Monday, July 21, 2014

Banana Bread Smoothie

I love having smoothies for breakfast.  They save me time in the morning because I don't have to sit down to eat before I head out and keep me from wolfing down food in the car.  Instead, I take a smoothie in a to-go cup and finish it some time mid-morning at my desk.  But even on the weekends when I'm not rushing out I still like to enjoy a tasty smoothie while I read or lounge around.  With the added time, sometimes I'll even get more creative with my morning meal, like putting together this Banana Bread Smoothie that really tastes like dessert for breakfast!
Banana Bread Smoothie
1 ripe banana
1 1/2 cups vanilla almond milk
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 tablespoon peanut butter (I used Peanut Butter & Co mighty maple)
Blend everything together and enjoy!

It's a Stretch

How annoying is it to look into a box of pasta and see this?  Especially if you've got a craving and nothing else seems like it will do.  Before you start doing the calculus on whether it's worth it to change out of your pajamas (or not even change) and head to a convenience store to overpay for boxed pasta, take another look around your cupboard and you may just find there's an easier way to stretch that pasta into a real meal - or from one serving into two, or three, or four. 

Whether it's that you're running low on pasta or that you want to add a bit more umph to your meal, try scrounging in your food stores for a simple can of white beans.  I always try to have cans of beans on hand to toss into meals for added protein and nutrients.  Stretch things even further by adding whatever veggies you've got on hand.  My favorites for red sauce: mushrooms, broccoli, and zucchini.  White sauce or pesto: peas, asparagus, spinach, and kale. 
The protein punch will also make you more satiated than you would with a simple meal of pasta and sauce.  And the best part?  Canned beans are easy to have on hand and basically never go bad.  They're the perfect food to stock up on.  Whether it's for your next Italian craving or to wait out the zombie apocalypse. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

July Workouts So Far

It seems that somehow I managed to not do any workout recap last week.  So now I'm two weeks into July with no workouts logged ...  Well, not to worry.  I was still working out.  And in fact logging it.  Just never turning those logs into a post.  So here's two weeks of workouts jammed into one long post ...
Monday - 2 mile walk to library

Tuesday - off

Wednesday - 2 mile walk to library; 7 pull-ups with blue band

Thursday - off; 4 pull-ups with blue band

Friday - 4 mile jog/walk along Sligo Creek; 10 pull-ups with blue band

Saturday - 2 mile walk; 30 minutes on the elliptical at manual level 5; 3 sets of 10 with two 10-lb weights: bicep curls, shoulder press, bent rows; and 70 pull-ups with green band - I was a real winner that day

Sunday - 30 minutes on the exercise bike at manual level 7

Monday - 45 minutes on the exercise bike at manual level 6; 10 pull-ups with the blue band
Tuesday - 40 minutes on the exercise bike at manual level 6
Wednesday - 2 mi walk to library
Thursday - 40 minutes on the exercise bike at manual level 7 (Noticing a theme here?  The theme is that I wanted to finish that book, which was quite good.)

Friday - 30 minutes on the elliptical at manual level 6; 15 pull-ups with the blue band
Saturday - 5 mile hike at Sugarloaf Mountain.  Along the way I snacked on some homemade trail mix - sliced almonds, craisins, and chocolate chunks - yum!
Sunday  - 2 mile walk to library - I needed a new book!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Cowboy Cookies (aka, the Best Cookies Ever)

My last post was very sad ...  And even though I'm still sad when I think about Jake, it's time to lighten up just a little.  And what better way to do that than with a post about the most delicious cookies ever?  That's right, ever.  Literally ever.  Even Josh thought so, and he really fancies himself a cookie connoisseur.
A long while back a friend at work made Cowboy Cookies for an office function, and I thought they were pretty good.  I wouldn't have said best cookie ever, but I liked that they included a bunch of other ingredients beyond your standard chocolate chip cookie.  Since I wanted to bring cookies along to our visit to Josh's parents a couple of weeks ago, I thought back to her cookies and went looking for a recipe online.  I'm not sure what recipe my friend followed, but that's good.  Because whatever hers was wasn't the best cookie ever.  But luckily this one is. 
Oats, nuts, coconut, chocolate ... there's a lot going on in these cookies. And it's all sooo good.  I made 1/3 of the recipe and ended up with 12 GIANT cookies ... so she wasn't kidding about giant cookies.  I also substituted walnuts for the pecans, sweetened coconut for the unsweetened and nixed the soaking in water and sugar (I'm pretty sure that will just get you to what I used, right?), and used chocolate chunks instead of chips.  That's right, go big or go home. 
Of course I had to test one almost straight out of the oven to make sure they were worthy of sharing.  And it was awfully hard to stop at one.  The last eleven cookies barely survived the weekend, and Josh and I were the only ones eating them - with a few little bites for Gus and Jake.  (None of the chocolate part - but even if we had, old dogs deserve whatever they want!) 
I've already been thinking about making another batch of these ...  I know they're not good for my body, but they certainly seem good for the spirit! 

