Recipe: Smoky Spanish tortilla with bacon & kale

Smoky Spanish TortillaWell, it’s happened. I’ve returned to the Real World — and not the seven-strangers-under-one-roof version but the wailing inbox and buttloads of laundry version that is far less smutty and just a hair dreadful. It was bound to occur sooner or later.

On the upside, dread of return this severe can only be sign of an unusually successful vacation, and that it was. I’ll provide a much more elaborate rundown in posts to come, but for now let’s just say Costa Rica was as unfailingly awesome as promised, full of ridiculously therapeutic juvenile humor, Jurassic Park-style scenery, glorious adventure sports and, it goes without saying, plenty of porky delights. Indeed, it seems a cocktail of rice, beans and seawater does a body pretty damn good.

But we’re not talking rice and beans, yet, are we? Nosireebobski, we’re talking tortillas – in particular, the Spanish variety: that of pillowy egg, tender potatoes, tiny browned onions and Spanish spice. Started on the stove and finished under the broiler, this here is a bit of a shortcut tortilla, although there’s nothing sacrificed in my book (save for the risk of floortilla with a flip gone wrong). Factor in a nutritional seesaw of streaky, rendered bacon (duh) and verdant kale and you’ve got yourself a one-pan wonder for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Maybe add a salad for a meal with a little more feel-good factor. Maybe don’t. Far be it from me to judge.

Smoky Spanish Tortilla with Bacon & Kale
By Emily Stoffel
Cooking time: 30 mins | Serves: 4

Note: At some point, I’ll no longer need to specify that I luurves me some Trader Joe’s Bacon Ends & Pieces in recipes where bacon is chopped or diced, but I’ll go ahead and point it out once more. They’re such a friggin’ good deal, and the rugged, misshapen bits are often meatier than the uniform slices. For recipe purposes, I always approximate bacon in strip quantity juuuust in case the general public isn’t as infatuated with, or – gasp! – doesn’t have access to, these little gems. Obv, minus the bacon, this would be veg-friendly. Just sauté your peps and spuds in about 2 T of olive oil to start and bulk things up with a ½ cup of sautéed criminis or rinsed, cooked cannellini beans.

Ingredients:

  • 5 jumbo eggs (or 6 large eggs)
  • ¼ cup whole milk
  • 4 strips thick cut bacon, roughly chopped (see note)
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • ½ bell pepper, diced
  • 3 small Yukon gold potatoes, diced
  • 6-8 leaves fresh sage, roughly chopped
  • ½ bunch kale, washed, removed from stems and roughly chopped
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • pinch nutmeg
  • salt and pepper
  • coarsely ground smoked sea salt (optional, for serving)

Instructions

Preheat broiler. In a small bowl, thoroughly whisk together eggs and milk. Set aside. To a cold, ovenproof skillet (10-12” in size), add bacon and render over medium to med-high heat until just crisp, 5 minutes. Add onion, bell pepper, potatoes, paprika and sage. Stir to coat in fat and cook until potatoes are tender and lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add kale and nutmeg and cook, covered, 2-3 minutes or until kale wilts and reduces in volume. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Shake pan to distribute mixture in an even layer and pour over eggs, tilting pan to distribute over ingredients. Cook over medium flame 3-5 minutes or until edges are set and can be easily lifted away from sides of pan. Place entire skillet under broiler and cook until center is set, another 3-5 minutes. Allow tortilla to cool slightly before sliding from pan and cutting into wedges. Top with smoked salt just before serving.

Recipe: Southwestern stuffed bell peppers

Greetings from gorgeous Central America! Hope all is well back home in the Yooessofeigh. In an attempt to avoid Pig & Quill slackery during this little jaunt, I recently put a call out for guest post contributions from my network of fellow eaters, and wouldn’t you know a couple of pretty ladies actually took me up on it! Do they rock, or what?

