Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Late-summer cabin fever

I'm feeling remarkably uninspired tonight.

Maybe it's the weather. Who wouldn't be a little blue waking up on August 31 to 3 C? That's 37.4 F for my American friends.

Maybe I'm getting a little burned out. I have been writing an awful lot the last little while ... and Tweeting. But that's not really out of the ordinary.

Maybe I wish I was still writing for the World Hockey Summit. That was the most fun I've had with my clothes on in years ... scratch that, even with clothes off. None of the guys I've dated in the last while have been ... shall we say ... earth moving.

In any case, we'll get straight to the recipe.

It's still in the oven but it smells delicious. I swear!

(Ed. note: It was de-lish-us!)

However, make sure you have some time for this recipe out of Clean Eating Magazine. It is a tad time-consuming.

Also, I added a side of a cup of spinach leaves with a chopped mushroom, drizzled with the roasted red pepper sauce.

Stuffed Chicken
with Spicy Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Ingredients
3 red bell peppers
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
2 to 3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 to 1/2 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced (I didn't have one, so just went without, making it Not Spicy Roasted Red Pepper Sauce)
1/2 tsp dried Italian seasoning
Sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tbsp goat cheese (I went with feta)
6 to 8 asparagus spears, trimmed

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Roast bell peppers on a baking sheet for 20 minutes. Then turn and roast for another 30 minutes. Remove bell peppers and place under an inverted glass bowl to steam for about 10 minutes. With a paring knife, scrape off browned skin, then halve, remove stems and seed. Slice on bell pepper into strips, reserve strips and set aside.

2. Place remaining roasted red peppers, minus any juices, into a blender with oil, vinegar, broth, garlic and jalapeño. Blend until smooth. Pour roasted pepper sauce into saucepan over medium-low to medium heat. Add Italian seasoning, salt and black pepper and cook for 10 minutes.

3. Lay chicken on a cutting board. Using a chef's knife and with the palm of one hand holding the chicken, cut each breast almost in half horizontally, so it opens like a book - bah! I just pounded the damn thing thin. Lay chicken breasts open and spread 1 tbsp of goat cheese onto half of each breast. Add three to four asparagus spears to each, then half of reserved bell pepper strips. Close chicken by folding top half back over, sandwiching filling.

4. Carefully transfer stuffed chicken breasts to casserole dish. Pour about 1/2-cup roasted red pepper sauce over chicken breasts and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until chicken is cooked through but cheese is still soft and sauce is still moist. Pour additional warmed roasted red pepper sauce over stuffed chicken breasts before serving, if desired. Store additional sauce for other use in a resealable container in the fridge for two days. Puree and reheat prior to use.

Nutrients per serving (one stuffed chicken breast and 1/4-cup sauce)
Calories, 323; total fat, 13 g; saturated fat, 4 g; carbs, 16 g; fiber, 5 g; sugars, 10 g; protein, 34 g; sodium, 512 mg; cholesterol, 77 mg

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Hanging 'em up?

Deadlifts and bentover rows ... you know what I noticed today?

My right shoulder sagging.

And no matter how hard I tried I could not get that sucker up into proper position.

It desperately wanted to drop lower and give up on almost every rep.

It's one of the reasons I'm 90 per cent sure I won't be doing anything other than sparing for a team next summer.

And as I thought today about that sagging shoulder ... and the way it wakes me up at night when I sleep on my right side ... I thought about the things I've been sacrificing to play ball in the summer.

Here's a short list:

* My dog: Shep gets neglected for walks on the days I have league play, whether it's co-ed or women's. Let's not even get into the weekends.

* My photography: More than a year ago, my former shrink said do the things that spark my creativity if I'm not getting enough at my job. I get so happy when I get that perfect shot.

* My writing: See above reason. I live to write. And write to live.

* My health: One shoulder ... fucked up for life. A hand, broken in 2007, will never regain its full strength. Knees, skin ...

* My fitness: Yesterday was my first day back at the gym in a month. And that sucks.

* My nutrition: Do you know the filth they sell at the ballpark? And we're not allowed to bring our own food in. People are convinced a taco salad bag is nutritional ... greasy regular ground topped with Doritos, salsa and gobs of sour cream. But hey, it has lettuce in it. And then there's the beer ... I love beer but not as much as I drink it to get through a night at the park.

* My money: Don't be fooled. This is an adult educational sport and it is damned expensive. Each of my cleats have two huge holes in them ... I don't think I'll be replacing them.

* My learning: I read on the plane to Toronto and back to Calgary. I started that book in April. My brain turns to goo for five months of every year.

* My sanity: The drama, the gossip, the nitpicking, the nattering, the backstabbing ... for Christ's sake people, junior high was 25 years ago for me. Grow. The. Fuck. Up.

