Saturday, June 30, 2012

Smoked Salmon Hand Rolls

"I could eat my body weight in sushi."  Mikey Way

Who knew I had so much in common with the bassists from My Chemical Romance?  

Sushi.  My #2 Love.
  (Yes, baby, you're #1)

I could eat it every day.  I've joked that I will probably end up with mercury poisoning one day just like Jeremy Pivon.  
(and become Mad as a Hatter)

 What I don't always love is the bill after I've filled my belly full of the freshest fish over tiny grains of  perfectly seasoned rice.  Now don't get me wrong.  When Dave and I walk out of Sushi Ran, after spending an embarrassing amount of money, we feel like we ripped THEM off.  The food is that amazing.  (Do it.  Go there.  Make reservations.  Invite me!)  But, since I don't have Bill Gates' money, I've had to learn to satisfy my craving on a much more realistic budget.  

A few years ago, I took a couple of sushi making cooking lessons at the now closed Shallots Cooking School at the Nugget Market.  We learned the basics, from how to make the perfect sushi rice, how to make a basic California roll and to how to create "fancy" rolls like an inside out shrimp tempura roll.  I came home from the classes, bamboo rolling mat in hand, ready to conquer the world of homemade sushi.  

When you make sushi at home,  you have to be very cautious about the kinds of raw fish you use.  You always want to buy fish from a reputable fish monger who sells "sashimi grade" fish.  Fish that isn't handled properly could make you very sick when you eat it raw.  There are many places in the San Francisco Bay area to buy fish of this quality.  You can also check with a Japanese Market, or one of the online sellers who will overnight the fish on ice.  

Because I don't have a Japanese market in my town, and I don't always have the time to go to San Francisco just to pick up fish for dinner, I found that I could make my own at-home sushi with cold smoked salmon, right from the grocery store.  I usually get my salmon in a 2 pack at Costco.  Two nights worth of sushi for the cost of 2 "fancy" rolls at a restaurant!  I became addicted, and soon, we were eating hand rolls almost once a week.  

Partial list of my food allergies

Then, in February 2012, I found out the mystery reason I had been so sick for the past few years, was because I had food allergies.  I was allergic to so many foods.  Some of the foods were ingredients in my beloved sushi.  


As upset as I was, I was determined to get in control of my health and start feeling better, yet still find a way to eat the food I loved.  My local sushi haunt has an amazing staff that have been overly accommodating to help me still be able to enjoy sushi.  I was even more estatic to discover that the cold smoked salmon I had been buying at Costco was on my "safe" list, and with a few minor modifications, I would still be eating 
hand rolls ever week!  

Wednesday, late afternoon.  I send Lo a text.

I'm making hand rolls for dinner.  Wanna come over? 

I can't leave my house 'till it's cleaned.  Come cook here? We can talk about the blog.
(code for "sit on the patio and have drinks")

Can Dave tag along?

Oh yeah, he's home.  Sure!

After sitting in traffic for what seemed like 8 years, I made it home from work, kissed the hubby and the pups, threw all the sushi stuff in a grocery bag and we headed over to Lo's.

We were greeted loudly, by the adorable Emma.  I love this face!

As I'm getting situated in her kitchen, Lo starts making these green beans that smelled amazing.  Sadly, I can't eat them, but man, did the smell make my mouth water.  I start making rolls, and keep rolling and rolling and rolling.  

How many should I make?  

I dunno.  

Dave's here. 

Keep Rolling! 


Cooking should always be this fun!

A platter of hand rolls. A bowl of Spicy Schezuan Green Beans. Raspberry Beer. 
A backyard park. Friends. Laughs.
The perfect ending to the midweek "hump". 


Smoked Salmon Hand Rolls

Nori Sheets, cut in half
Cooked sushi rice, cooled to room temperature
Thinly sliced cold smoked salmon
Cucumber, seeded and sliced into matchsticks
Avocado, thinly sliced
Pickled ginger, wasabi, sriracha, and soy sauce (opt).

