Saturday, October 12, 2013

Sweet and Spicy Chicken Thighs- oh and hello there

It's been awhile guys. I apologize. What happened? Good question. I've been busy guys! So many things are happening all at the same time, which I think happens to people a lot. Primarily my time has been spent doing improv with my team @_almostinfamous and hosting a new podcast that I started called Brunchburgh. We eat brunch and talk about awesome Pittsburgh people/projects.

But today I made these chicken thighs and they were so crazy good that I had to share. Like seriously guys. My belly & taste buds has so much love for these I had to share.  Mostly so I don't lose this recipe. My blog is essentially where I store recipes so I don't lose them. I'm sure I could just write them down, but where's the fun in that?

Honey Spiced Chicken Thighs
Adapted from Holly would if she could

6-8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
3 tsp garlic powder
3 tsp chili powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
4 Tsp honey
1.5 tsp cider vinegar

1. Turn broiler on High. 
2. Mix garlic powder, chili powder, salt, cumin, paprika, and cayenne pepper in a large bowl. Coat each piece of chicken with the dry rub. 
3. Put a wire rack on top of a cookie sheet lined with foil and place chicken on it.
4. Move rack in oven to highest position, cook chicken for 5 minutes per side (10 total).
5. Put honey & vinegar in bowl and mix well.

6. Take chicken out of oven, coat with honey mixture. Broil 1 minute. Remove again, flip, coat with rest of honey mixture and broil 1 minute. Then remove and eat.

Monday, July 1, 2013

My 1 year Burgh-iversary! a Pittsburgh Love Letter

Today marks my 1 year anniversary of living in Pittsburgh. It went super fast, and it went super well. In only one year I feel like I have made more new connections than I had in the previous 5 years. True, I do go to a lot of events specifically for meeting and networking with people, but I honestly feel that much of my success here is because Pittsburgh is a great place with friendly people.

I had never been to Pittsburgh for a visit before spring of 2011, when through a random series of events, I happened to be passing through and was literally here for 14 hours. During my 14 hours, (much of which I was asleep) I stayed in a hotel downtown facing the incline (I didn't at this time know what an incline even was) and the rivers & beautiful bridges. I met up with an old friend who had moved here 3 years prior and his excitement about Pittsburgh really struck me. I had known I wanted to move out of Philly to some place new, but until that very brief visit (a hotel stay and a coffee at Voluto) I had never considered Pittsburgh. But why not? The rent was cheap, it had so many new things I could discover, and it was clear to me there were things happening here. Furthermore my friend who lived here was not only doing good, he was doing great, and he loved it here, like bled black & yellow while quoting Pittsburgh's rich history loved it (and I swear he never even used to like sports). By January of 2012 I was here for a work visit and I decided I was going to do my best to move here, and by July 1, I had made that happen.

One year went by so quickly but if I had to sum it all up in a single word: change.

I changed locations and changed a lot of things about myself. I threw out a lot of my negative habits (inactivity, eating crap, being a shut in) and traded up for new positive habits- biking, running, yoga, eating paleo (with the occasional beer), going to as many social events (I call them mixers) as possible to meet new people. In short I was on one path, and by moving to Pittsburgh I changed a lot of things and now I feel like my path could lead me anywhere. I now feel like I could live anywhere (but I like it here an awful lot so I'm gonna stay for awhile) and like I could do anything. My friends in Philly who were really good friends, are still my really good friends (and should visit me here). The new people I've met in Pittsburgh have become some of the best support I've had in my life, and I'm grateful to each and every one I've met in this past year.

To get a handle on how I did it, here are some of my favorite networking 'mixer' groups and general places I've been meeting people:
Creative Mornings Pittsburgh
PGH Tweetups
Podcamp Pgh
Catapult Show n Tells
Penn Gallery Crawl
Meetup groups - for Pugs, for small dogs, for tech, biking
BikePGH & Flock of Cycles rides
Start up events (startup weekend, anything at techShop, any opening)
Coffee Shops - cat & dogs (unfortunately closed), Espresso a mano, Commonplace
Steel City Improv
Obscure Games
Volunteering for Construction Junction's Big Pour
Volunteering with the Food Bank
Volunteering for Commonwealth Press's Beer Barge
Volunteering at Swan Day
Pittsburgh Twitter friends
Pittsburgh Bloggers group
Pittsburgh beer ladies!

As I've put this list together there are certainly things I've missed, because there are so many opportunities to get out and do things and meet people in Pittsburgh, and I grabbed a lot of them and met a lot of awesome people as a result!

