Saturday, January 11, 2014

Zoo Lights

So it seems my blogging has been majorly slacking off lately.  Since session started Wednesday, I've been pretty bogged down with other things, and when I actually do have some free time, I don't really ever seem to want to spend it blogging ... Whomp whomp!  I'll have to be more realistic about how often I'll be updating things here, and save my updates for just the best of the best subjects. 
While I'll be nixing lots of less-than-super-exciting topics, I wanted to make sure I included this post about the excursion Josh and I made into DC right after Christmas.  Half of what was so great about our little adventure is that we actually took the Metro into DC!  Silly, I know, but since we moved to Silver Spring right next to the Metro we've probably taken it all of about three times.  We really need to get ourselves more oriented to the public transit! 
We headed down to the National Zoo to meet up with our friend from college to go see the Zoo Lights!  We saw an ad for the Zoo Lights posted in the elevator of our apartment, and while you might think it's a silly kid thing to do, the lights were actually really great.  Plus they had all sorts of other things going on at the zoo. 
In the building that houses the gift shop (which was a fun little side adventure in itself), they had animal-themed Christmas trees - like my favorite, the panda tree.  They also had set up all the entries into the tiger-themed gingerbread house contest.  The entries had already been judged, so we knew who the winners and "honorable mentions" were, but we still went through and judged them all really harshly ourselves.  Basically we decided by the end that we would crush that competition if we enter next year.  And apparently the prize is a behind-the-scenes with the tiger cubs!  (Though this does not mean, as we originally thought, hugging and cuddling baby tigers - boo!) 
We also wandered around for a while and checked out a few train displays, including this one which included a really amazing paper animal vista. 
Eventually we managed to find our way outside to check out the actual light displays, which included standard lit trees, but also all sorts of animals made from string lights, some of which were even animated!  The whole thing was tons of fun, plus totally free (my favorite kind of activity). 
After strolling through the zoo for a while we headed over to Open City for dinner.  They helpfully label everything on their menu, so it's easy to find vegan options.  I ordered the Bohemian Sandwich, which was roasted eggplant, yellow squash, zucchini, red peppers, and grilled onions with vegan chipotle mayo and vegan cheddar on ciabatta bread.  Perhaps not terribly inspired, but in my book you can't go too wrong with a veggie sandwich.  Fun dinner with good friends and a festive evening looking at Christmas lights - all-in-all, a great evening!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Interval Love and Coconut Cream Sauce Fail

Knowing how much I was likely to indulge before, during, and after Christmas I've upped my workout frequency over the past couple of weeks.  Not sure if made much of a difference, but who knows how bad things might have gotten if not, right?!  My favorite workout of the bunch (and one I've done four times now in the last two weeks) is a simple interval treadmill workout.
Total Time: 30 minutes
  1. Start by jogging at an easy pace for a 5 minute warm up - I use somewhere between 5.0 and 5.2
  2. Walk for 1minute (this is basically to make things come out to an even 30 minutes - around 3.0 to 3.5 pace
  3. Start intervals of 2 minutes sprinting, 2 minutes walking, 2 minutes sprinting .... through the 24 minute mark (you should finish with a sprint) - a sprint for me is 7.0 to 7.2 pace
  4. Walk one more minute to catch your breath
  5. Finish with a 5 minute cool-down jog. 
This one always gets me nice and sweaty, and I often feel it in my legs the next day - or maybe that's the leg presses I tend to toss in for good measure?
On Christmas Eve Eve (Dec. 23) I decided to whip up something that would feel really fresh and flavorful - pasta primavera!  I'd never actually made this dish before, but I've enjoyed it at restaurants so much I decided it couldn't be that hard to recreate at home.  The best part was that it helped me use up a bunch of veggies that would otherwise have gone bad when we headed off to Josh's parents' house for a few days.  In my veggie mix: grape tomatoes, broccoli, peas, orange pepper, and Swiss chard. 
While my usual pasta go-to sauce is cashew cream, I decided to try using plain coconut coffee creamer as a base instead.  I thought it would be an easy substitute for days when I didn't plan ahead enough to soak cashews.  No such luck.  I managed to make the coconut cream work, but the sauce was way too thin and when I tried adding cornstarch to thicken it up it just ended up lumpy.  Luckily I had all those tasty vegetables in there to cover for the less-than-stellar sauce. 
I tried the coconut cream sauce again New Year's Eve without any more success.  I tried the coconut cream sauce with baby bella mushrooms and white wine.  It came out pretty bland and uninteresting.  Oh well, I guess it's back to the cashew cream next time ...

Happy New Year and Tofu Quiche

Happy New Year!  I'm not actually a big New Year's person ... I don't really like going out to the big parties, and for some reason it always seems like the one night a year when I don't want to stay up late.  But I did anyway and found out yet another thing I don't like about our new apartment in Silver Spring - you can't see any fire works from the balcony!  In our old place in Baltimore we could see the fireworks at the Inner Harbor, plus at least a couple of other smaller fireworks shows going on around the city.  But even though we're just as high in Silver Spring, no such luck on the view.  We could definitely hear the pop of fireworks, but not a one in sight.  Bummer! 
I also don't tend to participate in New Years resolution-making.  I figure if it's worth doing at all, then you should resolve it the moment you think of it and immediately begin to execute (or save for the appropriate time to execute if it's not an immediate kind of thing).  Want to lose weight?  Start today!  Want to get a new job?  Start the hunt now!  So what are my ongoing resolutions that will continue through 2014? 
  1. Continue to exercise regularly and eat healthy.
  2. Continue to explore fun and tasty vegan recipes - and take every opportunity to share with others!
  3. Spend time with Josh and Panda (hopefully doing fun and interesting things ... well, not with Panda probably!)
Meanwhile, I'm still playing major catch up with Christmas-centered and other posts still to come.  I made this tofu quiche a few days before Christmas, but it was so incredibly delicious and surprisingly quiche-like that I had to post about it.  While the recipe called for sun dried tomatoes, mushrooms, and spinach, I would definitely be excited to try this recipe again with other vegetables.  I'm thinking broccoli, bell peppers, or asparagus! 
I followed the recipe almost to the letter, but I decided to add in a not-so-secret ingredient of my own that I picked up from Amazon a while back and had been looking for just such an occasion to use ... black salt!  Black salt has a pungent smell due to a high sulfur content ... less scientifically known as "eggy smell".  And with just a pinch in my tofu quiche, I also got a very distinct "eggy taste".  I was pretty worried about overdoing the flavor, so I really used just a small amount, but I was amazed at how far just a bit went. 
The quiche was a bit involved, requiring me to make a crumbly crust in addition to the tofu "egg" and veggie filling.  But the results were more than worth it.  The quiche turned out firm and easy to slice, plus delicious and relatively healthy-seeming.  Hey, tofu's got to be a lot healthier than eggs, right?
Plus one tofu quiche made for six generous slices - enough for three meals for Josh and I.  And the leftovers were just as good as the first slice.  Probably one of the few times Josh didn't grumble at eating leftovers ...
I can't wait to make this again.  It would make a great addition to a big brunch meal, and I really think any non-vegan would still love it.  (And I plan to test that theory very soon!)