Take a nori sheet and put about 1/4 cup of rice on the left third of the sheet. Spread the rice so it's even. In the middle of the rice, place a piece of fish, a couple slices of cucumber and a slice of avocado. Then roll up in the traditional cone shape (or be lazy like me and roll it up like a taquito). Repeat until you have made desired amount of rolls. Serve with pickled ginger, wasabi, sriracha, and soy sauce, if desired.

Friday, June 29, 2012

"Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest." ~Mark Twain

September 27, 2003

Hubby cleaned out the garage over the weekend because our new garage fridge is getting delivered today. He put some old stuff we no longer needed out on the driveway, including a small filing cabinet. I listed the stuff on freecycle and people came and picked up our stuff, including the cabinet. The next day, I got an email.

"I just found an envelope with your marriage license. It was stuck in the top drawer." 


"Thank you so much for not tossing it! I'll be by later to get it!"

"It was the right thing to do."

"The right thing to do."  You don't hear that much anymore.

Just when my faith in humanity was getting dangerously low,  
I was reminded that there really are some good people out there.  
Thank you, freecycle friend.  
The world needs more of people like you.

Spicy Schezuan Green Beans

Sometime in the last few months as Mel became an electrician's widow (her husband travelling out of the area for the first 6 months of the year for weeks at a time), her and I started getting together about once a week for dinner and a weekly B&M session. 
 No, it's not like S&M - it's b!%@# & moan.

When she told me she was making salmon handrolls for dinner
 (uhh yeah!! - I had been craving them all day), I told her I was committed to cleaning up the house and why didn't she stop by and make them at my place so we could "talk about the blog"
 while I finished stuff up around the house. 
 Easy enough..."can Dave tag along?" she text back.  
Oh yeah, the Hubs is back.  Sure.  The more the merrier. 

As I did a quick clean up in the kitchen so Mel could work her magic when she got to my place, I had some little reminder in the back of my mind that I should make something and I had pinned a recipe for spicy, shcezuan green beans a few months back that I had yet to try out.  
Score one for the pantry, I just happened to have everything I needed. 

As I started cutting, steaming, mixing, and sauteing, Mel's Hubs came into the kitchen declaring "Man those smell good, it smells like PF Changs in here!"  


Literally, this dish took about 15 minutes from prep to finish and not only did it smell like PF Changs, it tasted like it too. 
little sweet, little salty, little bit of a kick of spicy at the end
these beans mean business!!

1. wash and trim green beans
2. place in a pot, cover, and steam with approximately 1/4 of a cup of water for 3-5 minutes
3. Prepare the sauce:

{now I must interject that I am a cook-by-taste and an "eyeballer", it's just how Mama taught me.  Cooking was never complicated in our house growing up, it was good ingredients, taste as you go, and keep it simple.  Mama is a great cook, her methods stand both the taste test and the test of time}

Nonetheless the sauce as I eyeballed it:
2 T fresh ginger
2 T fresh garlic
2 T cooking oil (I used olive)
2 T* chili flakes  (I used chili paste)
*if you're not a fan of the heat, try with a t first and measure up from there, these dish packed a punch by the time it was all said and done, but I'm a fan of the heat, so I don't have to get out of the kitchen!)
2 t sugar
2 T soy sauce
1 T rice wine vinegar
place all the ingredients in a bowl and give it a stir while the green beans steam
4. After steaming the green beans (it steamed my camera lens too), I threw in some sliced mushrooms that were hanging out in the fridge and cranked the heat up to high and threw in the sauce and let it all come to a nice bubble for about 6 minutes until everything was well cooked through and the sauce thickened.!
Of course, in my kitchen we do spills, we do clumsy, and we do clean up.
Spicy green beans were no was like a crime scene and before I could get to it, the dog came over and took a lick.  It was like the peanut butter reaction, poor thing just kept licking and licking and licking.
A spicy lesson for the pooch but she lives to bark another day.

