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Entries Tagged as 'Challenge'

So I think I like indoor cycling? (ClassPass launch at Flywheel)

March 8th, 2014 · 4 Comments · Challenge, Fitness

FlyWheel Never Coast

{Obligatory changing room selfie pre-workout. Am I going to make it? Am I going to die?}

I had an unusual conundrum on Tuesday: attend a startup event for women entrepreneurs which boasted an impressive list of founders who I admire and free dumplings, or attend an indoor cycling event at Flywheel, for the Boston launch of the startup ClassPass (which happens to be founded by women) with free post-workout salads from sweetgreen! Both events seemed well worth attending – and dumplings! – but as you have caught on already, cycling won out! Why? To overcome fear, try something I’d previously written off as “too difficult”, and crush it. The crushing part is subjective. In this case I just didn’t want to fall off the bike. I have ambitions for a sprint-tri in my future, and you have to start somewhere!

Indoor Cycling, take one: The first time I attempted indoor cycling was when I was living in San Francisco, and after barely, just barely, making it through a class without quitting, I went home and cried. The spin instructor, Rachel, was so terribly nice, and there were four of us in the class, a bickering boyfriend and girlfriend, both athletes giving 110% the entire class, an older man who was a cyclist with experience with real San Francisco hills, and me, out of shape, a little terrified, and woefully unprepared for what I was getting into. (There is some irony in the fact that I lived in San Francisco for several years and didn’t run once on the Embarcadero, and now I work at a fitness company in Boston and yearn wistfully for the West Coast whenever I’m out running here in the winter time.) But this spin class, this first class, I was uncoordinated, in pain, exhausted, and I felt sorrowfully like I had let the very nice instructor down. So I went home, and I cried, and I never went back again.

Looking back on this, years later, I get terribly sad thinking about how I missed out because I felt out of place – this feeling is one of the reasons that I go to work every day hoping to make fitness accessible to everybody.

Indoor cycling, take two: So Tuesday was my re-do, and I had no idea what to expect, but we’ll just say I was experiencing nervous excitement with just a smidge of terror. The class was at Flywheel, a new Boston cycling studio in the Prudential. Flywheel is pretty swanky – free shoes, towels, lockers, showers with complimentary shampoo, conditioner, and hair elastics! (I used three.) Our instructor, Ann, was great – super fit, dare I say it sultry in the best possible way – and I managed to make it through an entire class and get on the leaderboard. What a difference a few years can make. Definitely will be going back!

What is ClassPass: The startup I wish I had founded. With ClassPass, you subscribe a monthly $99, which gets you access to 10 classes at studios (Indoor Cycling, Yoga, Barre, and more) across the Boston area.

Flywheel Indoor Cycling
800 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02199

ClassPass (formerly classtivity)
(Currently in Boston and New York)

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Chicken Brussels Sprouts with Soba

November 25th, 2013 · No Comments · Challenge, chicken, Pantry Staples, Pasta

Chicken Brussels Sprouts

For someone who loves food and cooking so much, some nights it’s awfully hard to make a decision and get food on the table. This evening threatened to be trashy takeout night– we didn’t get home until 8:30, and it took all of my willpower not to order in. I usually reserve Sunday afternoons for batch cooking, but yesterday I was out and about, and didn’t have time to cook. I did however pick up a package of organic free range chicken thighs at Trader Joe’s, which was my starting point for tonights meal.

First I added a spoonful of coconut oil to my All Clad and heated up the pan on medium high heat, seasoned my chicken thighs (about a pound and a half) with Maldon salt and black pepper, and seared them on one side for about five minutes without touching them. Once nicely browned, I flipped them over and started rummaging through my cupboards for something to cook with them. I had some garlic, just a few cloves, which I sliced and added to the pan. Then I decided on shredded brussels sprouts, a few large handfuls, which I added after the chicken was cooked through (about 12 minutes). I tossed the chicken and sprouts, and added a pinch of urfa biber (Turkish hot pepper), and covered the lid to let the sprouts steam. At this point, I took the picture, thinking that we’d eat, until I spotted a lone portion of soba noodles, one of those single portions, maybe 2 or 3 ounces, which I decided to quickly boil and add to the pan. To finish the dish, I grated on a massive amount of parmesan cheese, which just makes everything in life better, and tossed everything together.