I'm going on 30 years playing ball, picking up my first bat when I was five or six. I played with my brothers in the backyard.

My parents built a backstop on our acre of property. It was made from a fishing net and branches cut down from trees in the pasture behind our house.

We swung wood then.

Now we swing composite aluminum and bats retail for $400. Yeah, $400.

It's stupid.

And I think I'm done.

Because I don't think slopitch should outweigh any of those sacrifices listed above.

---

And now, my latest fare from the most recent Clean Eating Magazine:

Cajun Scallops and Mango Salsa

Ingredients

2 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 mango, peeled and chopped
1/2 small onion, chopped (I used a leek.)
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped (I used freeze dried and had to cut way back, maybe 1/4 cup.)
Juice of one lime
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1 1/2 lb. sea scallops (Family Foods didn't have sea scallops, I went with the tiny ones.)
Olive oil cooking spray

Cajun Rub
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder (I used fresh garlic and it got all clumpy because of the moisture. Boo.)
1 tsp dry mustard
2 tsp chile powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

Instructions

1. In a medium bowl, combine tomatoes, mango, onion, jalapeño pepper and cilantro. Squeeze lime juice over tomato mixture and season with salt and black pepper. Set aside in refrigerator.

2. Combine all Cajun Rub ingredients in a small bowl. Heat a large nonstick skilled over medium-high heat. Pat scallops dry with paper towel and season both sides with the rub. Lightly mist skillet with cooking spray. Add scallops and cook for two minutes per side. Serve with mango salsa, garnishing with additional cilantro, if desired.

Nutrients per serving (3 or 4 scallops and 3/4 cup salsa)
Calories, 213; total fat, 2 g; saturated fat, 0.25 g; carbs, 19 g; fibre, 2.5 g; sugars, 10 g; sugars, 10 g; proteins, 30 g; sodium, 569 g; cholesterol, 56 mg

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Yoga for one

The MacIsaac household could be a turbulent one.

Especially at Christmas.

We would compare piles of presents next to the Christmas tree - yes, next to ... some years were more affluent than others and the piles would not fit under the branches.

Who got more?

Who could love the dog more?

Who could read a book the fastest?

Who could get better grades?

I always let the boys win that one. Yes, let. Hi, Kevin.

The competitive spirit was strong in our household. We were all enrolled in sports -- track and field, softball, soccer, hockey for the boys, figure skating for me ...

We learned achievement was important. We learned to work hard. We learned to compete and we learned to always want to be better ... and better than you.

Yoga and downward dog fly in the face of my alpha dogness.

Instead of striving to be a leader and always wanting to win, I learn in yoga there's nothing to win.

Yoga is about balance ... balance between body, mind and spirit. It is a philosophy of instruction and learning, of insight into the spiritual, mental and physical ... a true integration of those three planes of existence.

Is there balance in winning? Only if there's a loser, right? But who can lose in yoga? The practice is meant to relax, to refresh, to energize.

And after reading up on it, I knew I had to use yoga to balance myself ... but not against others.

I did my first class in Kamloops about a decade ago. We were 15 women in cramped quarters ... bending, flexing and flowing. My mind was focused on making sure I bent further than the next gal, even if my muscles were unwilling.

Yoga is the practice of quieting the mind. 
-- Patanjali

A few years later, I moved to Calgary and had a satellite dish in my house. We had the channel One: Mind, Body, Spirit. Every morning, Yoga Zone had a half-hour show of practice, dedicated to the beginner or intermediate inductee.

I taped it. Yes, taped it. We didn't have PVRs then, at least not to my knowledge. I taped it and taped it and taped it, until I had two full VHS tapes.

I wore those tapes thin, using the yoga as my fitness base because I couldn't afford a gym membership. I was miserable in my heart, though, freshly dumped by a boyfriend who replaced me quickly and easily and mired in a job that wasn't as magical as I imagined it to be.

I never found my balance.

I got frustrated and gave it up, going back to throwing the iron around gym the second I could manage it in my budget.

Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape. 
-- Unknown

Times have changed.

I have less stressors in my life -- from salary to job expectations and more.

I have advanced to the high-tech world of DVDs (no, still no PVR) - bought and made - and I have learned to quiet my mind in preparation for my yoga sessions.

I have learned to peacefully move into the yoga poses instead of forcing my way into them. I have learned to use my breathing to extend into the pose further.

I don't consider myself anywhere beyond beginner yet. While I can get my heels flat to the floor in downward dog, I don't know what progresses a person past the levels to intermediate or advanced.

And I'm strangely OK with that.

I've come a long way, I think, from the girl who wanted to get her figure skating levels in record time so she could turn competitive.

(She didn't but that didn't stop her from wanting it.)

It turns out there's application in real life. When it starts to feel like life is spinning a bit out of control, I roll out my yoga mat, throw in a DVD and restore some calmness, not only in my body but also in my mind.

