More Wise Words from Other People

18 May

I’m hopelessly behind on homework right now, so no original thoughts from Nurse Kefi today–but I did want to share the incredible letter-to-her-younger-self Lauren Fleshman published earlier this week. You may recall¬†her beautiful poem about running, women, and not giving two effs about what other people think.Her advice focuses on running, but the wisdom is transferable to all of us–one of my favorite parts is below, and you can read the whole thing here:

I need you to know, I PROMISE you, that the ultimate star you are chasing is further ahead than any shiny thing you see now. The way you get there is to protect your health and protect your love of the sport above all, even as you reach for the shiny goals right in front of you. You simply do not know and cannot predict your personal path, but you’ll get there. It will look different and brighter and richer and more multi-faceted the closer you get.

I need you to know, you have always been more than a runner, more than your times, more than your state championships, more than your school records. But you will get confused. You will forget. Luckily you will have teammates and family and friends who remind you. You will go on to do almost every single thing you could have dreamed of, not in the way you imagined, not on the timeline you imagined.

I’ve got a bunch of really delicious recipes to share once I submit these 4 milliion SOAP notes–nothing like the final push. #soclosetodone

GW Parkway 10 Miler: Dialed In, Doubling Down

27 Apr

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What is there to say about a race you never planned on racing? Not a whole bunch, but we’ll try anyway.

After my big PR at the St Patty’s Day 10k, I was undecided about my plans for the GW Parkway 10 miler. On the one hand, I was pretty sure I could run a fast race and eek in another PR. On the other hand, I didn’t want to spend a whole bunch of mental energy early in the season on a distance I couldn’t care less about. So, I decided to split the difference and focus on running an even race at a pace that was tough but manageable. I settled on 8:00/mile in my head and kind of forgot about the race- no special training runs, no tempo workouts, just running when I felt like it and not running when I didn’t.

As noted a million other places in this blog, life has been … stressful … lately. As noted by a million other people on the internet, running can be a source of solace and sanity during difficult times. I was not 100% sure I could keep up an 8:00 pace for ten miles, and I saw no need to make my stress-relief activity a stress-inducing activity over this race I didn’t even really care that much about– so I decided to focus on the really UNstressful task of putting on foot in front of the other and that my little race mantra would be “just another day you get to do something you love–the rest doesn’t matter.”Kind of a long phrase to repeat to yourself when you’re breathless, but it worked so I went with it ūüôā

Annoyingly, my watch missed about a third of a mile along the way, so my exact mile splits are all over the place and likely not reliable. It took me a little while to get into the groove with all those rolling hills, but once I got into a good zone I just focused on dialing in and staying comfortable.

Around mile 5, I realized that I could break 1:20 if I worked a just an eensy bit harder, and of course the goal-oriented monster that lives inside my go-with-the-flow outer shell came barreling out like the Hulk busting out of Bruce Bannon’s clothes. I saved a lot for the last mile, which is particularly brutal on this course because you can see the finish for so.damn.long and then kicked like hell to get in.

Official time: 1:20:41

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Kind of annoying to get so close to a goal time and miss it (even if it was a spur-of-the-moment goal), but really awesome to make a FIVE MINUTE PR and eek it in in the top 10% of my age group and gender. And it felt great to push it out there for 10 miles on a beautiful course on a perfect running day.¬†The good people of Pacers tell me that I ran the first 5 miles at a 8:03/mile average and the second 5 miles at 8:04/mile average–so I’d say it’s Mission Accomplished on the well-paced goal, and we can put another awesome Pacers race in the books.

Next is probably the Cap Hill Classic– no telling what goal or ungoal I’ll come up with for that race.

Kalitsounia- Another Reason to Use The Huge Mini-Muffin Tin Your Mother Gave You

18 Apr

If there¬†ain’t no party like a West Coast party ’cause a West Coast party don’t stop, then there is definitely no dinner party like a Cretan dinner party because you will never, ever, ever want the food to stop.¬†And I am pretty sure Coolio would agree with me that these kalitsounia are proof positive that cooks from Crete are not effing around. Part custard treat, part tart, part muffin,¬†these bite sized treats defy your dessert definitions. My favorite part of making these is the reminder of how perfectly unpersnickety Greek pastry is–this dough is forgiving and easy to work with, and the filling practically pulls itself together.

