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Some Wise Words From Other People

5 Jan

While the rest of the blogosphere is writing about goals and resolutions for the coming year, your girl Kef is just trying to keep her head above water. School, work, and self care are each their own full-time job, and I’ve been working overtime at each of them for the last year or so. I’m grateful to have a job I love, to be in the LAST SIX MONTHS of my NP program (#praiseHim!), and to be injury-free enough to run… but none of those wonderful truths make me want to rip my hair out any less on those days when I feel like I’m spinning my wheels (and not in the kicking-ass-on-a-seated-climb-to-your-college-playlist kind of way).

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Since my life is chock full milestones this year–finally being done with grad school, running my first full marathon, transitioning to a new role at work– I’m not stressing about goals set arbitrarily to the new calendar year. I love the idea some people have to choose a word and pursue it as the theme for the year, but we allllllll know I am a woman of many words and could never choose just ONE. So, instead, I’m choosing two phrases to get me through the tough 6 months I have ahead of me:

1) Goals are often simple, but never easy.

The tremendous Kelly Roberts wrote these words earlier this week on the Oiselle blog. I love this mostly because it is an elegant way to state the obvious: the difficult part isn’t figuring out what needs to be done, it’s actually breaking inertia and doing the work. The path to our desired result is pretty clear, if only we get out of our own way and do what we already know is required. Simple to say, never easy to do.

2) There is no secret. Keep going.nosecret

This is a tried-and-true Oiselle maxim I have always loved. It’s easy to feel like everyone else has a vat of the magic sauce that makes everything fall into place effortlessly–especially when they only post the clean-house/best-lighting/perfect-pace picture on social media. This phrase is a reminder that there is, actually, no secret, and that everybody else is in the same boat. As the good witch said, “you’ve had the power all along, my dear”–you just have to keep going.

So that’s my story for the next little while, and I’m sticking to it, whether I like it or not. What are your goals/resolutions/words/phrases for 2017?

 

Weekend Overachieving: Coconut Curry Chicken and a Record Run

8 Aug

It’s been a minute since I’ve had a happy surprise on the running front, and even longer since I made my dear husband something nutritious that he would also call delicious. Great news-I did both this weekend!

Let’s start with running- I have been doing my long runs with the Arlington Road Runners Club for the past couple of Saturdays, and it has been just the kick in the pants I need to remember that the hole is not actually that deep.

I had 90 minutes planned for the run, which probably would have been about 10 miles in the stank heat and humidity that Saturday showed up with. Around mile 6, Courtney pointed out that it was time to either take an uber home or make the decision to run the rest of the route with her… the rest of the route being ANOTHER TEN miles. Previous to that morning, the longest I had ever run was 13.5 miles, but I was feeling great and thought to myself, “Let’s see what the ol’ girl can do” (and that’s a direct quote–things have been weird in Kef-landia lately).

Long (run) story short- I finished the route, very much thanks to the AWESOME ARRC volunteers who set up life-changing water stops at miles 7 and 11 and Courtney for being the world’s BEST run-buddy-cheerleader. I’ve been living in a world where I didn’t believe I could ever run that far and, lo and behold, I did it without even planning to. How do you like them apples?

Annoyingly, I forgot to turn my watch back on after a water fountain break and missed some mileage on my watch. Whatever.

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Anyway, I worked and napped and ate and Hoodwinked with SummitKef for the rest of Saturday. I woke up on Sunday ready to kick more ass. I cooked a week’s worth of food in 3 hours, a nice reversal of my usual Sunday routine, which is to eat a week’s worth of food in 3 hours.

This curry chicken took ~20 to put together, made enough for him to eat all week, and got big thumbs up from MrKef. It is based off a Whole30 recipe, but I had to punch up the spice for my audience.

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Coconut Curry Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 medium potatoes, rinsed and chopped (sweet potatoes if you’d like!)
  • 3 TBS olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 TBS curry powder
  • 1-2 TBS hot sauce of your choice
  • 1/2 can diced tomatoes, fire roasted
  • 1/3 c coconut milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 1 lime, sliced

Assembly

  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Heat olive oil in a saute pan over med-high heat. Add onion and cook until soft, 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Add curry powder and cook another 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and hot sauce. Stir well, and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Transfer contents of pan into blender or food processor. Puree until smooth. Add salt, pepper, and coconut milk and blend again.
  3. Arrange chicken and potatoes in a casserole dish, Pyrex pan, or any high-rimmed oven-safe dish. Pour the curry sauce over the chicken and potatoes, and distribute so everything is covered. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear.

