Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Fuel Up Wednesday: Hearty miso soup

This weekend, I was temporarily knocked flat by a weird one-day flu. Although it was short, it was bad enough to make my body incapable of consuming anything but orange juice, crackers, and soup.

We have a huge tub of miso in our fridge from a previous recipe, so I decided to try making miso soup instead the usual chicken-noodle remedy. I always prefer chunky soups to bowls of broth, so I set out to find a recipe for a hearty miso soup.

That's exactly what I found! This recipe is delicious, comforting, healthy, and filling.

My grocery store didn't have dried shitake mushrooms, so I used these intriguing (and delicious!) wood ear mushrooms instead. I also used more bok choy in place of the seaweed.

This recipe is definitely a permanent addition to the list of "get well" soups! What recipes do you use as wintertime flu remedies?

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Adventure Friday: Bicycle fever and indoor cycling

What's that feeling in the air? That intoxicating scent?

It's bicycle fever.

It's that time of year when even the slightest hint of rhythm conjures vivid daydreams of pedal strokes. Percussive Latin beats suddenly give way to hallucinations of a sprint down a long flat road. Slow bass-driven songs inspire deep longings for tough uphill climbs. Footsteps suddenly seem much too slow.

It's that time of year when 40 degrees feels balmy, and when the quiet trickling sounds of snow melt are mistaken for the arrival of spring.

As a (wimpy?) three-season cyclist, I get bad cases of bicycle fever every winter. This year, skiing and snowshoeing helped stave off the fever for quite some time. This week, finally, it hit me.

Andy has a set of rollers, so we set them up for my road bike. Thursday was my first time ever using rollers, believe it or not! He claims that that the front roller drum is a pain to adjust, so I'm only using the front fork stabilizer right now. Still, it felt like heaven. Once my legs started pedaling, it was hard to stop.

When I was a gym member in New York City, spin classes gave me my cycling fix. Now, I think I like rollers better. Feeling my own familiar bike underneath me—handlebars, seat, pedals, fit, and all—is ten times better than the hit-or-miss quality of gym spin machines.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Fuel Up Wednesday: Overnight oatmeal

It's amazing what a mason jar and a few hours can do.

Andy and I have discovered a treasure trove of DIY food delights using mason jars, from escabeche to yogurt. On winter mornings, however, my favorite mason jar recipe is a working-woman's lifesaver: overnight oatmeal.

Whole oats are much more filling (and arguably more healthy) than most instant oatmeal, but who has time to slave over the stove in the morning? Instead, before going to bed, just toss a 1/2 cup of whole rolled oats into a jar, add 1 cup of water, cover, and place the jar in the fridge overnight

In the morning, heat the jar in the microwave on high for 1 minute, or until oats are thoroughly heated. Drain off any excess water, and then add honey, cinnamon, fruit, or any topping of your choosing.

It's a quick and filling breakfast for both work mornings and dawn patrol — and if you're running late, just throw the jar in your bag and go!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Survival Monday: 5 outdoor gear items for every day use

In a comment on a previous post, a fellow blogger shared this short article about loving your stuff. Materialism is only bad, the writer argues, when we constantly dispose of old items and seek better ones. Stuff isn't bad when you really use it, you really love it, and you really make it last the test of time.

This is true for most of the outdoor gear that I own. I love that gear, and I use it well. Here are 5 gear items that I use on a daily basis, just because they're that good.

1. Kleen Kanteen 12 oz Insulated Mug - I love this mug so much that I've already dedicated an entire blog post to it. Almost one year later, the love affair is still going strong. 

2. Light My Fire Spork - Light My Fire is a Swedish company that sells an eclectic mix of camping gear, best recognized for its bright colors. Of the entire product line, this spork is the lay woman's winner. I use my spork for lunches at work and snacks on the go. The curved shape is comfy in the hand, and both the spoon and fork sides function beautifully.

3. Turtle Fur Neck Warmer - I have always had a weakness for scarves, but now I've done one better: fleece neck warmers. This Turtle Fur neck warmer not only keeps me warm while skiing and hiking,  but also proves to be a toasty accessory for around-the-town use. Plus, this particular fuzzy is made with Polartec Repreve fleece, a textile made from recycled materials. How cool is that?

4. Merino wool socks - I know what you're thinking: "Wool socks? Ugh. How boring." What could be better than toasty toes on a frigid day? Many merino wool yarns are now heavenly soft, and warm socks can be found for almost any sporting adventure. Best of all, it takes days of wear to make these merino wool stink, and these socks can really take a beating before holes appear. My favorites are Chrome no-show socks for warm weather walking and cycling, Darn Tough for hiking, and Fits for every day coziness.

