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Liars, all of them: anyone who tells you interesting vegan meals (or making any meals for that matter) is simple is spinning the yarn

1 Nov

asparagus cover

Hello readers! A great panic has been afflicting me for the past few weeks. As I sit at my desk at work, grooming fancy vegan and vegetarian friendly blogs and websites during my downtime, a wave of panic courses through my veins.  As I skim the list of ingredients necessary to accomplish something so simple as chana masala or stewed beets, I think, sometimes aloud holy f**k, I will never find a Whole Foods, farmer’s market or Fairway on this side of the ocean that sells these products. Surrounded in a swarm of despair that not only will I NOT be able to find all these ingredients before 10PM, but also by the fear that there is little chance that I will execute any of these recipes before midnight.

After having attempted several meals (for which I DID have,  or COULD have procured, ingredients) I came to a stark revelation. Add half an hour to an hour onto the times provided for prep and cooking.  The dirty truth of the matter is this: they are all liars, all bearers of published recipes who claim their dinners can be whipped up easily.  Everyone from Rachel Ray and her damn thirty minute meals to vegan bloggers lying through their teeth about how long it takes to put dinner together.  When they say chives, those chives don’t just materialize from thin air, first you have to buy them, and then you have to slice them and separate those little rings…did they think of that? How about the thirty minutes alone it might take you to wash, peel and chop two large sweet potatoes into 1/2″ thick cubes?!?!? Probably 40 minutes.

The truth my friends, is that once you finish mincing, dicing, slicing and pureeing the myriad ingredients in a given recipe, you still have to go through the various phases of cooking them up.  In this post, I offer several snappy(ier) alternatives to the long winded ten step versions offered online for, what should be, simple foods. While making no claim to quick meals, I offer these simple, whole food, vegan dinners as “quicker” options:

1.) Brussels Sprouts

Not too salty, just the right amount of pepper. Totally perfect.

Not too salty, just the right amount of pepper. Totally perfect.

Do you know how yummy Brussels sprouts can be when you buy them fresh and cook them up just right? Soooo good. Forget your childhood hatred of these golf ball sized greens, doing it up just right in the oven will overwhelm your senses in an instant.  Simply rinse between fifteen and twenty sprouts under cold water, peeling away any overtly loose ends and cut off the harder part of the base. Use extra virgin olive oil or organic oil alternative to coat lightly. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Oven should be at 400 degrees. Roast for anywhere between 15 to 30 minutes depending on how brown you’d like them to get. I like darker, more burnt flavors, the middle stays soft and green no matter what.

2.)  Steamed Broccoli and Roasted Asparagus in Whole Grain Pasta

sometimes it's easy being green.

sometimes it’s easy being green.

Asparagus can be roasted without trouble. Set oven to 400 degrees, check periodically after 15 minutes have passed. Ovens vary, so your asparagus could be fully cooked after 15 minutes or it could need more like 20.  General tip, is that the bottom of the stem should no longer be white and tissue-like. It should start looking a little less “crunchy” so-to-speak.

While your asparagus is cooking, boil some water and cook a half a box of whole grain linguine to taste.  As that cooks, you can steam some fresh broccoli on the second burner.

When pasta is ready, toss with fresh tomatoes, vegan or regular shredded parmesan cheese and fresh ground pepper.  Slice asparagus into quarters and toss in the pasta as well. For extra protein, I would saute some chickpeas in extra virgin olive oil and red pepper flakes and mix those in the pasta as well.

Serve steamed broccoli on the side.

3.)  Baked Zucchini Topped with Tomato and Veggie Cheese

Baked tomato totally floats my boat.

Baked tomato totally floats my boat.

This is so simple and so delicious it shouldn’t be so easy.  Set the oven to 400 degrees. Get together about four small organic zucchini cut them in half and place them on a large oven safe dish or cookie sheet.  Cover with cooking spray or lightly coat in olive oil.  If you’ve got it on hand season liberally with fresh ground pepper and mediterranean herb mix or provence type mix (available at most Whole Foods). Next cover with your cheese of choice. I used GO Veggie, cheese alternative in mozzarella flavor.  After this, slice any tomato you’ve got on hand into medium-small cubes and place on top of the cheese. Bake for about 20-25 mins, again depending on the strength of your oven. When finished prepared to be amazed and to wow your friends…if you plan on sharing.

