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Tacochiladas, pasta potluck and, of course, I do something else with beets

15 May
Whole foods...also known as the money hole.

Whole foods…also known as the money hole.

Ahhh, Whole Foods. The place where I go when I need to feel, in a very Holly Golightly sort of way, that I am in a sanctuary where nothing awful could ever happen. In reality, Whole Foods is just the place where my betrothed shakes his head in agony as I inspect organic avocados and ponder the differences between the various environmental ratings ascribed to items ranging from pecans to pecorino romano. It is the place that supplies the kombucha to which I am addicted and the almond cheese that no one else on earth sells. It is the embodiment of my first world problems (what! the cherry lime chia is out of stock!?!). Most critically, it is the place where my money goes to die.

Fortunately, the last few days have led me to believe that all the money I’ve recently spent at this fine foods emporium may not have been for naught.  I can’t keep up with some of these other chicas in their twenties and thirties who all seem to be killing their own livestock in the backyard, growing their own kale, making their own yogurt from home-harvested bacteria and spinning their own yarn all over the internet. Not to worry, there is none of that here. Unless of course, you want it. In which case there are many amazing bloggers with more time, talent and patience on their hands than I. And I suggest you stop reading this and go elsewhere stat. If you still feel you’re in the right place, here’s the lowdown.

Part I. Taco/Enchilada (does that make it a tacochilada?)

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I have been told by runners and by yogis alike that mantras are helpful in physically difficult situations. At the twelve mile mark on my run last weekend, I thought briefly of some inspirational stuff as the pain in my feet grew worse but the only thing that stuck in my mind with every step was: enchilada, (insert expletive here),  enchilada, expletive, enchilada, expletive. You get the idea.

Seeing as last weekend was Cinco de Mayo, I quickly darted from the finish line to Whole Foods to get some supplies. Much to my dismay upon arrival, I was literally inches away from snatching the last package of soft tortillas when the woman in front of me made a b-line and nabbed it. Now, I know it’s not a true enchilada unless you go to Mexico but it’s even more of a s****** American taco if you don’t have the right materials. At any rate, I had to settle for some hardshell blue corn tacos.

Sensing where this endeavor was going, I ad-libbed quite a bit.

Here is my recipe for tacochiladas (you can substitute chicken for black beans or a tofu based substitute, as I was tempted to do, but whenever I cook for the fiance, I end up relaxing my somewhat elastic vegetarianism…):

  • 4 skinless boneless chicken breasts (I prefer the reduced cruelty chicken sold at Whole Foods :))
  • 1 box of 12 blue corn taco shells
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 large green bell pepper
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 1 large bag of RBST free cheddar jack cheese
  • 1 tablespoon of dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon (or more if you’re like me) of chipotle or chili powder
  • 1 15 oz can of salsa de tomate (aka Goya or similar tomato sauce)
  • 1 12 oz can of green enchilada sauce

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees farenheit or 175 degrees celsius. Wash and clean your chicken breasts trimming extra fat. Get a medium skillet and coat it with omega 3 DHA canola oil. In addition to adding the seasonings in the amounts listed above, I like to coat the oil in the skillet with extra pepper and chili powder and a slight pinch of salt. Place the chicken in the skillet. Over medium heat, cook chicken breasts until liquid runs clear (or, if you’re me, cook the chicken a little too long).

It will take awhile for the skillet to heat up. So I used this time to clean my hands and break out the red onion, bell pepper and garlic and chop them up nicely. After slicing those veggies up, I put them aside for safe-keeping in a clean bowl and returned to monitor the chicken, flipping from side to side and adding seasonings as I saw fit.

When the chicken was cooked, I broke the breasts up into smaller pieces and cracked open the salsa de tomate, and stirred that in along with the green enchilada sauce. I mixed a little cheese and stirred in my veggies slowly. I then added each of the above-listed doses of oregano, parsley, pepper and chili powder. After letting all these ingredients cook for about 4 or 5 minutes (and you’ll have to use your discretion with regard to heating as everyone’s stove is different, the idea is to slow cook these ingredients over a period of a few minutes rather than tossing them in a very hot pan that is spewing volcanic sauce fragments everywhere).

Once the onions are cooked, empty the contents of the skillet into a deep baking dish. Cover with cheese to taste and place in the oven for about 10-12 minutes longer.  After that, take it out and stuff taco shells with enchilada mix.

Seems sort of sloppy but it is yummy.

