Jen and Company

Entries categorized as ‘Scott said’

With This Tortilla Soup, It’s All About the Fixins

November 12, 2012 · Leave a Comment

So I’m sort of new to this group, but luckily they still added me to the invite when Jen put together a gathering for the ladies, and me. The theme, as Jen is wont to do, was soup. Being the lone male, and knowing these ladies are in favor of gourmet food, I knew I couldn’t go the easy route by bringing Campbell’s tomato.

I’ve been a big fan of fajita soup since my spring break trip to Mazatlan my sophomore year of college. Don’t ask me how, but my buddies and I met this widower who was basically retired in Mazatlan. We’d spend happy hour sharing buckets of Corona’s before we did what sophomore’s in college do in Mazatlan. At the end of the week she wanted to show us a different side of Mazatlan so she took us to her favorite restaurant, and they made some awesome tortilla soup. But I had never tried making it on my own.

I chose this recipe from epicurious.com. I was going vegetarian since Meghan was going to be there and I thought this soup suited it well. I actually just doubled it and planned to make one batch veggie, and one with chicken. Instead, Meghan stood us up and decided to look at leaves, and we all ate chicken tortilla soup.

Here are the ingredients:

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 4 cups canned vegetable broth
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Spray large nonstick saucepan with vegetable oil spray. Add onion and garlic; cover and cook over medium-low heat until almost tender, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, cumin and chili powder. Add broth and 2 tablespoons cilantro; bring to boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until flavors blend, about 15 minutes. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill. Bring to simmer before continuing.)

I did this part first because I needed to do it a couple days ahead. That worked really well and here’s what it looked like:

Tortilla Soup Base

After cutting onions, garlic and cilantro, my hands had a very unique smell

  • 4 6-inch-diameter corn tortillas, cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips (don’t use these unless you fry them as all the reviews said all they do is get soggy and gross)
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 2/3 cup canned black beans, rinsed, drained
  • 2/3 cup chopped zucchini
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced seeded jalapeño chili
Add tortillas (I didn’t use these), tomatoes, beans, zucchini and jalapeño to soup. Cover; simmer until zucchini is tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
This last part I did at Jen’s house after reheating the broth. I also added chicken as I mentioned above. For that, I took two chicken breasts, threw them in the crockpot (slow cooker) with about a cup of salsa and some water and let them sit over night. In the morning they were perfect for shredding and I kept the salsa in to add some additional flavor.
The skinny:
The soup was OK, but it needed help. Even though I left the seeds in the peppers for additional spice, and added salsa chicken, it was still a bit bland. Luckily, I had brought cheese, sour cream and fresh avocado, in addition to fresh jalapeño slices. That made it better. Without all that, I wouldn’t make it again. With it, I was a pretty big fan. For the leftovers I also added tortilla strips (which I left in the bag at Jen’s house, oops). Here’s what it looked like as leftovers with all the goodness sitting on top:
Tortilla soup ready for eating

Categories: cooking · recipes · Scott said · Uncategorized

The Injury Bug: Don’t Get Bit

October 23, 2012 · 2 Comments

after surgery knee view See that? That was my view for about four days a month ago. Pretty awesome I know.  The best way to avoid this: don’t get bit by the injury bug. I wish I could tell you I was PR’ing in my last race or doing a trail run for the first time, or even crashed my bike speeding down a hill at 50 mph. Unfortunately it’s none of those things. Instead, it was the result of poor decision-making. Here’s the set-up:

 

  • Guys weekend with 14 dudes from work
  • 36 holes of golf and the associated tom-foolery
  • One dock, one lake, an amazing cannonball and two feet of water

The result was a torn meniscus.

I tried to ignore the problem by resuming regular activities including hockey, volleyball and a little spinning. For about six weeks I figured it’d just get better if I let it rest outside of those activities. It didn’t. Instead I got to skip the Minneapolis Du (lame).

The pain and the ‘locking’ worsened, and I eventually went to see my friends at TRIA Orthopaedic and ended up with a little clean-up surgery. Fortunately the folks at TRIA are pretty awesome and they knew just what to do and how to do it. I saw Dr. Steubs, who happens to be the same guy who does knees for most of the professional sports teams here in Minneapolis. The proof was on the walls in the form of signed jerseys (Johan Santana) and team photos (Minnesota Wild). The surgery was successful (once we agreed on which leg the surgery was going to be on) and they immediately had me doing physical therapy to return strength to the knee and surrounding muscles.

