Blog Tour

I was invited to participate in this tour by one of my favorite and dearest and BFFest friends, Sherri Jo of The Adventures of Kitchen Girl. I met her waaaay back in the early days of food blogging, before Facebook share groups and Pinterest. (Yes, there was a time before Pinterest ~ believe it!) If you have some Sherri Jo in your life, you have a pretty good thing, so I strongly advise you to check out her blog, her Facebook page, and her Twitter feed without further delay.

While you’re checking out Sherri Jo’s sites, be sure to pin a few of her awesome recipes. Two of my faves:

Asian Style Beef “Hot Pockets”

Beer Cheese Soup with Vegetables and Andouille Sausage

Blog Tour Questions

1. What am I working on?

I’m currently writing 3 blogs ~ Eat Real (food), Growlers and Lace (craft beer), and Run the Bend (running). I have a romance novel (under a pen name) coming out this summer, and I’m in the process of shopping a cookbook proposal. Beyond that, I’ve outlined 3 more cookbooks, a  couple of YA novels, a romance novel trilogy, and I’m working on a collection of short stories. I also write nonfiction pieces for a Vegas-based lifestyle magazine and a few other outlets.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
My approach to food is “real food for real people” ~ whole, quality food prepared in satisfying and interesting ways. I love to play with flavors, textures, and colors in my cooking. I’m a scratch cook and baker; I use only very minimally processed foods. I’ve been a food writer/editor for more than 20 years and a pastry chef for the last five, so I have a pretty large base of culinary experience to draw from. I try to develop recipes that are accessible to people of all levels of culinary skill, so it’s important to me that they be accurate and well-written.  
3. Why do I write what I do?
I like to cook! I also like to eat ~ I really like to eat. Writing about food gives me a great way to justify experimenting with recipes all the time. Recipe development is also something of a creative outlet ~ it combines writing, photography, and food artistry.

4. How does my writing process work?
Like many writers, I have an idea feed going through my head all the time. I don’t keep specific hours at my desk (the joy of freelancing!), but I do keep journals and files of ideas and write stuff down in short, cryptic bursts all the time. I like to write fiction at my computer, but I write recipes longhand and then retype them. It helps me think about the process of preparation and makes me more careful about details. Fiction is better suited for typing (for me) because if I’m not writing very quickly, I tend to edit as I go…a bad, bad habit formed from 20+ years of being an editor.

My Featured Faves

Kelly from Sass & Veracity ~ Hmm…how to describe Kelly? She writes, she photographs, she cooks, she travels…she’s witty and sassy and her blog is gorgeous and elegant. I’ve known Kelly from our earliest days of blogging, and she’s just continued to grow and evolve as an artist. Treat yourself and visit her blog!

Fideua: Spanish Pasta with Clams, Mussels, and Shrimp
Strawberry Key Lime Cream Cheese Cake

Marye from Restless Chipotle ~ Marye is a wise woman of many talents, not the least of which includes writing with razor-sharp clarity about some very tough subjects. Marye is my sister from another mother: she is a wearer of tall, sexy shoes; a kicker of a$$; a funny, smart, take-no-crap babe. And she’s from Texas, y’all! You, like me, will be glad you met her.

Heirloom Sweet Potato Gratin
Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Patsy from FamFriendsFood ~ I don’t know exactly how long I’ve known Patsy, but I do know we met in the early days of blogging. And Patsy has the distinction of being one of the only blogger friends I’ve ever actually met in person! And that, I can tell you, was a rare treat. Patsy’s recipes are warm, welcoming, and delightful ~ just like she is. Want to find something wonderful for family dinner? Head to her site!

Braised Short Ribs to Warm the Tummy

Caramel Apple Bread

I hope you enjoyed this sampler of some of my favorite blogs. Please make sure to take the time to stop by and visit them; trust me, you’ll come away happier and hungrier!

Avocado Green Goddess Dressing

Creamy, light, rich, and perfect for summer salads, this version of the ’70s fave, Green Goddess, is going into heavy rotation at my house. I didn’t add anchovies because I was out of them, but I highly recommend tossing in a filet or two before blending.

The lemon juice will help preserve the lovely green of the avocados, but I probably wouldn’t make this more than a few hours in advance. I find mine stays pretty overnight, but it does eventually darken as the avocado oxidizes. If this happens, no worries…it’s still delicious.