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Part II. Pasta Potluck

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Yes, friends, this really is as easy as it sounds. And it gets even easier.  I don’t know if you can read the bottom of the packaging on this Bona Chia bag, but this pasta cooks up in about 3 minutes and 30 seconds or less. In previous postings I’ve extolled the value of slicing up veggies commonly found in fridges and turning them into quick lunches or dinners. The same is true here. After a very busy day at work followed by what turned into a late night run, I barely had time for dinner last week.

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Bona Chia is a great product because it’s healthy and easy to make. For this recipe, I simply turned on the oven to 450, wiped some clean asparagus with canola oil and sprinkled them with lemon juice and pepper. I threw the asparagus in the oven, read the news for about 15 minutes, took the asparagus out and left them to cool. I sliced up some tomatoes and separated some broccoli florets.

I cooked the pasta with the broccoli for about 3 mins, then mixed in tomato slices at the finish. Broccoli turned up perfectly cooked, and the heat wilted the tomatoes nicely. I sprinkled a tad of parmesan cheese thus spoiling what was otherwise almost a delightfully animal free dinner.

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This recipe would make my Italian relatives wince, but I still call this a pasta dinner.

Part III. Pickled Rose Wine Soaked Beets (or something like that)

These are my beet porn pictures, I present them to you up front. I don’t know why they fascinate me so. Maybe it’s something to do with the color, but beets are my new thing. Incidentally, beets, along with chia and a zillion other things are credited with (maybe) having endurance boosting powers, so runners take note.

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I got the recipe for rose and raspberry pickled beets from Cooking Light Magazine and instantly felt compelled to make it after dinner on Sunday evening. For this recipe you will need the following:

  • 1 pound red beets (about 2)
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
  • 4 thyme sprigs
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries
  • 1 1/2 cups dry rosé wine
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

    A little fruit porn. Another tip is if you haven't had dessert prior to making this, I recommend conserving the raspberry refuse after straining and dumping immediately into a small cup of vanilla frozen yogurt. It's delicious in that fancy restaurant sort of way.

    A little fruit porn. Another tip is if you haven’t had dessert prior to making this, I recommend conserving the raspberry refuse after straining and dumping immediately into a small cup of vanilla frozen yogurt. It’s delicious in that fancy restaurant sort of way.

Note: For some reason, I couldn’t find dry rosé wine, so I ended up using pink moscato instead. I reduced the sugar in this recipe by a lot. I wanted a less sweet beet so I only used about 1/4 cup of sugar rather than the full 3/4. Just seems like loads to me. Further, I thought the beets would taste better with rosemary sprigs, so I substituted those for thyme.

Here are the instructions as indicated on the magazine page (or you can access the steps on their page directly):

  1. 1. Preheat oven to 425°.
  1. 2. Leave root and 1 inch stem on beets; scrub with a brush. Place beets in an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish; add water to a depth of 2 inches. Cover with foil; bake at 425° for 50 minutes or until just tender. Drain and cool. Peel beets; cut into 1-inch wedges. Place beets in a large heatproof glass jar or bowl with peppercorns and thyme.
  1. 3. Combine raspberries and remaining ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer; cook 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves and raspberries begin to break down. Strain raspberry mixture through a fine sieve over a bowl; discard solids. Pour hot raspberry liquid over beet mixture; cover and chill at least 8 hours or overnight.
The finished product before being drowned in the raspberry wine sauce.

The finished product before being drowned in the raspberry wine sauce.

The results were satisfactory. This was super simple but left me feeling like I’d actually made something wholesome yet different. I don’t say that about my cooking often. My one tip is to drain the mixture after about 15 hours. Don’t let the beets soak forever as they will get tart. Drain almost all liquid out after that time, conserving only a little mixture and leaving the beets to sit on top of the rosemary and peppercorns.

Tuesday Tip: Love and Lettuce

1 May

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Apart from somehow being a word I still have to spellcheck even at this stage in my life, I love lettuce. In another lifetime or perhaps when my life slows down a bit, I’d really love to homestead an apartment garden featuring hanging baskets full of luscious, yummy leaves. While I have had to postpone that dream for the moment, it doesn’t mean I still can’t try to get as much lettuce in my life as possible. And maybe you should, too.

This brings me to today’s tip. If you are like me then you have certainly engaged in what I like to call robotic eating at the workplace. This usually arises when one brings a ostensibly healthy snack (e.g. pop chips) back to one’s desk. Instead of consuming one serving, one eats the entire bag. What better way to get through the monotony of your afternoon assignment than to coat it with a little salty crunch, right? Wrong.

To avoid the sudden pang of “ewww” that usually strikes in the minutes after your mind catches up with your stomach in realizing it’s full, I suggest keeping a tub of undressed lettuce leaves near your desk. If mindless eating is on your horizon, I totally recommend this tip.

