Sunday, June 12, 2011

The best way to spend a Saturday morning

Yesterday I decided to check an item off of my Upstate New York bucket list by getting a mineral bath at the Roosevelt Spa at the Gideon Putnam Hotel in Saratoga State Park.  I booked the bath on Friday afternoon and decided to throw in a massage for good measure :)

I scheduled the mineral bath for 10:30 am and planned to arrive a bit early, as I had been recommended to do so by a friend.  I arrived and was directed to the women's locker room where I changed into a soft and warm bathrobe that was waiting.  They had secure lockers where I locked in my purse and clothing, leaving my cell phones behind for a morning of quiet and indulgence.

The book I have been reading, "The Happiness Project" was all I brought with me as I went out to the lounge area.  I made a cup of tea and waited until an employee came out and called my name.  He brought me to my private bath area.  The tub was filled for me and I was informed I could turn the lights off if I wanted, there was a bathroom for me, and a warm towel would be brought to me when time was up.

The tub went 5 inches below the ground floor, so it was much deeper than it seemed.  The water was brown so not too appealing in color, but the temperature was just right and with the lights off and a small candle going, the tub was incredibly inviting.  I relaxed for about 20 minutes enjoying the soft music and solitude that the mineral bath brought me.  Then there was a short knock on the door and a voice telling me that time was up.  A towel was slipped through the door and it was seriously so warm and felt so wonderful to dry off in.  If only I always had someone to drop off a warm towel, perhaps it wouldn't be so difficult to get out of the shower in the morning!

The massage that came next was just blissful (although nothing incredibly out of the ordinary as far as massages go... how can they not be blissful?)  Afterwards I was near sleeping so I went to the lounge and just rested for a bit longer, read more of my book, and had another glass of tea.

I was having such a good time relaxing and enjoying the peace that I then went to the steam room.  It was empty so I was able to just fully let the warm, moist air take over.  After not too long, I left and returned to the women's locker room, where I showered, used their soft lotion, and returned to my clothes and blinking cell phone... ugh.

Seriously though, the bath was great.  I felt so rejuvinated afterwards and my skin was incredibly soft and smooth.  It was so nice to indulge for a bit and if I hadn't gotten the massage... the bath would have been only $25!  I recommend to everyone and anyone.  I am so glad that I tacked this off early from my list because I think it is something I may want to do again!

Today's lunch: Persian kabob

The plate:
  • Traditional Persian "Kabob:"   Sirloin steak tips marinated in olive oil and chopped sweet onion. Grilled.
  • "Kabob Kobideh:"  Lean ground beef (10% fat) blended in a food processor with sweet onion.  Formed into long, thin patties.  Grilled.
  • Grilled tomatoes and the leftover onion from the steak marinade.

All served with a sprinkle of the Persian spice, sumagh, and over white rice.  My roommate did all of the grilling on the Raclette grill that I got for Christmas.  It was all SERIOUSLY delicious.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Cooking my first Persian meal

As I have written about in the past, I am lucky enough to have a roommate with a completely different culture than mine, so I get to learn many new things from him.  Language, religion, history, lifestyle, and of course... food.  Usually, I enjoy the opportunity to sit and relax on the days that he is cooking and later have a delicious meal served to me.  However, today I decided to take a more hands on approach and actually learn how to cook the meals myself.  I might not have easy access to be able to have the delicious Persian food cooked FOR ME and I want to be able to incorporate all the unique flavors and tastes I've been eating into my own cooking in the future.

Tonight I helped prepare "loobia polo" and "salad shiraz" and a Persian spaghetti.

"Loobia" in Farsi means "green beans" and "polo" means "rice" so as you could guess... the meal is a green bean and rice dish -- with beef.  The meal was pretty simple to put together although time consuming.  First I cut the green beans into bite sized pieces and stir fried them in a big wok.  In another pan I caramelized one large sweet onion and then added 1 lb of stew beef that I had cut into bite sized pieces.  My roommate instructed me to add a little bit of water to the stew beef and onion mixture, even though the meat had already released a bit of moisture itself.  We used tomato paste to then thicken the sauce and seasoned it a small amount of turmeric, salt and pepper, and mixed in the green beans.

Separately we made basmati rice, which is an art form all its own (that I have not yet mastered and handed the task off to my roommate.)  In Persian cooking, many rish dishes are finalized with what is called "tadigh."   Tadigh is made by putting oil at the bottom of the pan and thinly laying the rice or meal on top.  The bottom layer fries and forms a crust.  To serve the dish, you flip the pot upside down and the "tadigh" or crust is one of the most delicious parts of the dish (and my personal favorite!) Tonight, we actually made the tadigh with really, really thinly sliced potatoes, which is an alternative, but it can also be done with the regular rice in the dish.

The Persian spaghetti is similar to Italian spaghetti, however, made similarly to the beginning of the loobia polo.  Caramelized onions, ground beef, tomato paste, salt, pepper, tumeric, and also some tomato sauce to thicken it up a bit.  It is mixed with cooked thick spaghetti and made with a tadigh of spaghetti.

Finally, I made a Salad Shiraz by cutting up sweet onion, tomato, cucumber, tossing with lime juice and olive oil, and seasoning with salt and pepper.  Everything was really delicious and I am looking forward to trying this on my own sometime!