Beyond the yoga mat, I can remember to practise my breathing when life is feeling a bit heavy. I can remember to close my eyes and turn myself inward for a little thought to calm my mind and approach some situations a little more carefully than I did before.

Yoga is the fountain of youth. You're only as young as your spine is flexible. 
-- Bob Harper

I just finished 40 minutes of yoga for a strong and healthy back.

I feel better.

Refreshed.

Relaxed.

And I will sleep.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

What I Tweet about

That's so totally tubular

This is my new best friend:


It's a (temporary) gift from Terri of Champagne Fitness.

I've seen them before ... used them even. Now I have one to start making my shoulder stronger.

But I'll admit I've been lazy. I bailed out of bootcamp because of recurring pain from an old shoulder injury. I tore my rotator cuff in 2004, playing shortstop for a team called the Bipolar Betties (seriously, yes, I know).

It's a supraspinatus issue.


How can such a stupid small muscle cause so much issue?

It can.

What's the cure?

Says one website: Rest until there is no pain.

Well, that's just too funny for words. What else? Heat the area and do pain-free mobility exercises to strength the connective tissues.

That's what the tube thing is for.

So, that starts tomorrow morning. And it would be awfully helpful if every once in a while someone said 'hey, dumbass, are you doing your shoulder exercises?'

And without further adieu, tonight's dinner, brought to you by Clean Eating Magazine and a bottle of Errazuriz Max Reserva cabernet sauvignon.

Chicken with Carmelized Onions, Cranberries and Balsamic-Glazed Asparagus


Ingredients
1 bunch asparagus (about 16 oz), bottoms cut off about one inch from the end
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
Olive oil cooking spray
1 medium yellow onion (red for extra colour!), thinly sliced
2 tbsp unsweetened dried cranberries
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 4 oz each), pounded thin

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Place asparagus spears on a nonstick cookie sheet or baking pan lined with aluminum foil. Drizzle asparagus with vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove from heat but keep warm.

2. Heat a large nonstick or cast-iron skillet over high heat for one minute. Reduce heat to low and mist with cooking spray. Add onion and cook until carmelized, about 20 minutes. Add cranberries and sauté for another two minutes. Remove from heat but keep warm.

3. Heat same pan over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook for about three to four minutes per side or until browned on each side and cooked through so no longer pink. Season with salt and pepper. Add onion-cranberry mixture to chicken and cook for two more minutes. Remove from heat.

4. To serve, evenly divide asparagus among four plates. Place one chicken breast, along with onion-cranberry mixture, alongside or over top each pile of asparagus.

Nutrients per serving (one chicken breast, 1/4 cup onion-cranberry mixture and six to eight asparagus spears)
Calories, 174; total fat, 2 g; sat fat, 0.5 g; carbs, 10 g; fibre, 3 g; sugars, 6 g; protein, 29 g; sodium, 108 mg; cholesterol, 66 mg

Friday, August 6, 2010

Bailing and biryani

Something had to give.

Unfortunately, it was my energy.

It's August.

It's the middle of softball season.

What was going through my mind when I signed up for bootcamp? I do know the answer to the question ... I wanted to spend some time focusing on me, my fitness and spend some time with my friend Terri, who leads the twice-weekly fitness session out of Champagne Fitness.

Trouble is, I often forget how much rest is a necessary component of anyone's fitness regimen.

The body needs to recuperate and yet I insist on putting it through an inhuman amount of activity in the summer time.

Typically, I have two league nights a week and oftentimes, I play tournaments on the weekends. For tourneys, we average two or three games a day ... some Sundays (Mondays on the long weekends), we can end up playing as many as five with many in back-to-back situations if we have to go through the back door to get to the final.

(Er ... going through the back door ... for the non-sports-minded, that means we've lost our first game in a double knockout ... er, you get two chances to lose ... and then you have to battle your way through the losing side of the draw. I don't know if that explanation helps but I thought I'd try.)

And because it's me and I never know when to quit, I go to the gym ... three to four times a week.

Sometimes, I feel like I'm running on fumes. Sometimes, I fall asleep at my desk. Oh shit, are the bosses going to read this?

Sometimes, I just collapse and have to sleep for a day.

This does not make the dog happy.

So rest and recuperation time have to be worked into the thread of life. For August, that means a few things have to give.

With women's league on Wednesday, bootcamp bookending it on Tuesday and Thursday made Friday an absolute writeoff. And Lord help me if I was in a tournament.

Bye bye, bootcamp.

Terri is great. She completely understands, taking a holistic approach to fitness. There is, she knows, a secret to living life and it's about balance.

Sleep is part of the balance.

Doing nothing is part of the balance.

A simple walk in the park with my dog and my camera is part of the balance.

