Life. 365-Style. (7/2-7/29)

Man, ya’ll. We had a *heat wave* this month! And in SF, that means it hits 80 a few times. It was magnificent, and so odd for summertime.

Oh, and since it’s well into the second half of 2013, I thought I’d take this chance to update my progress in my “goals” from the first post of 2013:

  1. Run 500 miles this year. That’s roughly 10/week, so as of today I should be at 300 miles. Here’s reality: 309.33. BOOM.
  2. Finish the Stairway Walks: we’ve walked 20/29. I’m betting it won’t be a problem to get those last 9 finished this year. BOOM again.
  3. Take a picture every day: this is the hardest of them all, honestly. I won’t be doing this in 2014, but so far, I’ve managed to pull something out every day. BOOM BOOM BOOM.
  4. Go somewhere awesome: this was the easiest. Peru was awesome. Other small trips were awesome. And in late August, we’re heading to Chicago, which is awesome again. Quadruple BOOM.

And now, the pictures:

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183 – one of our commuter systems, BART, went on strike recently. the gates were shut to get through to the BART side and a whole bunch of folk were p-o’d.

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184 – gotta love an impromptu happy hour with coworkers! it was much more fun than running ;).

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185 – we found a perfect spot to watch SF’s fireworks from Bernal Heights. it was so clear that night it was insane. the fog has usually taken over that part of town by then!

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186 – Chris made me watch Sinister. it was uber creepy. and Ethan Hawke looked funny in a man-sweater.

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187 – Chris, Judy, Jared and I headed out really early to Swanton Berry Farm in Davenport. we rummaged through the strawberry fields. well, some of us stared off into the open air…

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188 – my loot! i ended up making jam (strawberry-lime and strawberry-balsamic), strawberry-buttermilk sherbet, and then we ate a lot of them too.

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189 – I hope he wore these kicks last week! he was in the front car of the Caltrain watching the track. super cute.

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190 – afternoon sun.

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191 – i want to make this dish. it’s called a “veggie ceviche”.

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192 – Frannie’s delicious cocktail stories made me wanna try a recipe i found. this is st. germain, tequila, lemon, and thyme simple syrup. it wasn’t bad. not at all.

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193 – I had a Friday off (crazy!) and went back for my favorite breakfast at Craftman & Wolves (the toasted chocolate bread). then i went and sweated it off at yoga.

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194 – this cat gets herself into the damndest places. she keeps thinking she’s gonna jump on top of the hutch. i don’t think she knows my wrath yet.

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195 – we did a stairway walk out in St Francis Wood, a ritsy neighborhood. that house is for 1 family! in our neighborhood, that would be 12 units. ha!

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196 – i looked outside this morning and this bird was staring in. totes eerie.

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197 – Chris was in Austin for a few days, so I wandered down to Philz after work for some qualitee people-watching. never disappointed.

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198 – pineapple close-up!

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199 – blue house, blue sky. but much chillier than it looks!

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200 – grilled chicken on a Friday night indoors. i think i fell asleep at 10 PM. i know how to live!

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201 – we actually went out to Speakeasy Brewery this afternoon, but happened upon a wine tasting when we decided to stop by Mr & Mrs Miscellaneous for ice cream. talk about a perfect day!

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202 – We spent the day being So. Classy. by first going to a free concert from the SF Symphony in Dolores Park, then dinner at my chef crush, Michael Chiarello’s, new restuarant, Coqueta. We ate a bunch of small plates and, while we didn’t plan to on a “school night”, we ended up with a couple of cocktails apiece. This is the “Revolution”, my favorite drink of the night. Food-wise, I could eat a whole plate of the “tattas bravas”, and the duck meatballs weren’t bad at all. Chris could have easily filled up on the cheese plates, his favorite food group.

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203 – Steven’s Creek Trail in Mountain View. a nice break from my typical Mission or Stanford campus runs.

