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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

On the Road Again


Now that Spring is REALLY Here, both in temperature and true season - let the biking and training begin!  It's time to not only step into spring, but to step back into shape for the upcoming season.  My biking buddy, Sue S. sent out a biking SOS yesterday, reminding several of the biking crew that April is here and the weather's cooperating, time to get dust off the bikes and our asses back on our bike seats (hoist, groan!)  I got in a quick ride this afternoon, a pre-training ride to help me get my head back in the game and my endorphins pumping.  Both will help me shed that winter depression and the now almost 10 pounds I gained in this awful off-season.  I'm officially in "training" mode for the 2010 SheRox Triathlon and I'll be a mentor to several women for it, so I have to get my sports act together, not only for my own sanity and sake, but for the sake of the women I hope to encourage and help.  For those of you not into triathlons or sports, do consider taking the time to work out a bit, power walk, swim a few laps, lift some weights or in general, become a bit more active this Spring.  The physical rewards will be wonderful and the mental clarity it might give you will be even more rewarding.  Some of my goals for this season are to, again, finish the triathlon in under 2 hours, beating or at least meeting my time from last year.  I hope to be able to work out as much as my life will allow, but not beat myself up when I don't get in as many work outs as I think I should. Hey, having a baby is such a serious life-change that Nibblet and Liz come first.  I hope to run more this year; I'm considering doing at least one other 5K this season - there's an ALS 5K on April 23rd.  I want to, and will shed the 10 pounds I gained.  I will get back on track with healthier eating and get off the sugar binge I've been having.  I will start writing some more recipes for healthier nutrition options for pre and post work-outs.  And, lastly (but not least) I hope to read more each day, watch less television, and write more each week.  Sounds like some resolutions, but I'm thinking of them more as evolutions and revolutions.  I evolve as I ride more each day...

Friday, March 26, 2010

Good News Stories


News Item #1 - in case you don't read our other blog, Nibblet News, the blog about my son, Nate; I became his official second parent/mother on Tuesday.  Liz and I had our adoption finalized at Family Court, tying us together in the eyes of the State of Pennsylvania as a full-fledge family.  We may not be able to get married under the laws of the USA, but goshdasit, we can have a baby together!

Real News item #2 - The Mystery Knitter, or Tree Sweater and Bike Rack Cozy Knitter has been revealed!  An article in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Thursday morning describes the young woman who has been putting sweaters on trees in and around Rittenhouse Square, as well as sweaters on bike racks and knitted flowers on utility poles.  I've been spotting and photographing these finds for several months now, becoming obsessed with my next find.  Now that the mystery has been solved, I'm a tad disapointed to know the final answer.  There was something fun and tantalizing about the unknown artists behind these urban street art "yarn-bombings."

News Item #3 - I will be doing my third triathlon this summer, in the SheRox Triathlon Series, Sunday, August 1, 2010.  I will also be a mentor!  I seriously debated about doing it or not, and even told Liz that I didn't think I would do it this year.  Then I decided to see if I might qualify to be a mentor - helping other women find their inner athlete.  I pays to ask!  I was accepted as a Mentor in this Year's Philadelphia SheRoxTri.  So this year, I get to mentor and assist other newbies to the sport of triathlons.  Good thing I rejoined the gym when I did!  I'll be in serious training mode from here on out, so stay tuned for work-out updates, nutrition information and other biking/swimming/running related blogging. 

News Item #4 - Spring is here!  Found these crocus just in the nick of time before the blooms faded.  The trees are beginning to bud and bloom; cherry trees are starting to burst with candy pink clouds of happiness; daffodils and tulips are popping up brightening gardens everywhere.  I have a five day and then a four day sets of weekends ahead of me for Passover (and my Easter) break.  Yeah, the fog of my depression is lifting.


