Summer Cooking


Summer time makes me want to eat constantly, consuming as much fresh fruits and vegetables as possible before the season is over and all you have left at your disposal is a whole mess of questionable imported produce.  Which, don’t get me wrong, I love being able to buy Peruvian asparagus in mid-February, but there’s something just a *tad* different in flavor and freshness when the asparagus only had to travel a couple miles to my dinner plate.

So everyday recently I’ve been a veritable vegetable vacuum, hoovering up massive quantities of cherries, peaches and strawberries, corn-on-the-cob, fresh English peas, asparagus, scallions, watermelon, beets, carrots, and tons of other goodies. It certainly makes meal-planning a cooking a cinch. It almost makes summer cooking a little boring: fire up the grill/grill pan, throw some protein on there for a few minutes and then let the fruits and veggies on the plate do most of the work for you. Half the time they don’t even need cooking, just a squeeze of some lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil and a grind of salt. Dinner served.  Creativity in the summer months is usually limited to “should I use hazelnuts or pine nuts in my pea pesto today? ”

Which has been great given the utter insanity of my schedule this summer, but I’m sort of missing the creative flair that’s needed to pull of a really fresh, healthy, well-rounded winter meal. There’s thought and time involved. The root vegetables that take over our plates in the colder months take a little more care and attention to make them sparkle (especially without using cheese as a crutch). It takes a little more effort to make me excited for a turnip the same way I get all giddy over peas.

I guess what it boils down to is that I enjoy eating more in the Summer and cooking more in the winter.  Roasting, stewing, braising — these things are slower and more soulful. Blanching, sauteing, barbecuing — laid-back and impersonal.

But a few summers ago, bored with the usual suspects for dinner, I created a peanut-noodle dish that brings a little creativity back into the kitchen with it’s no-cook sauce, and choice of mix-in vegetables and noodle type. It’s still a low-heat dish (essential for hot-weather meals), particularly if you use my suggestion of using fresh pasta,  which only takes a measly 2-3 minutes to boil.

Whole wheat pasta and broccolini, topped with homemade peanut sauce, and sliced and sauteed snow peas. YUM.

Whole wheat pasta and broccolini, topped with homemade peanut sauce, and sliced and sauteed snow peas. YUM.

Spicy Peanut Noodles

Serves 2

*2/3 of a pound fresh whole wheat fettuccine (or your favorite pasta/noodle — rice noodles or soba noodles would work well in this dish)

*2 small bunches of broccolini or one small head of broccoli, cut into florets

*a generous cup or more of snow peas, thinly sliced

for Peanut sauce:

*1 clove garlic, minced

*1/4 cup chunky peanut butter (I use Skippy natural)

*a few good squirts of Sriracha (more, if you like things spicy!)

*a splash of rice vinegar (or regular white vinegar/apple cider vinegar)

*a splash of maple syrup

*1/3 cup of soy sauce (I use Coconut Aminos since I’m allergic to soy)

Step 1:  Stir together all of the sauce ingredients except the peanut butter. Once mixed, add in your peanut butter and, using a whisk or fork, blend until peanut butter is incorporated. This may take a little bit of work, but it does come together! Taste a little bit and add a little more of whatever you think it might need (if too salty, add a splash more of vinegar and a splash more of maple syrup; if too sweet, add a little more soy sauce and a little more vinegar; if not peanut-y enough, stir in more peanut butter)

Step 2: Heat up a small pan and add your sliced snow peas with a splash of water. Let saute, 2-3 minutes until bright green and they’re sizzling.

Step 3: Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add pasta and cook according to directions. When there’s only 2-3 minutes left, throw the broccolini in with the pasta to blanch (if using fresh pasta, throw everything in at once).

Step 4: Drain your pasta and vegetables and then throw back into the pot. Pour your sauce in and toss to coat everything. Serve in bowls and top with the sauteed snow peas.



