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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Brown Rice Penne with Fire House Cheddar (aka Gourmet Mac N Cheese)

My goal as the end of the week rolls around is always to clear my fridge, so I made this up on the spot.

Started with some cut up chard and a cut up sweet red onion I had got from the farmers market last week in a pan with olive oil. Then added some green peppers and garlic. Found some left over tomato sauce (not much, just maybe half a cup) so I poured that in. Then heated up some brown rice penne from TJ. While waiting for the pasta, I found some awesome cheese I had bought last week (Fire House Cheddar) and Mozzerella. I started grating and decided to grate the entire half block of cheese I had left. I added it to my mix of vegetables and added in the penne. The more cheese I added, the more I realize this is probably how someone makes Mac N Cheese!

The fire house cheddar is super spicy already, I even added some pepper flakes. This is definitely the best Mac N Cheese I've ever eaten! Forget the calories for a day :)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Swiss Chard

We followed this recipe for dinner. The sweet (red) green onions and the bright yellow chard from the farmers market were just delicious! We also added shitake and oyster mushrooms into the recipe. The consistency was a lil too watery but I'll take any hint of alcohol (white wine) that I can get :)

Kale Chips

This surely was an expensive bunch of kale if our bikes were taken at the same time we paid for this.

We made chips again, this time enough to feed 5 people and the cable guy! A little bit of new experimentation shows you should not stuff all you can onto a oven pan but spread it out so that theres only one layer of kale there. It took about 15-18 min to finish at 350 degrees.

Also, we missed balsamic vinegar as the original recipe states but it tastes so good without it.

Matzo Pancakes

I've decided to treat my $500 loss of a bike as a weekend vacation in SF, where if I didn't have the luxury of the lovesack, the delicious food and kitchen there at the Palms, I would definitely have spent that much.

So let's talk about food instead! This weekend of food was yummmy! Mario introduced me to Matzo. I've heard about unleavened bread in the bible but was never sure people actually ate this for Passover. So first, I had it with my omlette with shitake mushrooms and tomatos.

Then he crushed some Matzo and poured hot water on it to soften them. Then he mixed in some eggs. Then fried them in patty shaped portions. I wasn't sure what to expect until I had some. Yummmy!! I had never eaten anything like it before. Then I found out it goes well with condensed milk...mmmm saturated fat and sugar. mmmm why do you taste so good :)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Bye Bike :(

I've been lucky so far that I'd never got my car towed or stolen or any other method of transportation. Until today. I mean, I am fully aware that I had the Napa bike ride NEXT week and was going to go for a short bike ride today to prepare.

We figured that biking to the Farmers market is much faster than the 30 min walk there, so me and Kat went. We parked the bikes in the corner of Mission and Embarcadero a little before the crowds of the Farmers Market. There were about 6 other bikes there when we locked up our bikes. I gave it a tug to make sure the bikes were locked and joked about how it'd be funny if the bikes were to disappear since I had my race next week.

Sure enough, an hour later and after a yummy smoked salmon sandwich lunch and buying vegetables and fruits, we walk to our bikes...but ITS GONE. Not only are OUR bikes gone, but there are no bikes there at all except for one. We walked around the building, dazed and confused. And yeah, sure enough it was gone.

Goodbye new tires, tubes, bike pump, comfy seat I had *just* put on the bike in the past few months and the practice rides and adjustments I've done to get it ready for next week. I shall refrain from using inappropriate words to express my frustration and confusion and instead replace it with symbols: (*#$&)(*&!@#(*!&@$(*%&$^!(*!!!!!!

If anybody sees a white/red Trek bike in Bay Area Craigslist this week let me know. I guess the positive thing is I can get a new nice bike.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Post #100: Thank you World :)

Google Analytics actually gives me a good idea of where my friends are in the world :) In all of 31 countries!

I can't believe it's already been 5 months since my attempt at starting a new lifestyle.

