Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Belated Birthday Workout (s)

I have no idea how many workouts I can design based on the number 51, but I've got an entire month to have fun with it!  My first idea was to do simple 10 x 10's adding one extra rep onto the 5th and 10th sets of ten, and that's fine, in fact I like it a lot! But at a certain point doing all sets of 10 reps is...well, hard!  This first workout, part #1, starts out with four rounds of 51 reps done 10 x 4 sets + 11 x 1 set.

2 hd swings
tr swings
2 hd swings

204 swings, 10 minutes

I wanted to do a full 25 minutes of swings, 10 rounds of 51 (510 reps), but I got to the studio 5 minutes too late!  Class starts at 6:00am but I managed to swing every minute I could for a total of 459 swing reps in 9 rounds of 51.  I wanted to post the 22.5 min workout uninterrupted, but Youtube wouldn't let me, so here is part two.  Four rounds of 51, done 20 x 2 sets + 11 x 1 set, and ending with one more round of 10 x 4 + 11 x 1.

The last two rounds ladder up and down my swing progressions so have fun with it because there is much harder workouts coming soon...really soon!


20 2 hd sw x 2 sets + 11 2 hd sw x 1 set
5/5 + 5/5 x 2 sets + 5/5 + 1 x 1 set
20 tr sw x 2 sets + 10 tr sw + 1 x 1 set

10 2 hd sw + 5/5
10 tr sw + 5/5
11 2 hd sw

10 2 hd sw
10 tr
11 2 hd sw

255 swings, 12.5 min

Speaking of much harder workouts....  In last week's 10 x 10 if you haven't been introduced to my "1/2 swing ladder"  and my "2/1 swing ladder" here you go!  It's what I consider an Intermediate/Advanced swing progression only because of the added concentration it takes to complete the ladder perfectly.  1/2 is the uphill progression while 2/1 is the down hill, and since I always teach downhill first you will find only practice that one it in this short workout.  Please repeat it as often as you want to (need to) as this morning's workout builds on this one and the 4-1 swing ladder I posted last week.

My special treat on my birthday last Tuesday was Meg leading me through a "51" workout she designed and lead the entire group through, and let me tell you....it was hard!  It was soooo hard that over the next couple weeks left in my birthday month I'm going to post a few more workouts that lead up to the last day, the 31st, in which Meg and I will repeat her workout again to post for you all to join us!  Super hard, that's all I gotta say!  One little hint...it has tons of my favorite swing.....ouch.

Friday, August 1, 2014

It's My Birthday Month! And the theme is Fifty One! (10 x 10 transfer swing practice videos)

Before we get to the more complicated stuff...last week's 10 x 10 was about making sure we keep our abdominal muscles contracted and tight at the top of the transfer swing.  I've demonstrated this before way back when we started two hand swings, but it's much more important with the one hand swing and all of it's variations.  More torque is created through the midsection while having to stabilize a moving weight on only one side of our body and if not practiced correctly with the two hand swing it can be much more difficult to master when graduating to one hand swings.

Like the demo I did the week before about finishing the glute / hip contraction during a transfer swing, it's easier to forget, or to lose the tension, while the kettlebell is "floating" from hand to hand.  Of most importance, keeping our midsection tight helps to protect the lower back and is a skill we must always practice in proper kettlebell swings.

Yesterday's 10 x 10 I take you through 5 of my swing combinations; 2 hd sw (two hand swings) 10 R (one hand swings right hand), 10 L (one hand swings left hand), 5/5 (one hand swings right and left, switching on reps 5), and tr sw (transfer, or hand to hand swings).

Transfer swings are taught last as you get used to anticipating moving the bell from one hand to the other progressively.  First you must be comfortable starting with two hands, then dropping one of them and continuing on with only one hand on the bell.  We practiced these combinations (both R and L) in the weeks after the second Swing Quest (April-June).  We then strengthened our one hand swings by starting to practice them 5 at a time not using two hands at all and  touching the handle at the top of each rep to anticipate the transfer swing.  Ten one hand swing reps without any switching from R to L further strengthened our skill and stability of one hand swings.

Now we have strong two hand swing AND strong one hand swings so it's time to have some fun!  That's where transfer swings and swing rep ladders come in! And just in time for my birthday month workouts!  Before you try the new swing rep ladder at the end of this post, quickly review the five swing combinations we have learned during this year's 10 x 10's!