Cowboy boots & Confidence


Over the past month, it’s become pretty clear to me how much of my self-confidence is tied up in running. I didn’t start running to gain self-confidence, but as an escape from a day-to-day existence that I wasn’t happy with. But, running offered me a way to be in my physical body without worrying about its shape or weight or how it acted and appeared in space with other eyes viewing it. It became this strong, confident vessel that moved me over dozens of miles a week. I started to look up when I walked down the street.  I stopped craving, stopped needing, external (male) validation of my looks to feel attractive. I started to love my body all on my own — the muscular bits, the skinny bits and the round bits alike. When I realized how much running helped me, well, be more me, it sort of stuck and became a more serious hobby. I ran a half marathon. Then, I ran a couple more. Then, a full marathon.

Last summer, I injured my right ankle and had to cancel plans to run the Philly Marathon this past November. I got angry, then pretty seriously depressed for several months. It was only after a month or so of training for the Vermont City Marathon that I snapped out of my funk.  As I’ve written about previously on here, however, Vermont City ended with me in the medical tent instead of a victorious leap over the finish line. I hit the physical therapy and the cross training right away. I’m running whatever distance I can cover without pain, and taking days off in between these efforts to ensure I heal. I’m doing my best to stay positive and love what I can get in, however small.

But I can feel the insecurity and hateful self-talk creeping back in just a little, and that scares me. I don’t want to be back in that depressive place I’ve been so many times before. But I catch myself thinking “No one wants to read what you have to say,” when I think about posting here. I’m not feeling as motivated at work. I’m tired a lot. I giggle like a shy teenage girl instead of engaging people in conversations about things on which I have an opinion or something interesting to say. But what has really been noticeable this past month is how I’m self-conscious about my body all the time.  I’m worried about my hair. I feel awkward and fat in social settings. I’m hiding behind layers of clothing. I’m obsessing over the 3 freakin’ pounds I’ve gained (as if that’s anything). I just feel clumsy and oafish and like I take up too much room.

The other day, at the physical therapists office, I was looking down at the floor or my feet so much, he actually called me out on it more than once. But when all I can think about is how I’m a huge klutz and I feel too heavy and unattractive and then there’s a man standing there watching my stomach to ensure it’s properly engaged while I move through exercises, it’s all I can do to not end up rocking myself in the corner while swearing off food forever. So I look down. I don’t stand up straight. I retreat inside myself and become quiet, self-conscious. All things that decidedly do nothing for my form or my ability to hold a remotely intelligent or substantial conversation.

I know in my brain that I the things I catch myself thinking and feeling aren’t the remotest bit true,  that those feelings are all a little bit insane, but, yet, I still catch myself feeling them.  So, I’ve decided to kind of force myself out of it. I’m trying to act how I want to feel and I think, then, the positive feelings will follow. I’m writing about my nuttiness and insecurity here, whether or not you want to read about it.  I’m cooking myself fabulous and healthful meals. I’m being kind to others. I’m being kind to myself. Relishing the little moments. Allowing my voice to be heard. I’m standing up straight, head and eyes forward, shoulders back. Insecure, sad Rachel can stay in her corner, but this chick? This chick is struttin’ her stuff. Kickin’ butt and takin’ names. In cowboy boots. Because what screams kick-ass and confidence more than a pair of cowboy boots?




confident! happy!

Act how you want to feel and then the feelings will follow? Worth a shot!

Where do you derive your self-confidence? Do you have feel ridiculously, irrationally insecure?

What A Week!


Boy, am I glad this week is nearly through! And I was only at work for 3 days of it!  I am enthusiastically awaiting the weekend and this upcoming week, which, thankfully, will be class-free. Michigan was a blast (more on that in a later post), but scrambling to get everything done to go away and then, subsequently, scrambling to get everything back on track after vacation has been a little crazy. And I even did quite a bit of work/school work while away, too.


And what an emotional roller-coaster of a week in the news, too, huh? From the incredible show Wendy Davis gave in the Texas State Legislature to fight an anti-abortion bill and speak out for women everywhere, to the joyous overturning of DOMA, to the certainly-not-joyous overturning of the Voting Rights Bill, to immigration reform, my head and my heart are all over the place.   I don’t really want to get all political on here, but I do just want to say: I hope the children that my generation beget can looks back  and say to their parents, “I can’t believe people would ever consider being so hurtful, negative and controlling based on the color of someone’s skin, their country of birth, how other people express love, or how someone chooses to handle their body.”  We still have a lot of work to do, folks.

