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introducing: Jen and Company

10 Apr

After many hints and teases, the time has finally come.

Welcome to the new site! What do you think?

I’m super excited about my the new name, the new look, and the new web address.

Why the change?

As many of you know, this blog originally started as a co-blogging partnership and has sense morphed into a me being the main author and having featured contributors to keep it interesting. With all that change, it seemed a new look and a new name were in order. To learn more about how the blog came to be, check out the about page.

The name, Jen and Company, was my sister Jackie’s idea. She gets 100% of the credit. She is an idea machine. She helped me brainstorm (road trips are good for that) and then sent me an email chock full of ideas.  When she brought up this name, we came up with so many different interpretations and I love that. She meant it as I have a company of contributors on the blog. My other sister immediately thought of my love of entertaining. I thought of how I love to run and bike in the company of others. It just made sense.

Because I was making a change, I really made a change – new design, look and feel. This is all thanks to Julie who was great to work with and made things very easy for this non-techy gal.

What I’m not changing is the content. There will still be recipes, race recaps, restaurant reviews and random musings/rants on food and fitness.

So, what do you need to do?

If you subscribed to She said. She said., you’ll need to re-subscribe to Jen & Company.  If you go to the old site, it will re-direct you, but re-subscribing to the new site will make sure you get all the updates. To subscribe, you can just click on the subscribe button in the header above, or you can just follow this link to add this blog into your feed.

http://feeds.feedburner.com/JenAndCompany

If you have my blog on your blog roll (thank you!), I’d love if you can update the name and the web address.

There may be some hiccups on the way so please bear with me. In the meantime, I’d love any feedback!

What do you think?

food for thought: staying healthy on the road

8 Apr

I’ve been in Chicago this week for my day job. This trip was super fun because I got to meet up with fellow blogger, Liz from DC. Liz and I met last summer at the Healthy Living Summit in Chicago. It was so great to see her again and get caught up in person about our similar passions – healthy living and fitness. She’s a rad runner and she was also in need of oatmeal sans dairy so we were a perfect pair. We met at Cosi where they have steel-cut oats made with water and you get to choose your toppings. I love toppings. I opted for granola and strawberries.

Hello squinty eyes!

Between my work travels and my personal travels, I feel I’ve created some pretty solid strategies for staying healthy while on the road.

I want to share with you what works best for me to stick to a healthy plan. Plan is the key word here. If you do not plan correctly, you are setting yourself up to fail. There is no way around that. You can’t expect that being healthy on the road is just magically going to happen. Most of the tips below are geared toward work travel. I am not nearly as diligent when I’m truly on vacation.

  • If you are traveling to a conference, let them know if you have any specific food needs. I actually did not do this this time (fail!), so no one new I was vegan. Thankfully, I work with awesome people and the hotel I stayed at was extremely accommodating. I find that if you let people know, they really do want to help. However, if you don’t ask and are rude about it, don’t expect them to bend over backwards for you.
  • Pack snacks. I always bring a pile of snacks with me on every trip. Typically this includes larabars, mini bags of almonds and dried fruit, apples (they travel well), baby carrots and other cut up veggies (mainly for the plane ride) and sample packs of protein powder or super food. These come in handy for your actual travel time and if you are attending a conference where the food does not fit your dietary needs.
  • Stay hydrated. I find that if I’m at a conference, it is difficult to get enough water in as the rooms I’m in are usually freezing. When I’m freezing, water does not sound good. However, I try to take advantage of hot water when it’s available and force myself to down water throughout the day. Staying hydrated will help you not attack the lunch buffet and will just make you feel better.
  • Many hotel rooms have fridges that you can store things in (call ahead and ask). Many times I will find a grocery store as soon as I arrive and pick up things like fruit, yogurt, etc. to ensure healthy options.
  • You will not work out unless you bring workout clothes. Pack them. To me it’s worth having to bring all the extra gear and check a bag if I need to.
  • Use the workout gear you have. Just having it in your suitcase doesn’t count.  Almost every hotel has a fitness center. It may not be as nice as what you’re used to in all cases, but hey, you have to take what you can get. I find that staying on my regular workout schedule makes me feel better during my travels.
  • If you are traveling to a nice climate, ask the hotel if there is a safe place to run or walk outdoors. You want to make sure you’re in safe area. Please carry a phone and ID with you.
  • Yoga podcasts are awesome. I’ve downloaded a few Dave Farmar podcasts (they’re free!) and done yoga right in my hotel room.
  • Explore on foot. The best way to get to know a city (most of them anyway) is on foot.  Throw on the sneakers and get some fresh air!
  • Most conferences I go to have big meals plus treats during the breaks. I fill up as much as possible on fruits and veggies when they are available. I do my best to skip the desserts. I mean, I don’t eat dessert for every meal when I’m at home, so why would I at a conference? I’ll cave if it’s something that looks fabulous and that I can’t live without. More often than not, the desserts served in hotels or at conferences are not that great.
  • Limit the alcohol.  For me, this is key. Having more than one drink messes with my sleep and it makes me want to eat more. Plus, it makes it harder to get up and workout in the morning. If  I am feeling the pressure (why is there so much pressure?), I typically sweet talk the bartender to make a club soda and lime look like a fancier drink. Or I make one glass of wine last a looooong time. Sometimes, I may not even finish it.
  • If you have free time to eat out, research great restaurants in the area. Don’t settle for a chain or even worse, fast food, if you don’t have to. This past trip, I totally took advantage of the salad and hot bar at a nearby Whole Foods. That was dinner for me two nights in a row as I was working in my hotel room. I know…I lead a super exciting life.

