Friday, June 28, 2013

...Tastiness (CSA Style) - Swiss Chard Pasta

A lifetime ago, when H was a tiny baby, after watching Food Inc., B and I decided that we wanted to keep his life as preservative free as possible.  We didn't realize how difficult this task could actually be - especially when H turned out to be the world's pickiest child.  

Fast forward to the present.  H is now a much better eater.  After more than our fair share of dinner table stand-offs, there are very few items H will not eat, and L hasn't met a food she doesn't like.  Just like her mommy.  

We had heard of CSA's (Community Supported Agriculture) and wanted to get involved.  After a ridiculous amount of research, we were able to find a farmer who delivered to the suburbs near our house.  As excited as can be, we emailed Farmer Bob, and were informed that he didn't have any more availability for the year.  And so we were wait-listed.  But this year, we got in!  After sending a check in November for 20 weeks worth of produce this summer, I became even more excited.  My favorite part of the CSA delivery is that we don't know what will be in the box until the day (or day before) we pick it up.  Then, I get to plan our meals around its contents - some of which I've never used.

This week, B picked up our box on Saturday when I was on a girls' trip to Michigan.  When I got home on Tuesday, I saw that he put the swiss chard on the top shelf of the fridge, and it was beginning to be a little damaged from being too cold.  So swiss chard was the first item to be used, and I had never cooked with it before.  So I headed to Pinterest to see what I could find, and pretty much everything I saw needed ingredients I didn't have on hand.  The fridge was fairly empty, as B had been home alone for 4 days fending for himself.  It was time to improvise. And thus the cleverly named "Swiss Chard Pasta" was born.

First, in pictures:

Swiss Chard - Bright Lights Variety
You can see the frosty damage 

Everything you need (except the chicken and parmesan)
Lemons, Onion, Garlic Chives, Olive Oil, Chard,
Whole Wheat Spaghetti,Crushed Red Pepper,
Montreal Steak Seasoning

B doesn't always love a meatless meal.

Garlic, Onion, Swiss Chard, Garlic Chives, and Lemon Zest
sauteing in olive oil

Putting the finishing touches on with freshly grated parmesan

L looking forward to dinner.
Yes, they eat the lemons.  Freaks.
H cheesing over his plate.
He informed me that he doesn't eat swiss chard, so I told him I made his with spinach, which he loves.
Oh the lies we tell...

Swiss Chard Pasta

  • Chicken Breast (totally optional - unless you're B)
  • Olive Oil (I didn't measure)
  • Montreal Steak Seasoning (or similar)
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 Bunch Swiss Chard (Bright Lights Variety - but any variety would do), tough stems removed then sliced
  • 2-3 Tablespoons Garlic Chives (you could skip this, but they were in the box so I thought I'd throw them in)
  • 2 Lemons (you'll use the zest and the juice)
  • Crushed Red Pepper
  • 1/2 lb Whole Wheat Spaghetti
  1. Bring pot of water to a boil.  While this is boiling, get started on the rest of the meal.
  2. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet.  Add chicken breasts and season liberally with Montreal Steak Seasoning.  Depending on the thickness of the chicken, heat 4-6 minutes on each side until cooked through.  Remove chicken from skillet.
  3. Add spaghetti noodles to boiling water and cook according to package directions.
  4. Wipe out skillet with a paper towel if it got brown from the chicken - or just use a fresh one.  Add 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil and bring to a medium heat.  Add garlic and onion and saute until onion is translucent - about 3-5 minutes.
  5. Add swiss chard to skillet and continue stirring until wilted.
  6. Add zest of lemons, garlic chives, and a pinch of crushed red pepper.
  7. While this is simmering (you know, I don't really know the difference between simmering, sauteing and all that), slice up the chicken breast and add it to the skillet.
  8. When the pasta is finished, add it to the skillet.  I didn't drain the pasta, but rather transferred it using tongs so a little bit of the pasta water came with it into the skillet.
  9. Squeeze the juice of both lemons onto the pasta and chard mixture and toss.
  10. Grate some fresh parmesan onto your pasta - to taste.  And...enjoy!!!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

...The Brink of Retirement

Is that redundant?  Being on the edge of the brink?  Regardless.  It is what it is.  And this is going to be long.  Brace yourself.

One month ago (sheesh), in the thick of the training for my first half marathon, I ran the Soldier Field 10 Miler with Anne. And it felt AMAZING!  The best run of my career!

Before the race with Team Awesome:
Anne, Me and Amee
Anne and I started out together, at right around a 12:00min/mile pace.  And it felt good.  I had been training a little faster than that, but Anne was constantly preaching me the importance of negative splits so as not to tire too early in the run.  So it was good.  Around mile 4, or a little before, I lost Anne.  Like legit turned around and she was gone.  And so I was on my own.  As much as I LOVE running with a partner, I was ready to push myself.  I had run 10 miles before, and was ready to see what I could do.  And so I did, and finished in 1:55:32.  At the end, as I saw myself on the jumbotron crossing the finish on the 50 yard line, I wanted to cry but knew it would be an ugly cry, and there I was on the jumbotron, and obviously hundreds of people were focusing on just me on that jumbotron, but didn't.