This was my first time at the kalitsounia party, so I borrowed heavily from this recipe, and my teensy tweaks are reflected below. I also benefited tremendously from MamaKef’s compulsive gift giving–these guys are a great reason to whip out your 48-count muffin tin again and the Cake Boss Linzer cookie cutter kit (sans cutout attachment) was PERFECT for creating perfectly-sized dough rounds with pretty scalloped edges. But, as always, these are mere suggestions and you just go ahead and do whatever your heart desires.FullSizeRender (24)

Kalitsounia

Ingredients

For the dough

  • 1/2 c olive oil
  • 1/2 c Greek yogurt, left to sit in colander/strainer for ~10 min to reduce liquid
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4¬†c sugar
  • 3.5-4.5¬†c flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla paste (or extract)
  • juice of 1/2 orange
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
 For the filling
  • 15 oz of soft myzithra cheese (you will prob have to live in NY, Baltimore, Toronto, or Melbourne to find this outside of Greece– for the rest of us, ricotta worked just fine for me)
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1 eggs and 1 egg white
  • 1 tsp cinammon

For the topping

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 TBS water
  • 1 TBS cinnamon

Assembly

  1. Using the paddle attachment of a standing mixer, combine¬†olive oil, sugar, yogurt and eggs in a large bowl. Add in the orange juice, lemon zest and vanilla and blend again until just combined. In a separate bowl, combine flour and baking powder, mix well, and then add gradually dry ingredients to the wet mixture. Knead the dough with your hands, until it softens. You may need to add flour–the dough should be soft and pliable, but not stick to your hands. Cover the bowl with a clean dish towel and set the dough aside to rest for at least 30 minutes- no need to chill.
  2. Using either a rubber spatula or a standing mixer, combine sugar, eggs and cinnamon until well mixed.
  3. Preheat oven to 350F, lightly grease a mini-muffin tin. On a well-floured surface, roll out dough to about 1/10 of an inch (good on you if you have any idea what a tenth of an inch is–I just went with “as thin as I could get it without its being see through”). Use a 6-inch cookie or biscuit cutter to cut the dough into rounds.
  4. Drop one round into each minimuffin slot. Fill with about 1-1.5 tsp filling. Whisk together egg and water, then brush the top of each pastry with the egg wash. Sprinkle the top of each with cinnamon.
  5. Bake at 350F for about 25 minutes, or until golden. Allow to cool in pan, then pop out and enjoy– these are even better when served the next day!

An Awesome Red Pepper Sriracha Pesto

6 Apr

I will start by saying I do not like red peppers and I do not like sriracha. Impossibly, I somehow love this pesto.

You already know none of my pictures came out looking at all appetizing–and since I trust you can all envision what a pesto looks like,  I will leave you instead with a picture of MrKef finding the coin in the vasilopita  this year:IMG_7266

My life with this man is filled with joy and happiness. Yours will be, too, if you make this delicious pesto and slather it on pretty much everything.

Red Pepper Sriracha Pesto

Ingredients

  • 12 oz roasted red peppers
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 c pecan halves
  • 2 oz feta cheese (about 1/4 c)
  • 1 oz (about a handful) arugula or spinach
  • sriarcha, to taste (in my house this was about 5 TBS- you do you)
  • 1.5 TBS olive oil
  • 1 TBS water

Assembly

  1. Place all ingredients in food processor. Pulse until desired texture, probably about 10-12 seconds.
  2. Slather on everything.

FERRAGOSTO 2016: New Orleans

4 Apr

I only just barely qualify as a Millennial (and even then only because the state of Pennsylvania wouldn’t change my birth certificate so I could refute that title forevermore), so while I don’t have the “if it’s not on Instagram, it didn’t happen” mindset, I do suffer from “if it’s not on your blog, you’ll never recall it” syndrome. Being on the border of ¬†today’s annoying younguns means that I’ll be old pretty much by tomorrow– so although¬†the 9th annual FERRAGOSTO, happened 8 months ago, we’re talking about it now before JetSet and I reach the age where we can’t remember whether or not we brushed our teeth in the morning.