Traveling during vegan lent was interesting. The hotel I was at had great food and almost always had something I could eat at meals. The one plated meal was the only difficult one. I picked the cheese off my salad so that was easy enough. The main course was either chicken or the vegetarian option which was cheese ravioli. I asked very nicely if they would be able to steam some vegetables for me (seemed like something that wouldn’t be do difficult so maybe they’d be willing) and I was presented with steamed asparagus and carrots – score! That coupled with some bread held me until the next break where I grabbed my packed snack of almonds and dried cherries.

Breakfast was more difficult. I tried the nearby Corner Bakery and they down right refused to make oatmeal with water. Seems to me a funny thing to have such a firm stance on but whatevs. From then on I stuck with my standby, Starbucks. Starbucks make their oatmeal with water and it comes with nuts and fruit and they always have bananas. Thank you Starbucks. Vegans appreciate you.

I was lucky to be in a big city. Traveling to more rural areas as a vegan, or even a vegetarian would be much more difficult. I would to have to pack an extra bag just for snacks.

Do you have any tips on staying healthy while on the road? I’d love to hear them!

a little bit of blog love

3 Apr

This weekend was pretty dang awesome. How was yours?

Apparently I needed to complain about my spring training for it to turn around. Willa and I had a fantastic 10 mile run on Saturday that was really key to get both us back into being enthusiastic about training. The 50 degree and sunny weather was key in our spirit lifting run. Yay for spring!

In addition to the great run, I also helped out at a Triathlon 101 clinic put on by Trinona (I’m completely biased, but this is the best triathlon MN has to offer). It is so fun to see newbies to the sport. They are so excited/nervous/anxious and are so fun to talk to.

I also got a much needed massage, finished the taxes and managed to relax with Brette. And as I write this, I’m enjoying pizza (sans meat and cheese) and some red wine. I couldn’t ask for a more perfect weekend.

I thought it would be fun to share with you some recipes and articles that caught my eye recently on other blogs. In addition to reading cookbooks and multiple cooking magazines, I read a LOT of food blogs. It’s a little ridiculous. There is just so much great content out there. So here are a few things you might like.

Articles

Recipes

 

That’s a good list for now. If this is something you like, I’d be happy to post links to things I find interesting more often…just let me know.

 

What have you been reading lately that you found thought provoking or appetite arousing?

gourmet dinner club: mexican

31 Mar

It’s funny to me that we’ve had so many gatherings of the Gourmet Dinner Club and this our first Mexican theme. We were definitely due to tackle the very popular Mexican cuisine. Rick Bayless – watch out! Lee, our host, did a great job of creating a Mexican evening that we all enjoyed. This time around, we let everyone know what we were bringing so that we knew all bases were covered. And boy were they covered.


This particular evening happened to fall during vegan lent and since I’m trying to do this right, this night was not an exception. So, even though I didn’t sample every dish (so hard!), I am doing a thorough write-up and made sure to get everyone’s thoughts.

The appetizers

Liza’s mom was our special guest for the evening and she brought one of my all-time favorite foods, securing her on my favorite people list forever, guacamole.

We won’t talk about how much of that bowl I ate. it was fantastic. Did you know that you should leave the avocado pit in the guacamole because it keeps it from browning? I always learn something new at the GDC.

