Sunday, December 30, 2012

Preparing to restart jits after a long layoff...

Wow... I've been away from the mats for a few months, thanks to IVF.  So I hope to blog about my journey back to regular training...  hope that blogging about it will help me the same way it helped me when I started training.

About the infertility thing, if you're curious... we successfully made a few eggs, fertilized them, and let the embryos grow to a stage that indicates they're likely to be chromosomally normal ie capable of establishing a viable pregnancy. We froze them instead of putting them back in me right away, because I have an immune disorder that makes my body attack embryos as if they were germs. So I will start some immune suppressant meds very soon, I hope, and as soon as they take effect, we'll thaw some embryos and put 'em back in, hopefully this spring.

But until then, I'm scared I've lost my passion for bjj, I've gotten lazy and fat and comfortable with not training, and I hope if anyone is still reading this, that you'll encourage me in my efforts to get back into the swing of things. January 2, here I come! (I'm traveling tomorrow, and academy is closed on January 1.)

Happy new year, everyone!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Charity jiu jitsu seminar benefiting the victims of Sandy Hook

Check out !  Henry Akins, Eddie Bravo, Jeff Glover, Felicia Oh, and Bill Cooper among others are putting on a free online seminar this Sunday, 2pm Pacific, to benefit (via your paypal donation) the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

On the East Coast...

Sorry for not posting in forever... got busy with work deadlines and our Christmas party (a streamlined, smaller version this year with way less food and no gift exchange... and it was a success, so perhaps people really are satisfied as long as I make eggnog and the famous champagne punch!  Lauren said it gave her goosebumps!)

So we're on the East Coast for the holidays this year... we're in DC right now, staying in the home of a blogging jiu jitsu buddy that I've never actually met in person (and still haven't, as he's in Florida right now...)  Doing all the touristy stuff.. then headed to Virginia for time with my family.  We'll be back home on NYE.

Hope you're enjoying your holidays!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Cathy "The Bitch" Brown

LondonReal TV interviewed Cathy Brown, the first female boxer to be crowned British Champion (previously ranked #3 in the world in the flyweight category before she retired in 2007), and here's a little highlight.

Her hands are deadly weapons!  And here's the full, hour-long interview.

Props to the sister for making it in a man's world.  For more info, you can read about her here.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Holiday centerpiece...

I don't think I'll do this on my dining room table... but if I could find a smaller branch, and put it on the "bar" that separates my kitchen from my living room and breakfast area, it would be great... found this in today's WaPo article on making the holiday easier (and all it did was make me want to hunt for moss, tree branches and so on when otherwise I wouldn't have done a "centerpiece"!)

(Tracy A. Woodward/ THE WASHINGTON POST ) - The centerpiece on display was made by Sidra Forman. Sidra said the items for her centerpiece were \

Mmm, shepherd's pie and sauteed zucchini

This is not a traditional shepherd's pie, as I make it with ground beef instead of lamb... but I think it's awesome... it's a great way to use leftover mashed potatoes or it takes hardly any time at all to make some specifically for this dish.  If you use lefties, you will probably want to add more milk to make them more creamy than thick.
Makes a 9x13 baking dish-full.
  • 2-3 lbs ground beef, no more than 10% fat is best
  • small bag of frozen peas (you could add chopped carrots, mushrooms or corn as well)
  • 1 small can (I think 6 oz) tomato paste
  • olive oil, 1-2 Tbsp.
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3-5 cloves (up to you) garlic, pressed
  • sweet (not hot) paprika, salt, pepper, oregano to taste
  • 3-4 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 4-8 Tbsp. butter for mashed potatoes, to taste
  • 1-2 cups milk for mashed potatoes, to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In big pot, cover your chopped potatoes with 1" water and add a little salt.  Bring to a boil over high heat then lower the heat so you don't boil over.  Cook potatoes until tender and fork pierces without any resistance.  Drain all the water out and leave potatoes in hot pot, no lid, on hot (turned off) burner.  You want them as dry as possible. Water causes the starch molecules to swell, break down, and gelatinize (get pasty).

