Thursday, December 16, 2010

Lame running pants

Last Saturday, I decided to take advantage of the brief break in the bitter cold weather to go for a run outside. I don't see the sun during the week, which means I always half-joke about being at risk for rickets. (Yes, I know. It's a pediatric disease. And vitamin D deficiency can be easily prevented with supplements. But really, how awesomely dire would it sound if I got to call in sick with rickets?!) The sun was out on Saturday, so it seemed like a damn fine time to head outdoors.

The only problem with this plan was my running pants. My old, terribly lame running pants that my post-collegiate roommates said look like something off the set of Spiderman. Even worse, they show off my soccer thighs like woah. I mulled this over for a moment, and then, feeling horribly self-conscious, decided to go for it anyway. (I rationalized this by deciding that I'd run in residential neighborhoods a few blocks away, thereby avoiding the pedestrian-heavy commercial area where I live. Fewer people will see me, I thought, and with these pants and my soccer thighs, fewer is better.)

I furtively ducked out the back entrance of my building. Looked around to see how many people might be seeing me in this getup. Made a dash for the residential streets.

But then, when I was nearing the relative safety of the side streets, I saw That Girl. You know: the one who looks absolutely fabulous in her capri running pants and super-trendy puff vest. The one with skinny legs that look like they were body-snatched from Heidi Klum. The one who positively prances when she runs. The one who makes passers-by think, "I want to look like her." And then, there I was -- as if placed in that block, at that moment, purely for the sake of contrast -- soccer thighs on display in my Spiderman pants, desperately wishing that I could find an invisibility cloak and not be seen anywhere in the vicinity of That Girl.

She pranced on, looking skinny and trendy, which only irked me further. I kicked it up a notch just to get away from her, and as I took off, it finally hit me: screw what I look like compared to her. No, I don't have trendy gear. No, my legs aren't made for photo shoots. But I also don't prance. I run. My soccer thighs mean that I'm built for power and speed. They're what enable me to have good running form, to sprint like hell up a hill, to be faster than women who prance.

The moment I realized this, I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I wasn't built to be a supermodel, but I was built to be strong. I might not always love the way I look, but the fact is, there are some considerable merits to the very qualities that I sometimes get self-conscious about. (Soccer thighs and child-bearing hips, I'm looking at you.)

As I kept running, I kept feeling better. Forty minutes later, feeling much less self-conscious than I'd been before, I decided to double back through the dreaded commercial area. As I ran through the crowd, dodging shoppers and dog-walkers, I felt better than ever. Were people looking, aghast, at my legs and my Spiderman pants? Maybe. But maybe, just maybe, I was running too fast for them to look for very long.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Spicy garlic kale chips

Until recently, I'd never been able to wrap my tastebuds around kale. It's uber-nutritious, sure, but I've always thought it smelled like dirt. Literally.

Then, on one glorious evening last year, I went to a dinner party at my dear friend Lauren's house. She's an amazing cook. During grad school, when I was subsisting on Lean Cuisines and enough coffee to cause heart palpitations, Lauren was whipping up pear and gorgonzola tortes from scratch. Her food is awesome.

On this particular evening, she made kale chips. Like a small child, I wrinkled my nose and made the universal facial expression for "I'm grossed out." But she convinced me to try one, life was forever changed. Those kale chips were delicious. I scarfed them down like they were Doritos. From that moment on, I was a convert. A zealot. I effing love kale chips now.

I've experimented with a few recipes over the last few months, and this is a new one. On my last trip to Whole Foods, I'd seen both spicy kale chips and garlic & onion kale chips, but they were both, like, $7 for a few ounces of green leafy awesomeness. I can't afford to spend $7 on something that will only last me two days, so I decided to do some experimenting. I wanted to combine the garlic and onion flavor with a bit of heat, because DC is supposed to get a wicked arctic blast this week, and spicy food warms me up when my coat only gets the job partially done. I threw some cayenne pepper, onion powder, and fresh garlic in with some olive oil, coated the kale, and was quite happy with the result.

Start with one head of organic green kale, cut into strips with the stems (largely) removed. If you're lazy like I am, you can use a clean pair of kitchen scissors.

1 t onion powder
1 t cayenne pepper
1/2 t sea salt

Crush 3-4 cloves of garlic into the spice mix and combine with 2-3 T olive oil

This is where it gets messy: massage the olive oil, garlic, and spice mix into the kale leaves, distributing the mix as evenly as possible.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Check at the halfway point to re-distribute them in the pan; the ones on the outside cook faster than the ones in the middle.

Once done, scarf them down straight off the pan - or box them up for a mid-afternoon snack at work (hence the lovely Tupperware containers below.) 

Happy kale-ing!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Immunity-boosting soup

We've had wild temperature swings in DC lately, and this has, inevitably, led to everyone getting sick. Everywhere I go, there's a cacophony of coughing, sneezing, and sniffling. Some dude even sneezed into my hair on the Metro on my way to work this week. This was profoundly uncool of him. I'd be lying if I said I didn't bust out the Lysol wipes on my hair when I got to my office. (I'm not kidding. I Lysoled my head.)

Suffice it to say, I'm adamant about not getting sick. I often find that, once I'm sick, it's all a downward spiral: the virus sets up a base camp in my lungs, eventually morphs into a bacterial infection, and I have to send in the Marines of the antibiotic world to rid myself of it. If I can avoid getting sick in the first place, though, it's smooth sailing.

Among the various elements of my immunity arsenal is - as evidenced by the title of this post - soup. Fluids help flush out viral infections, and I've found that garlic and hot pepper do my body a world of good. When I feel under the weather or if I'm being exposed to a lot of viruses, this is my go-to recipe.

Immunity-boosting soup (I'm really tempted to call this Kickass Immunity Soup instead):

2 C vegetable broth
1/2 C lentils, washed and picked over
2 shallots
7 cloves garlic (I use a lot of garlic, but that's because I love it - if it's too strong for you, modify this to an amount that works for you)
1/2 C red quinoa
1 T Italian herb mix, or to taste
1/2 t sea salt, or to taste
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1/2 t Red pepper flakes
1 pinch of ground black pepper
2 t olive oil (preferably International Collection Blood Orange variety - this stuff is awesome, and it really makes the flavors pop; if it's not available at your grocery store, you can use regular olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar to give the flavors some complexity)

Heat 2 t olive oil in a stock pot. Peel and finely slice the shallots, then add them to the olive oil and let them simmer. Finely dice the garlic and, along with a bit of black pepper, add to the onions and olive oil. Saute until everything starts to caramelize.

When the shallots and garlic have started to brown, add the vegetable stock, lentils, quinoa, carrots, and spices. Simmer until tender. Serve, or, in my case, set aside to take for lunch on Monday -- and hope no one sneezes into your hair during your morning commute. :)