5. KEEN Targhee Mid II hiking boots - Andy and I are both on our second pair of Keen boots, but not because they're made poorly. On the contrary, we both loved and used our Keen Targhees so much that we wore our first pairs right into the ground. Sure, these boots are waterproof and sturdy, but the real attraction lies in how wonderfully easy it is to break them in. No blisters, no stiffness—KEENs are ready for rain, snow, and shine; trail, park, and sidewalk.

What gear gets you through the daily grind? What things do you absolutely love?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Adventure Friday: Traveling with grief and a budget

Today, Andy and I are finishing up our second crosscountry road trip from the east coast to Salt Lake City. Although we followed the exact same route both times, these road trips are wildly different from each other.

Traveling with Grief
When we first did the trip in October 2011, we were driving Andy's tiny Nissan Sentra, overpacked and loaded down with Andy's life belongings. This week, we're driving a zippy Volkswagen Passat, just purchased from a family member and my first ever car. In October 2011, we were giddy with the excitement of Andy's new job and new life. We were awed by the stretches of country we had never seen. This week, although our eyes still saw the beauty of endless blue sky and scrappy pine bluffs, we also felt the burdens of anxiety and sadness. Worries about work, money, family, self, and loss lurked somewhere within the hum of the tires, the vibrations of the engine, the gusting of wind. 

Eating on a Budget
One difference that I've really enjoyed is our approach to food this week. In 2011, we mostly ate at restaurants along the road. We're pretty broke this time, so we packed all of our food with us: instant oatmeal, peanut butter, bread, trail mix, cheese, beer, Red Bull, and a huge batch of spaghetti with homemade sauce. We wash our reusable bowls and utensils with Dr. Brauner's liquid soap in the hotel sinks, and we refill our big coffee mugs at each hotel breakfast.

Let me tell you, at the end of a long driving day, there are few things more comforting than those spaghetti leftovers.

Love begins with 'W'
One thing that has stayed the same is my love for wind turbines and Wyoming. I think my mom would have liked both, too.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Fuel Up Wednesday: Comforting corn chowder

I mentioned in my first Fuel Up Wednesday blog post that I loved the corn chowder from Two Peas & Their Pod. Apparently, so does my family.

Please pardon the poor lighting

I first made this chowder for my dad and brother when I was in Connecticut for Christmas. Last week, when I was aching to do some therapy cooking, my dad requested this dish again.

While the chowder cooks, I use a separate pan to brown a pound of sliced chicken sausage. When the chowder is almost finished, I add the sausage and a dash of red pepper flakes. It's a rich, hearty, comforting meal—and wonderful therapy cooking.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Survival Monday: Snow days of the northeast blizzard

On Friday, the day of my mom's burial, a blizzard hit the northeast. We went to bed on Friday night, dazed and shell-shocked, but without too much worry about snow. We woke up on Saturday morning, however, to 30 inches of snow and even higher drifts.

Good morning!

Luckily, we still had power, food, and (some) booze. Even better, we had four pairs of hands and one powerful snowblower to clear the cars and the driveway.

Snow-blowing up a storm

Unfortunately, the condition of our street, like many others, left a little to be desired.

Our road

The snowstorm gave me more time to spend with my father and brother. We drank coffee in sunny windows, mixed cocktails by the fire, and released pent up tension by shoveling snow.

It also gave me more time to spend with myself. I practiced some yoga, cooked comforting meals, and compiled a few blog posts. I also learned that it's too easy to distract myself from grief with a book or the Internet.

Cabin fever footpaths through the street

As of Sunday afternoon, the snowplows still hadn't come to our street. Although forced relaxation can be a wonderful thing, Andy (who flew out for the wake and funeral) and I are anxious to get back to our own apartment in Utah. Andy and I have a rare opportunity to buy a good car from a family member, and we were originally planning on driving back to Utah from New Jersey. Our biggest obstacle was getting off of the unplowed street, and our days allotted for driving across country were quickly diminishing.

So, we decided to take matters into our own hands.

My parents' house is just half a block away from a plowed "snow emergency road." Sunday morning, we considered trudging through the snow to the corner, to have a car service pick us up. Instead, Andy's father went above and beyond, and he picked us up from said corner and brought us back to New Jersey so we can begin our road trip.

Today, I am grateful for pleasant snow days, healthy bodies, good food, loving family, and a supportive partner—and his amazing family.