Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Prenatal Workout DVDs

Some of you may be wondering how I've maintained my active and healthy lifestyle during pregnancy.  If you were wondering this, I'd like to know who you're confusing me with.

I (or anyone, for that matter) would not describe my lifestyle as "active" or "healthy"--probably just "moderate". In any case, I did want to exercise a bit during the pregnancy as I heard that helps you bounce back faster after delivery.  The other benefit is that you feel a modicum of justification in eating that sleeve of Girl Scouts Thin Mint cookies in one sitting.  Or the entire box of chocolate covered pretzels.  Or the "trail mix" that is mostly chocolate, the pieces of which you pick out so that in reality, it's like eating a bag of chocolate chips.  Which of course brings us to the actual bag of chocolate chips. Mixed with a generous heap of peanut butter.

Anyway, I've been going to a weekly prenatal yoga class, but I would not call this "exercise".  Well actually I do, to make myself feel better, but it's really not.  We spend about 20 minutes at the beginning doing breathing exercises, another 20 at the end in relaxation pose, 10 minutes in a "sharing circle" (where we give updates on our pregnancy and talk about that week's topics, like using vocalization to help relieve labor pain), so that we're left with a little over 20 minutes of actual movement which takes place at the pace that one would take if almost completely paralyzed. I love it!

Otherwise, about twice a week, I choose among various DVDs.  None of these give a serious or intense cardio workout--they do get the heart rate up (some more than others), but overall the intensity is like what you would get from gentle to moderate pilates and calisthenics. I'm not saying you'll start snoring through them, but these are not your CrossFit/kickboxing/spinning type of activity.

My prenatal workout DVD collection includes:

Haha I am kidding.

For real...

Summer Sanders' Prenatal Workout
This DVD gives full-length and express workouts for each trimester.  I have primarily used the first trimester express workout, which is about 30 minutes.  I found that I was comfortable doing it as my pregnancy progressed, so I haven't bothered trying the other trimester workouts.  Oh, I tried the full-length routine once, and the main difference was more sets of the same exercises (not new exercises), which got me all bored so I stuck to the express.  You go through standing warm-up exercises (squats and lunges), then there are arm exercises and sit-ups, and a short stretch and cool-down session. Overall I like this--it's short and peppy.

Suzanne Bowen's Long and Lean Prenatal Workout
I guess I didn't read the description carefully because I thought I was buying a yoga DVD (because of the pose on the cover), but this is not a yoga DVD, it's more pilates.  There are three segments, and I usually do all of them (skipping the relaxation at the very end of the last segment), which takes about 45 to 50 minutes.  She starts with standing/moving poses, then floor work, then stretching. Some of the exercises seem a wee bit ineffectual to me, but I try to concentrate on my core like a good girl. I like this about the same as the Summer Sanders workout--it just depends on how long I feel like working out.

Jane Austin Prenatal Yoga DVD
I held off on buying this for a long time because at almost $18, it was more pricey than the other DVDs which I had been able to buy for cheap on eBay.  But I have two friends who recommended it, and in the interest of adding some variety to my workouts, I purchased the DVD.  The entire routine is about an hour long (I fast forward through certain portions so make it about 45 minutes).  I really like the production quality of this DVD.  There are the instructor and 4 students, and the instructor's real-time cues (as opposed to a voiced-over narrative) helps it feel like I'm in a real class.  Again, this isn't a cardio workout, but I felt the poses were effective for strength and flexibility, and there are some hip and pelvis opening positions that I may try during labor (that, or I will be screaming for an epidural). 

Power Yoga - Total Body Workout
This isn't a prenatal yoga DVD and I don't recommend it if you haven't done yoga before.  I was and am no yogi--I've sporadically taken yoga classes at the gym and practiced at home for the past 10 years.  Hm, 10 years sounds like a long time, but I would emphasize "sporadic". I would say that I am advanced beginner or intermediate.  I had used this yoga DVD before the pregnancy, and a few weeks ago decided to try it with modifications because I wanted a little more of a challenge.  The whole routine is about an hour, but I cut out certain sections to make it about 45 minutes and I modify a lot (i.e. instead of upward facing dog, I get on all fours and arch my back with my eyes towards the ceiling; standing with my legs apart and bent for forward bends; doing half bridge pose instead of full bridge pose; saying "fuck it" to the exercises that just won't fly). 

