May 31, 2006

Workout Wednesday 5/31

You know what you absolutely shouldn't do if you want to keep your motivation running high? Step on the scale when you're in the middle of your period, crampy, bloated, have just eaten breakfast, and oh yeah, haven't peed in hours. No good can come of this. None whatsoever. Just, you know, FYI.

This week in fitness has been pretty uneventful for me. I've done my strength training and most of my cardio. Today I intended to do at last 30 minutes of my kickboxing video, but I only ended up doing 10. I know, it's terrible. But it's so HOT. And the cramps, oh god THE CRAMPS. I'm planning to take a walk tonight after it cools down, so that's something at least. I know I should feel worse about slacking today, but really, I just can't. I've been eating well. Keeping to my calorie goals and whatnot. I just figure that if I'm ever allowed to slack off, it's now. I'm hoping that things have eased up by Friday so I can get in a more strenuous workout, but otherwise I'll just take a long walk.

After sunset, though. Because the heat is just ridiculous right now. It's been upwards of 90 degrees for the past few days, and humid as hell. I hate summer in Pennsylvania. It's always so damn humid. But mostly I hate that it's not even June yet and it's 90 degrees. Seriously, global warming is the worst thing ever. I need to move someplace colder.

The only other thing really worth mentioning is that I picked up a used copy of Yourself! Fitness on the recommendation of a friend. It's like a personal trainer video game. It sounded awesome, but you know what? I can't fucking stand it. All of the cardio is your standard aerobics moves, and I've always hated aerobics. And for a game that claims to have a database of over 500 exercises - so that no two workouts are the same! - I have gotten the most repetitive sequences of moves ever. I swear to god I did squats and reverse lunges for 10 minutes straight. I don't know. I know a lot of people really like this thing, but I doubt I'll ever pick it up again. I'm glad I only paid $17.99 for it.

I'm going to be ordering a bunch of workout DVDs from Amazon sometime this week, so any suggestions are welcome!

May 30, 2006

Tuesday 5/30 - Smoky Corn Risotto

I'd been eyeing this recipe for a long time, and after going to te market today I had everything I needed on hand. You could make this with frozen corn, but I really would recommend going with fresh. It's not much trouble, and the texture really makes a difference here - it's much more toothsome and crunchy, whereas frozen corn is often a tad mushy no matter how little you cook it. So, definitely go fresh, especially now that fresh corn is coming back into season (well, it is here anyway).

Overall this is a lovely dish. It's very creamy and yet not at all heavy, thanks to the fresh corn and sun-dried tomatoes. The sweet potato adds some more substance and color, and its sweetness, coupled with the delicate flavor of the corn, sets off the smoky chipotles very nicely. Plus it's much lower in calories than I thought it would be - bonus! The one downside is that it does take some preparation. There are a lot of things to cut up. Six things, in fact. But I think it's worth it. I'll definitely make it again.

We had this on its own as a meal, but in the future I'll probably pair it with tempeh or some other meat substitute to get in some extra protein. Because while it's low-cal and delicious, it is admittedly light on protein.

Smoky Corn Risotto
Recipe from Entertaining for a Veggie Planet by Didi Emmons

3 ears of corn, shucked, kernals cut off (or 2 cups of frozen corn)
4 cups of vegetable broth
2 Tbsp olive oil (I only used 1)
1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 medium red onion, chopped (reserve a bit for garnish if desired)
1 1/2 cups raw arborio rice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup dry sherry (I didn't have this - I just used more stock)
2-3 canned chipotles in adobo, seeded, minced
1 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano, or 1 tsp dried
10 sun-dried tomatoes, drained if oil-packed, sliced thinly

Heat the broth, plus 1/2 cup water, either in a small saucepan or in a large microwave-safe measuring cup. I think the latter is easier, because then you can just pour it out from there. Anyway, heat it up and keep it warm.

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and sweet potatoes and saute, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft - about 7 minutes. Add the rice, garlic, and salt and saute for 1 minute, stirring to coat the rice with the oil.

Stir in the chipotles, oregano, and sherry, if you have it - otherwise, as noted, you can just use some more stock and it will still turn out just fine. Add 1/2 cup of the broth to the rice mixture and simmer, stirring frequently, until the liquid is absorbed. Add the remining broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly (or at least very frequently) until each addition is absorbed; when there is just 1 cup left, add the corn and sun-dried tomatoes.

Cook until the rice is tender but still slightly chewy, 18-20 minutes total, adding some additional hot water if the rice absorbs all the broth. (I had to add about 3/4 cup extra water in all, but I think I may have had my heat too high, so as always, your mileage may vary.)

Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately, sprinkled with the reserved red onion if you like that sort of thing.

Serves 4-6.

