Wednesday, November 9, 2011

"Chaos in the Kitchen" Challenge #3: Upma

Well it looks like I am heading east for today's cooking challenge with an Indian dish called "upma". As I said before, my neighbor showed me how to make it. She said that in India, it is traditionally served at breakfast, but she often eats it for lunch or as a snack. I think this would be a great lunch or even dinner side dish. It is quick and easy to make and it super healthy! It took me two tries to make, and a little tweaking of the recipe, but I think I've come pretty close to what she makes! (I am missing one ingredient and this is a homemade yogurt that she used. It's not like anything in the stores so I didn't want to substitute. It is optional though, so I just made mine without.) Anyhow, here is the recipe with a crazy close-up picture. (I didn't have time to plate well and then take a pic, sorry! Hopefully I'll have better food pics in the future!)

Oh, here are some special notes about the recipe, in case you want to try it: (1) Use a heavy-bottom pot. My enameled cast iron pot was perfect. If I had used my stainless steel, it would have totally stuck or burned to the bottom I think. (2) This recipe calls for an ingredient called Sooji which is Indian cream of wheat. It is very different from the cream of wheat you get in a box here in the U.S. My neighbor said not to use the American stuff -- it just doesn't work in this recipe. In fact, all of the ingredients with a * I got at a local Indian food store. (3) If you do have Indian homemade yogurt, use 1 cup and add it the same time you add the 2 cups of water. Okay, here we go!

-2-3 Tablespoons oil (I used vegetable oil)
-2 cups water
-1 cup Sooji* (Indian cream of wheat)
-2 small onions, finely diced
-1 green chili pepper, seeded and minced
-3/4 to 1 cup frozen vegetable mix (or other veggies if you prefer those)
-1/2 cup raisins
-1/2 cup cashews
-1/2 Tablespoon black mustard seeds*
-1 Tablespoon cumin seeds* (much cheaper at Indian food store!)
-1 Tablespoon (more or less to taste) lemon juice
-1/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
-salt to taste (about 1/2 Tablespoon)


1) Heat oil in pot over medium heat. Drop in mustard seeds and cumin seeds. They should be sizzling. Stir for a few minutes, allowing to brown.

2) Add sooji. Toast with seeds and oil for a few minutes.

3) Add diced onions, saute for a few minutes. Add a little more oil if needed.

4) Add frozen mixed veggies and chili pepper. Stir. Add salt and lemon juice. Stir and saute everything 2-3 minutes.

5) Add cashews and raisins. Stir to combine.

6) Add the 2 cups of water and stir. (Water should reach boiling very quickly.) Turn heat to medium-low, cover and let sit for 2-3 minutes.

7) Uncover. Turn heat to low and stir until any remaining water is absorbed or evaporated and veggies are cooked. (Mine were done pretty much when I took the cover off.) Scrape sides and bottom of pot if needed. Add cilantro, stir to combine and serve!

Now remember, the recipe I have written is just based off watching my neighbor cook it and trying it myself. The measurements are fairly general and can be adjusted based on your preferences (more/less veggies, more/less salt, etc.) There are also TONS of variations! I hope you give it a try!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Stop and Smell the Roses

Here is a pic of my two favorite things: gardening and "the Snoopster!"

There's No Turning Back!

I have officially registered for the first race in my "Getting my A** Back in Shape" Tour. It's the Twinsburg Bogsucker Strut (who in the world thought of that ridiculous name?!) and it is scheduled for March 15th. That's just a week and a half away! I hope to run a good time. Here are my goal times:

Realistic: around 27:30
Happy: around 26:30
Flippin' Out Excited: Under 26:00

Stay tuned for race results in T-9 days!

So yesterday I was griping about the gross weather conditions. I braved the snow though and completed my tempo workout. I've been excited all week though because I am supposed to do my longest run EVER this Saturday. I want to run 6.2 miles or 10K. I just checked AccuWeather to see the forecast for Saturday. Check it out:

High: 27 °F RealFeel®: 7 °F
Blizzard conditions with strong winds, low visibility and heavy snow, accumulating 4-8"; colder


I'm hoping my new blog template will at least make me FEEL like spring is around the corner!

