Friday, October 29, 2010

New Restaurants: Sushi and Dim Sum

My weeknights are usually dominated by running, pooling, or refugees, but this week I’ve been going out and being social (crazy, I know!).

On Tuesday night I skipped practice to meet one of my Boston friends for happy hour.

We originally planned to go to Nooshi (the entire menu is half-price until 7!), but we missed the deadline, so we meandered down the block to try Bibimbap Rice Bar’s happy hour (which graciously extends until 8).

Bibimbap is a Korean rice bowl, but their happy hour is all about sushi. And for $3 a roll this sushi satisfied! It’s nothing elaborate, I had a California and a Tuna Avocado roll, but for half the price of grocery store sushi it was great!

Then last night I met up with SpeedyKate for a marathon and vacation debrief (her marathon and her vacation, not mine!). We did dinner at Ping Pong Dim Sum. It was delicious! Definitely a small plates situation, so good thing I wasn’t hangry. But the little dumplings were surprisingly filling and absolutely scrumptious! The menu is divided into sections by dumpling type (puffs, steamed, fried, rice parcels, buns). There are also soups, salads, signature dishes and desserts, but we stuck to the dim sum. We tried:

Crab Shu Mai – open crab pastry (this one was a special, so I don’t have the details) (steamed)

Ork Shu Mai pork and king prawns in an open pastry topped with chinese wolfberry (steamed)

Vegetarian V rice with fresh vegetables seasoned with garlic wrapped in lotus leaf (sticky rice parcel)

Spicy Basil Dumpling basil & chili with rice noodles in wheat flour pastry with a vinegar dipping sauce
They accidently gave us the wrong thing, so we got to try the Spicy Vegetables Dumpling V sauteed vegetables and rice vermicelli in chili and garlic sauce in crystal pastry (steamed)
They were all really flavorful - definitely get at least one rice parcel, and other than that I think the Crab Shu Mai was my favorite. One thing though, most of the dumplings come in threes, so keep that in mind when ordering (they're hard to split in half, but SpeedyKate is a chopstick master!).

We chased out dim sum with some fro yo – FroZenYo to be exact! This is one of those DIY and pay by weight places and it’s soooo good! (I’ve blogged about the Colombia Heights location before.)I got Coconut Truffle, Pumpkin, Red Velvet, and Dulce de Leche fro yo and topped it with slivered almonds, raspberries and hot fudge. Swoon! The Dulce de Leche was really flavorful and definitely my favorite.

So it’s been a well-fed week. And I anticipate a weekend of sugar-coma (I'm already well on my way!). That is the essence of Halloween, right? Get excited for yet another EPIC Weekend Report on Monday!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Literary Bite: Ah, Sweet Mysteries of Life by Roald Dahl

Usually I don’t read more than one book at a time, but every so often circumstances necessitate that I pick up a book while I’m mid-another book. For example, this weekend I found myself bookless and about to spend 3 hours on public transportation. What’s a girl to do? I went to the closest library and perused their displays, hoping something would jump out at me.

When nothing did, I resorted to one of my go-to authors. Roald Dahl’s books are always good! (Read about Going Solo here.) I picked up the first one I saw, Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life Stories by Roald Dahl – and done, set, I’m good to go!

These stories are all somehow related to Claud, a friend of Dahl’s living in an English village in the late 1940s. Dahl and Claud get involved in all sorts of hyjinks – from backyard dog racing to ratcatching to pheasant poaching. Per usual Dahl’s stories are good-naturedly sinister and wickedly amusing. This collection is seven stories, 180 pages – the perfect sized book to carry in your purse for whenever you need a story.

I have never been disappointed by Dahl - his stories are great, his characters realistic, and overall his books are always a good time!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Places I’ve Run: Banfora, Burkina Fasso

About 3 weeks after moving to Niger, the 11 students in my program piled into two stuffy vans driven by Abadou, our gregarious (and mildly inappropriate) chauffeur, an his more mild-mannered compatriot to go on a trip to Burkina Fasso.

