Sunday, January 27, 2013

Thanksgiving in January


My belly is in a very happy place right now.  I just finished eating that incredible plate of Thanksgiving favorites - and yes, it is the end of January.  Let me explain . . . Since I was at the big house fixing bones on Thanksgiving, I missed the the delicious family Thanksgiving feast.  When my parents made a trip to revive my flu-ridden soul in December, much to my delight they brought a frozen container of Thanksgiving dinner.  I've been treasuring that meal in the back of my freezer for just the right night, and tonight it was!

Big Green Egg smoked turkey (you did good, Dad!), sweet potato casserole, mashed rutabagas, and green bean casserole combined for a feast absolutely worth serving on a random January night.  There's just one problem - a single serving portion means I was a bit disappointed when I walked back to the kitchen for a second serving, only to discover I had already eaten it all.  Bummer!  Anyways, huge thanks to my parents for providing me with that incredibly delicious slice of Thanksgiving.

In other news, Charlotte survived the "big" ice storm of 2013.  And by big, I mean quite little.  Friday afternoon we received an hour or so of sleet followed by a few hours of freezing rain.  It never amounted to the same beauty that is snow, yet travel was dangerous.  My deck had about a quarter inch layer of ice by the late afternoon.  

Fortunately, I was home before the weather arrived and kept warm in my favorite fleece pants and sweatshirt by the fireplace.  I even whipped up a homemade batch of vegetable rice soup.  Somewhere along the course of the past week a virus has taken up residence in my head, and soup sounded comforting and healing.

And last, but not least, what Sunday post would be complete without pictures of breakfast - my favorite weekend meal.  Saturday was pancake day - topped with almond butter, apple sauce, bananas, cinnamon, chia seeds, trail mix, and maple syrup.  Mmmmm - endless combinations and always delicious!

This morning I started with a saute of lacinato kale, garlic, and onion in a bit of olive oil.  Then I added a mix of eggs, mustard, pepper, and a little nutritional yeast to create a veggie egg scramble.  Accompaniments included almond butter and blueberry jam on Great Harvest toast (I love the end pieces!) and a kiwi.

Do you have traditional weekend meals that you spend all week looking forward to?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Carpe Diem Restaurant

It's restaurant week in Charlotte, which means that many of the Queen City's finest dining establishments offer three or four course meals for $30.   Certainly, I'm not one to frequent fine dining restaurants on a resident's meager budget, but it seemed to be the perfect opportunity for myself and several other PGY-2 residents and their better halves to enjoy a night out.  Reservations went fast, and so we found ourselves being adventurous and going out on a Tuesday night. 

Carpe Diem was the restaurant of choice.  They are located in the Elizabeth neighborhood in Charlotte and feature modern cuisine with a variety of options.  Their restaurant menu included a choice of soup or salad, entree, and dessert.  Here are my selections:

Goat Cheese Salad
Mixed greens, hazelnut crust, wine poached onions, apricot jalapeno vinaigrette

The onions were quite flavorful and the goat cheese was nice and tangy.  I was disappointed in the apricot jalapeno vinaigrette, as it just didn't seem to have much in the way of any flavor.  Overall, it was a good salad.

Prior to our main courses, we were served an amuse bouche of green tea papaya sorbet.  Yum!

Miso Orange Glazed Seared Scottish Salmon
Leeks, shiitakes, scallion-ginger relish, heirloom Forbidden black rice

I hesitated to order salmon since it seemed to be a rather unexciting choice.  However, I was thrilled with my choice when it arrived.  The scallion ginger relish was the best part and added tremendous flavor.  The fish was cooked perfectly and had a delicious orange-miso flavor.

Belgian Chocolate Pudding
Fresh whipped cream and pumpkin seed-aleppo chili brittle

Dessert was the easiest choice for the evening.  The rich chocolate pudding paired perfectly with the light whipped cream and the slightly spicy and crunchy chili brittle.

Overall, our meal was excellent and a nice treat for residents used to eating simple home-cooked meals or hospital cafeteria food.  Sadly, the service was less than impressive.  Our waitress seemed to be in a bad mood from the start, rushing us to order drinks within seconds of being seated.  She never came to ask if we were satisfied with our food, and then made errors on all of our checks at the end of the evening.  For an established fine dining restaurant, I certainly expect equally superior service.  I'd love to eat at Carpe Diem again and explore their regular menu, but I certainly would hope for a better waitstaff.