Prenatal Yoga
I've only tried this once so far. It is very mild, which is a drastic change from her Yoga Shakti DVD I used before getting pregnant when I wanted to get a really good flow yoga workout that got my heart rate up.  I may try this again if I'm feeling really chill and just want a mellow yoga workout, but since I have others to work from that I like, I don't feel much desire to use it.

Complete Prenatal Vinyasa Yoga & Short Forms 2 DVD Set
I was excited about this DVD because of all the different-length practices (ranging from 15 to 75 minutes) and I thought it would give me the same kind of "flow" experience that I liked pre-pregnancy with Power Yoga and Yoga Shakti.  However, this DVD didn't work for me. She does move quickly, but in a way that I felt was too rushed.  It wasn't that it was hard or challenging, but the poses felt a bit perfunctory and I couldn't get much out of it. Lots of people on Amazon love this DVD though, so I'm in the minority.

And that, my friends, is how I spent money on something to be used for only a few months in my life.  We won't talk about how much I've spent on maternity clothes. It blows my mind.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Chicken, Tomato and Olive Sauce

After a blazing hot and humid summer, it's been nice to pull out the slow cooker and get back to these "set it and leave it" recipes.  The long slow cooking process also helped get rid of the smell in our new apartment, a scent which we ascribed to the previous tenant leaving a dead body somewhere between the studs in the walls.

Okay it wasn't that bad, but we didn't like it either.  A few days of baking and an essential oil diffuser have seemed to do the trick. Actually, it's probably just passage of time and displacing the previous owner's smell with that of our stinky pugs.  I knew those two would come in handy one day!

For a while I was using America's Test Kitchen recipes a lot. This time was no different.  Isn't it nice to know that I can drop off the face of the blogging earth and return totally unchanged (except for growing a parasite inside me)?

This slow cooker sauce is nice because the acidity of the olives balance out the richness of the chicken.  It is a very hearty sauce, really thick, so a small serving goes a long way. Not that we do small servings in these parts.

From America's Test Kitchen Slow Cooker Revolution

1 onion, minced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 TBS olive oil
1 TBS minced fresh thyme of 1 tsp dried
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup dry white wine
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
15 oz can tomato sauce
2 TBS Minute tapioca
1.5 lbs skinless chicken thighs (I got bone-in and discarded the bones after cooking, but you can use boneless to begin with)
1/2 cup chopped pitted Kalamata olives
1/4 cup minced parsley
salt and pepper

In a microwave-safe bowl, mix together the onions, garlic, oil, thyme and red pepper flakes.  Heat for 5 minutes in microwave, stirring occasionally.

Place the onion mixture into the slow cooker, and stir in the broth, wine, tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tapioca.

Salt and pepper each side of your chicken thighs.  Place chicken into slow cooker, and try to submerge those suckers.  

Cook on low for 4 to 6 hours. Gently pull out chicken thighs, and shred the meat using two forks. The meat should fall off the bone and shred quite easily.  Discard the bones.

Stir the shredded chicken back into the sauce, along with the chopped olives and parsley.

Cook pasta according to package directions, and serve with sauce.


Monday, November 19, 2012

The Past 6 Months or So...

It's been a while. Slap on the hand for me.  I've been keeping up with all of your blogs but have been woefully remiss on updating my own.

Here's a quick recap of what has happened in the past 6 to 7 months:

1.  Shortly after my last post, I experienced sensations that I can only describe as "death cramps" that led me to the emergency room and hospital for surgery and a two-week stay.  I will spare you further details.

All better now!

