Homecoming 2014

That dress we picked out at the end of the summer "just in case" was perfect for Homecoming. Sophie and some of her girlfriends enjoyed an Italian dinner prior to their fashionably late arrival at the dance.

This year she wanted to make sure you could "see that she was wearing make-up," wore high heels, and actually danced.  

The dapper gentlemen is Sophie's childhood friend, Logan who was in town with his parents who ran the Army Ten-Miler with us on Sunday.  He braved the dance with this gaggle of girls.  Sophie got home at 11 p.m., and we were already in bed.  I had a great race the next morning running a 1:15:42 and helping our master's women team to their 4th consecutive victory.  We celebrated with a late brunch at Le Diplomate where we conquered a seafood tower and a slab of foie gras with ease.

Here is an unrelated photo of the recent lunar eclipse/blood moon.  We woke Sophie up to watch, and she came out, looked at the sky for approximately 2 seconds and returned to bed.

Finally, an update.

I'm really glad that Aaron Silverman, chef of the acclaimed Rose's Luxury, let us know how the sausage is made.  I am a notorious hoarder of ethnic ingredients and had everything in my pantry I needed to pull this dish together.  I ate it for dinner and then every day for breakfast the rest of the week.  In Singapore when I wasn't eating kaya toast for breakfast I was eating nasi lemak--a savory breakfast dish with layers of salty/crunchy/sweet flavors.  These bowls are reminiscent of nasi lemak and a heck of a lot easier than making kaya.

Bowl of goodness.

Bowl of goodness.

I've been trying to be better about the cooking--I've made chicken gyros, pesto farro, chocolate chip cookie bars, homemade ricotta, kale chips, meatballs and granola bars this week.  When I was shopping at Safeway this morning the power went out, and I texted Maddy a picture of the darkened meat aisle with the caption "power out at Safeway, going to start looting."  She replied, "Saffron!"  

Luckily it must have been a very local outage because when I left the store there were no zombies in the streets, and I was able to ride to Giant and buy my meatball mix.  Speaking of zombies, I am watching the most recently available season of "The Walking Dead" on Netflix, and I can't imagine how sick of stabbing zombies in the head I would be during an apocalypse because I am super sick of watching other people stab zombies in the head.  

Other accomplishments this week include knitting two hats for Sophie's cross-country coaches, running 14.75 miles at a consistent pace, deadlifting 183 lb. ( which means if Ian is ever incapacitated  I can get him off the floor), and making an awesome playlist for Sophie's cross-country meet.

Kale chips with pesto farro and a bag of Costco pears.

Kale chips with pesto farro and a bag of Costco pears.

Feeling hot, hot, hot.

The hottest day of the summer snuck in just under the wire on the Saturday before Labor Day.  Sophie and her teammates braved the 95F heat and humidity to pull off podium finishes for the Varsity A boys (1st place), Varsity A girls (3rd place),

Vikings on the loose.

Vikings on the loose.

Sophie ran a PR and led the Varsity B girls to a 2nd place finish.  Must have been all the cowbell.

Eat her dust purple jersey boy.

Eat her dust purple jersey boy.

Labor Day Pie Contest

Lots of labor, came home empty-handed.  I am determined to win next time.  A savory corn and bacon pie took second place (Maddy texted me at the time "Corn and bacon?! How 1990.")  A plum pie took first, and the maker wasn't even there to claim her prize.  There were no third places--what the heck?  How tough would it have been to announce a third place?

Don't I look hopeful....

Don't I look hopeful....

No, the bacon-lattice pie didn't win.

No, the bacon-lattice pie didn't win.

Sophie was a more gracious loser, and she was anxious for the contest to be over so she could taste the winning pies.  The youth winner was a blueberry-mint.  She said, "It was good but you definitely couldn't taste the mint."  I'm kicking myself for not encouraging her to put some tarragon into the peach filling of her hand-pies.  I did overhear the judges commenting on how perfectly cooked her crust was.  We had store-bought Boston cream pie for dessert that night which was equally, if not more, exciting  for her.