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Dorie’s boeuf à la mode

November 24th, 2013 · No Comments · Challenge, French Fridays

Pot roast potatoes and roasted cauliflower

[First there was 'Tuesdays With Dorie‘, where each week food-lovers across the internet united to bake a recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s ‘Baking: From My Home to Yours‘. A few years ago Dorie came out with a wonderful new cookbook ‘Around My French Table‘ where she shares her favorite French recipes – Check out French Fridays with Dorie if you’d like to join the fun.

Last month the French Friday’s With Dorie crew turned four. While I love the idea of a blog project, actually following through is another story – that’s why I’m in awe of the adventurous bloggers who have been cooking a recipe out of this book every week, for four years. Four years… over 200 recipes. (If you are curious, Mardi, of Eat Live Travel Write is one of these persistent folks.) The last time I participated was back in 2011, and my favorite recipe comes from 2010 – Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake (which would be a welcome addition to the Thanksgiving line up). Lately I’ve been considering starting up again.

On October 11th, the crew made (Boeuf à la mode, p 252), and after some good reviews all around, I thought that I’d try the recipe out, albeit a month and a half late. I had a small (two pound) top round roast from the butcher that I’ve been meaning to use, so I thought I’d put Dorie’s recipe to the test. This recipe is time consuming, but not laborious. You marinate beef with aromatics (onion, carrots, celery, and a bouquet garni), and a bottle of wine overnight. And then you braise it for hours with the marinade, vegetables, some beef stock, a hit of cognac, and the secret ingredients – tomato paste and anchovies.

Beef in marinade

Searing beef in cast iron pan

Searing vegetables in cast iron before braising

Dories pot roast ready for the oven

To round out the roast, I added some potatoes to the braise, and caramelized some cauliflower. I’d definitely make this one again!

In accordance with ‘French Fridays With Dorie’ rules, I’m not posting the recipe – you must buy Dorie’s book to get the details. But believe me, it will be money well spent. (If buying cookbooks isn’t your jam – don’t forget the library! Now that this has been out for about four years, it’s on many library shelves. If not, request it!)

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November 9th, 2013 · No Comments · Challenge


I’m quite fond of lazy Saturdays – but rarely do they actually happen. Too often we’re working, or have errands, or have commitments that take precedent over quality lounging time. Today was different. Slower. We woke up reluctantly and watched “Shut Up and Play The Hits” – a superb documentary about the final concert of LCD Soundsystem. It’s one of the better films I’ve watched in a while – beautifully shot and paced, and made even better by the breakout performance of James Murphy’s shockingly adorable Frenchie Petunia. It’s on Netflix streaming, and I highly recommend it.

After the film we brunched. Rox in Newtonville is always a good bet – they make eggs how I like them, breakfast is inexpensive, but many of their ingredients are locally sourced. My only complaint is that the coffee, which is perfectly serviceable,  isn’t nearly as good at George Howell down the street. But I haven’t figured out a way to smuggle it in without being rude about it. I wish B.Y.O.C was acceptable around these parts.

In the afternoon we headed to You-Do-It Electronic Center, where we browsed the aisles of tubes, capacitors, dremels, led strings, and wires. If you have any inclination to build something interesting, this is probably the place to start.

Then, Newbury Comics, where new records were acquired, and New England Mobile Book Fair, where I spotted my friend Stephanie’s new stunning book Melt on the shelves (I’ve been cooking out of it all week), and uncharacteristically left empty handed. I wanted no less than ten cookbooks, and couldn’t choose one, so in exasperation I gave up. This happens occasionally, and is better for my wallet.