2. I lied about sparing you from further details. There are some details I want to tell you about.  When I checked into the emergency room, they asked me the standard question of whether I was pregnant.  I said "maybe"--in fact I had been planning on taking a home pregnancy test in a few days.  They initially thought I could have an ectopic pregnancy or ruptured ovarian cyst.  My heart sunk at the thought of either, but particularly the ectopic pregnancy.  A few minutes after taking my blood, a doctor came by and said "So, I'm confused, did you not know you were pregnant when you came in today?"

Cue ugly cry face on my part.  In my mind, positive pregnancy test = ectopic pregnancy.

Strangely, despite ugly cry face, what he said didn't quite sink in fully the first time. He continued to talk (about what I don't know) and I had to interrupt and ask him to confirm whether: (1) he had seen the blood test results; and (2) that the test results showed that I was pregnant.  He said yes, I was pregnant.

Cue ugly cry face Part II.

He looked to Kevin and asked what was wrong, I told him I was worried about an ectopic pregnancy, he said it wasn't necessarily an ectopic pregnancy, blah blah blah.

Despite a lot of doubts regarding whether the pregnancy would last, turns out that I was and am healthily pregnant.  I spent the next month or so recovering from the surgery, which also conveniently allowed me to isolate myself while I experienced a few annoying pregnancy symptoms, namely mild nausea and raging acne.

I am living proof that if you don't eat anything during the first two weeks of your pregnancy and just survive on IV fluids, it is possible to have a healthy pregnancy.  I'm not advising this (I hope that's obvious), it just happened that way.  Also, morphine is my friend. 

Here is a picture of me around 20-something weeks.

3. We moved. Again. This time to Virginia. My New Year's resolution for 2013 will be not to move.  We have a small balcony now, which the pugs thoroughly enjoy.

4.  We took some hikes and visited an orchard in order to explore our new area.

5. We visited friends and family in NYC, Portland and San Francisco.

At craftbar in NYC 

 Tasty treats from the most magical place in Portland, OR--Voodoo Doughnuts
While in Bay Area, we went with my sister and brother in law to help out with a grape harvest in Sonoma.

6.  We took a babymoon to St. John--yipee!!!

Bump at 30 weeks

St. John was wonderful, and definitely a place that I'm glad we went to pre-baby. While I did see other families there, let me just state for the record that I would not make the flight to San Juan, 3-hour layover, flight to St. Thomas, 40-minute drive to the ferry terminal, and ferry ride to St. John, for a total of 12 hours of traveling, with a baby. Hell fucking no.

So we're all caught up! I want to get back into taking pictures of my cooking/baking adventures--it's so easy to fall out of that groove.

A few last things: I'm due in January and the pugs have an announcement:

In case you can't see the picture, we're having a boy.

Finding out about the pregnancy happened in a weird way so I figured we'd do something cute to announce the sex of the baby, and get a big honking sugar cookie out of it.

I hope you are all well, and it feels good to blog again! 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Flank Steak with Soy Sauce and Garlic

Once, a long time ago, I lived in a basement apartment (that's "English basement" to those of us who want to feel better about living underground) in Washington DC right after college with three wonderful ladies, where I made little money and paid what now seems like a blissfully tiny amount in rent.  I hardly went out for dinner in order to save money...not to mention general laziness, but we won't talk about that.  Scrimping money turned out to be a blessing in disguise, though, in that it pushed me to learn how to cook, and to cook often.

Although the meat at our nearby Safeway ("Soviet Safeway" for any of those familiar with DuPont Circle in Washington, DC) was of a quality that I would question using at this point in my life, I didn't know any better at the time and went on my merry way, using the flank steak for a recipe I found on Epicurious.  It has turned out to be one of my favorite recipes, one that I often use when having people over for dinner because it is delicious and so simple (if you've been to my place and eaten this, rest assured the flank steak was of the utmost quality).  The soy sauce in this recipe makes the dish.

Feast your eyes on this incredibly complicated and long list of ingredients:

1/4 cup soy sauce
2 TBS olive oil
5 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp black pepper
1.5 to 2 lbs flank steak

Get your marinade ingredients together (which is basically everything except the flank steak)

Kevin gave me that olive oil dispenser as a gift--isn't it pretty? I loves it.

