Ready for a Break!

As I mentioned in a post earlier this week, life has been a bit hectic lately. While I do love being busy, I headed off for vacation in Portland today and was so ready for it! I’ll be spending my first couple days at FitBloggin, which I’m so excited for, and then Ian and I will have another couple days to just relax and play tourist.

Around this time last night, I wasn’t so sure we were going to make it. We started moving into our new apartment after I got out of work Wednesday – because who wouldn’t think it’s a great idea to try to fit in a move in one evening the night before trying to catch a 7 a.m. flight?! (Looking in a mirror, shaking head at self disappointingly.)

Ian got up to the new place before I got out of work to let the bed delivery folks from Mattress Warehouse in. They were less than awesome, but at least he managed to get them to still bring it after a bit of a battle. He had our Zip Van ready to go at the loading dock when I got home and we started piling things in. Of course it was over 90 degrees out and raining on and off, because why not?

I was re-engergized when we dropped off the first load of stuff and I got to see the place. I never actually got to see our unit when we toured there because they were completely remodeling it before we moved in, so we saw a similar style, but smaller unit. I am so incredibly excited about the new place and can’t wait to get all settled in there when we get back from Portland.

Next up we headed into D.C. to pick up a coffee table and TV stand I found on craigslist because we already had the van, so why not fit one more thing into our night? Next up was a return to our old place to drop off the coffee table, which is actually staying there as we’re renting it out furnished, and pick up a few more pieces of furniture. We drove back to the new place and took a quick break for dinner at California Tortilla before unloading the last few things. Just after 10 we decided to call it a night and go bring the Zip Van back before returning for one last night in our old place. I still had laundry and packing to do and was running on just a couple hours sleep so I’d had enough.

Unfortunately the universe didn’t think I’d had quite enough yet and we walked out to find our Zip Van was GONE! It had been towed. Not going to lie – I was a bit upset! We managed to track it down and bail it out of car jail, but didn’t make it home till almost midnight. By the time we finished laundry and packing it was after 2. That 5 a.m. wake up call sure came quick!

I slept the entire first leg of the trip on our flight to Phoenix though and feel worlds better. I even enjoyed some breakfast pizza in Phoenix, which was shockingly good for airport food.

phoenixairportpizza2

Now it’s time for a break – or well, my version of a break, which will include a couple days of workouts, sessions and meeting new blogger friends at FitBloggin’13. So excited!

Tell me your crazy moving stories? Anyone else have vacation plans coming up this summer?

Smoothie-a-Day

Last week I said that nutrition was going to be my big focus for March and a major part of that would be making an effort to eat more fruits and veggies. So far I’m off to a pretty decent start. I’ve been drinking a banana-berry smoothie every day that’s super easy to make, especially in my magic bullet blender that doubles as the drinking glass!

Banana-Berry Smoothie

Banana-Berry Smoothie

I’ve made smoothies like this one before and the biggest things that have kept me from making them more regularly is the cost of fruit and the frustration when the fruit goes bad too quickly. Well I found a great solution to that  this week – frozen fruit! I’m sure it’s not as healthy as the fresh stuff, but it’s better than nothing and it’s also a lot cheaper. I bought a couple bags each of mixed berries and strawberries at Trader Joes and it’s been working out great. I really should venture out and try other kinds of smoothies, but being the picky eater that I am, I’m hesitant to try something new. Let me know if you have any good suggestions I should try. Here’s the recipe for mine:

Banana-Berry Smoothie

  • 1 cup plain, nonfat yogurt (usually ends up being 3/4 cup because of the size of my blender)
  • 1/2 cup strawberries
  • 1/2 cup mixed berries (I usually go with raspberries, blackberries and blueberries)
  • 1 small frozen banana (I pre-slice a bunch at the beginning of the week and put them in baggies in the freezer)

I also usually eat a banana with breakfast and an apple as a midday snack, so the fruit is going pretty well. The veggies are a bit harder for me. I had corn a couple time this week, which is the one veggie I really like and of course not the healthiest, but still, it’s something, right? I also did something this week I don’t know if I’ve ever done before in my life. I had a salad at home with dinner. I’ll eat salads (or eat bits of them and then push it around on my plate to make it look like I ate more) when served at weddings or conferences or at other people’s homes for dinner, but I’ve never actually made one at home to go with dinner. Ian and I went the easy route to start things off and bought a bag of pre-mixed salad at Wegmans and some light Italian dressing. It wasn’t great, but I didn’t hate it either. It’s a work in progress.

Salad - yes I know it's small - I'm trying!

Salad – yes I know it’s small – I’m trying!

On the not so healthy side, Ian and I put together a delicious creation this week: buffalo chicken deep dish pizza. I made a deep dish cornmeal pizza dough in my bread machine and spread it around and up the sides of a 9-inch round baking tin. Ian added a layer of cheese to the bottom, then we topped with the chicken and buffalo sauce and finally another smaller layer of mozzarella cheese plus a sprinkling of shredded parmesan. Simply amazing!