In other news, I’m taking this weekend to do some serious Rachel-oriented things and to get the household back in order.

– Finish How To Be A Women for the inaugural meeting of my book club (2 members strong!) next week. Pick a new book. Try to recruit some more members.

– Paint my  nails

– Grocery shop, meal plan and cook. Vacation + busy schedule =lots of meals out flanked by gummy bears, cookies and ice cream.

– Write some blog posts! I know ya’ll have missed me. I have some recipes to share, some thoughts on marriage and weddings in light of my brother’s recent engagement to his girlfriend, and some creative writing pieces I’ve been itching to get down on paper (into the cloud?).

– Exercise! I feel so lazy recently. I’m itching to try something new (dance class?) or revisit something I love but haven’t done in awhile (rock climbing?). Also, when will Boston get one of these studios?   It’s like a spin class on a row machine! Sign. me. up.

-Call some friends whom I haven’t spoken with in awhile

-Watch Game of Thrones season 3!

-Read some more food/nutrition-related articles. Perhaps formulate a blog post here, too. (These have been on my radar this week, if you’d like some reading material: Why The Atlantic’s Defense of Junk Food Fails and Bullied with Food)


What’s been going on with all of you folks??

Also: Happy First Anniversary to one of my favorite couples, Brian and Jodi!




I’m alive!


Sorry for the radio silence the last couple weeks — stuff has been BUSY! But now I’m on vacation up in Michigan and it’s glorious!

View of Lake Michigan from our deck

View of Lake Michigan from our deck

In just a day, I feel so unwound. I have the space and time to sleep in, breathe, do all the exercise and eating I want to, enjoy a beer, read, study for biochemistry, answer some work emails, write a blog post or two and really spend time with A, my brother and my brother’s girlfriend.

I’m really happy to have this downtime because this past week was a pretty tough one for me. In addition to a really busy work week for both myself and A, a biochemistry exam to study for (on which, I received a 63%, which I was pretty upset about until I found out that the average was a 60%, so I guess I didn’t do *too* badly), and just a lot of other general nuttiness, dealing with my running injury has been taking up a lot of time, too. Two hour+ long physical therapy appointments a week, plus a couple chiropractic appointments, plus physical therapy homework, plus actual workout time = a lot of freakin’ time! I’m happy to put in all this time to get me where I want to be, but this week I was really bumming about the lack of ability to run.

Running is my escape from all the stress of life, it’s my outlet, my time to reconnect to myself, both body and mind. Additionally, it’s a big social outlet for me as well, so when I’m not running I find myself feeling lonely and depressive pretty quickly. This past week that all hit me really hard and I found myself on the verge of tears on more than one occasion over stuff that I would normally just let slide or laugh off.  I even almost burst into tears in front of my PT when I asked if he thought I’d be able to run a 7 mile run next weekend (The One Run; I signed up for the Newton to the finish line leg) and he said he thought it wasn’t very realistic. I sort of knew the answer before I asked it, so I should have been prepared, but hearing that out loud still felt like a punch in the gut. I think he sensed that a little bit, because he followed that up with telling me he thought I’d be able to make it up to three miles this week.

I was skeptical and actually a little scared to push it, but you know what? I made it to three miles yesterday with no pain at all and then, this morning, I made it to four — four WHOLE (slow) miles — with only a little bit of pain right at the end. And they were hilly! I have been so excited all day! Shouting it from the rooftops!

Slow, sure. But it's longer than 2 miles!

Slow, sure. But it’s longer than 2 miles!

Both yesterday and today were the kind of runs that made me remember why I fell in love with running in the first place. I’m alone with my breath and my heartbeat and my footfalls on a dirt trail through the woods. I can feel all of the sinews in my body pulling and pushing to propel me forward, I can feel the electricity of my nerve impulses, the rushing of my blood through the tiniest of capillaries. Everything working in tandem to make each footfall happen, to keep me upright, to keep me in motion. It’s in that trance-like connection to my physical self that I feel completely whole, connected to the sun and the earth and all of the other complex souls that make up this life.

