Monday, December 26, 2011

Sweet and Spicy Butternut Squash

Recently I was blessed with an abundance of butternut squash (the most heavenly squash in the world). Every fall, like clockwork, I get an insatiable appetite for all things butternutty. Last fall, it was my recipe for roasted rosemary and balsamic vinegar squash. This year, it's my Sweet and Spicy Butternut Squash. You can have it for breakfast or have it for dinner (this recipe really is a winner). I like it so much, my skin is starting to have a slightly orange hue. How Jersey Shore of me.

One whole butternut squash
Olive oil
Coconut oil (optional)
Butter from grass fed cows (Kerrygold)
Massive amount of cinnamon
Chili powder
Cayenne pepper
Sea salt

Santa and Mrs. Claus, supervising

Santa loves nutmeg

Mrs. Claus is more of an olive oil lady

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Line cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Cut butternut squash in half width wise then length wise so that there are 4 large pieces left.  Spoon out seeds and discard. With a heavy duty vegetable peeler or knife, peel the annoyingly thick skin of the squash. Proceed to cut the squash into approximately one inch cubes. You can also take the easy way out and buy pre cubed squash, but what's the fun in that? Spread the cubed squash evenly on the cookie sheet. 

Sprinkle with a lot of cinnamon (I'm not really into measuring my ingredients). Sprinkle with some chili powder, a small amount of cayenne pepper, a lot of sea salt, and pepper to taste. Add a few pinches of allspice and nutmeg. Finish your seasoning extravaganza with a sprinkle of paprika. Of note: The main flavoring is cinnamon, the other spices play more of a supporting role in this dish. 

Santa approves

Drizzle with olive oil. Spread 4-5 pats of butter throughout pan. And if you have it, add twoish tablespoons of coconut oil (makes it a little crisp, yum).  Toss the squash with your hands so that the spices and oil cover evenly. Re-spread the squash out on the pan. Bake for 25 minutes. Taste a piece of squash, if still firm, cook for 5 more minutes. Sometimes, I'll get a hankering for a more French fry like consistency… to achieve this, skip the olive oil, just use coconut oil, and at the end of the cooking process, switch your oven to broil for 4-5 minutes for a nice crispy treat.

 Let cool a bit and add more salt if you would like. Hide a serving or two in the back of your fridge, because your husband will eat it all. Enjoy! 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Sport of Spectating

As of last year, my super strong hubby has been participating in the sport of Olympic weightlifting. While he is setting personal records and competing in meets, I am participating in a sport of my own: the sport of spectating.

I enjoy going to these meets and watching Danny's incredible talent in lifting heavy (very heavy) things. For approximately 6 minutes (the lifter has 1 minute to make each lift), my heart is going bonkers and I'm holding my breath, until Danny completes his lift.  There are two lifts: The Snatch and the Clean and Jerk. The lifter gets 3 chances to complete each lift with the weight either staying the same (if they miss it) or increasing if the lift is good. Once Danny is done lifting, I can calm down and take in my interesting surroundings. Olympic weightlifters are a rare breed and certainly fun to watch.

One attribute that is common among Oly lifters is their large buttocks. While I promise I am not siting around staring at these giant bums, it is hard to ignore these monstrous rears, especially when they are wearing nothing but singlets (think leotards, but slightly more manly). I appreciate these large rears, not in a lustful way, but in the fact that my own rear fits right in.

There are always a few former Olympians in the room, my favorite being Butch Curry.  Butch is now the president of the PWA (Pacific Weightlifting Association). I have a few personal observations about Butch that I would like to share, mind you I have never actually spoken to Butch, so take my thoughts with a grain of salt.

Firstly, what kind of a name is Butch besides that of a Looney Toons cartoon character's and my dog's? Secondly, I would imagine a former Olympian to have the body of a Greek god.  Butch's body is more comparable to that of a jolly seasonal Santa Claus mall employee. Butch wears the same outfit to every meet that I have attended. His attire is all black, perhaps for it's slimming properties. His outfit consists of black shorts in the summer and black jeans in the winter. A black t shirt is worn under a tank top made out of synthetic material (that is also black) with a white ribbing outlining it. I am not sure if Butch is trying to relive his singlet wearing days, as this is kind of the effect it creates, or if he honestly thinks this is a good look for him. Either way, I say kudos to Butch. Sometimes I wish I could wear the same thing every day and if I did have that option, you bet I would choose black as my signature color.

For having such a tough name, Butch sure seems to be a happy guy. He is always chuckling and seems genuinely excited to spend all of his weekends at Oly meets. I decided to research Butch's Olympic standings. It turns out that Butch qualified for the Olympics and was ready to go and make our country proud. The only problem was Butch qualified to go during the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow.... you know the Olympics that we boycotted. Everything that I have gathered about Butch from afar is making a lot more sense.

