Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Forgotten Baltimore

As I was driving home last night, I diverted from my usual route in an attempt to avoid road construction and baseball game traffic.  It took me through that "other" Baltimore that I don't see everyday, and too often allow myself to forget about.  It also proved to be probably just as slow as the traffic would have been as I was forced to stop at just about every traffic light I came across.  But the stops gave me the opportunity to take a few pictures of these forgotten neighborhoods. 
In these areas, entire blocks may be boarded up.

This last picture was taken just a few blocks from my much more affluent neighborhood, Bolton Hill.  If you look very far down the street, you may even be able to see a hipster walking a dog and pushing a stroller. 

Chocolate Hazlenut Pudding

Monday morning started off as usual with a strawberry banana protein shake.  I had a ton of work to do, so I got busy super early in the morning and didn't take a break until my stomach started to rumble mid-morning. 
But my stomach rumble wasn't for any kind of "real" food for lunch ... I wanted something sweet!  Fortunately, I had half of a block of tofu leftover from making mushroom soup Saturday night

Luckily I had tofu to make something sweet?!?!  I know it sounds like crazy talk, but tofu is pretty much the would-be-vegan's perfect ingredient for just about everything ... including dessert! 

I microwaved some dark chocolate chips with a bit of plain rice milk until the chocolate was melted.  Then I blended with the tofu until the whole mixture was smooth and creamy.  Once it was blended I added just a bit of hazlenut flavor syrup until I'd gotten my desired flavor - nutty, chocolately, deliciousness!  It's delicious (if a little warm) straight from the blender, but if you let it firm up in the fridge for a bit it takes on this amazing, mousse-like consistency.  And I swear no one will be able to detect the tofu!

After such an amazing pre-lunch dessert, I almost didn't even want the pasta with Victoria Vegan red pepper alfredo, basil, and Morningstar Farms chicken patty I made later.  In fact, I may or may not have had a second helping of pudding post-lunch as well ... :)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Sunday Sailing Adventure

Sunday morning started off with a strawberry banana protein shake and a glucosamine chondroitin.  Exciting stuff.  I got the GC a while back after my doctor said it might help with recurring pain I have in my knee when I run long-ish distances.  Not sure if it really helps, but then again I don't exactly take it every day :/  But a few days ago I had really severe pain in my knee after doing literally nothing (just sitting around the apartment), so I thought it wouldn't hurt to start taking them more regularly.  Luckily my knee's doing a lot better now.  Of course I don't know if it's the GC or just some extra rest for the knee ...
Lunch was tofu sauteed with broccoli and edamame and topped with Thai peanut sauce.  (Didn't I say that meal was coming back around?)  It was simple but delicious, and even Josh remarked that we should be eating more nutritious food like this.  It was a great way to get in tons of energy-packed foods before ...
Our big sailing adventure!!!
A while back a Living Social deal came around for a three-hour intro to sailing class, and I thought it would be a great way for us to get out together, learn something new, and have fun.  At $100 per person, it wasn't cheap ... but then again boats aren't cheap either! 
Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures of the actual excursion, but it was just the two of us and our instructor on a little sailboat on the Chesapeake.  The weather was great, and we each got to try our hand at operating the tiller, the main sail, and the jib.  (I learned my terminology!)  The only down side was that we had to wear lifejackets for the whole three hours in the sun, and when we got back and took them off I was a horrible sweaty mess underneath.  Lesson for next time: wear sweat-wicking clothing! 
When we got home I was starving so I reheated the last of the creamed spinach before we got to work on dinner ... linguine with zucchini, sun dried tomatoes, pine nuts, and red pepper flakes.  Of course I wolfed it down before I could take a picture!  But it was amazing - much better than I'd expected for something so simple.  We will definitely need to make that one again soon too! 

Judge's Bench Lunch and My Once-Yearly Ice Cream Exception!

