Sunday, August 28, 2011

Woman Vs. Food

I've met the man of my dreams. What's that? You want to meet him too? Oh, just to make sure you approve of my hubby-to-be? Ok. Well, I can handle that. Meet Adam.

Yes. I have a ginormous crush on none other than Adam Richman. And yes, at times he grosses me out with the massive volumes of food he consumes (the steak challenges give me the heebie-jeebies the most).

Recently, I was in Fort Lauderdale to celebrating some fabulous birthdays femme fatale style when it hit me that one of Adam's favorite haunts was nearby! Hello Primanti Brothers! (Ok, ok fine. I know that Adam has been to the original Pittsburgh location and probably doesn't ever plan on setting foot in this beach side sister deli, but a girl has to start somewhere!)

 I went with the classic Turkey Breast & Cheese, which comes loaded with lettuce, tomato, vinegary coleslaw, fresh cut french fries, all wedged in between two slices of white bread. Now that is what I call a sammy!

I basically had to dislocate my jaw like a snake to get through the first bite! 

Was this sandwich perfect? Not completely (the fries needed salt, and of course I had to add mayo to the bread). Was it damn tasty? Oh yes. (Especially after I added said salt and mayo).  Would I be happy to stop by this little hole in the wall gone famous deli again? You betcha! Oh and did it serve as both lunch and dinner? Nearly. It was lunch and then a giant snack before a late dinner. Nevertheless....who doesn't love a sandwich with longevity?

Nothing beats a turkey sandwich after a long day at the beach. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to find Adam and offer him a massive platter of some food group!

Love to all,
~the "I'm checking off the MvF locations til I find Adam" gal, Jess

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

21 Days and CPY

I love yoga. I love yoga. I love yoga. I love yoga. I love yoga. No really I do.

It makes my muscles warm and tingly, my joints loose and happy, my mind calm and introspective and puts my soul at ease.

I was super excited when Jenna of Eat, Live, Run laid down the (incredibly flexible) gauntlet of 21 days of yoga practice, I was stoked.

4 days into the challenge, I took Eleanor (my road bike) for a 20 miler and a mere 100 yards away from my car I got into a fight with the edge of the sidewalk.

The sidewalk won. 

I never really realized how many of my favorite yoga poses either put pressure on my knees, or involve deep knee bends. I know my boo-boo doesn't that horrid in this picture, but it was really swollen and turned all crazy colors. It's just now fully healed.

Needless to say I didn't finish my 21 day pledge.

But I'm not here to whine about my lack of biking skillz. Nope. Instead I want to give a HUGE shout out to an amazing yoga studio I can't wait to visit again soon. Known as CPY to locals and College Park Yoga to everyone else this studio and their wonderful message has stolen my heart. And makes me long to move to Orlando that.much.more.

I'd never attended a "power yoga" class before, but I'd heard good things about CPY so I was excited to try it, even though I pretty nervous. I've never felt so welcome the moment I stepped into a yoga studio. From the first Saturday morning I hesitantly stepped foot inside the doors of the funky studio that is a beautifully remodeled showroom of some sort I just felt, well, loved.

I attended the Saturday Beginner Power Yoga class and it was worth every penny (and more) of the $15's I dropped as a "drop in student" (which is pretty standard these days, fyi). When I walked in this super sweet, super cute gal with the best retro glasses was at the front desk and helped me get all signed in and paid up.  "We are so glad you are here!" she exclaimed, like I was a regular at the studio. Totally put me at ease. Turns out that "cute gal" was Theresa, the instructor for the class!

The large studio has beautiful wood floors, awesome old glass garage doors for side walls, and the most amazing industrial ceiling fan.  The room was not heated like a Bikram or "hot yoga" class, but there was no A/C and than fan stayed off for the class. The class was popular, but not uncomfortably packed.

I really enjoyed the flow of the class, we started off with long, slow sequences that reminded me of my favorite Hatha classes with Denise, which then sped up into moving vinyasas as the class progressed. It got hot in the room and I was dripping left and right, but it wasn't that oppressive, struggle to breathe feeling I experience in Bikram classes. Instead, I felt warm from the inside out.

