Thursday, October 22, 2009

Half marathon 2.0 training

I haven't posted about running in forever, but I've totally kept up with it (at least over the past two months), amazingly.

After the Seattle Rock N' Roll half marathon at the end of June, I pretty much stopped running for two months. It was a nice break, but not recommended. It's not like I was planning to stop, it's just that my rest week turned into a rest month, and whenever you stop running for more than two weeks, you are pretty much screwing yourself. Valuable lesson: don't totally stop running if you ever plan to do it again! Just run a few miles two times a week, that's all it takes! The idea is just to keep yourself reasonably fit and maintain your running endurance.

So, after a painful few weeks of getting the ol' gears turning again, the long runs commenced with five miles on Oct. 3rd. We just did seven this past weekend, and freakishly all three long runs so far have gone pretty well! I remember in the spring every long run felt never-ending and occasionally tortuous. Maybe I retained some of my endurance? One can only hope.

During the week I'm doing 2-3 short runs, at a minimum of three miles in length, at my goal race pace. I'm working my way up to four mile short runs, and right now I'm around 3.4. Ultimately, I'd like every short run for the three final weeks to be four miles in length.
For this upcoming race, I'm using this training time to tweak some things I missed last time. The biggest is my water consumption: I just don't really like drinking it when I'm running, and that's why I got dehydrated at the end of the race in June. Now, I'm trying to make my long runs simulate the race better, and forcing myself to drink more. That means I need a bigger water belt, because currently I can only carry 8oz. Oh, damn, have to go shopping.

I'm also going to experiment replace Clif Shot Blocks with Nerds, because it seems like those will pretty much achieve the same thing and I'll be much more enthusiastic about consuming them. I'll keep you updated.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Vegan Table: reviewed

My latest cookbook acquisition is The Vegan Table, procured during our weekend jaunt to Portland. I've already cooked two recipes from it (the tofu-spinach lasagna pictured and butternut squash risotto with toasted sage), and am pumped to try out some more!

I've been a fan of Colleen's podcasts for about two years now; she's got a ton of great cooking and general lifestyle tips. This book is pretty unique in that the recipes are organized based on gathering type, and then further subdivided into seasonal menus. It's really nice to have pairing suggestions for recipes, just in case I don't feel like thinking about it, and I'm told what works well for big groups.

The butternut squash risotto was my first foray into risotto cookery, and I was fairly successful. Risotto is very time-consuming, so I don't think I'll be making it that often. After all, 25 minutes of constant stirring isn't really my idea of fun. However, I was very pleased with the final result (though I couldn't resist tweaking it a bit by adding caramelized onion). The lasagna turned out great and was super simple - it is now my go-to lasagna recipe, since it's really easy to modify. I LOVE that to make her tofu ricotta you just throw everything in a blender! And it's mixed with enough spinach that it's not really tofu-y.

Overall: great buy, and I'm excited to see what other treasures this book contains!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Queso-less Quesadillas

So I made these as a quick weeknight dinner and they turned out brilliantly! Mashed sweet potato (bake first for an hour in a 350F oven, wrapped in foil) provided a creamy binder and replaced the customary cheese. I sauteed some pepper and onions for few minutes, then added some pinto beans and cumin to round out the filling.

Now, the pièce de résistance was the fresh pineapple salsa to accompany the quesadillas. It was just diced pineapple, diced fresh tomato, a little bit of onion, and cilantro (I used the Dorat frozen cubes, from Trader Joe's, this time). Allow to mellow in the fridge for at least 30 minutes and you're good to go.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Breakfasting in autumn

I adore owning a waffle maker! Here is a pretty picture of the Vegan Brunch corn waffles I made a few weeks ago. Good, but not great. I think I need to play around with the temperature settings on our new waffle maker, and maybe slightly increase the flour/corn meal ratio. However, I really liked the addition of corn meal into the waffle batter, especially with the organic blueberry compote I made! Basically I just dumped a pint of blueberries in a saucepan with some sugar and cornstarch and stirred continuously, for about five minutes after it started getting hot and bubbly. Mmmmmm....... I wish tomorrow was the weekend.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Wayward Cafe - Seattle

Since I found myself in the U-District on Friday, I decided to try the Wayward Cafe, a reputable Seattle vegan restaurant. I'm so glad I did, because it was magical.
They automatically get props, just for the selection alone. Even in Seattle it's often difficult to be a vegetarian at alot of restaurants, so having an entire menu that is not only vegan, but also sounds GOOD is impressive. I got a half order of the biscuits and gravy (one biscuit) with sausage, plus a side of homefries, because I completed a six-mile long run an hour before and was famished. Well, I'm really glad I got a half order because it was HUGE! Basically a CD-sized herb biscuit split in half, with a sausage patty on either side smothered in mushroom gravy. Everything was fresh and delicious, exactly how you would want it to taste.It's a really laid-back vibe, which I like alot - not too much hipster presence. There of course were a bunch of UW students in their perfectly thick trendy glasses, skinny jeans, and plaid shirts, but they weren't too annoying and I'm willing to deal with them if it means I get to eat Wayward's awesome food.
AND it's not over-priced! My food was less than $8 before I left them $2 for tip. If you find yourself in that part of Seattle, hit up Wayward!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Word of the Day: Bake!