My changes: Pretty much just what's stated in parentheses.1 Tbsp of oil instead of the 2 that the book calls for, no sherry, and I didn't have any oregano so I used dried basil. Also I didn't garnish mine with onion. I just don't feel the need to sprinkle raw onion onto things that aren't sandwiches.

Nutritional Information: 230 calories, 3.4 g fat (0.4 g saturated fat), 3.6 g fiber, 4.8 g protein @ 5 servings.

May 25, 2006

Quick Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili + Cornbread

First things first: this dish is U-G-L-Y, it ain't got no alibi, it's ugly. Yeah, yeah, it's ugly. It may not look so bad in the picture, but when I reheated some today I was struck by just how unattractive stew-type dishes can be. But it still tastes good! Especially with a hunk of cornbread. (I made this cornbread, as usual. I found the perfect balance of health and taste when I made it last night, so that recipe has been updated to reflect the new ingredients.)

Quick Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili
Recipe from Nava Atlas' The Vegetarian Family Cookbook

2 medium-large sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons light or extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 to 3 garlic cloves
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
One 32-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 or 2 small fresh hot chilies, minced, or one 4-ounce can chopped mild green chilies
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt to taste

Bake or microwave the sweet potatoes on high until just firm, about 3 to 4 minutes per potato. When cool enough to handle, peel and cut into 3/4-inch dice. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large soup pot. Add the onion and garlic and sauté over medium heat until golden. Add the bell pepper, beans, tomatoes, chilies, cumin, and oregano. Bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Add the sweet potatoes and continue to simmer until the vegetables are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

Season lightly with salt. If time allows, let stand off the heat for 1 or 2 hours, then heat through as needed.

Serves 4-6

My Changes: Instead of baking or microwaving the sweet potatoes, I diced and steamed them for approximately 10 minutes. I also left the skins on. I only used 1 Tbsp of oil, left out the oregano because I didn't have any, and threw in some chili powder. I mistakenly put the sweet potatoes in with all of the other ingredients instead of separately, but it turned out to be a good thing because they would never have finished cooking in that last 10-15 minutes.

Nutritional Info: 305 calories, 3.6 g fat (0.6 g saturated fat), 17 g fiber, 13.4 g protein @ 5 servings.

Workout Wednesday 5/24

Okay! So lately I've been having some issues with running. It's something I keep coming back to everytime I start an exercise routine - for some reason I associate running with being healthy, and therefore if I wish to be healthy I need to run. Logically I know that's not the case, but it's always been a sticking point for me. (Logic has never been my strong suit.) The thing is, I do like to run. I just like to run faster for shorter periods of time. This long, drawn-out jogging business has been getting to me lately. It's very boring. Maybe a change of scenery would help. Tomorrow I'm going to try running at Long's Park instead of the track and see how it goes.

But the thing is, really, that I can do other activities for a lot longer and have a lot more fun with it. Yesterday, for example, I did a kickboxing DVD (10 Minute Solutions Kickbox Bootcamp). It consisted of 5 10-minute segments, and I opted to do that whole thing straight through. 50 minute later I was sweating like a pig, but having so much fun that I actually did the first segment again. Let me repeat: I did extra exercise of my own volition. This isn't something that happens when I try to do longer runs. I get to 25 minutes and I stop dead in my tracks and thank whatever god you believe in that it's over. Sure, I feel great a minute later, but never great enough to voluntarily run for another, say, 15 minutes.

Plus I'm aching like crazy today, especially my triceps, upper back, and the front of my thighs. Like, it hurts to sit down. But in a good way. I think maybe running will remain part of my cardio arsenal, but I definitely want to try and change things up more often. I'm currently in mega-research-mode, trying to wade through the hundreds of workout DVDs and decided which ones I'd like. I'm particularly interested in kickboxing-type stuff, so I have a few of those on my list as well as Tae Bo. Leaving aside for a moment the fact that Billy Blanks scares the crap out of me, I did a few tapes back in the day ("the day" being before DVDs were omnipresent, that is) and they're seriously good workouts. I'm also looking at some pilates and stability ball workouts, some dancey stuff, and even some yoga. It's exciting.

On the food front, I've been tracking my calories this week. Annoying, yes, but it does give me a certain sense of security. This way I know that it's not my diet that's holding me back. I've stayed between 1,400 and 1,600 so far, with 1,600 being pretty much the optimal number. I'm also keeping tabs on my protein consumption, though not really for any particular reason. It's been between 40-50 grams so far. My goal is to try and include at least one protein-heavy dish every day - beans, tempeh, tofu, seitan. I need to find a way to eat tofu that I can stomach.

Wow, this has been really long-winded. I guess when you don't really have anyone to vent to in real life you start taking it out on your blog. Sorry!