TWD: Chocolate Pudding

Melissa from It's Melissa's Kitchen chose this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe from Baking: My Home to Yours and she decided on chocolate pudding. Dorie Greenspan, the author of the book, posted the recipe on her blog as well. At first I was a little disappointed in the choice. I really wanted to learn more about baking and wondered how much "baking" there was to making pudding. Besides, why bother -- Jello Instant Pudding is pretty darn easy and mighty tasty. I reminded myself though that one of the main reasons I wanted to do TWD is to challenge myself to try things I might not ordinarily do, and making pudding surely fits that category... so I gave it a whirl!

With my new desire to bake all sorts of goodies, my DH and I are becoming buried under baked goods. We can hardly even keep up with all of the eats! I've started sending my DH to work with tons of goodies and the direction to come home empty handed! Anyhow, I've decided that I must tone it down, so today, I decided to just make half the pudding recipe. It worked out pretty well since I have a tiny food processor and could only do half a batch in it anyway. There was actually one point when even the half batch wouldn't fit! (The mixture gets very frothy when adding the hot milk. I had to empty most of it out before adding the last bit of milk.) Anyhow, everything was pretty simple and pretty quick. In fact, I'm surprised how few ingredients there were. I've been so used to baking recipes that require umpteen different ingredients (one of which is usually an insane amount of butter,) I was pleased to see how minimal this one was. In regards to the butter, I actually had to do a double take when seeing how much was needed for this recipe. For half the recipe, I only needed 1 tablespoon. At first I was like, "WHAT?! Just 1 T?" I'm so used to recipes that list the amount of butter in sticks, not mere tablespoons, I was shocked! LOL! Anyhow, I was eager to find out how this homemade pudding compared with Jello's.

After dinner, we finally dived in. This dessert is very rich, thick, and decadent -- a totally different food than the stuff from the box! It is the perfect chocolate fix! For me at least though, I could only eat a small amount. The serving Dorie recommended in the recipe was just enough. Anything more might have been too much for how rich it was. We ate just the pudding alone though. My DH said he liked it but would have probably enjoyed it more with some whipped cream to balance out the depth of the chocolate. I agree. In fact, with my first taste, I already started thinking about how I could adapt it. A pudding with that deep a chocolate flavor was just begging for a hint of orange. But how could I incorporate that? Hmmm, maybe a little orange liquor? I wonder too how it might be a hint of mint. I love mint anything. Maybe I could put in some mint chocolates with the bittersweet chocolate. And what other toppings could I use besides whipped cream? What fruit would go well with this? So many things you can do with this! I'm so glad I gave this recipe a try!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Getting Into the Groove

After taking yesterday off, I was ready to go out there and try to start building my long runs back up. I decided to just take it easy and start with 5 miles. I checked the weather and it said that the rain would hold off till around noon, so I had a small breakfast, lounged a bit, and got dressed for my run. Since I was planning to be out for nearly an hour, I also charged up my iPod and downloaded a new Podrunner podcast. In case your unfamiliar, Podrunner podcasts are AWESOME! They are house/techno mixes that last around an hour or more and are all set at certain beats per minute (bpm). They work really well for me in terms or helping me keep a consistent pace. Run to the beat and your pretty sure to stay on pace! Going on a slow run, choose a mix at about 145 bpm...going on a faster run, go with a mix at 160, 170 or 180. Want to practice running negative splits (starting off slower, than running progressively faster)? They have mixes that starts at 140 and progressively increase to 180. They've also just started interval mixes -- mixes that vary in bpms -- mostly one bpm with intervals of faster bpms to help you get in that speed work. I love being able to choose the mixes with the bpms that I need for my particular workout. In fact, these mixes are designed specifically for working out and the guy who puts them together, DJ Steve Boyett is a runner himself! I've found that when I run with these mixes, my splits are more consistent AND faster! Here's another thing that I love about Podrunner -- it's a FREE podcast! That's right. Go to iTunes and download a new weekly mix for FREE! Can't beat that!