I also feel like I accomplished a lot of totally new things for me this year that deserve note.
Things I've accomplished:
I rode my first bike event (pedalPGH 2012, followed by numerous other group rides)
I started running
I ran my first 5k
I ran my first 5k with obstacles- foamfest
I ran my first 10k
I feel healthy and like a rock star.
I ate mostly Paleo for this whole year
I took an improv class, then I took another
Became a successful Airbnb host
I got back on stage in front of people after 5 years off stage producing

Within months of moving here I had already turned the corner and started telling my friends in Philly to move here. I was already defensive when someone would say, "but Pittsburgh is so industrial, what is there to do" because they truly don't know. And no matter how many articles are written about us being a travel destination or the smartest city, or the next Portland, or silicon valley, people just don't get it. I truly believe you need to put feet on the ground and experience Pittsburgh to believe it. It can change you, for good, if you'd like.

I have goals in place for next year:
Get my brunch podcast off the ground
Biking more, at least a metric century event, and probably the ms150 next year
Be involved with a theater more, possibly on stage acting
Continue to meet people and network
Run a half marathon?
Have my improv group do a cage match and win
Continue to be a rock star and learn new things

So in short I'd like to say thanks to Pittsburgh, thanks for having me, and supporting me, and thanks for being an awesome place to meet and network, and hit the ground running in a new city. Thanks to my friend who recommended I check out Pittsburgh, way to be the catalyst. Thanks to my friends and family back home in Cape May & Philly (& NYC) for supporting my brash decision to pick up and change my life and thanks to all my new friends here I like you all very much. The first year in Pittsburgh has just raced past, I cannot wait to see what the next year might bring.

Friday, June 21, 2013

My Perfect Pittsburgh Saturday: 8-10pm Edition

Today I've teamed up with a gaggle of talented Pittsburgh bloggers to present our "perfect Pittsburgh Saturday" in 2 hour slots. If you'd like to start at the top of the day head over to Everyone Loves You for Alex's 8-10am starting blog post then you can daisy chain your way back here. Or you can just keep reading!

I hope you've been enjoying all the blogs participating in this blogger crossover- 'blogover' event. You should be headed to me via Yum Yum PGH 's 6pm-8pm block so I hope you had a good time over there! It is now 8pm and I have you for 2 hours! If you've been following through all the other blogs recommendations you might be pooped by now, you've seen things, you've eaten and drank some great local treats, by now, you might just want to sit down (or go home)- but it's not time for that yet!  It's only 8pm! the fun is just getting started.

For my perfect 8pm-10pm Pittsburgh block I would start by having a drink at Verde and some carne asade! or Harvard and Highland and some delicious BBQ-  (this would probably be before 8pm really, but let's let me slide for that since we're ignoring travel time) and since I am probably a little tired from all today's adventures throughout town I think it's time to sit down and laugh some- I'm heading to the Steel City Improv Theater- SCIT. This way we can see some fun improv, laugh, cry, get emotional, and have a good time all while sitting (and you can continue drinking because they sell wine and beer too!)

What is improv:
Oh honey, really? Ok so improv is completely made up scenes on the spot between two (or more) scene partners. Some times it is funny, and some times it is not. Basically it is a type of comedy where people make things on the fly like jazz 'improvisors' do with music, but instead they are doing it with scenes between realistic characters. The characters could be based on whatever the person improvising wants, it could be themselves, their aunt edna, some person on tv that they use as a go to character, but generally improv is about true reactions. How would this character react to the scene and circumstances that come up in the scene. Often what happens is hilarious. Some times it isn't- but most important- every show is completely different and will never be done again. You have to witness it to be part of it and once it is over it is never repeated again. It's a little sad really but you have to come and share it and then you'll remember it- and that's what makes it so special!

Where is the SCIT:
Scit is located in Shadyside but due to construction (they are located exactly where the Highland bridge is out) you might not know that. Currently you can find them by either 1. walking over from whole foods/wine and spirits/trek/mcn salon complex and taking the pedestrian bridge ***note**** I do not recommend parking in the shopping complex because they can and just might tow you, but if you are just walking/biking from a neighboring hood- the pedestrian bridge is an excellent choice. Option 2. They are on Ellsworth so you can park in the streets neighboring harris grill/bites and brews/crazy mocha, and then just walk down the street - you will see signs that say the road is closed- and right where all those signs are- that is where the theater is! Street address: 5950 Ellsworth Ave, Pittsburgh PA 15232. Honestly one of my favorite things about SCIT is their location in Shadyside, it's close to Whole Foods/BRGR and east liberty (harvard and highland! Union Pig and Chicken! Soon to be Livermore!). But also walking distance to the rest of Shadyside. So really you can't go wrong with a place to grab a drink before, after, in the middle!