I’m a Triathlete Around Town!

24 Mar

So excited to say I’m an Events DC Nation’s Triathlon Ambassador– check out my first post on the Nation’s Blog for some tunes that will get you through the last few indoor training rides (here’s hoping, anyway!)

bike trainer cartoon

How to Have an Awesome Month in Ten Easy Steps

5 Jan

Everyone else got in their year-in-reviews last week but, per usual, I’m tardy to the party. Since this post is already past its blog-by date, I’ll keep my best of 2014 focused to the final 31 days. Ten steps to an awesome month:

1. Have a sensational best friend who is turning 30 (nb: I think that adjective is gonna stick). Scour Etsy for party favors and make sure there is photo evidence of your respective fiancees enjoying said favors (check out this awesome shop for lots of fun glittery goods and these guys for the perfect cake topper… oh and here, too!).photo 1 photo 2 photo 3 photo 42. Watch your brother live out a lifelong dream. See here for more details.photo 13. Rent a private karaoke room for one of your oldest friend’s birthdays. Sing and dance your little hearts out. Bonus points if it’s country.photo 34. Set up your Christmas tree. Smother your amazing FianceKef with thanks for arranging to have your mom ship all your childhood ornaments to your house!

photo 3 4a. Wake up to find the first fatality of Christmas, courtesy of your cat.photo 55. Go out for game-filled night with nearly all your favorite people.photo 4

and maybe even buy a fancy frock for an upcoming event!photo 2

6. Rally with some really righteous people, including this Grandma (who is only a shade less stylish than your own.)

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7. Make your first pot roast for your Fiance’s first annual law firm dinner. Worry that it’s not actually done and have no idea if it’s good or not because, you know, you don’t actually eat meat.photo 4

8. Go home to the beautiful Hudson Valley for another legendary Christmas by MamaKef.

photo 58a. Receive a selfie stick. Proceed to run amok with said device and realize that true Christmas joy can be yours for a mere $8.

photo 1 photo 3 photo 4

I can’t decide whether or not those should get captions… so let’s just say they’re available upon request.

9. Bring your beloved out to what he refers to as a “Townie Bar” and watch him make friends with everyone in the room, even if they graduated from your high school in… 2011. (Optional: have small crisis about the fact that people who graduated from high school in 2011 can drink legally.)

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10. Celebrate the following Christmas miracles:

spanakopita, which should always be treated as a gift from Godphoto 5

the fact that this Facetime session between MamaKef and GoesDarkKef really and truly did happen
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and the discovery that gluten-free baklava is out there, and it’s ChampagneOnlyKef-approved! photo 1

Finally: ring in a New Year with the most lovable guy around.

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Some New Life Goals

22 Sep

A lot has happened in the last week: I officially entered the last year of my twenties and started the first year of my last degree (God willing) and am my way to becoming Chef Kefi, PNP-BC. Start the prayer circles now– it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.

All these new beginnings mean, of course, that’s it’s time to make some resolutions. Y’all already know I love a goal, and with all these new things happening, I’ve decided to identify some new things to work toward for the short and medium term. Kind of like New (School) Year Resolutions… or just some ish I want to get done before I turn 30.

Fitness:

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I was so thrilled this year to meet a lot of fitness goals- I PR’ed in a half, completed my first Olympic triathlon, and came in 14th in my age group at Nation’s. But all of that training came at a price, and I found myself facing a lot of injuries. So my winter goal for fitness is to build strength and flexibility. I’m measuring this by classes: in additon to biking and running, I am committing to one strength and one flexibility class per week– so be on the lookout for recommendations for and reviews of DC-area strength work! What classes do I NEED to take? Leave a comment and let me know!

