 1 Small/Medium White or Yellow Onion - small dice
- 3 Garlic Cloves - minced
- 1/4 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
- 2 Vegetable or Mushroom/Porccini Bullion Cubes - reconstituted in 1/2 cup warm water
- 1/4 Cup Toasted Walnuts - chopped
- 2 Tablespoons Crumbled Bleu Cheese - Optional
- Freshly Ground Pepper - to taste
- 1/2 Cup Parsley - loosely packed - roughly chopped
- Pick through and sort the lentils to remove any stones or debris. Rinse in a sieve or colander.
- Put the lentils in a small sauce pot and add 2 & 1/2 cups of cold water and the bay leaf; bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer.
- Cook lentils until they are al dente, not too crunchy and not mushy. If needed, add more water to the pot if the water is absorbed too fast. Cooking time will vary - figure on at least 15-20 minutes.
- Drain the lentils after they are finished cooking and spread the cooked lentils onto a sheet tray to cool in an even shallow layer; discard the bay leaf and set the lentils aside to cool.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat until it shimmers.
- Saute and sweat the carrots, celery and onions until the onions and celery turn translucent and the carrots become knife tender (retaining a bit of bite), 3-5 minutes.
- Add in the garlic, stirring to combine and saute another 1 minute.
- Add in the balsamic vinegar and turn up the heat to high; reduce the balsamic to a few tablespoons - about 3-4 minutes.
- Stir in the bullion cube broth and reduce the liquid down by half - 5 minutes.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked and cooled lentils with the vegetable mixture with its balsamic bullion broth.
- Stir in the toasted walnuts and season to taste with freshly ground pepper, and if using, the crumbled bleu cheese.
- Garnish with the chopped parsley and if need be, adjust seasonings with more pepper and pinch of salt.
- Serve with Cooked Brown Rice or a Multi-Grain Rice Medley, hot, warm or even cold.
- Serves 6.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Went out this morning to go biking and to watch the CGI Triathlon along West River/Martin Luther King Drive. What an unexpected adventure it turned out to be! I met up with Sue, a woman I met via the SheRox bike training ride this past week. Got to her house around 7:20 am, and she discovered she had a flat tire. We fixed it and headed "up the river". It would be flat tire #1 of the day.
We pedalled around the starting course of the tri, watching the swimmers take to the water in their various wave phases.
Then we went a bit further upstream to see the swimmers in the water. It was a more comforting feeling watching a similar distance tri; I don't feel as anxious about the swim distance now that I've seen the 1/2 mile course. I picked up a lot of good ideas for what I can still do to train realistically given my time and physical limitations. I'd like to start swimming in a longer pool. Actually, I did learn about a 50 meter public pool, the Kelly Pool, next to Memorial Hall in Fairmount Park. Sue and I rode up to it during our biking sojourn and it's beautiful. Given it's Olympic size, I think swimming in it will do me worlds of good to improve my technique and to not rely so much on the shorter 25 meter pool I'm currently using.
After watching the swimmers, we went over to the vendor areas to look at tri clothes. I am sure I now know what sort of shirt I should wear for the event. It really comes down to a good sports bra or two for me, and a tight running shirt. Another area almost accomplished. We picked up a few Luna nutrition sports products and I learned about a new sports drink that isn't loaded with sugars. We did watch a bit more of the tri, but it is a lot of hurry up and wait. Some of the duo runners/bikers/runners were just finishing, and the first wave of swimmers who had transition to the bike portion of the race had just completed the first bike loop of the race. Sue and I headed up to look at the pool and to tackle a few miles of hills and roads. That's when she got her second flat and part 2 of our adventure.
After we changed the tube again and were about to head up the road to parts unknown, I crashed and tore up my seat saddle and scrapped my knee in the same spot where I busted it up a few weeks ago! Road Rash badges of honor. Those darn toe clips! We weren't even taking off yet when Sue stopped and I couldn't maneuver fast enough so I banged into her back tire and ground myself into the side of the road and gravel. The cut is minor and no sprains this time.
But my seat is ripped! Ah, another reason to head to the bike shop.