I've posted these swing rep ladder sets before, but it's been a while.  This set of 20 swings fits into my progressions in between 5/5 + 5/5 and "swing/transfers" or "transfer swings".  So the downhill swing progression would be:

10 R/10 L
5/5 + 5/5
4-1 sw ld (swing ladder)
10 sw tr ( swing transfers)
10 tr sw (transfer swings)

In this video I only demonstrate 5/5 + 5/5, then introduce my 4-1 swing ladder.

switch hands on the 4th rep R/L
switch hands on the 3rd rep R/L
switch hands on the 2nd rep R/L
switch hands on rep 1 R/L

This set equals 20 reps total!  This swing ladder set is worth practicing because you will be seeing it again during my birthday month workouts.  Since I'll be 51 years old on Tuesday, the 5th of August, the theme of my workouts will be "51".  Fifty one swing reps is quite a lot, in fact it's just over 1 min 15 seconds of continuous swing reps if done in one set...which I will be doing.  But I hope to come up with some other creative ways to keep the theme of 51 so stay tuned!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Potatoes....bring em on!

I used to be afraid of certain foods!  Yes, I did buy into the whole no carb, low carb, slow carb diet mentality for just a little bit.  My original diet, although not restricting of carbs, was still fairly low in carbs and there were even a few foods I removed, and now I confess, it was because I was afraid they would make me fat.

Potatoes for sure!  Any kind, including sweet potatoes.  Butternut squash and carrots!  Yep, I was afraid of carrots!  Peas.  Corn.  It must have been two years before I ate corn, and beans, the same, over two years.  Oh man, I remember exactly when I started eating beans!  It was the first time I stayed with my BFF Fawn Friday and it was also the first time I ever saw a pressure cooker being used!  Fawn made a pork and bean dish with onions and apples, and it was after coming home from that trip that I became obsessed with the pressure cooker, and here is the original post, Nov 2 2007; http://tracyrif.blogspot.com/2007/11/practice-makes-perfectfawns-pork-and.html.  One of the reasons I decided to add beans into my diet was because Fawn is not, or never has been fat, and she ate beans on a regular basis.....if skinny people can eat beans then they must be fairly safe!

Which brings me to these days, especially this past year.  Last summer, almost eight years of permanent weight loss later, I decided that was not going to be afraid of corn anymore.  I really started to feel bummed that another summer was passing by me and the only reason why I wasn't enjoying eating more corn was out of fear of weight gain.  So I bought tons of corn!  I made corn chowder, I added it to salads, I ate corn on the cob, and no weight gain.  Hmm...I must be on to something.

So this year it's potatoes, and really all of the other foods I mentioned. But I am so enjoying potato salad!  Becoming a part time vegetarian has a lot to do with these changes.  Once meat and other animal proteins are off the table what's left?

Potato salad is just as versatile as anything other recipe.  In fact I'll bet practically everybody makes it their own way.  I happen to like the combination of fresh green beans, potatoes with a vinaigrette dressing just as much as I like my mother's traditional sweet relish, mayo and egg potato salad.  I happen to like it more vinegar-y while Mark likes it sweeter and more onion-y.  Lately since making my own pickled jalapenos and jalapeno relish I make mine hot! I've been making it so often these days I pretty much add anything and everything fresh and crunchy that I have in my fridge!   Celery for sure, red bell, red onion, and this morning those fresh green beans I bought at the FM.

I still measure out my fat, using only 2 tbl for an entire batch.  I thin it out with vinegar and add about 1 tbl of mustard, but I don't add more mayo.  I try and use as many fresh herbs that I have on hand. This morning I only had dill, but chives, parsley and maybe some cilantro if I had it, or all of it!  The more the better as far as I'm concerned. I did stop using egg though.  If Mark or I want protein there are plenty of other ways to eat it, and this way I can eat it any day, especially my vegetarian days.

So, there you have it.  Potatoes?  Bring em on!  How do you make you potato salad....or are you afraid of a little potato?

top photo is this morning's salad with the last addition of fresh green beans.  middle photo is the first pressure cooker meal I ever made using Fawn's recipe to which I posted the link.  bottom photo is tradition potato salad (minus the egg), potato, mayo, mustard, celery red onion, herbs (dill in this case).