Ack!  I'm so behind on blogging!  I'm just going to skip Friday altogether to try to help get caught up.  Rest assured, I ate that day ...  In fact, I went out with friends to an Ethiopian restaurant for a birthday celebration Friday night.  But because I was out with friends I didn't take any pictures.  And the two photos I had from earlier in the day were quite boring - a chocolate banana protein shake (that looks just like that one!) and sauteed tofu, broccoli, and edamame (which will be the exact same as a picture from Sunday because I had the same thing again).  Whoa ... .whirlwind recap there. 
But Saturday was a much more picture-filled day because Josh and I headed out to lunch at Judge's Bench in historic Ellicott City.  I went to this place once before for a Baltimore Vegan Drinks, but hadn't been back since.  Fortunately, Josh's new car's 30-day check up was nearby, so it was the perfect opportunity to go back. 
Inside the place is the typical bar scene ... you would never know the menu hides so many vegan options!  In fact, I'm pretty sure none of those old guys at the bar even notice the little "v"s floating around the menu. 
Since we were only having lunch, we steered clear of the many local beers they offer on tap.  But otherwise we thoroughly embraced the idea of "bar food". 
I found myself torn between the vegan buffalo wings and the veggie burger, so I decided to combine the two and get a burget with buffalo sauce!  It was delicious.  And it's been ages since I've had buffalo sauce, so I licked up every last drop!  The burger came with a side of home made BBQ chips, which weren't really my favorite ... but I definitely appreciate the idea that they made their own chips! 
For dinner that night Josh and I actually made tempeh, shiitake mushroom, and cornmeal dumpling stew for his parents at their house to celebrate his Dad's birthday.  No pictures, because I was too concerned with getting dinner done on time in someone else's house. 
Dinner came out well, and everyone seemed to enjoy it.  Josh's parents also made corn on the cob and marinated tomatoes for the side.  But the most significant thing about dinner is that Josh's mom made blackberry ice cream for dessert. 
Every year at the end of July when blackberries are perfectly in season Josh's mom goes to pick her own blackberries and make this ice cream.  It's the most amazing ice cream ever created.  And it only happens once a year.  Back in January when I decided to become vegan, I thought about what would happen when late July rolled around.  Would I eat it?  Would I have to pass?  I actually agonized about it for months.  Until finally I decided that creating an exception for this perfect dessert was just fine. 
If I wanted to argue more for my ideals, I could remind myself that the same amount of ice cream is made either way, and all I'm doing is stealing some of everyone else's portion.  But I don't even care about my ideals when it comes to this stuff.  Sometimes you just have some food that you don't want to give up.  And this is mine. 
Until next year, blackberry ice cream!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Dirty 30

Thursday's crossfit WOD was the "Dirty Thirty": three rounds of 30 situps, 30 hang cleans, 30 double unders (translation, 90 single jumps), 30 overhead squats, and 30 pull-ups.  Fortunately, we had a two minute rest between each round, so it was a little easier going than it might have been otherwise.  I finished the three rounds in 34:38.  Not too bad.  The pull-ups were definitely crushing me by the end (even with a green and red band helping me along). 
But my biggest issue was a really weird tingling in my hands (more in the right than the left).  I thought it was from the overhead squats, like the blood rushing out of my hands ... and which also made it even harder to do the pull-ups because I had no grip!  But fifteen minutes after class was over I noticed I still had tingling.  Then as I was going to bed I noticed I still had tingling in my right hand.  Even the next morning when I woke up it was still there a bit.  Maybe I pinched a nerve or something?  Doesn't sound good ... I'll have to watch out for that in the future.  I definitely don't want to do any permanent damage. 
When I got home I made some creamed spinach with frozen spinach, cashew cream, nutritional yeast, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.  It was really good ... but not a meal in itself.  So I added a quick sandwich of a chicken patty (not vegan, but they've got to get used, right?), salsa, and vegan pepperjack cheese.  And of course I enjoyed a lovely glass of horchata on the side.  Delicious and simple dinner. 

Another Field Trip and Peanut Butter Power?

Thursday morning I had yet another work field trip planned to head to the Baltimore City Detention Center for a tour.  Before the tour I had a strawberry banana protein shake, so of course I had to go to the bathroom really badly when I got there!  Good thing I had the opportunriy before we started or I would have been bursting by the end.  The protein shake was not quite enough to tide me over though, and my stomach was rumbling by the time I was headed out. Luckily I was pretty close to home, so I decided to duck in, use the bathroom (again) and reheat the last if the ribolita.  I gulped it down quickly and then headed off to work.  
Mid afternoon I had my favorite snack again - carrots and peanut butter!  I decided this time it would be only to have because I would be rushin off to crossfit after work, and the peanut butter would help power me through class.  That's sound reasoning, right? :)

Friday, July 26, 2013

Peanut Butter Overload? No Such Thing

Instead if my usual morning protein shake, Wednesday morning started off with a glass of horchata.  We had ducked into a Shop Rite the other day and spotted it amongst the rice and Almond milks.  I knew we'd find it eventually! Next time I make horchata cupcakes I know where to go!  Unfortunately it's not as good as the hemade horchata, but it will certainly do In a pinch.  

Lunch was leftover stuffed pepper from the Helmand. I felt kind of badly that I'd been so disappointed in the meal when I got it.  It really was quite good ...  Just not what is been expecting and gotten myself all in the mood for already.  