Butch in his finer days

The other Butch

A minor Looney Toon's Character, Butch

Oly weightlifters typically have a specific routine that is carried out right before they attempt the lift. To a newbie, these rituals can appear odd, a bit frightening, and down right silly. Animalistic grunts, pounding of the chests, strange breathing patterns, and slapping of the rears are the norm.  One recent female lifter that I had the pleasure of watching, did a sort of hissing sound while performing what appeared to be ballet moves. I suppose these rituals are to not only pump the lifter up, but to satisfy their superstitious ways. Danny does have a ritual, but it's nothing too crazy. He stares at the bar for a second, then quickly steps forward and stomps his feet rather loudly. He then grabs the bar and readjusts his position one time, even though it was perfectly fine the first time. Every now and then he will let out the classic weightlifter grunt...then goes on to make an amazing lift.

When the female lifters start lifting, I'm always a little jealous.  I think I may have missed my calling (athletically speaking) in life. My body shape is pretty similar to that of a weightlifter, having large quadriceps and glutes (the beloved pear shape... ) plus I've always had this weird obsession with being strong, even before I started getting into Crossfit. I quickly void my heart of any desire to participate in these events, as I do not like to be the center of attention and there is no way in hell that I could let out any type of animalistic grunt. Despite my reservations, these ladies are amazing. Their strength and confidence is thrilling to watch.

One more weightlifting phenomenon that I have noticed is that the amount of facial hair a lifter has may be propotional to how much weight he can lift. Take for example Danny, who is always sporting a full beard or our friend Buddy who even hopped on board the facial hair train at last weeks competition. Both boys did incredibly well. Some might say this has to do with hard work and determination, I say it has to do with the beard.

Despite my observations, my main source of enjoyment is the look on Danny's face after he realizes that he has made the lifts that he has been working so hard for every day. He and all these big booty lifters certainly are inspiring.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Philadelphia Day 5: From Cheesesteaks to Salad Bowls.

We woke with a feeling of that intense exhaustion that most people feel at the end of their know, the reason why people say they need a vacation from their vacation. We tidied ourselves up enough to enjoy one last so-so breakfast at the glorious Alexander Inn. 

While semi enjoying our continental breakfast, the inn keeper asked us where we were headed back to. We explained as most Riponians/Mantecans do that we were about an hour south of Sacramento. The inn keeper, which by the way is his official title, exclaimed, "Oh goodness! The salad bowl of America!"  While I think Salinas Valley is actually the official, "Salad bowl of America," I assume he meant that we were from agriculturally rich territory, in which case he would be correct: We were headed home to the salad bowl of America. 

Before our flight we had a couple hours to spare so we stopped by Liberty Center for a few last minute souvenirs. We then sauntered over to the last of William Penn's squares, that we had yet to visit. 

Of all 5 squares, Franklin Square is the most kid friendly. There's a pretty water feature in the middle, a mini golf course, and a merry go round for one's enjoyment.

Franklin Square

Everyone loves a water fountain

Perhaps the best part of Franklin Square was also the most upsetting. It turns out that the mini golf course is a mini replica of the Philadelphia. All of the city's most famous landmarks are mapped out in a minature fashion of fun and golf. You can hit a hole in one through Elfreth's Alley or make par at City Hall. (Notice how I threw in all the golf lingo I know...) The most upsetting part is that we discovered the mini Philadelphia golf course after we had already explored every single one of these landmarks. It would of been nice to get a lay of the land prior to our adventures. 

Liberty Bell/Independence Hall

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Lehr's on our 6th wedding anniversary

Elfreth's Alley

After contemplating actually playing some mini golf, then deciding  it would be better to make our flight (much to Danny's disappointment), we went in search of Philadelphia's China Town.  I don't know what I was expecting, but Philadelphia's China Town is not a bustling Asian city within a city. I suppose I was expecting a San Francisco-esque China Town. I must admit, the Chinese Friendship Gate was pretty.

Chinese Frienship Gate

Our last stop on our hustling and bustling tour of Cheesesteak town, was the Reading Terminal Market.  In 1892 the Reading Railroad opened the Reading Terminal Market underneath the storage area for its trains.  I have not confirmed this with research of the least bit (not even Wikipedia research) but I think the Reading Railroad is the same railroad that you can, "Hitch a ride on," in Monopoly.  The Reading Terminal Market has survived the Super Walmarts and Winco's of our crazy country and is still considered one of the greatest food markets in the world. 

Reading Terminal Market

Reading Terminal Market
The market is overwhelming in an extremely awesome way. Seeing, smelling, and tasting so many amazing things at once, may just send you into sensory overload. From Pennsylvania Dutch merchants to fresh cut flowers the Reading Terminal Market has everything a Foodie/Indie/Uppity soul could ever dream of. 