The Loss of a Good Friend

I've held off writing this post for such a long time.  For some reason I couldn't bring myself to actually write about the last weekend of June, which Josh and I actually spent having lots of fun, but which culminated in a devastating loss for both of us. 
We were both off of work for a long weekend and we spent most of it up in Baltimore with Josh's family.  Most of the weekend was spent indulging in our favorite restaurants, including a trip to Cafe Spice for the best Indian food ever, dinner at Addis Ababa once we got back to Silver Spring, and Sunday brunch at Muse Cafe - where some anonymouse (and generous) person paid our bill!  The most hilarious part of the Muse Cafe gesture was that we'd been complaining (to each other) the whole time about how poorly run the place was that morning.  It is set up as a vegan brunch buffet, but the servers weren't replenishing the food quickly enough, so many items were out and every time something was replaced (with invariably an incredibly small quantity) people would lunge at the new item like vultures.  We felt sort of bad and wondered if maybe someone had heard us complaining and thought this would brighten our day.  Little did they know that we're just complainers and we were already in a perfectly good mood :) 
Though we were homebodies for most of the weekend, we went on a pretty exciting outing Saturday morning when we attended a vegan wine and cheese tasting and tour and Burleigh Manor Animal Sanctuary.  We had lots of fun touring around to meet the animals and then loading up our plates with delicious vegan cheeses.  Josh opted for the grape juice, rather than the wine (which was smart on his part ... Maryland isn't known for their wines, and for good reason!). 
Though we spent a lot of time out and about (mostly eating), we wanted to make sure we spent lots of time with the dogs that weekend.  We took them on a long car trip and a short walk.  Both 14 and in poor health, we knew this would be our last chance to spend a lot of time with them.  Unfortunately, we didn't know just how close to the end it really was.  Just a couple days after I took this picture, the cutey on the left, Jake, passed away. 

Since then we've all been incredibly upset.  Obviously Josh's parents are very broken up, but Josh and I have also been surprised at how difficult it has been for us.  And we aren't even used to having Jake around day-to-day.  We realize that Gus (on the right) also doesn't have much time left.  And even though you can remind yourself that 14 is a very full life for a pet, and that both Jake and Gus are about the most spoiled dogs you'll ever know, it doesn't seem to actually make it any easier.  I'm taking Jake's loss as hard as I would a lot of other good friends.  I will greatly miss having him in my life, but I'm so grateful to have known him. 

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Fourth!

Happy Fourth everyone!  Or should I say, Merry Independence Day!  I'm definitely planning on a patriotic viewing of the movie Independence Day later today, mostly just to watch the best presidential speech ever delivered.  Yay 'Merica!
But of course this day wouldn't be complete without a little red, white, and blue to celebrate too.  And what's the most delicious patriotic treat out there?  That's right ... Craisin and white chocolate scones sitting in front of a blue background ... erm ...  Well, two out of three isn't bad.  And that just means these would make a great Canada Day treat too :) 
I adapted these delicious vegan scones from a scone recipe I'd been using for years.  But needless to say they require quite a few vegan replacements.  Fortunately, the end product tastes just as great and seems to have just the same consistency as the original.  Science wins again. 
Craisin and White Chocolate Scones (Vegan!)
(makes 12 scones)

2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar + 1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
8 tablespoons vegan butter, cold
1/2 cup craisins
1/2 cup vegan white chocolate chips
1/2 cup vegan sour cream
1 vegan egg
Preheat oven to 400. 
Combine first five ingredients, then cube butter and mix into dry ingredients by hand until you achieve a coarse meal texture. 
Stir in craisins and chocolate chips.
Whisk together egg and sour cream in a separate bowl, then mix into dry/butter mixture until the dough comes together.
Turn dough out onto a floured surface and divide into two balls. 
Press each ball into a disk about 3/4 inch thick. 
Sprinkle each disk with the 1 tbsp sugar. 
Using a sharp knife (to cut through those chocolate chips and craisins), cut each disk into six triangles. 
Transfer the triangles to a parchment-lined baking sheet, at least an inch apart (they won't expand much). 
Bake 15 minutes, until golden. 