Great food and even better company!
A few people were unable to join us due to work schedules, but the seven of us had a great night out.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Purple Potatoes

Have you ever seen purple sweet potatoes?  These caught my eye at a local farmer's stand at the market a couple weeks ago and quickly made their way into my bag.  I sliced them, tossed with some EVOO, salt, pepper, cinnamon, and cumin, then roasted at 400 degrees for 40 minutes.  They were good, but less moist then the sweet potatoes I typically roast.  I'd say they were a mix between a traditional red skin potato and sweet potato.  As you can see, I made a big batch and enjoyed them with several meals.

A small meal after my 15k race.
In typical post-race fashion, I wasn't really hungry for dinner.
Fortunately, a green smoothie, purple potatoes, and veggies were agreeable.

Wok seared tempeh (marinated in OJ and coconut aminos), pea pods, and purple sweet potatoes.

Mexican salad and the last of the potato rounds.

Do you remember when I told you about my recent meal at Highland Bakery?  When I was there I couldn't help but be attracted to the perfect pile of  sweet potato biscuits in the bakery window.  I was quick to purchase one, knowing exactly the occasion for its consumption - Saturday's post-call breakfast.  If you know me well, it's quite apparent that food is perhaps the most motivational object you could dangle in front of me.  I would be lying if I said that I didn't spend most of the night on Friday thinking about that biscuit!

As soon as I arrived home Saturday morning,  I went straight to the freezer to extract my highly coveted biscuit.  After a hot shower to decontaminate the nasty hospital germs, breakfast came together in a flash.  The delicacy heated in the oven while I scrambled some eggs and sliced up an orange.  

The verdict - OH MY GOSH!  The best pastry I've had in a long time!  And this is coming from the girl who never orders biscuits.  Perfectly sweet, buttery, and delicately crumbly.  I'll definitely be picking up more of these the next time I'm in Atlanta.

I have to share my excitement when I received an email last week that Charlotte area Moe's locations were selling their salads for 1/2 price for a single day.  With an empty refrigerator and a long day at work, it was perfect timing.  Lots of veggies, tofu, and salsa make for a good salad.

Last, but not least, how incredible was the weather this past weekend?  After five straight days of rain and cold temperatures (including a threat of snow that never came to fruition), the sun came out.  I spent my Saturday afternoon soaking up every last bit of the warmth while alternating reading and sleeping.  And now the high temperature is 37 degrees tomorrow.  Go figure!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Hot Chocolate 15k

Several months ago I received an email advertising a new race coming to Atlanta - The Hot Chocolate 15k and 5k.  The picture of the finisher's mug immediately caught my attention.  This girl will definitely run for chocolate!  In addition to the sweets at the finish line, they promised a sweatshirt for all participants.  Those of you who know me well realize that race t-shirts (especially long-sleeve tees) get me really excited.  That being said, a race sweatshirt had me sold!

I spent the weekend with the fam in Atlanta.  Mom made sure we topped off our carbohydrate stores on Saturday morning with a very tasty batch of cinnamon ginger pancakes.  She used this recipe from Healthy. Happy. Life.  I suggest that you go buy a waffle iron, print this recipe, gather your ingredients, and make these ASAP!

After Saturday's spaghetti dinner to celebrate Grandpa's birthday, I set out my racing gear.  I must say that I love the simplicity of gear for a run as opposed to a triathlon.

Today's weather was unbelievably unseasonably warm.  It was 64 degrees when we arrived to Turner Field.  Fortunately, it remained overcast with a slight breeze, and so we were spared any significant heat.  Mom set out for the 5K at 7:45 and Dad and I spectated before proceeding with our warm up prior to the 15K.  

Check out the crowds!  They announced that 19,000 people were registered to compete in one of the two distances.  After some strides and stretching, Dad and I made our way into our respective corrals and awaited the start of the 15k.

I won't bore you with every last detail of my race, so here's the abbreviated version.  This is by far the hilliest Atlanta race course I have run.  Holy hills!  1400 feet of climbing.  Given that hills are my arch nemesis, and most certainly my weakness, it was a rough race.  I probably went out a bit too fast (no big surprise here), and between that, the hills, and my lack of any recent speed work, the first four miles were ridiculously painful.  Around mile five my rib started bothering me, which added another factor into the mix.  Each time I glanced at my Garmin my heart rate was near 180.  At some point between miles five and six I finally settled into a better rhythm and tried to focus on leg turnover and maintaining my pace on the climbs.  My mile splits were 6:59, 7:22, 7:37, 7:36, 7:29, 7:51, 7:48, 7:55, 7:43, 6:54.  The total distance as measured by my GPS was 9.4 miles.