Signed knee from Dr. SteubsHe even signed my knee. But I don’t think I can sell this autograph unfortunately.

While that’s all fine and dandy, for an endurance athlete, and I use that term in the most loose sense when referring to myself, those aren’t the kind of workouts I’m accustomed to. For about 10 weeks total the only time I got my heart rate up was, well, I can’t talk about that on the interwebs. But Jen did and you can make your own inferences after reading her story here.

Since then the rehab has been slow. My most recent run consisted of intervals of two minutes walking, three minutes running for 30 minutes. I’m still working my way back to running five minutes consistently, and then I’ll be cleared to run like I used to, assuming pain and swelling don’t return. Biking is fine, and was the whole time. The thing is I took this opportunity to pretty much quit working out all-together and eat whatever looked good. And it all looked good. The result of that: about 10 to 15 pounds of extra winter warmth way before I’d need it to survive the Minnesota winter.

Now it’s time to take it off. Watching what I eat, not just as it goes into my mouth, but thinking about what I’m eating ahead of time, will hopefully speed things up prior to the holidays, when we all know what happens (lots of food, cookies, family gatherings, and regular snacking). I’ll let you know how that goes.

Long story longer, it all comes down to this: coming back from an injury is a lot more painful than not getting injured in the first place. So if you want my advice, and why would you be reading if you didn’t, avoid shallow water and amazing cannonballs. You’ll thank me for it.

Categories: fitness · running · Scott said
Tagged: ,

Restaurant Review: Lucia’s

September 26, 2012 · 3 Comments

So my aforementioned hot wife had a birthday this week so we had the chance to celebrate. Which birthday you ask? It’s none of your business, just know she’s aging well. Really well. With two full-time working parents in the house and two active children, you can imagine we don’t get out that often. However, I have spoken with you previously about the importance of getting away as a couple, and birthday’s are a great reason to try someplace new.

So that was the plan. The wife mentioned she wanted to try the 112 Eatery. Remember when I said we didn’t get out much? Yeah, turns out you can’t try to book the #1 rated restaurant in Minneapolis according to Yelp on Wednesday for Friday night. Oops. You also can’t get into a number of the other top restaurants in this city two days before you want to go, including: The Butcher and the Boar, The Bachelor Farmer and Bar La Grassa.

So where do you turn when you don’t know where else to go for restaurant recommendations? The Jen and Co. Restaurant Reviews page of course. Now as a reader, you should go there to see all the amazing opinions, good and bad, about the restaurants the fine folks at Jen and Co. have blogged about. As a contributor, and one looking to keep my job, I wanted to find someplace not on the list. And thankfully, I did just that. And, AND, the place happened to be the next restaurant on Yelp’s Top 10 in Minneapolis. Double bonus.

So, I made a reservation at Lucia’s. Success. The babysitter’s lined up, the reservation’s made, we’re good to go. So we send the kids to my brother’s house (he lives across the street) and date night is on. FINALLY. But where to go before dinner? Good question. Lucky for us, we’re lucky. And we stumble into Prime Bar. Now, for an aspiring beer geek, and current hop-head, Prime Bar is a great spot to be. Take a look at the IPA menu for goodness sakes. The choices are endless.

 

Prime Bar IPA menu

 So many choices. What’s a boy to do?

I went with the Hop Session from local favorite LiftBridge, very tasty. In fact, so tasty we stayed for two. Delicious.

Then it was on to dinner. Lucia’s, in case you haven’t been, is a very quaint little place in Uptown. They have the wine bar attached to the restaurant and we were lucky enough be seated at a tiny table for two right smack dab in the middle of all the action. And I mean that sincerely. We got to take it everything that happened around us. The 60-plus year-0ld man who ‘forgot’ his wallet at home. The couple on a first or second date trying to decide on a dessert to share. And the elderly lady-friends enjoying a night out with a little scotch/whiskey and some wine. Man, this place had it all.

On, and the food. We did eat here. For starters we ordered the Pan Seared Scallops with Salsa Verde, Herb Salad, and Caramelized Cauliflower Puree (taken straight from the menu). I was a little nervous about the verde because the wife isn’t big on the spice. But the cauliflower, scallop and salad tempered it nicely, and it was a very tasty app.