News Item #5 - My other obsession with found street art and urban art continues.  Every day I find more fun stickers, art installations and other works of the urban art underground.  As I upload my finds to Flickr, I also make more contacts with the creators of these works.  I hope to meet some of these talented artists soon. I've been invited to one of their studio open houses and to a bar-meet up later.  Wonder what these guys will think when they meet me, a 43-year old mother of a nearly 6 month old baby boy?  Oh well, you are as young as you feel!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I've been in a dark and moody place of late.  Hence the lack of posts. To tell the truth, I couldn't sleep one night during the first week of March, so I wrote three of my posts while the ideas were fresh and had them scheduled to post throughout the week.  That's the nice thing about blogger, you can schedule or save posts for another time.  Clever stuff this blogger service.  Mostly I've been very depressed, I think it's the end of the winter blahs but I just can't seem to shake it out of my system.  I've been deeply dissatisfied with a lot of my daily life, nothing at home, that's my respite and joy these days, what with baby Nate and Liz.  Without the two of them, I'd be nothing, I'd have nothing...
Anyway, I haven't been much in the mood to bike or write.  The two sunniest days we had so far I found myself completely incapable of leaving the house or getting dressed that I stayed inside ALL DAY and just hung out with Nate.  Jeesh, even Liz walked the dog all three times on Sunday, which she never does since I've taken over dog walking duties since the baby was born.  Liz said I needed to snap out of it that if I didn't even want to go biking, than I must be depressed.  Indeed.  I'm starting to snap out of it, but honestly, this time feels a lot harder than my usual winter doldrums.  I've been trying to make myself get to the gym though in the last two weeks I think I got there only once a week.   This week I've beat my March Personal Best (or Worst) as I went to yoga on Monday night and ran and lifted weights tonight, Tuesday.  One more time at the gym or out on the bike this week and I'll have exercised more this week than I did in two months.  I just renewed my membership and I'm also trying to renew myself.  We'll see.  I haven't been doing too well in being kind to myself or not re-acting to stress or stressful situations.  Guess that resolution went the way of everyone else's, straight to the circular file
What I have been good at doing is eating, stressing myself out over nothing, and in general going through a lot of paranoia and anxiety.  I'm hoping the extra daylight, the spring motivation to exercise and bike and start swimming again will help alleviate some of my depression.  Can anyone relate?  I feel like a bear that's been in hibernation all winter. I'm sort of eager to come out of my cave but man I'm tired and worn out and all I've been doing is sleeping in my own den of inequity.  My fur is bedraggled and I'm fish hungry.  Time to head down the mountain and into the stream of life.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Soy Orange Ginger Marinade

At long last, I present to you, a recipe!  And not just any recipe, but a 3-for-1 recipe.  Make it once and get 2 other recipes/meals/ingredients to boot!  This recipe uses one of my go-to marinades or as I like to call it, my essential Asian Soy Sauce Dressing, good enough to use on tofu, chicken, pork, shrimp, rice or as a vinaigrette for a salad or over vegetables.  The pork can be enjoyed once it's cooked and then the left-overs can be tossed into a stir-fry or into a delicious steaming bowl of Easy Miso Soup, which is exactly what I did with the left-overs.  Next time you find a good sale at the Acme or SuperFresh, a buy one get one free deal on pork tenderloins, buy them!  Take them out of the package, wrap two of the tenderloins in plastic wrap and freeze them in freezer bags. Keep the other two (the tenderloins usually come two to a package) and make the marinade, and cook them.  One to eat now, one to eat later, two more for another day.  To marinate and cook the tenderloins quickly, butterfly them open - that is, cut through the center of the tenderloin, half-way, but not all the way as to split it into two pieces. Flay the sides open like the pages of an open cookbook.  Basically, you are making the round loin into a flat piece of meat.  You only need to marinate the pork about 2 hours, though over-night is even better if you have the time. If you make a double or bigger batch of the marinade,  the extra will keep for 2 to 3 weeks, in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator.

Grilled Pork Tenderloins with Soy Orange Ginger Marinade Ingredients:

  • 1/2 Cup Low-Sodium Soy Sauce
  • 4 to 5 Dashes of Fish Sauce
  • 1/4 Cup Rice Vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon Hot Sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons Honey or Molasses or Indonesian Sweet Soy Sauce (such as Kecap Manis)
  • 5 Garlic Clover - minced
  • 1 Tablespoon Fresh Ginger - Minced
  • 1 Tablespoon Chinese 5 Spice Powder
  • Zest and Juice of 1 Orange
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper - a few grinds to to taste
  • 2 Tablespoons Sesame Oil
  • 2 Pork Tenderloins (about 3 pounds total) - Trimmed of Silver Skin and excess Fat - filet open

