Lassi but not least

I still remember one night, back when I lived in Boston, when I ran into a friend heading home from the gym at an hour when most people were venturing out to bars. He was working for some big bank or consulting firm at the time, the kind of place where the 9-5 grind is more like 8-7 or so, if you’re lucky. I commented that I was impressed by his dedication, devoting his little free time to staying in shape, when it would be so easy to let that sort of thing fall by the wayside. He smiled a little and then said, ‘the way I see it, if I get out of shape on top of everything else, they’ll have won – my job will have officially taken over my life. As long as I stay fit, I’m still winning.’ I’ve thought about that comment a lot over the years, pretty much anytime I’ve started to slip a little, succumbing to the ‘busy-ness’ that pervades medical school and now residency. It’s so easy to just melt into the couch when I get home, grabbing my computer and mindlessly clicking though facebook and the news and design blogs as I left my brain wind down. Over the course of the year I slowly started to succumb to that temptation more often than not, and it had definitely started to feel like the scorecard was heavily on the side of residency. Surgery and pediatrics – 1; Sarah and Dennis – 0. So we’re fighting back, little by little, sometimes just in 10- minute mini-runs. Tempting post-workout snacks definitely help soften the blow. A few weeks ago we brought a box of 18 mangos back from the market, and I became obsessed with the idea of turning some of them into a lassi. I had never made a lassi before, and haven’t consumed all that many of them, but it sounded like a refreshing use of our rapidly ripening haul of fruit. What follows is perhaps not an entirely authentic lassi and is perhaps better classified as a yogurt-heavy smoothie, but it was delicious nonetheless.

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Mango Lassi

  • 2 ripe mangos
  • 1 C plain yogurt*
  • 1/2 C cold water
  • Ice
  • 1-2 T honey (adjust based on sweetness of your fruit)
  • 1/4 t cardamom

Add mangos, yogurt, water, honey, and cardamom to a blender. Pulse until smooth. Add ice until the lassi reaches the desired consistency (we used ~2 handfuls). Top with a sprinkle of cinnamon, if desired.

*Note – we used greek yogurt for this recipe as it was what we had on hand. This resulted in a rather tangy lassi, which we enjoyed. If  you want a sweeter drink, plain yogurt will give you less zip.

-S

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The Colors of Spring

The weather in DC has finally started to transition to spring now. Despite the frost and chill, the cherry blossoms around the basin have still managed to bloom. Sarah and I joined the horde of locals and tourists wandering about the National Mall and Jefferson Memorial to take in the sights. Some people were having picnics. Others meandered at an infuriatingly snail-like pace in the middle of the sidewalk  with their heads in the clouds (or blossoms to be more accurate). Some were busy painting. Numerous were trying to capture the perfect photo in the midst of the chaotic crowds. There was a wedding proposal (she said yes!). We caught a glimpse of the couple huddled together with an expression of mixed joy and fearfulness as the multitude of bodies swarmed around them like a fire ants. Their photographer and family members flitted around them snapping photos furiously.

With the beginning of spring, Sarah and I have also decided that it’s about time to shake off the winter doldrums and shed those winter pounds in anticipation for some more time in the sun. We’ve started a more regimented exercise program (complete with measurements) and diet. As such, I’ve been looking a little at the workouts and diets of body builders. It looks like most tried and true diets consist of chicken breast/fish with rice/sweet potato and broccoli. Now as much as I like simplicity, I don’t think these meals necessarily need to be that bland or boring.

Last week also happened to be the first day of the Dupont farmer’s market after being closed all winter so we wandered down to gather some inspiration and ingredients for meal that would herald the beginning of spring in both flavor and color.

Swiss Chard and Mushroom Stuffed Chicken Breast with Roasted Garlic and Sweet Potato Puree

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  • Chicken Breast                                      2
  • Swiss Chard                                           2 cups, chopped
  • Mushroom (assorted)                          2 cups
  • Garlic                                                      7 cloves, roasted
  • Parmesan cheese                                  1/3 cup, grated
  • Sweet Potato                                          1/4 lb, peeled, cubed and steamed
  • Lemon                                                     1
  • Olive oil
  • Salt                                                           To taste

Let’s break this down to make things a bit more manageable.

Start by turning on oven to broil. Place cloves of garlic on aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place in oven for 15-20 minutes until fragrant and soft.

Chicken Breast

Pat dry chicken breast and season with salt on both side.

If using Joule, place chicken breast into ziploc and drizzle in olive oil. Place in water for 55 minutes at 149 degrees. After done cooking, slice lengthwise but not all the way through. Add stuffing and sear in hot pan.

If not using Joule, carefully slice in half lengthwise but not all the way through. Scoop the stuffing (see below) into the center. In a hot pan, add cooking oil. Add stuffed chicken breast and sear each side for 7 minutes with a lid over the pan.

Stuffing

Finely chop swiss chard, mushrooms, and garlic (4 cloves). Heat a pan to medium high heat. Add cooking oil. Add the stems of the swiss chard first and mushrooms. Salt lightly and sautee. Add garlic and remainder of swiss chard leaves. Salt lightly and continue to sautee. Takes around 10-15 minutes. Squeeze a bit of lemon juice on top to finish. Add grated Parmesan and mix well.

Puree

Steam cubed sweet potato until soft. Add to food processor along with 3 cloves of roasted garlic. Blend until creamy. You can add a little bit of water to help out with the texture. Salt to taste.

For final plating, spread puree in a circle on bottom of plate. Add stuffed chicken breast. Serve with a side of vegetables (I like having a bitter green).

-D