I’m SO relieved it’s the weekend. This past week was more intense than usual – two final exams, a presentation, two quizzes, my last long run before the Brooklyn Half Marathon and a mountain of draining admin stuff to wrap it all up. Bleh. Now it’s Saturday night and I am feeling very content in my PJ’s, chilling out in front of the TV after cooking a really nice meal for myself. Ahhhhh. I have a lot of work to do before this semester is over – one final push from now until May 15th – but it feels good to put my feet up and relax for a bit first.

My exam on Monday, which was for my Food Science lecture, mostly covered baking. I think it went well, although there were a few tricky questions on there. I was more nervous for my Food Science cooking exam on Wednesday – hence the flurry of food photos over the last couple of weeks. The night before the exam, I basically just turned up some music and cooked for four hours. Not a bad way to study, I must say – particularly since I got to eat what I made!

Our exam included an improvised section in which each person got a protein, a grain and a vegetable. I never cook pork for myself, so I pan-seared some pork and had another go at making a sauce. This time I didn’t set off the fire alarm! I deglazed with white wine, used chicken stock and golden raisins. I also sauteed some kale and made brown rice pilaf style, which is a nice alternative to simply simmering rice, as I often do. You heat some olive oil, throw in some shallots (or onions) and let them cook for a minute, then add your rice and coat with oil. Pour in your chicken or vegetable stock, bring to a boil then turn down to a simmer, cover and cook the rice as you normally would, until all the liquid is absorbed. I also practiced making other things, including a cornstarch slurry and a roux. Guess I should make a soup to put that roux to good use!

On exam day, we walked in and chose a station, which included a plate covered with a paper towel. It was stressful, particularly in the beginning as everyone was scrambling around, but I eventually got into a groove and actually started to enjoy myself (well, to an extent)! I did well with my knife skills (we had to dice, julienne, chop, slice and mince) and perfectly poached my egg (was slightly worried about that one). Most importantly, I finished my improvised plate on time and it came out great!

We each got a chicken breast, and I got Brussels sprouts and white rice. I knew exactly what I wanted to do – pan sear the chicken, roast the Brussels sprouts with pecans and cranberries, cook the rice pilaf style with shallots and chicken stock, and then spice up the dish with some roasted red pepper sauce. Timing was tough with the sauce, since it takes at least an hour to make and we only had 40 minutes, but thankfully I was able to start the roasting and other prep while doing my knife skills and techniques. This recipeย from Martha Rose Shulman’s NY Times Recipes for Health series was my sauce inspiration – I had made it last year a couple times, and I remember it being sweet, spicy, colorful, and simply awesome. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any yellow pepper – it’s even better when you get both red and yellow. Either way, put it on anything and it tastes great! I loved it with goats cheese on bread or crackers, or on fish, or on chicken or…with a spoon.

I’m particularly grateful I made the sauce because for the first time ever I screwed up searing chicken – it was sticking to the pan and not breaking free when it should have, so I eventually had to pry it away to flip it before it burned and tore the meat. The sauce was the perfect cover up! I wish I had plated differently now that I look at it, but overall I was proud of my dish and my judges seemed impressed. My sauce – particularly the fact that I roasted the pepper – apparently won some points!

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The best thing about cooking exam week is how much food I’ve had in my fridge – both leftovers and stuff I never got around to cooking. I used my leftover caramelized onions (I practiced sweating and caramelizing), mushrooms and kale to make a kick-ass omelet – with my brown rice on the side. And tonight, I continued my pan searing series and seared marinated tofu, served over broccoli, kale, mushrooms and sweet potato. I had been looking for recipe inspiration the night before my exam, to prepare myself for whichever protein, grain and vegetable I received. For tofu and veg, I visited my friend Kathy’s blog, as she has SO many incredible recipes with beautiful photos. You must try her seared maple tamari tofu – really delicious. I’m always lazy and buy the packaged marinated tofu – after tonight I’m going to try to not do that anymore.

As for running – yes, I realize that FFR has turned into more of an eating than a running blog lately – but I have been running too! I am still only training three times per week – easy, tempo and long – in order to let my hamstring heal as much as possible before I begin marathon training next month. It’s been frustrating – some weeks I feel strong, others not so much – but I know that’s the healing process, and I just have to let it run its course.

This week I reached 25M, which is the most I’ve done since the NYC half. I need to get myself up to a 30-35M base by mid-June, so I’m hoping that’s possible. I ran 5M at E’s tempo pace on Wednesday without difficulty (although with a few hamstring pangs in the beginning), but I seriously bonked on my long run. It wasn’t even that long – only 13.5M – but the humidity and the stress of the week really weighed me down. My legs felt like lead by mile 9 and my hamstring was okay but not feeling as great as it did the previous week. I’m thankful for my running buddy who kept me going in the last few miles – I would have finished had I been on my own, but it’s always nice to have support. I spent the rest of the day totally wiped out on my couch.

Friday’s weather made me realize just how much I’m dreading summer training, especially since Friday wasn’t even that bad. It was a bit warm and quite humid, but nothing close to true NYC summer weather. Don’t get me wrong – I’m extremely excited to train and to coach – but it will take some adjustment. I’m not used to training in that type of weather, nor am I used to marathon training with so little time to train. But I’ll make it work – I always do!

I still haven’t figured out what I’m going to do for my training races. I was counting on the Bronx half on August 12th as my first training race, but they cancelled it, and I can’t seem to find any local replacements (understandably so – who on earth wants to race in East Coast August weather?!). I’m on the fence about September – the Philly half is a possibility, as is Chicago, but both options are somewhat pricey when you take everything into account. I’ll have to think it over and see if anything else pops up – I would hate not to have a dress rehearsal before marathon day!

Time to get back to vegging out. Counting down the days until I see E, run the Brooklyn Half and go home to California to see my family! I can’t wait.

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