And this is truly one year not to¬†forget: for years, JetSet and I have debated inviting others to our bizarre, tradition-driven little jaunts, and this year we finally found just the right beta tester–none other than¬†the beloved¬†DonQuixoteKef! Since you will see him only in the same teeshirt and cargo shorts from here on out, here’s what he looks like when he’s not in his trademarked travelwear:

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Alright then, on to it: wouldn’t be FERRAGOSTO if the shenanigans didn’t start off right off the bat. Immediately upon landing in the Big Easy, we had to find an urgent care that was still open because I had fallen while running in DC that morning, went to work all day, and then decided that our first order of business in New Orleans would be seeking out someone to stitch me up. As one does.

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Seven sutures later (3 internal, 4 external, for the curious among us), we were on Frenchman Street, where the beignets were frying and the brass bands were playing:

After eating more fried food than was healthy, we strolled the French Quarter, which was made infinitely better when we realized we could get our craft cocktails to go. Feeling the itis and the time change, we decided to call it an early night. We headed back to our beautiful and well-located AirBnB, but not before one more stop at our soon-to-be favorite take out bar, The Franklin. This is when I realized that I had become the third-wheel on my own vacation.

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Toasting the age old question: why ARE there so many songs about rainbows?

The next morning, JetSet took off an a hot, humid, long run and DonQuixoteKef and I took a pilgrimage to find the brick memorializing his grandfather at the World War II Museum¬†¬†Along the way, we made the obligatory stop at Cafe du Monde, enjoyed the beautiful architecture, and popped into the Lafayette Cemetery. The great news about wandering around a new place with DonQuixoteKef is that he stops to read all the plaques, and then generously summarizes the interesting parts for you. That’s service with a smile, people.

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Just before lunch, we caught up with JetSet post-run and set off across the Mighty Mississippi to the 15th Ward, Algiers.

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We poked about, ate lunch at the super sweet Tout de Suite Cafe, and headed back across the river. We were having a great walk along the river, when a torrential downpour came out of nowhere and we had to go all Esmeralda and claim sanctuary in the St Louis Cathedral.

…but first, we took a selfie.

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We walked between raindrops, NOLA style–which is to say we followed the awnings from bar to bar. This was the perfect time to be in a group of three, as at any given stop only two of us really felt like a beverage so we could keep the afternoon under control by alternating drinking and seltzering without anyone feeling left out. And to think, just ten years ago I was partnered with DonQuixoteKef so he could help me finish off the second 40 taping our hands together, and now we needed each other for the sobriety triangle. #ReallyNotMillennials

After witnessing a strange Porsche Parade complete with police escort (no, really…) we continued our rainy walk through Louis Armstrong Park and into the Treme.

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We swung by the storied Kermit’s Treme Mother in Law Lounge, where we instantly killed the vibe a few regulars had going at 4pm on a Saturday afternoon.

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On the upside, we did learn a ton about a the eponymous New Orleans Jazz legend, thanks to the 30For30 style documentary they had playing on loop.

Finally, we stopped by St. Augustine Catholic Church, which houses the Tomb of the Unknown Slave.

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On this October 30, 2004, we, the Faith Community of St. Augustine Catholic Church, dedicate this shrine consisting of grave crosses, chains and shackles to the memory of the nameless, faceless, turfless Africans who met an untimely death in Faubourg Treme. The Tomb of the Unknown Slave is commemorated here in this garden plot of St. Augustine Church, the only parish in the United States whose free people of color bought two outer rows of pews exclusively for slaves to use for worship. This St. Augustine/Treme shrine honors all slaves buried throughout the United States and those slaves in particular who lie beneath the ground of Treme in unmarked, unknown graves. There is no doubt that the campus of St. Augustine Church sits astride the blood, sweat, tears and some of the mortal remains of unknown slaves from Africa and local American Indian slaves who either met with fatal treachery, and were therefore buried quickly and secretly, or were buried hastily and at random because of yellow fever and other plagues.