Baby lettuce is super sweet and if it’s fresh, it will not be sticky and can easily be grabbed up en masse and shoveled down the hatch. I know, I know, I probably sound super strange, but I actually love the taste. Eating undressed greens has also caused me to have a greater appreciation for what Wikipedia informs me is the “annual plant of the aster or sunflower family.” I mean, when you think about it, it’s pretty amazing to eat raw leaves rather than processed goop made into cracker or chip form for a change. If you’re on the east coast, I definitely recommend Olivia’s Organics for great lettuce selections (pictured above). Not only do their leaves taste terrific, but they also support a local communities.

Here’s another Tuesday Tip for chilling out on the job. If you’re feeling stressed, unable to focus or just suffering an off day, take a moment for yourself to chill. In yoga, we often talk about mudras and the power that flows through the body when we connect with ourselves. The word “mudra” essentially means to close. The most commonly seen mudras in yoga are those where the fingertips touch (usually pointer to thumb) or the soles of your feet in a butterfly type stretch. Making these connections with oneself are powerful and calming.

Frequently, my teachers often talk about the power of combining mudra and mantra. This is usually done by touching each of your fingers to your thumb, and, while so doing, thinking of a four word mantra (please! I already see where your mind is going, but notice I said four word and not four letter mantra) to repeat either internally or aloud. For example, one that I like to use in moments of extreme stress is:  I-am-peace-ful. Each word represents a connection I make with each of my fingers to my thumbs.

I’ve often grappled with the extolling the general utility of the mudra/mantra as some people to whom I have tried to teach it have just found this routine funny. But, before you laugh, I think the key is to visualize the words you are speaking to yourself, whatever they may be. If you try this activity, really try to focus. I think the act of forcing yourself to be creative and to find your own voice is a grounding function in itself. Just try it, you may even thank me later.

If you’re still interested, you can check out this article on mudras, although the beginning of the article rambles, the latter part does a great job of explaining their purpose and function.

Until then, I wish you nothing but love, and lettuce.

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In which I get some new pants

30 Apr

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Throughout my life I’ve often been “that person”. You know, the one who can’t seem to figure out why or how all the pencils she put in her backpack didn’t make it to school (yes, that was totally me in 4th grade math writing assignments in with a yellow crayon–the discarded one found in the corner of the classroom). I was the kid without gym sneakers that fit properly, with the hair tied too tightly, with the tights that kept  sagging in the bottoms, with toothpaste in her hair, with lunch that leaked all over her homework and with the umbrella that blew inside out during a rainstorm. Yes, friends, this has been my life.

Based on my previous postings, you can probably tell that I am also the same person who’s made it into adulthood experiencing moments of grave distress upon arriving in yoga class only to discover the hard way that: no, these are not the pants with an intact crotch, in fact, they are, ripped through the bum. So, determined to move beyond this long-standing sense of self-loathing, I decided to buy myself some pants…or, just shorts for that matter. Everyone has to start somewhere. To illustrate this point, I attach the following, unfortunate image of my baseline (aka my ripped pants):

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If the above embodies your approach to workout wear and if you’re like me, you probably don’t want/have time to read an exceptionally long article on how and why to buy a pair of pants for highly active sports, such as running. So, I’ll try to make it easy. Here are a few ground rules:

1.) No cotton.  I know! Cotton feels nice whereas spandex-y microfibers can make you feel like a baby seal stuffed tightly into its skin, but newsflash: cotton is NOT aerodynamic! And, from experience, I have learned that it can seriously annoy the insides of your thighs on longer runs. So, if your plan is to achieve more than a 5k, opt for something with glide.

2.)  Try it on or measure it out. The biggest temptation for me is to order this stuff online because it’s quicker. There have totally been a zillion times where I’ve bought something online to save time. In the end I’ve just ended up losing money because it doesn’t fit and the product totally wasn’t what I thought it would be. I also get distracted and forget to return the product. Hence, I have been left with a drawer of ill-fitting sports bras for years. At any rate, if there’s a fit guide on the site, read it. If there’s a measurement guide, use it. Otherwise, go and test this stuff out downtown. There really is no substitute for knowing and don’t kid yourself into thinking otherwise.

3.) Not too loose. If it’s too loose now, it will only ride down on you during a run. This is just plain old annoying. And, if you’re trying to cut down on a run time, it will only hold you up.

4.) Look for products with microfiber or something that says moisture wick. I typically think most of this stuff is all just a gimmick to make you feel as though you’ve invested in a superior product, but I kind of buy into the whole microfiber thing. Finding good absorptive materials is key. Should it rain or should you sweat excessively, there’s probably nothing worse than the feeling of being damp…which always seems to leave me with a sick chilly feeling.