I'll be back. Terri promises another bootcamp in the fall, maybe September or October. League will be done by then, barring anymore rainouts, of course.

And I'll figure out some way to push too hard, probably go to the gym four times a week, in addition to bootcamp, and hike on the weekends or whatever.

But without softball in the picture, I'll have more time for the down time.

I hope.

Curried Beef Biryani
Serves four

See? The other thing I was missing out on was cooking.

I've been eating nothing but takeout and sandwiches for the last two weeks. Let me tell you, healthy options are pretty thin when it comes to fast food.

And it's so easy to fall face fast into a Teen Burger. Shep loves it when I do that, too, because he gets the bacon.

On Tuesday, I managed to get to the Safeway and fill up the Mother Hubbard cupboards.

And last night, I finally got to wield my culinary sword, slicing and dicing my way through yet another Clean Eating Magazine recipe.

Without further adieu, I give you Curried Beef Biryani ...

Ingredients
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup dry quick-cooking barley
1 medium onion, sliced into rounds
5 cloves garlic, sliced into thin rounds
1 cup fresh mango, cubed, or 1 cup frozen cubed mango
1/2 cup frozen peas
16 oz bison sirloin tip, trimmed of visible fat and cut into 1/4-inch stripes (I used beef because Safeway doesn't exactly stock bison)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved (I had grape tomatoes in the fridge)

Biryani Spice Blend
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp ginger

Instructions

1. In a medium pot, bring one cup water to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, mix Biryani Spice Blend ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. When water comes to a boil, add barley, stir and cover, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 10 to 12 minutes, then remove from heat and set aside.

2. While barley is cooking, heat oil in a large nonstick saucepan over medium heat. Saute onion in oil for three minutes or until fragrant. Add garlic and cook another two minutes, stirring frequently to prevent garlic from burning.

3. Stir in spice-salt mixture, mango, peas and meat. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir again to ensure all ingredients are nestled in cooking liquid. Continue to cook for another five minutes.

4. Combine barley with bison mixture before plating. Top each portion with tomatoes and serve.

Nutrients per serving
(4 oz. meat and 1.5 cups vegetable-barley mixture)
Calories, 354; total fat, 11 g; saturated fat, 2 g; carbs, 37 g; fibre, 7 g; sugars, 10 g; protein, 29 g; sodium 305 mg; cholesterol, 80 mg

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Heading to the Hockey Summit

This could be one of the most exciting things to happen to me.

The story starts a couple of months ago, when Tonia Hammer - Community Relations for Molson Coors Canada - was here from Toronto for a Tweetup.

We've connected over Twitter. We both love beer and hockey ... the two very intrinsic traits that make us Canadian, I suppose.

She pulled me aside and said, 'Look, would you ever come to Toronto for a visit?'

I mentioned I was thinking about heading that way for my niece's lacrosse tournament (which is happening right now!) but wasn't sure if it was in the summer budget.

What if you came to Toronto to blog the World Hockey Summit for us?

Um ... what?

Yes, that was the offer to stand on the table.

My head started spinning.

The World Hockey Summit is a gathering of the who's who in hockey to discuss the game's global growth. The big guns of the NHL will be there, famous faces from women's hockey, coaches, general managers, players ...

I got into work the next day and booked off Aug. 23-27 from my writing job at Shaw.

But time went on. I wasn't hearing anything from Tonia. I gave up hope. I tend to do that easily.

I mean, why in hell should I get invited to blog and Tweet for Molson. Sure, I used to be a sportswriter. Sure, I Tweet about hockey ... sure, I Tweet a lot. A lot.

What does that make me in the grand scheme of things? A big ole nobody still. It isn't even like I have a hockey-related blog (should I? I've wondered that before).

Then today, I open up my Hootsuite and discover a direct message from Tonia ... Need your email. Hope you still kept Aug. 23-27 open.

My jaw dropped. My stomach jumped. There went that damn spinning in my head again. Body parts were being pulled in every direction ... figuratively, not literally.

So here I am.

Invited to the Molson World Hockey Summit as a Tweeter/blogger. All expenses paid.

Steve Yzerman will be there. Gary Bettman, Hayley Wickenheiser, Brian Burke, Dan Alfredsson ...

Steve Yzerman.

In case you didn't know, big fan.

Steve Yzerman.

First thing, I texted my brothers. They're all together in Toronto for the lacrosse tournament. I wish I was there, but they understand I had to wait to see if this opportunity would come to fruition.

This might be the biggest event of my career - even though it isn't really work-related - since I attended the 1998 NHL all-star game in Vancouver.

Steve Yzerman was supposed to be there. But he was injured.

I did something this morning I haven't done in a very long time.

I danced in my kitchen.

And yes, I'm now loyal to Molson.

Even if it means no more Keith's.