Pour the marinade over the flank steak.  For marinating, I like to use the resealable bag method, but use whatever works for you.  I put the flank steak in a gallon size resealable plastic bag, put the bag in a dish/bowl (just in case there's some pesky hole or leak in the bag), and pour in the marinade.

Make sure steak is well covered in the marinade, and refrigerate for 3 to 6 hours (leave the bag in the bowl just to be safe). Turn every hour or so to get even marination.

Preheat your broiler, grill, or grill pan.  Remove the steak from the marinade, and shake off excess. Discard the garlic.  You don't have to do this next step, but I used a paper towel to blot the flank steak to make sure that it browned instead of steamed--I did this after one time where I cooked the steak on an indoor grill pan and the apartment filled with smokey steamy marinade-y fumes. At least my guests had a je ne sas quoi scent lingering on their person to help remember the dinner.

I used the broiler method last time which made me happy.  I broiled the steak for 4 to 5 minutes on each side (about 9 minutes total), and it turned out to be a beautiful medium rare.

Slice across the grain at an angle to get your perfect pink rosy slices of hedonistic, savory meat.

Love this dish.  Ta-da!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Broiled Cod with Tomato Caper Sauce

We're going to incorporate more fish into our diet.  I've heard something about fish and omega 3's and DHA's and brains and neurological function and who knows what else, but instead of questioning things, I follow like a lemming.

I actually made the decision to incorporate more fish into our diet about a month ago.  Since that time, I've made a whopping total of 1 fish recipe.  Okay, two, if you count when I made tuna pasta last week.

I pulled this recipe from  SkinnyTaste, a website that I heard of through This Casita.  What I love about this recipe is that you broil the fish, instead of sauteing on the stovetop.  In my quest for more fish recipes, I'm looking for just broiled or baked fish--we don't have a window or a great ventilation system in our kitchen and I have learned from experience that the smell from frying or sauteing a fish will not only linger but become quite funky for days. DAYS, I tell you. My brain health is most definitely not worth days of fish stink.  Anybody could tell you that.

Since it's just the two of us, I knew we wouldn't make it through a full recipe (which calls for 4 fillets) in one night.  And since I'm not a fan of reheated fish (they're so delicate, I think properly cooking them the first time and then reheating them will probably render them super rubbery), I made the sauce for the fish, kept it in a separate container, and each night I would broil only 2 fish fillets.  While the fish was broiling, I would reheat the sauce in the microwave, and spoon over the fish when ready.

Any firm white fish will do for this recipe.  I used cod because they had that at the farmers market.

Adapted from SkinnyTaste


2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
4 medium fish fillets (about 6 oz each) or 6 small fish fillets (about 4 oz each) (a 4 oz portion suited us--we used cod, but tilapia or whatever other firm white fish exist would work as well)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 shallots, minced
2 large tomatoes chopped (since tomatoes are not yet in season, I used one 15-oz can of diced tomatoes, drained--this makes the recipe more on the tomato side, but I love tomatoes)
1 TBS capers
1/4 cup dry white wine
salt and pepper to taste

Serves 4 to 6 (depending on how much fish you apportion to each person)

In a medium saute pan, heat 1 TBS oil oil over medium low heat.  Add garlic and shallots and saute for about 4-5 minutes, until translucent.  You're not trying to brown them.

Hm, must have taken this picture when things were still looking a wee bit opaque.  Cook a little more than this.

Add wine and cook until wine reduces, about 2 minutes.  Add tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, and simmer for about 10 minutes.   


Add capers and continue to cook until the sauce gets a little thick.


Meanwhile, heat up your broiler (also, I covered my broiler pan in aluminum foil for easier clean-up).  Dry your fish fillets well with a paper towel.  Drizzle remaining 1 TBS oil over both sides of each fillet (or, if you're cooking them on separate days like I did, drizzle about 1/2 tsp oil on each), and season both sides with salt and pepper.

Broil for about 7 minutes or until just done in the center (this will vary depending on the thickness of the fish).  Spoon tomato sauce over the fish and serve.