This small country to the west of Niger proved to be remarkably different from Niamey – as we drove southwest the scenery transitioned from dry dirty dessert to lush and green jungle.

Burkina, unlike Niger, is a majority Christian country. What does that have to do with running? It meant that I could wear shorts outside! And when it’s Sub-Saharan Africa HOT, the ability to expose some skin is a more than welcome opportunity. (Read this post to learn how I dealt with Niger’s clothing conundrum.)

We stayed in a town called Banfora for a few days at a very nice (but mosquito-full) hotel. The first morning I tied on my shoes, put on my running clothes (Shorts! A tank top! Yay!), and walked out into the street to try to shake the multiple 10-hour driving days out of my legs.

I took note of our hotel’s name (breadcrumbs my friends – it’s always good to know your way home!) and headed down the wide dirt street away from the main road and towards the countryside. Green taxis (all the taxis in Burkina are a sickly chartreuse) and motos and bicycletttes passed me as I ran, adults giving me sideways glances and children calling out to me along the way.

I ran past a soccer field and some sort of government building (maybe a school?) and then crossed a bridge to make my way out of town. The taxis were gone, replaced by people walking their cows towards Banfora, or pulling carts full of goods to sell.

I felt out of place, kind of like a commercial where a high-performance product is contrasted with low-tech surroundings. Me in my running clothes and fancy shoes, running into the bush in Burkina. But the wonderful thing about running is that it’s always the same! Whether I’m in Burkina or Boston or DC or California, a run is a run and I love that!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cake of the Week: Pumpkin and Peanut Butter Whoopie Pies

I’m pretty sure we can all agree that peanut butter is fabulous. And judging by the recent pictures from food bloggers, pumpkin is pretty popular too. But does anyone put them together? Nope. BUT I DO!

You’re probably a wee bit skeptical. Pumpkin and peanut butter together? Mollie you’ve lost us – that’s just weird. But don’t lose faith in me, I’d never steer you wrong! I promise, pumpkin and peanut butter is one of the best kept flavor-combo secrets ever!

In high school one of my friends’ mom made delicious pumpkin bread. And she would bring this pumpkin bread to the ski lodge (we were ski team friends) sliced and sandwiching a slathering of peanut butter. At lunch this magnanimous mother would bring out baggies of this richly decadent duo to share with her daughter’s friends. And so my love of pumpkin-peanut butter was born.

It makes sense – pumpkin is kind of sweet and spicy, while peanut butter is rich and almost salty. Like I said, a match made in heaven!

So when contemplating what October dessert to make, of course pumpkin came to mind. But what to do with it? I’ve made pies and cakes and cookies and bundts and brownie bars with this splendid squash. But whoopee pies? With peanut butter cream cheese frosting in the middle? WHOOPIE!

Photoman said that these little sandwiches of awesomeness are his favorite Mollie-dessert ever. Bold statement, and I’ll take it. And here he is making a cameo – aren’t the pictures great?

(Be warned, this recipe makes A LOT of whoopie pies!)

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies (from Brown Eyed Baker)

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup dark brown sugar

1 cup canola or vegetable oil

3 cups chilled pumpkin puree (canned pumpkin)

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger and nutmeg. Set aside.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk the granulated sugar, the dark brown sugar, and the oil together. Add the pumpkin puree and whisk to combine thoroughly. Add the eggs and vanilla and whisk until combined.

4. Gradually add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and whisk until completely combined.

5. Use a small cookie scoop or a large spoon to drop a rounded, heaping tablespoon of the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, about 1 inch apart.

6. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, making sure that the cookies are just starting to crack on top and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cookie comes out clean. The cookies should be firm when touched. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool completely on a cooling rack.

Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz cream cheese

1 stick butter (1/4 cup)

1/2 cup smooth peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 cups powdered sugar

milk or water as needed

1. Cream together wet ingredients.

2. Beat in powdered sugar.

3. Add milk as needed and beat until you reach the desired consistency.


Make sure your cakes are completely cool. Pipe frosting onto cakes and top with another cake of the same size and shape. Enjoy!