Friday, July 18, 2014

Finish the Hip Drive! 10 x 10 Transfer Swing Practice...oh, and The Swing Quest 2014!

All year long I've been posting short 10 x 10 workouts that progressively take a beginner through my learning swing progressions. First a beginner learns the two hand swing.  Then progresses from two hands to one hand.  The next progression is more and more continuous one hand swings (5-10), then only one hand swings (10 at a time).  At this point a strong and solid two hand and one hand swing practice is established and it's time to do some fancy stuff!  Transfer swings.

Since the hand to hand transfer happens at the top of the kettlebell swing sometimes the concentration and timing of transferring a kettlebell from one hand to the other takes a beginners attention away from the other part of the swing that happens simultaneously at the same time....finishing the hip drive!  Do not forget about your glutes!  In this week's Thursday 10 x 10 I demonstrate the right way and the wrong way.  Can you see the difference?

10 2 hd sw x 2 sets
5 R/ 5 L one hand swings x 2 sets 
10 transfer swings x 6 sets


I wanted to post The Swing Quest workout last week right after we finished it but there was a bit of confusion during the last 100 swings and I have to take responsibility for it.  I asked one of my long time training partners, Maribel, to lead the last 10 x 10, but I told her as part of a reply to one of her comments here in my blog....which she never read prior to getting to TSQ that morning.  So, Maribel shows up, completely unaware that I was going to put her on the spot!  She came up with a really fun 10 x 10 on her own, BUT I never gave her the most important guideline, which was that the 10 x 10 must only include the 6 swing progressions we all have been practicing up until that point (2 hd, 5 2 hd + 5 R, 5 2 hd + 5 L, 5 R/5 L, 10 R, 10 L).  I hadn't yet taught the transfer swing.....and wouldn't you know it, Maribel lead us through a transfer swing 10 x 10!  I ended up editing it out but you can easily replace the last 100 swings with last week's, or this week's transfer swing 10 x 10.....or Gaby's 10 x 10, or any other 10 x 10 you want to, maybe you'll come up with your own?

The Swing Quest's first 4 rounds of 10 x 10's keeps it simple and straight forward.  Ten repeats of each of the swing progressions before moving on to the next.  Again I demonstrate how to use air swings as an option for rest.  I remind the viewer/swinger that taking the rest needed at an each individual's level is much more important than trying to do every single swing.

10 2 hd swings x 10 sets
5 2 hd swing + 5 R alternating w/5 2 hd swing + 5 L x 10 sets
5/5 one hand swings x 10 sets
10 R alternating w/10 L one hand swings x 10 sets

400 swings, 20 minutes.

Do part of it, all of it, or add to it!  Just Enjoy it!  It's your life, it's your workout!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

FLASH SWING CLASSES at IRON REPUBLIC! And a couple more future traveling kettlebell adventures!

Wow, sometimes things move fast!  I was invited down to Pacific Grove to stay with a friend of mine for a mini getaway so I thought maybe I could beg my way into the best kettlebell gym, no, the Ultimate Kettlebell Strength and Conditioning Center on the Monterey Peninsula to lead a couple of my swing workouts!  Today is Wednesday, July 16th and in less than one week I'm going to be leading two of my Swing classes in Sand City at Seth Munsey's Iron Republic!  I'm not sure I've taught an evening class ever, so here's your chance if you are not a morning person to come swing with me Monday, July 21 6:30pm!  omg...I better get my nap in that afternoon!  And for you early birds like me, I'll be back the next morning at 6:00am, July 22nd!

I'll be swinging until you all tell me to stop, but basically if you can safety swing a kettlebell for 20 continuous reps then I can help you scale any part of my swing workouts to your specific skill and endurance level.  For females I suggest any weight between 8kg-16kg (I use a 12kg & 14kg), and for men I suggest 12kg-20kg.  