Mid afternoon I snacked on some oatmeal with peanut butter. 

I was in a  very peanut buttery mood, because a little while later i snacked again on some carrots and peanut butter.  Leave it to me to take a healthy snack and make it as unhealthy as possible.  Next I'll cover brussel sprouts in chocolate ...

Learning to Ask More Questions

Tuesday was a pretty boring food day until it came time for dinner.  Josh got word that he passed the big, important test he took in June, so we decided to go out to dinner to celebrate.  He chose The Helmand, a delicious Afghan restaurant walking distance from our house.

I'd actually already eaten at The Helmand once since becoming vegan, and I was so excited about how all I had to do was ask for my favorite vegetarian food with no yogurt sauce.  Easy peasy.

For our first course: flat bread with cilantro sauce and pumpkin with the yogurt sauce on the side.  (And very bad pictures ... the light was low and I didn't want to be the b*tch taking tons of pictures with a flash.) 

Then onto the main course. Like last time, I wanted to get the leek ravioli with the yogurt sauce on the side.  But not so fast!  This time the waiter asked if I was vegan, and let me know the ravioli was made with eggs.  
Nooooooo!  I was so sad.  It took me another couple of minutes to decide on the stuffed peppers.  They were tasty, but no where near as good as the ravioli would have been.  But I certainly can't fault te guy for trying to be helpful.  
Part of me wished I didn't know so I could live blissfully in ignorance, but then I know if I really felt that way then I would never read a label at the grocery store either.  I just have to learn to ask more questions at restaurants where I don't have he luxury of an ingredient list.  Sometimes I hate life lessons.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Less Than Vegan Day

Monday started out with a strawberry banana protein shake (so boring I didn't even take a picture!).  For lunch I mixed up some pasta using Victoria Vegan red pepper alfredo and fresh basil.  But because I was feeling super hungry I went rummaging around the freezer and came out with some Morningstar Farms chicken patties from way back before I became vegan. 

I'd originally thought Josh would eat them sometime, saving me the bother of deciding whether it was okay to eat non-vegan food I already owned but that wasn't about to go bad.  Fastforward many months, and they were still sitting lonely in the freezer with only the freezer burn to keep them company.  It was obvious Josh wasn't going to be eating them on his own.  And with our move just one month away (one month exactly today, actually!), I decided if I didn't eat them they'd just end up getting thrown out (which certainly doesn't help the chicken either!).  So I nuked a chicken patty and tossed it, cut up, in with the pasta. 

Later than evening I finally got back to the crossfit gym after my long, artscape-induced hiatus last week.  It's probably for the best that I got a self-imposed week of rest, just to get my muscles revived for another intense workout! 

I really didn't feel like getting my a** to crossfit Monday.  I hadn't slept well, and doing a difficult workout really didn't sound too appealing.  So I'm particularly proud of myself for dragging my butt all the way to Towson.  Fortunately, I was rewarded with a not-too-challenging WOD: Paul. 

Five rounds of 50 double-unders (translation, 150 single-unders since I can't do the DUs), 35 knees to elbows (raise knees, since I also can't do the K2Es), and 20 seconds holding weight overhead (it says 20 yard walk, but they just had us hold the weight over our heads).  I started with 45 pounds of weight, but quickly realized that wasn't going to happen.  I ended up doing my rounds with 35 pounds ... way below even the scaled weight.  Oh well ...  At least I did my five rounds! 

When I got home I got to work making vegetarian Ribolita.  Unfortunately, I can't call it vegan Ribolita because I used two Parmesan rinds I'd had saved in the freezer for months in the recipe.  I figured they fell under the "food I already have" exception to my vegan eating.  But they were the last of my Parmesan rinds, so I'm not sure what I'll do next time I want to make the recipe ...

Otherwise my Ribolita recipe is incredibly delicious.  I used Yves fake baked ham, spinach, cannellini beans, onion, tomatoes, carrots ... but the most important part is that it's supposed to be served over stale bread.  Fortunately I set aside some leftover Italian flat bread in the freezer for just such an occasion.  It was perfect. 