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Weekend Report: PACKED! Kayaking, Going Out, Ending Slavery, and the Environment!

This weekend was excessive, even for me! But the blog must be blogged, so I’ll try to keep it concise. Here we go...

Friday night I ventured all the way to Clarendon to meet up with my CAR teammates. I’ve never been out in Virginia, and Spider Kelly’s was packed! (I promise I’m not a District snob, I’m just lazy and highly value proximity to my bed.)

Saturday morning I got up bright and early to go to the Stop Modern Slavery Walk on the Mall. It was a gorgeous morning for a trail of red-shirted walkers to parade around the Tidal Basin raising awareness. Did you know that 27 million people are enslaved worldwide? (Go here to learn more about human trafficking.)

Saturday afternoon I had another Pocahontas experience on the Potomac River.  A four-mile run along the Canal Towpath brought us to Fletcher’s Boathouse where we life-jaketed up and climbed into kayaks. My arms were already sore due to a pumpkin-carrying experience on Friday (three professionally-dressed young women walking through downtown DC carrying ginormous pumpkins = priceless), so kayaking added an extra element to my upper-body workout. And when you’re four miles from home there’s only one way to get back – run. My hamstring held up shockingly well! (And a solid half-hour of foam-rolling when I got home didn’t hurt either.)

After such an epic day, I was hungry. So I was an easy sell when LOTR-Emily called to ask if I wanted to do Ethiopian for dinner. We attempted to go to Dukem, which is supposedly one of the best places in DC. But it was a 40-minute wait and LLC, 6x6 and I were getting hangry, so we walked about 20 feet down the sidewalk and tried out Madjet instead. It was soooo good! Some of the best Ethiopian I’ve ever had! The veggies were fresh and flavorful and the portions were huge – and best of all, there was no wait.

And then the night really began. I spent Thursday and Friday psyching myself up for Saturday night because I had extremely ambitious plans to attend two parties in two quadrants! Mollie? Leaving Northwest? Craziness.  But we did it. PhotoMan’s housewarming party in Colombia Heights was great – his new house is fantastic! And then 6x6 and I got on the metro and went all the way to Stadium-Armory to attend another friends’ pre-Halloween party.

A relaxing Sunday was not in the cards. LOTR-Emily got free tickets to the Green Festival at the Convention Center, so we put on our hippie-faces and spent a few hours sampling an interesting assortment of vegan/vegetarian/raw/organic products. It went a lot like this: hemp butter sample, GAH get that taste out of my mouth…organic chocolate sample, YUM…raw vegetable crackers, surprisingly good…tofurkey, again surprisingly good…vegan burger, GAH that’s bad! Etc. etc. etc. 

I probably ate 3 bars worth of Fair Trade Divine Chocolate samples. Yummmmmm! My work snack drawer is now well-stocked with sample-sized portions.

And then I had to get myself to Riverdale to see my refugees. I didn’t have a book in my purse at the Convention, so before hopping on the metro I hit up the library and checked out some Roald Dahl short stories to keep me entertained on my journey. 

By the time I finally got home it was late and I was tired. But you can’t say that I didn’t make the most of my weekend!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Stories In My Head

My mind is constantly on. My mind is constantly thinking. My mind is constantly planning and preparing and wondering and worrying. But when it’s not doing those things, my mind is daydreaming. I daydream all the time. And I’ve been doing it as long as I can remember. I daydream whenever I have spare moment. Whenever those annoying voices will shut up about where to go/what to do/how to get things done, they are telling me stories.

Hold up. Now I sound crazy. “They” are not telling me stories. I am telling me stories. Stories to entertain myself, you see? And there are just so many stories inside my head.

I love long car-rides, that’s the best story time. Running is ok, but for some reason the stories are more real and less good when I’m running (I blame it on the alive in-the-moment-ness of running. You can’t quite daydream yourself elsewhere). Right before falling asleep is good too. I love those moments between awake and asleep, when the stories start as my own but then morph into their own entities when they go from daydreams to real dreams. Those make for the best stories. 

