Monthly Archives: November 2010

Get your fruit fix

Eating plenty of fruits during the summer is ridiculously easy. The bins at the markets are overflowing with technicolor options, everything is bursting with ripeness, and the prices are as good as they’ll ever be. Fast forward to late fall, and it’s a different scene altogether. Aside from apples, the only fruits we’re seeing are either sad and shriveled-looking, or in decent shape but wildly expensive.

A few days ago we bought some oranges that turned out to be just pathetic—tough, way too pithy, and barely juicy at all. Ugh. We’re not about to stop eating fruit until next spring rolls around, but we’re also not willing to subject ourselves to stuff that tastes about as good as the plastic fruit our grandma used to keep on her dining room table.

Our solution? Smoothies! No, we’re not claiming to have invented them, but we are going through a nice rediscovery period, and we couldn’t help but share it with you. Our latest favorite is a blueberry-banana version, and it couldn’t be easier. Here’s what you need:

  • about 1/2 cup of frozen blueberries
  • one banana
  • a couple of big spoonfuls of Greek yogurt
  • a couple of splashes of milk
  • a dab of honey

Blend it all together until it’s nice and smooth—about 30 seconds or so—and voila!

Check out that frothy top—yum!

You get a nice dose of fruit, plus the added bonus of a little calcium and protein, thanks to the milk and yogurt. And the best part is that the frozen blueberries make the drink nice and cold, so you don’t have to blend in any ice (we’re not fans of overly icy smoothies they serve at lots of the chain smoothie shops—all filler, no substance).

Now that we’re on a smoothie kick, we can’t wait to experiment with more flavors. Stay tuned for results!

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Easy Stress Relief

This happens every year. We get excited about pumpkins and fall, and then all of a sudden we’re seeing Santa Claus cut-outs, holiday lights and random red and green things all over the place. How is it that November disappears into thin air every year?! It inevitably stresses us out. We love the holidays, but it’s always a super-busy time of year with too many activities to balance—parties, excessive eating and drinking, shopping, shopping, shopping. Ahh!!!  Well, this year we’ve decided to be proactive and create a sense of calm before the storm.

We took a yoga class at 24-Hour Fitness the other day and took note of a few moves that we think might help us make it through. You can do them anywhere, so if you’re feeling stressed and/or tense at any point over the next few weeks, strike a pose, breathe deeply, and we promise you’ll feel better instantly.

The classic Downward Dog is always good for alleviating tension in your upper back and hips, where we generally carry a lot of stress. Also, if your hamstrings are eternally tight, like Lindsey's, this is perfect for stretching those out, too. Hold for about five full breaths.

From Down Dog, lunge right foot forward, between hands, bending right knee 90 degrees so that it's directly over your right ankle. Keep left leg straight and lift torso up toward ceiling, coming into a high lunge. Bring palms together, lower hands to heart, and then twist torso to right, bringing left elbow to outside of right knee; look up toward ceiling. Hold for three breaths, then switch sides and repeat. This move opens up your chest, hips and core.

Sit on floor with knees bent, feet and legs together. Lift legs so that knees are in front of chest, calves parallel to floor, and lean back slightly (balancing on sit bones). Keeping shoulders relaxed, extend arms in front of you, palms down. Hold for two full breaths.

Rock yourself back gently, lowering shoulders and arms to floor, sending legs up and over head, coming into plow position. Hold for a breath, and then rock back up to modified boat pose (above). Repeat boat/plow five times. This feels great for your entire back and helps alleviate headaches.

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Hiker’s delight

When we drove cross-country last summer, we were lucky enough to stay with in-the-know locals who knew all the best hikes in their area (our absolute favorite: Picnic Peak, in Park City, Utah).

But we’ve all had those moments where you land in a new place and just know there are great trails to be hiked, but you have no idea where to find them. Our favorite solution? Backpacker.com. The magazine is known for its extensive archives of hikes across the country, and lucky for us, they’ve put all that valuable info on their website. On the top left of the home page, there’s a little golden box that says “Find hikes near you.” You can either enter your zip code or search by city, state, specific park, or trail. So simple!

We typed in our Portland zip code and the site churned out 32 hikes in our area, each one plotted on a map so we can see where exactly they are. All the recommended hikes have info about the distance of the trail, and most include brief descriptions about the terrain and a difficulty-level rating. But Portland (and the Pacific Northwest in general) is the land of hikes. We decided to put Backpacker to the test by plugging in the zip code for our old apartment in Brooklyn—not exactly known for its wilderness opportunities. Seventeen results! Not all in the immediate area, mind you, but easy enough to get to.