Avocado Green Goddess Dressing

Yield: About 1 cup

  • 1 ripe avocado, pitted and diced
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt  
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as desired. If desired, thin with a tablespoon of milk or water at a time.
Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. Use within 2 days. 

Leftovers: Great or Gross?

Leftovers…everyone has them. Some people plan them, others despise them, and some view them as a happy consequence of making too much of a good thing.

I happen to like leftovers most of the time. There are some foods that do very well giving an encore performance and others that are opening-night stars but flame out. The thing is, this definition changes with the eater. What I consider to be a bang-up leftover meal might make you reach for the phone and a takeout menu.

I decided to make a list of the items I find myself looking forward to as leftovers and the ones I usually suffer through (because I feel too guilty to just throw them out). These are just preferences on my part. You may (probably will) disagree. In which case I’d love to hear your picks.

Leftover All-Stars

  1. Lasagna/manicotti/stuffed shells. YES. If I make lasagna for dinner one night, I wake up in a good mood the next day just thinking about leftovers. 
  2. Pulled pork. Just gets better, especially if it’s sauced. 
  3. Spiral ham. Cook for a couple of hours, eat for a week.
  4. Meatloaf. I prefer this the next day–pan-warmed slices of meatloaf on a roll with a little mayo and mustard are heaven. Heaven, I tell you.
  5. Chili. My idea of the ideal make-ahead meal. Even resurrected from the freezer, it’s delicious.

Leftover Fails

  1. Pizza. Hot or cold. Pizza is one of my very favorite foods. But I’ve never been a fan of reheated pizza; never eaten cold pizza for breakfast. I don’t even fully understand that concept. 
  2. Pot pie. So delicious on day 1, so mushy ever after. 
  3. Pasta Alfredo/macaroni and cheese. As many times as I’ve tried to, I’ve never been able to resurrect a cheese sauce successfully. I’m usually left with pasta clumped with cheese and swimming in butter. Which might have it’s charms, but it’s just not the same.
  4. Cream soups. Just, nope. 
  5. Ribs. So sad, but no. The meat gets stringy and greasy. I’ve found a work-around, though. If we happen to have any leftover ribs, I cut the meat from the bone and reheat it that way, with a little BBQ sauce. 

Now it’s your turn. Which leftovers do you look forward to from the minute you snap down the lid on your Rubbermaid containers? Which ones do you avert your eyes from as they languish on the fridge shelf?

Chocolate Velvet with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Chocolate. It heals all wounds. Stops time. Says “I love you” or “I’m sorry” or “it’s Tuesday” in every language. Chocolate doesn’t judge, it just offers it’s broad shoulders for crying on or hoisting to celebration.

So, what, exactly, is Chocolate Velvet? “Velvet” is not an actual pastry term. It’s a little like saying “Chocolate Surprise,” but more descriptive. To me, this dessert is something like the love child of chocolate mousse and a brownie: creamy and smooth, it melts in your mouth, but it’s dense and intensely chocolaty. You can eat it warm or chilled. You can eat it plain or capped with a snowy mound of vanilla ice cream. You can share it with a loved one, but you probably won’t. Better make enough for everyone to have his or her own.

Chocolate Velvet

Yield: 6 servings

  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I like Perugina)
  • 1.5 ounces butter, room temp
  • 4 large eggs, room temp
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Optional flavorings:

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons coffee, almond, or hazelnut liquor
Vanilla bean ice cream to serve (optional)
Chocolate syrup to garnish (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease six 6-ounce ramekins with nonstick baking spray. Place ramekins in a 13×9-inch glass baking dish or roasting pan. 
  2. Melt chocolate and butter together in the microwave or in a double boiler; stir until smooth. Allow to come to room temperature.
  3. Beat eggs with sugar until light and foamy–about 5 minutes. Add vanilla extract and additional flavoring, if using; beat 1 minute more. 
  4. Fold about 1/4 cup into cooled chocolate mixture to lighten; add chocolate mixture to beaten eggs and fold gently to combine completely.
  5. Divide batter among the six ramekins. Pour very hot water into baking dish to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees F 20 to 25 minutes, until velvets are set and the top is no longer glossy. Remove from water bath and allow to cool 10 minutes on rack. Eat warm or let cool completely, then wrap in plastic wrap and chill. You can eat them cold or rewarm in a microwave for 20-30 seconds.
  7. Serve with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and drizzle with chocolate syrup to garnish, if desired.