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204 – I had leftover frozen “mornay” (cheese sauce) from a mac n’ cheese dish I made a while back. I wasn’t sure how the frozen cheese sauce would be once thawed, but as it turns out, it’s just dandy. I also mixed in a couple of frozen cubes of pesto sauce. Not bad for a last-minute dinner ;).

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205 – another day of construction in the building of a new hospital.

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206 – An impromptu dinner/beer night at Pi Bar just *had* to end with a stop across the street for a cookie. Right?

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207 – Where’s Sasha? And how did she get there?

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208 – A night out in Berkeley at the Greek Theatre to see The Postal Service. The show itself wasn’t that great, really, but we still had a great time!

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209 – The weather was a little foggy this weekend (a true “summer” in SF, not this heat wave stuff!) and it was the perfect setting for a nice big bowl o’ ramen. One of our favorites, Halu, is closed on Sunday, so we went to an easy standby, Tanpopo, in Japantown. it hit the spot.

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210 – Even though I’ve lived in CA for 2 1/2 years now, the palm trees still make me smile :).

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Battle Chorizo: Liquid Courage

When it comes to pork, I don’t discriminate. Give me bacon, give me Boston Butt, or give me a rack of ribs – I will eat it all, and be as happy as a clam at high tide. Better yet, give me chorizo, and I become weak in the knees.

What’s not to love about pork sausage turbo-charged with smoked paprika and dried chile peppers? And what’s not to love about eating 14 dishes in a row that all use the Mexican counterpart in unique ways?  It would only be appropriate for the first Iron Chef battle sans vegetarian, Hope, to have a meaty secret ingredient, right?! And sure, I’d choose Hope any day over a meat-containing Iron Chef theme, but at the end of the day, I knew that was a choice I didn’t have – so when I saw chorizo on my email I smiled. I smiled big.

I used the rest of my smuggled Spanish chorizo a while back, and believe you me, it’s hard to find similar quality Spanish chorizo outside of, well, Spain. But Mexican chorizo is a whole other ballgame. There are gazillions of Mexican markets around Chicago, and they all have their house-made chorizo, and they are all scrumptious. This battle was for the Mexican version only, so I was in luck.

That being said, you could definitely make your own Mexican chorizo, which isn’t the worst idea I’ve ever heard. I have a hard time justifying that act though, with a tienda de Mexicana right around the corner.

All in all, Battle Chorizo was chock full of both chorizo and fun. I thought I’d get some originality points by bringing a dessert to the table, but I should know by now, 13 battles in, that I’m not the only one who brings it. Either way, the food was consistently good, and this time picking a favorite didn’t come as easily to me as it has in past battles.

But in the end, what stood out most was a dish that typically doesn’t fare too well in Iron Chef land: a beverage. Brook went balls to the wall and infused tequila with chorizo, making a super spicy, subtly meaty, perfectly-mixed meat-garita. It may not sound good, and maybe everybody didn’t adore it, but I sure did.

The Top Three (all pictured individually, above):

1. Brook’s Meatgaritas (gluten/dairy-free)
2. My Maple Panna Cotta with Candied Chorizo Caramel (gluten/dairy-free)
3. Katherine’s Chocolate-Chorizo Crostini (dairy-free)

Of course, in the midst of Brook’s (all too narrow) win over my maple-chorizo dessert, we all found even more liquid courage and busted a few moves with Brook & Katherine’s new toy, the Kinect. I could quickly abandon the gym in exchange for the dance game, that’s for sure. Wait.. does not going in three months already count as abandoning?! What with battles like this past one, it might be time to reconsider..

*

For links to the first 12 battles, visit the newly created Iron Chef page!

Meatgaritas (aka Chorizo-infused margaritas)

the instructions below can be used for various infusions. if your flavor of choice isn’t fatty, the freezer part isn’t really needed, and you can instead infuse in the fridge for as long as you want. infused liquors keep indefinitely.

printable version

ingredients
1 lb bacon
1 lb Mexican chorizo
bottle of tequila
chorizo spices (garlic powder, cinnamon, paprika, cayenne pepper, oregano, cumin, guajillo chiles)
lime juice
triple sec
kosher salt, for rimming
fire salt, for rimming

instructions
Cook a bacon and chorizo in saucepan. Add both and tequila to large airtight glass container; let sit in the freezer for 24 hours or longer (the longer, the better). Remove from the freezer, and remove layer of fat from the tequila. Strain and return to container, without meat.