Today’s guest post comes to you from the lovely Jessica. (Check pic below. See? Lovely.) Jessica and I were classmates in high school, and these days (confirmed by a bit of Facebook stalking), we seem to be virtual kindred spirits in the kitchen. I loved her adaptation of stuffed peppers as soon as I skimmed the recipe. Fresh corn and Greek yogurt? Yes please. Without further ado…

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Jessica_Profile_webHi guys! I’m a full-time high school teacher who spends most of my free time gardening, reading and trying out new recipes (I know, I sound like an 80-year-old). I don’t consider myself a foodie (because I’m not at all a food snob), but I am definitely a food enthusiast. I grew up in a household that valued good, healthy home-cooking. Dinnertime was about coming together and eating as a family. It was from this emphasis on bringing people together through food that I developed my interest in cooking. I love trying new recipes, eating new things and I constantly strive to eat healthier, fresher and less chemically-processed food (although I am not above the occasional Taco Bell run). This is my first time guest blogging, and I’m thrilled to be doing so for “The Pig and Quill.”

Southwestern Stuffed Bell Peppers
By Jessica Salomon (adapted from SimplyLoveFood.com)

Firstly, I must say that I did NOT like bell peppers as a child. Even now, I’m not a fan of the green ones. The red and yellow ones have grown on me over the years, especially in a recipe such as this, where the pepper flavor simply serves to enhance the dish, instead of taking over it.

I originally found this recipe on Pinterest. The original recipe can be found here. While the instructions for this recipe are pretty lengthy, it’s actually really easy to put together. I’m sure the original recipe is good, but I’ve made a few changes that I think make it tastier and healthier.

Note: I prefer to use individual spices, as opposed to a pre-mixed seasoning packet. However, feel free to use taco seasoning, if that is easier and/or more to your taste. I also eyeball how much spice I add to my dishes, so these are just rough estimates.

Ingredients:
Southwest Stuffed Bell Peppers

  • Olive oil
  • 4-6 bell peppers, cut in half and seeded
  • ½ lb ground turkey *I use the 93% lean, not the 99% lean
  • 1 cup of chopped red onions
  • ½ tsp chili powder
  • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • ¼ tsp dried oregano
  • ¼ tsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp ground cumin
  • 2 cups quinoa
  • 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1-2 ears of fresh corn, with kernels removed
  • 1 container of fresh salsaSouthwest Stuffed Bell Peppers Plated
  • 1 fresh jalapeno, diced and seeded *You can substitute a can of diced jalapenos or a can of mild chilies, if you like the flavor but not the heat
  • shredded 2% Mexican cheese

Toppings:

  • fresh cilantro
  • plain Greek yogurt *I use this in lieu of sour cream
  • sliced avocado

Instructions

Before doing anything else, cook your quinoa. If you’re unfamiliar with quinoa, this is generally the way I cook mine. Make sure you salt your water; otherwise it will come out very bland.

Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 400F. Drizzle the peppers with olive oil and rub it all over them (make sure they’re good and covered, otherwise they will burn). Put them on a baking sheet and roast in the oven until they’re cooked and slightly browned (about 20 minutes). While peppers are in the oven, heat up some olive oil in a sauté pan. Cook your onions on medium heat until they just start to turn translucent, and then add your ground turkey and your jalapeno (if using). When the turkey is almost cooked through, add your chili powder, red pepper flakes, oregano, paprika and cumin (or, your taco seasoning). Mix thoroughly and remove from heat when your turkey is finished cooking. Add your quinoa, black beans and corn and mix and then add the entire container of salsa. Note: If you are using a can of jalapenos or chilies, add them now. Mix thoroughly.

When you pull the peppers out of the oven, they will be crazy hot. I’m talking surface-of-the-sun hot. Give them at least 5 minutes to cool down (during this time, they’ll become a little bit wrinkly – that’s totally okay). Once peppers have cooled down, place them into an oiled glass baking dish. Personally, I like to stuff my peppers to bursting. Once the peppers have been stuffed to your satisfaction, put them back into the oven and let everything heat through. Everything is basically cooked at this point; it’s just a matter of letting it all heat up, mesh flavors, etc. Leave them in the oven for 10-12 minutes. Then, pull them out and lightly cover the tops of them with cheese (okay… sometimes I heavily cover them with cheese, depending on what kind of a day it’s been). Allow the cheese to melt (you can use the broiler if you want it a little more bubbly and brown).

Top your peppers with yogurt (or sour cream), sliced avocado and cilantro.

Hashtag-What-I-Ate-In-Vegas

Surrender Bar Encore Las VegasHuh, where to begin with this post? I was going to kick it off with something along the lines of “What Happens In Vegas Stays in Vegas…Unless It Happens in My Mouth.” And then promptly realized that’d be a terrible start for many reasons. I’m already regretting that I even recapped that postulation here. I apologize.