While you’re on the site, be sure to check out some of the articles—especially the Featured Trips section. If you’re not already planning a hiking vacation, you’ll be inspired to after reading these write-ups!

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Down & Dirty

If you like running, riding and mud, you’ll love cyclo-cross. Case in point:

This girl's right leg pretty much says it all. This sport is dirty!

We attended our first race, part of the River City Bicycles Cross Crusade Series, yesterday and couldn’t help but fall in love with this off-the-beaten path sport. The race was located at the Washington County Fairgrounds in Hillsboro, Oregon, which is about 20 minutes west of Portland. It started raining on our drive over there, so we knew that the dirt track would be a mess and our spectating would be that much more awesome (translation: the sloppier the track is, the sloppier the riders get, which is way more fun to watch). Thankfully the rain died down as soon as we arrived, so we stayed dry, but as predicted, the course was already a mess. The men’s singlespeed and category B race was about to begin.

So here’s how it works: Cyclists ride laps around a dirt track that’s sprinkled with various obstacles, such as water pits, sliding hills, stairs you have to climb up and then ride down on the other side, for a set period of time (usually about 40 minutes to an hour). The person who does the most laps and is in the lead at the end, wins. So all the riders are decked out in cycling clothes and mountain biking shoes, but they are not always on their bikes. The only way to complete the course is to perform a combination of riding and running (while holding your bike, of course). Talk about a hard core workout!!

A windy, muddy portion of yesterdays track, which was about 3 miles long total.

Participants carry their bikes up a set of stairs, only to be greeted by a mini hill to ride down at the top.

We watched the first race and then stuck around for part of the second, which was the women’s division…

Two female cyclists battling it out in the second race.

One of the coolest things about watching and/or participating in these races is the amount of local support around you. Cycling teams in Portland are all over it, and the crowd yesterday was amazing. There were cowbells, drums, whistles, cat calls, you name it. Some of the sponsors, like Burgerville, Deschutes Brewery and Bob’s Red Mill, had tents set up with great local food and beer to sample while you watch as well.

Bottom line—we had a blast! And now we can’t wait to get on a bike and get dirty, too!

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McMenamins Magic

If you’ve been to Oregon, you’ve probably been to a McMenamins establishment. What began in 1974 as a single brewpub owned Mike and Brian McMenamin has grown into a region-wide chain of 58 pubs, hotels, music venues, and movie theaters.

Portlanders seem to be of two minds about the company. On one hand, the McMenamin brothers played a big part in a law passed in 1984 that allowed small breweries to sell their products on-site and at one other location. Thanks to that law, Portland now has the highest number of microbreweries per capita of any U.S. city. Plus, the brothers are known for buying old, forgotten-about buildings and restoring them to house their businesses—so much cooler (and more environmentally sound) than popping up a bunch of characterless, new-construction properties.

On the other hand, cynics can’t help but scoff at the sheer number of McMenamins establishments all over Portland and beyond. Sometimes it seems like they’re the Starbucks of brewpubs, with a location on every other corner. In a way, the company has been a victim of its own success.

We can see both arguments, but on nights like tonight, we can’t help but love McMenamins. We had heard that Frank Fairfield, a folk/blues/bluegrass singer, was playing at McMenamins Edgefield, so, along with Darrell and Eddy, we piled into Lindsey’s car and drove the 15 miles to Troutdale, OR. Edgefield is classic McMenamins: an old 74-acre farm turned quirky resort, including a hotel, a restaurant, a pub, bunches of little bars, a winery, an on-site glass blower and potter, and a spa with a soaking pool. The minute we stepped out of the car and wandered the grounds, we started to talk about when we could come back to stay overnight.

The concert itself couldn’t have been better. Frank pretty much blew us away with his talent, playing old folk and blues standards.

The low-key, dimly lit room was the perfect venue for the old-timey music Fairfield plays.

His sound was so authentically Appalachian, you’d never know he’s from California’s central valley. And watching him switch effortlessly between the fiddle, the banjo, and the guitar, you’d assume he was an old-timer, not a fresh-faced 25-year-old.

Without McMenamins’ music program, we never would have seen this guy play. Too many locations? Maybe. But we’re ok with that if it means that every once in a while, we get to spend a fall evening drinking local beer and wine, listening to great music. So let’s make it official: We’re pro-McMenamins.