I let the beans and mushrooms cook down until they were just cooked through enough that everything was well combined but still had a good bite to it.   Spicy?  Yes, but both Mel's Hubs and I could handle it...yeah, there might have been a little sweatin' and a little nose blowin' but what's life if not a little spicy!?'!
Mel's handrolls (recipe here), my green beans, and my absolute new Summertime love, Raspberry Shock Top  with muddled fresh raspberries made for an incredible, impromptu dinner on the back porch.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Little Things Turn Into Big Things

We've all had that day at work when we wake up feeling a little off. We go in to the office feeling a little tired, a little headachy, a little grumpy. The morning drags by, the headache gets a little worse, your eyelids are trying to shut, and you want nothing more than to make the underneath of your desk into a "Costanza bed."

Then comes lunch time.

Nothing really sounds good except a munching on a bottle of chocolate covered Advil, washing it down with a barrel of sugary caffeine, and following it up with a three hour nap in your sun-baked car. And even if you're hungry, all you usually want to eat is some deep fried salt, smothered in cheese, with a side of chocolate.

But I'm trying to be healthy.

I had that day today. Nothing sounded good. I felt crummy. I would rather have been in bed, napping the day away, than arguing on the phone with the people who like to make my job more difficult. As if working for the government isn't hard enough lately.

Lunch time approaches. The angel and devil on my shoulders start arguing.

Man, a giant Dr. Pepper sure would help kill that headache of ours.

But all the sugar and empty calories. We've been doing so good lately. Drink some water. 

We should just go to In-N-Out. We could get fries while we are getting that extra-large soda. Mmmmmm salt.

More empty calories we shouldn't eat. Plus, we know we need to be limiting potatoes.   Dr.'s orders.

Eh, whatever. We're doing so good lately. A little cheat won't hurt.

No, no, no.  I'm not going to get fries and a soda.  That's not in today's plan.  Today's plan is to be healthy.  Make good decisions.  I've been strong for the past 4 months.  One day of feeling under the weather isn't going to derail my goals.  

I took a break.  Left the Arctic chill of the office and made my way to the cozy comforts of my car.  I drove down the street to the grocery store.  I made my way to the deli and visited the made-to-order sushi counter.  I asked the chef to prepare me an (my) allergy friendly brown rice salmon roll full of crunchy veggies.  Perfect.  As I walked back across the store to the register, I stopped at the wall of cold drinks.  My gaze locked in with a beautiful bottle of Dr. Pepper.  I took a deep breath, told that red vixen to shut up, and was about to reach for a bottle of water,when my eyes wandered over to the most beautiful sight at that moment.  


Why didn't I think of that in the first place?!?!  Just enough caffeine to help kick my headache, but none of the empty calories or garbage ingredients to ruin my goals for the day.  It's one of my favorites! 

I headed back to the office.  Refreshed.  It was good to get out of the office for a few and I made good choices.  I was ready to get back to work.  

Today was a good day. 

Brings back memories of drinking unsweetened sun tea at Grandma's by the pool

Think about it.  An extra-large fast food soda will set you back upwards of 500 calories.  If you had an extra-large soda ever day with lunch, that could mean a minimum of an extra 10,000 calories per month! Consuming an extra 3,500 calories will make you gain 1 pound. 
10,000 calories = 2.85 pounds per month or 34.25 pounds per year. 
Add in a piece of candy every time you walk by the receptionists' desk and a couple donuts a week from the break room and you are on your way to needing new pants every 6 months.  
No wonder it's so challenging to lose weight when you work in an office.  Little things like swapping out soda with unsweetened tea really add up over time.  

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

My introduction to hot yoga

When I hurt my back in 2004, I went to a rehab facility at a gym.  I did this in addition to physical therapy.  I was with a group of people who were about the same age as my grandparents, most of them in there for stroke rehab.  We started out slowly doing water therapy, then transitioned into some light yoga and pilates stretches and light weights on the machines.  A few months after I had been released back to normal activities, I went with my sister to a yoga class at the gym.  The class started out slow, and I was catching on from my experience with the rehab classes.  Then the teacher instructed everyone to do the "extended hand to big toe" pose.

I tried.  

I failed.  

I fell over.  

I took my sister out with me.  