Inside the scit:
SCIT is located in the first floor of a building. It's not a huge theater but there's plenty of room for you and friends. They have A/C which is great for those hot summer nights! Also the people that do improv here and run the theater are friendly and it is a fun community spot. I started going because my friend K recommended it and was doing improv herself. I never thought of myself as funny but the more I went, the more I enjoyed it and the more often I found myself going. Scit has some shows that happen every week, and some that float and change. You can check their schedule on their website. I have a few favorites and a few I've been meaning to still check out. The shows are $5 each - so if there are 4 a night and you want to see all 4- that's $20 - for 4 hours of completely never before seen comedy- that's a deal guys. They also have drinks available for a reasonable price- beer! wine! pop! (did I just say pop?) 

8-10 on Saturdays the schedule is as follows:
8PM- The Lupones- made up musicals- exactly that, based on a suggestion from an audience member they make up an entire musical. It is really something amazing to see. Some times they ask for just a word, or a situation. But really based on almost nothing, they start improvising and a scene occurs that then sparks singing- and rhyming! This truly has to be seen in person to be believed. There are some talented voices up there for the Lupones and it is super fun to see!
9PM- The Death Show- Based on the contents of someone's wallet a series of obituaries and deaths are reconstructed. I haven't actually seen this show yet (I think I'll go this Saturday!) But I think it sounds like a great group to check out. Seriously let's all go tomorrow! I mean, think about what's in your wallet, can you think of how it might lead to your ultimate demise?!

*There are later shows but I want to stay within my 8-10 block (but check out their website, shows all the time! and Mondays you can check them out for FREE)

After the shows the people who do improv usually go to a bar and you're invited! Want to find out how they did that thing? Want to be their friend? (in a non creepy way). Come to shows. Come to the bar. These people are great folk. (this happens outside of my 8-10 block, but seriously feel free to come do it some time!)
**All photos borrowed from SCIT website/facebook and I make no claim to own them. If SCIT has any problem with use just hollar at me and I'll remove them. **

If you like what you see- YOU can sign up for a class and do it too!
They have classes registering all the time for you to do improv. They have a free jam on Thursday nights where you can just drop in and give it a try, maybe you will find out- it is exactly what your life has been missing!

Pittsburgh has a surprising amount of improv and stand up comedy venues and events and I truly recommend you check them all out! If you like laughing, and who doesn't like laughing?

I know it can be overwhelming trying to craft the perfect mix of events and brunches and things to do and see. My recommendation for a perfect Saturday is only one, and luckily I only have to recommend for a two hour period. But seriously Pittsburgh is awesome, and we're all lucky to be here. Want to continue your perfect day?

Now it's time to head on over to The Steel Trap for your 10pm-12am slot of even more Pittsburgh Perfection! Enjoying this blogger crossover (blogover?) tell us about it by tweeting with #PghSummer and get out there and do some awesome things!

The 8pm slot had dual posts so you can check out the other post at D&T in the burgh for some dinner recommendations!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Easy Spinach Mushroom Quiche

CSA season is upon us! My roommate and I signed up for every other week share from Kretschmann Farm what does this mean for my cooking and blogging? It means (somewhat) unknown territory. This is not my first time on a CSA, I did one back in Philly, but this CSA is definitely more traditional- the one I did in Philly was more streamlined for city folk. What do I mean by that? well I would say my current CSA is more of the- some times you get a TON of a certain type of veggies. Like this week's share below is super heavy on greens.

1 huge bag of spinach (maybe 8 cups?)
1 even huger bag of mixed greens (about 10 cups)
1 huge head of bibb lettuce (I mean huge)
1 huge box of assorted mushrooms
large bundle of rhubarb (recipe for that up later this week/early next week)
5 large radishes
fresh thyme
fresh basil
fresh rosemary 
1 fresh loaf of seven grain bread (my roommate will eat that)

So comparatively I would say that the one I did in Philly does more to make sure you never end up with so many greens. I'm not complaining, but I am concerned it will go bad before I can use it. And I by mistake (poor planning bought spinach on sale right before our pick up date. So while I'm loving the influx of veg, it truly is a lot to handle. And for 2 people it is far too many greens to just eat salads, so it will be showing up in every meal I eat until it's gone. That brought me to today's recipe of a crustless quiche. The thing about quiche (especially paleo quiche) is that it's pretty easy to make and pretty hard to mess up. You might want more egg or more veg depending on what you like, so just use more veggies and less milk to make it less eggy. Mine came out a little veggie heavy- since I have so much spinach I don't know what to do.