As sort of a last ode to all things Philadelphia (think hearty, greasy, deliciousness) we ordered some pulled pork sandwiches from Dinic's. It turns out Dinic's has been featured on the Food Network and let me tell you, it did not disappoint.

 We somehow made it out of the Reading Market without falling into a deep yet delightful food coma. At the Alexander Inn we waited in the lobby for our taxi ride, which I am happy to report was much less terrifying than our taxi ride there.

Philadelphia is like most cities in that it is a mixture of art, history, food, and fun. It is unlike any city in that it grabs these common city themes, chews them up, spits them out, and makes them uniquely it's own. Philadelphia's intensity is something you can only experience if you go there. So I suggest you do that. Just be prepared for when you leave you too, will have been chewed up, spit out, somehow encased in brotherly love then left in a state of historical, artistic, and culinary disarray:

Time to head back to the Salad Bowl

To read all my Philadelphia blogs in order start here: 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Philadelphia Day 4: A Day of Oddities and Such

Art work in the Mutter Museum gift shop

Day four of our Philadelphia adventure was a day for sleeping in...clear till 8 am. Since we took the luxury of sleeping in, we decided to forgo a giant breakfast and have the continental breakfast at the Alexander Inn. The continental breakfast consisted of various cereals, dry bagels, toaster waffles, English muffins, fruit, yogurt, and hard boiled eggs. I smothered the bagel in cream cheese to make it decent. Danny added peanut butter and artificial syrup to his toaster waffles.  The coffee was delicious.

Our next destination was the Mutter Museum. Mutter Museum is located in the Philadelphia College of Physicians, which was founded in 1787. It is the oldest private medical society in the U.S. and the birthplace of American medicine.

Mutter Museum

The Mutter Museum does not allow photography, which bummed me out. The museum is filled with medical oddities, anatomical specimens, wax models, and antique medical equipment. I was thrilled when the ticket seller only charged me for the youth price. He charged Danny the adult price, which I may have rubbed in a little.

I soon became thrilled with all the weird and mysterious medical oddities. Along with medical oddities, the Mutter Museum is home to anatomical pieces of history. A piece of tissue from John Wilkes Booth's vertebrae is in a jar. If that doesn't thrill you, a section of  Charles J.Guiteau's brain (President Garfield's assassin) is on display at the Mutter Museum. Other thrilling exhibits include the Soap Lady (a sort of self mummification medical weirdness), various fetal anomalies, a 9 foot long human colon that contained 40 pounds of fecal matter (too far?), and the rib cage of a woman who wore a corset a little too often.

If you like weird sciencey things and are not easily grossed out by colons and such, then the Mutter Museum is for you.

 Next we were off to the Franklin Institute. When entering the Franklin Institute you are immediately greeted by a giant memorial to Benjamin Franklin.

The Franklin Institute
Me and Benny F.

The statue is ginormous. The walls surrounding the statue have rotating Franklin quotes illuminated on them. It's pretty inspiring stuff. This man said ...and did some amazing things for our country.

Early to bed and early to rise...
makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.

Diligence is the mother of good luck -Benjamin Franklin

An oddity that occurred during day 4 of our Philly exploration, was that we did not explore more of the Franklin Institute. Beyond the giant statue tourists can pay to see the rest of the Institute. There was a massive mummy exhibit, a gigantic heart that you could climb in, and some sort of electricity fun room. It's a kid friendly place, which I am usually all about, but I feel like I've been to the Franklin Institute a million times. The Exploritorium, The California Academy of Science, and The Field Museum in Chicago all have the same sort of feeling and I'm over it. You know the old saying.....Once you've seen one mummy, you've seen 'em all.

After some Frankspiration, we walked....and walked and walked some more to the Belgian Cafe.  

Belgian Cafe

The Belgian Cafe seemed pretty authentic in it's belgianicity...but I'm not always a good judge of authenticity. The air conditioning was on full blast and Neil Young was playing on the radio... which I enjoyed. There were murals of half naked ladies on the walls which seems very European...  Danny was too busy looking at the extensive beer list to notice the European art. A direct quote from Danny is, "The Belgian Cafe has hella beers." They also had pommes frites served with this amazing homemade mayonnaise sauce. I am a sucker for a good french fry....and these pommes frites had me wrapped around their thin greasy little fingers. 

I have a super nerdy confession to make. When I plan on blogging about something, I take notes during my experience. I know...I know. So I asked Danny how he liked his beer. Mocking my note taking he replied, "Let the record show the beer was good."

Belgian goodness

We then scampered off to the creepy yet delightful Eastern State Penitentiary. Eastern State Penitentiary is startlingly beautiful. From the outside it appears like a castle on the edge of a modern city.