4.)  Steamed Purple Kale

A perfect fall treat, dark and leafy, so mysterious.

A perfect fall treat, dark and leafy, so mysterious.

I suppose I don’t really need to explain this. I steamed my kale in a medium deep pan, filled with 1/2″ of water and covered partially. I allowed the kale to steam for about 10-15 mins (clearly I can’t recall all that well) on medium heat, testing frequently to check for doneness.

Another fun tip is to use steamed leftovers for kale chips. Turn oven up to the ever popular 400 degrees, season with mesquite flavoring and roast for about 20 minutes. Lowering temp if the chips are roasting too fast on the ends but staying soft in the center.

5.)  Make it fun.

Color everywhere.

Color everywhere.

I don’t pretend to believe it’s easy to come upon good quality colored pasta but I happened to be in a specialty store the other day and came upon some naturally dyed pasta.  I don’t know if I can actually recommend this one, but I had fun making it. I cooked up the pasta and tossed with some olive oil, garlic and basil that I’d sauteed slowly. I added some shiitake mushrooms and sliced cherry tomatoes.

Just for the record, just because it’s a week night doesn’t mean you can’t start throwing what you’ve got on hand together. Sometimes it works.

Work It Out Wednesday

30 Oct

Today, I start something new. A friend of mine from work does these great and very useful workout itineraries that she’s agreed to let me share with all of you. From this Wednesday on, look forward to a fun and challenging sequence from my favorite online drill sergeant!

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Purple Power Food for Fall 5k

26 Oct

Purple Power Food for Fall 5k

Fall 5K in the a.m. for a great charity supporting poverty relief in South Africa. Tonight’s dinner consisted of one kombucha, a heaping serving of what I call purple pasta and meatballs…aka Black Bean Pasta (so easy to cook) and white vinegar soaked beets (Love Beets are amazing and now available at almost every grocery store). I added a tablespoon of sesame seed oil and some crushed salt and pepper. Amazing, despite the fact it looked like something from a Japanese futuristic sci-fi novel. Wish me luck in the morning, it’s my first competitive run since August!

Housework infographic

22 Oct

Taken from Fit for 365, I felt I should share this posting…as a newly married person who also works full-time outside the home, I’ve been busting my you-know-what tidying, cooking, cleaning, dusting mopping, scrubbing and screaming. Good to know you can get some exercise doing these awfully banal and soul-sucking chores.

Don’t Throw Away the Oars

26 Sep

So, here’s a short post for you and one in which I’ll share a secret.  I’ve been out of running for at least three weeks now. I’ve been busy, of course. Planning a wedding, getting married, going on a honeymoon, moving, returning to work. It’s been terrible.  My whole rhythm is way out of whack. And, I felt it. Really badly today when I took to the pavement. I barely churned out a 5k which is unlike me. For the past two years running has been such a pleasure, but tonight, it was actually pain. I suppose the experience is a humbling one since, given my half marathon status, I’ve sort of poo poo’ed shorter runs. Why do a run at all if you’re barely going anywhere?

Tonight I realized, it’s the process that really matters.  Sometimes the road will be difficult, but you can’t give up.  Running is a time for introspection as well as fitness. It’s something you can do anywhere without props or an aerobics instructor yelling “just one more rep!” at you.  It’s your time and it won’t always be easy.

I came across this fantastic and telling quote while on the internet earlier today. It’s kind of great when something that happens to you in the morning ends up being a sign, or, at least something to which you feel a need to return later in the day.  It’s so karmic, kismet, whatever you want to call it.  All I know is that, it’s true. As they say on the street, running, like life, is about the journey and not the destination.

If today you were slow, tomorrow you will be faster. If you’re struggling to find shore, sometimes all you can do is keep paddling.

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Pura Vida, Costa Rica

21 Sep

After celebrating our wedding earlier this month, my husband and I made the wonderful and life-affirming choice to spend our honeymoon in Costa Rica. For those of you who aspire to a healthy lifestyle, even while on vacation, Costa Rica is the perfect location. Although not without shortcomings, as no country on the planet is, the national ethos is one of genuine stewardship ofthe earth. Laws in this truly green nation strictly govern land use, water use and – unlike in the US – everywhere you go there is a place to recycle. We holed up for the most part in a eco-friendly hotel which was nestled on the shores of the Pacific.  With the forested hills behind us and the sea before us, we found time for some serious kayaking, snorkeling and hiking.  On our third day, we traveled out several hours to Bijagua de Upala for some some serious rainforest hiking.  From our base at Heliconias Lodge, we ventured out to several suspended bridges in the canopy where we were able to view a few two-toed sloths, howler monkeys, tropical birds, the tiniest frog I’ve ever seen as well as a collection of curious insects.