I served this with sauteed swiss chard and couscous.  I feel so virtuous just writing this post.  I suppose that feeling would be justified if I actually follow through on my plan to eat more fish.  Do you have any favorite fish recipes?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Oh Lordy, I've been tagged by the lovely Lauren to answer a few questions!  I "met" Lauren through Weddingbee--she blogged as Mrs. Elephant about all her wedding crafts and the beautiful day. You should check it out! 

I debated for several minutes whether that last sentence should have been "You should check her out!" but that just sounded weird.  What I meant was that you should read her posts and her blog. No feeling her up with your eyes, got it?  Lauren, is this making you uncomfortable?

I'm going to answer the questions she tagged me with, however because there is no way that I know enough bloggers to tag, the buck will stop with me. I realize this is, in a sense, very narcissistic of me to blabber on about myself yet not tag anyone else, but hey, I blog, so that I am narcissistic shouldn't be a surprise to anybody.  I'm also going to very much enjoy answering these questions, because...see previous sentence.

1. When did you start blogging?
I started blogging in 2009 while planning my wedding.  Before that, I would write in a diary and nail the pages to trees and poles in the neighborhood.

One of those sentences is an untruth!

2. What was the destination of your favorite vacation?
Brain is grinding to halt because any "vacation" I have taken cannot be separated from the word "favorite" for me, even though I know that is a violation of the definition of "favorite".  Bali was great for a lot of reasons, but I did have some reservations that I previously blogged about.  We recently went to Cancun, which was great for a long weekend trip that is not too far. We hardly left the resort, though, so it was a real bubble kind of experience. Oh I know--London. Absolutely loved London.  And I would love to go back to Paris.  

Okay I didn't really answer the question that well. Is it possible for someone to be bad at being tagged? Because I seem to be fitting the bill.

3. If you won the lottery, what would be one big splurge that you would make?
Pug Numero Tres! And then a generous bribe to Kevin to let me keep Pug Numero Tres.  But since we're talking about travel, I'd love to splurge on a vacation to Northern Italy.  Kevin and I have talked about going to Italy for quite some time but have not managed to do it.

4. What is your favorite movie?
For a long time, my favorite movie was Dangerous Liaisons. It's kind of sad, though.  Okay, actually pretty sad, which is so unlike me because I usually go for happy things. It's also quite old--I should pick a new favorite.  I do like Coraline a lot--slightly offbeat and macabre (but only slightly), like one of my favorite Etsy shops, Paper Moon Gallery.

5. What is your favorite meal to cook?
I love my pasta with preserved tuna for a relatively quick weeknight meal.

6. Are you more of a winter weather or summer weather type of person?
Winter.  I liquify during summer.

7. What was one of your most memorable dates?
Going to a small play in Soho featuring the college friend of my date, where someone playing Ben Franklin loved cocaine (there was a scene where everyone was *eating* it and dousing each other with it), a silent person crouched in a plastic cube for almost the entire duration of the play, and, here's the whopper, my date's friend had a scene where he was naked from the bottom down with his back to us, and bent over. That was a winner.

8. Can your favorite color be found more than 5 times in your house? (Clothes, dishes, decor, paint color?)
Sage green is my favorite household color.  And yes, it can be found at least 5 times--a lamp, tooth brush container, a painting, one sheet set and one towel set.

9. Do you have a pet?  If so how did you come about naming him or her?
Oh do I have a pet. My baby girls are two pugs named Bunni and Rikki. We did not name them.  We got them when they were over 1 year old and the breeder had already named them, and we didn't feel like we should change their names at that point.  Bunni is short for Texas Bluebonnet Queen, and Rikki is short for Rikki Tikki Tavvi.

10. What was your favorite board game to play as a child?
I vaguely remember Clue as being kind of fun.

11. Do you have any hobbies or collections?
I have a small collection of porcelain and ceramic tea cups from Korea, China and Japan (or at least in those styles or similar), like this one.  I don't know if I really "collect" them, though.  So if you're reading this please don't go buying me a teacup.