Eastern State Penitentiary

I'm not a huge fan of audio tours, but the Eastern State Penitentiary audio tour is legit. The voice coming across the archaic headphones is Steve Buscemi' know the guy from Fargo.  Before starting the tour, I recommend taking some pictures by the prison wall looking like an inmate.

Can't cage this bird

Locked up for my sick karate moves

It's Big Dan to you.

Fear the Lehrs

The Eastern State Penitentiary opened it's gates in 1829. It was the first penitentiary of its kind in America. Before penitentiaries, jails had problems with overcrowding and less than humane conditions. People who committed more serious crimes faced public punishments like this:

Apparently being whipped in public wasn't effective against serious crime, so a group of philosophers and such (Benny Franklin being one of them) got together and planned the worlds first penitentiary...a place for penitence. The cell blocks were spread like spokes of a wheel from the central guard station. Theoretically if a guard were standing in the middle, he could see all blocks at the same time.

The inmates rarely left their cells. During the infrequent trips outside their cells, the inmates wore masks to keep them from communicating with anyone they may come in contact with.

The cells have individual feed doors and exercise yards to enhance the solitary confinement.

Fuzzy cell block.

Sky light...termed "God's Eye" 

Exercise yard.

It turns out that years of solitude don't always correct a criminal's behavior. In fact, solitary confinement usually made them go a little crazy. Lucky for them, having a prison based on this idea was extremely expensive. Since America's population and criminal activity was growing, Eastern State Penitentiary had to abandon this idea. Soon the cell blocks became two and three stories tall, most did not have individual exercise yards, and each cell had two prisoners in it.

The prison's architect had cathedrialish taste.

My cell mate

Planning my escape

Eastern State Penitentiary officially closed its doors in 1970. When touring the prison it will definitely make you think twice about correctional methods both current and past. It will also make you think about ghosts (some claim they are there) and Al Capone (one of Eastern State's most famous prisoners).

Next it was off to Citizen's Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies, for an A's vs. Phillies game. A Day of Oddities would have been the perfect name if our pitiful Athletics would of won, however the A's couldn't pull through for my artistic sake. Citizen's Bank Park is new, shiny, and beautiful...everything that the Coliseum is not.

Phillie Phanatic. 

Let's go Oakland.

The real story lies not in the Athletics' typical 1-0 loss, but in America's stupid obsession with frozen yogurt. I almost wrote a blog solely dedicated to this new frozen yogurt trend. It seems everyone is obsessed with these Chilaberries and Yogafina places where you can put various toppings on frozen yogurt. I ask of America, what is wrong with ice cream... good old fashioned, heavy on the cream, ice cream? Nothing. In fact it is far superior to any frozen yogurt. Please don't try to argue that frozen yogurt is healthier for you. You can take the fat out of the frozen yogurt, but you cant hide the bucket fulls of sugar. Anyway, enough of my "Fro Yo" rant....

Danny said he wanted to try some frozen yogurt at the game. I agreed only because we were on vacation together and I was trying to be positive. Maybe this frozen yogurt would blow my mind (or give me brain freeze).

We got in the very long line and waited. Despite hating long lines, I thought it might be a good sign. Then something strange happened. The frozen yogurt lady came up to us and told us that we were the end of the line. It was the 7th inning. She said you have to tell the people behind you that's no one past you gets yogurt. Danny and I were perplexed, but everyone kept saying the yogurt was worth it.

So here we had the uneasy task of telling Phillie fans that that we, Athletic fans, were the last people to get yogurt. Of course droves of people got in line after that. Each time Danny would tell them the story and they wouldn't believe him. I would then confirm his story. Sometimes they would listen and sometimes they would go ask the frozen yogurt lady only to march off in a fit of frozen yogurt rage.

Then a man and his girlfriend came up behind us who also initially did not believe us. The man with the heavy Jersey accent, believed us after someone else confirmed our story. He then told us, "Oh, we will have frozen yogurt! I can talk my way into any club in the city. We will get it." I thought to myself, "What do night clubs and frozen yogurt have to do with one another?" He went and spoke with the frozen yogurt lady and came back with a grin on his face. He said he told her his girlfriend was pregnant and this was the only thing she wanted. She did not look pregnant in the least. I hope that's not how he gets into, "Any club in the city." So the Jersey guy took over the job of sending people away...which we were thankful for.

When we got to the front of the line the frozen yogurt lady gave the four of us extra toppings for our troubles. When she handed the "pregnant" lady her yogurt, she used her oh-you-are-pregnant-so-you-should-be-treated-like-a-princess voice and said, "Is there anything else I can get for you sweet heart?" Laughing on the inside. I took a bite of my frozen yogurt and proclaimed that there was nothing special about this frozen yogurt. In fact, it may have been the worst frozen yogurt I have ever had. I guess the specialness comes from the experience.