Adventures in cooking risotto

For the past few months I have been doing Weight Watchers and exploring health eating.  The great thing about Weight Watchers is that you really can eat what you want, as long as you are careful about portions and of course, moderation.  Recently, in the Weight Watchers weekly that I get at each meeting, there was a 5 point recipe for Asparagus Risotto.  I have always been a crazy risotto fan but I have never actually tried to cook it myself.  When I saw this recipe, I knew that fact was about to change.  I will put in the recipe below and then write about the alterations I made.

1 lb asparagus, trimmed and cut into bite size pieces
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 small shallots, minced
1 cup uncooked arborio rice
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
4 cups canned chicken broth
1/2 cup grated Parmesean cheese

Boil a large pot of salted water and cook the asparagus for 3 minutes.  Immediately after cooking, transfer the asparagus to a bowl of ice cold water.  This will stop the cooking and help retain the color of the asparagus.

Coat a medium pot with cooking spray and melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent, about 5-7 minutes.  Add the rice and toss to coat; cook for 2 minutes.  Add lemon juice and cook until it has all been absorbed, stirring continuously, about 1 minute.

In another pot, bring the both to a simmer to keep it warm.  Add 1/2 cup of broth to the pot at a time and stir the risotto until the broth is absorbed and then add a 1/2 cup more.  This process is a bit tedious but it is really, really easy.  It takes about 20 minutes to do this and the rice will begin to become creamy.  At the end I turned up the heat on the rice high to thicken it up a little bit more and then took it off the heat to add the cheese.  The cheese will thicken the risotto even more.  You can then add the cooked risotto and season with salt and pepper if desired.  A serving is a scant 1 cup.


So, I have cooked the risotto this way a couple times and it really is delicious.  However, I wanted to try mixing things up a bit.  I cooked the risotto except this time I swapped the butter for truffle oil.  What is truffle oil you may ask?  Only my favorite thing in the world!  I bought the bottle months back and use it rarely, but I seriously love it.  The aroma and taste is out of this world.  Instead of lemon juice I swamped a white wine I had in the fridge.  And instead of asparagus I used some mushrooms that I sauteed with the same truffle oil and a dash of italian seasonings.  I swear... this was the best most amazing Truffled Mushroom Risotto and amazingly delicious.  I highly recommend it!!!

As intimidating as risotto can be, it was honestly very easy and a simple weeknight meal.  However, I would also serve this at the fanciest dinner party.  I had with some salad and white wine.

P.S.  My roommate and I put together a Persian meal for some friends tonight.  For the first time I learned and followed the cooking process so I can recreate the dishes in the future.  I am looking forward to seeing how they come out!!!

Freihofer's Run for Women 2011

Yesterday I ran the Freihofer's Run for Women for the 2nd year.  I was particularly excited to run in this race because last year, the Freihofer's was my first ever 5K road race that I finished running the entire thing!  I set out to run the race this year and beat my time from 2010.

At some point when I was walking around the race pavilion yesterday morning, getting a massage, checking out the vendors, and enviously eyeing all the younger, fitter runners I decided... what the heck, why not set out to get my PR from all of the other 5Ks I have run in the past year as well?

Having decided this, I was particularly frustrated as the race started and I found myself stuck in a pack of runners that I could not break free from.  I was itching to start off on a good pace but could not find a stride with all the swarms of people.  I bumped into numerous people and continually was shouting, "Sorry, sorry!" as I looked for my pace and avenue to run it in.

As soon as I got going, I felt great and was able to run the whole race at the raster pace I had set for myself.  Many thanks to my wonderful roommate who came out to cheer me on!  I finished the race in a time of 37:20 and a chip time of 35:24 at a pace of 11:24... which is my best yet and a time I am really excited about.  I am looking forward to trying to beat it in another upcoming 5K!

Congratulations to all the runners yesterday and for those interested, here was my Freihofer's 2011 playlist:

Hold It Against Me - Britney Spears
Rolling in the Deep - Adele
Backseat - New Boyz
Loser Like Me - Glee Cast
On the Floor - JLo
For Ur Love - Chris Brown
Marching On -Timbaland
King of Anything - Sara Bareilles
Edge of Glory - Lady Gaga
Keep Your Head Up - Andy Grammer
Give Me Everything - Pitbull
Good Life - One Republic
The Show Goes On - Lupe Fiasco
Tonight Tonight - Hot Chelle Rae
Rocketeer - Far East Movement
Price Tag - Jessie J
Judas - Lady Gaga
Firework - Katy Perry
Fucking Perfect - Pink
The Time - Black Eyed Peas
Monster - Kanye West

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Back to basics with a post about yummy food

As I have mentioned in the past on this blog, one of my favorite things about my job at GE Global Research is that I have made some amazing friends from all over the world.  One of my favorite things about having friends from all over the world is having the opportunity to try foods from all over the world! I've been lucky enough over the past few years to have homemade authentic Indian, Persian and Italian foods just to name a few.

Last night I added another country to my list as a friend cooked an assortment of Ghanaian dishes that I had the pleasure of enjoying!  The wonderful Nana made corned beef stew, white rice, grilled corn on the cob, fried plantains, and avocado.  The plantains are first marinated in a mixture of spices including red pepper (I believe?) and although Nana mentioned that he was unsatisfied with how they came out, they tasted amazing to me!  The dish is called "kelewele" in Ghana.  Photos are below.