Like most soup recipes, I ended up with a ton of Ribolita.  Good thing Josh and I both like it!  I served the Ribolita over the bread and topped it with some Parma vegan Parmesan (at least that bit was vegan ...).  Yum yum yum. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Escaping Artscape

Josh and I lazed around for a while Sunday morning since once we left my parking space, we knew it would be quickly stolen by an Artscape-goer and we would be stuck out for the rest of the day.  We sat around reading for a bit, and I enjoyed a chocolate graham cracker protein shake for breakfast.  Josh gave me a weird look while I was making it like I was crazy, but that's just because he doesn't know how delicious it is!  One banana, chocolate protein powder, ground flax,  3 half graham cracker cookies, and chocolate soy milk.  Yum, yum! 
When we finally ventured out we didn't even take the car.  We headed over to On The Hill Cafe for lunch.  This place is so close to our apartment, but we don't really go that often.  And pretty soon we'll have moved away and then I think we're really going to miss it.  We're not big coffee drinkers, but it's a great cafe.  And they have lots of vegetarian and even some vegan options - which is sadly rare in many restaurants.
The last time we visited On The Hill I was worried that my favorite dish wasn't actually vegan ...  But after some further consideration on the subject, I'd decided their sweet corn cakes probably were vegan after all, so I was eager to go back.  And fortunately the waitress confirmed that they were as long as I left off the cheese and sour cream.  Yay!  I topped mine with a generous amount of chalula (no, that's not ketchup). 
After lunch we headed home and ventured out in the car for the rest of a very long day.  First we went shopping for some cheap sunglasses for Josh to wear when he doesn't want to risk his nice ones (to replace the old cheapo pair that broke).  Then we hit the climbing gym for a few hours of bouldering.  After climbing we went to Josh's parents' to hang out for the rest of the evening.  We sat around watching the U.S. beat El Salvador and then enjoyed a delicious dinner.  I didn't get a picture of everything (mostly because it seems really rude to go "wait, wait, I have to get a picture!" when someone is serving you a nice meal. 
But I did get a quick shot of the appetizer - the same eggplant caponata crostini they made once before.  This stuff is seriously delicious.  We gobbled up the whole plate in just a couple of minutes.  Dinner was pasta, plus sides of marinated zucchini, marinated tomatoes, and broccoli with fava beans.  And dessert was amazing blueberry pie that Josh's mom made with Crisco rather than butter for the crust.  They're so great to adapt recipes for me!  It was all delicious, and needless to say we were stuffed by the end. 
After dinner we hung out watching TV late into the night until we could go home and actually park again ... after midnight :(  Long day at the end of a long weekend.  I will definitely not be missing Artscape once we move! 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Not So Vegan When it Comes to Wine

Saturday morning started with a delicious strawberry mango protein shake with a little coconut cream mixed in.  This is definitely my favorite smoothie combo ever.  But not quite as cheap as the banana options ...  And I know the potassium from bananas is good for me.  But for the occasional treat, it's awesome. 
Lunch was leftovers from Kathmandu Kitchen.  In case it wasn't clear from the pictures (which I'm sure it wasn't), we were chased their Friday night when Josh got home from work only to find he couldn't find a single parking spot in our neighborhood because of Artscape.  I had gotten a parking spot Thursday evening and didn't move my car again until Sunday so I wouldn't lose it.  Meanwhile, after dinner Friday night we headed to Josh's parents to drop off his car and get a ride home.  Everyone loves a street festival until it's in their backyard ...
After lunch we were both still in the mood for a little something sweet, so we finished off the last of the banana coconut tart.  The last slice was definitely the best one of all!  Letting the tart sit for a while so that it gelled together better really did the trick to keep the crust together and let the bananas get extra sweet - yum!
After lunch we headed out for a little walk - luckily when we're trapped in your home because of a street festival we can still get to plenty of places because we live in the city.  We headed out to the Baltimore Central Library to return my last book club book, Neuromancer, and pick up the next one, Ender's Game.  I also grabbed a couple new books on CD to listen to while I'm driving.  I always love going to the Baltimore Central Library.  The collection is amazing, and the building is old and gorgeous! 
Dinner was the last of the leftover Vichyssoise plus some delicious szechuan string beans Josh whipped up. 
I was really impressed with how he modified a recipe he found online (and for which we had very few of the required ingredients), and made something really delicious.  I'm definitely going to be wanting these again and again. 
Maybe it was the irritation of Artscape, but we also decided to booze it up with dinner by grabbing a bottle of wine.  Again, the convenience of the city means we have a liquor store on the ground floor of our building.  I picked out this Pinot Noir based purely on liking the label ... which is pretty much the only criteria I ever use when choosing wine. 
One criteria I definitely didn't use was whether or not it was vegan.  In the little Asian-run grocery in the building, they definitely don't know which wines they carry are vegan (if any), and it's such an incredible hassle to figure it out it makes it unrealistic to just "pick up some wine."  I'll certainly try to get vegan wine if it's presented to me, but right now going out of my way to be vegan in my liquor choices is just beyond the level of commitment I've got to veganism ... 

Friday in Pictures

Sometimes the photos alone tell the story ... and sometimes I'm just feeling lazy.  Take your pick.