Thank you, Universe, for granting me this respite today. I promise to continue working hard to earn these moments!


The Big Reveal


So, last week I asked you all to vote on my new hair cut and I gathered all of the pictures together into a collage and brought them to my hair stylist on Friday evening and got my locks cut off! It was intensely liberating, and, even though 3 separate people walked by my chair while I was getting my hair cut to comment on how beautiful my curls were as they hit the floor one-by-one, I have no regrets.   It is, after all, just hair.

Also, it is exactly what I wanted:


Professionally straightened by my hairdresser. Take it in now, 'cause this is likely not happening again until the next time I go to see her!

Professionally straightened by my hairdresser. Take it in now, ’cause this is likely not happening again until the next time I go to see her!


Lighter. Breezier. No ponytail fussing.



CURLS! (Sorry, it’s a mess today. This weather is dreadful. But the haircut is cute, I swear!)

And a mere 30 seconds of mousse-scrunching in the morning, which is precisely the amount of patience I have for hair styling. PERFECT.

Anyone else contemplating a fresh summer hair style?


No Running.


This past week was a whirlwind of busy! Work has been kind of ridiculous for both myself and A, I’m in the middle of a six-week intensive Biochemistry class, I’m going to physical therapy twice a week, and still trying to maintain a somewhat normal schedule with respect to exercise, cooking, sleeping and spending time with friends and family.

Despite such a busy week, I did manage to get in some decent workouts. A couple spin class podcasts, a couple walks, some weight lifting, nightly ab work, a hot yoga class, and one attempt at a run kept me active throughout the week, but had me missing running more than ever. I definitely logged onto Facebook and Dailymile more than once last week and jealously sifted through all of the great runs my teammates and friends were posting, and the gorgeous running temperatures every morning certainly didn’t help the yearning. I’m also really missing all my running friends who I was used to seeing 2 or 3 times per week and now haven’t seen in almost a month.

So sad :( Please heal quickly, Rachel!

So sad 😦 Please heal quickly, Rachel!

But, I’m staying positive and looking forward to another week of physical therapy and ancillary work to continue building up my fortifications against further and future injuries. I hope that a really awesome ART sports massage will be in my near future as well. So what’s on tap for this week?

Monday — Physical Therapy + nightly abs

Tuesday — walk/run + abs + PT homework

Wednesday — Harvard Stadium with November Project + PT homework + weight lifting + abs

Thursday — bike ride + Physical Therapy + abs

Friday –run/walk + walk

Saturday — yoga + abs + PT homework

Sunday — run/bike ride + abs + PT homework

Not ideal, but something! What are you doing to keep moving this week?



I’m really starting to look forward to Thursdays so I can write this “Thankful” post and give myself the little bit of time and space to truly reflect on what I’m feeling joyful or thankful or grateful for this week.

Although this week has been busy and a bit stressful at times, I am feeling incredibly grateful for so many things!

*the great health insurance my job affords me so I can tend to my injury in an affordable and stress-free way

*the amazing community of teammates and friends that running has given me, and how supportive and uplifiting they’ve been while I’m healing

*the spontaneous night out in Watertown with A last night, just when I was feeling like we’d never get a night together, to connect, for a long while

*my last meeting that ended 30 minutes early and which constituted a discussion of the Scooper Bowl and interoffice cooking contests, Iron Chef style.

*some beautiful sunshine


What are you thankful for this week?

Vote On My New ‘Do!


Something about summer always gives me the urge to cut off all my hair.  It’s curly, and in the warmer temperatures and higher humidity, it regularly turns into a big, wooly mess that typically gets pulled back into a bun just so I don’t start hacking at it with kitchen scissors in a heat-induced rage.

My friend and co-worker actually had the balls to go ahead and cut off all of her hair this past weekend and it’s so stinkin’ cute AND looks so much lighter, I just can’t stop dreaming about some shorter locks. So, appointment is in the books for 6:30pm this Friday night.  I even have a cute new dress I bought from Target and a dinner date later that night at which to show off my soon-to-be new look.