As in, "bake sale" and "bake-un."

Currently my oven is preheating to a cozy 350F (oh it just beeped!) so I can throw in some chocolate chip cookies. Tomorrow I'll be zipping up to the U-District to drop off my little creations at Sidecar for Pigs Peace for a bake sale they will be throwing Saturday and Sunday from 1-4 pm. All proceeds from the sale will benefit Pigs Peace Sanctuary, which as you may guess, owns the store and everything you buy there helps the sanctuary as well! So, if you live in the Seattle area, stop by this weekend to get a cookie and do a little grocery shopping for vegetarian essentials - it's for a good cause so you practically HAVE to!

Secondly, awhile back my mom gave me a shaker of Bacon Bacon, from Tastefully Simple. Basically it's a food company that does parties in people's houses to sell stuff, in the manner of Tupperware, Party Lite, and Pure Romance. My mom bought this because she felt like she HAD to buy something, and it turned out these are the best bac'un bits EVER! They're $8.99/bottle, so they'd better be. Seriously, if you have the opportunity get your paws on these! You won't believe it's vegetarian, and I guarantee you could fool meat-eaters!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tropical Explosion Tuesday

I loathe Tuesdays. I have ever since middle school, when I figured out that they usually fall when you are already ready for the weekend, yet it feels the the work/school week will go on forever. The fresh motivation of Monday is long gone. Fridays are obviously always great, because you've already checked out by noon, and Thursdays have that great energy of getting lots done to wrap up your week and the anticipation of the weekend. Tuesdays are the red-headed stepchild of the work week. Plus, crappy things tend to happen. Today was no exception - I left my gym clothes at home on accident, so my lunch break was spent driving back and forth - 40 minutes round trip. BUT there was a little nugget of goodness in my day: the amazing dinner I had the forethought to make on Sunday!

You see, Sunday I kind of went into domestic-goddess-on-crack mode, which I do from time to time. I made enough food for about five meals, much of which we are consuming over the course of this week. This was one of the dishes I crafted. It was modified from a recipe in this book, my collegiate cooking staple. I served it with quinoa and grilled pineapple, and it was purely orgasmic. And, as a pleasant surprise - really really healthy!

Lindsay's Jamaican Black Bean Pot

-2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed (or rehydrated equivalent)
-2 T. olive oil
-1 c. onion, chopped
-2 garlic cloves, chopped
-2 t. mustard powder
-1.5 T. molasses (use 1 T. if you use blackstrap)
-3 T. brown sugar
-2 t. dried thyme
-1 t. dried chili flakes
-1 red bell pepper, chopped
-1 big-ass sweet potato, diced
-1/2 c. veggie broth or water
-S & P

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F
2. Heat the oil in a saucepan over med-low heat and add the onion and garlic. Sautee for five minutes, until softened - no browning/burning!
3. Add the spices, molasses, and sugar. Cook for one minute, stirring to thoroughly combine everything. Stir in the black beans until combined, then dump everything in a nice casserole dish (ideally with a lid).
3. Stir in the pepper and sweet potato and mix well. Add the veggie broth, cover with lid or foil, and cook for 45 minutes.

Serve with a tasty grain (I highly recommend quinoa, or brown rice) and grilled pineapple or peaches.

Here's how I grilled my pineapple: slice yourself some fresh pineapple rings about 1" thick, then cut those in half. Brush both sides of each slice with some oil. Place on a pre-heated grill (about medium heat), arranged for optimal grill marks. It's key to make sure the grill isn't on full-blast, because you kind of want to slow cook the fruit to allow the sugars to caramelize. Leave alone for about five minutes, then come back and turn. After another five minutes, you're done!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Autumn = Awesome Soup-Making Time!

Yesterday I decided to dig through my lesser-used cookbooks and find some new recipes to jazz up this week's meals. I happened upon my old college favorite, my B&N vegetarian baragin bin cookbook. There's not too many earth-shattering recipes in here, but everything is really solid and there are loads of full-color photos, which is always fun.

Since it's autumn, and that means squash season, I went with a roasted root vegetable soup featuring the always tasty butternut squash. I tweaked the book's recipe a bit, so here's a general breakdown of how I created my masterpiece.