I suppose I should start out by putting some context around my most recent Las Vegas experience. First off: it was a business trip, so it wasn’t a rager or anything. (Read: it was totally a rager.)

It begins like this. A little over a week ago, my colleague Emily (at what point can I just call her Emily and you’ll all know I’m not speaking in the third person?) and I hopped a flight to Las Vegas for one of the largest tradeshows in our industry: the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) Expo. I know I don’t talk work a whole lot on this blog, and that’s somewhat intentional, but to understand the sheer cray-factor of this experience, it’s helpful to know why we were there in the first place. The intent: absorb as much as possible about convenience stores, what makes them tick, how they’re marketed, how many pig parts are in a hot dog, etc., so we can walk away with some inspiration for creating a bomb convenience concept of our own, if ever we have the opportunity.

Mission completed.

But. BUT. Here’s where it gets interesting. Being the NACS Expo, this show has, under one roof, nearly every vendor for every item you would hope to find in a traditional convenience store. Think every energy drink you’ve ever (and never) heard of. Every pop vendor. Every beer mogul. Every snack.

Every food that can be cooked on a roller, is rolled in shape or roll-inducing. Every frozen novelty, sports beverage or cheap iphone charger. Every lighter.

You can’t turn a single corner in that hall without snapping into a Slim Jim — or smacking face first into a pair of boobies peddling a protein bar. It’s no joke. And then again, it’s completely a joke. At the very least, it’s one heck of a cultural experience.

And, needless as it may be to say, it’s a HAVEN for crappy-albeit-absolutely-delicious convenience fare of which I ate far too much. But that’s not the point of this post! Or at least it wasn’t supposed to be. The point of this post is: somehow, amidst nine-hour days at the Nabiscotech (someone coin that shizz!), Emily and I actually managed to put down some pretty solid Vegas eats, a small selection of which I have documented in poor quality below for your viewing pleasure.

Without further ado, #whatiateinvegas:

Five-dolla Froyo$5 Froyo at the Rio Hotel & Casino
I wish I had taken a picture of all the ridiculous loot that we were able to pick up at the tradeshow. It was a supremely hot mess of delightfully sugary, salty, fatty snacks and candies, nutritional supplements and beverages. They even have pizza vendors, fried chicken vendors and roller jockies turning out greasy foods from pretty much dawn till dusk. After a brief stint of exposure to the tradeshow hall the first night, this froyo bar actually looked relatively fresh and refreshing enough to be called dinner. And for a flat $5, you can fill your cup with as much yogurt and toppings as you please, which makes this the cheapest buffet in town. To make sure mine felt like a real meal, I snuck a layer of cereal between my fruit and candy. Now thass finking.

Battistas Hole in the Wall - Cioppino

Battista’s Hole-in-the-Wall Cioppino
I’m a spoiled almost-San Franciscan, and I know what great cioppino is made of: tender whitefish, briny shellfish, the freshest sea arachnids — and rich, sumptuous broth with enough body to cling to a fistful of sourdough. Battista’s version fell short on the latter, but then again, it’s just that: a version. They don’t claim to have the best or the most authentic, but they do promise a big bowl of “slow swimmers,” and that’s what I got. Because this is Battista’s, my meal also came with their standard accoutrements: free-flowing decent wine, a house salad, garlic bread and an after-dinner cappuccino. Plus a funky, kitschy atmosphere that’s part Old Vegas and part (new) Bucca di Beppo. Do with that what you will.

Beijing Noodle #9 Chashu BaoBeijing Noodle No. 9  at Caesar’s Palace
If we’re ever traveling together and hand-pulled noodles make it onto the itinerary, you know wass up. I will travel to the ends of the Earth for the right toothsome noodle, preferably swimming in a meaty broth dotted with glistening fat. Somehow, over the past year, my husband has given me one of the best gifts imaginable by suddenly becoming a fellow ramen fan, and now weekly suppers at the local ramen house are not unheard of. Talk about living. Anyway, the noodles at Beijing Noodle No. 9 lack the bounce and chew that I’ve experienced with good hand-pulled Chinese noodles in the past — how to describe them? they’re almost a bit more spaetzley than I was expecting — but the dark, savory broth, tender braised brisket Beijing Noodle #9 Tendon and Brisket Hand-Stretched Noodlesand unctuous, slightly chewy tendon were all pretty tasty. Prior to getting our noodle on, our table also ordered several dim sum dishes to share: vegetarian spring rolls (not pictured), chashu bao and a chive and egg “pillow,” which is basically a wide, flat potsticker cut into wedges. All of these small plates came to the table fresh out of the fryer (or steamer) and piping hot. The spring rolls were super crisp with a substantial amount of filling; the bao was fluffy, but I’m frankly used to a less refined chashu filling (fat is flavor!); the “pillow” was…pillowy? No, not really. As mentioned above, it’s a steam-rolled Ling Ling. I should also note the restaurant’s atmosphere, which is pretty cool, too. It’s kind of pop-arty, all white and goldfish’d up and sort of 3Dish.