Each scheduled class will be 30-45 minutes, depending on your conditioning and the fee is $20.  As you can see from the pictures there is plenty of space, but it's best to reserve a spot so please contact Seth at (831) 740-8002.  http://ironrepublicstrong.com/iron-republic/  I'll be there with a few copies of my book and DVD's so please come down and swing with me, or simply come down and meet :)


A few of the other events I have coming up in the near future are the next Swing Quest, of course!  I'm thinking about hosting it before Mark and I leave for Croatia on Sept 24, so a possible date is Sunday Sept 21.  But first, next month, Sunday August 17th in Dublin CA, Mark will be teaching an SFG User Course and you can find register for that here:


And get more information about the course here:



And speaking of Croatia.....the invitation still stands!  You can come if you'd like to and register for your SFG Certification Course, or just hang out with me! :)  I'm planning on taking day trips to neighboring towns, shopping, eating, and f course training!  Kastav is a very affordable and central location and with the addition of kettlebells pretty much has everything you need!  email or message me if you think it's something you'd like to do, or need more information about.  tracyrif@yahoo.com  There is also information about the SFG on their website, or check out SFG Croatia on Facebook and post a question there or message Sasa Rajnovic!  (picture below)


Monday, July 14, 2014

Fat, Fat, Carb, Sugar and Fat, Carb. A Decadent Day at the Farmers' Market

I went to the Farmers' Market this morning after training.....not a big deal, right?  Considering I used to go three times a week, every week for years and years to now only going a handful of times each year is a big, no, HUGE change!  Honestly, I don't know how I used to eat as much food as I bought, but somehow I did.  What's an even bigger deal is what I bought, and bigger yet, what I didn't buy!  Seriously, you'll never guess!  (well, I guess the blog title gives it away?)

First what I did not buy.  I did not buy one vegetable, OR one fruit.  Not one.  There was really only two items I was slightly tempted to buy, and one I actually was prepared, bag and money in hand, but decided last second to pass....and that was the walnut sized blackberries....I didn't even take a picture.  The other was a few very special and unique peach varieties (Spice Zee was one).  I didn't get the peaches because in the past they spoil quickly and they are very expensive, and having some melons already at home I just didn't need more fruit (I had my eyes on the blackberries anyway).  I walked back to the blackberries....I asked myself why was I buying them and the answer was, #1 they looked fabulous, #2 they were exactly in season, but at the end of the day, as I mentioned earlier, I still had a ton of fruit at home, so I passed on dropping $10 on fruit I would have to eat before it went bad, and more than likely whether or not I was hungry.

But the biggest reasons why I'm not motivated to buy a ton of produce at the FM's is really because these days (unlike years past) here in No Cal we have many, many higher end specialty grocery stores that carry the exact produce from the same local growers every day of the week.  I don't have to go into that hoarders mentality of stocking up with veggies to last an entire 7 days between markets.  What I did choose to buy are products I know I can not get during the week, even in those expensive specialty markets.

What did I buy?

Well, the entire reason why I went to the FM in the first place is because there are only a couple of FM's that carry my absolute favorite Italian Butter Bean, and I had been out for months now, maybe a year (because I rarely go to the FM!).  It's time for some Minestrone with beans, pasta and all of the summer veggies and I just had to restock.  I'm kind of a sucker for heirloom beans.  Funny thing is that for the first two years of my weight loss I never ever ate beans.  Beans were a "carb" (dirty word), but it was my friend Fawn, and the pressure cooker, that opened up my nutritional world of beans....and she's skinny so beans obviously didn't affect her, lol!

Oh, but I don't want you to think I didn't buy a ton of stuff, I did!  First purchase, cheese.  Second purchase?  Cheese, and cheese.  I love local artisan cheese!  The first one is a "Parm Jack" from Monterey County's Schoch Family Farmstead http://schochfamilyfarm.com/.  They sell raw milk and raw milk cheeses.  I'm not a big fan of chedders and Jack's, but this particular cheese is pretty much what it sounds like! A harder, slightly saltier, but still soft "Parm Jack"!  The second batch of cheeses I bought was from my old favorite, Wastonville's, sheep's milk, Garden Variety Cheese Feta and Moonflower.  GVC http://www.gardenvarietycheese.com/ is the farm I used to buy my sheep's milk yogurt from by the quart full every summer!  I don't buy it anymore because it's a full fat sheep's milk yogurt at about 300 calories per 8oz (I'm guessing) and I just plain ate too much of it.  I was a serious sheep's milk yogurt hoarder and I had to stop!  Now that I'm back in my right mind I only bought what I needed, some fresh feta, to pair with some black pepper chickpea chips I bought at the grocery, and a very small wedge of Moonflower, because that was the cheese hoarder in me that couldn't be stopped.