Deep Dish Delicious Buffalo Chicken Pizza

Deep Dish Delicious Buffalo Chicken Pizza

 

A Pizza Kind of Weekend

As one of my favorite foods, pizza has fueled more of my long runs than I’d like to admit. My go-to night before a race meal is usually pasta with grilled chicken, and while I know you should practice what you eat sometimes that just doesn’t happen. I think pizza gets a bad rap for being unhealthy. Sure fast food style pizza isn’t great for you, but I do a lot of homemade pizzas too – some more healthier than others, but when it comes down to it I really just think moderation is key.

Last weekend Ian and I made a couple pizzas. Friday night we did one of my favorites to make at home – a buffalo chicken pizza. This combines two of my favorite things to eat making it a shoe-in for the favorites list. We used a whole wheat crust made in a bread machine with a recipe from The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook. We pan cooked the chicken before adding it in with the sauce.

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

The sauce recipe is adapted from a Rachel Ray FoodNetwork.com wingless buffalo chicken pizza recipe. I honestly can’t stand Rachel Ray’s show, but for the sake of this delicious pizza have decided to bury the hatchet. We topped it with mozzarella cheese and  a sprinkling of parmesan after it came out of the oven. We baked it on a pizza stone for 21 minutes at 425, and served it with some ranch on the side for dipping. It had a relatively thin crust with a good crunch to it and the sauce had a great kick. It was delicious!

Sunday’s pizza didn’t take a lot of effort, but it did take a lot of time. We wanted to try out a pan pizza recipe highlighted on Serious Eats last week and decided the weekend was a good time to test it out. The dough recipe was a no knead easy recipe, but needed to be started a day ahead of time. We got that ready on Saturday and let it sit over night in a large mixing bowl tightly covered in plastic wrap.

Sunday we had to get things going a couple hours before we were ready to eat. We floured the dough and dumped it onto the counter also covered in flour. After rolling into a ball, we placed it into a 9 inch pie pan with a couple tablespoons of oil. After rolling it around in the oil, I flattened it with my palm and made sure the oil covered the entire pan before covering the pan with plastic wrap and leaving it along for two hours. At the one hour mark we preheated the oven to it’s max temp – 500 degrees and also got our toppings ready. Ian cooked up some meatballs and grated a mix of mozzarella and colby cheeses.

At the two hour mark I realized we really should have started earlier – I was starving! I used my fingers to spread the dough to the edges and made sure to get all the air bubbles out before adding the sauce. Ian followed up with a layer of cheese, the meatballs and a final layer of cheese plus some italian seasoning. Being a pan pizza, we spread the sauce and cheese right to the edges. Making it in the pie tin reminds me of the Pizza Hut style pan pizzas I used to get when I was little for every five books I read as part of the Book It program – only this tasted way better!

We put the pie tin into the piping hot oven for about 13 minutes. A downside to such a small place – taking the steaming pizza out of the 500 degree oven that had been on for more than an hour now set the smoke alarm off twice. Fortunately we were able to get it under control before it set the alarms off for the entire building. It was totally worth it. The pizza was amazing. The bottom of the crust was crunchy yet the middle filled with air pockets making it spongy and delicious. The meatballs and the combination of cheeses (we added a sprinkling of parmesan to the top as soon as it came out of the oven) added the perfect flavoring. We’d make this again any day!

Recipes

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

Whole Wheat Dough:
1 1/3 cups water
1/4 cup olive oil
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp SAF yeast or 2 1/2 tsp bread machine yeast

Makes 2 thin 12- to 14-inch pizzas. Run through dough cycle of bread machine, remove, divide into 2, and let sit covered for 30 minutes. Dough can be frozen or refrigerated, but should sit out for 20 minutes before rolling out.

Sauce:
2 chicken breast cutlets
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
3 tbsp Frank’s Red Hot – Hot Buffalo
8 oz. tomato sauce
mozzarella cheese
parmesan cheese

In medium skillet melt butter over medium heat, stir in tomato sauce, worcestershire sauce and hot sauce. Add cooked and sliced chicken. Add sauce to pizza dough, cover with cheese and bake for 19-23 minutes on pizza stone at 425.

Fool Proof Pan Pizza
We didn’t make any changes to this one other than choosing our toppings and cheese, so find out everything you need to know from the Serious Eats blog post.

My Favorite Arlington Restaurants

One of the great things about running and working out so much is that I get to enjoy all of the great restaurants (in moderation of course!) near me in the Arlington area without worrying about packing on the pounds! I’m by no means a foodie, so fancy or trendy restaurants aren’t my thing, but I do love to eat. There are so many great spots to eat out at here, but given my love for pizza and pub food, it should come as no surprise that my top three spots in Arlington in the Rosslyn to Ballston corridor are RiRa, Fire Works and Ray’s Hell Burger.