Wake me up when September ends....

Heat and humidity back with a vengeance.  Just in time for the first cross-country meet this weekend and my mileage ramp-up for the Army Ten Miler.  During the WOD I could barely hold on to my sweaty wall-ball, and I haven't left the house all day.  Poor Maddy, her new house does not have A/C.  It does have composting toilets that, thankfully, are not her responsibility to maintain.  I'm hoping she will help me build this in my backyard once the weather is cooler.  Maybe I'll nail that muscle-up before my 50th birthday.

Is it local? Not likely at $0.97/lb.  

Is it local? Not likely at $0.97/lb.  

With Sophie back in school I did use my relatively free time to make some good dinners including Yotam Ottolenghi's sweet corn polenta and his za'atar roast chicken.  The polenta I topped with a fresh tomato sauce.   You should definitely make the eggplant sauce if you have eggplant--Ottolenghi turned eggplant into a Lee family favorite.  With the tomato sauce it was more like a soup which suited Sophie just fine and packed well for lunching.  Will make again even though it's a pain to cut corn off the cob.  Sophie wants you to know that the number of kernels on the cob = the number of strands of silk.  We are grooming her for Jeopardy.

The za'atar roast chicken was easy and also delicious although Ian said "it's a bit fatty" and Sophie dissected hers with near surgical precision.  I think I will use split breasts next time.  If I do I will make the green tahini sauce because I think breasts have an annoyingly high meat:skin ratio.  Maybe if I bought free-range chicken without their genetically enhanced breasts this would be less of a problem.   The reason I omitted the sauce was because I  made the haricot vert and freekah salad which called for tahini and herbs;  and a half-teaspoon of pure maple syrup.   Really? Was Yottam just rummaging around in his fridge one day trying to use up the odd bits of condiments?  You could probably omit this and nobody would be the wiser.

Speaking of using stuff up, I had some almond flour and coconut flour hogging up freezer door real estate that I needed for Gatorade bottles so I made this "gluten-free, Paleo banana bread."  Except I added butterscotch and chocolate chips, because, you know, the freezer door thing.    I am doubtful that cavemen had access to coconuts or bananas, but I defer to the experts.  Awaiting the verdict from the post-workout teens before I put this recipe in the rotation.

I hear cavemen loved chocolate chips.

I hear cavemen loved chocolate chips.

A tale of two cakes.

The first week of sophomore year is in the books.  Sophie wore her new skirt and carried her new backpack and an old lunchbox.  I was allowed ~3 seconds of time to capture these photos.

Another blurry first day of school shot.

Another blurry first day of school shot.

New backpack.  I give it a month.

New backpack.  I give it a month.

The weather was unseasonably mild until the cross-country team's "runathon."  I made a couple of cakes this week: the apple graham coffeecake from "Good to the Grain" for breakfast and the Texas sheet cake from "Vintage Cakes" for the runathon.  Guess which one I had to throw away the leftovers and which one Maddy and Spencer ate out of the pan when they got here on Saturday?  It was not the whole-grain, fruit-topped number. 

Apple Graham Coffee Cake: delicious but didn't age well.

Apple Graham Coffee Cake: delicious but didn't age well.

Much to Sophie's consternation her teammates kept referring to it as "brownies."  It is most definitely a cake--sloppy and gooey in the afternoon sun..  I wish our pies had pleased the judges like this cake pleased a bunch of teenaged runners.  Spoiler alert, there were no blue ribbons for the Lees at the "Bake Bethesda a Pie" contest. 

Texas sheet cake.  Charmingly unsophisticated.

Texas sheet cake.  Charmingly unsophisticated.

Catheads and Dogs

Since I'm on call this Sunday, chained to a 30 minute radius of the hospital I decided to get some things done around the house, and by get things done I mean fall asleep in the hammock.  If somebody doesn't go into labor in the next 30 minutes I have no excuse for not tackling our Asheville blog posts.