Even now, some Treme locals have childhood memories of salvage/restoration workers unearthing various human bones, sometimes in concentrated areas such as wells. In other words, The Tomb of the Unknown Slave is a constant reminder that we are walking on holy ground. Thus, we cannot consecrate this tomb, because it is already consecrated by many slaves’ inglorious deaths bereft of any acknowledgement, dignity or respect, but ultimately glorious by their blood, sweat, tears, faith, prayers and deep worship of our Creator.

A humbling reminder of the power of taking responsibility for our country’s dark history and the tremendous amount of work left to be done to undo the oppressive systems left in its wake. End rant.

We headed back to home base, took a nap and a shower, then headed to dinner… of course with a stopover to see our friends at the Franklin. For the record, I am generally a woman who drinks about¬†one glass of wine per week… but when I realized I could strut about with my champagne, I was just bubbling over with excitement (har har har).¬†We ate a delicious meal at Peche, then went for cocktails at Arnaud’s French 75. ¬†Anyone keeping track realizes that, by this point, my whopping four drinks in 24 hours had me feeling like a million bucks, so I abstained when JetSet and DonQuixote stopped by Franklin’s for one more roadie.

And yet, somehow, I still participated (instigated?) this late night selfie stick session

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which devolved into my brother and I DEMANDING that Don Quixote join, in a ruckus very similar to an entire amphitheater full of fans chanting “one more song!” that didn’t end until the man himself appeared

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and finally agreed to “snuggle and selfie” with us

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two of these people are related by blood, and one of them is sorry he ever set eyes on the FamiliaKef. You do the math.

 

And then, like a rockstar who suddenly realizes the groupies he thought were hottie-patotties are actually thirty-something siblings, DonQuixote was gone as quickly as he came.

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Suddenly, it was morning, and we decided to be industrious grown ups again. A quick trip to the oddly all-inclusive convenience store down the street for provisions revealed the sign JetSet hopes one day to hang on his office door:

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It was our last day in the Big Easy and we were on two missions: get to the Audobon Zoo, and find a muffuletta on the way. We achieved the latter first, which gave DonQuixote just the boost he needed to rebound from the night before and trek across the city, plus all the calories he needed for the next four days of non-travel detox:

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Luckily, we were greeted with perfect weather for our final hours, and we managed to squeeze in the Zoo as well as mini-campus tours of Loyola and Tulane, plus an attempted-but-ultimately-barred jaunt through one of New Orleans’ most exclusive gated communities.

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We zoomed home on by streetcar, and snapped this lovely shot:

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And that, friends, wraps up FERRAGOSTO 2016. No word on where we’ll head this year (or whether DonQuixote’s Stolkholm Syndrome is severe enough to agree to join us again), but as it is the TENTH ANNIVERSARY, we have some exciting possbilities in the mix.

It won’t, however, be Cleveland:

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Chocolate Chip Cookies That Come With Their Own Milk

31 Mar

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Isn’t that the loveliest picture you’ve ever seen on this blog? All credit goes to (who else?) MostFashionablePersonIKnowKef, who is always ready for an impromptu photoshoot. One day, we will convince her to live in DC full time and I will bribe her with sometimes-delicious treats to take all blog-related photos. Until then, you’re stuck with me.

On to the cookies– PILFKef, DO and #1KnicksFanKef are now 2for2 when it comes to creating insanely adorable children who teach MrKef’s cold American wife how to feel. PILFKef, DO and I were a little skeptical of reports that the right combination of strange ingredients in baked goods could increase milk supply for breastfeeding– so we did what any self-respecting healthcare professionals would do and decided to perform some real-life experimentation. This works in the interest of everyone, as I am only too happy to whip up things full of gluten and sugar as long as someone else is there to save me from myself and take them off my hands– so we can just go ahead and call PILFKef, DO the Margaret Mead of Mother’s Milk.

Listen– the limitations section of our analysis would read something like this: small sample size (n=1), no baseline data, no control group, and milk gains measured by texting pictures back and forth– but who the hell cares about level of evidence when the expert cookie monster over in Arlington said that the cookies were delicious and we have anecdotal evidence that they work? Sounds like a good reasons to eat some cookies right now, whether you’re feeding a small child or not.

