Broccoli with Lemon and Olive Oil

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When I was growing up, every leafy green vegetable was served the same way in our house – steamed and seasoned with lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil (and salt of course). I’ll never forget the first time that the Irishman cooked broccoli for me….and then coated it in a cheesy sauce. I looked at him like he was crazy and before I could stop myself, I said, “what the heck did you do to this poor broccoli? It’s drowning!” Shortly thereafter, I took over the cooking duties that did not involve the grill. It was better that way.

So today, I’m going to show you a quick and easy way to make steamed broccoli with lemon and olive oil. It takes less than 10 minutes and it tasted much more refreshing than the drowning in cheese variety (to say nothing of the calories you’ll save).

Let’s start off with a head of broccoli. (I usually use two since I can eat an entire one myself.) You want to look for broccoli than has almost a purple tint to the tips of the “trees.” According to the Food Network, the purple cast is an indication of a higher density of certain vitamins and minerals…or something like that. I generally cut the broccoli heads off at the lowest point where they’re separated. And, the big waster that I am, I generally discard the stem. I’m sure my mother is having a fit about this because she cuts and uses it all up. Sorry mom!

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Once the broccoli is in the microwave-safe dish…

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I give it a good rinse. I usually rinse it after I cut it because I find it easier to wash in between all of the stems when they’re already separated. With water still clinging to the broccoli, I put a lid on it…

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and put it in the microwave. We have a nifty microwave where I just push the “fresh veggie” button and it automatically stops when it’s done, but if you don’t have a similarly gifted microwave (not that there’s anything wrong with the old fashioned kind), I would say that 5-7 minutes should do it.

When it’s done, VERY CAREFULLY take off the lid with hot pads or you’ll end up with a steam burn. Look at that whoosh of steam.

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Let it sit for a couple of minutes so that it goes from scalding to pleasantly warm and then add in a very generous drizzle of olive oil. I would say at least 3 Tablespoons would be good.

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Now, add the juice of one lemon.

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And finally, salt to taste.

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Give it a good stir and it’s ready to serve.

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As you make this more frequently, you’ll get good at judging exactly how much olive oil and lemon you prefer. We like ours pretty lemony here because the citrus gives the broccoli such a fresh flavor. I probably make broccoli like this three days a week. It’s easy and it’s a great way to get more veggies into your diet. Did I mention that it’s super tasty, too?

Ode To Watermelon

When I was pregnant with Parker, there was one thing that I couldn’t get enough of. Watermelon (and milkshakes, but we won’t go there). I would buy whole watermelons and consume them in a matter of 24 hours. The Irishman would sit back and watch me in amazement, but I’m sure that was partly because I would balance a giant glass bowl precariously on my huge mound of a belly…trust me, it was a sight.

Even since then, I’ve had an insatiable appetite for watermelon. It’s just so sweet and light and, being comprised mostly of water, so satisfying to eat on a warm day. Since I just bought my first watermelon of the season, I decided to write a haiku in honor of my favorite fruit.

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Watermelon:

The juicy red flesh
dripping sweetness down my chin
I could eat five pounds

Listen, I didn’t say it was a good haiku, but a haiku it is none the less. Oh, I also wanted to share a little tip with you. Since the watermelons that are grown this early in the season aren’t particularly sweet, sprinkle a tiny bit of salt on it and you’ll be amazed at the transformation in flavor.

Grilled Cheese – My Way

One of my favorite things on this earth is a grilled cheese sandwich. The warmth, the melty cheese, the buttery bread…man oh man, do I love grilled cheese. I’ve experimented with all kinds of breads and cheeses, but the combo that I’m sharing today is one of my all time favorites. I drew some inspiration from Cuban Sandwiches in the form of pickles and pressed bread. I know this may seem odd to some of the grilled cheese traditionalists out there, but let me just tell you, it is seriously good.

Ok, our ingredients are 1/2 a baguette, cheddar cheese, pickles, mayo and butter.

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First, split your baguette completely in half.

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Then, put butter on one side and mayo on the other. You’re going to have to trust me on this one…you know I wouldn’t lead you astray.

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Lay your cheese on top of the mayo….

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now pop it into the microwave for 30 seconds to get the cheese started and to melt the butter. Add the pickles on top of the cheese. Yummmmm, pickles!

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Now folks, whip out your George Foreman grill (it’s for more than just meat). If you want to show off and you have a panini press, go ahead and use that…but I think the Foreman gives me some street cred. Word. Oh, and if you don’t have street cred or a George Foreman grill, just put your sandwich in a large skillet and press down with a smaller skillet to flatten it.

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The weight of the Foreman will compress the baguette into a nice, toasty, flat sandwich. After about 3 minutes, take a peek at your sandwich to see if it’s sufficiently pressed.

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I like to rotate mine 90 degrees to make sure that it’s pressed evenly on all sides.

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After a couple of minutes, it’s done.