Quick Workout Recap

I'm afraid last week's workouts left a little something to be desired (and, full disclosure, this week's recap will look quite similar).  I haven't been feeling the workouts lately, so I've been taking a lot of days off (or basically off - see Wednesday).  Maybe it's the incredibly hot and humid weather, or maybe it's my own laziness.  Probably some combination of both.  Still, I had a few tough workouts last week, which isn't too shabby.  Certainly better than some people.  But still not up to my usual standards.  I'll just have to work harder to get my groove back soon ...

Monday - 2 mile walk to the library, 20 minutes on the exercise bike at manual 6, plus 3 sets of 10 with 2 10-lbs: bicep curls, shoulder press, bent over row; 2 sets of 10 with 50 lbs: dead lifts

Tuesday - 30 minute interval workout on the treadmill

Wednesday - 10 pull-ups with the blue band

Thursday - off

Friday - off

Saturday - 50 minute hike in Rock Creek Park

Sunday - 3 mile run along Sligo Creek

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Chocolate Chip Cookie Muffins

June 20 my office held its annual summer picnic.  Everyone gathered in the sunshine at Sandy Point State Park to engage in merriment and lots of eating.  Though the catering was BBQ, there was still a veggie option - grilled veggie wrap with cheese - and a vegan option - veggie wrap with no cheese.  The weather was beautiful and not too hot, so I never cashed in my snow cone ticket (by the way, that should really read "snow ball" - this is Maryland, after all!). 
But the real highlight of the day for most people was the dessert contest.  The contest was "election" themed (the Maryland primary was held June 24), and four prizes were awarded: chocolate, non-chocolate, election theme, and grand prize (plus a couple of honorable mentions).  I think there were 19 entries overall.  And I didn't get to try a single one ... :( 
The plight of a vegan is that it's very hard to eat dessert anywhere, really.  Not at restaurants, not at a coffee shop, not at your friend's house, and not at your work picnic.  Not a lot of baked goods "happen" to be vegan, and rarely do people go out of their way to accommodate you.  Nope, if you're vegan, it's up to you to make your own desserts.  Which I do ... on a very regular basis. 
So while I salivated over the dessert table at the picnic trying to live vicariously through others by asking them about their favorite desserts (most people thought it was the key lime mousse cake, apparently), I was secretly formulating a plan to make my own delicious and vegan dessert the instant I got home.  And the plan?  Chocolate Chip Cookie Muffins!  (Adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie's recipe for blueberry muffins.) 
Chocolate Chip Cookie Muffins
(Makes two muffins - regular size, not large)
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • heaping 1/16 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tbsp sugar (maybe go to 1 tbsp if using a plain peanut butter)
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter (I used White Chocolate Wonderful - yum!)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp milk of choice (I used almond)
  • 1 tbsp mini chocolate chips

  • Directions:

    Preheat your oven to 330 degrees. Mix first four ingredients, then add the next three. Mix until just combined (don’t overmix).  Fold in chocolate chips, then spoon into two regular-sized muffin liners.  Bake for 17 minutes, but start checking at 15.

    Make At Home Chive Dumplings

    When Josh and I manage to get to Thai Arroy for dinner in Baltimore (which unfortunately isn't very often), we always order some mix of three things: Massaman Curry with Tofu, Drunken Noodles, and Chive Dumplings.  If we ever get all three it's because we were really hungry and way too glutinous for our own good.  Usually we'll end up getting either the curry or the noodles as an entree to split, but we almost always start off with the chive dumpling appetizer. 
    Since we both love them so much and they didn't seem like they should really be so hard, I went searching on the Internets for a chive dumpling recipe I could make at home.  I came across this recipe, and though it required some unusual ingredients, it didn't look too difficult once I got everything I needed together.  I ended up ordering sticky rice flour on Amazon and had to try the grocery store three times before finally coming away with regular chives, but I finally got all the ingredients I needed together last week and got to work.  Easy peasy, right? 
    Not so much.  I hit more than a few mishaps along the way.  First, I figured out that the recipe actually needs 1 and 1/2 cups of water - not just 1/2 cup.  And apparently I'm pretty much terrible at forming those nice little purse-shaped dumplings.  I gave up after three horrible tumor-looking dumplings and went with the trusted potsticker shape I'm used to. 
    Then I steamed the dumplings for 5-7 minutes per the recipe instructions .... and ended up with gluey, disgusting-looking dumplings, completely not fit for human consumption.  With nothing to lose, and a general preference for fried dumplings anyway, I tossed the gluey mess into a pan with a mix of sesame and vegetable oil.  After the first couple of dumplings I also learned my lesson about not trying to move the dumpling mid-fry, but just let it sit there until it's time to flip.  Luckily what I ended up with actually wasn't too bad. 
    After about an hour of work I had seven fairly tasty dumplings to show for it (I'd halved the recipe due to my chive shortage).  For my dumpling sauce I mixed together chili sauce, soy sauce, and a bit of sugar. 
    Would I do it again?  Probably not as long as Thai Arroy is still around ...  So now what should I do with the rest of a huge bag of sticky rice flour? 