Serendipity 3 Can't Say NoSerendipity 3 “Can’t Say No” Sundae at Caesar’s Palace
Believe it or not, we’re already at the end of the food dishes that I actually photographed during the trip — but really, this accounts for almost every meal we consumed outside of the exhibit hall or our hotel room. (The rest of the time we noshed on the aforementioned pizza, chicken and roller food, supplemented with fruit platters from the Starbucks in the hotel lobby.) Good thing, then, that we went out with a bang! The “Can’t Say No” Drugstore Sundae, as Serendipity refers to all their old fashioned, fully-loaded sundaes, is an absolute behemoth. There’s Humble pie — which in itself is peanut butter cream in a graham cracker curst. There’s ice cream: vanilla and coffee, to be exact. And then there’s a banana topped with hot fudge topped with more melty peanut butter topped with whipped cream, chopped nuts and, yes, a cherry. Split four ways, we still  had leftovers and aching bellies, but it was the best damn use of a Sugar Day that I can recall.

And that was Vegas, or at least #whatiate while I was there. Oh but wait. Before I go, should I also acknowledge the phenomenal cocktail, Fabulousnessness, that we responsibly consumed while clubbing the night away? Yes, let’s do. I’ll warn you, while it sounds entirely girly, it’s not for sissies. Fabulousnessness is squirrely stuff. Consider yourself advised.

Fabulousnessness
By: Who knows! Someone in New Zealand, supposedly…
Cooking time: Zilch | Serves: 1

Ingredients:

  • 1 vodka-RedBull cocktail
  • Champagne

Instructions

Mix standard vodka-Redbull cocktail in a pint glass. Top it up with champagne. Fabulousnessness!

And with that, I’m off to swing from the treetops in Costa Rica for a few days. With any luck, I’ll be able to post a bit from the road thanks to the help of a couple of guest bloggers and this nifty thing called wifi. Fancy me!

Until then…

Recipe: Mesquite-spiced quinoa with sausage & black beans

Quinoa with Sausage and Black BeansI actually whipped together this recipe last weekend, so this post is long overdue. Turns out I’m still playing a bit of catch up from being on the road for business this past week — and with another stint away from home coming up shortly, I better get my feet under me right quick. Any and all avoidance of a Pig Faceplant is a good thing…

So, this meal came about while browsing my total fave grocery spot in the whole world — Trader Joe’s, no doi —  for meal ideas that I could make for Chris in advance of my departure, or that he could whip together himself. If it’s been a while since you’ve inventoried the Trader Joe’s freezer section, give it a skim. It’s brimming with bibimbap, sweet potato gnocchi, Sicilian pizza, those fabulously decadent kobe-style burgers and more and could easily be a black hole for all home cooking if one weren’t motivated to do more than heat and eat.

Perfect for bachelor dinspiration, right? Except we don’t have a microwave.

I’ll save the why we don’t have a microwave rant for later (it’s short: first it was driven by space, now it’s implied superiority, muahaha), but it is kind of a pain when you’re staring at a frozen burrito that takes 3 minutes to nuke but 35 minutes to bake. I can inhale a whole lot of peanut butter while impatience gets the better of me during that 35 minutes, let me tell you. It is No Bueno.

So. In lieu of picking up a quasi-instant meal for hubs at TJs, I did what I should have done from the get-go and made a mega-portion of one meal that he could easily eat cold or at room temperature later. Enter: Mesquite-Spiced Quinoa with Sausage and Black Beans.

We do a lot of kitchen-sink style dinners around here, and this Tex-Mexish recipe is really no different. Plus, this particular variation is a powerhouse of protein featuring prepared chicken sausage, black beans, and quinoa-the-wonder-grain, ta-da! Loaded up with fresh CSA veggies, it’s one-stop shopping for all the nutrition you’d seek from a balanced meal.