Theresa was amazing. Again, I loved how funky cool her attitude is, her voice reminds me of Lady Gaga's speaking voice (and you know I LOVE that!) and how she encouraged us to find our own edge. She came by and worked one on one with me 3 or 4 times during the 90 minute class. This was beyond standout to me because having attended many various studios over the past 4 years I've been practicing, most instructors will give you a wide berth the first couple classes to "feel you out" (or at least that is the vibe I've gotten).

At the end of the class, as we sank into a much earned shavasana, Theresa encouraged us to radiate our beauty from the inside out by being kind to everyone we meet. Now this is going to sound crazy, but I really feel like I have been doing that ever since that first class. I'm smiling more and trying to make others smile too.

As we filed out of the cooling studio, Theresa was in the lobby, chatting with students, joking with the regulars, congratulating students on achieving a new pose. I simply wanted to say "Thank you" and when I caught Theresa's eye, she grabbed me into a giant hug (I'm totally an aggressive huger, so this was perfect!) and told me how wonderful my practice had been. I thanked her for working with me and she said "Girl, you made my job easy!" So much!

So, that is my CPY story and I'm sticking to it. If you live in Orlando or are traveling through, go see Theresa (or any of the wonderful instructors), you won't regret it.

Love to all,
~the "I'm ok with the fact both of my favorite yoga studios are over 2 hours away" gal, Jess

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Twas the Night Before....

....Christmas the start of a new school year and all through the halls, no creature was stirring, except for the cockroaches.

Ok, ok, enough silliness. I have had an amazing summer: a great UF workshop (only 6 credits away from my Graduate Certificate in Biotechnology!), and an amazing European adventure with my bestie and two back to back EPIC celebration weekends.

All of the above is why I'm staring the school year already running on a shortage of sleep and leaden feet. Thankfully my classroom is looking fabulous thanks to the hard work of my five Beta girls (aka my officer panel) last week and I just wanted to brag with a quick video tour! Enjoy.

Just to put the video in perspective, here is what my classroom looked like when I "inherited" it 3 years ago.

Love to all,
~the "ready to put another year of teaching under my belt" gal, Jess

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sweaty Soup

So, it's about a billion degrees outside these days.

Naturally, when I got home from a day of hauling only a half a billion text books around my classroom and fighting with rolls of bulletin board paper (I teach high school science) I was craving soup.

Right. Naturally. Well, the don't call me the "Semi Abnormal Gal" for no reason!

In all honestly, my plan was to rip open a box of crack V8 Butternut Squash Soup, microwave it and fall into a soup comfort comma on my couch.

I was happy with this plan, until I opened my cupboard to spot a vacancy on the soup shelf. Actually, the whole "building" had cleared out. Some plan.

So, I moped about, swept my floor, put away some dishes, all the while trying to talk myself into just eating the leftover pasta in my fridge. But, dammit, I wanted soup.

Next thing I knew I was tossing a pat of butter in my soup pot.

Then I added:
  • 1 medium sweet onion-chopped
  • 4 carrots-cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 3 celery ribs- chunked
  • 4 Yukon gold potatoes- quartered
I sauteed the veggies in the melted butter, with some sea salt and white pepper for approximately 5 minutes. Then I added one 32oz carton of College Inn Thai Coconut* "Culinary Broth" and brought the contents of the pot to a rolling boil, for 2 minutes, then reduced the heat down to a simmer for an additional 10 minutes.

After a whirl with the blender I had this lovely bowl of soup. 

Sort of. My soup dinner wasn't cooked in Scotland, by the fabulous Yani, as seen above. Nor was my soup served with a fresh buttered baguette. And alas, my soup was not nearly as smooth, because my immersion blender is better at chewing and shredding than blending. 

Ok, so you caught me, I didn't take any pictures as I was cooking and stuffing my face tonight.  But hey, it's a billion degrees and I was eating soup; it would have been just too much to be wielding a heavy D-SLR at the same time. Right? Right.