Raw pistachio nut butter!  Yep!  Have you ever?  O. M. G.  Mark had just mentioned to me the day before, or maybe this morning, how he wanted to switch from raw almonds to pistachios...and then look what I came across!  It was darn expensive...but for the love of my life?  What's a few bucks?  (of course I wanted it too!)  http://inzanaranch.com/ Unfortunately they don't ship it mail order, in fact they don't have it listed on their website.....but I did consider making my own!

Finally I got to the end of the market and what did I find?  Yep!  Iacopi Farms Italian Butter Beans (ironic now that I think about it...I'm going to Half Moon Bay tomorrow!) http://www.cuesa.org/seller/iacopi-farms.  I bought five 1 pound bags for $25 (regular price $ 6 per).  A couple of the bags are gifts, and the other three are for me....I mean us!  lol

On my way back to my car I came across more heirloom beans......so tempting.  But like the fruit, I decided against hoarding more beans that would just sit in my pantry for weeks, if not months because I just can't (shouldn't) eat that much.  I pretty darn proud of myself actually!  I picked up a bag....and then put it back....can you guess which one I almost bought? But I'll be back for them after some of the Butter Beans are gone!

A couple of very last minute purchases, although not without some slow and deep thought.  Chocolate.  I know huh?  I've been intrigued with good chocolate lately.  My new friend Emily Wakefield in the UK sent me some crazy good chocolate, and while we spent time together in Italy she shared with me her educated opinion about good chocolate.  Man it's tough having educated friends!  That, and the truffles I bought in Sweden have got me truly spoiled!  I bought 4 chocolate truffles for $8 from a very generous chocolatier that let me sample about 1/2 dozen flavors!  At that point I admit a little guilt set in, but truly, the four I chose were amazing (2 spearmint, 1 dark, 1 blackberry....funny now that I recount it, that I didn't buy the actual fresh blackberries, but I did buy a blackberry truffle!  Crazy.) http://www.barloventochocolates.com/

And the last purchase?  Bread!  I bought a seeded baguette and a slice of sweet brioche for Mark (because I won't be tempted!).  Okay, we have cheese, nut butter, beans, chocolate and bread!  What the heck?  How far have I gone, or maybe it's more about how far have I come?  Fat, fat, carb, sugar and fat, carb!

I think it official!  Now that I'm confident I have the answer to permanent weight loss I'm not afraid of certain foods anymore.  I know I can eat beans, corn, bread, candy, potatoes, fruit, and all sorts of other things....including an occasional energy bar!


I'm going to the beach tomorrow in Half Moon Bay with my sister Donna.  I love putting together and packing lunches!  I cut up some melon (this is when I wish I bought the blackberries!), made some tuna /egg salad and a small batch of hummus and will slice up the seeded baguette to eat it on.  I had some cooked quinoa in the freezer so I'll make a quick salad with tomatoes, roasted corn, spinach and some of the fresh feta cheese. I candied some nuts to go with the other cheese from the market.  And last, but not least, Donna and I will share the truffles.

Friday, July 11, 2014

10 x 10 Introducing Transfer Swings, Cauliflower and Melon Salad with Roasted Corn and Homemade Clam Chowder with Roasted Corn and Chicken?!

(see workout below)

It's official.  I can no longer say "I never get sick!"  I've had this summer cold for days now, in fact I think it started a week ago, took a couple of days to kick in and then, pretty much, took me down for 4 days.  I chose to not go to yoga practice, not just because I felt like crap, but I so dislike it when other people come to class sick and I'm right next to them blowing their nose and coughing....and the thought of being trapped in a 104 degree room for 90 minutes was the last thing I wanted to do!

I started to really feel bad the night before The Swing Quest, but I would have had to be in the hospital before I would miss my favorite event, beside that it's only a couple of hours!  That was on Sunday, took Monday off, trained Tuesday morning but cut it short, took Wednesday off, trained yesterday (Thurs.) and got a bit more done and I'm thinking I might actually make it to yoga today.

This week's 10 x 10 teaches you the next progressive swing combination, transfer swings (tr).  I know many of you have already been swinging for a while, or have already played around with switching hands every rep, but for those of you that are new swing practice, or maybe you are an Instructor teaching or leading new students, this is the next progression.