 

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Nice Rack!

We’ve got a few fun road trips lined up and would love to take our bikes along for the ride. However, unless we plan on stacking them on top of each other in the back of the car (imagine chains rattling, frames clanking, tires rubbing), it might not happen. We need a new bike rack. Bad. It’s just hard to find the right one.

We could get a top rack, like the popular Yakima SprocketRocket. Pro: It’s not only super-stable, but it also adjusts to hold pretty much any type of bike you want. Oh—and you don’t need any tools to put it together. Big pro.  Con: It makes the car so tall that we can’t help but feel like we’re going to ram our bikes into a bridge or get our handlebars knocked off in a tunnel.

There are also trailer hitch racks, like Thule’s techy T2 2-Bike Hitch Rack. Pro: It’s not sitting on top of your car! Plus, it’s built to help prevent your bikes from bumping (each other or the car) and keeps your wheels secure. Con: Our car doesn’t have a hitch, so there is no way for us to even attempt to attach this one. Umm, and it’s over $400. Next!

We’re thinking about getting a less expensive, easier-to-take-on-and-off option, like the Saris Bones 3-bike trunk rack. This rack simply attaches directly to your trunk and is held on with some pretty sturdy straps. Pro: It fits our car the best, it’s still secure, and it will keep our bikes from bumping up against each other. It also gives us the option of carting a third set of wheels. And, big bonus: It comes in fun colors, like yellow, purple and green. We know this shouldn’t matter, but it just does. We’ll pick something that’s functional and yellow over functional and gray any day. Con: We can’t think of any! Other than the fact that our rear view will now be partially blocked by a few beautiful bikes.

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The royal treatment

We mentioned King Estate briefly in Friday’s post, but we knew that after the weekend was over, we’d have a lot more to say. We couldn’t have been more right. What we thought was going to be a nice little weekend away from the city turned out to be an introduction to one of the coolest wineries we’ve ever visited.

Since we arrived after dark, it wasn’t until we woke up the next morning that we saw how gorgeous the estate was. When we stepped out of the cottage, we were treated to views like this:

France? Italy? Nope, Oregon.

And this:

The estate's main building, which houses the vistor's center and tasting room.

And then there was the cabin itself—uber charming, with two bedrooms, a little kitchen, an awesome back porch, and a stone fireplace (which we used all weekend long!):

We want this to be our summer home!

We fixed ourselves a killer breakfast, made with ingredients from our fully stocked kitchen. The best part? The bacon, cured right at King Estate. After that, we walked around the cabin grounds and had some down time, and then it was on to lunch at the estate’s restaurant, where the chef, Michael Landsberg, is doing amazing things. He’s living a chef’s dream, with all manner of fresh produce grown organically right there on the farm, and easy access to sustainably grown chicken, beef, pork, and fish, much of which is raised on farms just a few miles away.

We couldn’t resist the burger, topped with pork belly, spinach, and aged cheddar:

We're a little worried this burger is going to spoil us on all burgers from this point on. It was amazing!

We balanced the meat-fest of the burger with the Nicoise Root Vegetables:

This salad came with the most perfect slow-cooked eggs. Aren't they gorgeous?

After lunch, we met up with Quentin, one of the estate’s wine educators, and set out for our tour. We don’t know the other King Estate wine educators, but we can’t imagine anyone being more knowledgeable than Quentin. The guy lives and breathes (and loves) wine, and his enthusiasm for it is contagious. We saw pretty much every part of the winery, including the production rooms, the aging room, the bottling room, the storage room, and on and on.

The wine ages in these oak barrels, many of which are from France.

After that, it was on to the estate’s bakery, where we met and promptly fell in love with pastry chef Tobi Sovak. She’s the perfect combination of no-nonsense and hilarious, and she’s extremely talented. As she led us through the bakery, she gave us tastings of all kinds of treats, including bunches of homemade ice creams, jams made from fruit grown about 50 feet away, Pinot Noir sorbet, and a pumpkin cake topped with cinnamon ice cream:

Autumn, in dessert form.

From there, we visited the charcuterie, where they cure their own bacon and prosciutto, make their own pates, and smoke everything from sausage to oysters.

