Monthly Archives: January 2013

New Year’s Resolutions: 2013 Style.

Just over a year ago in 2012, I began this blog and set a few New Year’s resolutions for myself. Now that we’re a couple of weeks into 2013, it’s time to reflect upon how all of that went.

First let’s look at the good stuff. Writing, obviously, was something which I succeeded in doing more of. It’s all documented in the archives of this blog. Sure, I started strong in January 2012 with 20-something posts, then deteriorated to just a handful per month. But it’s something.

I also succeeded with exercising more. My goal was to work out once per week, perhaps twice. This worked until I busted up my knees by running too much. Unfortunately, I had to slow down for a while. Laziness meant “a while” meant “until July.” But once I got back into it, I discovered a new way to run. I’d always started at full throttle right off the bat, pushing myself so hard that the workouts were excruciating. Within weeks, I suffered from shin splints, aching knees, and wobbly ankles. That changed. This July, I started slow and built up my mileage slowly. Soon enough, I was actually enjoying my runs. In October, I completed my first 5K race. In December, I notched a 10K into my belt. I can’t say that the race was fun, but I’m proud of myself for completing it.

You can kind of see me behind a streamer at the very end

You can kind of see me behind a streamer, but that’s me finishing my first race!

How can I build upon this in 2013? Well, for starters, I’m registered for a half-marathon. Gulp. Perhaps I will do more racing this year; it has been something that I’ve enjoyed, and it keeps me motivated to run often. I’d like to exercise at least twice a week, no matter what. My mindset right now is such that that is an easy goal, but it’s double from last year’s, so I’m ready to go with it. Maybe by 2014 I’ll commit to exercise three times a week!

My Spanish improved, so I can’t count myself as a failure on that resolution. It’s still not where I’d like it to be. I don’t see myself becoming fluent until we are able to be immersed in it, that is, living in a Spanish-speaking place. One of these days we will! On the bright side, while it is hard to comprehend the full range of Spanish dialects, I can understand my boyfriend’s almost perfectly. No more secrets, sweetheart.

Something that I’m determined to improve this year is my guitar playing. And I actually just purchased something to make that a little easier: a little New Year’s gift to myself, if you will. It’s a classical acoustic-electric guitar! I don’t think my resolution last year was specific enough. This year, I’m saying it boldly: I want to learn classical guitar, like flamenco-style. This should make it easier.

My new guitar. Image from Guitar Center.

Yes, I have finally upgraded my guitar. Although I loved the 3/4-scale steel-string acoustic model that my nana bought me when I started taking lessons at 14, it was time to get a grown-up guitar. This seems like a good place to start. Acoustic-electric and full-scale. It goes very well with the lesson books that I’ve purchased. I do intend to become a real guitarist. No more awkward strumming!

That is all. We’ll check back here in 2014, at which time I should be a master guitarist and also incredibly thin and fit.

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shepherd’s pie recipe

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I think I had shepherd’s pie maybe twice in my life, and both were in my college’s cafeteria on nights when there was truly nothing more appealing.

But tonight, there was some ground beef in my fridge and there was cauliflower. I asked if anyone had a preference for dinner and the answer I received? “Ground beef. And cauliflower.”

It popped into my head out of nowhere: shepherd’s pie. Ground beef, simmered with onions, carrots, peas. Although it’s usually slathered with rich and buttery mashed potatoes, I thought we could make a perfectly delicious topping from the cauliflower that was already in our fridge. It would even be healthier. So we did. (Although we did have to augment it with potato after over-salting the cauliflower, something you don’t have to do but I’ve included it in my recipe). And it was the best dinner we’ve had in a long time.

Recipe: Shepherd’s Pie

1 medium head cauliflower, roughly chopped
1 medium potato, peeled and roughly chopped
4 tablespoons of butter, divided (or alternatively, use olive oil)
1 medium onion, diced
4 carrots, peeled and diced
1 cup green peas
1 pound ground beef (sirloin or low-fat)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup beef stock
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 cup milk
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the cauliflower and potato, then turn down the heat and simmer until tender – about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt two tablespoons of butter. Add carrot and onion and, stirring frequently, saute until tender. Add green peas towards the end of the cooking time. Then, add ground beef. Brown, continuing to stir. Add salt, pepper, beef stock, and soy sauce. Allow to simmer until thickened but not dry.
When the cauliflower and potatoes are tender, drain, and then mash them together with the remaining two tablespoons of butter and the milk. Alternatively, use a ricer to make them very smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Spread the meat mixture evenly into a casserole dish (9×13″ works well). Then, spread the mashed cauliflower mixture on top of it. If desired, use a fork to whip it into little peaks that will brown deliciously in the oven.
Bake for thirty minutes. Garnish with chopped chives or parsley if you’ve got it – fresh herbs always help.