But I need your help deciding what kind of new look to sport!  So, look at this picture of me now:

Ugh. CUT. IT. OFF.

And then, look at these 5 pictures of superiorly coiffed ladies and imagine their hair on my head (but in my color — let’s not go overboard with the changes!). Pick your favorite using the poll buttons below, or leave a note in the comments. Ready?  Okay, go!


Style 1


Style 2


Style 3



Style 4


Style 5

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger


After my undoing at the Vermont City Marathon a little over a week ago, I jumped immediately into “fix it” mode.  I confirmed with my regular doctor that nothing was torn, broken or ruptured and got a prescription for physical therapy.  Great!  So I headed to the physical therapist two days later for an initial consult. Verdict? Too flexible of a lumbar with hips that are “inappropriately” tight and weak for the kinds of activities I like to engage in (ie: running marathons).  I also got the okay to do any and everything that doesn’t hurt, including running up to five miles at a time.

Feeling positive, but not ready to jump into anything just yet, I gave myself the rest of Thursday and all of Friday to rest and heal more.  By Saturday, I was desperate to sweat, so I downloaded a podcast from a spin class and jumped on my bike that’s hooked up to an indoor trainer in the basement (so I could easily abort mission if all the figurative wheels fell off), and, had a great, sweaty, pain-free ride.

The next morning, despite the climbing temperature, I made my way outside donning my running sneakers. Nervous, I breathed in deep, and took off at a VERY slow pace down my street. Knee felt tight, I noted, but not painful.  Hopeful, I kept going. I made it a little over a mile before the pain set in again and I had to shut it down. I turned around to walk home and it only took about a minute of walking before the pain and tightness subsided. I had a tiny bit of residual soreness for the rest of the day, but woke up Monday no worse for the wear.

So what’s on the schedule for workouts this week?

Hello, old friends. Source

Hello, old friends.

Monday — first real physical therapy appointment.

Tuesday — another spin podcast; arms + abs + PT homework

Wednesday — going to give the Harvard Stadium stairs a shot and see how I feel! Yoga and more PT homework in the evening.

Thursday — outdoor bike ride; second PT appointment

Friday — test run again (worse comes to worse, I get a good walk in); PT homework, abs and arms

Saturday — hot yoga class + PT homework

Sunday — short run if Friday went okay OR a long bike ride


Although I am still disappointed about how my race went down and I, of course, dislike not being able to run, I’m counting this injury as a blessing in disguise. Even though I’m fairly decent about warming up and cooling down from runs and doing some strength training, I know I haven’t been as good about as I *should* be and this is forcing me to really get back to basics, to really think about training in order to run instead of running in order to train.  A couple years ago when I was seeing a personal trainer once a week and working on strength and balance stuff really regularly, I was a much better athlete overall (not to mention, more toned and with less extra fluff).  I’ve needed to reconnect with that version of Rachel for awhile now, and, while I wouldn’t necessarily have selected injury as the path to get there, at least I’m working down that path. In the space I have without running my life at the moment, I have the time to retrain my body properly, to build the strength I so clearly lack, and to make all these PT and strength routines that will help me stay in a less-injured state later on a daily habit.  Bring it on.





This week has been, admittedly, a tad boring on the food front. A is gone, so I haven’t really been motivated to make anything of note for dinner (in fact, every night this week I’ve eaten a banana with sunflower seed butter, broccolini and mashed cauliflower that I made on Tuesday and ate from the whole week). Additionally, as my body has been trying to heal itself, I’ve been sleeping A LOT and have been lucky to get in some sort of smoothie for breakfast, which I’ve taken sips of in between taking the dog out, putting my makeup on and packing my work bag for the day.

Without really realizing it, I went three days without consuming anything but fruits, vegetables and nuts/seeds, which, in hindsight, that kind of super clean eating, probably aided in my body’s repair as well. I have found that the last month or so, I haven’t really been very hungry on most days, either, and while I’m not sure what that’s about (maybe just aging?) the extra rest and good things I’ve been giving my body the last few days have felt a little like pressing a big reset button.  While I don’t eat unhealthily pretty much ever, I think I want to focus more on meals that don’t rely so much on wheat and dairy. I think I just feel generally better without these items.