Adventure #3, along with the third flat tire occurred at the Philadelphia Canoe Club, a hidden oasis along Ridge Avenue near the start of Mains Street in Manayunk. Sue is a Dragon Boater, and an canoe outrigger. She wanted to check out the PCC Open house so I went along for the ride. What a treat! Every time I head out on a ride I get to discover and explore so many new places in the City. We hung out and and enjoyed the pretty. Sue and I both picked up information about the club, and we both ran into people we know. I saw Ben with his beautiful baby girl, Violet; his wife and Violet's twin brother, Oliver, were out on their own adventure elsewhere. If I can, I'd love to start paddling and taking up the canoe or kayak. Ben thought he might like to take up the sport. For the moment, I'll stick with the biking. I can't afford another sport or else I'll be literally up the river without a paddle if Liz has a say about my hobbies and sporting indulgences!
Poor Sue, when we left the Canoe club, her tire was flat again. The tube we used was defective. We stopped once every mile during the 5 mile ride along Kelly Drive to pump up her tire so she could make it back to Boat House Row. Breakaway Bikes has a bike rental stand, so she got the mechanic to fix the flat and change the tube. Since I had just bought the spare from their shop, the mechanic only charged for the service. What a day! We rode about 20 miles from start to finish, in short increments. We saw a lot of Fairmount park and various sights along the way. I discovered a beautiful new spot and sport and got in a fair amount of "research" for my triathlon.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
- 1 Can Low-Sodium Black Beans (about 14-16 ounces)
- 2 Ears Fresh Corn on the Cob - cooked and shucked (fresh makes all the difference now that it's in season)
- 2 Plum or Roma Tomatoes - cored, seeded and medium dice
- 3 Scallions - cleaned and medium dice, using the white and green parts
- 1-2 Medium Carrots - small dice
- 1 Small/Medium Onion - small dice
- 1 Celery Stalk - small dice
- 2 Garlic Cloves - minced
Zest and Juice from 1 Lime
- 2 Tablespoons Mexican Seasoning (cumin, chili powder, oregano, thyme, garlic and onion powder, salt and pepper blend)
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 Tablespoon White Wine or Light Red Wine Vinegar
- 1/4 Cup Fresh Cilantro - rough chop
- Drain and rinse the black beans and put them into a large mixing bowl. Set aside
- Cook the corn, cool and shuck the corn kennels off the cob. Add the kennels to the black beans.
- Dice the cilantro, tomatoes and celery and add them to the black beans.
- Zest and juice the lime and add them both to the black bean mixture. Set aside.
- Heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat until it begins to shimmer. Add in the diced onion and saute for 2-3 minutes, or until the onions begin to turn translucent.
- Add in the garlic and saute another 30 seconds.
- Add in the carrots, lower heat and saute until the carrots are knife tender - a bit crisp but yielding to the bite, about 5-7 minutes.
- Add to the saute pan the Mexican Seasoning and stir well for 30 seconds; this will release the seasoning's flavors.
- Add the entire sauteed onion, garlic, carrot and seasoning mixture to the black bean mixture and stir to combine.
- Season to taste with 1 tablespoon of vinegar, salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir in the cilantro.
- Serve warm or cold. Serves 8 as a side dish.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
The prize from Williams-Sonoma came out of the blue. I was named employee of the month for the store and in the district! Colour me surprised! Our manager, Will (a fantastic manager by the way - I LOVE Working for him!), gave me a great pen, and I think there are other goodies to come. It was also Calphalon frittata pan day! The staff was promised new pans for attending a training session back in February. After a four month wait, we finally received them. Can't wait to use the new set to whip up a tasty frittata for lunch. Possible blog ideas in the near future...
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
It felt good to be out with a group of riders though. I felt part of a team. Like the sense you get on a race day, or when the clubs are out on training rides, though I don't think anyone thought were were a club or a real pack. We got a lot of gawkers staring at us wondering what this pack of women cyclists were doing. We saw two groups of male cyclists, hammering along at 30 miles an hour or faster, around the River Drive Loops, whizzing past us in blurry spandex drafts. Occasionally they would look our way. I think we were more a novelty and possibly a minor annoyance. Girls! Out on the Boys course! There were other benefits to riding with a group, in addition to learning the course and picking up a lot of pedaling tips, nutrition advice, discussions about where events take place and how to transition, I got a sense of what things I can still do to improve my efforts. I met some nice women who are doing the tri for the experience of it, not for the competition. I met Suki, a woman I've met before while I was working at Williams-Sonoma. This year's SheRox will be her first, though this Sunday she's entered into the CGI Tri. Can you say fit? This gal is gonna ace the events. She gave me some great tips on how to make my pedaling more efficient and productive. There was another Sue, an advocacy Attorney for people with disabilities; The SheRox will be first tri as well. Another woman, Leslie, told me that she's just recovered from some serious injuries, pins in her hand and arm. Awe-inspiring - and they all left me in the dust during our ride!