I’m not saying the stories in my head are good. They’re mostly not. They’re mostly bits and pieces of stories, episodes of epic adventures where the who/what/where/when/why doesn’t need to be explained because like I said, they’re stories to myself so I already know all that.

Sometimes the stories are persistent. They insist on being dwelled upon. I try to read a book, and the stories invade and push themselves in, Listen to me! Think about me! they insist.

Maybe this means I should write those stories down? But I really don’t think I could do that. They’re really really silly. They all star me of course (why would myself tell myself stories about other people?), I doubt they'd be interesting to anyone else.

But perhaps I should give them more consideration…

Since becoming a blogger I suppose that gives me a teensy-weensy bit street-cred as a writer. (Silly that just writing something every day could remotely qualify me as someone with something worth saying, right?) But I wouldn’t say that I am a Writer, I respect writers far too much to claim that title so easily. If I’m a writer and Leo Tolstoy was a writer, does that make us the same? No. I don’t believe so. All we have in common is that we put words to paper (and not even real paper in my case!). But I am a person who writes. A person who likes to write. A person who some day would like to be a writer....

But for now I'll keep the stories in my head. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Literary Bite: Things I've Been Silent About

I was so excited to read this book. I ordered it back in July, and I’ve been saving it on my shelf for just the right occasion. And after reading We Need To Talk About Kevin, I thought it was time for a wonderfully amazing book. 

That’s what I expect from Azar Nafisi -  Reading Lolita in Tehran is one of my favorite books, so I was really looking forward to reading her newest, Things I’ve Been Silent About.

But high expectations are a tricky thing – Things I’ve Been Silent About is a good book, but I wanted awesomeness and it fell a bit short.

This book is autobiographical, a memoir focusing on Nafisi’s relationship with her parents. Her mother is bi-polar kind of crazy, and her father was once the Mayor of Tehran and spent years in jail for political reasons. Nafisi herself went through a young marriage and divorce, and a rebellious political phase that hasn’t really ended.

The story takes place in tumultuous Iran from the fall of the Shah through the time of Khomeini to the present day. Nafisi’s family, as members of the academic and political elite are at the center of the drama, and politics constantly interferes with their already-less-than-ideal domestic sphere.

Nafisi’s writing style is somehow detached, despite the fact that she is central to the story. Throughout reading I felt very much that I was an outsider looking in, trying to make sense of her family…which I suppose is how she feels as well. She somehow keeps it relatively impersonal…family relationships are so weird, and I still don’t have much of an idea of who Nafisi really is.

But don’t let my less-than-stellar introduction deter you – Things I’ve Been Silent About is a very good book. But if you only read one book by this author, I still prefer Reading Lolita in Tehran.  

Read the NY Times review. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cake of the Week: Shortbread

Remember that time I told you I was done with LOTR? I lied. But I promise this is the last Elvish posting…and it’s a good one! Some may call it shortbread. Some may call it lembas bread. Some may call it little triangles of buttery deliciousness!

When done badly, shortbread can be dry and non-chocolate and booorrriiinnnggg. (I’m thinking bad store-bought Christmas cookies.) Or it can be rich and dense and buttery and flaky and fabulous (yes - all at once)!

This shortbread recipe is great. It’s simple – only a few ingredients. But due to a long and slow cooking process it takes a while. I wish I had doubled it – I’ll do that next time. And there will definitely be a next time because these simple-looking bars pack some serious flavor punch! The only modification I made was to add 1 teaspoon vanilla.

I recommend you try a triangle of shortbread with your coffee. Yummmmm!

Scotch Shortbread/Lembas Bread (from The Cooking Photographer)

This shortbread needs to rest in the refrigerator and bake three separate times, but it’s worth it! The only shortcut is using a food processor to mix everything together.