Our favorite breakfast spot was "Biscuithead."  We earned a free biscuit by the end of the week--Ian's favorite was the fried green tomato biscuit while I favored the mimosa fried chicken biscuit.  As advertised, they are as "big as cat's heads" and the reason we didn't try out too many lunch spots in Asheville.  We had stellar dinners at Curate, Plant, Nightbelle, and Luella's. At Curate the following conversation occurred after we had finished most of a pitcher of sangria:

Me, "I think that's Ken Marino"

Ian, "Who's Ken Marino?"

Me, "I'm going to ask him if he's Ken Marino."

Me (to Ken), " Sorry to bother you but are you Ken Marino?"

Ken, "Yes I am"

Me, "Thanks, I thought so."

He then walked over and said, "Is that it?" and proceeded to chat with us for 5 minutes.  Nice guy, and if you haven't seen Party Down or Children's Hospital you may not know who he is either, but he's worth a look.

Luckily for our waistlines, all of the above restaurants required a 3 mile round-trip walk to downtown.  We hit Oskar Blues brewery on our way home from hiking in Pisgah National forest.

There we sat under a corrugated tin roof and watched the rain lash down, happily sipping the world's most alcoholic sampler.  It included Ten Fidy--their deceptively smooth stout with a whopping 10.5% ABV, and Ian's new favorite Old Chub--a nitro Scotch Ale (8% ABV).  

What could make for a better trip besides food, beer and the mountain air?  Getting to see an old friend.  Karen drove over from Fayetteville and spent a couple of days bagging waterfall hikes with us.  This could be the start of a beautiful tradition.

Superfood

The most remarkable thing about this dinner is the fact that Sophie walked to the fishmonger with me to purchase the salmon.  We were going to ride our bikes, but "that makes my legs really tired."  I hate driving to this fishmonger because they only have two parking spots, and they are always full unless you've walked the mile and a half.  After choosing a passionfruit soda Sophie elected to wait outside because she hates even the smell of fish.

I pan fried the salmon and then made a pan sauce of sautéed cherry tomatoes, zucchini and basil, a little butter plus a splash of vermouth.  Sophie just ate the sauce after confirming I didn't cook it in the same pan as the fish (I totally did).  

Her legs were not tired last weekend at the cross-country time trials where she ran 2:20 faster than she did last year earning a top ten finish,  Her coach gave her a shout out on the cross-country mass email, confirming that all the hard work this summer has paid off.  Her summer reading is completed, we bought what we hope is an indestructible binder and a new back-pack, and she is ready for sophomore year.  

Soaking up the culture.

We headed into DC two weekends ago to check out the American Cool exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery which led to a shake at the Shake Shack across the street which led to wandering to the Mall.  We walked through the Wyeth exhibit at the National Gallery of Art and the sculpture garden.  I am pictured below showing my appreciation for a large metal square.

We had a snack at The Source where a really awesome bartender (John?) concocted a mocktail for Sophie and then made her a different mocktail gratis when he saw she had finished the first.  He also only charged us $3 for both mocktails.  I can appreciate the $12 craft cocktail with fine spirits but it kills me to pay $8 for a glorified glass of fruit juice.  Sophie and her friend Leah brought their own seltzer to a pancake house the other day so they could DIY some egg creams with their chocolate milk.  I digress, but not really.....we continued down the street to Daikaya for more snacks where we enjoyed a beautifully crafted but teensy portion of ahi poke.  

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Nonetheless, it was perhaps not $5/bite delicious.  I had a black sesame panna cotta that I am anxious to replicate at home, and Sophie had fried chicken and rice balls.  As I read this, I am realizing that Ian's request for chicken katsu for his birthday dinner may have been inspired by this meal, or maybe it was seeing Duke Kahanamoku in the American Cool exhibit.

Daikaya, home of the $10 tablespoon of poke.