Once we made the final turn and the finish line came into sight, I was relieved to nearly be done.  I don't have a great explanation for my ho-hum race other than my lack of racing recently and having an off day.  That being said, I was just thrilled to be out there enjoying the day, running with 19,000 of my closest friends, and spending the weekend with my family.  Life is good!

Mom had a great 5K and continues to shave time off with each race.  She's yet to find the "runner's high" that Dad and I enjoy, but she is always a good sport to join us for some early morning exercise.  Dad, too, had an excellent performance on a tough course.  Hard to believe he's only been running for a little more than a year!  

Here are my final results.  I had hoped to be closer to 7 minute pace, but given the course and less than stellar training consistency (thank you trauma rotation for requiring all of my time!) I'll consider it a good day at the races.  Plus, since 15k is an odd distance and one that I have not raced before, any finish time was a PR.

We all loved our hot chocolate and bites of chocolate fondue after the race.  I imagine the race management never imagined they would have 60 degree temperatures in January when they planned to serve gallons of hot chocolate.

After having an excellent meal at Highland Bakery several weeks ago, we knew exactly where we were headed for a post-race breakfast.  Savory was the theme of the morning after downing post-race chocolate goodies.

My selection: Burrito de Huevos
Scrambled eggs with sweet yellow corn, roasted red peppers, and onions, wrapped in two flour tortillas on a bed of black beans.  Smothered in spicy red salsa and cheddar cheese.

Mom's selection: Cilantro Corn Pancakes
Served over black beans and topped with 2 fried eggs, sour cream, salsa, shredded cheese, and cilantro

Dad's selection: Breakfast BLT
Sourdough grilled and topped with spring mix, tomato, two fried eggs, and turkey sausage.  Served with potatoes and grits.

With a full belly, I set out en route to Charlotte.  Fortunately it was an easy drive and I was back by mid afternoon.  In record time (4 minutes flat), I had my car unpacked, changed clothes, and spent an hour sleeping in the sun on the deck.  Have I mentioned that I love the 74 degree high temperature in Charlotte in January?  I intended to go to yoga, but the nap won.  Tough decision, right?  It's back in the 50s and rainy tomorrow, so I'm glad I enjoyed the short burst of heat.


Saturday, January 5, 2013

Typical Weekend

2013 is off to a good start.  Trauma is over until May, workouts have been good, I'm on track with my New Year's resolutions, and I'm enjoying my weekend.  Weekends never get old  - now if only they were one day longer.  

This morning I was awake before 7am and decided I'd head to the gym for an hour of weights.  First, I used my new waffle maker to whip up a almond flour waffle with almond butter, cranberries, blackberries, and molasses.  Move over pancakes, you've got some competition!  Did you know the trick to a crispy waffle exterior is the addition of corn starch to the waffle mix?

As usual, I made my Saturday morning trip to the farmer's market.  It's a much different market in the winter with fewer vendors, but there are still plenty of fresh and seasonal options.   Today's bounty included a red bell pepper, snap peas, honeycrisp apples, pomegranate, purple sweet potatoes, pea pods, tomato, lemon, kiwi, and cucumber.

I used my collection of veggies in a hearty egg scramble for lunch.  In additional to two eggs scrambled with a dash of mustard and spices, I sauteed bell pepper, peas, and mustard greens.  So good!  On the side were pea pods with hummus and not-so-great apple dusted with cinnamon.  There's nothing worse than a soft apple.

I was optimistic that I could sit on my deck in the sunshine and pretend it wasn't in the mid-40s, but no such luck.  It was too cold and I returned inside for some shelter.

I was on my way out the door to swim this afternoon when I got a text from a friend asking if I wanted to run.  Absolutely!  I had just done a hard speed workout yesterday and my legs were definitely feeling tired, but 4.5 miles passed so easily with a running partner.  Socializing + workout partner = two resolutions in one!