I disrupted the entire class.  

I was mortified.  

After the class, the teacher walked over to me and very rudely said that she didn't think that yoga was a good fit for me, and I should find something better suited for me.  In other words, don't come back to my class, you suck.

So that was my last yoga experience...until Sunday.  My birthday.  Lo texted me and said that she was going to yoga, and did I want to go with her?  It's "mellow flow", not as hot, it's the easiest class, and the teacher "is such a love."

"Not as hot?  How hot is that?" 

(A few years ago, we went to a beer fest on the Sacramento River and it was 110* outside.  I got dehydrated even though I didn't even drink any beer and overheated and haven't been able to tolerate the heat since.  I hate being hot.)

"Only around 85-87"

(That's way better than than the 105 Bikram yoga you always hear about)

"That's not too bad.  What do I need to wear and bring?"



So I met Lo at the yoga studio at 10am on a Sunday, on my birthday.  Instead of sleeping in and eating birthday bacon. 

Who does that?  Aren't birthdays for sleeping, hangovers, eating out, and just being lazy?

We set up our mats.  The room was warm, but not overwhelming.  The lights were off.  There was a statue in the center surrounded by candles and flowers.  The teacher comes up and talks to Lo and gives her a hug.  Lo introduces me to Krista, and she gives me a hug, like we've been friends for a hundred years. I'm not a hugger, but this was a welcoming, inviting hug.  It made me feel like I was with family.    

The class starts and Krista starts talking, guiding us through the journey she will be taking us on this morning.  Her voice is soothing.  Her words are calm.  Relaxing.  Encouraging.  "It's ok if you can't do the pose."  "Don't worry about when you fall over." "Don't forget to breathe."

WHEN YOU FALL OVER.  I liked this lady already.

The class started out simply.  I've taken a few Pilates mat classes over the past few months, so I was a little bit more limber than at my last yoga class.  I was able to do many of the poses.  Some I did a modified version, some I made up my own thing that in no way shape or form resembled what was going on in the studio at that time. I was constantly moving.  Trying.  Effort. I fell over.  No one scolded me or shot me a death glare  I got up and kept on going.  

I started sweating a bit, but made sure I took a break to get some water in me.  No way was I going to get overheated.  I would not pass out.  911 would not be called out.  I would not spend my birthday in the ER getting treated for heat exhaustion from hot yoga. My hubby would never let me live that down. 

Then I started to get warm.  I wiped my forehead.  I was drenched.  I was sweating buckets.  Places on my body were sweating that I had no idea you could sweat from. Did I pee myself or was this all sweat?

This has to be what Texas feels like in July.

The poses kept getting harder, but I hung in there.  I kept drinking water and modifying poses that were too advanced for me.

Restorative poses.  My favorite.  A reward for all your hard work before you head back to the real world. A time to reflect on how far you challenged yourself, and how far you have come.

When I started the class, I stood with my feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart.  I could barely touch my knees with my fingertips.  By the end of the class, I could almost put my palms flat on the floor.

"You did so good." A goodbye hug.  A picture to prove I survived. 

Will I go back ?  


Will I try hotter yoga?  



Mel, Lo, & Sunday Flow

Hot yoga.
It is a passion of mine.

I'm a young "yogi", still practicing & not quite as much of a regular as I'd like to be, but still, I loved hot yoga from the get-go and it's become my thing.
I got to yoga class not only for my body, but for my mind, and my heart.
Some of my friends think I'm crazy for bending & twisting in a hot and moderately humid room for
90-minutes at a time, sweating like a cold glass on a hot Summer day.
Despite that, I've gotten about a dozen of them to at least try a class with me.
I've had a few of them get just as hooked, and a few others try and kill me mid-class with hateful death glances under sweat drenched eyelashes.

Mel has avoided my invite to hot yoga for some time now, but this Sunday, on a whim, I asked her and she agreed to go. Can't lie, I was a little shocked that she agreed.
Her reaction in the past when I've asked her is "no way, no how, I'm just not ready for that."
Fair enough. However in the last few months, she's lost about 30 lbs with her strict diet and she had been practicing mat Pilates. I made it to a few classes with her and knew that she could probably hang in the heat of the Sunday "Mellow Flow" class.