Daikaya, home of the $10 tablespoon of poke.

Birthday dinner Hawaiian-style.

Plate lunch.  Even without macaroni salad, Ian's birthday dinner captured the essence of this quintessential local meal.

I purchased the kimchi and seaweed salad.  The chicken katsu, katsu sauce and ahi poke were home-made.  The katsu recipe was allegedly from L&L Drive-inn, plate lunch Valhalla.  The poke recipe is from my head because anybody who loves Hawaii as much as I do knows how to make a decent ahi poke:

Ahi poke

8 oz. of sashimi-grade ahi cut into 1/2" cubes

soy sauce

sesame oil

sliced scallions

sesame seeds

Korean chili (gochugaru)

Mix all together, adjusting amounts to your taste.

You must serve chicken katsu with plain white rice, and I like to put a layer of thinly sliced white cabbage beneath the chicken, you know, for fiber.

Gun Slinger

I decided to delve into my birthday cookbook: Around the World in 80 Dishes.  I will make some gado gado tonight and we will have Singapore Slings.  It definitely won't be the same drink I remember from the Raffles Hotel--cheaper by far and sadly, not pink.  You are supposed to refrigerate grenadine after opening, who knew?  

We will do without this time, but I would love to make some of my own bitters and grenadine in the future.  

Sophie had a great time at Otakon, and has asked me to teach her how to sew so she can make more costumes in the future.  We made this bag today with minimal frustration.  Stay tuned for pictures of her recent adventures.   Cross-country practice started this morning; I am hoping that the sophomore parents get assigned desserts for the upcoming pasta dinners.  Freshman parents were in charge of pasta, and that got boring pretty fast.

Sans grenadine.  Not so pretty.

Sans grenadine.  Not so pretty.

If you have read this blog for any length of time, you will realize that baked goods are my forte. Today Sophie is going to have a trial run of her hand pies that she will use for the upcoming pie contest.  Her friend, Leah, is coming over and will get an impromptu cooking lesson. This recipe for Persimmon cake caught my eye this weekend while I was perusing the A.O.C Cookbook at Barnes & Noble.  I doubled the recipe so I could use up some of my frozen persimmon puree, but, wow, 7 sticks of butter?!!  I whittled that down to 5 with good results.  It seems to be fine without the maple walnuts and creme fraiche, but it would be a stupendous dessert with them.  Right now it seems like a great cake to snack on or eat for breakfast, and will accompany me to our staff meeting tomorrow.

Sophie and I had a piece when the cake was warm out of the oven, and she said, "you really can taste the cardamom."  She is right, and it's my favorite thing about this cake.  I did have to cover the top with some foil the last 20 min of baking because it was browning too quickly.

I am listening to her making pie crust with her friend and thinking that she may have been paying attention over the years after all.

Too fast.

It's August tomorrow.  Sophie has three more weeks of freedom until her sophomore year.  I convinced her to sign up for the "Bake Bethesda a Pie" contest.  I've entered too, and if there are blackberries left to be had at Homestead Farms I will make a blackberry pie.  If not, it'll have to be peach.  I think Soph will make some sort of hand pie.  The winners of the kids' division in past years have made, in my humble opinion, clunky chocolate-centric pies utilizing pedestrian ingredients like Snickers.

Hopefully not the last berries of the season...

Hopefully not the last berries of the season...

Today she and I made pork buns. I used a premixed flour I got at H-mart.  It's easy to work with and has performed well for me in the past.  Here's what we filled them with:

Ground pork 1 lb.

1 cup pickled mustard greens (found this in Vietnamese store), diced finely

1/2 medium onion, diced finely

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tbs. freshly grated ginger

2 tbs. minced rau ram (or cilantro)

Stir fry vegetables until onion is translucent in a wok with about a tbs of oil.  Add the pork and continue cooking until pork is completely cooked and beginning to brown just a bit.  If there is a lot of juice, keep cooking until mixture is almost dry.  Remove from heat and stir in the minced rau ram.  Allow mixture to cool while you prepare the dough.