Mesquite-Spiced Quinoa with Sausage and Black Beans
By Emily Stoffel
Cooking Time: 25 mins | Serves: 4

Note: There’s no added salt in this recipe because of the seasoned sausage, black beans, mesquite spice and bouillon, which I think deliver a satisfying hit of sodium on their own. And regarding bouillon, I go back and forth between using chicken stock and Better than Bouillon Chicken in dishes like this. In this instance, I went with the reduced-sodium version of the latter, but you could just as easily cook your quinoa in stock (omitting the bouillon), or swap out the chicken version of either option for veggie. In fact, with veggie stock and the sausage omitted, this would make an equally satisfying vegan lunch or supper.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups quinoa, thoroughly rinsed
  • 1 T Better than Bouillon (see Note)
  • 1 package Trader Joe’s fully cooked Sweet Basil Pesto Smoked Chicken and Turkey Sausage, sliced in half lengthwise (or other cooked sausage of your choice)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 8 oz. kale, stripped from stems, washed and torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 15 oz. can seasoned black beans
  • 1.5 tsp Sweet Mesquite seasoning (yes, it’s from my local Costco)
  • 1-2 T olive oil
  • freshly cracked black pepper

Instructions

Add quinoa and bouillon to rice cooker and add water/cook according to cooker directions. (No rice cooker? Follow the instructions on the quinoa package. No quinoa package? High five for purchasing in bulk! Follow these easy quinoa instructions from The Kitchn.) Meanwhile, heat a generous drizzle of olive oil over a med-high flame in a large skillet and sear sausages, cut side down, until brown and crisped, about 5 minutes. Remove from pan and slice at an angle. To same pan, saute onion and bell pepper with black pepper to taste until translucent, about 2-3 minutes; add black beans with liquid, kale and mesquite seasoning. Stir to combine, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer until kale is thoroughly wilted, about 10 mins. Add cooked quinoa to skillet (your rice cooker should pop right about this time) and stir to combine. Top with sliced sausages. Serve hot, or refrigerate for lunch or dinner the next day and enjoy cold or at room temp.

Pig hiatus + out-of-bloffice protocol

Bloffice. Blog-office, get it? It’s not great, but I know you got it the first time.

Just a quick update — I’ve not gone anywhere. Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ve been in Las Vegas for a trade show since Sunday, but I’ve not abandoned ship here at the Pig & Quill just yet. In fact, now that I’m back, I’ve got a couple of recipes on deck to post — plus I broke the cardinal rule of Vegas and documented a good amount of my gastronomic experiences there for detailed retelling later, so keep an eye out this week.

In the meantime, if there are other bloggers reading this, please tell me: when you’re on the road, how much time do you spend prepping queued posts or queuing guest posts to fill the void? It’s something I’ve hardly considered (proof again that I’m really only so-so at this whole thing) so please share tips!

Recipe: Spicy garlic noodles (with peas)

Spicy Garlic Noodles with PeasWow, sorry it’s been a while. I seem to have stumbled upon a series of social opportunities this week that took my usual routine of EatCleanBlogBed and chucked it out the window. Happy news is that, while absent, I was off lunching at one of my favorite spots in Sacramento, Magpie (home of the carrot cake cookie!); enjoying course after course of handmade Italian fare at Osteria Coppa with some of my favorite ladies; and enjoying the original jazz tunes of the smokin’ hot Adam Walter Band at the aptly named The Cats tavern in Los Gatos. Who knew there was more to life than sweatpants and Netflix? Ah, the little things.

The sad news, unfortunately, is that while this return post is a recipe for, hands down, one of the most adored and frequently enjoyed meals in our house, it’s disappointingly simple. You won’t find any truffle oil, pools of glossy browned butter or fatty pork side here. But oh, this dish brings the flavor. Have you ever heard of the famed Garlic Noodles at the popular restaurant Crustacean (San Francisco/LA)? I won’t use the words dead ringer, but this pasta comes satisfyingly close. This is everyone’s favorite aglio, olio e peperoncino — with a little sumthin’ extra. It’s salty. It’s garlicky. It’s got all that savory brown-food flavor you crave, slathered on al dente pasta. And it starts with just a handful of simple ingredients that you probably have on hand right now.