Love to all,
~the sweaty soup eating gal, Jess

*you could use regular chicken or vegetable broth which is what I typically do. This was a random purchase that I had on hand, and I like the exra "something-something" this fancypants broth brought to the table. Literally.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Stealing from Whole Foods: Tabbouleh

You've heard me lament about my grocery woes before. You know, the whole "I live in the boonies blah blah, Publix is an hour away, blah blah, Whole Foods is over 2 hours away, blah blah, and don't even get me started on Trader Joes!"

Needless to say, one of my favorite things to do when I'm traveling is to hit up the Whole Foods hot and salad bars. I adore loading my recyclable fiberboard box with a bed of mixed kale, then layering in grain salads, tofu Waldorf salad, Indian spiced chickpeas, snow peas, cold hard boiled eggs, ahhh.

And my "salad" typically ends up weighing nearly 2lbs! aka 20 bucks, ouch. I guess it's a good thing I live so far away from my beloved WF.

I had a revelation the other day, that I could make many of my favorite WF hot bar dishes at home, so I'm starting yet another mini series on this little bloggie poo: Stealing From Whole Foods which will be apart of my Expanding my Repertoire challenge to myself to cook something new every week (or so).

I decided to start out simple. Tabbouleh. A Mediterranean classic and a perfect take along to a summer picnic or party. If you too are trying to expand your cooking repertoire, cut back on your Whole Foods bills or just like beautiful fresh herbs tossed with lovely, chewy grains, follow along.

Start with gorgeous bulgar wheat and cook your desired amount* according to the package. After the grains were cooked and drained, I spread them out to cool on a cookie sheet, this is quite optional.
*I just eyeballed 1.25 cups uncooked to make a large batch of tabbouleh to take to a party.

Chop, dice, juice and zest lovely parsley, green onions, tomato, garlic and lemon.

Toss the veggies and bulgar together with the pièce de résistance: feta. 

Stuff into a mini pita, with some accompanying blueberry/brie bites. Yummmmm. 

Based on this first attempt at stealing from the Whole Foods bar, I think this is going to be a very successful heist venture. 

Love to all,
~the Mediterranean loving little thief herself, Jess

Monday, August 8, 2011

Stonewood-The Celebration Station

Ok, I'm fairly certain chef Mike Drury of Stonewood Grill & Tavern would groan and ban me from further frequenting his restaurants if he knew that I just called his fine dining but casual restaurant (does that even work? A causal fine dining establishment? eh, just go with it!) the "Celebration Station." A title I freely admit should more likely be associated with Chucky Cheese. But hang tight Mike and friends. Let me do some 'splaing.

It's my dad. See, not only is he crazy particular about what restaurants he will dine at, it was his birthday. The big number 57 in fact. So when the man chooses Stonewood (which he does every year, btw) we go. We also go for Mom's birthday, their anniversary, and pretty much any other "big occasion" I don't have control over.

But you know what? This little control freak is actually ok with the frequency in which my family, well, frequents this particular grill and tavern. I like the casual elegance of the high booths, smooth polished wood bar, and quiet jazz music pipped in seemingly through magic. (Or really well hidden speakers. Whatev.) What I like even more than the ambiance is the food. It's simple and done well. (Just like the ambiance. Hummm.)

So, if you have something to celebrate, let me give you a few ideas.

Happy Hour at the Bar:

2 for 1 dirty gin Martinis for Daddy and I (although he drinks his on the rocks...I like mine up) and Cosmos for Mum, plus an amazing round of Bleu Cheese Chips - house made potato chips drizzled with bleu cheese aioli, lightly baked and served with bleu cheese crumbles, then drizzled with a balsamic reduction for the table


We ordered a lovely Alamos Malbec.

Now, if you can break away from admiring how handsome my father is you might notice something interesting about the wine label. It's not Alamos, in fact it's not even a Malbec. (and super unfortunate, it wasn't close to the same price point of the wine we ordered. Yipes.)

This whoops was not only on the waitress' part, but on the patron's part for not actually inspecting the wine when it was presented. Learned my lesson on that one: read the label, regardless of the fact that you had two martinis at happy hour. (In case you were wondering, the manager was great about the whole situation since our server was still in training; he billed us for the wine we ordered and we enjoyed the Gott Cab, as it was already uncorked.)