In large frying pan, saute onions in olive oil over med-high heat until transparent.  Add ground beef and break up, stirring occasionally until evenly browned.  If you're watching your calories, you can drain the fat at this point, but you will lose some flavor.  Add garlic, oregano, and paprika... I think I usually add about 2-3 tsp of paprika and the same of oregano.  Stir in tomato paste and reduce heat to medium, stirring regularly to blend well.

Meanwhile add butter to your potatoes and mash.  (Don't add milk before or with the butter; you need the fat molecules to coat the starch molecules first before the cold liquid.)  After they're fully mashed up, start adding milk until they get to the creaminess you prefer.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Taste your beef mixture and add salt and pepper as needed.  I usually add about a teaspoon or two of salt, depending on how much beef and what brand of tomato paste I used (some are salty already.)  Put your frozen peas in a bowl in the microwave and defrost them, then use a slotted spoon to get them out of the extra water and stir into the beef.  Pour the beef/pea mixture into the 9x13 baking dish, then pile the mashed potatoes on top in heaping giant spoonfuls, smoothing it out to seal all the way to the edges of the dish. I find it makes a nicer presentation to have little "crests" or "peaks" of potato sticking up instead of being perfectly smoothed out, because you'll broil it at the end and get them nice and brown.

Usually with my oven, I cook this for 40-45 min-- if your dish is glass, you'll see the beef mixture bubbling away under the mashpots-- and then I put it under a hot broiler for about 10 minutes to make the top crispy and golden brown.

Especially if you put additional veggies in, this is a relatively healthy one-pot meal which really smells good while cooking and warms the tum.

If like me you only put peas in, here's a recipe to go with it:

Sauteed Zucchini with Onions- serves 3-4

Halve and chop into 1/2" slices 3 or 4 zucchini squash.  Cut 1/2 of a yellow onion into thin wedges.  Saute the onion in 1-2 Tbsp olive oil over med-high heat, stirring occasionally, until brown on the edges and pretty soft.  Sprinkle in some salt and pepper.  Add your zucchini and continue to saute until zucchini is getting softer and golden brown.  Sprinkle a little more salt if you think it needs it, then add a good splash all the way around the pan of white balsamic vinegar (at least a good couple tablespoons, maybe up to 1/4 cup or so.)  Keep stirring while the vinegar turns into a glaze, about 2-4 minutes, and remove from heat.  Optionally you can serve with goat cheese or parmesan sprinkled on top.

Here you can see our dinner on Monday night-- the shepherd's pie didn't broil as long as I might have because we were hungry :)


Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Cooking without an oven...

I am happy to take special requests for cooking info!  What do you do when your landlord simply refuses to fix your oven?  (If you're in the US, you threaten to sue them under the Landlord Tenant Code of your jurisdiction... but I digress..)  If you're somewhere else and it's just not worth the fight, or whatever... you make do.  So-- by special request-- some recipes for cooking that require only stovetop, microwave, or slow cooker means of combining heat and foodies to make yum.

Glazed Grilled (or Pan Fried) Pork Tenderloin

Serves 4

    * 1/2 cup plum jelly (or apricot, or apple, just don't use strawberry or grape.)
    * 2 tablespoons lime juice
    * 2 scallions, minced
    * 2 garlic cloves, minced
    * 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
    * 2 pork tenderloins (1 1/2 to 2 pounds total)
    * 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    * Salt and pepper

   1. Combine  jelly, lime juice, scallions, garlic, and ginger in bowl.
   2. Rub tenderloins with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill meat over hot fire or over medium-high heat in nonstick pan until browned on all sides and internal temperature reaches 145 degrees, about 12 minutes. Brush with plum glaze and cook 1 minute longer. Transfer to platter, cover with foil, and let rest 5 minutes. Slice pork and serve with remaining glaze.