Fill buns and steam for 15 minutes.  Serve with a little soy sauce/balsamic mixture (I do about 50/50) that you have sliced a green onion into.  I'm going to take a few to work tomorrow for lunch--you can reheat easily in microwave.

My garden for the most part, continues to tank.  The tomatoes are all wilting, the zucchini has been killed off by squash vine borer, and the cilantro went to seed in a New York minute.  The peppers and Korean sesame have somehow survived.  Oh, and the sunflowers I planted from seed are about 5' tall.  I need to remember this next April.

It killed me to walk down the streets of Asheville and see thriving gardens that were probably watered with bong water.  Lots of hippies in Asheville, but really good biscuits, hiking and beer too.  More on this later with photos.

Not my garden.

Not my garden.

CrossFit July 4th AM vs. PM Smackdown

The people in this post have become my second family.  They are the reason I get out of bed in the wee hours, ride my bike in 15F weather, run through miles in the mud, self-flagellate doing double-unders, and suffer through WODs that leave me unable walk normally for a week (thanks Murph!).  They are also the reason that when I celebrated my birthday the day after this workout I was a stronger, fitter and happier person and not just a year older and wiser.

Our future's so bright.

Our future's so bright.

The sundowners.

The sundowners.

While the a.m. crew talked a good game, even our coordinating t-shirts and sunglasses could not overcome the brute strength and wily strategizing of the p.m. crew.  Their efficient use of time overwhelmed the a.m. crew who seemed to be just running in endless circles.

Pam getting her squat on.

Pam getting her squat on.

Sled drag from Hell.

Sled drag from Hell.

When it came to the sled drag, we saw any potential for a win spiral out of our reach as we dumped our weights twice.  If only it could have come down the tie breaker.  With his ridiculous strength-weight ratio, Andy easily crushed the "hang onto the bar as long as you can" workout.

Hanging out.

Hanging out.

Andy "aka Speed Monkey" FTW!

Andy "aka Speed Monkey" FTW!

 

If one suffers we all suffer. Togetherness is strength. Courage.

Jean-Bertrand Aristide

The champions.

The champions.

Coach Steve and his less hirsute and seriously adorable clone.

Coach Steve and his less hirsute and seriously adorable clone.

Harris's New Do

We are getting used to our shorn dog.  He got a lot of attention on our recent trip to Asheville, and was definitely lower maintenance post-hiking. 

Its MY birthday

It was a day to remember replete with Spam musubi for breakfast, burgers on the grill for dinner and a beautiful birthday cake from a local Korean bakery.  Sophie and Ian were gone for most of the morning preparing, and other than the text asking me "what was the name of that Korean bakery," the day was full of lovely surprises.

Not pictured is the afternoon spent on the river at Riley's Lock, my favorite place to drop a kayak in for a serene paddle.    Just shy of my 5th decade and feeling grateful for my health, my family and friends, and the adventures to come.

Guava chiffon cake from the Shilla Bakery

Guava chiffon cake from the Shilla Bakery

I went to visit Maddy at the farm to continue the birthday celebration at the Abundant Seed where she is interning for the summer.  I weeded, collected eggs, herded goats.  We kayaked, antique shopped, had dinner in Charlottesville, and browsed at Anthropologie.  Maddy bought me "Around The World in 80 Dishes," and I made the mussels steamed in Guinness for Ian and I when I got home. I stopped at the Barboursville Vineyards on the way home (my stomach nicely lined with a Waffle House breakfast) and wished I had time to enjoy a full tasting session.  I came away with a few bottles for the "cellar"--2 each of the 2013 Chardonnay Reserve, 2011 Nebiollo Reserve and 2012 Cabernet Franc Reserve.

Spam musubi, it's what's for breakfast.

Spam musubi, it's what's for breakfast.