I have to throw in this last picture just for laughs.  Sometimes people comment that I must make elaborate meals that are artistically crafted for breakfast, lunch, and dinner on a daily basis.  Sure, I love to cook a well-composed feast with fresh local ingredients.  However, I am also frequently combining a odd mix of ingredients that are staring at me from the pantry and refrigerator.  Post-call lunch on Friday was sardine salad mixed with peas and served on toast, and a side of carrots and hummus.  Not exactly the most photogenic meal and I'm sure some of you are gagging right now, but it hit the spot.

Have you made any crazy combinations in the kitchen recently?  Can you beat my random mix of sardines and peas?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Thirteen for 2013

I have never been one to formally write down a list of resolutions.  Like most people though, I always spend a little time reflecting on the previous year and thinking of goals and plans for the new year ahead.  This year I'm going to just lay my resolutions out there on paper (or virtual paper, I suppose).  Hopefully this formal process will keep me accountable.

In no particular order, here are my thirteen resolutions for 2013!

1.  Find happiness in each day.  2012 has been a year of uncertainty and frustration and I don't want 2013 to be more of the same.  I've chosen this path and now I plan to see it to completion.  Regardless of how short the moment, I want to take the time to smile and be happy each and every day.

2.  Drink more water.  This is definitely one of those things that I preach the importance of, but fail to follow my own guidance.  I'm not setting a specific amount of water per day, just simply a more conscious effort to improve my hydration.

3.  Cut back on sweets.  Sure, I'm a very healthy eater and am very particular about the quality of food that I eat.  However, my consumption of sugary items is getting out of control, particularly in the couple hours between dinner and bed.  Rather than snacking on wasted calories, I'm aiming for quality protein-rich bedtime snacks.

4. Add some MUSCLE.  Strength workouts at least once per week, preferably two.  If I could add about five pounds of muscle mass, I think it would go far in improving my bike performance.  Plus, muscles just look good!  And no, I'm not joining the Crossfit cult.

5.  Cook a meal from a cookbook twice per month.  I have a tendency to just wing-it when it comes to meals - relying on a combination simple ingredients to formulate my dinner plate.  I have a whole shelf of excellent cookbooks, and it's time to break them open.

Brown Rice, Lentil, Carrot, Caramelized Onion, and Mustard Green Stew
This was not a cookbook recipe, but rather, my own personal creation.  It was simple to prepare - just toss all of the ingredients and some spices in the crock pot - but incredibly delicious.
The perfect meal for a cold rainy night, and full of great nutrients to kick start 2013.

6.  Call and talk to my family more often.  My parents and I talk on nearly a daily basis, but I certainly can't say the same for my brother (and his soon-to-be wife!) and grandparents.  There is no good excuse for not making time for family.

7.  Take my vitamin every day.  

8.  Recommit to serious triathlon training.  I've had some decent races over the past two seasons, but certainly nothing to write home about.  It's time to get back on a formal training plan.  I'll be racing in the open division in Set Up Events races and serious training is required to compete with these ladies.  Included in this goal is focusing on run speed and bike endurance.

9. Bring music back into my life.  This includes playing both flute and piano, and listening to classical music.  Music was previously a huge part of my life, and I want a little piece of it around again.  Playing classical tunes while studying worked so well for me during undergrad and medical school, yet it's been months since I listened to some good orchestral works.

10.  Travel globally.  I have yet to select a particular location, but I want to travel internationally at least once each year.  There are so many incredible places to explore and cultures to experience.

11.  Blog on a regular basis.  I'm going to aim for one post per week, and occasionally more often for particular blog-worthy photos or stories.  Besides, I've got a new fancy camera that needs some use.

12.  Be more social.  In a profession where work days start before sunrise and end after sunset, it's easy to become a home-body.  Add my triathlon training on top of that, and social activities are low on my priority list.  In 2013 I want to make a conscious effort to enjoy fun activities with my friends and "family" in Charlotte.

13.  Group bike, run, or yoga workouts a minimum of once per week.  I'm fortunate to have several great opportunities to train with some excellent athletes here in Charlotte.  I really miss the group training atmosphere that I had with The Sport Factory in Atlanta.  Training with others that are faster and stronger results in huge fitness gains.  Plus, this is another outlet to achieve goal number 12.

So, there they are.  Hopefully when I look back at this post on January 1, 2014, I'll have achieved success.

Happy New Year and best wishes for a fabulous 2013!