Thanks for all your support so far.
Thanks for all the kind words and feedback.
Thanks for going out to the farmers market and buying vegetables like Kale and Leeks.
Thanks for sending me useful recipes and articles.
Thanks for your generous donations to the Tour De Cure.
Thanks for sharing your own experiences with weight loss and battling diabetes.
Thanks for suggestions of local hiking and biking trails.
Thanks for cooking and trying out new recipes with me.
Thanks for volunteering to eat my (very) experimental cooking which isn't always edible.
Thanks for not minding the brown rice or lack of meat or trying new vegetarian restaurants with me.
Thanks for reminding me that I'll never be Vegetarian while eating yogurt or cesar salads or fish or meat.
Thanks for going hiking or biking or bootcamp or the gym with me.
Thanks for participating in a weight challenge and volunteering to treat me to a nice yummy dinner when I win.
Thanks for wanting to go to Half Dome or Machu Picchu.
and finally...Thanks for reading!!

I am truly grateful and will say that this blog has and will continue to help set me on the right healthy path for life.

I haven't put hard dates to any of my goals so far. But here's the goal of the year: Since my first posting was on my birthday when I was at my unhealthiest, I target that my birthday in 2009 will be when Thu loses 50lbs.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Rancho San Antonio - Black Mountain Trail

What a great sunny weekend in the bay area! It might have been just a tad too hot (High of 90F/32C). Today we braved the 10 mile hike at Black Mountain in Rancho San Antonio. It was a 2300 ft climb (toughest in the first mile and in the last mile) The rest was decent switch backs. We didn't even rest too much and it took about 6 hours. I'm not sure I'd recommend doing this hike when it's scorching hot outside. Some beginning parts are shaded but once you get on top of the power lines, the sun is just brutal. The end is beautiful though, rolling fields, and awesome views of the entire Bay Area.

Darnit, how come it doesn't at all compare to:
  • Half Dome - 17 miles round trip and 4800 ft climb. (May 23)
  • Machu Picchu is 27 miles. (June 1)

Can you believe that someone would hike all this willingly? She must seriously be out of her mind!!!!!

  • View Route Map
  • View Pictures
  • Roasted Beets with Dill Vinaigrette

    You know, for the past few weeks we've gotten beets and they look so intimidating since I've never touched them or handled them before. Firstly, the red stains everywhere look exactly like blood. How could something like this taste good??

    Oh how wrong I was. We roasted some beets today and they were DELICIOUS! I remember having beets at the salad bar and hating it. But after you roast them, they smell and taste like a potato!!

    1. Preheat to 400 degrees.
    2. Wash, remove roots.
    3. Wrap individual beets in aluminum foil.
    4. Roast until skewer inserted into beet comes out easily (45-60min)
    5. Unwrap, cool down, peel skin, slice 1/4 inch thick.

    While waiting for the beets to roast, we made this Dill Walnut Vinaigrette.
    1. Roasted a 1 cup chopped walnuts
    2. Combined: 2 tablespoon red wine vinegar, juice from one lemon, a bundle of shallots (minced) and a bundle of dill (minced), 12 tablespoon of olive oil.

    After the beets were done and sliced, toss the dressing and the beats and walnuts together.

    This was a definite treat and surprise since I expected nothing from this hideous looking vegetable :) I really recommend this recipe!

    Other items on the menu today included:

  • pasta with broccoli and roasted red peppers topped with hot chilli flakes and parmesan cheese ..and a hint of sausage (which I didn't realize until it was too late.)
  • salad with avocado, cheese, tomatoes...and bits of bacon (which I did remove!)
  • japanese curry with mushrooms and onions...and beef (which I removed all but one piece)
  • Los Gatos Creek Trail

    You know, I love Youtube!! Instead of taking my bike into the shop because I know next to nothing about bikes, I looked up how to adjust my front and rear derailleur and sure enough, theres a ton of helpful videos. Now I know how my gears work and what those cables from the gear shifters actually do. And what the lil + and - screws are. Finally I can use all my gears!