    Thursday, June 26, 2014

    Last Week's Workouts

    Last week's workouts were pretty ho-hum.  I wasn't really feeling it most days, so I just tried to get something in each day ...  Which I still managed to do, so I guess that's not too shabby. 
    Monday - 60 pull-ups with the green band
    Tuesday - 20 pull-ups with the green band plus 2 mile walk to library and early voting! Yay for participation, right? :)
    Wednesday - 30 minutes on the exercise bike on manual level 7

    Thursday - 30 minutes on the exercise bike on manual level 7 plus 30 pull-ups with the green band
    Friday - 23 pull-ups green band plus 30 minutes on the exercise bike on manual level 7
    Saturday - 2 mile run outside - gotta enjoy the weather when you get the chance!
    Sunday - back outside for a 1 hour and 45 minute hike in Rock Creek Park.  I took a different route than usual and quickly learned that change is bad.  I bushwhacked a lot of the way on overgrown, buggy paths that didn't even offer much elevation change to challenge me.  Oh well, back to my usual circuit next time I guess!

    Monday, June 23, 2014

    Soup in Summer?

    A little while ago I came across this recipe for Pumpkin-Butternut Squash Soup with Kale.  It looked so yummy - with a lot of my favorite flavors all mixed into one bowl of goodness - that I knew I wanted to try it.  But the recipe's author, Tina, wrote her post in March, when a warm bowl of soup always sounds just perfect.  It doesn't seem to make as much sense in summer ... especially when said summer is the sweltering heat of DC. 
    But it looked so good I decided to crank up the AC and give it a try anyway.  Fortunately, unless you've just been outside for a steamy run, a bowl of soup is still quite nice in summer.  It's a bit like a shower - sometimes making your body warmer actually makes your surroudings feel that much cooler! 
    I tweaked the recipe just a bit by nixing the ricotta, cinnamon, and nutmeg, (of course) substituting soy milk for cow's, and increasing the milk a bit - probably because I also used a lot more kale to make the whole thing more filling.  I'd say I ended up with proportions more like: 1/2 cup butternut squash, 1/2 cup pumpkin, 3/4 cup milk, 1 1/2 cups kale, salt and pepper.
    Definitely a winner in my book.  It's so simple to throw together and low in calories but still substantial enough to serve as a main course.  I made it three times in one week (until my pumpkin ran out).  Plus Panda enjoyed helping to make sure every bit of pumpkin got used up.  I'm sure this soup will be that much better once it gets cold again - can't wait!

    Thursday, June 19, 2014

    Searching for the Right Vegan Hollandaise Sauce Recipe

    I was kind of a weird kid.  Whenever we went out to brunch, my go-to meal was always Eggs Benedict with no Canadian bacon and no yolks in the eggs.  I never liked the idea of ham, even when I ate meat.  And egg yolks, of course, are gross.  Runny egg yolks are even worse.  My mom joked that our server would think I had a heart condition.  But mostly what I was going for was the Hollandaise sauce.  Everything else was just a delivery mechanism. 
    When I got a bit older I found that rather than nixing everything out of an order of Eggs Benedict, at some restaurants I could order asparagus with Hollandaise.  Or better yet, I could make my own sauce at home and whip it up myself in minutes.  Which I did.  Over and over and over again. 
    When I became vegan it may not have been the thing I missed most, but every once in a while it would cross my mind.  And as I thought about it, I figured it should be easy enough to make in vegan form.  So why not give it a whirl? 
    As a starting point, I followed this recipe from Vegetarian Times.  Unfortunately, I got a bit cocky and estimated all my measurements.  When I tasted round 1 the sauce had way too much lemon and a bit too much spice.  I promptly added more tofu, more salt, more oil (I used olive rather than corn) and tinkered around until I got a version I liked.  When I sat down to really eat the sauce on asparagus and toast, I found it was still too lemony for my taste, but it was definitely a decent approximation of real Hollandaise.  Definitely a good place to start, at least.  I enjoyed my asparagus, toast, and Hollandaise literally for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (not all on the same day).  This is definitely a recipe I'll continue tinkering with until I find the right balance.  And when I do I'll be sure to share the results!