How else to communicate the exponential deliciousness of this pasta? Ah. You know that special meal you want to make for yourself every time your spouse is on a business trip so you can guiltlessly eat the whole pan yourself? This. Is that meal.

Spicy Garlic Noodles (with Peas)
By Emily Stoffel
Cooking Time: 15 mins | Serves: 2

Note: ‘Fraid anchovies are too fishy? Fear not. Here, the anchovy paste (or fillets) gradually melts into salty, nutty goodness in the garlicky oil. You’ll be a convert after just one taste. Of course, if you’re shooting to make this a vegetarian recipe, you can omit the anchovy all together. I might just bump up the soy a smidge. The peas are also optional. I love peas, but I also love this meal without. Depends how much green you’re feeling, I suppose. (If you’re pro-pea, a quick shortcut is to throw them in with the pasta during the last minute of cooking — voila, hot, peas and pasta in one step!) And lastly, though I suggested above that there’s no pig in this recipe, an excellent variation would be to render 4 strips, diced, of thick cut bacon in the skillet before adding the oil. In this instance, retain the bacon grease and reduce the oil by half. 

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb spaghetti or shaped pasta
  • 4 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red chili flakes
  • 1/2 tsp anchovy paste or 2-3 anchovy fillets (or more, to taste)
  • 2 T low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed

Instructions

Cook pasta al dente (follow package directions) in plenty of boiling salted water. Meanwhile, add olive oil, garlic, chili flakes and anchovy paste to a deep skillet or pot. Bring to a medium heat, using a wooden spoon to help dissolve anchovy paste into oil. Cook until garlic is tender, about 1-2 minutes, careful not to let garlic burn (lower heat if necessary). Add soy sauce and stir to combine. Using a spider or tongs, remove pasta from water and add to oil mixture. Add peas and toss to combine/heat through. Devour!

My running story

Nike FreeHi friends. This Sunday, having completed one of the longest (if not the fastest) runs in my short career as a wannabe jogger, I thought I’d take a break from food for a moment to talk about something that is so closely associated with food, sad as it may be: fitness. More specifically, I know there are thousands of foodies out there (granted, they probably don’t read The Pig & Quill!) who swear just as much by their fitness regimen as they do their vast culinary prowess — and the thing is, I am not one of them. Or at least not really.

But I always like to hear how fitness factors into the lives of these follow porkers (pet name, not an insult), so I thought I would take a not-so-quick stab at doing the same. Here goes: my running story.

By now you may have gathered that I like to eat. A LOT. What I’m not so keen on doing, either a lot or even a little, is exercising. I get a little cardio in here and there walking back and forth from my desk to the kitchen at work. And we have a bouldering wall in our office warehouse that I probably burn 25 cals or so a week floundering around on. And occasionally Emily and I (BTW, she’s a friend, not my same-named alter-ego; that would be alter-egotistical) will hop on a couple of cruisers to make a lunchtime trek to the library. But other than that — and maybe a home fitness DVD or an easy, 10-mile loop bike ride with the hubs once a week — I’m not great with regular exercise.

And the thing I really blow at doing regularly, or well, for that matter: running.

Wow, if there is one thing I am clearly not designed to do with any grace, style or modicum of efficiency, it is running. I get red in the face like I just chased a shot of tequila with a handstand. I wheeze. My legs grow heavy and I fall down. I get all sausagey in my fingers and I don’t know what to do with my arms. I’m dreadfully slow. It is, in fact, such a train wreck it’s a wonder I don’t take the rest of the running world down with me when I set out for a Sunday jog. I am possibly the world’s worst runner. So why do I do it?

It’s not a totally unique story. Until a couple of years ago, me running would had to have involved an armed attacker, or maybe a slow-moving food truck slinging elephant ears. (Why are those things so effing good!?) And then this little thing called a wedding got slapped on the calendar, and Chris moved 2,000 miles away to get our post-wedding life pulled together back home in CA, and I found myself waking up alone, attempting to sell our house and pursuing a bridal figure all at the same time — and running just kind of happened. It was free, something to do when I was bored, and because Chris had started running in CA, it was something we could do together apart. Was it fun? Not really. Did it feel good? Let me tell you, in 90 degrees and 80% humidity, nothing feels good. Did it kickstart me into the best shape of my life? Nope. It was just something to pass the time, and no matter how poorly I ran, the adrenaline helped stave off the afternoon mopes most of the time. So that’s how I used running: as a sweat-soaked, crappy distraction that somehow curbed that urge you get to cry when you know everyone you love is in your corner but you still feel like you’re on that fair ride where you’re strapped to the inside of a round, spinning cage and the bottom drops out.