Life:

yes

I’ve decided I’d like to say yes more–yes to more fun, yes to more time with my friends, yes to random events on nights before I work at 7am. I pride myself on practicality, which makes it so easy to say no to things, but from now on I’m going to try to say no only when it actually makes practical sense. If I think about it this way, dinner with an old friend after a 12-hour shift would actually probably energize me, not drain me. A trip to New Orleans for a wedding I’d love to go to sounds totally worth it, practically speaking. I will measure this by how often I find myself looking like that guy in the picture above (although that may be worth saying no to).

Relationships:

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Don’t these people just look so positive? I think I am an extremely positive person, but I bet there are lots of people I know who wouldn’t describe me as such. Two things I really value about myself are that I am practical (see above) and that I am critical. Add a strong dose of New York sarcasm in there and you can see how people wouldn’t quite get the picture. I’d like to do a better job of translating my thoughts for other people, which might even mean keeping some of those thoughts to myself. When one of my loved ones is saying/doing/thinking something I find to be unpractical or worth a bit of critique, I’m quick to point that out. And you know how often they change their minds about something they didn’t ask my opinion on but I gave it to them anyway? Pretty much never. I’m not saying I’m working toward being less critical of systems, symbols, and impact (never that), but I can stand to be less critical of the people I love (and probably even the people I don’t like very much). So this goal is not about changing myself to become more positive as it is about showing people more of the positive person I know I am. I’d like more people to leave conversations with me feeling good about themselves and our interaction, not confused about why I started opining on something they weren’t even asking. This will be a tall order, and will probably be measured by how many fewer times per week JetSet has to say, “Oh, okay. Anyway.”

So that’s what I’m thinking about. Anyone else making goals this fall?

(Ed. Note: Malaysia Mondays are currently on hiatus because I lost the dang memory stick and won’t return until JetSet becomes savvy enough to upload them to Google Drive. We’re working on it.)

Back from Hiatus, With Dolmadakia!

28 May

Hot diggity dog.

Greek Easter Part II really took it out of me. The first week following the best day of the year had me too tired to leave the couch. Eventually the physical exhaustion of cooking for four days straight passed, but the mental exhaustion stuck– so May’s menu in Casa Kef has been a rotating cast of frozen peas and three second cauliflower. Luckily, I woke up this morning to a beautiful day, a fridge full of veggies, and a renewed interest in the fate of those vegetables– so we’re back!

Today I want to talk about dolmades– they’ve been on my bucket list since the days we thought the world might end. There is a moment each year during The Big Greek Easter Grocery Shop that I stumble upon the jarred grape leaves section (yes, you can use jarred grape leaves–it’s what my Aunt Stella does!) and I say to myself, “You know what, Chef Kef? Why don’t you just buy one jar and if there’s any extra time on Sunday you can use them for a dish even your incredibly old-school great aunt says is a pain in the ass?”

IF THERE’S EXTRA TIME???? What the hell do I think this is? A leisurely afternoon of unscheduled culinary exploration? Not only is there never any time left over, there have been a good many years where I have not even showered before the first guest’s arrival. So, unsurprisingly, not so much as a single dolma has ever graced my Greek Easter table. The road to this host’s hell is paved with unused jars of grape leaves.photo 1-9

Until this year. It was about 1130 PM on Saturday night. My house was literally (read: very much not figuratively) packed to capacity- BFKef was lawyering into the wee hours in the bedroom, ThisIsYourLifeNowKef had annexed (okay–xanxed) the couch, PinchinaKef was on the air mattress desperately trying to avoid Oliver Tambo’s nocturnal antics, every other available space was covered in food or food prep, and 20 dismembered tomatoes were precariously perched while they awaited their filling (which was being blended in the bathroom to reduce late-night noise) and their transformation from fleshless fruit to amazing, show-stopping yemista.

That’s when I came up with what I think is the most brilliant idea to hit Greek-American-cooks-who-are-in-way-over-their-head in a long, long time– instead of trying to find the “extra” time to make filling for the dolmades, why don’t I just use the totally delicious leftover yemista filling to stuff the damn grape leaves? Suddenly, I wasn’t just a woman who tries annually to defy the laws of time and space for a little Greek gathering. When that little lightbulb went on over my head, I was Ben Franklin in the rainstorm, standing steadfast in the chaos clinging to an idea that would either kill me or endear me to the people forever. Or something like that.