The coolest part about the tour was that everywhere we went, Quentin introduced us to and chatted with every staff member we encountered. King Estate has more than 80 employees, but we got the feeling they operate a lot like one big happy family. During crush, when the wine staff is working around the clock harvesting and making wine, the restaurant and bakery staff prepare meals for them. Talk about job perks!

We topped our tour with—what else?—a tasting.

The tasting room, like pretty much everything else at the estate, is gorgeous. Love those exposed beams.

King Estate is known for its Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, two grapes that thrive in Willamette Valley’s climate. Both were fantastic. We tasted a huge range of other varietals too, including a Reisling, two Cabernets, two Syrahs, a Muscat, and their Vin Glace (similar to an ice wine). The verdict? We ended up buying five bottles!

If King Estate had just been a cute little winery with some decent wines, we would have had a perfectly fine weekend. But it was so much more than that. It’s all thanks to the owners, a father-and-son team who seem to embody the sustainable spirit. Instead of stopping with organic wine, they branched out to include organic greens, fruits, vegetables, an on-site bakery and charcuterie, even all their own compost. Seriously, the apocalypse could hit and this place would survive just fine on its own—and probably feed the rest of the community, to boot. It’s so encouraging to see that places like this not only exist, but also thrive. Nice work, King Estate!

 

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What’s in the box?

Remember when you were a kid and the toys that came inside cereal boxes basically determined which brand you convinced your parents to purchase (or at least tried to—we usually failed miserably)? There were stickers, plastic cartoon characters, even rings. All you had to do was dust all the sugar off, and that prize was yours. Those were the days.

But now we know better. Instead of looking for prizes, we look for good, wholesome, all-natural ingredients, checking that whole grains are listed at the top and sugar (the real kind) is closer to the bottom. This is why we were so unbelievably excited to find a prize in the bottom of our box of Kashi GoLean Crunch! Our go-to breakfast is a bowl of GoLean Crunch, Heart to Heart and fruit, usually a banana or blueberries, because it’s healthy, delicious and easy to whip up, no matter where you are. Who knew you could get a prize for making a good-for-you decision?!

So not to knock the stickers and figurines of our past, but this prize was way better, too. Kashi teamed up with Gaiam to create sampler workout DVDs with Trudie Styler, and one is in every box of GoLean Crunch. Unfortunately, her lovely husband, Sting, does not make a cameo, but our free Get Balanced DVD does feature two solid, easy-to-follow, 10-minute routines, Warrior Yoga Express and Core Strength Pilates Express. So for less than $4 you get a 20-minute workout and a healthy breakfast—now that sounds grrrrrreeeeeaaatt!

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Trick or Treat? Both!

As soon as Beth uploads the photos from King Estate Winery, she’ll tell you all about her incredible weekend there. In the meantime, we thought we’d tell you about a new trick we discovered tonight.

Like the rest of the country, we loaded up on Halloween candy for tonight’s trick or treaters. After years in a city where you never get a single costumed kid knocking at your door, we were maybe a little too excited about handing out candy this year. Instead of buying one or two types, we bought seven: Snickers, Milky Way, Three Muskateers, Tootsie Rolls, Butterfinger, 100 Grand, and York Peppermint Patties. Needless to say, having that much candy around can be extremely dangerous.

We don't know about you, but when this much awesome candy is staring up at us, it's nearly impossible not to eat it.

Knowing it would be way too easy to just casually reach in the candy bowl between trick or treaters, we decided to give ourselves another snack option: roasted pumpkin seeds (luckily, Beth’s husband had just carved a couple of jack-o-lanterns). This has to be one of the easiest, tastiest snacks on the planet. Seriously, blink and you’ll miss the instructions—they’re that short. Ready? Ok: toss pumpkin seeds with some olive oil and sea salt, spread on a baking sheet, and roast at 350 for about 40 minutes. Done!

Crunchy, tasty, and so much better for you than a Snickers!

Roasted pumpkin seeds are that rare snack that manage to be both incredibly addictive and good for you at the same time. They’re packed with magnesium and phosphorus, two minerals that are key to brain development, and they’re a good source of iron, protein, copper, and zinc. As we were munching on them, it occurred to us that they’d make the perfect go-to travel snack. They’re healthy, easy to pack, and won’t get confiscated by the TSA. And if you keep them in an air-tight container, they’ll stay fresh for several days. If it doesn’t happen to be Halloween, the one time of year when we all have pumpkins lying around the house, you can buy the seeds in bulk at health food stores.

Easy trick, ultimate treat.

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