So anyway, I downloaded a new mix at 150 bpm and headed out the door. It was sprinkling a bit, but not bad. It's been awhile since I ran with my iPod, so I started getting into the groove of the music. I don't usually listen to house/techno, but it really helps me get pumped up while running. Anyway, I ran the first loop of my two loop run feeling a little tired, but pretty good. Just as I was passing my house though and getting ready for the second loop, the rain starting coming down even more. (So much for ACCUweather!) By the time I was at the end of my street, it was a pretty heavy downpour! As I turned the corner, the wind started picking up. I focused on my music and pushed on. As I turned the next corner, the rain started really pelting my face. Running in that headwind was like trying to run through a wall! The techno music was pumping in my ear challenging my legs to move faster and faster -- I felt AWESOME! I pushed even harder and ran that last mile and a half faster than any part of my run! My knees hurt a little throughout, but not enough to bring me down. It was an exhilerating run and I felt so strong afterwards! I love workouts like that! Hopefully I can pull another out like that soon!

After my run, I quickly got cleaned up and my DH and I took his mom and dad out to dinner. It was nice chatting with them. We ended up eating at Max and Erma's too. I LOVE their chocolate cake. It is the BEST I've ever had and I always get a piece anytime we go there. I felt guilty getting it this time though since I usually just go there for a special occasion, but oh well. I just can NOT turn down that chocolatey goodness! Anyway, we had a nice time catching up and I wished her a wonderful Mother's Day! In fact, while I'm at it, happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there! <3

Saturday, November 5, 2011

To Join or Not to Join -- That is the Question!

I was really excited to go to an informational mtg today for a new training group that my LSS is sponsoring. I was interested in joining a group to:
  • meet new people who have a common interest, maybe even make a few new friends,
  • find someone of like fitness level who can really push me,
  • get some good info/training that is specific to my needs and goals, and
  • just have someone to chat with on those long runs!
Well, after the info session, I'm not sure if this is the right training group for me. Here are the details:
  • Cost: $100. This covers the race fee, but originally, I thought the race would be something like $50 or more in which case I'm really just paying $50 for the coaching, training, group runs, store discount, etc. But then I found out that the race fee is $30 for the half mary (CHEAP!). So now I look at it as $70 for all that stuff. Hmmmm... I have no problem swinging that, as long as I feel it's worth it.
  • I'm afraid the group will be small. Only 7-10 people at the info session. And there was no one around my age! (Now that's not a requirement on my "Want to Be My Friend?" application, but it's always a plus!)
  • My biggest concern: I picked up the most involved of the three training programs, but I am worried that even that one is a little more conservative than I would like. For example, for the first week, the long run is just 35 minutes. Uhh....I just did 9 miles this morning. Their plan doesn't even get to 9 miles until week 10 of the 13 week program! Secondly, the longest run of the entire program is 12 miles. I would like to do at least 14-15 a few times. The girl there said that the program can surely be adjusted, but it seems like I would be adjusting it a lot! And if that is the case, will I just be running by myself? Kind of defeats a few of the reasons I wanted to join the group in the first place.

So anyway, I have until Wednesday to decide. It would be fun if there were people who I could run and train with, but if I'm by myself, I don't need to pay $100 for that! I do that for free already! Oh well. Needless to say I am kind of disappointed, but maybe I'll decide to do it anyhow. Maybe as I think more about it, I'll find a good reason to join that maybe I didn't consider before. What do you think?

Friday, November 4, 2011

My Wedding Slideshow!

I finally learned how to create a slideshow and thought I would try posting it to my blog! So here it is. Thought I'd start with pics from our wedding! :-)

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Went to Chiropractor Today -- More Confused Than Ever!

A group of girls at my work all go to the same chiropractor. It just so happens that you can also get massages there for just $5 (with our insurance). They usually schedule to go around the same time and then go out for lunch or dinner afterwards. Sounds pretty fun! Well, a few have been talking to me about coming with them, but I never really had a reason to go to a chiro. Well, after reading up on my whole knee issue thing, it turns out a visit to the chiro may help! Even if it doesn't, at least I can start getting my $5 massages, right?!