Also on the appetizer table were sopes – made by Kari.

Aren’t they beautiful? They got rave reviews too. Some had shrimp on top and others had a black bean mixture along with Mexican cheese of course.

Lee had quite the array of beverages to help us wash down the guac and sopes, inlcuding Mexican Beer,water, juice and a  Mexican sangria that was super tasty. She served them in very small glasses which made it completely acceptable to have three.

After we were finished with our apps and I was finished telling my story about cooking at the Corner Table, it was time to move to the table.

The Main Meal

First up – vegan tortilla soup! Amanda is such a sweetheart and found a vegan version of this Mexican favorite. I found it to be super tasty and I didn’t miss the chicken at all.

I never knew that tortilla soup had pureed tortillas IN the soup. Is this a well known fact that I just was not privy to? The crunchy strips on top were my favorite part.

Mike, who always wins for presentation, had another home run with his Mexican Rice topped with edible flowers. He created his own recipe because he’s cool like that and it included  garlic, cumin, chili powder, mint (common in the Oaxaca region), tomatoes, stock and a good grating of cotjia cheese. What’s not to like?

I took the vegan route of course and made potato and kale enchiladas from Veganomicon. They were a bit time consuming to make, as I need to roast peppers, make two different sauces, cook the potato and kale and then assemble. I’m pretty sure I dirtied every dish in my house. It looked like a bomb went off. I served them with extra sauce, cilantro “cream” (tofu), and pumpkin seeds. I would definitely make them again, but on a weekend. They keep well and I think they would freeze well too.

Here’s a look at it all put together. You can also see the black beans that Lee was kind enough to make for me. Thanks Lee!

For the main course, Lee tackled Rick Bayless’s carne asada. It looked delicious.I had some of the sauce on my beans and it was tangy and sweet. Why was it sweet? Because it had prunes in it! Fun, right?

Dessert

I love sweets so this was the hardest thing for me not to eat. Liza made tres leches cake using this recipe. There were lots of moans and groans of happiness around the table as people ate. It was an absolute hit. I think Mike tried to actually steal the leftovers at some point. Amanda who doesn’t normally like tres leches was smitten. I think she’s a convert.

No one ever leaves the GDC hungry and this evening was no exception. Despite not being able to eat many of the dishes, I was still stuffed when I left. I blame the guacamole.

As we were prepping dessert, Amanda and Mike were trying to figure out if they are related. I think the mystery is not yet solved, but how cool would that be? I can see the headline: Gourmet Dinner Club brings together long lost cousins.

It was another great evening of the GDC.

Do you have a favorite Mexican Recipe? Are there any above you’d like more detail on?

coconut cranberry pecan balls

29 Mar

These are the new favorite food in our house.

They are also from my new favorite cookbook and vegan lent inspiration, Clean Food by Terry Waters.

Willa actually made them first and brought them to the gym as a post-run snack. They made the best snack ever!

They remind me a lot of Larabars….but even better since you can make them in your own home.

They beg to be played with. I think dried cherries would be delicious and dates would be tasty too. For the nuts, cashews might be an interesting option. I’m sure you could swap out nut butters, but I really like the almond butter in this one. I actually made my own almond butter. I used this recipe as my inspiration, but I just used plain roasted almonds and salt.  Ashley’s other nut butters are delicious though – you should check them out.

Maybe some chunks of chocolate would be welcomed? Hmmm…

I have found it’s hard to eat just one of these. However, I’m always completely satisfied after two. They are full of satiating ingredients and do a great job of taming my sweet tooth and my growling stomach.

These treats are a great afternoon snack or a healthy dessert. They taste even better after a hard workout, but I won’t hold it against you if you eat one for breakfast or just because.

Enjoy!

Coconut Cranberry Pecan Balls

from Clean Food by Terry Waters

Makes 20-24 balls

Ingredients:

1/2 cup shredded unsweetened dried coconut

1 1/2 cups toasted pecans

1 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup almond butter

1/2 cup maple syrup

To toast the pecans, you can either put them in a dry skillet on the stovetop on medium low heat until fragrant or pop them in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. I suggest toasting a few extras for your oatmeal in the morning – it’s awesome.

Place the coconut in a small bowl and set aside.

Add all of the other ingredients to a food processor and process to form a stiff paste.  Taking a heaping tablespoon of dough at a time, form into balls with your hands and roll in the coconut.  Store in an airtight container.