My order is as follows for teaching:
2 hand swings (2 hd)
2 hand swings to one hand swings (5 2 hd + 5 R, or 5 2 hd + 5 L)
5 one hand swing R + 5 one hand swing L (5/5, or 5 R/ 5 L)
10 one hand swing R and L (10 R, 10 L)

then I go back, to 5/5, add in 10 transfer swings (10 tr) for practice.  When the time comes to "train" the swing and you are (or your student is) ready and comfortable with switching hands every swing rep then the faster and more complicated swing progressions are demonstrated and practiced (sw/tr, 1/2 sw ld, rndabt)

The basic training progressions are as follows:

10 2 hd sw
10 tr
10 R
10 L
or reverse the last 4 progressions, 10 2 hd, 10 R, 10 L, 5/5, 10 tr.

The video tape demonstrates this progressive swing workout:

10 2 hd sw
5 2 hd sw + 5 R
5 2 hd sw + 5 L
5/5 x 2 sets
10 tr x 2 sets
5/5 x 1 set
10 tr x 2 sets

Enjoy....and practice it a few times!

Thursday morning training starts at 5:30am and the first hour is one of my most demanding workouts of the week.  Yesterday was no different.  I'm back to swinging double 16kg's but this cycle I've added heavy double cleans and I've got a crazy workout I have yet to post for my Czech friends to which this cycle was inspired.  I had to back off for 3 weeks, one while I was in Sweden, one the week I got back, and this one I was sick. Next week it's back to some serious business!  Here was the basic workout we did yesterday. (we always start with a 100 swing 5 minute warm up)

single bell warm up (14kg, then repeat w/16kg)

sw/cl/tr (1 swing, 1 clean, 1 transfer swing) 1 min work/1 min rest
x 2 sets each weight
8 min

work sets started OTM (16kg's)

3 double cleans, 5 dbl swings ("park" the bells after the cleans, then start the swings) x 5 sets
3 dbl cl, 10 dbl sw
3 dbl cl, ladder down the swing in the next 5 sets, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5

15 sets total, 15 min

Swing/snatch practice 16kg (all equal work to rest intervals)

10 2 hd sw (15 sec)
10 tr (15 sec)
1 sw/1 tr (30 sec)
1 sw, 1 sn, 1 tr (1 min)
1 sw/1 sn x 6 R, 1 sw/1 sn x 6 L (1 min set)
10 / 10 snatch (1 min)
8 minutes, repeat this round 3 times
24 min

10 x 10 2 hd swings
5 min.

total workout 57 min.

I haven't been in the habit of journaling my Thursday morning workouts for the honest reason that I'm usually too tired and if I don't do it during or right afterwards I forget the exact number of sets/reps.  This is a good example.  I go by the clock and I know for a fact that we trained for 62 minutes, not a second less, so 5 minutes was lost somewhere.  I know it seems trivial, but what I like most about how I program my routines is that because of the progressive combinations I use I can look back and recount the exact workout based on the number of intervals (time), IF I don't wait to long to write it down!  I've got so many great routines that I need to start journalling them again.  So if you ever wonder why I'm a bit tired looking when I video tape Thursday 10 x 10's the workout above is the reason!


Cauliflower, Tomato and Melon Salad with Sweet Summer Corn

Since I was sick over the weekend I did not feel like cooking first thing Monday morning, but I had a refrigerator full of perishables that was telling me otherwise!  I spent the morning making some of my favorite curried baked beans, a staple for my vegetarian days, some eggplant lasagna for Mark (with sausage and pasta), a vegetarian lasagna for me that included kabocha squash, and finally an accidentally amazing raw cauliflower, tomato and melon salad with roasted corn.

One of my favorite summer salads I have in my book (The Swing page 212) was made better quite on accident!  I almost didn't make it because the only white vinegar I had was plain old distilled white vinegar that I normally only use to make pickled veggies, or clean out the coffee maker!  I prefer to use a better quality, and more mellow white wine vinegar for salads but I had none, so I splashed on just a small amount of plain white vinegar thinking I would go to the market and finish the salad later in the day with better one. And for some crazy reason I decided, last second, to dice up some melon (watermelon and orange honeydew) and add that in.  I only used a very small amount of olive oil, maybe 2 tbl at the very most, for the amount of fruit and veg I used:

1 small head of cauliflower (sliced very thin using a mandoline slicer)
3 ears of corn, roasted under the broiler
4 med tomatoes (from a friends garden, seeded)
1 basket yellow grape tomatoes (sliced in half)
1/2 small red onion, small dice
about 2-3 c. diced watermelon, or any combination of summer melon you like
1/3-1/2 c white vinegar (or a little more depending on the size of the salad)
1-2 tbl olive oil
salt to season

This salad does better made at least 1 hour ahead of time to "marinate".  the melon should make it pretty darn juicy, creating a lot of liquid on the bottom, but we like it that way.  If I had any I may have also thrown in some fresh strawberries too!