 

scallop and salsa verde appetizer

Phone upgrade comes in February. Until then, you’ll have to deal.

 Next came the entrees. Lucia’s has a very limited menu. Only four or five entree’s at a time, but that’s not a bad thing. For one, it makes choosing what you want not that difficult. And for another, when the special is a bison with a cream sauce, fries and green beans, you can go for it, and that’s exactly what I did. And oh boy was it tasty. Here’s the before photo:

 

Bison entree with fries and greenbeans

The plate looked different when I was done.

Mel went with the Roasted Callister Chicken with Porcini Demi, Yukon Potato Mash, Sautéed Kale, Mushrooms, and Toasted Almonds (again, straight from the menu. what, you think I know what that all is?). She really liked it and turned out to be a lot of food. So much that I even got to eat some of the Yukon Potato Mash, and it was SUPER.

So, there you have it. The review of Lucia’s Uptown. Would I go back, absolutely. When you put together the food, the atmosphere and the company I had, it was a very successful evening.

Categories: dining out · restaurant reviews · Scott said

It’s all about the secret ingredient

July 20, 2012 · 3 Comments

For those of you who like to skip to the end of the book because you just have to know what happens, you’ll be happy with me today. For all the others — SPOILER ALERT –.

The secret ingredient is peanut butter.

Now you may be asking yourself, ‘The secret ingredient to what?’ Well my friend, the answer is peanut butter is the secret ingredient to almost anything. I eat it on bananas, apples, pancakes, waffles, celery, sandwiches and most recently, I throw it in my green monsters.

A while back I was introduced to the idea of ‘Drinking my Greens.’ I thought it sounded interesting so I did a little more research and landed at the Green Monster Movement. I perused the site a bit and it looked like all you needed was a blender and a bunch of stuff to throw in it. So it began.

 

green monster supplies

What my breakfast typically consists of

 

My lovely wife of nine years (happy anniversary babe), recently bought a Magic Bullet. It’s pretty nice because it comes with these cups you put everything into, screw on the blender attachment, and voila.

handy dandy cups

Just pack your stuff in, and when it’s done, only one cup to clean

 

I use a variety of ingredients in my green monsters, but I’ve found the key is the peanut butter. Whether you use spinach, kale, berry blend, strawberry-banana, vanilla protein, chocolate protein, ice chips, ice cubes, milk, water, whatever, don’t forget the peanut butter. I know, I know, peanut butter adds a bunch of calories, I mean two tablespoons of Skippy is 190 stinking calories. But trust me, if you haven’t made these before, you’ll thank me when you’re tasting peanut butter instead of kale, blueberry, blackberry, raspberry, vanilla protein mash-up. Because that alone is probably nasty. I don’t know though, because I always use peanut butter.

strawberry banana kale post blend

This is what it looks like when it’s all said and done. See those chunks of kale? With peanut butter you get the texture, but not the taste.

 

Now there are a lot of different combinations for the green monster, which is part of the fun. Here’s what I’ve been using:

  • one large handful spinach/kale
  • one frozen banana
  • one cup frozen strawberries
  • one cup milk
  • two TBSP peanut butter
  • two TBSP flax seed

That’s one of the standards. The other is to substitute a triple berry mix for the banana’s and strawberries. Then it looks like this:

berry blend ready to drink

Looks tasty huh? Too bad I ran out of berry’s yesterday.

 

I go back and forth on the protein powder and the amount of peanut butter I use. I’ve found that the kale needs more flavor covering while the spinach only requires one TBSP peanut butter. And now I’m trying to cut some weight and any extra protein I take seems to hinder that process so I’ve cut it out for the time being.

Now you may be asking yourself, ‘Why put all that garbage into a cup and mix it up? What’s wrong with a bowl of oatmeal?’ Here’s why: you get greens, fruit, dairy and whatever else you want, all in one cup. And all that stuff right away in the morning gets everything moving, if you know what I mean (especially the flax).

But I’m curious to know what you put in yours? What am I missing? What else could I use since I ran out of berries and don’t have any bananas in the house?

I’m thinking today we’ll do a little strawberry watermelon and see how that goes.

Good luck in your experimenting and I’m interested to hear about your blender concoctions.

pre blend green monster

This is how it looks before the bullet takes over.

ready to drink

Here’s what the triple berry looks like as you bring it to your lips. Nummy.