Steep various chorizo-spices in infused tequila for 1 hour; strain. Mix tequila with lime juice and triple sec to desired flavor. Combine salts and rim glasses, moistened with lime juice.

*dishes from above picture, from top left to bottom right: Jon’s chorizo-stuffed pork tenderloin, Katherine’s black bean chorizo chili, Terri’s chorizo bread stuffing, Michelle’s chorizo cupcakes, Terri’s chorizo mincemeat cups, Chris’ chorizo and clam stew, Becca’s chorizo sliders, Jennifer’s chorizo-stuffed mushrooms, Kaitlyn’s chorizo macaroni and cheese.

Snap, Crackle

For you non-Chicago folk, you should know that specialty popcorn is a pretty big deal here. You should see the lines outside Garrett Popcorn Shop during all four seasons – rain or shine, wet, cold, snow or sweltering heat, there is always a crowd lining up outside the door for a bag of caramel corn, cheese corn, or if you’re smart, a bag of the Chicago Mix.

Once you settle into the city, the popcorn hype abates a bit, and as a result we tend to only indulge in the cheese and caramel-laden treats when one person comes into town: my mother-in-law. She loves it so much that we mail her a larger-than-life tin for Mother’s Day. It’s become a tradition, of sorts.

Before we discovered said popcorn mecca, I remember the occasional Crunch n Munch box and the Cracker Jacks, and I’m sure many of you do too. And when I’m trying to cut back on all that fat & calorie loaded goodness, I could really tear down on those little single serving bags, too. One thing about popcorn that’s always kept me coming back is knowing it’s one of the only things that gets better for you when it’s cooked, and it doesn’t hurt that something so tasty is loaded with fiber.

As it turns out, Orville Redenbacher and all these other popcorn crazies really took advantage of us folk. After years of buying  pre-packaged popcorn, caramel corn, and all that jazz, I neglected to realize how easy popcorn was to make ‘from scratch’. Who knew air-popping your own popcorn was as easy as tossing it in a paper bag and hitting the 2 minute button on the zapper? And who know that even if you didn’t have a microwave you could toss the kernels into a pot, crank up the heat, and close the lid? Certainly not I, but I also didn’t realize how incredibly awesome homemade marshmallows were until a few months ago, either, so I reckon that’s not sayin’ too much, is it?

Credibility lacking and all though, I suggest that you throw caution to the wind and pick yourself up some kernels from your local grocer. The possibilities are endless, even if your creativity is on par with a matchbook. I promise. Well, I suppose if you aren’t feeling creative, you can do like I did and just piggyback on another recipe, or practically swipe the thing in it’s entirely for that matter. My point, is that making popcorn in thousands of variations is a cinch, and said popcorn is one of the most perfect snacks out there, if truth be told.

Perfect, especially, with a glass of wine, a boat, and good friends. Does it get any better?!

Tequila-Lime Caramel Corn
Adapted from Food & Wine, February 2010; makes 16 cups

printable version

ingredients
16 c air-popped popcorn
1 c light brown sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
3 T agave nectar
2 T light corn syrup
1/2 t salt
1/4 t baking soda
1 1/2 T tequila
juice of half a lime

instructions
Preheat the oven to 250 and position racks in the upper and middle thirds. Put popped porcorn in a large heatproof bowl.

In a large saucepan, combine the brown sugar with the butter, agave nectar, corn syrup and salt and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved. Boil over moderate heat for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat. Using a long spoon, stir in the baking soda, tequila, and lime; the syrup will foam. Immediately pour the hot syrup over the popcorn and, using 2 spoons, toss to coat thoroughly.