So anyhow, I went in today and the doctor took a look at my knees. He checked out a couple of things and took x-rays. Turns out, he does NOT think my knee problems are necessarily due to my IT band! He thinks the reason could be something altogether different! Something about a problem in my lower back which is causing my knees to overcompensate in some way? I don't know! He used a lot of mumbo jumbo doctor speak, so I wasn't really sure WHAT he was saying. He said that he is almost sure he knows what could be causing the problem but wants to wait to talk to me about it until he can confirm with the x-rays. I guess that makes sense. It would be a waste to talk to me about something if it turns out that isn't the diagnosis after all. Still...I'm dying to know! I tried to kind of ask if I should take it easy on the running and other workouts, but I didn't really get a clear answer either. He didn't seem to think that I needed to totally lay off of I guess it's not that big of a deal...? I tried to explain that I tried to work out on my elliptical for 40 minutes but could only go 30 before experiencing pain. His suggestion -- just go 15-20 minutes. Uhhhhh, okaaayyy! I guess I could have asked more specifically, but I get so intimidated with doctors. Like, I hate to waste their time by asking dumb questions, but I guess that's why I'm there, right?! So next time I go, which is this Saturday, I will come armed with the only 3 questions I really care about: 1) What in the world is wrong with me? And please write that down with pictures and diagrams -- stick figures / speech bubbles are acceptable! 2) What do I do to fix it/prevent if from ever coming back? 3) When can I run again?! Hopefully, I'll have those answers by noon on Sat!

Okay, on a totally different topic, I wrote about one of my new fave shows which is Iron Chef America. Can I just say...the hottie Chairman -- yeah, I met him! Here's the dish: When I was in high school, I got to be an extra in this movie called Double Dragon. It was a movie based on a video game...a pretty bad one at that. Anyhow, the movie starred Scott Wolf, Alyssa Milano, and hottie Chairman guy! (He's the one on the right in the movie poster.) I got to meet all of them, ever so briefly. Funny though, when I checked out the Iron Chef America website, they didn't list Double Dragon under hottie Chairman's film credits! Wonder why?! :-)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Happy Halloween!

I got this super cute card from a friend. Thanks Deb H.! Just thought I'd pass this along to wish everyone a "spook-tacular October"!

Let's be spooky. Let's have fun.
We'll scare ourselves before we're done
with ghosts and goblins, winds that howl,
things that fly and things that prowl.
We'll talk about such creepy stuff,
until we all get scared enough
to hear the things we cannot see,
and see the things that just can't be.

Have a spook-tacular October!

TWD: Chocolate Chunkers

This week, Claudia of Fool for Food chose the Chocolate Chunkers for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe. (Click on her website for the recipe!) This recipe was a little different than the norm cookie recipe in that you had to melt some chocolate and butter and incorporate that into the batter. I really wasn't sure how these would turn out. Well, when they first came out, after letting them cool for 10 minutes, I took a nice big bite. They were WAY gooey! I remember reading in the cookbook that if they were too soft in the middle, to put them in the fridge for 10 minutes. I popped them in for awhile and then kind of forgot about them. About an hour later, I finally remember them and grabbed one to give them a try. It was rock hard! I threw it out after only half a bite! I figured these things were a bust and just threw them in some tupperware.

Well, the next morning, I decided to give them one more try. I poured a nice glass a milk and took a nice big bite... a nice, soft, chocolaty chocolate bite! The consistency this time was PERFECT! The cookies were a little too chocolaty for me though and one was quite enough. I gave them to my DH to try who ironically hates chocolate but really liked these cookies! He said they reminded him of old candy bar called a Chunky. He took them to work and everyone there said they liked them too! Glad they were a hit! :-)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

In Honor of Halloween: Do You Believe in Ghosts?

I found this cool article on Ezinearticles about ghosts! I am always interested in ghosties and other paranomal stuff, but I thought this would be cool to share with Halloween right around the corner!