RiRa is an irish pub up in Clarendon. It’s part of a chain that tries to bring a bit of Ireland to the states by hiring bartenders and servers from Ireland and serving dishes like Guiness stew and fish and chips. For years my favorite Irish pub in the area was Four Courts, but since they have stopped serving Magners and have taken my favorite food options off the menu, RiRa is now number one.

RiRa has a great appetizer selection. My favorites are the soft pretzles and the spinach dip. If you’re not looking for a full meal, you can get a sampler to share with three full-size apps for under $25. They also serve good burgers and chicken sandwiches, which is about all it takes to please me! I love the setup and atmosphere of RiRa as well – you can catch a game in the eating areas downstairs, come for trivia night or head upstairs where another bar is located for some great people watching, especially on 80s cover band nights!

Fire Works near the Court House metro opened a couple years ago and won me over right away with their wood-fired oven pizzas. I also love their garlic knots and their spinach dip (are you sensing a theme here?) served with delicious pizza bread. I generally go with the plain old cheese and herb pizza, unless the special of the day is their buffalo chicken pizza, which is quite tasty. They have an extensive beer list and a few ciders too, so I usually end up ordering a Crispin or two.

The only downside to Fire Works is their service. I’ve never had anyone be unpleasant, but they are usually understaffed resulting in pretty slow service. The food and atmosphere make up for it though, especially when you can sit out on the patio on a nice summer evening or even on cooler evenings if you’re by the fire.

Ray’s Hell Burger might be the best burger I’ve ever had. If you’re looking for a great burger, then look no further than Ray’s. It’s cash only, so be sure to stop at the ATM first or you might miss out on your best burger ever. The meat is seasoned perfectly – you have several seasoning options to choose from – and cooked to juicy perfection. I always add a side of seven cheese mac and a coke. I’m no expert at restaurant reviews, so head on over to Croutons Stuck in Futons for a review that does Ray’s a bit more justice.

I finally made it to Ray’s: To The Third recently. It’s another one of the restaurants in the Ray’s family and is right across the street from the plaza that houses Ray’s Hellburger. I didn’t think it was fair to add to this list since I’ve only been there once, but it will quickly become one of my favs. It contains all the Ray’s wonderfulness from the steakhouse, Ray’s Hellburger and Ray’s Nice ‘N’ Greasy Steak ‘N’ Cheesy. The steak and cheese sandwich was out of this world, and the inside of the restaurant is a bit nicer than the more cafeteria-style version over at Hell Burger.

The best part about these places: all three are walking distance from my place. Some might argue with me on that when it comes to RiRa and Fireworks, but hey, it can never hurt to work up an appetite on the way there or walk off a delicious meal on the way home!

Fun in the District

I moved to Arlington for grad school six years ago now. It’s so hard to believe I’ve been down here that long – time has absolutely flown by. I instantly fell in love with this area and am still blown away by how many cool things there are to do in Arlington, D.C. and even occasionally (usually begrudgingly) Maryland.

I’ve gotten to a couple Nats games already this season. Nats Park is a great, new stadium with some awesome stadium food options too! I’m a fan of the Ben’s Chili Bowl spot, but might have to try out Shake Shack on my next trip there now that I’ve finally gone to their restaurant. I was lucky enough to go to opening day here during the Nats inaugural season and have attended several games a year since then, even getting to sit in the Diamond Club seats once.

This season I caught a Saturday afternoon game with friends in a packed stadium to watch the Nats beat the Phillies and got out of work for a weekday game as part of a department outing. We got to see Strasburg pitch, but unfortunately it wasn’t his day as the Nats lost to the Padres.

My parents made a trip down to D.C. to visit in late May, and having visitors is always a good excuse to get to play tourist in my own city. They’ve been coming down for years now, so we’ve already done most of the usual touristy things and joke that most of our visits are planned around food, but with all the great restaurants down here, you can’t go wrong doing that! We ate at some of our usual favorites, Rhodeside Grill, RiRa and Brooklyn Bagel Bakery (best bagel spot in the greater D.C. region!). We also got a deep dish and a thin crust at District of Pi Pizzeria, which my Dad had never been to and wanted to try after I’d been raving about it for some time. It didn’t disappoint. Their specialty seems to be the deep dish pizzas, but both of ours were delicious. The service left a bit to be desired, but fortunately the pizza was so good it made up for that.

On our past visits to the National Mall, we’ve never made it all the way down to the Capitol Building so I decided to start on that end this time. I get to run around this area a lot and it’s such a great site to take in, so I was excited for them to get to see it up close finally. I waited too long to try and get tickets for a tour unfortunately, but we walked all the way around the outside and passed by the Supreme Court and Library of Congress as well.

My favorite museum to visit in D.C. has always been the Newseum. Working so close to the National Mall now, I have no excuse not to visit some of the Smithsonian museums I still haven’t managed to get to in my six years here. I’ll share some future posts on my experiences at them and which ones I think are most worth visiting.