Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday Night Fix

By the time Friday night rolls around, I'm ready to indulge in "weekend" food for dinner. You know the stuff - pizza, Chinese, chicken fingers, fries. All the stuff that tastes so good but kind of makes you cringe, too. Anyway, tonight I decided to make my own weekend food.

My homemade version included Morningstar Farms Buffalo Wings - vegetarian "chicken" nuggets, Spanish rice and tiny, fresh asparagus sauteed in olive oil with fresh lemon juice squeezed over it. 

And rather than indulge in chips or some other unhealthy snack while catching up on some of this week's TV, I air popped some corn, spritzed the popcorn with olive oil and sprinkled it with a little sea salt. Perfect. 

And that's Friday night!

Oh hey, it's Friday!

This morning, I treated myself with this:

A grande vanilla latte with skim milk, and a pumpkin spice cookie (okay, two pumpkin spice cookies) from my favorite neighborhood coffee shop.

I pulled over on the side of the road to park my car a little before 10. I felt a twinge of envy for all the people who were getting to enjoy their coffee while relaxing inside, or strolling down the street. It really is a beautiful morning. The sun is shining, you can feel the warmth in the air, and a little green is peeking out here and there. Just more proof that there are always brighter days, especially given the cold, rainy weather we had yesterday.

So last night, I went to my regular ballet class at 6:30 at my gym. I'm starting to feel a little more sense of friendship and belonging with the other people who come to class, even though I don't know their names. I started speaking up, helping others who were having trouble with steps, even after the teacher's demonstration. Then, when class ended, a few of the others in the class encouraged me to come to Zumba with I did! Saying "yes" and going with something new, rather than being nervous about the unknown, has always been a challenge for me. But I joined everyone in the large gym, walked out to a spot on the floor between strangers, and danced my ass off for the next hour. It. Was. So. Fun!

Earlier in the night, when we were doing a choreographed ballet step that took us across the entire floor, my teacher stopped me and said "you have the step right, but I want to see you dance it!" It wasn't the first time an instructor has told me to loosen up. In my 13 years of dancing, I'd definitely heard that one before. So that's what I tried to do during Zumba - loosen up, go with the music, not concentrate so hard on accurately executing every step. Just watch, and dance!

Now...where does all this go? In the end, it's all going to come back to my training work with Charlie, that beautiful beast of a 17-hand Holsteiner. In classical dressage, there is a very important part of riding and training called "let." You can really teach "let," you just have to do "let." It sounds simple - just relax - but it's more than that. It's allowing your hips to open up while your seat and legs melt onto your horse, maintaining a straight yet comfortable back, allowing your shoulders to drop (but don't you dare compromise that posture!) and your elbows to loosely hang at your side. Imagine weights on strings strategically attached to different points of your body, adjusting it into shape. That, is "let."

So, friends, here's to hoping we can all mentally "let" and cruise through Friday onto the weekend!

Oh yeah...and I didn't blow all of last night's hard work with this so-called breakfast...I have a hearty salad for lunch ;)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Homemade chicken soup with pearl pasta

Mmm, my favorite homemade soup! I love this soup not only because it's so delicious and warming on a chilly day, but it's easy to make and doesn't take much time. 

A quick trip to the grocery store, and I picked up a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken from the deli along with a few of the ingredients that I didn't already have at home. 

I cut the ends off a small yellow onion, then cut it in half and threw it in the food processor and pulsed it a few times. I have to tell you...yellow (and especially white) onions make my eyes water and burn something awful, so I try to have as little contact with them as possible. I poured a few tablespoons of olive oil in a stock pot and put the minced onion in to cook while I started chopping carrots. 

Once the carrots were chopped, I put them in the stock pot along with 8 or 10 cups of water and about 2 tablespoons of vegetable Better than Bouillon. I know I've mentioned this stuff before, but it's really great. A concentrated paste than enhances the flavor of your food and tastes way better than any vegetable broth you could buy. And it sure goes a long way. Anyway, back to the soup. 

While the water was warming and cooking the carrots, I pulled apart the chicken and added it to the water. The final ingredients to go in were the leafy tops of a few celery stalks, chopped celery and a few sprigs of fresh thyme. I sprinkled in a dash of salt to bring out the flavors, and covered the soup for about a half hour to cook. 

To go with the soup, I always make pearl pasta or orzo. Put a few serving spoonfuls of the pasta in the bottom of a bowl, add the soup and sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese. Perfect.