I kept them in the fridge for more than a week and they’re still good!

Oh, and they’re vegan! Shhh….

spring training

27 Mar

I really wish this post was about a great trip I took to Florida to watch my favorite MN Twins during spring training.

Yes, that would be Flat Stanley.

It is not. We were not there. Maybe next year?

Nope, I’m talking about training for a spring race.

If you are keeping score at home, you know that I am currently training for the Lake Minnetonka Half Marathon on May 1st.

When I planned out my races for the year, I really liked the idea of doing a spring half marathon and a fall half marathon.  Apparently I was thinking of how great our weather was last spring. By this time last year, I had already been running and biking outdoors – in shorts! That is so not the case this year. Yesterday on our long run, it was 20 degrees and I was layered up in all sorts of gear and had frozen snot on my face when I finished. It’s a very attractive look.

It is because of our super loooong winter and many other things that I’ve come to a conclusion about training for a spring marathon.

It stinks.

I don’t mean to be all negative nelly on the blog, but I’ve been kind of down about  this round of training. Here’s why I’m not digging it.

  • The aforementioned weather. Because of the cold and most importantly, the ice, I’ve only been able to do 5 of my 19 official training runs and 33 total runs in 2011 outside. I don’t really mind the treadmill for some of the speedwork and the shorter runs, but it’s really getting old. The treadmill is not the same. In fact, I’m finding it much easier than my outdoor runs and that does not bode well as the actual race…is outside. One of the things I love about running is being outside. I find it very stress relieving and I normally feel refreshed afterward. I don’t look forward to running on the treadmill so my overall mental outlook isn’t as good and many times, I feel far from refreshed when I’m done.
  • Sickness. I’m known to get a couple of colds a year and they usually happen during season changes. I was hit by a nasty bug a few weeks back. In fact, most of the state was hit with the same thing. My congestion and cough hung around for two weeks. I missed a few runs and my comeback runs were slow and not that fun. It put a major downer on my attitude and I can’t help buy worry about the affect it had on my overall training.
  • Injury. Now, this doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the time of year, but it’s something that is currently bugging me. I have a new leg pain. I’ll likely devote an entire post to it as it’s gotten to be quite the mystery. In short, I have a weird pain behind my knee that can shoot up my hamstring and down my calf. It doesn’t hurt when I run, but it will hurt later and on numerous occasions it has woken me up during the night to unbearable pain. It’s not awesome. Someday, I would like to know what it’s like to train for an event without having some sort of painful issue. That would be really nice.
  • Lack of improvement. I’m not a speed demon and I never will be. I’m okay with that. However, I’ve been progressively getting faster and becoming a stronger runner over the past 2 years. I don’t feel like that is happening during this training cycle.  In fact, I’m worried that I’m going to be super slow at this half. I’m sure this is due to the factors listed above. Maybe I took to much of a break between my last race and training for this one. Maybe it’s because of the full moon. I know I’m not going to be winning any races and I’m not competitive with other people when it comes to running. However, I am competitive with myself. I want to be getting stronger and improving my speed. So not seeing it happening has me down a bit.

So, would you like to hear the good news?

The good news is that I’m training for this race with Willa which makes it so much more bearable. Our longs runs are the highlight of my week. She got me through 6 miles on the treadmill when I was sicker than a dog (and probably shouldn’t have run) and she got me through 8 miles the next week when I was trying to make my comeback from getting sick. I know I couldn’t have done it without her and her ability to start singing the Rocky theme song at just the right time.

I realize this is not the most positive post, but it’s where I’m at with training. I haven’t set my official goals for this event, but one of the things I want to focus on is actually enjoying the event. I will set a time goal, but I’m going to set some non time goals as well.

I’m curious, do you find training for an event at a particular time of year easier than others? Why?

If you live in the fine state of MN like I do, what are you doing to beat this weather?

I cannot wait for the farmer’s market to open and for my favorite Saturday morning routine to start again!

the night I cooked at the Corner Table Restaurant

20 Mar

This past week I attended an event specifically for Minnesota Food Bloggers. Getting together with people who like to geek out about food as much as I do is one sweet way to spend an evening.

What makes it even better? I actually got to cook with a fellow food blogger in the kitchen of the Corner Table!

But let me back up.

This evening was the second gathering of local food bloggers and I see it becoming a regular occurrence. This edition was hosted by  Scott Pampuch from the Corner Table. Why? Because Scott is a very smart man. You’ll see why by reading the following.