1-2 cups of mushrooms sliced
2-4 cups of spinach 
6 large eggs
1 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 cups coconut milk
1 tsp thyme- fresh if you have it
1/2 tsp nutmeg
fresh sea salt and black pepper
You could add: cheese, meat (bacon or ham would go great I think)

Preheat oven 350F

Since I have so much spinach to start I took 3 cups of spinach and my eggs, coconut milk, and baking soda and put them in the blender for a short period of time. Ideally I only wanted my spinach blended a little, but my blender is crazy fast and I ended up very diced, but that's okay it just made a very green quiche.

I used my large rectangle Pyrex and coated the bottom with coconut oil to help my quiche not stick. (you could use a smaller one as mine turned out very flat.

I then poured the egg/spinach mixture in, added the remaining 1 cup of spinach and mushrooms and sort of pushed the mushrooms down so they were coated in egg. If you want meat or cheese add it here.

Next I sprinkled the top with thyme, nutmeg, sea salt and black pepper, and put the casserole dish in the oven.

I ate mine with a slice of smoked salmon 
and a bit of blue cheese crumbles
  - green eggs and salmon?

This is the start of a lot of fresh veggies and fruit blogging based on my CSA so I hope you'll follow along as I get creative and do my best to not let any veggies go bad!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Jerk Chicken Lab #1

So I have been on a hunt for the perfect Jerk seasoning recipe. I have tried like 6 so far, each one has been good in it's own way, none has been perfect. But since I haven't written in a bit (I'll get to that after the recipe) I thought I'd say hello and share one of my most recent that I thought was pretty close to greatness.

Jerk Seasoning:
1 tsp cinnamon 
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp coconut sugar
1/2 tsp ground sage
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes 
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (if you like it spicy!)
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
salt and pepper
juice of 1 lime

What to put it on? 
I used 2 lbs of chicken leg/thighs and doubled the jerk seasoning recipe because I wanted it really jerky.
I'd like to see it on Shrimp, I think that would be awesome

Preheat oven 350F
For mine I used Chicken legs/thighs they seem to always be on sale at Whole Foods and you get a lot of bang for your buck. I don't really like chicken that much, but I find that a good jerk seasoning can make me eat just about anything.

Since I'm not going to eat the skin, I like to peel it back and put the rub under the skin directly on the chicken, then put the skin over it so it kind of locks in the moisture when it cooks. I also then put it on the outside of the skin too. After applying rub I then squeezed limes all over it and let it sit for 10 minutes in the fridge, you could go longer, but I was impatient and hungry. I then placed it in the oven covered in foil for 20 minutes, then removed foil and continued for 25 minutes. Since I do not trust chicken I then put my handy digital thermometer in one of the legs to assure the internal temperature was 165F, it was, so we were ready to go.

I ate some of this chicken just as was with a side of broccoli. Then I took a large portion of the legs and removed all the meat from the bones and put it in a zip lock bag, ready to go protein at a moments notice, throw it in salads, munch on it when you can't figure out what to cook. Simple and delicious.

So where have I been? Remember last month I posted that bold post all about the whole 30. Well it's June now and I am here to tell you I did not do the whole 30 last month. I started off trying. But I had a lot on my plate life wise. I was training for a race. I was studying for my Project Management Certification (which I passed huzzah!). I had to be in Philadelphia for work for over a week. And basically I was just stressed out a lot. So I failed at the whole30, and that's okay, because you can start a new one whenever you want. I let myself have last month and I even ate 2 pieces of bread during the whole month (CRAZY TIMES!) and had a donut from Federal Donuts (WHAT?!) and drank some beer (beer is delicious and I do not regret this choice) but I did this while sticking to a strict running schedule since I'm training for a 10k June 29th. So the end result when I stepped on the scale after eating so out of term for a month? I weigh the same. Yay running! I have written a big long post about running and how I'm doing, but I keep editing it, so eventually I will release it. 

So while I may have not moved my program further from a weight standpoint I do feel like I accomplished a lot running in the past month. I'm up to 4.5miles for my longest run and I feel pretty confident that I can get to 6.2 no problem. As for being paleo, I'm back on course with a small addiction to cheese that I'm still working on. But from a 80% on the diet, 20% misbehavin' I'm doing just fine. 