In spite of the wine snafu, we had a lovely dinner.

My plate*:

Oak Grilled Pork Chops - Thick, center-cut boneless pork chops, marinated in a blend of citrus-infused olive oil, honey, soy and spices, and served with Granny Smith apple chutney with a side of creamed spinach, which is divine, and a baked potato.

The chutney really made this dish for me. So many flavors in every bite, and I may or may not have cleaned my plate. A girl never pigs out kisses and tells. 

Both Mom and Dad both got the Petite Filet.

Dad's plate, with the creamed spinach and seasonal vegetables.

Needless to say, the only dessert we had was to polish off the Joel Gott. (I mean, when in the land of polished wood, why not?

Thanks again Stonewood, for being our tried and true Celebration Station.

Love to all,
~the "control freak who loves pork chops with chutney" gal, Jess

*these out of focus photos are driving me insane. I still struggle to get good photos in dim lighting...I need to figure that out if I'm ever going to have a job doing restaurant reviews.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Simple Summer Salad (and a confession of sorts)

I have something to get off my chest. Here goes.

I'm a tease!
I love orzo!

No really, I am a tease. (and I do love orzo...but you already knew that. And if you don't love orzo, well you will very soon)

But wait, before you lock up your male best friends, husband's cousins and sweet older brothers (really, don't lock them up...send them my way, I'll keep them well fed) let me explain. See I have this bad habit, of mentioning something, even making a promise of sorts, and then taking a really, really, long time to stop accidentally teasing ya'll and come through with that promise.

Phew. I feel much better. Thanks.

And in case you are totally confused (I mean, I'm a little confused most of the time...confused people unite!) I'm referring to a delicious orzo salad that I made for my friends over Memorial Day Weekend.  And I promised that I would share the recipe with you "stat."

That was in May, and it's August. Stat, my ass. (Good thing I didn't go into medicine, eh?)

But, as a wise man once said, "better late than never."

And now, no more teasing, let's do the damn thing (I mean, let's make a refreshing summer salad. What did you think, gutterbrain? humm?)

 For this simple orzo summer salad you will need:

  • 1 box orzo pasta (prep via box instructions and drain)
  • ~4oz feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 purple onion, chopped
  • 1/2 8oz can black olives, drained (the Lindsay brand is the best! do it!)
  • the juice and zest of one lemon*

1. Mix the last 5 ingredients together.
2. Admire the beautiful colors.
(no really, that second step isn't optional)

3. Add drained orzo and feta to the bowl
4. Dress with olive oil (2-3 tablespoons), pepper and salt

5. Toss. (no really, it is that simple)

optional: top with yummy chicken and veggie skewers (actually, this isn't optional. no lovely, don't ask questions, just do it)

Well, and I guess now you know my third confession, I'm kinda bossy. (But it's in your best interest to listen to me. It is.)

Love to all,
~the orzo lovin', bossy tease of a gal, Jess

*the zest is my trick the make the lemon flavor "go further". And it's pretty.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Fitness Quickie: Rain and 21 Days

It's raining. It's pouring. And it's very likely that an old man in the nearby vicinity is snoring.

All of the above is a huge bummer, since I'm training for the 6th Annual Women's Triathlon, and a double bummer, since my beauty of a bike, Eleanor, just arrived this weekend.

Isn't she pretty?

I had planned to do a bike/run brick yesterday. But it rained. All day. So, I re-planned it for today. And it's rained. All day.

Needless to say, I'm going a little stir crazy here. Especially since I've been super active all summer...including you know, walking 5-7 miles a day while exploring Europe. 

Thankfully Jenna, of Eat, Live, Run has solved my rainy summer day doldrums. I am proud to annouce I will be participating in the 21 Day Yoga Challenge. That's right, yoga, everyday for the next 21 days. 10 minutes or 200 minutes, or anywhere in between, you decide. btw if you actually do 200 minutes, let me know...because you are a yoga rockstar!

Now, if you will excuse me, I'm off to get my asana on the mat.

Love to all,
~the "I love yoga, sometimes I just need some extra motivation" gal, Jess

PS. Feel free to join the challenge too!