Cube, toss in olive oil, and roast the following in a 400 degree oven for about an hour, turning a few times to ensure even cooking:
-(1) butternut squash
-(2) turnips
-(1) parsnip
-(1) onion
-1 c. baby carrots

To make the flavors really pop, tuck in some sprigs of rosemary and thyme before baking. Sprinkle with sea salt and ground pepper. Also, make sure everything is spread out in a single layer and not too crowded - I had to use two baking sheets to achieve this.

Right before the veggies are done, bring about 6 cups of veggie or chik'n broth to a boil. Add veggies, and lower to a simmer for about 10 minutes. THEN the best part! Blend everything with your trusty immersion blender. You might have to add a little more broth/water to get the consistency you like. Afterward, I added about 1/2 c. soy creamer for added creaminess. I also had to add about 1-2 t. of salt, but I understand not everyone is a salt fiend like me, so adjust to your preference.

Yummmm. Is it really possible to take an appetizing picture of soup that looks like this? Oh well, use your imagination. Considering there was a thin layer of ice on my windshield this morning, this will be a delicious Monday lunch!

Southern cooking theme night

Here's a random dinner that came together surprisingly well, given that I didn't really have anything planned in advance. We had red chard and green beens that needed to get used, plus a pot of white beans that had just completed cooking. I turned all of that into Southern theme night! Themes are the best. Plus, we're from Michigan and now live in Seattle, so we don't even have to pretend that we know what real Southern food looks and tastes like. Add a little hot sauce, serve with cornbread, and you're good to go!

I ended up making Vegan Brunch's chorizo sausages as the centerpiece of the meal for the first time, and was really impressed. I've made Julie Hasson's seitan sausages before, but I must say the addition of mashed beans plus the perfect spice combo made this batch the best homemade sausage I've ever had (I used the aforementioned white beans instead of pinto - pretty sure it doesn't matter). Luckily I doubled the recipe so we have a bunch in the freezer now! After steaming, I browned them in a pan for a few minutes. Right before I took them off the heat, I stirred in a sauce comprised of about .5 c water, .25 c BBQ sauce, and .25 c hot wing sauce. That was just enough to give the "meat" a nice, saucy quality....

....which was what I was going for because when you make CORNBREAD you need something to sop up! I love cornbread. And Veganomicon's recipe is my favorite, because it tastes great and is too freakin' easy.

And I'm sorry all my pictures are kind of crappy....I've had my camera for about seven years and I refuse to get a new one as long as it is still alive. Plus, it gets dark way too early this time of year!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

First MoFo post, and it's about tea

Alright, so I need to get back on track with blogging, and Vegan MoFo sounds like the perfect time to do so! I'm going to try my best to post something every weekday for the month of October.

Today's post, since I'm consuming it right now: tea! I've always liked it, and am trying to get back into it more. While I may not drink it every single day, when I do I am a total tea snob - NEVER from a bag (there's actually a good reason to avoid bags), and generally it's not something boring like Earl Grey. It's really about the same price as buying tea bags (well, tea bags of reasonable quality - Lipton will always be the cheapest but who uses that outside of iced tea?), plus the tea is fresher and you often have many more flavor options. Like right now, for instance: I love Republic of Tea's Pomegranate Green tea, but it's super fruity so I cut it with Tea Haus's China Lung Ching, or "Dragon Well." I'm trying to drink mostly green tea because 1) it contains a decent amount of caffeine 2) it has tons of antioxidants and magical powers and 3) I like its taste and can drink alot of it.

What healthy benefits does tea have exactly, you ask? Ask and you shall recieve:

Anti-cancer properties
Increases metabolic rate
Possible anti-diabetes effect
Boosts mental alertness
Boosts immune system
Lowers chances of cognitive impairment
Lowers stress hormone levels
Therapy for HIV patients
Reduce inflammation for those with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
Inhibits growth of bacteria that cause bad breath
Helps stop excess iron damage for those with iron overload disorders
Benefits associated with caffeine
Effects on obstructive sleep apnea-related brain deficits
Helpful in treating bacterial and fungal infections
Anti-venom effects (!!!!) - can help treat snake bites!
Reduces the risk of stroke
Improves Cardiovascular health
Treatment for Anogenital warts (ew)

Now, if you drink loose tea you need to invest in a few pieces of equipment. When at home, I use my trusty Bodum Assam pot. I love it! While it may seem pricey, these thing hold up super well and do a really good job - and you can just toss everything in the dishwasher when it needs to get cleaned.

Work is a little trickier. Sometimes I bring my Bodum pot into work, if I really want alot of tea - like four cups worth. But usually, I use my fun little lollipop-like infuser and a cute vessel - like right now I have 12 oz. tumbler featuring ghosts and other Halloween ghouls. Luckily, we possess a tap that instantly produces near-boiling water, so I'm all set in that regard. Other alternatives include microwaving or getting an electric kettle, which are neat little items.

And one of the biggest benefits for me is that I save a ton of money not running through the Starbucks drive-thru!