    So off I went to Campbell Park.
    Of course I'm directionally challenged, even with a GPS watch. I picked one way to go, thinking it goes to Los Gatos, but of course it goes to South San Jose - which is fine since the trail wasn't going to be 25 miles round trip. When it ended in the Willow Glen community, I turned around and went through some nice parks, lakes, dams, and through Los Gatos. After that it's no longer paved or flat and the hills are just ridiculous. I went as far as my legs could take me. But once I saw the gigantic hill at the Lexington Reservoir, I was about done :) The ride back was nice and down hill for the most part and was much much quicker. So with the detour to Willow Glen twice, the ride was 25 Miles in ~3 hours with about 4 snack/rest stops. It was definitely a nice light no elevation trail.

    Next week I'll do Sawyer Camp!

    Tuesday, April 14, 2009

    Minestrone Soup Part Deux

    After being enlightened by how much vegetables can be used up by making soup, I decided to make a variation of the Minestrone soup on the weekend for my consumption the rest of the week.

    Sunday, April 12, 2009

    Mission Peak Round 2

    Today we braved mission peak again, this time I kidnapped my roommate to come too :) This time was way tougher than last week. First it was really hot as we were ascending but we were making good time ~50 min to get from the bottom to the rocky area... Then I decided to take a detour to avoid the rocky top area, but that turned out to be 2x longer and I didn't actually avoid the rocky top. Then as we descended, we took a "shortcut" which essentially was me sliding down dirt in a steep decline down the mountain into some cows. It took us a lot longer but at least the view of the sunset all the way down was priceless.

    It took 3h30min!

    Minestrone Soup

    I really love cooking at Chris' kitchen!! He's got the best cookbooks, perfect utensils, pots/pans, and the magic bullet. So today we made the best use of all vegetables in the best Minestrone Soup I've ever had. We followed this recipe closely and the results were absolutely perfect. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera to show off how awesome it really was. I did pack some left overs home so I'll take a picture tomorrow.

    We started cooking a Chicken Pot Pie and Minestrone Soup at 7 and finally ate dinner after 10 :) It was so worth it.

    Step 1: I finally made "Classic Pesto" with a recipe instead of my previous experiments of throwing in whatever I could find.

    1/2 cup pine nuts
    3 medium cloves garlic
    2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
    2 tablespoon packed fresh parsley leaves (optional)
    7 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
    1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese

    1. Toast nuts in small heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently until just golden and fragrant. 4-5 min.
    2. Add garlic to the empty pan. Toast, shaking the pan occasionally, until fragrant and the color of the cloves slightly about 7 min. Transfer garlic to plate; cool, peel, chop.
    3. Place basil and parsley in heavy-duty gallon-sized zipper-lock plastic bag. Pound the bag with the flat side of a meat pounder or a rolling pin until the leaves are bruised.
    4. Place nuts, garlic, herbs, 1/2 teaspoon salt in the Magic Bullet (blender) until smooth. Transfer mixture to a small bowl, stir in the grated parmesan cheese.

    Step 2: Chop Veggies for the soup
    (3/4 cup) leeks, white and light green parts sliced thin crosswise
    (3/4 cup) chopped carrots and parsley root
    (3/4 cup) chopped onions
    (3/4 cup) chopped stalks celery
    (1 1/4 cup)-4 turnips diced (since we didn't have a medium baking potato
    (1 1/4 cups) chopped zucchini

    Step 3: Add the above vegetables into a stockpot and bring to a boil with
    3 cups spinach leaves
    1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes packed in juice, drained and chopped
    8 cups water
    1 parmesan cheese rind about 5 by 2 inches** (secret ingredient - they recommend parmigiano-reggiano :)

    Step 4: Stir and leave the cover open. Put the heat to medium and leave for an hour.

    Step 5: Add some pasta in for about 8 min.

    Step 6: Add in 1/4 cup of Classic Pesto and 1 can of cannellini beans.

    Step 7: Eat right away.