July 4th

I will detail the Crossfit Daily Medicine July 4th smack down in a separate post, but suffice it to say, I was working on one hour of sleep post night shift.  These crazy sunglasses were mostly to hide the giant bags under my eyes.

'Murica

'Murica

After the workout, I powered through without napping fueled by friendship, wine and a sparklingly clear day.  We sipped Brad and Angelina's crisp rose while watching the kids try out Sophie's new throwing knives.  It took them no time at all to destroy two pizza boxes taped together, but I fear we are not yet ready for the zombie apocalypse. 

In the kitchen with Kerrie.

In the kitchen with Kerrie.

The dinner menu was a mix of American and Korean with kalbi, Brookville Hotel coleslaw, potato salad, burrata with tomatoes, pumpkin cheesecake and blueberry slab pie.

Blueberry slab pie.

Blueberry slab pie.

Even though we were able to get to and from the fireworks last year in under 3 hours, I was way too tired to contemplate the slog on the metro this year.  We settled for sparklers in the backyard.

Happy Birthday America!

Happy Birthday America!

Western Maryland Weekend

Just two weeks after the Ragnar Trail debacle, we headed west again to spend a weekend with our friends at their condo in Deep Creek Lake.  The weather was much more conducive to hiking, swimming and enjoying the great outdoors. 

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My favorite hike was at  Swallow Falls State Park where an easy 2 mile loop passed by multiple waterfalls and swimming holes.  Famished after dropping nearly all our Chex Mix, we treated ourselves to ice cream at the end of the trail.    

I cooked up a batch of  carnitas  and brought all the fixings.  Avocados are in short supply, possibly due to the Mexican drug cartels, so here is my recipe for socially conscious green salsa:

1 Poblano chile

2-4 tomatillos

2 large cloves garlic

1/2 large white onion

one cup cilantro, lightly packed

olive oil

salt

Preheat grill or broiler and roast chile and tomatillos until well charred.  Remove skin from chile.  Place all ingredients into a blender or food processor and pulse until evenly pureed.  Adjust seasonings as needed.

Crepes for Dinner

We haven't been camping yet this summer due to a variety of other commitments.  Cooking and dining outdoors is one of my favorite things about camping.  Our new tradition this summer has been Sunday meals in the backyard.  The weather and bugs have been much improved vs. summer 2013, and we continue to pat ourselves on the back for keeping the canopy up.

Sophie left for Camp Letts today, and I will head down to visit Maddy at The Abundant Seed on Tuesday.  We had a great visit with good friends from Kansas, en route to their new duty station in Richmond.  Our children have known each other literally more than half their lives.  There are no friends like old friends.  Pictures will be forthcoming.  It made 4th of July (our nation's birthday) and 5th of July (my birthday) extra special.

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Tonight Ian and I had a salad that included our first tomato and zucchini from the garden.  Seems like summer is already passing by too quickly.  Looking forward to our trip to Asheville later this month and reconnecting with another great friend from Korea while Sophie attends the Nike Smoky Mountain running camp.  

Freshman year, check!

Freshman year, check!

The Return of the Ginito

Alas, mulberry season is over.  We had enough to make a sweet cocktail, but the yogurt mulberry cake will have to wait til next year.  You could easily substitute blackberries.

That's a white mulberry in there, not some sort of grub.

That's a white mulberry in there, not some sort of grub.

I made a mulberry simple syrup by adding about a cup of mulberries to one cup water + one cup sugar, simmering until the berries broke down, then straining.  As you can imagine, do not wear white while preparing or drinking these cocktails.  

Gentle muddling with a tiny rolling pin.

Gentle muddling with a tiny rolling pin.

Mulberry Ginitos

1.5 oz gin

1 oz mulberry simple syrup

0.5 oz fresh lemon juice

6 mint leaves per drink, along with a few berries

Seltzer or sparkling water

Muddle berries/mint.  Fill glass with ice. Add remaining ingredients and stir.  Top with some seltzer.  

Catch and release fireflies.

Catch and release fireflies.