    Blueberry Muffins and Thai Arroy Dinner

    Last week I managed to score a last-minute dentist appointment Monday morning (yay for cancellations!).  Unfortunately, I scheduled said appointment with my dentist up in Baltimore (I'm too lazy to look for a new dentist).  And now that the dentist isn't walking distance from my apartment, but instead a good 1 1/2 drive away, I asked Josh's parents if I could stay at their place Sunday night to make the Monday morning drive a bit an hour shorter. 
    They were heading out to dinner for the evening, which would leave me alone with their cable TV, the dogs, and to fend for myself for dinner.  Fortunately, that gave me a great excuse to head to Thai Arroy on my drive up Sunday night to pick up yummy drunken noodles - which Thai Arroy will make vegan for you on request.  I haven't had these in forever and they were truly delicious.  Plus the serving was so huge I had leftovers for the next day too!  Dog cuddles, TV binging, and tasty food ... definitely a great night.
    Of course I didn't realize I'd have drunken noodles left for breakfast the next day, so I still wanted to show up prepared.  Plus I always like to bring a treat with me when I visit Josh's parents to share the vegan love as much as I can.  For this visit I made a small batch of blueberry muffins.  I followed Chocolate Covered Katie's recipe for a single-serving blueberry muffin, so I actually had to quadruple the recipe to get the eight I ended up with.  (My muffins were a bit on the small side to stretch to eight.  If you wanted really big muffins you'd probably end up with five or six.)
    I've made these muffins before with mixed success, but I knew that they would be a hit this time if I did it right.  They really are best made with coconut oil, with the applesauce version declared to be "gross".  Since I had leftover Thai food, I ate one little muffin at breakfast and then snagged another to go for a snack the next day.  I left the other six behind for Josh's parents.  And though I left before they got to sample them, the muffins were definitely a win in my book ...  Hopefully they agreed!

    Tuesday, June 17, 2014

    Reading, Reading, Reading ... On the Exercise Bike!

    I found myself pretty sore at the beginning of last week from Fran the previous Friday.  I know ... three and four days later and I was still sore?!?!?  Normally I don't feel the real pain from a hard workout until two days later, but usually not three or four ...  I guess it was a good workout! 
    But I was so sore I definitely wanted to listen to my body, so I spent the first three days of the week taking it easy on the exercise bike and getting some reading done. 
    Monday - 30 minutes on the exercise bike at manual 5

    Tuesday - 30 minutes on the exercise bike at manual 6

    Wednesday - 30 minutes on the exercise bike manual 6

    Thursday - off
    Despite my pain from Fran at the beginning of the week, I decided to go right back there again on Friday.  Aaannnnnddd ... I improved my time by 30 seconds with the same weight!  Next time to try 40 pound squat thrusts ... (Ugh!)  Fortunately, I was no where near as sore after Fran round 2.  I must be getting stronger! 
    Friday - 30 minutes on the elliptical at manual 6 plus 7:21 minute Fran with 30 lbs squat thrusts and 55 lbs pull-downs
    Saturday - 1 hour and 40 minute hike in Rock Creek Park
    Sunday - 30 pull-ups with green band plus 30 minutes on the exercise bike at manual 6

    Monday, June 16, 2014

    My Love for Peanut Butter

    When I was at the grocery store the other day, I saw something truly wonderful.  There are few things in life as great as a sale on Peanut Butter & Co. peanut butter.  Actually, I think I really showed a great deal of restraint by only purchasing two jars (considering I had peanut butter at home already).  I bought one jar of White Chocolate Wonderful and one of Mighty Maple.  And have been blissfully devouring them all week. 
    I can eat peanut butter on pretty much anything.  It's probably my favorite food, and I'm always stretching its versatility to the limits.  Granted, I bought two sweet flavors at the store, so most of my peanut butter consumption this week has steered clear of the savory variety, but not entirely. 
    Of course, my favorite accompanyment for peanut butter is fruit, whether it's slathered on apple slices, mixed with a mashed banana, or incorporated into one of my morning protein shakes. 

    I also took the opportunity to step up the game on my Peanut Butter Cup Chia Pudding by using White Chocolate Wonderful in place of plain, creamy peanut butter.  Oh yes, what a delicious improvement!  This stuff is great for dessert, of course, but also served as a delicious breakfast this week - full of protein and fiber, it does a great job of keeping you full until lunch time! 
    And while of course peanut butter and grain seems normal enough when bread is involved - there's always peanut butter toast and PB&J sandwiches - not everyone thinks of peanut butter popcorn.  But this sweet and salty snack is super easy to make, and makes a surprisingly filling movie snack! 
    Just prepare popcorn, nuke enough peanut butter for desired coverage (I used three tablespoons of Mighty Maple), drizzle PB over popcorn, and stir to coat thoroughly.  Then be sure not to tell anyone you made it so you can enjoy the whole bowl yourself!

