Friday, January 24, 2014

There's No Denying It

I think I've been in denial about this winter. Up until this past Tuesday we hadn't had a heavy snowfall. Although we previously had a week of frigid temperatures, the weather had been manageable and sometimes warm. Tuesday brought down a ton of snow. We got released from work early and as I ran around trying to run errands before the worst of the weather arrived, I couldn't help but feel a small amount of glee walking around in the snow. The first major snow of the season is always my favorite. True, after the first day things get disgusting and gross pretty quickly (salty and slushy everything is my least favorite thing in the world), but kicking through mounds of fresh powder while walking along streets transformed by a big blanket of white made me inexplicably happy.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Call This One A Success

One of the great things about joining the Nutrition Challenge with my gym has been all the cooking that's been going on in my apartment. In the past, I've used my spiralizer to make zucchini "noodles" for a raw pad thai that Jon particularly likes. I've also used it as a substitute for regular pasta and found it to be pretty great. Today I decided that I wanted some kind of meaty and saucy dinner, so three zucchinis were quickly turned into this beautiful mess of goodness in preparation for what has easily become one of my favorite new-to-me recipes.

I went to Smitten Kitchen and found a recipe for a bolognese that seemed doable. She uses it as part of a lasagna but in my opinion, the recipe for the sauce can stand completely on its own. Happily, I didn't have to make any changes or substitutions in order for this meal to be completely within the guidelines of the challenge. The ingredients are simple and the prep is easy and quick. The only thing you need is some time and patience. The flavors deepen the longer the sauce simmers on the stove. There was plenty of sauce left over for future dinners. I've never been so excited for leftovers.

Bolognese Sauce

1 medium onion, coarsely chopped (1-inch pieces are fine)
1 large or 2 slim carrots, coarsely chopped
2 ribs celery, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds ground chuck, brisket or round or combination (I used 1 pound ground chuck and 1 pound ground bison)
1 1/4 cups tomato paste (from 2 6-ounce cans)
2 cups red wine, preferably hearty but really, anything you like to drink
Water as needed
2 bay leaves
A few sprigs thyme, tied in a bundle

In a food processor, pulse onion, carrots, celery, and garlic until finely chopped. Heat a moderate-sized Dutch oven (4 to 5 quarts) over medium-high heat. Once hot, coat the bottom of the pan with two to three tablespoons of oil. Once it is hot, add the chopped vegetables and season them generously with salt and pepper. Cook the vegetables until they are evenly brown, stirring frequently, about 15 minutes.

Add the ground beef and seasoning again with salt and pepper. Brown the beef well and again, don’t rush this step. Cook for another 15 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the red wine, using it to scrape up any stuck bits in the pan. Cook the wine until it has reduced by half, about 5 more minutes. Add water to the pan until the water is about 1 inch above the meat. Toss in the bay leaves and the bundle of thyme and stir to combine everything, bringing it to a low simmer.

Here’s how the next 3 to 4 hours will go: You’ll keep a pitcher of water near the stove. You’ll stir the sauce from time to time. As the water in the sauce cooks off, you’ll want to add more but you don’t want to add more than 1 to 2 cups at a time or you’ll have boiled meat sauce rather than something thick and robust with flavor. Taste it from time to time and add more seasoning if needed. Simmer for 3 to 4 hours.

Makes about 8 to 8 1/2 cups of sauce.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

So This Is The New Year

So, how's it going? 

Things have been busy on my end with traveling for the holidays and getting back to my normal schedule. Every year I struggle with transitioning back from vacation mode and jumping into real life again. Jon and I equate vacation mode with being a slug. And damn, is it hard to stop being a slug! We've had some bitter cold days that have made it difficult to get the motivation going for anything other than Netflix and knitting. Oh, and Crossfit. I haven't mentioned it here but Jon and I started going a few months ago and have been at it pretty consistently. If you ever need motivation to exercise, just pony up a large sum of money every month. The potential to waste that money is more than enough to get our asses to the gym, freezing temperatures or not.

So, last year was a damn good year. Jon and I made a point to go and explore our city and surrounding areas. We travelled abroad together for the first time. We finished up our Portrait a Week project for 2013. We celebrated our first year of marriage (hooray!).  We spent quality time with our friends and family and welcomed our nephew into this world. Pretty good stuff.

As we do at the beginning of every year, we sat down to write out some of our goals. A couple of mine were the same as last year's and some of them are new. The one that I like the most is a promise to use our passports at least once a year. It will be difficult as our lifestyles and work loads have changed drastically in the last six months but I think it's a good goal to work towards. 

For myself, I decided that this year I'm going to challenge myself physically and see where this whole Crossfit experiment takes me, both physically and mentally. I am also going to commit to putting in the time to learn Spanish and to improve my Korean. I plan on working on this apartment to make it feel more like home. It's hard to do with the layout and it being a rental, but I'm determined to use this space in the best way possible. I signed up for Apartment Therapy's January Cure to help clear and organize the space in preparation for the projects I have in mind. 

So, that's what I've been up to. I'm open and I'm ready.