Categories: cooking · recipes · Scott said
Tagged: ,

Six Rookie Triathlon Mistakes I Learned at Trinona

June 13, 2012 · 2 Comments

So Trinona seems to be a hot topic and I’ll stick with that trend. For me, it was my first race, and I’ll put together a full race recap (hey don’t sigh, it’ll be decent, I hope) and post that in the near future. For now I thought I’d help you out by telling you my failures during my first triathlon. Disclaimer: none of these things had anything to do with the outstanding job the board, planning team, sponsors or volunteers of Trinona did. It was all me. Because I’m a doof.

OK, so here’s the list:

1. Double-check your supplies — since this event was out of town, obviously it was a family affair. Mel and the kids and I picked out the best hotel in Winona with a pool, The Plaza, that came full with a kiddie area and some slides.

The Plaza Hotel Pool

Looks fun don't it?

So with the pool and all, the big one thought he should have some goggles. My goggles. Of course he should. So I took them out of my gear bag, put them in the swimming bag, and told myself as I went to sleep to remember to grab them in the a.m. Instead, I got a six mile warm-up on the bike pre-race instead of two, with the extra trip back to the hotel, and then back to the race. Awesome.

2. Nothing new on race day — this mantra was told to me by numerous athletes, including our friendly host Jen. So I stuck with my plan and brought my pre-race oatmeal for breakfast. Remember when I said my whole family came with me, and we shared a hotel room? Well, they probably weren’t interested in me using the microwave to make my oatmeal nice and tasty at 5:15 a.m. So I made it with ‘hot’ tap water. Turns out that kind of oatmeal is hardly edible. I thought about taking a picture, but I want you to keep reading, not throw up a bit in your mouth. You can thank me now.

3. Take a room key — so when you forget your goggles, and have to go back to the hotel to get them, you don’t have to send your wife a text, interrupting her beauty sleep and in turn waking up the rest of the family. Should’ve just used the microwave. I know, I’m a meatball.

4. Find the right bike rack — so I biked over to the race (the first time), with Brette, and as we entered the transition area the kind woman told me I was on the right. So I picked a nice spot right near the edge of a rack so I didn’t have to go too deep and set up my transition.

Trinona transition area

Isn't it pretty? I thought so.

Turns out the bike racks are numbered, and the numbers have something to do with what wave you’re in. Guess at 6 a.m. I wasn’t fully functioning and didn’t notice I was the only dude in a sea of females. Oh well, at least there wasn’t any traffic when it came to the transitions.

5. Understand the awards — See the green cap? That means I was in the novice wave for the sprint distance. Given it was my first race, my expectations were set pretty low. Mostly I didn’t want to drown. Then the race started, and I was one of the first out of the water wearing a green cap. Then I mostly passed people with wave times ahead of me, and the passers were few (one actually). And I started having thoughts of this:

Trinona stage and podium

Oh, what it would feel like to be on the blocks

Then I finished, and was soon set straight that regardless of wave place, it’s all age group. What a dunce.

6. Numbers are in two places — so after the race I’m obviously gross (it’s actually almost a skill for me. Post-workout I’m probably one of the smelliest cats around.) And I shower to get rid of the gross and try to wash off the numbers on my arm and the wave time on my hand. However, I forgot about the calf markings, completely, until I got out of the shower Monday morning, and got dressed for work in my typical attire; shorts, a t-shirt and flip-flops. Not long after, I get reminded by my wife of the numbers on the backs of my legs. Awesome. Now I’m the dude that’s trying to show off what I did this weekend by leaving my numbers on so people will ask me about it. Who does that? Guess I do. Here’s a picture of the arm numbers, most of which were washed off prior to getting to work Monday:

Trinona body markings

Nice photo by the six-year-old, if I do say so myself

Here’s a hint: use some rubbing alcohol, and clean yourself before going to work the next day. I learned that Monday, and Tuesday had zero body markings left (except for that bruise you might notice, from men’s league hockey).

Despite all that, the race was still awesome and I already can’t wait for my next one. I’m hoping to clean up the above and see what I can do about improving my time as well. But we’ll see. In the meantime, let me leave you with one thing I did right this weekend: pack the cooler for the post-race recovery.

Beer is my favorite recovery drink

Hmmmm, beer

 

Categories: Scott said · triathlon