    Thursday, June 12, 2014

    Vegan Cotswold from the Non-Dairy Formulary

    Since he was just a little boy, Josh's favorite cheese has been Cotswold (I know, what a pretentious little boy!).  Needless to say, I haven't had any since becoming vegan, but I thought it would be a great thing to be able to bring backed into our (shared) lives.  So I decided to try expanding into the more complicated reaches of the Non-Dairy Formulary to give their Cotswold recipe a try (labeled as Gloucester with Onions and Chives).  The recipe is actually somewhat similar to the ones for brie and Camembert, relying on coconut oil, soy milk, kappa carageenan, miso paste, and tapioca flour, amongst a few other ingredients.  The ingredients I didn't already have on hand were easy enough to get - tomato paste for color, plus chives and dried onions for that signature Cotswold flavor.   Though I had some difficulty with tapioca flour in my vegan brie (ultimately deciding both the brie and Camembert are best without it), I decided I should at least start by following the recipe the way it appears in the book before messing with it. 
    And unfortunately it looks like messing with the recipe is exactly what I'm going to need to do.  My Cotswold never really firmed up all the way - in fact it stuck horribly to the mold and I had to scrape it out and kind of glop it back together.  Not a pretty sight, is it? 
    Fortunately the taste is better - reminiscent of Cotswold, at least.  But that's really due to the chives and onions.  Even after days of storing it, per the book's instructions, in the fridge wrapped in a paper towel that gets changed once a day and then wrapped in plastic wrap, it's still a very spreadable consistency.  Not exactly Cheez-Whiz texture, but not particularly far off either.  And this clearly isn't what the book's author would have expected, because the instructions say after 24 hours of chilling you should be able to slice or grate it.  But mine definitely wouldn't hold up to a cheese grater. 
    Since nixing the tapioca flour actually made both my brie and Camembert firmer, I might try this route next time for the Cotswold as well.  It tasted good enough to me that further experimentation seems worth it.  So ... I guess more Cotswold posts coming soon!

    Tuesday, June 10, 2014

    R2D2 and the Return of Fran

    Last week's workouts were really something.  Though I started slow hitting the gym and doing basic cardio every day, late in the week there were a lot of very involved workouts and I really ran all over the gamut of workout possibilities. 
    Monday - 35 minutes on the elliptical at speed 6, manual setting
    Tuesday - 35 minutes on the elliptical at speed 5, manual setting
    Wednesday - 30 minutes on the stationary bike at speed 7, manual setting
    Thursday - 4 mile jog/walk (2 mile jog, 1 mile walk, 1 mile jog) in Sligo Creek where I may have been seen in all my sweatiness by lots of people, but at least I got to enjoy the R2D2-looking trash cans along the way :) 
    Friday - 5 minute warm up on the stationary bike at manual 5, Fran at-home WOD (7:51 time, using 30 lbs for squat thrusts and 55 lbs for pull downs - 70 lbs for first 4, then down to 55 lbs for the rest), 10 more minutes on the bike at manual 5, 3 sets each - 10 bicep curls with 2 10-lb dumbbells, 10 bent over rows with 2 10-lb dumbbells, 12 lunges, then finally 10 more minutes on the bike at manual 5.
    Saturday - 1 hour and 40 minute hike in Rock Creek Park 

    Sunday - I did a little treadmill experimentation with the goal of increasing my jogging time.  While I'm comfortable at about a 5.0 speed on the treadmill for a half hour, I realize this is pretty slow by most people's standards and wanted to see if I could increase it.  While I can easily go to 5.2 without much issue, something like 6.0 is quite uncomfortable ... which made it my new goal.  The treadmill routine looked something like intervals, just very long ones.  Basically my goal was to go as long as possible at 6.0 (original goal set for 10 minutes - exceeded, yay!), then recover walking, and go again. 
    Treadmill Speed Increase Routine
    Walk 1 min at 3.0 speed
    Run 11 min at 6.0 speed
    Walk 3 min at 3.2 speed
    Run 6 min at 6.0 speed
    Walk 4 min at 3.2 speed
    Run 5 min at 6.0 speed
    2 minute cool down at 3.2 speed

    Saturday, June 7, 2014

    Don't Watch Me Sweat!