One of my favorite teachers, Krista, teaches this class.
It's the "coolest" of the classes, with the temperature sitting at just about 87* & it's one of the grooviest of the classes, 'cause well Krista is a perfect combination of Goldie Hawn and Ethel Mertz.
Krista is hugs, smiles, and words of humor that bring ease and levity to practice.
Sunday morning class is about soft candlelight, community, and calm.
It's Sunday Morning Mellow Flow.

Each yoga class always comes with a mantra for the practice.
Sunday's mantra was a list:
1: Love - immense love
2: Moderation
3: Humility
Krista added the 4th: Happy
The instruction was to have all these things for ourselves and for our practice during our 90 minute class.

As we sat down, both of us sore and stiff from the long week, me hurting from walking/running a 5K the night before and having not slept in 3 days, I could barely lie in shavasana (corpse pose) without wincing.
I couldn't even lie like a dead body without hurting!!!

Mel leaned over and whispered to me that the last time she tried yoga, she got kicked out for falling over.
I just looked at her like, "mmmmm-kay, oh please..."
I said "No one in this room will even blink twice if you fall over."

Krista reinforced it right at the beginning of class, she said:
be happy
don't be afraid to fall
(go ahead, read into it, don't be afraid to fall, physically, emotionally, just go with it!)

Upon hearing that I looked over with a glance that said: "Psssssst, Mel, don't be afraid to fall!"
Shortly after that, Mel did. 
She fell. 
It was a short fall and as she looked over at me with her eyes enlarged like she had just committed a crime, I just smiled back like "atta girl, can't fall if you don't even try in the first place."

So we got into class, up dog, down dog, cobra, pigeon, lizard, child's pose...
We did something that doesn't have a name - it was: bend over, grab the backs of your ankles or your shins, let your head hang down heavy,  and walk in a circle. 
Yeah, picture twenty spandex clad, sweaty women laughing their asses off doing that. 
Go ahead, pause reading this post for a second and do it yourself.  I dare you!

There was also some kind of other twist, I don't know the name of it - it was a sideways bend with one arm snaked through your leg, the other arm looped over your back, grabbing for your hands to connect and hold on, & then finally turning your head up and look at the ceiling.
I did it the best I could, not quite with my hands touching, but close enough and I looked up at the ceiling.
It only took about three seconds before sweat rolled into my nostril and it was like when you suck water into your nose at the pool and you think you're gonna drown. 
I thought I was gonna drown.


Mel - she kept up with all of it, modified what she didn't know or couldn't get right away, but she kept up thoroughout, with the young yogis the old yogis, she did soo good for all 90 minutes without stopping! 

As we laid in our last shavasana, Krista's voice floated over the soft music playing, reminding us to:
watch your breath
soften your thoughts
know that you're safe, "Mother Earth" is holding you
(I interpretted my own spiritual meaning).

Our final moments on the mat, we sat silently, legs crossed, hands to heart center, heads bowed:
bowed to ourselves, our practice, to dedicating our time spent to someone close to us:
I thought of all the people close to me and I prayed.
I prayed like I was an auctioneer. Just as fast as I could think of a name, I said a short prayer.
For: safety, comfort, peace, wisdom, courage, understanding, forgiveness, healing, I prayed for it all...

At the end of class, after the music was of and we were moving around, I looked at Mel, looking to see if she was going to need an IV or maybe a foam bat to hit me with but she needed neither.
She looked a little bit surprised that she made it through class, saying she had never sweat so much in her life but she liked it and even though she fell, she made it through the class like a champ. 

Krista agreed.  There were hugs.  Sweaty hugs.

Mel kickin' some beginners hot yoga butt, made me think of one of my favorite sayings:

Don't be afraid to step out to the edge and take a leap.
Don't be afraid to fall.
pssttt....don't be afraid to go to hot yoga with me!!!

Namaste, my friends.

~ Lo