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sushi-seared tuna, edamame “risotto,” seven-spice brussels sprouts recipes

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In addition to regular recipe posts, I’m going to be posting snapshots of what we’ve been eating at home, along with loose recipe guidelines. I hope you’ll be inspired to try something new. Also, I’m doing this for selfish reasons! Most of the time, I just make up whatever we’re eating for dinner. Weeks or months later, when that meal is requested again, I don’t remember how I made it! So, I’d like to remember how to prepare the big hits.

Today’s dinner is: sushi-seared tuna, edamame “risotto,” and seven-spice Brussels sprouts.

I call the tuna “sushi-seared” because it incorporates many elements of your favorite sushi roll: soy, ginger, wasabi, and sesame seeds. Missing the rice and edamame? Well, they’ll be on the other side of the plate, looking something like risotto. I added roasted brussels sprouts, sprinkled with Japanese seasoning, because they’re healthy and delicious.

Let’s get started!

You might need to buy:

  • Ahi tuna steaks (one per person)
  • Edamame (shelled, or whole)
  • Green onions/scallions
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Japanese seven-spice powder (I got mine from SpiceHouse.com, http://www.thespicehouse.com/spices/japanese-seven-spice)
  • Sesame seeds (black and white, or whichever you have on hand)
  • Prepared wasabi

What you’ll need that you should have in your fridge or pantry:

  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Soy sauce
  • Sesame oil
  • Salt
  • Black pepper, ground
  • Arborio rice

To make the whole meal, which comes together startlingly fast:

First, make the marinade for the tuna, being sure to grate double the ginger so you’ll have some for the risotto. Marinade it while you do the rest.

Preheat the oven, then trim and prepare the Brussels sprouts.

Prepare the rest of the aromatics (garlic, scallions) and mise en place.

Stick Brussels sprouts in the oven, then start risotto.

Towards the end of the risotto’s cooking time, heat up the pan for the tuna.

Everything should finish around the same time.

For the sushi-seared tuna:

Ingredients:

  • Ahi tuna steaks
  • 1 one-inch piece ginger, grated
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoons wasabi
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Sesame seeds (black and white, mixed together), 2-3 tablespoons per tuna steak

First, prepare a marinade. In a bowl that will hold the tuna steaks, stir together the grated ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, wasabi, and salt. Add tuna steaks, coat well, and allow to rest covered at room temperature for about 30 minutes. The idea here is to let the steaks warm up so that the chilled insides don’t cool off the entire steak when it’s pulled from the pan.

(If you’re making the other dishes, prepare them here).

Preheat a large non-stick sauté pan over medium-high. Immediately before cooking, sprinkle both sides of each tuna steak with sesame seeds. Press into tuna to coat.

Add a tablespoon of canola oil to the pan. When hot, add tuna steaks. Sear on each side for 1-2 minutes max, flipping when brown and the sesame seeds have become a crust.

Serve immediately.

For the Brussels sprouts:

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts
  • 2 tablespoons Shichimi Togarashi (Japanese seven-spice powder)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Just enough sesame oil to coat

Preheat oven to 450F.

Prepare Brussels sprouts by trimming tough stem end, removing loose leaves, and slicing into halves or quarters.

Toss with salt, Shichimi Togarashi, and sesame oil. Spread on a baking sheet, careful not to overlap – you want them to roast, not steam.

Roast for about 15-20 minutes, stirring once or twice throughout – when they are beginning to brown and crisp up, they’re done.

For the “risotto:”

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 one-inch piece ginger, grated
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or grated
  • 4 scallions, sliced thin, separated
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1 cup sake
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ cup edamame (shelled – so you have ½ cup of little beans, not ½ cup of whole pods)

In a medium saucepan, heat the sesame oil over medium. When hot, add ginger, garlic, half of the sliced scallions, and salt. Saute until fragrant, about one minute, then add rice. Cook, stirring constantly, for about a minute.

Pour in sake and stir to coat. When almost all of it has evaporated, add water until the rice is just covered. Cook, stirring occasionally, until almost evaporated. Again, add more water and repeat. Continue adding water and stirring until rice is tender and creamy. Add edamame towards the end. The whole process should take 15-20 minutes.
Garnish with remaining sliced green onions.

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