    After eating several servings of vegan Camembert per day for several days, I decided it was probably time to take my calorie-burning exercise up a notch.  Plus it was beautiful weather Thursday evening, everything just came together to make it perfect for a jog along Sligo Creek.  
    I'm not a great runner.  I get out of breath easily, I always cop out of running up long hills, and my knees aren't so great so I can never go more than a few miles anyway.  But I still recognize that it's one of the best calorie burners around, so I'm always forcing myself to get out and just do it, regardless of how miserable it makes me.  The only thing that makes it bearable is getting to enjoy some nice scenery along the way. 
    Unfortunately, quite a lot of other people feel the same way about the Sligo Creek Trail.  Hundreds of people use it for walking, jogging, biking, picnicing, lounging, and everything in between.  Which means you're passing someone every few seconds.  While I was jogging Thursday I'm pretty sure I even saw someone I know, but my recognition processors didn't kick in until the person had already gone, so I couldn't do a double take.  But that's all the better, because I certainly don't feel like running into anyone I know when I'm working out. 

    Let's face it: I look crappy when I exercise.  I get all lobster-faced and I swear I sweat way more than the average person.  I would much rather not see anyone at all when I'm sweating, let alone someone I know.  Part of my attraction to the gym is the comfort of knowing that everyone there is staring at a TV or magazine rather than looking at me.  How vain is that?  I know, I know.  But I'm always secretly a bit irritated if I walk into the gym in my building and there's even a single other person there.  Sweating and huffing and puffing is really something that no one else needs to see (get your minds out of the gutter!).  Unfortunately, I'm not (and don't expect to ever be) rich enough to have my own home gym.  So left with the choice between my embarassment of being seen at not my loveliest and not exercising at all, I'll still choose the exercise.  I guess that's just another form of vanity, isn't it? 

    Friday, June 6, 2014

    Happy National Donut Day!

    Not to be confused with National Doughnut Day, which is apparently in November.  Hey, the more days we spend celebrating donuts ... or doughnuts ... the better, right?  Unfortunately, it's a rare opportunity that I get to enjoy a donut since becoming vegan (unless I get out to San Fran to hit up Pepples).
    So what option did I have on National Donut Day but to try my hand at making my own donuts at home.  I've never made my own donuts before, but I saw this recipe on Chocolate Covered Katie recently and it looked so good I thought I just had to try it.  I originally thought that at just 34 calories per donut (calculations by Katie), how far wrong could I go?  Well, after actually making my version, I decided to put everything into the MyFitnessPal recipe nutrition calculator and got 89 calories per donut ... significantly more.  Whomp whomp.  I'm guessing the big difference was that I went ahead and used real sugar rather than a substitute.  My milk of choice was also soy (had it on hand), which is higher in calories than some alternatives.  By halving the ingredients listed listed for the chocolate topping, I got the total down to 72 calories per donut and still felt like I had a decent amount of chocolate coating.  It seemed like a good compromise. 

    I don't own a donut pan, so I opted to make donut holes rather than your traditional-looking donut.  Well, even the donut hole plan didn't exactly work out ...  I used a mini muffin pan so, surprise surprise!, what I ended up with was chocolate coated mini muffins.  Fortunately the still tasted pretty good.  But there's really no illusion that these are donuts.  A cake donut that isn't shaped like a donut is ... guess what? ... cake.  So it seems like if I really want to celebrate National Donut Day again (or National Doughnut Day in November), it seems I'll need to get myself one of these.  Or just head back to Pepples ...

    Thursday, June 5, 2014

    Vegan Camembert from the Non-Dairy Formulary

    Since getting the Non-Dairy Formulary for Christmas, I've made a couple of attempts at making vegan brie, including coming to the very important realization that failing to follow the recipe on my first go was crucial to making it actually seem somewhat like cheese (by accidentally omitting the mixing in of tapioca flour, but instead only using it to dust the outside).  I decided I should move on from the brie recipe for a while and try something new ... like Camembert! 
    Fortunately, the book's recipe for Camembert is actually just the recipe for brie but with a teaspoon of truffle oil mixed in.  Which is quite handy.  I knew I had all the ingredients, and this also gave me a chance to go back to my flour-less recipe to see if my mistake would really yield a better vegan cheese result. 
    And the results?  Love it!  Nixing the flour is definitely the best bet (in my opinion).  The truffle oil gives the cheese a lovely flavor, though it means it's not ideal for sweet uses (like topping with honey or on my beloved apple and brie sandwiches).  But it certainly made a tasty open-faced mushroom sandwich.  I just lightly sauteed some sliced baby bellas with seasoning, then served them on toasted bread topped with the Camembert.  Kind of like a cheapo version of mushroom pizza.  I'm probably the first person to ever refer to something with Camembert as "cheapo" ...

