Carb-Loading at Mother’s Bistro!

mothers restaurantRight after we returned home from a fun-filled weekend in Vegas, my boyfriend and I repacked our luggage to fly to Portland — this time for the Portland Marathon! (Wow, I’ve traveled to three cities in mere two weeks and more to come ahead!)

Running the marathon in the Rose City has become an annual event for me ever since I participated in the race last year and had a blast (although that wasn’t how I remembered it when I was running / walking in the pouring rain 😯 ).  The race also gives me an excuse to visit my best friend Maya and spend a lovely weekend with my boyfriend in the scenic Pacific Northwest, so with the exception of the 26.2-mile self torture that I have to endure, this is a dream mini-vacation for me.

We arrived to PDX early on Saturday and after we checked into the hotel, picked up the race bib, did some retail therapy at the expo, and had a quick brunch, we rested at the hotel until Maya met us for dinner.  We walked over to one of my favorite comfort food restaurants a few blocks away, Mother’s Bistro.

I usually make a point not to blog about a restaurant I previously talked about but this place is an exception (this is my third time writing about this place — here and here).  Mother’s Bistro is not the most extravagant joint in the culinary-rich Portland food scene, and there are, admittedly, other restaurants that I love more (alas Paley’s Place), but it always hits the spot for me.  It’s comfortable, cozy and warm – just the way I like it.

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Clockwise from top left: Lamb skewer (daily special), Carlton Farms Pork Loin Medallions, Mother’s Macaroni & Cheese Du Jour, and Chicken & Dumplings

I was hoping for a pasta or other carbohydrate-rich menu options but there weren’t any so I settled for a plate of pork loin medallions with mashed potato (carb!) and vegetables.  I took a bite of my boyfriend’s Mac and Cheese Du Jour (tonight’s was Mexican style), and loaded up on rice pudding (which also became my breakfast on the marathon day)!  Everything was delicious, as always, especially the desserts.  You just can’t go wrong here.  Oh, how I wish I can just pluck this restaurant and take it home with me to Los Angeles!

mothers desserts
Pear Huckberry Tart and Bread Pudding

I know I indulged, but there has got to be something good that comes out of running a 26.2-mile monster the next day, right? By the way, the only reason why you see an empty restaurant on the top photo was because we were the last ones to leave.  Trust me, this place is packed 24/7 (but definitely worth the wait).

Mother’s Bistro
212 SW Stark, Portland, OR 97204
★★★★☆

Congratulations, Noelle!

noelle la marathonMy dear friend Noelle completed the Los Angeles Marathon this afternoon and I cannot be any prouder!  Here is me, Noelle and our buddy G smiling at the camera after she crossed the finish line!

It is truly amazing what we humans are capable of achieving, as long as we let our minds believe that life has no limitation.  She certainly proved us that today as she tackled the 26.2-mile journey.

Marathon is such an honest sport that you get back whatever you put in during training, and her hard work and dedication over the last 16-weeks carried her through the journey.  Running and walking the 26.2 miles is just a tip of the iceberg – what she accomplished today is the realization that anything in life is possible.

Congratulations, Noelle! 🙂 And thank you for the inspiration!  Now, have your lovely husband massage your tired feet!

Amazing Race: Santa Monica Classic

santa monica 2On a totally non food-related topic, my sister and I completed the Santa Monica Classic, a Nike-sponsored 10k run on May 3, 2009! This race is our yearly running ritual and we have so much fun every year! Our friend C joined us this time and we had an absolute blast!

Last year, I ran the same race in 1:12:57 (11:46 min / mile pace). I know I’m slow but what the heck!  This year, my time was 1:12:36 (11:43 min / mile pace). These times are virtually identical, separated only by mere 20 seconds! 😯 Isn’t that crazy? I don’t think I can repeat this even if I tried! This race made me realize how fascinating human body truly is.

After the race, we walked down to the Farmer’s Market and I had a mouth-watering corn on the cob (with lots of cayenne pepper!) and a decadent baked sweet potato with cinnamon sprinkles! To top it all, we did all this before noon! Talk about a productive morning.

(P.S.  Don’t you love it that I’m wearing an Adidas shirt to a Nike event?)

Engery Booster: Homemade Granola Mix

granola-in-bagI started training for the Los Angeles marathon in May. This will be my third marathon and this time, I’m determined to complete the 26.2-mile race in a reasonable time. Trust me, I’m not trying to run it in four hours, five hours, or even under six hours. I just want to be able to finish it while the sun is still up and the roads are not empty. My boyfriend jokes (or is he?) that, instead of a stop watch, he will buy me a calendar. Needless to say, I’m very slow. I’m actually slower than slow walkers. But that doesn’t stop me from taking on the challenge, darn it! And I’m happy that my colleague and friend Noelle have decided to run it with me. (By the way, I don’t run marathons because I like to run. In fact, I think running is evil. I just do it to collect medals because I’m a medal whore.)

Proper nutrition becomes extremely important when training for something crazy like a marathon. I know the energy bars can come in handy when you’re looking for a quick boost, but I get skeptical over the kind you buy at stores. First off, they look and taste like crap. Second, I can barely decipher the ingredients that are in them. And lastly, at couple bucks a pop, the cost can really add up.