For those who, like MrKef, are afraid these cookies might INDUCE lactation–rest assured, a whole party full of people ate them, and PILFKef, DO remains the only one of us producing enough milk to sustain human life. As far as I know, anyway….

I borrowed heavily from Epicurious’ recipe, but used less oatmeal, way more chocolate chips, and swapped vanilla paste for the extract–my recipe below. These cookies were AWESOME, and I highly recommend them even if breastfeeding ain’t your bag!

Amazing Chocolate Chip Cookies that Anecdotally Increase Milk Supply

Ingredients

  • 1 c butter, softened
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 c brown sugar
  • 4 TBS water
  • 2 TBS flaxseed meal (no subs)
  • 2 eggs, room temp
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste (or vanilla extract)
  • 2 c flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 c rolled oats
  • 1 bag (12 oz) chocolate chips
  • 2 TBS brewers yeast (no substitutions)

Assembly

  1. Preheat oven to 375F. Mix flaxseed meal and water in a small bowl, set aside 3-5 minutes.
  2. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 5-7 minutes. Add eggs one at time until just combined. Stir flaxseed mix into butter mix, then add vanilla. Beat until well blended.
  3. Sift together dry ingredients, except oats and choc chips. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Stir in the oats and then the choc chips. Arrange on a parchment- or silicon-lined baking sheet about 1.5 inches apart. Bake 8-12 minutes (I made mine huge and they needed 14-15 minutes), or until set and just golden.

Vegan Carrot Cake Everyone Will Love

28 Mar

 

You may recall my love affair with Superhero Muffins, the healthy and insanely delicious muffins chock full of vegetables. If the insanely delicious part of that description appeals to you but you could do without the healthy, this Carrot Cake is for you.

I followed this¬†recipe from The Greek Vegan’s brilliant mind exactly, and it was gobbled down by a whole bunch of kiddos who are not inclined to eat carrots, even if they are hidden in cake. If you think this is a stranger-than-usual photo, you are right: I took the picture on my desk at work and was terrified I would accidentally publish patient information, so I covered my desk in random sheets of paper to avoid that. So, uh, yeah… here’s the least weird one of the bunch:FullSizeRender (21)

Anyway, I am told this cake is awesome. The secret is pre-flavoring the carrots by boiling them in orange juice and spices and then later using that same liquid in the cake batter. ¬†Greeks think of everything. This Greek-American will try to make another version that is a bit healthier… but you just feel free to ignore that and keep making this one.

Vegan Carrot Cake

Ingredients

  • 3 c chopped carrots
  • 1 c orange juice
  • 1 c water
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 8 whole cloves (I used 2ish tsp ground cloves)
    —-
  • 3.5 c all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1/3 c molasses
  • 1/2 c cooking liquid from carrots
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1.5 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp¬†lemon zest (I used zest of about half a lemon)
  • 1/2 c vegetable oil
  • 1 c raisins (or walnuts if you don’t hate them as much as I do)

Assembly

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. ¬†Lightly grease a bundt pan. Bring chopped carrots, orange juice, water, cinnamon sticks and cloves to boil in a small pot. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, or until carrots are tender but not mushy. Set aside to cool. Do not even THINK of dumping out that cooking liquid–we are coming back to it!
  2. Once cool, drain the liquids from the carrots AND KEEP THE LIQUID IN A BOWL SOMEWHREE. Throw carrots in your food processor and pulse 2 or 3 times, then scrape down sides,  then add 1/3 cup cooking liquid and pulse 2 more times. Scrape down side and set aside. At this point, carrots will be a variety of sizes, with a little mashing but not a full on puree.
  3. In medium mixng bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  4. In large bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup cooking liquid, sugar and molasses until combined. Add spices, whisk. Add oil, whisk. Add carrots and stir to combine completely.
  5. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix completely. Stir in golden raisins and/or nuts if they’re your jam. The batter will be dense and a teeny bit dryer than you might have expected. This is okay..
  6. Pour batter into lightly greased bundt pan and use a spatula to even out the top.¬†Bake at 350F for 45-50 minutes. Allow to cool in pan. Once completely cooled, turn the cake out and serve–if you’re fancy you can dust with powdered sugar before serving.
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