    This has got to be my favourite vegetable soup reciple of all time. What a great ending to a great day of eating and exercising. Not that anybody follows any recipes I ever post but if you do, try this one if you happen to have all these vegetables on hand!

    Saturday, April 11, 2009

    Biking in SF

    After talking about it for what seems like months now, we finally went on a bike ride from SOMA across the golden gate bridge today and back. 19.9 miles! There's always been some excuse - waking up too late, rainy, windy, cloudy but we finally went !! It was a beautiful day in SF and for the 2.75 years I've been in the Bay Area, it's the first time I took this ride. Needless to say it was BEAUTIFUL after ditching the crowds from Fisherman's Wharf across to Fort Mason, Crissy Fields then finally Golden Gate bridge. Unfortunately I brought a camera without an SD card which essentially made it a paper weight so pictures are from Lobster/Karena's phone instead.

    We stopped by Fort Mason at Green's. I've been meaning to check this place out since yelp seems to rave about it. The annoying part was the restaurant was completely empty and they told us it'd be a 20-30 min wait. When I took a walk to the restroom, there were at least 10 empty tables. Anyway, we had Greens-to-go instead. Instantly when the Goat Cheese sandwich with Watercress out in the sun at Fort Mason, I was a happy camper. I'd like to go back to try to sit in meal sometime.

    I totally recommend this bike ride (4th&King along the waterfront across the Golden Gate bridge and back). We didn't end up making it in Sausalito but there'll definitely be a next time where I actually bring an SD card to take pictures.

    I'm a little worried about my bike's gears - I need to get it tuned up this week. I basically can't get into the high or the low gears. Some of the hill climbs on the way to the bridge was tough, I had to get off and walk sometimes :( The way back was such a breeze. I just really hope that the Napa Tour De Cure course is reasonably not hilly - I've convinced myself I can do 20 miles and still feel my butt, arms and legs. I'll do a 25 mile ride next week.

    Update: Doesn't seem like the trail will be too hilly:

    Thursday, April 9, 2009

    Goal #3 - 25 lbs lost!

    Wow, slow and steady I have reached another milestone!

    I'm not sure if my sleeping habits and stress levels or any kind of routine has been commendable to talk about this past month. I still make a concerted effort to work out and cook no matter what - although squeezing this new lifestyle with everything else I need to do in life has been a big challenge that I have yet to fully sort out. I really wish a day had about 30 hours in it. I am disappointed that I can't sleep before 2am for the past few weeks :(

    Fennel Dandelion Spinach Salad

    So this is an experiment gone wrong. Hmm, I think my experimentations for vegetables this week have not been so good but at least it's a learning experience.

    Fennel at first smell and taste (I've never seen it before in my life) is like licorice. Texture like celery. Hmm I don't like licorice or celery. I think most fennel dishes are soups or broths since its so strong. Anyway I found that one of Alice Waters' recipe was to saute it with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper - just like bok choy - to brown it. However the layers were still too thick and it tasted like licorice. Anyway to save the dish I added some green garlic, dandelion, spinach, basil and thyme. Those tasted infinitely better! So really, don't follow this recipe :)

    Also, I pan fried some extra firm tofu with garlic then added some garlic spicy sauce and green onion. And had everything with my favourite rice mixture.

    Today for lunch, I happened to be at home so I combined some egg white + left over tofu + dandelion. Added in my left over 7 grains of rice to make the healthiest fried rice I've ever eaten in my life. I have no idea why I ever want to eat out again.

    Sunday, April 5, 2009

    Dandelion Pesto Spaghetti with Roasted Butternut Squash

    Yummmmy. This has got to be my best gourmet dinner I've cooked.

    We switched to Two Small Farms these past few weeks but I've been away. I took the whole package this week which included many vegetables I had never seen before! Dandelion Greens (Frastigliata), Fennel, Beets, Green Garlic, Cilantro, Thyme.