Obviously not hating seeing myself on the Jumbotron


I looked up into the stands, and of course didn't recognize anyone.  I just walked off the field.  I was high on my accomplishment, and bummed to have reached it alone.  Sure, Anne would be there in a few minutes, and her husband finished long before us, and our friend Amee was there somewhere, too, but in the moment, I was alone.  A soldier named Sherman put my medal around my neck, I jammed out with a 312 to some Soul Asylum, and headed home - feeling pretty good.

With my first real medal

My half marathon was a mere two weeks away.  So I did what every good runner slacker/busy mom/teacher at the end of the school year would do:  I quit running.  Like not a mile.  Not an inch.  Until June 6th, 2 days before the half marathon.  Wearing new clothes on race day isn't recommended, so I convinced Anne to do a quick 3 miles with me to break in the adorable matching shirts I got for Natalie and I to wear.  And it felt good.  And I wondered why I quit running for 2 weeks.

Fast forward to race day.  Natalie and her husband showed up bright and early, and B drove us down to the South Shore Cultural Center.  The weather was PERFECT - partly cloudy, a little cool (like mid 50s - only reaching about 65 by the end of the race).  Gorgeous.  B had NEVER come and supported me at a race, so I was beyond thrilled to have him there.

With the sign H made for me

I don't set goals, well, other than to not finish last, but Nat and I both said that our only goal was to finish without walking, and I secretly had the time of 2 hours and 30 minutes in my head as a not-really-a-goal-but-it-would-be-nice.  We corralled up (is that a word?) and the race began.
Might I note that race photographers love matching outfits

Pre-Start Selfie

We were quick.  Really quick.  Natalie and I were talking and enjoying the gorgeous weather and scenery.  Our first 4 or 5 miles were each between 9:30 and 10:30.  Looking back, I know it was TOO FAST.  I could hear Anne's voice in my ears talking about negative splits, but instead I was just enjoying the time with my best friend of 27 years.

Hmmm...only one of us looks like we're enjoying this

Enjoying.  I just said I was enjoying it.  I NEVER thought I'd ever say this about running - let alone running 13.1 miles.  And then mile 9 passed.  And we both decided that we'd do better if we'd stop and use the bathroom.  So we did.  And I really think this is where I just completely lost my momentum.  We continued running.  Then mile 11 hit - right around an overpass that felt like a mountain.  And it was hard.  I told Natalie I was going to walk and she told me I was going to do no such thing - that we'd just slow down.  But the mind games I was playing with myself began to take over.  I didn't want to quit or anything, but I was hurting.  Badly.  My legs were cashed.  So I sent her off, promising that I wasn't done running, but I just needed a short walk break.  I walked off and on from mile 11 to mile 12.  And it was HARD.  I felt defeated.  I was mad at myself for walking.  I was mad at myself for sending her ahead.  I wanted to be at the finish line together.  And then I saw the chute.  Had I been paying attention to anything other than my own survival (alright, that's more than a little dramatic), I'd have realized that we still had like a half a mile to go.  But that chute did it for me.  I started RUNNING.  And RUNNING.  Some guy held out his medal to me and said, "You've got this Melanie!  You're almost to your medal!"  And I started to ugly cry.  But stopped.  There were going to be cameras at the finish, duh.  And B.  And Natalie and her husband.  And darn it, I was too mad at myself and too proud of myself to cry.
Finally crossing the finish line

I finished, running as hard as I could in that moment.  My official time 2:37:21.  Only 7 minutes from my not-really-a-goal, and it included a bathroom break and some walking.  Nothing to sneeze at, really.  All along I said it was my first and last half marathon.  But now, looking back, I don't know.  While I've never been prouder of myself for accomplishing something so great, I also know in my heart of hearts that I didn't train as well as I could have, and I know I could have pushed myself past the mental bullshit, but I didn't.  So maybe it won't be my last.  Who knows?  There's this half in Ft. Wayne in September that I'm kind of keeping my eye on.  A hometown race might be kind of fun...

And we're done

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

...An Update - Just Kidding. It's Coming Soon

It's been over a month since I've last written.  A month!

  • The End of the School Year
  • 1st (and more than likely, last) Half Marathon
    I'll tease you with this beauty that I stole
  • Mini Vacation
  • Out of Town Wedding
  • 2 Kids, 2 Birthdays, in 2 days -- and for fun, we threw in B's birthday and Father's Day that week, too
  • Prepping for New House
  • Thank God it's summer!
To be continued...