Here are a few of our favorite pics:

costa rica

I think we better pass through this one quickly, Indy!

volcano

Not only does Costa Rica have a wind power initiative, but they also use geo-thermal power from their many volcanoes.

crab

One but many. Tiny and adorable sand crabs abound!

frog

The smallest frog.

berries

The mysterious fruits consumed by the Costa Rican two-toed sloth.

landscape

El piasaje.

sloth

I spy a two-toed sloth!

tree

This old thing, just been hanging around for about 500 years or so – no big deal.

rainforest bug

Whoa, bug!

Until next time, pura vida, my friends!

Motivational image #64

26 Aug

Every day is a good day

26 Aug

Tips for Staying Cool on Hot Summer Runs!

11 Jul

Stay thirsty my friends (with these great tips from Rather be Runnin’)!

Rather Be Runnin'

As many of you know I hate the heat. Lately in SLO, it has been unnecessarily hot (think 104 degrees with no air conditioning hot). Most of you probably live in places where the heat is a normal way of life, but for me… it isn’t. This is one of the many reasons that I moved 20 minutes away from the beach. The fact is though, that the heat is here to stay for a bit so I figure it is time to get acclimated… as much as I don’t want to. So, here are a few tips for staying cool during those hot summer runs.

1. Run early in the morning.

It is definitely the coolest part of the day, so I recommend heading out as early as possible to avoid the heat.

2. Hydrate like a mother!

Even if you don’t feel thirsty, drink at least 8 oz…

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Go on, make a date with yourself

1 Jul

“Curving back within myself I create again and again.” ~ The Bhagavad Gita

“Sometimes you gotta have a conversation with yourself.”  Or, so a co-worker told  me the other day.  Actually, it was her grandmother who first gave her this advice.  Although I’ve never actually called it that, I probably couldn’t agree with grandma more. In almost everything we do in life, we often don’t have sufficient time to pause and reflect on our choices, our desires or our dreams.  Sometimes we find that we are simply “doing” things and we don’t even know why.

While I think it’s generally unhealthy to believe that we can turn infinitely inward to find answers, there is certainly power derived from being with oneself.  I love running and yoga so dearly because they bring me great pause.  As my joint passions, they are both activities that remind me that I frequently have more answers and more strength than I think.

When we build connections within ourselves, we can find the strength to create, to hope, to accept and to push harder in all things, whether they be physical or mental.

Sometimes our usual routine to workout or unwind ceases to be sufficient and stops providing us with the solace we need for thought and introspection. I’ve been feeling that way recently.  It’s like I haven’t been able to connect with what’s really going on…with me.

Given the fact my sick days are limited, I was able to get away for some quality “me” time this Saturday when I  headed to the Hudson for a kayaking trip. A few hours on the cool waters did the trick.  Kayaking is something I don’t get to do all that often, so it really broke down the doldrums of my usual weekend workout routine. While physically strenuous, it’s not murderously hard (as is something like crossfit) thus paving the perfect path for some steady contemplation. And, I’ve got to tell you, it was amazing.

The glorious Hudson River Valley. The perfect remedy for my rut.

A view of the glorious Hudson River Valley as seen from my kayak. The perfect remedy for my rut.

Something about the magic of the Hudson brings out the poet in me. As the waters churned beneath my oars, I couldn’t help but feel the words of Walt Whitman come to mind:

“I celebrate myself, and sing myself,

And what I assume you shall assume,

For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I loafe and invite my soul,

I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.”

So now, I challenge each of you, to take time, as my co-worker mentioned, to simply be.  To exist with yourself. To be alone with your inner voice. To come to complete stillness, like a compass settling on a smooth surface, and find your inner north. While others are inevitably a part of our daily lives, being alone is often equally as important. Do whatever moves you to happiness, to thought, to purpose.

I promise, you will not let yourself down.