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl or glass jar, whisk together all of the ingredients, soy sauce through the sesame oil, whisking briskly to emulsify and combine.  Set the marinade aside.  If making a double batch or more, reserve 1 cup of the mixture to use now, and refrigerate the remainder.
  2. Trim any excess fat and silver skin and membranes off of the pork tenderloins. Butterfly the tenderloins open, flattening them open for easier marinating and cooking.  Place the tenderloins into a shallow container or dish and pour the marinade over the pork, completely covering the tenderloins.  Cover tightly and refrigerate for two hours or up to over-night.
  3. When ready to grill, preheat your grill or grill pan to high heat.  Take the pork out of the refrigerator and allow to sit out, covered, at room temperature for 20 minutes to half an hour before cooking.  Pour off the excess marinade - reserving it to cook and  use as a finishing sauce.
  4. Grill the tenderloins for 15 minutes, over medium-high heat, turning mid-way on the grill to get cross-hatch grill marks on one side.  Flip the tenderloins and grill on the second side for 10 minutes more.  Remove the pork from the grill, cover loosely with aluminum foil and set aside. Pork should be 135 degrees on an instant read thermometer.  Pork should be cooked through, but can have the merest trace of pink in the center. 
  5. While the tenderloins are on the grill, boil the reserved marinade in a small sauce pot. DO NOT USE THE MARINADE WITHOUT FIRST COOKING IT TO MAKE IT SAFE FOR CONSUMPTION! IT HAD RAW MEAT IN IT!  Bring the marinade to a boil and cook it down to reduce by half.  At minimum, the used marinade must be boiled for 3 minutes before you can use it as a sauce or to baste the tenderloins as they cook on the grill.
  6. Let the pork rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.  Slice the pork against the grain.  Serve hot or warm, with the cooked marinade and enjoy!  Remember, the left-overs are excellent in a variety of ways so don't forget to check out my Miso Soup Made Easy Recipe from January 2009!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Findings: Street Art and Graffiti Stickers

There is art all around you.  You just have to Abierto los Ojos - open your eyes.  As I wander and wind my way from my house in South Philly on my two mile commute to work, I often find things that I had not seen on the previous day.  Specifically, I find Urban Street Art.  A lot of it.  Sometimes if I'm not fast and diligent enough to photo document my finds, the art and stickers are gone.  I've been documenting most of my findings for several years now, and have been aware of this underground art scene for more than a decade.


Lately I've become more interested in the artists.  My Flickr sight has gotten a nice following of contacts - as I've joined a few Street Art Sticker groups.  I don't know any of these gifted artists personally, nor do I know the whys and hows of their craft.  So far, I've met one person, completely by accident, late at night on an empty main drag in Philly.   It was an exciting meeting for me, akin to finding one of Invader's mosaics, or another one of WTF's woodblock pieces, which I've found two new street pole placements - at 13th and Spruce and at Broad and Lombard.


The artist I met, AB (not his real name) was posting his Judas Priest stickers while walking to his next destination.  I had only just found his sticker art two days earlier, and was intrigued by its detail and subject matter.  I am fascinated by the whole under-ground art scene but can't figure out how to meet up with any of the makers.  I think the trick is, you have to be out late at night since what these artists are doing is, technically, defacing public property.  As I happened to be on my way home from a late night at work, I saw someone putting something up on a street pole. I doubled back, took a look and sure enough, it was one of these stickers.  So I asked the guy, is this your art? We chatted for a few minutes, me, a bit awestruck by the fact that there are indeed, real live people, purposely putting these crafts around the City.  Art is in the eye of the beholder, or documenter, as my case may be...


Street poles, utility sign posts, backs of Loading Zone Notices, trees, bike racks and newspaper honor boxes are all typical  venues for these urban artists.  Next time you walk to the bus stop, take a look up, down or all around you.  Your next find might be more interesting if you view it in the context of a Street Artist's Canvas, a sweater or cozy, stitched to a tree or bicycle rack. We have a serial knitter on our hands around Walnut to Spruce Street, 18th to 16th Streets.  