I still want the nutritional benefits of the bar without compromising them with the mass-produced kind, so I decided to take the matter into my own hand and make my own, using the ingredients that I can actually pronounce. I used Alton Brown‘s delicious and easy homemade granola bar recipe I saw on Good Eats.

Alton’s recipe called for several ingredients that I wanted to avoid – butter and honey – so I replaced them with canola oil and agave nectar respectively. Agave nectar, I learned, has lower glycemic index than regular sugar and honey, which, ah who cares, it just tastes better! And as for butter, I’m on a mission to eliminate as many animal-based products from my diet as possible. I was afraid at first that these substitutions would compromise the way these granolas form their shape and would crumble, but I figured I would rather eat a healthier, crumbly bar than an unhealthy solid one. It did make the granola slightly crumbly so instead of making it into a bar, I decided to enjoy it as a mix.

Homemade Granola Mix (adapted from Alton Brown, Good Eats)

8 ounces old-fashioned rolled oats (approximately 2 cups)
1 1/2 ounces raw sunflower seeds (approximately 1/2 cup)
3 ounces sliced almonds (approximately 1/2 cup)
1 1/2 ounces wheat germ (approximately 1/2 cup)
6 ounces agave nectar (approximately 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 3/4 ounces dark brown sugar (approximately 1/2 cups packed)
1 ounce canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

6-7 ounces chopped dried fruits (I used two kinds of raisins and apricots)

I got all the ingredients at Whole Foods. I love browsing through its dry food section because I could always find beans or grains I’ve never heard of that look interesting. (Note: There is a bottle of honey in the picture you see below, but it wasn’t used in this recipe … the bear just wanted to make a special appearance 🙂 )

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Spread the oats, sunflower seeds, almonds and wheat germ onto a half-sheet pan and toast in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally. In the meantime, prepare the wet ingredients by combining agave nectar, brown sugar, canola oil, vanilla extract and sea salt in a saucepan and cook until brown sugar is dissolved.

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Combine the oat mixture, dried fruits (chopped to edible size) and the liquid. Make sure to do this immediately after removing the oat mixture from the oven. Pack the mixture tightly and evenly in a glass baking dish and bake in 300 degree oven for about 25 minutes (don’t forget to lower the oven temperature). By the way, the golden dried fruits you see are Hunza Golden Raisins and they were so delicious!

granola-oven

Remove from the oven and let it cool completely … and the result, a delicious homemade granola! Oh, and the total price of the entire thing came out to about $8.00. Now, you can’t beat that!

granola-done

I’m going to go for a run just so that I can eat this 🙂

Post-Run Lunch to Awaken my Senses: Asian Noodles

A couple of friends and I participated in the Los Angeles Chinatown Firecracker 10K Run a few weeks ago — an event that was a part of the week-long Chinese New Year celebration. The race began at the heart of Chinatown, then up the hills through Elysian Park and Dodgers Stadium and back to Chinatown for the picture-perfect finish. This was such a wonderful and a rare opportunity to travel the streets of Los Angeles on foot. The view of Downtown LA skyscrapers in the smog-free morning was serene and breathtaking.

I love these local running races and I try to participate in them as much as time (or money, these things aren’t cheap!) allows, but running and I have this strange, love-and-hate relationship. I guess the “hate“ part is the actual motion of putting one foot in front of the other (yep, running is evil), and the “love” part is being able to collect finisher’s medals and cool freebies. I suppose the bragging right you earn by finishing a longer-distance run is pretty good too, although I never reveal to people that I actually crawl my way to the finish line. My boyfriend volunteered one day to buy me a calendar instead of a stop watch … and I don’t think he was joking.

Well, every run is an agonizing experience but a guilt-free lunch that follows immediately after makes every minute of pain worth it (okay, maybe not every minute … maybe two). And this day was no exception.

Although we were in the heart of Chinatown that day, we decided to walk down a couple blocks to sample some Filipino food at Asian Noodle — a cute little establishment with a cafe or an art studio-esque decor. To tell you the truth, I’ve never been much of a South East Asian cuisines fan, and never placed Vietnamese, Thai or Filipino food on top of my “must eat” list. I’m not sure exactly what turns me off from them … maybe I’m not too crazy about cilantro/basil/lemongrass-laden dishes. But I was pleasantly surprised at the firecracker of flavors I experienced at Asian Noodle. Sure, there were some entrees that we ordered that I wasn’t too goo-goo-ga-ga over, but there were a few that I absolutely fell head-over-heels for, like the garlic rice. It was such a simple dish — rice sauteed with chopped garlic — but the flavors had so much depth. The silver noodle was also quite delicious, with chicken and cabbage adding the nice crunch. My apologies – because of my lack of knowledge on the Filipino cuisine, I can’t recall what each dish was called, but here’s what we ordered. If you’re a fan of pungent flavors of lemongrass and other powerful herbs and spices, this place will surely satisfy your SE Asian cravings.

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I think our eyes were much bigger than our stomach that day. Between the five of us, we ordered enough food to feed the entire Chinatown and then some. I guess that’s what happens after a good workout — you “think” you’re really hungry but your body is actually too tired to digest. But the combination of sweet, sour and spicy flavors of the Filipino dishes really awakened my senses and, after a couple sips of the delicious lemongrass soup, I was back to my usual hungry self.

Asian Noodles

643 N. Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012
★★★★☆