It has been a busy few weeks for me, between the new job, adjusting to the new schedule, tornado season beginning, mentally preparing for Ryan’s impending deployment and house hunting. Rolled into all of that, was wrapping up my training schedule, because two weeks ago, I successfully completed by second half-marathon. Over the last few years, I’ve run a number of ‘races’ of various lengths, mostly as a way to keep myself motivated when I head to the gym. Aside from ways to keep myself motivated and avoid injury (and recovery when they inevitably happen), running and training has taught me a lot about the importance of nutrition. Although I’ve never been one to shirk nutrition, its importance was never quite as apparent until I started pushing my body to new bounds. It’s really, really hard to run ten miles with a beef and bean burrito and a chocolate milkshake sloshing around in your stomach!
A well-balanced diet is crucial for decent performance, and the first time you try to train or race when dehydrated or without decent food in your system, you become (literally) painfully aware of your need for good fuel. I now carefully plan the meals surrounding longer training sessions and races: high carbs (but not refined sugars!) before, high protein and some fat afterwards. Don’t down a bottle of water right before, but give yourself time for your system to absorb and process it. Fuel throughout endurance runs with easily digestible sugars (and water), preferably with some vitamins and potassium to keep you going (I like using GU energy gels, especially the kind with caffeine!). Then, cool down with a cold light beer, because it genuinely helps control the lactic acid release and thus eases soreness the next day. Continue reading
I’ve got a number of cookbooks to my name, about a dozen, plus about another dozen cooking magazines (e.g. Quick Cooking, now sadly defunct). Then there’s my recipe box, which grows fuller and fuller. And let’s not even start talking about my Pinterest boards (let’s just pretend I haven’t pinned over 1k recipes…).
But how many of those recipes have I actually made? A very small fraction, truth be told. I love to read the recipes, look at the pictures, admire the methods and fantasize about the produce. And then I put the book away, close the Pinterest window, shut the magazine. And walk away. Maybe I’ll eventually make it. But probably not.
In that spirit, I’m going to share a recipe with you that you probably won’t ever make:
Homemade Ravioli with Brown Butter Asparagus and Walnuts
Ingredients – Ravioli
2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp olive oil
1 c cottage cheese (the poor man’s ricotta– higher fat is better), strained (you want mostly curds, not whey)
1/2 c sun-dried tomatoes (I make my own using this method– I also add some Italian seasonings for umph)
salt & pepper
(1/4 c freshly grated parmesean is a really nice addition, but I didn’t have any this time)
Ingredients – Asparagus
1 lb asparagus, trimmed and cut into ~3″ pieces
4 Tbs butter (do not substitute margarine or oil here– for a brown butter sauce to work, it really does need to be butter)
1/2 c chopped walnuts
handful of chopped parsley (I used dried this time, but fresh really is much better)
- Prepare your pasta dough by mixing together the flour, salt, oil and eggs. This video will help you learn the traditional ‘well’ method. Let it rest for at least 30 minutes.
- While the dough is resting, prepare your filling. Simply mix together the cottage cheese, egg, tomatoes, salt and pepper and optional parmeasan and set aside.
- Cut the dough into hunks and roll out into thin sheets. If you’ve got a pasta press, lucky you! I just use a rolling pin and lots of elbow grease!
- Once your dough is rolled out nice and thin (if they are too thick, they can end up too bready when you cook them), spoon out rows of scant tablespoons on half of the sheet. Then fold over the sheet to cover the filling lumps and press the dough around the filling to help seal the pockets. Then you can either cut between the ravioli pockets (make sure they are very sealed!) or use a ravioli stamp, like I did.
- You can either freeze these ravioli, refrigerate for a few days or go ahead and cook them now.
- Bring your water to a boil and melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the asparagus, stir to coat and cook for about 5 minutes.
- Once the water is boiling, add the ravioli to the pot (I use a slotted spoon to add and remove them) and cook. They should take 4-5 minutes. I also prefer to do this in multiple batches to avoid overcrowding the pot. They need to be able to move around freely in the boiling water. Once cooked, remove to a serving dish or individual plates.
- Remove the asparagus from the saute pan and add to the ravioli. Juice the lemon and add the juice to the butter left in the pan. Stir in the pepper (freshly ground is best– about ten twists), then the walnuts, then the parsley. Toss to coat, then pour over the asparagus and ravioli. Top with grated parmesean and additional parsley, if desired.
So let’s be real. You’re not going to make that tomorrow night. You’re not going to make that Saturday night. You’re going to look at the picture, think about how delicious it must be with the bite of the lemon juice and the nuttiness of the asparagus complemented by the walnuts. But that’s all.
I’ve been watching my fair share of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares lately (thank you, Netflix, for helping me indulge my cinematic gluttony). Two things have become clear:
1. Gordon knows how to cook.
2. He expects the best from everyone.
Gordon Ramsay is in incredibly polarizing television personality, famous for his incredibly high standards in cooking which he enforces with an iron fist. With twenty-two current restaurants to his name and another dozen that have run their course, he hosts multiple reality television shows which both challenge and develop their participants.
But he doesn’t exactly always do this nicely. The reason he is so polarizing is because of his methods– loud, abrasive and harsh. His shows have lots of shouting, a fair share of swearing (Netflix episodes are uncensored, by the way, so fair warning) and lots and lots of confrontation. I’ve really only ever been a fan of Kitchen Nightmares, where he travels around to failing restaurants (there are seasons in both the UK and US) and tries to turn them around. He generally does remarkably well, with most of the restaurants resurrecting on the back of his changes and relaunch.
But these renewals are not easy or comfortable, and Gordon isn’t easy on the restaurateurs with whom he works. He is terribly difficult to impress (or even satisfy, really) and tolerates no laziness whatsoever. With uncomfortable frequency, the chefs serving embarrassingly poor entrees question Ramsay’s authority and try to disregard his opinions. But, without fail, his opinion is gold and, when they follow his advice, it proves accurate with restaurant-goers.
But why am I even bringing this up? What on earth does Gordon Ramsay have to do with worshiping and glorifying God?