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Lighten Up! Church Casserole ala Goulash Redone

Years ago, too long actually to remember for sure, we used to make this dish called Grecco.  It's comfort food, something I turn to every year in the Fall and then again in Winter.  It was your standard Church Casserole or Macaroni and Beef Goulash.  Elbow Macaroni, ground chuck, tomato sauce, onions, and a can of creamed corn.  It sounds crazier than it tastes because it tastes great, if made well.  Over the years I lost track of the original recipe and have adapted it and made it my own.  As I began to cook healthier and lighter, I started to incorporate more vegetables into my daily diet and this particular recipe;  taking out refined and processed foods, eliminating worthless carbs and starches, and reducing the fat and sodium.  In time, I've come to make this quintessential hamburger helper more healthful.  It's an easy fix, one that few people would notice or miss, swapping out the ground chuck for lean ground turkey or chicken; trading the can of creamed corn for whole kernels; adding in low sodium tomato sauce, grated carrots and pumpkin for fiber and flavors.  As I've said time after time, it's all about building flavors and not relying on short-cuts for taste.  Less salt and fat and more fresh seasonings and vegetables.  To wit, here is my lightened up version of Grecco, or Goulash or Church Pot-luck Macaroni Casserole.

Grecco Ingredients:

  • 1- 12 to 14 ounce box Whole Wheat or Multi-grain Elbow or Shell Macaroni - cooked to package directions - al dente
  • 1 Pound Lean Ground Turkey or Ground Chicken
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil/Vegetable Oil of choice
  • 1 Medium Onion - small dice
  • 2 Medium Carrots - shredded or grated
  • 1 Medium Red or Green Bell Pepper - small dice
  • 4 to 6 Garlic Cloves - minced
  • 1/4 Cup Dried Italian Seasonings
  • 1- 29 to 32 Ounce (Large) Can No-Salt/Low Sodium Tomato Sauce
  • 1- 1/2 Cups Pumpkin Puree
  • 2 Cups Frozen Corn Kernels
  • Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper - to taste
  • Cooking Spray - for casserole dish (optional)
  • 2 Cups (8 ounce package) of Shredded Low/Reduced Fat Cheddar or Cheddar Cheese Blend

Special Equipment needed:

  • Oven, Stock Pot, Casserole or Oven Safe Dish

Directions:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Season the water with salt once it comes to a rapid boil; add in the pasta and cook until it is al dente - firm but a bit of bite to it.  Drain, set the pasta aside and keep warm.
  2. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat and brown the ground turkey or ground chicken until it is cooked through - about 5 minutes.  Drain off any liquid and set the browned  poultry meat aside.  
  3. In the same skillet, heat the 2 tablespoons of oil over medium high heat until the oil begins to shimmer;  add in the diced onions, grated carrots and diced peppers. Saute and sweat the vegetables until the onions start to caramelize and peppers soften and start to blister slightly - about 8 minutes.  Add in the minced garlic and saute another 2 minutes.
  4. Next, add in the dried Italian seasonings to bloom the flavors, saute for 30 seconds.  Pour in the tomato sauce and the pumpkin puree, stirring to fully incorporate the liquids.   Add the cooked ground poultry back to the skillet and bring the mixture to a gentle boil.  Reduce heat once it reaches a boil.
  5. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding in salt and freshly ground black pepper as needed.  Next, add in the frozen corn kernels and heat the mixture through.
  6. Add the meat/tomato sauce/vegetable mixture to the pot of warmed, cooked macaroni; stir to incorporate all the ingredients.  Taste and adjust seasonings again.
  7. Pour the macaroni mixture into the prepared casserole dish.  Top with the grated/shredded cheese.  Bake the casserole for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the cheese is fully melted and bubbling and the center of the casserole is piping hot.  Cool before cutting and serving.  Makes 8 generous servin
  8. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9x13 or 4 quart casserole dish with cooking spray and set aside.
  9. gs.  
  10. Notes: Grecco freezes beautfully either before baking or after, as left-overs.  If freezing before baking, using an oven/freezer save baking dish.  Add at least and additional half-hour to the baking time from frozen.  The cheese can either be added or omitted to an unbaked Grecco Casserole.  I find that it's a better over-all product if I leave out the cheese if I'm making the dish to freeze and use later.  Higher fiber pastas come in smaller quantities these days.  If you find a full one-pound, 16 ounce package, use it all. I've noticed that the boxes of Ronzoni or Barilla come in 12 or 14 ounce boxes.  Same thing with tomato sauce.  Use a large can of sauce - it can range between 29 to 32 ounces. 