Apple Cinnamon Granola with Roasted Almonds and Pepitas

Yesterday, I ran 41 miles. Then I came home, slept, watched the World Cup and ate delivery pizza, and pretty much called it a day. Today, I’m a little more ambitious. I toasted an English muffin and spread peanut butter on it. I got my sneakers on my feet. I walked up and down the stairs and didn’t cry. Also, I made a batch of this super-delicious granola because it is unbelievably easy to make, is perfect over Greek yogurt, and it doesn’t require more than a few minutes of standing to produce it. Also, it’s pretty good for you, which is a nice thing when your body is trying to recover from running 41 miles.

I dry my apples in a dehydrator, but if you don’t have access to one and want to dry your own apple slices, try my oven-drying method.

Apple Cinnamon Granola with Roasted Almonds and Pepitas

Yield: about 6 cups

  • 3 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup almonds, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup pepitas
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup dehydrated apple slices, chopped
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, nuts, pepitas, brown sugar, honey, coconut oil, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and salt. Toss to coat all ingredients.
  2. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Grease a large rimmed baking sheet with the tablespoon of butter. Pour oat mixture out onto baking sheet and use a spatula to smooth it down, covering the entire sheet. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes at 250 degrees F, stirring the oat mixture every 15 minutes. The mixture will turn golden brown and dry out as it bakes. It will firm up as it cools.
  3. Leave on baking sheet until completely cool, then sprinkle with dried apple pieces. Pour cooled granola into a large container with a tightly fitting lid. Will keep for at least a week at room temperature.

Rainy Run

“I always like walking in the rain, so no one can see me crying.”
― Charles Chaplin

Today it rained in Las Vegas, which is something that happens approximately every other blue moon. The first dime-size drops began hitting the ground as I was halfway through mile 1 of a 6-mile run. By the start of mile 2, there were sheets of rain slicing sideways through the warm air and I’d stopped trying to clear water from my eyes. My daughter took off her glasses, as the rain-streaked lenses were more hazard than help. We ran on happily. 

I just love rain runs. When I lived on the East Coast, summertime rain was my absolute favorite weather to run in. New York summers can be beastly hot, augmented by oppressive humidity that sometimes makes running feel more like swimming. Rain cuts the mugginess, drives away the droves of midsummer insects, and ensures that there will be very few runners competing for trail or shoulder space. Heavenly.

Here in Vegas, where the relentless sun makes running anytime from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. feel like working out in a kiln, rain to run in feels celebratory to me. I couldn’t believe we were three of only a small handful of people running on the paved loop around the soccer fields. Where was everyone? Didn’t they know it was raining?

When I was a kid, barring lightning, fist-sized hail, or frogs falling from the sky, my mother would send us outside to play, year-round. She’d invariably answer our plaintive whining about rain or cold with, “Go get some fresh air. You’re not made of sugar.”

To be honest, this made me feel a combination of self-pity and righteous indignation back then, when I would have rather spent every waking minute with a book and a cookie. But now, it makes sense. Human skin is surprisingly water resistant, wet clothing dries, and splashing around in the rain is just fun.

Thanks, Mom.

Heading out for a wet one? Here are some tips on running in the rain:

  • Protect your skin. Wet skin chafes easily, so lube your hot spots (feet, inner thighs, etc.) with something before you head out. My favorite lube is Trail Toes anti-friction cream. I smear it over my feet to prevent blisters from running in wet socks and shoes.  
  • Wear a hat with a visor to keep the rain out of your eyes.
  • If you wear glasses, consider wearing contacts for rainy runs. 
  • Vehicles may not be looking for runners in inclement weather, so exercise extra caution if running anywhere near traffic.
  • Wear reflectors to be extra visible, even in daylight.
  • If it’s cold out, pay attention to layering. A water-resistant jacket can help you stay warm. (Make sure it has vents to release body heat, though, or you’ll end up in your own personal sauna.)
  • Don’t run if there’s a chance of lightning. Being electrocuted is no one’s idea of a good time.
  • Have fun, puddle jumper!

What’s your take? Do you love or hate rainy runs?

Filed under: Las Vegas, Road Running, Trail Running Tagged: training, Weather