When I think about what motivated me to do this triathlon, I think about the fact that it is a part of my whole journey of rediscovery and physical awakening. In March when I agreed to do it, and found myself thinking about doing it for several days before I signed on, I mostly thought, yeah, I could do this. As it gets closer to the day (Sunday, August 3rd, 8 am!) I find that it's more about seeing something through to its completion. There's the determination factor, and proving to myself that I have the ability to start and finish a task, not just a physical event, but a whole life altering task. I've kept mostly on track with my weight loss, the tri is just another facet of my physical transformation. It is also a mental challenge. If I can do this, I can do whatever I set my mind to do. If you know you couldn't fail, what would you do? Try, fail, try again, fail bigger, try again.
Monday, July 7, 2008
Best of the Mexican Food Finds - Shrimp Wrapped in Bacon served Fajita Style. Not a Weight Watchers recommended meal! This dinner alone helped me put on the four pounds I gained during my trip. It was as simple as it sounds. Medium to large sized shrimp were wrapped in bacon and seasoned with pepper and lime juice, pan seared or grilled, served with onions and peppers, and topped with Jack Cheese. Oh yeah, it's not kosher either! I guess I won't be making this for my next Community Shabbat Dinner at BZBI!
Mexican Cabbage Salad with Salsa: It's kind of like a combination healthy coleslaw and fresh chunky salsa. Finely chopped green cabbage with diced tomatoes, jalapenos, onions, garlic, lime juice, cilantro and salt and pepper. It could be another variation on the healthy slaw I blogged about a few entries ago. I'd add lime zest to give it an extra bit of lime punch.
Seven Layer Mexican Dip - homemade guacamole, salsa, smashed or refried black beans, sour cream, chopped tomatoes, chopped olives, Jack or Cheddar Cheeses. This one was Liz's grandfather's recipe. He makes his own amazing fresh salsa and guacamole, both easy enough to make, but confounding if you don't have the mixtures diced or smooth enough. The secret to both is lots of lime, garlic and cilantro. To make it diet or Weight Watcher's friendly, I'd use less guacamole, light or non-fat sour cream, light or non-fat cheese, and try to cut the guacamole with a puree of peas or cauliflower - as directed in my favorite cookbook, Deceptively Delicious.
The Best of Taos: Variation on fruit salad: Cantaloupe, Nectarines, Orange or Tangerine Segments and Pitted Cherries. In a bowl, gorgeous and fantastic. I get sick of the same old versions of fruit salad, honeydew, cantaloupe, watermelon, pineapples, strawberries and grapes. It's what you can buy at the various fruit salad stands all over the city from Spring through the end of the summer. We had this delicious fruit salad in Taos, New Mexico, at a cafe/art gallery. The cafe was in a renovated adobe space, done up in pure Scandinavian Modern Style. Clean white walls and low ceilings, with rustic wooden beams. The floors were blond wood and the tables were simple low-slung plank tables. The chairs were sort of Ikea-esque, but not as cheap, more like something you could find at Design within Reach.
Polenta Pizza: Rectangle of Polenta, topped with roasted or grilled onions, peppers and eggplant, lightly covered with Asiago or Provolone Cheese. To make this easier at home, buy the pre-made polenta rolls in the produce aisle. Cut the roll into rounds and top each round with a puree or finely chopped medley of roasted veggies, ala ratatouille. Lightly sprinkle with grated light, fat-free Cheddar Cheese or freshly grated Parmesan Cheese. Serve warm, not pipping hot, so the polenta retains its texture and shape.
Fish Tacos - anywhere they are served that doesn't bread and deep fry the white fish. The best ones I had were in Taos, at Orlando's. They were served in Soft Blue Corn Tortillas, with cabbage, tomatoes, cilantro and slathered with a Tartar Sauce. At home, I'd skip the Tartar Sauce and make a low-fat/non-fat version with Fat-Free Greek Yogurt, mixed with minced cucumbers, lime zest & juice, celery seed, and minced garlic and a dash of onion powder, salt and freshly ground pepper. Make the yogurt dip ahead of time to allow the flavors to develop.