    When in doubt, I make pesto :) I combined dandelion greens, green garlic, cilantro, thyme along with spinach and olive oil. I added some garden cheese and a bit of pepper. I have NO idea which greens there made a really spicy kick to the pesto. Maybe the dandelion? Who knows, I've always thought dandelions were just pretty flowers, who thought I'd cook them one day. Anyway being a fan of spicy, I LOVED this pesto sauce.

    Roasted Butternut Squash
    After reading that squash don't go bad for weeks, I kept this one for 3 weeks! I used a carrot peeler to take out the skin, took out the seeds and cut it into 1 inch slices. Put some olive oil, salt and pepper and baked it at 375 degrees for 40 min. The thinner slices turned out to be like chips :) The thicker ones are so juicy and tasty.

    Dandelion Greens Fettucine:
    This was a failure so I won't really write it in detail. I tried to follow a recipe that got me to blend the dandelion with eggs then add flour until it hardened and cut it into pasta strips. I dunno what happened here but it tasted more like a pizza dough. I might make it into a pizza tomorrow.

    Brown Rice Spaghetti:
    Well since the make-my-own pasta experiment didn't go well, I always have trusty Trade Joe's Brown Rice Spaghetti around in emergencies like this.

    So all 3 are tried and tested and have come out of my kitchen before. But together...the spicy pesto with the roasted butternut squash and the chewy spaghetti. There's no words to describe it. I've definitely not had this combination in a restaurant before. The flavours were so distinct yet complimented each other. I'd definitely have this as a signature dish at Chez Thu.

    This weekend was exactly what I needed. We biked to SJC today and discovered some new trails. I'm surprised my legs are still functioning after the hike yesterday. This meal really wrapped up a much needed R&R. I need it for the tough road ahead.

    Mission Peak

    After a terrible week of jet lag, no exercise and high stress, you could just see the steam coming out of my head by Friday. I finally had a good nights rest of 15 hours and was convinced to go to Mission Peak. So I have to say I've been very bad at getting out and hike to train for my Macchu Picchu trip in June. Actually by bad, I mean I haven't yet gone on a steep incline hike this year (Great Wall of China last week was probably the steepest so far).

    So the last time I went to Mission Peak was 2 years ago, and 20 lbs heavier. It was the worst time I've had. The sun was burning hot, the landscape was dry and burnt, the hills and elevation were just hell. I must have stopped every minute on the way up and down. It took us 6 hours that day if I remember correctly and I vowed never to go to Mission Peak again. Here I am, +20lbs:

    Ok, fast forward to today. I finally got myself to Mission Peak at 6pm to meet Tim. We started walking and walking. The grass was green, the weather was great - not so hot with a bit of a breeze. We were up to the top at 7:45pm where the only place I struggled was the last bit of steep rocks. We saw a beautiful sunset all the way up and also ran into huge cows grazing. We only paused to rest/take pictures a few times and I felt great.

    On the way down it was dark but the moonlight and stars quickly lit things up. It also wasn't too cold. We even took lots of night photos and played with light painting. By the end of it, I still can feel my legs. My lungs didn't feel like it wanted to collapse. And the light burn that I feel in my tummy and abs and legs feel great. It sure makes a huge difference to not have to carry an extra 20lbs when hiking!

    We made it down at 9:30pm in time for some great Izakaya food at en. The sashimi was so fresh. The oden was delicious. The tofu was so nice and soft. I'm not sure if we were hungry that everything tasted incredibly good or if the restaurant is actually the great. Indeed Yelpers like it too. I'll definitely go back.

    What a great relaxing and rewarding day to balance out the rough couple weeks.

    Wednesday, April 1, 2009


    I'm jet lagged and awake at 1am. So I find this:
    - watch the youtube video it's hilarious! If it's edible, it tastes better with SqueezBacon!

    Oh well, to balance it out, "dad" gave me some interesting links while I was gone:

  • here's a link that perfectly describes my feelings about the Winter vegetables from the CSA so far:

  • here's another about how what I'm doing is in style here in California and America :)

  • oh and for those of you in california, don't eat pistachios!!!