I know it was the plain white vinegar that made it taste so good because Mark and I ate it so quickly I had to make another batch, and the second batch I used a "better" white wine vinegar and it just didn't taste as good!  I couldn't quite figure it out...but I finally splashed some of the other vinegar on it and it came to life!  So, lesson learned.  Plain white distilled vinegar has a sort of kick and brightness that could be harsh if not used in the right amount, so in my opinion be careful and cautious with the amounts you use.  Taste as you go before adding more. (picture above was taken before the addition of the cauliflower)

Homemade Clam Chowder w/Roasted Sweet Summer Corn

The salad came about because of some corn I bought on Friday and because of the vinegar situation I almost made a chowder soup instead.  My daughter in law, Cristina, mentioned how much she loved clam chowder the last time I saw her and that planted the seed in my brain!  Clam chowder is so easy to make using canned clams, which I had in my pantry, so two days later, on Wednesday, I had to make some!  Mark really likes it too, and he loves, loves, loves corn so I used both and I even added chicken.  I had one rogue russet potato so I threw that in too.  One more lucky ingredient...smokey ham stock in the freezer :)

1 onion, 2-3 celery stalks, med dice.  At this point you can choose to thicken the soup a couple of ways.

Using 1-2 russet potatoes, small dice (optional), OR make a roux with 2 tbl flour and 2 tbl butter, OR both.

After the onion and celery are translucent, IF you want to thicken the soup with a "roux", move veggies to the side of the pan and heat up 2 tbl butter.  Then sprinkle 2 tbl flour and 2 tbl Old Bay Seasoning into the melted butter and quickly stir/cook until raw flour smell turns to a more "nutty" aroma (about 4-5 min), then add 4 c. stock.  The stock should thicken up right away. Add 2 cans chopped clams w/juice, potatoes (if using) and roasted corn, and cooked diced chicken (optional).  Bring to a boil, turn down heat and cook partially uncovered until potatoes are soft, about 10-15 min.  Turn off the heat and add 1/2 c. heavy cream....goodness, I almost forgot to list this!  duh!

Technically I guess you can add the cream at the same time you add the stock and clam juice, but I prefer to add it at the end and control how much I use by tasting for the amount that is just right.  In this case it was about 1/2 c.

Super simple huh?  Here is the order of ingredients again:

Old Bay Seasoning
(flour if using)
(potato if using)
4 c. chicken, veg, or smokey meat stock
2 cans of clams w/juice
roasted corn, cut from cob
(chicken, cooked, if using)
1/2 c heavy cream I added at the end.  Technically you can use any grade of milk or cream to your taste, or don't add any.  It's your soup, you make it the way you like it!

The only reason why I list flour (for a roux), and potato as optional is because I recognize the desire for low and no carb options, as well as some people liking their chowder soups less thick, or not thick at all.  Personally I chose not to make a roux this time because Mark prefers his soups with a thinner broth consistency, but like I mentioned above I had one potato in my fridge so I used it.  In the future I think I will still add at least one potato, or use small red potatoes instead (cut in half or smaller).

A couple more things; I added chicken, something I've never done before with clam chowder, because I didn't want it to be too clammy, and because I needed to make some chicken stock.  This was before I realized I had smokey meat stock in my freezer, which is what I ended up using.  Also, I'm fine with canned clams!  Sure, a fresh clam chowder would be easy and delicious, maybe more so, but to me canned clams are no different than canned tuna (in quality) which most people don't have a problem using.  Surprisingly I prefer BumbleBee canned clams after experimenting with other "higher quality" (more expensive) brands.  Oh, and in this batch I used a roasted red bell pepper I had in the freezer too!

I ended up storing it a couple of small jam and mason jars I had in my cabinet.  It seemed to be a good serving size and re-heatable in the microwave by simply removing the lid.  I hope to visit my son and daughter in law this weekend and recreate it for them in their kitchen for dinner on Saturday.

Have you ever made clam chowder?  What is different about your recipe?