What is a Ghost?
By Rhetta Akamatsu

Have you ever seen a ghost? Or have you ever heard or felt something that felt creepy to you? Ghosts are very popular subjects these days. About half the American people admit to believing in them, and there are ghost beliefs in nearly every culture in the world. People have told ghost stories and reported ghostly encounters for all of recorded history. Today, paranormal investigators are compiling film and audio evidence, and experimenting with changes in electromagnetic fields and temperature in allegedly haunted places to try to determine if there is objective evidence for the existence of something we might identify as a ghost. Growing evidence indicates that there is, indeed, some unexplained phenomena that can, for lack of a better word, be identified as a ghost or spirit.

But what, exactly, is a ghost? In folklore, a ghost is the manifestation of a dead person, and many people belief this is so. But what are other theories of what a ghost might be?
Here are some popular ideas:

1. A recapturing of some violent or deeply emotional event in the past. This is what is called a "residual" haunting, and appears to be the most common kind. The apparitions that are seen in these cases are always in the same place, doing the same thing, and show no awareness of their actual surroundings or of living beings who are present. These ghosts would have no personality or substance, but would be the psychic equivalent of holograms replaying one small bit of history. An example of this might be the well-known ghost of Alice, at the Hermitage near Myrtle Beach, SC.

2. A projection of our own thoughts. We use only a small part of our brains; some people theorize that certain circumstances combined with a certain frame of mind will trigger an extremely vivid vision that appears to be real in every way. Anyone who has ever experienced a hallucinogenic drug will concur that reality can often be a tricky thing. It is not explained how such a manifestation might be caught on film or tape, however. One of the reasons that paranormal research is so intriguing is that we do have to take into account that we usually are in a haunted place because we either really do or really don't want to see something unexplained, and that can bias our experience. If we can catch phenomena through technology, that validates our experience.

3. Angels or demons. People of a particular religious background who laugh at the idea of ghosts may be much more willing to believe that something unknown is either supernaturally good or supernaturally evil. In most cases of haunting, there is little evidence of either extreme.

4. Creatures from outer space- though why they would take forms from throughout history or hang about in places that are often empty for most of the time (such as abandoned jails and hospitals) is hard to understand.

5. Glimpses into another dimension- String theory is responsible for the new popularity of this theory. In string theory, one conjecture is that there are many, many dimensions, and not just the ones we are familiar with. Some people theorize that there may be other beings inhabiting parallel dimensions, going about their lives in similar fashion to our own, and once in a while some circumstance will create a break between the dimensions, and we catch sight of one another. This would explain why apparitions who do appear to have intelligence and emotion sometimes seem so surprised to see us.

None of these theories, which do not include the possibility of intelligent interaction between the spirits of the dead and the living, explain why ghosts often seem to be emotionally involved with the place where they are or with people in the place. It seems from my research that much more often than a ghost seems angry or dangerous, the entity will seem lonely or concerned about someone or some place left behind. This is especially true in EVP work (electronic voice phenomena, where voices are captured on tape that could not have come from anyone present in the room.) In EVPs, it is not unknown for unseen entitites to actually address people by name or refer to items in the room or the building.

Of course, it is all just theoretical, and no one can say for sure what causes ghostly phenomena. However, it seems difficult to explain away all evidence that in a small number of cases, there is intelligence, and at least a shadow of recognition and emotion, attached to what we choose to call ghosts.

So what do you believe about ghosts? Do you have any haunting stories?

Another Cool Card from SplitCoast Stampers

I found more cool tutorials at SplitCoast Stampers and decided to try what they call a "waterfall card". It's really cool because you have four stamped images they lay on top of each other, and when you pull the paper strip at the bottom, they flip up and reveal the stamped image below. Sound confusing? Just check out the pics! I had some dollar stamps that I got at Michaels that I've been meaning to use -- this was a perfect project for them! Here is the card I made using their tutorial.
Now pull the tab at the bottom...
And finally -- my little ducky wishing everyone a Happy Easter!

This card was super easy to do and a lot of fun! I still want to add a saying to the pink pull strip so that as you pull it, the saying is revealed. I'll have to be on the lookout for a good stamp or rub-on to put there.

Well, that's it for me today! I hope you all had a great weekend! :-)