If that’s not some kind of screwed up therapy, I don’t know what is, but it worked.

Fast forward two years to reunited, married life in temperate CA and running still sucks. But I still do it. I don’t do it regularly; sometimes it’s a few runs a week, sometimes it’s a few runs a month — and then there are weeks and months where I don’t run at all. But I do it enough to appreciate the good runs (believe it or not, some of them actually feel good at the end!) and to acknowledge that at least I get through the bad ones without quitting. It’s still painful, I’m still slow, and I still feel a little angry when I’m lacing up my shoes, as if I have someone to blame other than myself for the run that is about to take place. And while the humidity is absolutely manageable, there are new things to hate here, like the fresh-faced twenty-somethings that stride past me like it ain’t no thing, all glowing cheeks and swishy ponies and perfect little Lululemon butts. They, alone, torment me perhaps more than any other aspect of running.

But they also kinda of fuel the fire.

I’m not saying I’ll ever be that twenty-something — and not just because the age descriptor, alone, is falling further out of reach. I’m not even saying that I will ever like running as much as most people who make habit of the sport tend to. But I’ll tell you what: there will always be a reason for this girl to benefit from a little good ol’ fashioned therapy. And if that therapy doesn’t take the form of something truly old fashioned (donut and/or cocktail, your choice), running might just be the next best thing.

So runners or athletes of any sort out there, tell me: what is your running story? How do you do it?

Recipe: Restaurant-style, oven-baked potato rounds

Restaurant-Style Oven-Baked Potato RoundsDo you ever have one of those nights when the only thing you can possibly fathom for dinner is a life raft of french fries, preferably with a bucket of bloomin’ onion sauce on the side? I’ll pretend you said Yes so we can close the chapter on commiserating and get on with the good stuff: these de-fricking-licious potato rounds. Ok, so they’re not fries, but they ARE a very close, crispy, seasoned approximation, eerily similar to the thick-cut potato wedges you see at fine dining establishments across America. You know the ones — red and white awnings, 2-for-1 Double Downs, the uuje. But are you ready for the kicker? The bonus factor that made me feel completely justified in eating, oh, a whole crap-ton of these things? They’re virtually FAT-FREE. Uh, boom?

Restaurant-Style Oven-Baked Potato Rounds
By Emily Stoffel
Cooking time: 35 minutes | Serves: uhhh, lets go with 2?

Notes: Despite what might seem like a boatload of spices, the recipe below actually results in relatively lightly seasoned potato rounds. If you’re really feeling that fast food flavor, double the spices and skip the extra salt at the end. Bloomin’ onion sauce optional (although The Brown Eyed Baker offers a damn tasty version here).

Ingredients:

  • 5-6 yukon gold potatoes
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • even more salt
  • cooking spray

Instructions

Preheat oven to 450F. Scrub potatoes thoroughly and slice into 1/4-1/3″ rounds. Beat egg whites until frothy. Mix all measured spices in small bowl. Add potato slices to a freezer bag and pour over eggs. Shake. Add 1/3 spice mixture. Shake. Another 1/3. Shake. And again. Spray two baking sheets with cooking spray. Arrange seasoned potatoes in a single layer on baking sheets. Bake for 20 mins, flip potatoes, and bake 10 additional minutes or until crispy and golden brown. Top with additional salt.

Recipe: Soft-scrambled tofu with oyster sauce, Thai basil and egg

When Chris is out of the house for mealtime, a couple of things happen: 1) I catch up on DVR’d episodes of Real Housewives of ____________ and 2) I whip up a two big portions of a simple, unfussy meal full of comforting flavors — and then eat them both. Tonight was no exception. Tofu is one of those things I always have in the fridge. With sweet and salty oyster sauce and fresh, aromatic basil, this is tofu at its dressed-down best.