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In all honesty, I could eat this on a daily basis for at least 18 weeks. The pickles give a nice contrast to the creamy cheddar cheese and the baguette is simply delighful with it’s flaky crust. You can’t taste the mayo, but it adds to the overall creaminess. Simply delish. Now go out and expand your grilled cheese boundaries, I promise you won’t regret it.

Week Three

Well folks, I’m in the third week of my triathlon training and I’m not going to lie – it feels great! The weather has been cooperating thus far so my pool workouts have been heavenly. For someone like me, getting a workout is incidental to enjoying the sun and being in the water. Some days I push it and some days I take it easy, but the important part is that I’m spending time in the water at least 3 days a week.

I’ve also starting adding in some outdoor cycling workouts on top of my spinning classes. Now that I’ve mastered getting out of my clipless pedals (full embarrassing story with pics plus a clipless pedals tutorial coming soon), I’m really starting to pick up the pace on my bike. I’ve been averaging about 22 miles an hour on the flat road and like the pool, feeling the wind in my hair (under my helmet of course) is its own guilty pleasure. I could stay out for hours and it’s with disappointment that I pack it up at the end of a ride.

Then there’s the run. Oh, what to say about the run. While I’ve definitely grown more fond of running since my 9-month marathon journey, it’s still the most difficult of the three for me. Whereas cycling and swimming are effortless and blissful, every time I lace on my shoes, it’s a fight to the finish line. The interesting thing is that because of the challenge, I always feel a huge sense of accomplishment after my run workouts.

So far, I’ve been meeting my goal of 10 workouts a week. I’m spending countless hours outdoors and loving life in general. I think that’s the secret to all of this. Working out truly isn’t a chore for me. I love every minute of it and I’m so thankful that I have the time to do it. If you’ve been struggling with working out, find out what it is that you love to do. I love swimming and cycling while my husband is really into mountain biking and rock climbing. There are countless of ways to get moving, the important thing is that you just do it.

Steak With Balsamic Reduction Sauce

Even though I’m not a carnivore anymore, I still cook meat on a regular basis for the Irishman and Parker. This particular recipe is one that the Irishman could eat on an almost daily basis and it also was the first red meat that Parker ever ate…and liked!

The ingredients are: steak, black pepper, 2 tablespoons butter, olive oil and 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar. I usually pair the balsamic sauce with a ribeye, but our local co-op had these great top sirloins, so I picked one up for the Irishman.

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I want to bring your attention to the fact that this organic, grass fed top sirloin was less than $5 for 11 ounces. Good quality and humanely raised beef doesn’t have to cost more – just go check out your local co-op.

Ok, now you’re going to liberally crack fresh pepper on your steak. Go ahead and sprinkle some salt as well.

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With your saute pan on med-high heat, add in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter to the pan. Once the butter melts, add in your steak, peppered side down. Go ahead and add pepper and salt to the other side of the steak once it”s in the pan.

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After about 3-4 minutes, flip your steak and turn down the heat to medium. Look at that gorgeous caramelized crust.

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Once the steak is done to your liking (the Irishman prefers his medium-rare) move it to a plate while you make the sauce.

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Once the steak is out of the pan, add in your 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar…

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when it starts bubbling, turn the heat down to low and whisk continuously. (It’s very important that you don’t burn the balsamic vinegar, so make sure you turn it down.)

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While you whisk, you want your balsamic to reduce by half. In other words, you want the 1/2 cup to reduce down to 1/4 cup. I usually just tip the pan to see where it’s at and when it is the consistency of pancake syrup, it’s usually done. As an aside, when you cook balsamic vinegar, you cook off the bitterness and what is left is a sweet, deep flavor.

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Now, whisk in the other tablespoon of butter.

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Once the butter is melted, pour the reduction over the steak.

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I wish that I had a “finished” picture to show you, but the Irishman was standing behind me for the last 5 minutes of this recipe and literally snatched the plate up the second that I finished pouring the sauce. So, while I didn’t taste it myself, I took absolute silence of the next 7 minutes to indicate that it was, indeed, a winner.

Disney On The Brain

Ever since we took our trip to Disney for my marathon a couple of months ago, Parker has developed an affinity for all things Disney. We used to be a PBS-only family – Curious George, Thomas The Train, Super Why – and I liked that about us. PBS is for kids what NPR is for adults. I felt like we were outside of the rampant commercialism that I used to associate with all things Disney. Parker was a burgeoning intellectual with refined cartoon tastes and now, well, now…things have changed.

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Oh how things have changed. As you can see in exhibit A, he now has his “Mickey hat” that he likes to wear when he watches Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Imagination Movers and Little Einsteins. He’s learning the songs and requesting the products. He’s embraced the Mickey culture and it’s all we can do to not show our blatant preference for our old shows. To be honest with you, I really miss Curious George. Sure, Parker still loves his Thomas The Train stuff and he still asks to watch it once and a while, but it just isn’t the same anymore.

There is one thing that makes me feel better. He insists on wearing his hat backwards so that the “Parker” is front and center. Way to be a rebel, Parker. Stick to your guns and don’t let Mickey, or anyone else, tell you to conform. You just go on showing them who’s boss.