Carolina Crockpot Chicken
Serves 3-6

6      skinless chicken thighs, boneless too, if available
1      onion -- chopped
2       cloves of garlic -- pressed     
1       teaspoon  dry mustard
         salt and pepper -- to taste
1/4    cup  tomato paste
1/2    cup  Worcestershire sauce
3       tablespoons  cider vinegar
1       tablespoon  olive oil

In a skillet, heat the olive oil and brown the chicken on both sides. Place in a crockpot with remaining ingredients and cook on low 8-9 hours, depending on your crockpot.  When done, shred with two forks and serve with juices over rice or egg noodles.

Chicken Marsala and Gorgonzola

Serves 2-3

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 3)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
6 oz. cremini or white mushrooms, sliced 1/8 inch thick (about 2-1/4 cups)
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry Marsala wine
1/3 cup heavy cream
1-1/2 oz. crumbled Gorgonzola (1/3 cup) or any mild blue cheese (can substitute goat cheese)
1 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Trim the chicken, removing the tenders, and slice on an angle into 3/4-inch-thick pieces; season generously with salt and pepper.

In a 10-inch straight-sided sauté pan, heat 2 Tbs. of the oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add half of the chicken and cook, flipping once, until lightly browned and just barely cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a plate; repeat with the remaining chicken. Cover with foil to keep warm.

Return the pan to medium-high heat and add the remaining 1 Tbs. oil. Add the mushrooms, season lightly with salt, and sauté, stirring with a wooden spoon, until softened and well browned, 3 to 4 minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium, add the garlic, and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 20 to 30 seconds. Pour in the Marsala and scrape the pan with the spoon to loosen any browned bits; simmer until the Marsala is reduced slightly, about 2 minutes. Stir in the cream and simmer until thickened slightly, 2 to 3 minutes. Add two-thirds of the Gorgonzola and stir until melted, 1 to 2 minutes.

Taste the sauce; add salt and pepper as needed. Add the chicken along with any accumulated juices and turn to coat with the sauce. Serve immediately, sprinkled with the remaining cheese and the parsley.

Pan-Grilled Lemongrass Chicken with Red Quinoa and Vegetables

 Serves 4

    * 3 medium shallots, roughly chopped
    * 2 stalks fresh lemongrass (tough outer leaves removed), roughly chopped  (if you can't find lemongrass, substitute zest from 1 lemon.)
    * 1 piece ginger (about 1 1/2 inches), peeled
    * 1/4 cup plus 5 tsp canola oil, divided
    * 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
    * 1 tablespoon tamari (or soy sauce)
    * 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
    * 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
    * 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    * 1 teaspoon ground coriander

    * 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

    * 3/4 cup red quinoa
    * 1 1/2 cups chicken broth (or stock)
    * Vegetable oil cooking spray or olive oil

    * 1 pound fresh sugar snap peas, strings removed
    * 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and thinly sliced
    * 1 yellow or orange bell pepper, cored, seeded and thinly sliced
    * 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

Marinade: Puree shallots, lemongrass, ginger, 1/4 cup oil, lime juice, tamari, sugar, sea salt, pepper and coriander in a blender until smooth. Place chicken in a dish or ziploc bag and spoon on marinade, rubbing it on all sides. Cover; chill 1/2 to 2 hours.

Heat 2 tsp oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook quinoa until toasted, 3 to 4 minutes. Add broth; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until quinoa absorbs liquid, about 20 minutes. Turn off heat; let sit, covered, until ready to serve.

Heat a grill pan or skillet over high heat; coat with cooking spray/olive oil. Cook chicken, turning once, for 4 minutes. Reduce heat to medium. Cook, turning once, until cooked through, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove chicken; let rest 2 minutes. Slice each breast on the diagonal into 1/2-inch pieces.