So I guess the moral is, it's okay to fail sometimes, so long as you keep your longer turn goals in mind- for me, I cheated on my diet but I did not let go of my running goals which I think helped a lot. For instance, in April I ran a total of 13 miles, in May I ran a total of 28.5 miles so clearly I'm doing something right.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Some food (links) for thought

This week I'm studying for my PMP exam and my stress level is through the proverbial roof. So rather than a full blown post I thought I'd just say hello, check in and leave some links here for you to go check out:

So called 'health foods' that are probably killing us
Notice how many of these things are out of the paleo diet. I can honestly say (with the exception of a gluten free treat in a moment of desperation) I haven't had any of these in 10 months and I certainly feel healthier for it. As for gluten free treats- read labels. Can you identify all the ingredients? are they something you are willing to put in your body? Make the decision and move on with your life. That's my process. I read labels on everything, even my dog's food, if I can't identify it, it's out.

7 Ways GMO's are hiding in your food.
Funny the cross over this article has to the first. Not trying to scare anyone, but GMOs are no good for us. Many countries ban them altogether or at least require labeling properly- the US is losing this battle, so be aware- if it does not specifically say organic, it isn't. Unless it's from a local small farm, in which case talk to the farmers, it might be organic but the licensing to be an organic farm is really impossible- you can read about that here.

And so as to not be a complete downer, here's a sweet treat recipe that I would love to have. Vegan Raw Almond Joy bars. These sound delicious but are definitely not part of the Whole 30 which I will talk about more next week. Also if these happened to show up at my house. I would stress eat them all. True Fact.

I'll catch up with everyone next week when I've either passed or failed this PMP exam.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May 1- Whole30 self challenge.

So starting today I am starting my second Whole30 program. What is the whole 30 you ask? Well basically it's a much stricter version of going paleo. You see I've been being 'pretty much' paleo since last July/Aug 2012, and while the results have been great (happiness! losing weight! getting shit done!) when I did my first Whole30 (June/July2012) I lost some weight rapidly, felt even better, and just felt like a friggin' rock star most of the time.

What's different about the Whole30 vs. paleo:
No sweetener of any sort: meaning no honey in my tea
No 'paleoifying' things: so most of the fancy baked goods on my blog are out**
No white potatoes: I avoid these anyway, but do use them as "cheats" on the 80/20 rule- but whole30 means none at all.
No alcohol: we'll see about this one, I am human afterall and it is sitting outside sipping a cocktail weather #ginseason
No grains at all: Again I've been cheating with rice, because sushi is delicious. But I am going to try 30 days of no rice at all, or polenta- this will be difficult, but hey sashimi is great, so I will definitely be doing that.
No dairy: I don't really have dairy on paleo, but I have been known to cheat with occasional blue cheese or goat cheese. So that's out.

Why would I want to do this? Well, it's a bit like food bootcamp for my body. Yes, I've been eating rather well, but if I'm being honest, I could do better, and this is my way of committing myself to do just that.

I know I rarely talk about what this diet has done to change my body, because really I did not start it to lose weight. I just wanted to be healthier because when I started this diet I was an unhealthy person, I was overweight, and often unhappy about everything. 10 months later I've lost and kept off about 40lbs and I spend the bulk of my time happy and sharing life with amazing folks I'm proud to call my friends. I have more weight to lose, but I spent the winter focused on maintaining my weight and trying to get more active even when I wanted to just sit inside and pout about the cold. I put together the photo below to show some before and after shots-

-this was not easy as I have destroyed/untagged almost all proof I was ever overweight. And to be clear, I am still overweight, and even when I get to my goal weight, I'll probably still be overweight then (according to the BMI which is BS), but I will be happy and healthy for my body and my personal goals. What am I doing this year that I wasn't last year? Running, doing improv with Steel City Improv, rock climbing, yoga, and I love trying new things whereas before I was stuck in a major rut. (I was biking this time last year so it's not new, it's just easier now that I'm physically stronger)

As I go into my second Whole 30 I know there are things that will be tough but so worth it. Step one is shopping because if your fridge is full of a bunch of crap, you will eat the crap. It's just like the first day of being paleo, throw the junk away or give it to your friends. You think your friends won't take your half eaten box of whatever, we must have different friends because mine would totally take it off my hands. For me I mainly have honey and all my baking supplies, but they will do fine to sit in my cabinets for 30 days so not much for me to give away. More difficult for me is my penchant for not making food soon enough, then getting cranky and ordering- that's got to stop completely. To succeed at the Whole30 you need to have real food readily accessible at all times. Veggies and meat and nuts and avocados.

Want to read more about Whole30- main website, or Naked Plates helpful breakdown. To be clear I'm not paying to do the actual program, I just follow the guidelines and push myself to follow the rules. I'm hoping the results will be awesome and with this great weather that has finally found us, I can't imagine a better way to celebrate than by eating better and getting outside to ride my bike and run and just kick butt all over the place.

Like to know more? Have a specific question? The comments section is up and running and if you're reading this I'd love to hear from you!