By the time we left the bookstore it was dark – I’m trying to get used to the fact that my daylight is being robbed. We made a quick trip to Target, where I made an impulse purchase of a running hat and gloves for tomorrow’s race, and then picked up some Northern Thai food for dinner before tucking in in front of the television to catch up with this season of Luther.

Tomorrow, I’ll be picking up the pace. For 13.1.

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Foods of Fall (a.k.a. Winter is Coming)

November 5th, 2013 · 2 Comments · Blogging, Challenge, Vegetables

Fall foods. I decided today that I needed to write a list of fall foods so I wouldn’t miss them. Because it seems like we’re on the cusp of winter already, and I haven’t had my fill of cider donuts and delicate and baked apples. Usually I think of seasonal foods too late, and then I become bitter and cranky. And nobody likes that.

Speaking of bitter and cranky, first, a complaint. The Pumpkin Spice Latte. The pumpkin spice donut. The pumpkin spice pretzel. The pumpkin spice soap. The pumpkin spice dishwashing detergent. (Just kidding, that doesn’t exist…. I hope.) So yes, I just don’t understand it. Peppermint mocha? Okay, I get those. I like the idea of spiced drinks and nostalgia, and feeling homey, but the majority of the PSL’s I’ve tried – not purchased, but obligingly sipped from those who say imploringly “I swear you’ll love it, just try it one more time!” – have been cloyingly sweet, almost metallic tasting. Not to mention the whole zero-pumpkin thing for most of these drinks. The pumpkin spice latte just isn’t for me. But what about warming beverages? I’ll take coffee, tea, chai, or even cider spiked with spiced rum. It’s a thing I “invented” on Thanksgiving one year at the open bar. Yep, that’s a drink I can be on board with.

I’ve been trying to get my fill of fall foods that come (mostly) from nature. Here are some of my favorites:

1. Delicata squash, reigning supreme varietal of squash. I like mine sliced, tossed in coconut oil, with chile, cumin, and salt. Sometimes I add sweeter warming spices, like cinnamon, mace, and clove. Roast, roast, roast.

2. The other squashes: butternut squash, acorn squash, spaghetti squash. Okay, these squashes, well, they just aren’t delicata. I still like ‘em anyway.

3. Apples. I didn’t go apple picking this year. I know there is still time, but I’m not sold on having bags and bags in my fridge taken up by one type of food. That said, I did go through about a dozen varietals from Volante Farms, and managed to sample another dozen more. I like them fresh, in salads, and baked – stuffed with walnuts and dark chocolate, and doused out of the oven with a hint of cream.

4. Boiled cider. Here’s how you make it – take fresh cider (not the boozy kind), and simmer down as long as you can, until reduced by half, or if you can wait long enough, by 3/4. This took me a little under an hour for a half gallon. Take resulting cider, and spoon over apple cake, vanilla ice cream, granola, oatmeal, yogurt, and more. When you are sick of it with sweet things, use some to marinate and bake a pork tenderloin.

5. Apple cider donuts. My longstanding favorite have been from Applecrest farm in Rye, warm.

6. Chili. I’ve been waiting all summer long to have my chili back – it’s not that I don’t like eating it in the summer time, it just didn’t feel right to cook something low and slow in my own house until the temperature dropped below 65.

7. Parsnip Fries. Parsnips in general. Sure they look like white carrots, but they don’t taste like carrots at all!

8. Pumpkin whoopee pies. The winning whoopee this season has come from Volante Farms in Needham. Preferably cream cheese frosting.

9. Turkish pumpkin dessert. Pumpkin braised in a simple syrup with coconut and nuts. I haven’t made it this year, but when I do, I’ll post the recipe.

10. Persimmons. Oh, how I miss these in San Francisco, where you could find them ripe, and they didn’t cost $3 a fruit. (It’s true you can get them for cheaper on the East Coast, just never ripe.)

11. Pumpkin chocolate chip bundt. This recipe. My absolute favorite fall food. Tastes good warmed for breakfast. Tastes great at the end of a long hike.

Of course there are many more – cranberries, cabbage, every type of braise. I’ll have to keep on thinking, and get started on the eating!

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