And that's it! Thanks for tagging me, Lauren, I do so very much enjoy talking about ME!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Lamb Curry

I want to forewarn you that I don't have a picture of the final product, but this dish is really good.  It's probably one of my favorite things that I've cooked in the past couple of months.  I don't think Kevin is as enthusiastic about it as I am, but everyone has flaws.

I noticed there was a lamb vendor at our farmers' market that I had previously overlooked.  So I went searching for a lamb dish I could make, and found the perfect one in good ol' Joy of Cooking.

Adapted from Joy of Cooking


28 oz. can of whole peeled tomatoes
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp coriander
1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 to 2 lbs boneless lamb stew meat (like shoulder or leg) cut into 1-inch cubes
3/4 tsp salt

Serves 4 to 6 as a main course

Let's deal with the tomatoes first.

Drain and reserve the juice, and roughly chop the tomatoes.  We'll get back to these.

Heat oil in a large skillet or saucepan over medium heat.  Add the sliced onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown.  The recipe said 5 to 7 minutes but mine took about 15 minutes.

This was at the midway point--let them get more brown than this.

Add the spices (the cumin through cayenne) to the onions and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds.

Add 1/2 cup of the chopped tomatoes and 1/4 of the of the tomato juice along with the lamb.

Simmer until liquid is thickened, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Stir in remaining tomatoes and juice.  Add in salt.  Cover, reduce to simmer, and cook until lamb is tender, about 45 to 60 minutes.  Serve with basmati rice.

Even though I don't have a final picture this really was tasty enough that I just had to tell you about it.


Monday, April 9, 2012

Lemon Coleslaw

The unseasonably mild winter that we had (as well as others) led to some unseasonably hot days back in March.  While things have returned to more normal spring temperatures, I made the most of the brief heat wave and made some summery lemon coleslaw from my Gourmet cookbook, and think it's a great one to keep on file and make in the future.

I know I just posted about a different type of slaw (broccoli slaw--very yummy, go check it out!) recently--guess we're a slaw-venly household. Ha ha ha I should have written a dictionary.

I doubled most of the ingredients in the recipe because the original called for 1 lb of cabbage--most cabbages I know of are much heavier than that and I didn't want a half-head of cabbage to rot in the refrigerator (at this point I know I am not always very good at using "halves" or something leftover from a recipe--it's a pet peeve of mind when a recipe calls for "half" of something, like half an onion. Oooh I could just shake my half-fists in anger!).  In the same vein, I replaced the sour cream with plain Greek yogurt because I have also learned from experience that partly used tubs of sour cream eventually grow green in my refrigerator and get tossed.

Adapted from Gourmet

4 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt (or any plain yogurt, strained through a cheesecloth and sieve--set it over a bowl in the fridge overnight)
4 teaspoons low-fat mayonnaise
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
Fresh lemon juice from 1 lemon
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
4 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 small head of green cabbage, thinly sliced (about 1.5 to 2 lbs--yields 6 to 8 cups)
4 medium carrots, cut into julienne strips or coarsely grated
3 to 4 scallions, thinly sliced diagonally (1 cup)
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Serves at least 8 as a side dish

First, make the dressing. Combine the yogurt, mayonnaise, lemon zest, lemon juice, water, salt and pepper in a bowl.  The dressing will be somewhat watery--that's okay.

Put aside the dressing--the flavors will meld and develop.

In the meantime, halve, core and slice your cabbage. We got our cabbage from the farmers market and whether it was because of its origins or the time of year or whatever, it was amazing. I didn't think I could call a cabbage "amazing", but it was so sweet.

Place your sliced cabbage into a large bowl, along with the shredded/grated carrots, scallions and parsley.  Pour the dressing over and toss well to combine.

Let sit for about 1 hour, tossing occasionally, so that the flavors become...cohesive? Anyway.  We ate ours with some pierogi.

I highly recommend this slaw if you would like something lighter than traditional heavy-on-the-mayo slaws--this was very zingy and fresh-tasting.  Ta-da!