Upon arriving, we got to mingle with fellow food lovers which is always super fun. Plus, I got to speak with Scott himself and tell him how much I enjoyed my experience at his restaurant (you can read my review here).

Photo by Amy Peterson

I may or may not have touched his arm about 12 times. Apparently I was a little star struck. I’m confident he dug that, but was sick of me touching him. We all have our social awkwardness. Touching other’s arms is mine.

During all the chatting, bloggers feasted on an amazing spread that consisted of a very large charcuterie platter and various breads and relishes. It was nothing short of amazing and it got rave reviews from fellow bloggers. Us bloggers, we like to rave about good food.

Then came for the main event and the reason he invited us into his establishment for the evening. He spoke to us about all he’s doing to elevate the local food movement – he is the best in the city about working with local farmers. Seriously. Most importantly, he wanted to tell us about his latest project: Community Supported Kitchen (or CSK). Similar to the concept of a CSA, a CSK box includes locally sourced meats, dairy and prepared products like chicken stock, pickled carrots, braised cabbage or similar items that are in season. It’s a pretty cool idea and would be a great compliment to those who have a CSA. The project will be starting soon and has options for families of 2, 4, and 6 and it’s very flexible as far as the commitment is concerned. Keep your eye on their web site for more details and while you’re there, check out the menu.

After hearing from those who had piloted the program (all feedback was positive), Scott allowed us to tear into the CSK boxes and head to the kitchen.

Ummm…excuse me? I can cook in the Corner Table kitchen and you will provide me with everything I need? Um…okay. You’ll even let us use chef Dan to cater to our every whim? Check.

I followed fellow blogger, Kate, when she jumped up and grabbed a box before Scott could stop talking.  With very little prodding, we ran headed into the kitchen and got cooking. The crowd of camera-crazed bloggers followed.

Kate tackled the marinated chicken and also cooked up the sausages in a lovely red wine reduction. As a bed for the sausages, I put together somewhat of a hash out of bacon, onion, apple and the braised cabbage. And yes, I had Chef Dan cut up my apple. I had to have him do it twice – and can’t believe I told him what to do. He was so nice about it too!

Here’s what it looked like after it was finished…and a few bites were taken. (Yes, I tasted it. I was not going to serve food bloggers something I didn’t try! I’m hoping my fellow vegan lent participants forgive me. )

Thanks to fellow bloggers, Joy and Amy, here is a photo journey of the evening.

Here’s me telling Scott what’s up. Clearly, he is impressed.

Photo by Joy

Maybe not.

Photo by Joy

Inside the CSK Box…

Photo by Amy

Surely if we point to the contents in the box long enough, we’ll figure out what to do with them…..

Photo by Amy

Kate praying that I don’t slice my finger open.

Photo by Amy

 

Feeling the pressure….

Photo by Amy

I can’t believe I’m cooking in this kitchen!

Photo by Amy

 

Please don’t let me mess this up.

Photo by Amy

 

Stacks of All-Clad pans – a dream come true.

Photo by Joy

 

And scene.

After we finished our stint, other bloggers and Scott and Dan all got cooking in the kitchen. Burger, eggs and lots of bacon were enjoyed by all. Well not all, I abstained…except for that one bite!

Photo by Amy

 

Having cooked with the contents of the CSK box, here are my thoughts.

The food is high quality and is better than anything you’re going to find at the store.

This would work well for a family who likes to cook and has confidence in the kitchen. Recipes are not provided. Scott is against providing recipes and while I can understand him wanting people to learn technique and then get creative, I do think some general suggestions would be nice. Something like, “this chicken would go really well with the following in-season produce”. Somewhat of a roadmap without getting as specific as a recipe would be nice.

Families who are busy (and who isn’t) that want to eat quality food from quality sources and like meat (the box was very meat-heavy), this is for you. You’ll still need to go to the farmer’s market or grocery store to round things out, but this saves you many steps and will provide some yummy eats.

Vegetarians, this might not be for you. However, maybe if it goes over well, Scott will consider a vegetarian box? Just a thought.

 

So, have you figured out why Scott is such a smart man? Clearly, if you invite food bloggers to your restaurant and let them cook (and eat. and drink), we will take photos and write about it.

 

What do you think of the CSK idea? Would it be something you would get involved with?

 

Note: The food and experience provided at this event was free. However, my opinions are my own and I was not asked to write about it.