Spread the popcorn on 2 nonstick baking sheets and bake for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally and switching the sheets halfway through, until golden and nearly dry. Let popcorn cool completely before serving. Will stay fresh in an airtight container for 1-2 weeks.

Converting to Chili

It’s safe to say it – I’m a chili snob. I mean, it’s not just chili; there are other things I’m snobby about too. I have, possibly after drinking too much of it in college, grown to severely dislike watered-down beer and will only drink ales, aka beers with substance, or soul. I have very slowly started to like whiskey, but only from small-batch distilleries and so far, only when combined with ginger. I think my cat is the prettiest and loveliest of them all, because she is, and that’s all I need to say about that. And when it comes to toothpaste, I prefer Crest Pro Health, in cinnamon, if available.

So yeah, it’s not just chili. But until I met Hubs, I was never a chili-likin’-girl. Past chilies have been too bean-laden (specifically of the way-too-large kidney bean variety), or conversely, too watery. Both prompt some level of embarrassment after my consuming them, either in foul smell or by the appearance of chili-stained shirts. Sometimes both, I suppose.

But shortly after the Hubs and I started courting, I met his sister’s fiancee (now husband), a fellow Southerner, and frequent wearer of Carhartts. He had me hooked after making his biscuits n’ gravy, but after a couple bowls of his chili I knew I had to find a way to stay in that family, at least long enough to procure his recipe.

And no, this isn’t that chili. But that’s the chili that converted me; it was thick (but no so thick I felt like I was spooning ground meat alone into my mouth), it was spicy, it wasn’t runny in the least, and it warmed my heart, filled my belly, and made me wonder what was the matter with all those other chili-makin’ wannabees.

This chili here, this chili gave me that same feeling. And then some. This one is all of the above, but it is also full of complexity and layered with flavor upon flavor. It’s spicy, that’s no lie. But it’s spicy in only the best way possible. It’s healthy, with a generous amount of beef but rivaled by just the perfect amount of beans, black beans to be specific. It’s exactly what you want when the winter won’t quit.

And at least in these parts, I don’t see myself making any summer salads just yet. The good news is that, at least for the few minutes I’m eating this chili (and perhaps the time before when the smell is wafting around every corner in our house), I don’t care for all that warm weather. Give me chili, good music, a magazine, and my electric throw and I’ll watch the snow all day long, smiling all the while.

Cold weather concoctions, previously:
Moroccan Beef Meatball Tagine
Ancho Pork & Hominy Stew
Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Chili con Carne
Loosely adapted from Cuisine at Home; serves 8 (leftovers freeze well, too!)

printable version

ingredients
fajita seasoning
2 t g cumin
1 t smoked paprika
1 t onion powder
1 t dried oregano
1 t kosher salt
1/2 t g coriander
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 t black pepper
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1/2 t g cinnamon
1/4 t red pepper flakes
1/4 t g ginger

chili
2 T evoo, divided
2 lb beef stew meat, cubed
1/4 c tequila
2 28 oz cans diced tomatoes (fire-roasted, preferably)
2 green bell peppers, seeded and diced
1 white onion, diced
2 T garlic, minced
1 sm can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, pureed
1 T tomato paste
1 T mole sauce
1 1/2 c beef broth
2 T all purpose flour
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 lime’s worth of juice
sour cream
avocado

instructions
stir together all seasoning ingredients; set aside.

heat 1 T oil in Dutch oven. brown meat in two batches, adding 1 T oil again for the second batch. transfer to slow cooker. Deglaze pot with tequila, scraping up bits from bottom, and add to slow cooker. (if using a Dutch oven instead of slow cooker, just leave steak in pot and deglaze as instructed)

add tomatoes, peppers, onion, garlic, fajita seasoning, chipotle puree, tomato paste, mole to slow cooker. stir in beef broth and flour. cover and cook on high for 4 hours. (Dutch oven – bring to boil, partially cover, simmer over med-lo for 1 hour)

stir in beans and lime juice before serving, garnish with sour cream, avocado.