Soft-scrambled Tofu with Oyster Sauce, Thai Basil and Egg
By Emily Stoffel
Cooking time: 10 minutes | Serves: 2

Note: While extra firm tofu is great for stir-frys, opt for firm (at the firmest) in this recipe. When warmed through, it becomes silky and smooth while still retaining a bit of structure.Scrambled Tofu with Oyster Sauce & Basil

Ingredients:

  • 1 T toasted sesame oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 container firm tofu, drained
  • 2 T oyster sauce, or more to taste
  • sriracha to taste
  • 1 small bunch Thai basil, torn or roughly chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • toasted sesame seeds
  • hot cooked rice

Instructions

Heat oil in a med-high saute pan or wok until hot. Add diced onion and stir-fry until translucent and lusciously onion-smelling (that’s a technical term), about 1 minute. Add drained tofu and break up into small pieces with a wooden spoon. (Tofu will become softer and silkier as it warms through.) Add oyster sauce, sriracha and basil and stir to combine. Push tofu mixture to far side of pan and crack egg into open space, scrambling until soft-set. Serve tofu scramble alongside egg scramble over hot rice. Top with additional oyster sauce and sriracha to taste. Sprinkle sesame seeds over top.

In the Pigpen No.2: Guest blogging, bronzer down! and Netflix

It’s Wednesday, and that can only mean one thing: hump puns. Lucky for you all, this Wednesday we’re also taking a trip to the Pigpen to explore some of the more miscellaneous ramblings of this P&Q author. Get humped up. Here we go:

Full Circle Farms Delivery

1) I got my first Guest Blog gig! I didn’t want to steal any thunder from Full Circle when this went live last week, but this past weekend my (first-ever) guest posts for The Good Food Life went live. If you’re not yet savvy (thanks to Captain Jack Sparrow for bringing that one back a few years ago), The Good Food Life is Full Circle Farm’s blog, and it delivers an almost daily (sometimes more than daily) dose of everything from original recipes and fresh produce facts to nutrition tips and organic industry articles. For my guest post, I was asked to put together three weekday dinner recipes, one being my Garlic Chicken and Plums, which featured fresh produce from my first Full Circle delivery — plus two new recipes for Roasted Kale Pesto and a Weekday Wedding Soup that I’ll be posting here later this week for archiving purposes. (For a sneak peek, check out all my guest posts here, here and here.) Huge thanks go out to Full Circle for trusting in my quill skillery. Be sure to check out The Good Food Life (they also post to their Facebook page), and if you’re within the Full Circle delivery area, their weekly produce program is a fairly priced option considering the quality offerings and the included door-to-door delivery.

2) Mineral makeup meltdown. Do you wear mineral makeup? I do. And now, so does my bathroom floor. Because, Holy Helga, I dropped my bronzer this morning, and then, in a move that was so artfully choreographed it couldn’t have been choreographed, (shut up, whatever), it fell from my hand, to my counter, to my raised-in-an-attempt-to-catch-it thigh, to the floor — where it rolled in one large circle behind my toilet and back around to my sink before settling face down in a depressing puff of faux tan ashes. I really wish I had taken a picture so you could see the carnage, which was made all the worse by a wet Clorox wipe. Honestly, I can only imagine this is what the backstage of a Victoria’s Secret fashion show looks like when they hose all those spray-tanned beauties down after curtains close. Wait, does that not happen? Huh, my guy roommates from college will be so disappointed.

But seriously you guys, it was so sad.

Parenthood3) I am thoroughly obsessed with Parenthood, the TV series. Undoubtedly, this is encouraged in no small part by recently re-upping our Netflix subscription. (Here’s how that one went: Netflix = awesome. Quickster = ridonkulous. New release delays to Netflix = lame. HBO+ Game of Thrones > Netflix. Netflix = peace out. Cable + DVR + HD + HBO = my first born child. Comcast = Lucifer. Netflix = awesome. Rather harmonious in its circularness, no?) If you’ve never seen Parenthood, it’s like Brothers & Sisters — but set in slightly less-pretentious Berkeley instead of Pasadena — right down to the cheating father/grandfather. There’s the corporatized older brother with the nuclear family; the scattered older sister escaping a failed marriage with her bratty emo kids; the wayward, sarcastic little bro (think long hair, houseboat, studio gig); and the wish-you-could-hate-her hot-shot lawyer little sis whose super charming stay-at-home husband and precocious daughter are cute enough to eat (sure, both of them). I may or may not have dedicated 11 hours of my Saturday to getting caught up on Season One while the hubs was off doing manly bonding things like shucking oysters and driving fast. WHAT.