5.) To compress or not to compress? This is the question. I have seen contradictory reports on compression socks. Even on the same websites and blogs. I am totally torn on this issue, readers. Basically, compression supports muscles and allegedly increases blood flow to help speed recovery. Some research suggests it’s actually best to pull on compression hose after a good run as it’s most effective for during that time. Although my fiance loves to tell me I have a WebMD (haha…not, I’m not laughing, actually. have you ever checked out that site? It’s like you either have a brain tumor or a bruise and there is never any in between with them…it’s so, so scary!). The short of my point is that I have essentially no understanding of anything scientific. Seeing as this is the case, I invite you to play around with cuffs and socks only if you’ve got the cash to spare (they seem to start a $40 and go up from there).

After some shopping around and returning, here are my top picks for running/activewear:

1.) REI Airflyte Running Capri Pants. Available online at REI.com. These run a little small, so I’d order two sizes or go and try them on. Here they are featured on the website:

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…and on this blogger during my run last weekend (below and to the left).

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2.) For full length pants, I like Nike Tech Tights. They give you that seal-like feel mentioned above, but get over it. Something about being all compressed feels kind of good on the trail.

3.) And, as far as shorts are concerned, I really love these Under Armour shorts.  I totally feel like a walking endorsement for Under Armour, but I’m kind of on roll with them right now. These shorts were just the right amount of tight and nothing but good. I’m not pulling them up or down when I run and they are…you guessed it, compression shorts! Yay! It may be a placebo, but I feel so amazingly agile in these suckers. Like, I’m not even sure what I’m doing in the picture featured below, but I totally blame it on the combination of my shorts and CEP compression socks. I was basically bouncing off the walls at both of my 5ks this weekend.

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In short, these investments may be worth the upgrade. I am not suggesting you all go out there and start burning up your credit cards, but good gear can make you feel a bit better about your practice. For me, at least, there is nothing quite like knowing you can run like the wind without having to worry whether or not you’re blowing in it instead.

; )

I dedicate this post to all busy people everywhere

25 Feb

Busy runners, yogis, hikers, power walkers, weight lifters, adventurous gym-goers and all other frustrated athletes of the world unite! And welcome to The Adventurous Yogi page.  Not to fear, despite the title, I plan to discuss many other forms of exercise apart from yoga. I am developing this site to serve as a personal resource for those of you out there who hold down (or are at least trying to hold down) a day job while battling that insane wanderlust to chart new territory, get sweaty, get dirty and stay fit.

So, where exactly does this wanderlust leave you and I? The working stiffs who live for the weekends (when we get one). Where do we go with our dreams of athletic achievement on a thin time budget? Much as it’s pained and sometimes exhausted me, I’ve made consistent efforts over my last few years as a working stiff to find ways to stay in shape, to keep happy and to eat healthy. It hasn’t been easy and I’m constantly refining my methods and routines.

There are not many blogs (actually, I found none) dedicated solely to the working woman or man who yearns for a lifestyle that will permit jogging, hiking, a little yoga and maybe the home brewing of kombucha all in one afternoon. Deep down, this is the kind of life I want to have. Realistically, I am on the clock and so are you. My goal in this blog is to help you get centered and focused enough so you can start enjoying more of the activities that our lesser-employed peers so enjoy.

Whether you have ten minutes, twenty minutes, thirty minutes or an hour, I’ll be here to provide you with quick strategies for snapping into physical motion. What I’ll do in each post is break down some tried and true workout routines, post reviews of work-schedule friendly workout classes widely available throughout the USA, supply you with kitchen-tested healthy (and tasty) recipes that take under thirty minutes to throw together.
In summary (and for those of you who were too busy to even read the above), you can expect to hear more about the following:
• Fresh ideas for getting started on a workout routine
• Tips to maximize your workout on a limited schedule
• Monthly Mix: Me and my fitness friends participate in and review local workout classes (we’ll also be taking your suggestions)
• Weekly Cool-Down: Fun yoga routines for everyone
• Reviews of mainstream and not-so-mainstream workout classes (offered in your neighborhood)

• Time-tested homemade breakfast, lunch and dinner (and, of course, snack) tips
• Reviews of gear and exercise equipment
• Motivation and inspiration
• And, a little bit of adventure! (aka travel blogging…whenever I am presented with the opportunity to do so)

You can be sure that if you keep reading, I’ll keep posting the details on how I manage my busy work/workout life balance. If you have any questions, you can always contact me at theadventurousyogi@gmail.com.