    Wednesday, June 4, 2014

    Last Week's Workouts

    Last week I was all about hiking in Rock Creek Park.  It's got a lot going for it ... close to my house, good elevation mix (not straight up hill for long periods), and not too crowded - but just crowded enough that you feel safe.  There's one looped trail in particular that I like to hike.  I generally prefer loops so you don't have to backtrack over what you've already done, and a short-ish loop like this one makes it easy to extend your hike by just going around the loop again.  It gives you a nice stop by your car if you want to grab water or a snack, but doesn't force you to bring everything with you.  Unfortunately, I don't know exactly how long my trail is, only that it consistently takes me 50 minutes to go once around the loop - so maybe 2.5 miles? 
    Last week's workouts:
    Monday - 1 hour and 40 minute hike in Rock Creek Park (two times around the loop)
    Tuesday  - off
    Wednesday - 45 minutes on the exercise bike at level 6 manual
    Thursday  - off
    Friday - 30 minutes on the elliptical at level 5 manual plus 30 minutes on the exercise bike at level 6 manual
    Saturday - 50 minute hike at Rock Creek Park (once around the loop) plus 2 mile walk to library
    Sunday - 50 min hike at Rock Creek Park (once around the loop)
    I love hiking as opposed to hitting the gym for a lot of reasons.  For one, I get a little sunshine (hello, vitamin D!).  I also genuinely love experiencing a bit of nature - smelling flowers, watching birds and squirrels run around (some days I even spot a chipmunk or a deer), and feeling like I'm breathing fresh air (even if that's just an illusion and I'm still breathing smoggy DC air).  A lot of times I hike by myself and don't listen to music or a book and just take it all in.  But if I do listen to anything, I prefer to listen to audiobooks rather than music.  Hiking alone with basically no one around and few distractions, you can really get into an audiobook and sort of melt into that world.  Last week I took "Frankenstein" on all of my hikes, which was a particularly good book to lose oneself in while out in nature.  It might be too creepy to take on a night hike, but for broad daylight it was just perfect. 
    Do you ever listen to audiobooks?  What book would you recommend listening to on a hike?

    Chia Weekend

    When I was a kid my mom never bought the fun foods that all my friends seemed to enjoy all the time.  That's not to say we didn't eat our fair share of junk, it was just the adult versions of junk.  One of her favorite treats to have around was chocolate covered almonds and I was obsessed with eating risotto as a kid (made from a box mix).  Yeah, I was that complete weirdo ...  But every once in a while I'd get to have a fun treat at a friend's house, and one of my favorites was hamburger helper. 
    I don't even know why I liked it so much.  The whole idea is really pretty silly because without the contents of the box it's still incredibly easy to make a hamburger-helper-like meal.  And that's just what I've been doing all the time lately.  Just make up elbow macaroni, then mix in vegetarian beef crumbles, pasta sauce, and any additions you like.  I've added basil, broccoli, mushrooms ... but the possibilites are endless.  I even ate my version of hamburger helper for breakfast Sunday morning!

    I also went full-tilt into chia seed mode this weekend.  First, I revisited one of my new favorite recipes, Almond Joy Chia Pudding.  I was out of almond milk, so I mixed up the recipe using plain soy milk which worked just as well.  But the real innovation came when I dropped the container of soy milk, spilling milk all over the kitchen floor.  Distracted by the mess, I never managed to add maple syrup to the mix.  And you know what?  I didn't miss the sweetness at all.  In fact, I never would have noticed anything except I was surprised by how much thicker the pudding seemed and thought it looked a lot whiter than normal.  At first I thought it was the difference between soy and almond milk, but then I realized it was the syrup.  I liked the non-syrup version so much I'll definitely never go back to adding the unnecessary calories. 
    My second chia endeavor of the weekend was based on another recipe I saw on the blog Carrots 'n Cake, this time for Blueberry Chia Seed Jelly.  I thought that since I was loving chia pudding so much, chia jelly would also be great.  Unfortunately, I didn't feel like this was any great innovation.  I'll admit, I might have messed this up a bit myself by using frozen wild blueberries as opposed to "regular" blueberries - the wild blueberries tend to be smaller and firmer.  Regular blueberries might have been better at mushing into an actual jelly consistency, rather than rolling around on my bread like all I did was defrost blueberries and set them on top.  The chia seeds certainly didn't seem to do anything to create a jelly texture either ...

    Oh well ... chia jelly fail.  Maybe I'll try it again sometime with regular blueberries.  Hmmm ... or raspberries!?  I guess I haven't sworn of chia jelly just yet ...