1 ¾ cups all purpose flour

½ cup tapioca flour, or tapioca starch, or cornstarch (I used cornstarch)

¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, warmed slightly

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cup super fine sugar (or regular granulated sugar pulsed in a food processor or blender for 15 seconds)

1 to 2 Tablespoons sparkling white sugar (or granulated sugar)


1. Line a 9” square baking pan with foil. (I didn't have any foil, so I thoroughly greased the pan.)

2. Place the all purpose flour, tapioca flour or corn starch and salt in a food processor and process for about 30 seconds until mixed and fluffed. Move the flour mixture to a separate bowl and set aside.

3. Place the butter and super fine sugar and vanilla in the food processor and process until light and fluffy. Add half of the flour mixture back in and process until combined. Add the other half of the flour mixture and process just until almost wet looking but not combined.

4. Turn the batter out onto a clean surface and knead just until the dough is smooth. Press the dough into the baking pan and smooth with the back of a dough scraper. Sprinkle cookies with coarse sparkling sugar.

5. Let the dough rest in the refrigerator for 2 or more hours. After resting, place the oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 300 degrees.

6. Bake One: Bake the shortbread for 55 minutes. Let rest for about 5 minutes then cut into squares in the pan with the dough scraper. Leave the shortbread in the pan and the oven on during this time.

7. Bake Two: Place the pan back in the oven and bake for another 10 minutes. Let rest for 15 minutes and then move the foil with the cookies to a baking sheet. Separate the cookies a little.

8. Bake three: Bake the cookies on the sheet for 10 more minutes. Let cool on the pan for a few minutes and move to a cooling rack to finish cooling.

Recipe by Laura Flowers

And if you’re Middle Earth-inclined make these for a LOTR party, wrap them in leaves, and call them elvish lembas bread! That'll get you through the long trek to Mordor...or through a 4.5-hour extended version film...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

New Shoes

There will be cake this week (or cookies), once my camera/computer/internet settle their differences.

In the meantime, guess what? I bought new shoes! I’ve been long overdue – runners should get new shoes every 300-400 miles, or about every 4 months. Through the pounding of many many miles, shoes break down and lose shock absorption, cushioning and stability. The mid-sole tends to break down first, and can cause over-use injuries (i.e. shin splints, joint pain, etc.). So unless you’re going all-out and doing the barefoot thing, new shoes are a must.

And they feel so good! If I could run in new shoes every week I would be a very happy person. Like new socks or clean sheets they just feel like happiness. (Don’t be alarmed, I change my socks and sheets much more often then my shoes!)

I’ve been wearing the same shoes almost exclusively since junior high – Asics neutral, the newest incarnation of which is the 2150. But due to all the shenanigans of this year, I thought that maybe it was time for a change.

To some people (i.e. my dad), running shoes are a religion. He orders boxes of shoes, testing them out, taking them for a run, seeing what he likes. Something hurts? New shoes. Feeling sore? New shoes. Tired? New shoes.

And then there’s the insoles. I’ve always had orthodics, because I have example-on-the-training-room-wall weird feet. My dad loves insoles just as much as he loves shoes. Some people’s fathers tinker with tools in the garage – mine creates Frankenstein-like insoles on the back porch. 

He cuts them up, super-glues them back together, and makes his own orthodics. Heel lifts, extra arch support, whatever you need can probably be solved with the proper adhesive and an assortment of extra insoles (leftover from all the shoes, obviously!). You’d think that an alternative insole was the answer to the world’s problems…who knows? Maybe it is. We all need a little extra support now and then.

Anyway, this Sunday I ran to a running store to get myself some new shoes. Instead of my go-to Asics, I changed things up with a pair of Mizuno Wave Alchemy 10. They felt good on the treadmill in the store, so here we go!

It’s important to walk around in new shoes before running in them to accustom your feet to a new feel. So I’ve been rocking the running-shoes-at-work look (oh so trendy!), and I’m looking forward to taking them for a real run tonight.

How often do you get new shoes? Which ones do you like?