Anyway, now that “healthy talk” is out of the way, let’s talk about what I’m cookin’ up this weekend, shall we?  Tonight a good friend, L, and I are going to the American Craft Brew Fest at Boston’s Seaport. I went last year with A, and it was so much better than I had anticipated, I was super excited to attend again this year. Last year, as newbies to the event, we didn’t realize that it’s practically UNHEARD of not to attend with a necklace made of pretzels, so L is hooking us up with some fine, edible jewelry for this evening’s adventure. I’m sure I’ll have pictures.

Since she’s clearly staying over after a nice of beer consumption, I planned to make us breakfast in the morning. We might try to hit a hot yoga or a spin class beforehand, but we’ll play it by ear.  I’ve really missed my morning eggs this week, so I’m looking forward to the spinach & tomato scramble I’m going to cook up and serve alongside some healthy, green smoothies.

Later in the day, my friend B is coming over for early dinner before we head over to the Museum of Science to check out the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit.  Since it’s so hot, I wanted something bright and colorful, but, since an early dinner will likely take the place of both lunch and dinner, I wanted something that would also be a little hearty.

I’m going to throw together an arugula salad, a tomato salad, and some bright green spring vegetable risotto (cooked with brown rice; recipe to follow). After the museum, we’ll indulge in some berries, cream and lemon curd, because after making my own a couple weeks ago, I’m obsessed.

So many colors!

So many colors!

Because, it's nice to get a different perspective...

Because, it’s nice to get a different perspective…

Now I just need to think of something healthy and a little special to cook up for A when he gets back on Sunday. Any ideas? What are you cooking up this weekend?

Spring Vegetable Brown Rice Risotto

Serves 4

 *1 cup short or medium-grain brown rice (or, Arborio rice if you’re anti-brown)

*2 tablespoons good quality olive oil

*2 small leeks, white part only, chopped

*1/2 small fennel bulb, chopped

*1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon

*1/2 cup dry white wine or water

*between 4 and 6 cups of warm stock (vegetable or chicken), or water, in a pinch

*2 -3 cups of your favorite spring vegetables (I like fresh, shelled peas and asparagus, though I’m using broccolini this weekend since B doesn’t care for asparagus)

*1/2 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest

*2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

*1/3 cup mascarpone, quark or formaggio blanc, optional

*1/2 cup grated Parmesan, optional

*4 tablespoons chopped chives

Step 1:  Set up a medium pot with water and bring to a boil. Blanch any of your fresh vegetables that you’ll stir into your risotto later by letting them boil 2-3 minutes until slightly tender and bright green. Remove with tongs to preserve the water and place in an ice bath to prevent further cooking and to capture the color. Set up a small pot and fill with your stock and set over medium-low heat to keep warm. You’ll use this a little bit later.

Step 2: In your already boiling water, stir in your brown rice and let simmer for 10-15 minutes to get the brown rice a little bit more tender. Drain. NOTE:  If using regular Arborio rice, skip this step. Brown rice, as the whole grain, takes longer to soften.

Step 3: Put oil in a deep skillet over medium heat.  When hot, add the chopped leeks and fennel and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and softened, about 3 minutes.  Add in your rice and tarragon next, stirring until slightly toasty and covered in oil, about 5 minutes. Next add the wine, and stir until the liquid bubbles away.

Step 4: Begin adding stock a ladle-full or two at a time (until rice is just covered in your skillet) and, stirring throughout, let the liquid evaporate almost completely. When it’s nearly evaporated, it’s time to add another ladle or two or hot broth. Keep at this for about 15 -20 minutes, until the rice is just tender and the mixture is looking creamy and then add in your lemon zest and blanched vegetables. Cook a little longer, adding more broth if necessary, until rice is fully tender.

Step 5: Off the heat, stir in your lemon juice, mascarpone and Parmesan (if using) to add additional creaminess and tang. Serve hot with a sprinkle of fresh chives and cracked black pepper.