Monday, March 1, 2010

Beer by Bike to Yards Brewery

My second brewery tour via bicycle with  Beer by Bike took place this past Saturday, February 27th. We went to Yards Brewery in Fishtown.  I finally got to meet the Leader of Beer by Bike, the absolutely delightfully polite, Jesse.  The meet-up was at the Art Museum Steps around 11 am.  The weather was over-cast and brisk and while Philadelphia dodged another Nor'Easter there were snow showers as I headed out in the morning. I wasn't sure how many riders would show up nor was I sure if I would know any of the other beer riders.  No worries, plenty of boys came out for the ride and I did "know" one or two of the fellas.  Funny thing was, I was the only woman and, was again, by far the oldest (chronologically speaking) person there.   All the guys were very nice and friendly and I felt welcome and not at all out of place - on my crazy bike or in that vague, girl invading the boys clubhouse kind of way.  The day reminded me of playing with the neighborhood boys, I was treated with respect but also as just another one of the gang. We biked up Kelly Drive to East Falls Bridge then back down Kelly Drive to the Parkway.  From there we headed down Spring Garden Street, a motley crew on a variety of bicycle "steeds."  I rode the beach cruiser again as it's steadier on the ice and snow patches. As I said in my Snow Ride post, I get a better work out when riding it.  From Spring Garden Street we hit Columbus Blvd, aka, Delaware Avenue and hung a quick left to Yards Brewery, about two blocks up the road.  A few more Beer by Bike participants met us at Yards than actually rode with us to the brewery, bringing our total number of bikers at the brewery nearer to 20 people.  

This Yards Brewery location is about a two years old - the settlings of a nasty "divorce" case between business partners who first founded Yards Brewery in Mannyunk.  The split created a brewery in Kennsington called Philadelphia Brewing Company and now this new Yards in the Fishtown/Northern Liberties area.  My money's on Yards - I enjoy their beers more; I'm especially fond of a brew called the Brawler Ale, a Puligist style ale.  Plus, they have a cool bicycle jersey with the Brawler Ale logo on it. Nods to the biking community.

Yards Brewery is a fully working brewery - brewing several beers on location for "in-house" tasting and sales of bottles for "at-home" enjoyment. Yards is also open for brewery tours.  The main room, recently opened for service;  it was reorganized to include a working bar, kitchen, tables, booths and pool table.  It's kind of a bare bones affair.  The building is certified green, using recycle and reclaimed materials and wind turbine energy.  The over-all look of the place is of an industrial warehouse -  cement floors, exposed air shafts and metal support beams.  A trip to Yards is and should be about the great beer experience and definitely not about the ambiance and decor.  The beers, some of which are seasonal, are full-flavored, exceptionally fresh and full of hoppy high alcohol contents.  The lowest alcohol content I noticed was around 4% and the highest was nearing 8 or 9%. Commercial brews like Bud, Coors, Miller and that ilk have around a standard 4% or 5% max.  The brewery tour is a must, for you learn how these fine libations come to be and you get to sample one or two of the day's brews for free.  The foods are fine, not anything to take you out of your dining way, but fine. They serve a variety of grilled cheese and other sandwiches, soups and chili.  The bread is baked in-house and there are several varieties, all made with a house beer.  There is a Thomas Jefferson Ale Bread, George Washington Porter Bread, and a Pumpernickel made with the GW Porter too. The breads are toothsome and hearty, much like the beers with which they were baked.  With my lunch, I sampled flights of  the Revolutionary Beers - The Thomas Jefferson Ale, George Washington Tavern Porter, the Old Bartholomew Barley Wine, and the Poor Richard's' Spruce Ale.  The beers were tasty  - not a bad sip in the bunch. While I am firmly a darker beer or porter/stout drinking gal, the Barley Wine style beer was a surprise hit.  It was clean tasting, not too sweet or malt liquor tasting, buy rather refreshing and piquant.   For lunch, I had a grilled mozzarella and sundried tomato sandwich with a side of grainy mustard and a garlic pickle, served on the GW Porter Bread along with a cup of Barley and Bacon Soup.  Just the thing for a cold winter's day.  I had to cut out early, so I didn't get the chance to enjoy a second flight or sample the other beers.

I look forward to another visit to Yards.  It would be a good place to go on another late winter's or early spring day with a group of friends. It's also a great place for a party or fundraiser event.  I'm also looking forward to more cycling and beer rides with this eclectic and smart group of riders.  Any group of people -  men, women, youngish or young at heart and spirit is a group I want to be and ride with more often.