Dining in Santa Fe - Osteria d'Assisi - A bit of Umbrian Style Cuisine amidst all the great Mexican and Southwestern food choices. We splurged on a fancy evening out with friends, Donald and Lisa, both of whom are working in Santa Fe for the summer at the Santa Fe Choral and Santa Fe Opera, respectively. Marinated Artichoke salad, with fresh tomatoes, orange segments, basil and a light citrus dressing, topped with shaved Parmesan cheese. MMM! For dinner, I indulged in a thin, crispy brick oven baked pizza with Fungi e Tartuffo - Shitake Mushrooms, Baby Bella Mushrooms, and Drizzled with Truffle Oil. Well worth the points splurge. There is no reasonable way to make this points optional, except maybe by making the pizza crust with whole wheat, rolling it out a bit thinner and being sparing with the cheese and truffle oil. Nah, why bother?!
Pueblo, Colorado - Best Damn Hot Dog that tastes like a Slim Jim! Grilled Buffalo Hot Dogs. Snappy, spicy, sizzling goodness on a whole wheat bun. I skipped the bun since I had a deluxe gourmet hamburger (from Sam's Club) on a whole wheat bun. Dipped the hot dog in mustard and relish and enjoyed it just the same.
Tuaca and Red Bull - a sweet liqueur, with vanilla and citrus flavors, paired with the swift kick of the bull. A drink to rev you up and keep you going! Liz's cousin, Callie Dawn, was favoring these at Red's Alibi Bar, during Tuesday Night Karaoke. Had I had more than a sip, I think I would have definitely gone up to the microphone and belted at a rendition of Nine to Five, the one song I kept thinking I would sing to please Aunt Pat! Luckily, I drank Corona's and Liz's brother, Matt, did the family right by singing to the crowd. Way to Go Matty B! (Alibi Karaoke Video to follow eventually!)
Farmer's Markets - Great one's are all around. We visited the Tuesday morning farmer's market in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It's not as densely populated on Tuesday's, unlike the Sunday Market, but what we saw was fairly wonderful. Little six year-old boy playing the Violin in the Suzki Method. Liz, Donald and I thought the family was shilling their kid, but it was sweet. Great organic coffee from the 815 Early Cafe. Liz and I both scarfed down apple rhubarb bread and jalapeno cheddar bread. And that was the end of the Weight Watchers Diet for the Week. Actually, it ended the minute we landed in Denver! When I came home this past weekend, I went to our Sunday Market at Head House Square, at 3rd & Lombard Streets. The main difference, other than space, location and layout, is that my fellow Philadelphians have no sense of manners! Yikes! Double wide strollers do not fit in a narrow passageway of the Shambles at Head House. Enough already with bringing your cute, but nervous, dog to the market. No one wants to see poochie among the organic carrots and zucchini blossoms. I discovered a connection to Santa Fe's Farmer's Market though. My old acquaintance, David O'Neil, from my Reading Company and Reading Terminal Days, was at the Head House Market. We got to talking and as it turns out, David helped organize the Santa Fe Market. Mr. O'Neil - you are the Market Guru for the ages. Cool!
Zucchini Blossoms - One vendor at the Santa Fe Market had a big beautiful basket full of squash blossoms, perfect as an edible floral arrangement and even better as a tasty sauteed veggie. These remind me of Italy - we ate many last summer in Spoleto. The ones in Italy were stuffed with cheese, battered and fried, or just battered in a simple flour and water mixture, in the vein of fritto misto, and fried. After I began Weight Watchers last August (61 pounds, put back on 4 - at 57 pounds and losing!) I discovered that a quick light saute was just as scrumptious. Last night's Sunday supper consisted of whole wheat thin spaghetti, with lightly sauteed summer squashes, sauteed onions and garlic in a minimal amount of olive oil. For additional protein power, I sauteed chick peas and flavored them with Picantisimo Seasoning that I still have from Italy - basically a red pepper, parsley, garlic powder, salt and pepper seasoning. To this I reduced white wine and tightened the sauce up with some of the pasta cooking water - starchy and full of flavor. I bought a few blossoms and sauteed them, and served them on top of my pasta and squash medley. Finished the dish with fresh basil chiffonade and freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese. Bravisimo!
And this was only a recap of some of the great meals and food finds. I did more than just eat too! We hiked, visited with family, saw so many landscapes it boggles the mind that they all existed in only the span of 2 states and 500 miles. I can't wait to upload the photos and write about more adventures.