Heat remaining 1 tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook sugar peas and peppers until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Turn off heat. Add mint and toss.

Divide quinoa among 4 plates. Top each with 1 sliced chicken breast and 1/4 of vegetables.

Shrimp Soft Tacos with Guacamole
Serves 4

1/4 c + 2 tbsp vegetable oil, divided
3 cloves garlic, halved
2 small serrano chile peppers or 1 small jalapeno, halved- remove ribs and seeds to reduce the heat
1/2 c loosely packed cilantro
1/2 c freshly squeezed lime juice (about 3 limes), divided
1 tsp salt, divided
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 lbs raw shrimp with shells removed
1 lg white onion, sliced 1/4" thick
2 ripe avocados
1 ripe small tomato
12 corn tortillas (6" size)

Heat 1/4 cup of the oil in small skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and chile peppers and cook, stirring frequently, until just brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Process with cilantro, 1/3 cup lime juice, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and black pepper in blender or food processor until smooth.  Put shrimp in shallow dish or ziploc bag and spread half the garlic mixture over them, stirring to make sure you get coverage of all shrimp on all sides.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden but still slightly crispy, about 5 minutes. Chop enough of the onion to make 1/4 cup and set aside. Put rest of onion on a plate. Save the skillet.

Peel and pit avocados, dice in skins, and put flesh in a bowl. Dice tomato and add with reserved chopped onion, remaining garlic mixture, remaining lime juice, and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Coarsely mash with potato masher or fork.

Return skillet to medium heat and add remaining tablespoon oil. Add shrimp to hot pan, discarding excess marinade, and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook on high heat 3-5 minutes, stirring/flipping frequently to cook both sides, until shrimp are pink and opaque but not further or they will get tough. Remove to bowl. Put reserved sliced onion in the skillet to reheat. Scrape up any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.

Wrap tortillas in damp paper towels and microwave on high 1 minute. Remove paper towels and keep tortillas warm. Toss shrimp with onion in pan. Serve with tortillas and guacamole.

Penne puttanesca with shrimp

Serves 4

2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 tsp. finely grated orange zest (from half a medium orange)
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup dry white wine
One 28-oz. can whole tomatoes, coarsely chopped, juice reserved
1/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives, rinsed and quartered
2 Tbs. capers, rinsed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 oz. whole-grain penne pasta
1 lb. medium shrimp (51 to 60 per lb.), shelled and deveined
4  anchovies, finely chopped (optional)
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the onion, orange zest, oregano, and pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until it has almost evaporated, about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and their juice, olives, and capers. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook until the sauce has thickened, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the penne and cook until al dente. Drain well.

Add the shrimp and anchovies (if using) to the sauce in the skillet. Raise the heat to medium high and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Pour the pasta into the skillet and toss with the shrimp sauce. Divide the pasta among 4 bowls. Sprinkle with cheese and parsley.

Creamy Orechiette with Spinach and Prosciutto
serves 4-6

Kosher salt
3/4 lb. dried orecchiette or medium shells
8 oz. baby spinach leaves (about 8 lightly packed cups)
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
2 oz. coarsely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 1 cup using a box grater)
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
2 oz. prosciutto (about 4 thin slices), coarsely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
Bring a 6- to 8-quart pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente. Gently stir in the spinach and cook until wilted, a few seconds. Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water and drain the pasta and spinach.

Return the pot to the stove over low heat, add the mascarpone, Parmigiano, and lemon zest and cook until the mascarpone has melted, about 1 minute. Add the pasta, spinach, reserved pasta water, and the prosciutto and toss gently. Season to taste with pepper and serve.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

The jiu jitsu community is the bomb :)

First, welcome back from Thanksgiving, did you get fat?  I was so bloated from the hormones and steroids for my IVF cycle, on top of extra padding from not training so long, I really didn't get any fatter despite eating my weight in food... but anyway!