The great news is that the dolmadakia were DELICIOUS (oh, and also that electricity is real and ol’ Benny didn’t go up in smoke). The bad news is that I didn’t make nearly enough of them (or that JetSet ate too many) and that I haven’t yet figured out the proportions for a recipe that doesn’t require you to make a round of yemista. But there are worse things in this world.

Chef Kef’s Lightning-Strike Dolmadakia

Ingredients

  • leftover stuffing from this yemista recipe (probably about 2 cups, more or less)
  • about 1.5 cups of the cooking liquid from the yemista (the juice that oozes out into the pan while baking them)
  • 8 oz jar of grape leaves (I used the Orlando brand this year)
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • a wide (and preferrably deep) saute pan

Assembly

 

1. Remove grape leaves from the jar and carefully unroll but do not try and separate. Bring a pot filled with about 4inches of water to a slow boil- you need enough water so the whole wad of grape leaves can float. Once boiling, put your unrolled grape leaves in the water as one unit and let simmer for about 5 minutes to soften. This will make it easier to separate them.

2. Remove from water and pat the whole wad dry. Gently separate leaves one by one and lay grape leaves on a work surface SHINY SIDE DOWN with the widest part as the bottom and the “fingers” the top. If there are any stems left at the bottom, cut them out with kitchen scissors (a lot of jarred leaves come with stems removed so if you have no idea what I’m talking about, don’t worry).

3. Place about 2 TBS of filling at the  center of the base, near where the stem was. Fold the bottom edge over the filling, then both sides toward the middle, and then roll up to complete… if you need a visual, this is a great video (folding starts about 3:30), this is a great photo tutorial, or just watch the good people at your local Chipotle fold a burrito. We want it snug but not as tight as possible because the rice will swell as it cooks. Give each dolma a light squeeze to secure the roll. Repeat until you run out of leaves, filling, or both.

4. Arrange the stuffed leaves in a wide, deep pan (or dutch oven, if you have it)– I just used my widest saute pan. Place them seam side down and they MUST be in a single layer. Every Greek person in the world will tell you to arrange them in a spiral to fit the most– we did invent geometry, after all. Pour the broth and lemon juice into the pan until it reaches halfway up the stuffed leaves. Cover and simmer low for 40 minutes, or until tender when you stick a form in them.

photo 2-8

Chef Kefi Gets A Greek Sugar Mama

22 Apr

… or something like that.

I’m so excited to announce that Chef Kefi, RN is teaming up with  The Greek Table to bring freshly-prepared Greek meals to a store near you!

Exhausted after a long shift (is there any other kind?) a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon The Greek Table’s line of prepared Greek meals in Whole Foods (also available at Balducci’s, Roots, and Costco). Not usually one for prepared foods and wary of most things labeled “Greek” that are not served to me in a vinyl booth by someone named Gus or Kostas, I was skeptical. What a happy surprise to find the vegetarian (and gluten free!) moussaka was authentically delicious and had not even a drop too much olive oil (a difficult feat for anything eggplant).  I returned the next day to try all the other vegetarian options (in the name of  research, of course) and was thrilled to find the artichoke stew, gigantes, and eggplant with feta were just as good. Flash forward a few  twists and turns, and you can find me giving out free samples of The Greek Table line at grocery stores through the DC area. Fear not, meat eaters–there are lamb, beef, and chicken dishes, too!

You can find me tonight at one of DC’s most-loved Mediterranean restaurants, Zaytinya.  Famed chef Jose Andres and company are showing off the brand new patio with a Greek agorá , featuring happy hour drink specials, live music, and Greek goods for sale. Come find the Demeter’s Pantry/Greek Table stand and I’ll autograph your ouzo glass. Promise.

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Monday, April 22nd, 6-10PM
Agorá Night Market
Experience the grand opening of our newly renovated patio at this festive night market. A live DJ heats up the event with modern Greek music and Zaytinya’s bar team cools it down with a special liquid nitrogen ouzo cocktail. Zaytinya will also be passing complimentary tastes of their fresh and inventive mezze for all guests to sample. Come celebrate the tastes and sounds of modern Greece in the heart of the Penn Quarter!

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