One example of the wonderful jiu jitsu community-- I enjoyed a visit with Slideyfoot from Gracie Barra Bristol in the UK.  It was his first trip to the US and he did a BJJ tour of Texas!

Couple days in Dallas first, where he got to train at the Machado school with Triin of Fenom Gi, and stayed with a complete stranger he met on CouchSurfing.  Then he came to Austin and stayed with me and my husband for a week... sadly, I wasn't training, but he did get to train with my husband at his academy (a Cleber Luciano affiliate).  He also trained a few other places, did some touristy things, saw a Walmart (it was on his list of things to see!) and helped me prep dinner for twenty on Thanksgiving day, and better yet-- clean up afterwards :)   It was fantastic getting to know in person someone I've known on the internet for years... Slidey was always encouraging and helpful to me from whitebelt on, and I'm privileged to call him a friend.  (And now I have a couch to surf in the UK!)

Let me interject another facet of fabulous BJJ community-ness:  see that tshirt I'm wearing?  (The tiger was drawn by Meerkatsu!) It's from a SUPER-cool new gi company, OK! Kimonos.  They are a one-man business, specializing in kids' gis, and they offer a gi exchange!  When your kid grows out of his gi, you can send it back for a 20% discount on the next one... and Brendan, the owner, sends all those kids' gis to a free BJJ-for-kids program in the favelas of Rio!  There aren't any kids gis for sale at this exact moment on his site but I am assured they'll be up shortly!  Brendan tells me, "What occurred was the original pants for the gis weren't the quality that I wanted and I had to reorder them.  They'll actually be arriving this Friday to my house and if the quality is up to par, I'll have them up on the site on Monday, along with some AWESOME backpacks that I'm super excited about."  He's also probably doing a big sale for the grand opening, so please stay tuned if you have little ones!!

Unfortunately, the hormones I was taking were working a little better than expected, and my IVF doctor in NY called the day before Thanksgiving to tell me I'd likely need to get there early so I didn't miss the eggs' ready-time.  Had to change plane tickets for me and my husband, and had to abandon Slidey a few days early.  Thank goodness for good jiu jitsu friends who all jumped at the chance to entertain him, take him around, and make sure he made it to the bus okay for the Houston stop on his tour.  Check out all his reports on his blog.

We had a nice time in NY, stayed with cousins and had a successful retrieval of 6 eggs, of which only one made it to the proper developmental stage to be frozen, but hey, I'm 40 so that's actually pretty good to even get one.  We had to spend one night in the city, and ended up at a hotel RIGHT NEXT DOOR to Marcelo's academy!  Too bad my husband hadn't brought his gi, though I think Marcelo's original location is still out of service due to a water leak in the floors above them.  (I also think their temp location in Chelsea got washed out thanks to Sandy...)

One more example of how wonderful the BJJ community is... here is your opportunity to share with the less fortunate!  Remember the baby-BJJ community in Moldova and the Give a Gi program started by Christian the BJJ Globetrotter (below in the hat)?

Well, Bobby, the Peace Corps guy who started BJJ there, is promoting the first ever Moldovan BJJ Cup tournament in January!  And he needs your help.  Please-- send him $20 and a patch from your academy.  He'll use the money to buy a gi (cost, around $130) and patch it up with all the patches he receives-- it will be a prize for the "competitor with the most heart" (to give everyone a fair shot at winning it, versus the usual prize for the absolute champion).   If there is extra money, it will help cover the costs for transport and entrance fees for otherwise indigent competitors or future similar projects (though your patch will still go on the gi.)

Depending whether you're in the States or Europe, please send a patch and US$20 (or your equivalent) to:

c/o Robert McMasters
7605 Mokena Ct.
New Port Richey, FL

McMasters Robert
Cal. Grivitei 192
Ap. 49, Et. 1, Sc. C

You can also paypal him the money, at bobby.mcmasters(at)
Thanks for being part of this wonderful BJJ community and do your part in spreading the love to the peeps in Moldova!