May 22, 2006

Sunday 5/21 - Chana Masala

I've tried several chana masala recipes over the last few months, and found every one lacking in some way - until now. A little while ago I stumbled upon this recipe, and, having a plain Whole Soy yogurt languishing in the fridge anyway, decided to give it a go. And it was spectacular. Seriously, the best chana masala I've ever had, including restaurant versions. I love the stuff at Passage to India, but this version has such a lovely, creamy sauce that I'm left scooping the last bits of tomato from the bottom of my bowl. And I'm not usually one to go after tomatoes specifically, so that's really a testament to how delicious this stuff is.

I'm going to re-post the recipe here with the (very minimal) changes that I made.

Chana Masala
Original recipe from Orangette

1/2 to 1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp ground ginger
1 tsp garam masala
3 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1 Tbsp cilantro leaves, roughly torn, plus more for garnish
A pinch of cayenne, or to taste
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup plain soy yogurt
lemon wedges, optional

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until it is deeply caramelized and even charred in some spots. Be patient. The more color, the more full-flavored the final dish will be.

Reduce the heat to low. Add the garlic, stirring, and add a bit more oil if the pan seems dry. Add the cumin seeds, coriander, ginger, garam masala, and cardamom pods, and fry them, stirring constantly, until fragrant and toasty, about 30 seconds. Add ¼ cup water, and stir to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook until the water has evaporated away completely. Pour in the juice from can of tomatoes, followed by the tomatoes themselves. Add the salt.

Raise the heat to medium, and bring the pot to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, add the cilantro and cayenne, and simmer the sauce gently, stirring occasionally, until it reduces a bit and begins to thicken. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Add the chickpeas, stirring well, and cook over low heat for about five minutes. Add 2 Tbs water, and cook for another five minutes. Add another 2 Tbs water, and cook until the water is absorbed, a few minutes more. This process of adding and cooking off water helps to concentrate the sauce’s flavor and makes the chickpeas more tender and toothsome. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as necessary.

Stir in the soy yogurt. Garnish with cilantro and lemon wedges, if desired. Serve.

Yield: About four servings

Nutritional Info: 306 calories, 6 g fat (0.75 g saturation fat), 10.25 g fiber, 11.5 g protein per serving.

May 19, 2006

The Secret Ingredient Is Evil

These look good, right? Warm, delicious brownies? Well, not so much. They tasted okay, but they stuck so badly that I just threw the whole batch away because I didn't feel like trying to pry them off of the wax paper. I managed to scrape some of the insides out - we ate the chocolatey guts with Soy Delicious Turtle Tracks. Yum. I won't be making this recipe again, though.

Today I made snickerdoodles in honor of Veronica Mars getting picked up for a 3rd season by The CW. This is appropriate because V makes Wallace snickerdoodles in the season one episode "Betty and Veronica." Of course I didn't listen to stolen police interrogation tapes while I made mine, but she used eggs so I think the cool points even out in the end. Ahem. Anyway, I used Kreeli of VeganMania's recipe, which I'll repost here since her site is down at the moment.

P.S. I gave some of these to a friend who had never even heard of a snickerdoodle until I said I was going to make some. WTF? How do you get through 23 years of life without ever having a snickerdoodle? Or even hearing the name? Error. Error. Does not compute.

Perfect Vegan Snickerdoodles
Recipe by Kreeli

1 cup margarine
1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
4 tbsp soy milk whipped with 2 tbsp cornstarch
3 cups unbleached white flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp tapioca starch or cornstarch

2 tbsp cinnamon
4 tbsp granulated white sugar
1 tbsp cocoa powder (optional)

Preheat your oven to 300 F.

In a large bowl, cream the margarine and sugar together until smooth. Add the vanilla, and the cornstarch/soymilk mixture, and beat until well-mixed.

In a smaller bowl combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and tapioca/corn starch. Stir this into the wet ingredients and combine well.

In a very small bowl stir together the granulated sugar, cinnamon and cocoa powder (if desired).

Begin rolling the cookie dough into balls of about 3 tbsp each. Roll each ball in the cinnamon/sugar/cocoa powder mixture until completely coated and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Continue until all the dough is used up. Using the bottom of a glass, press down on each ball until they are about an inch thick. Bake for 12 - 14 minutes, and no more. The cookies should still seem very soft when you remove them from the oven. Let cool on the pans for about 10 minutes, and then transfer to a wire baking rack and let cool completely.

Makes about 30 cookies. This recipe can be halved, if desired.

Notes: I like mine on the crispier side, so I baked them for 14 minutes. These are seriously addictive, so be warned.

May 17, 2006

Workout Wednesday 5/17

Okay, so after skipping WW last week due to not being able to find a single damn minute to sit down and blog, here I am getting right back on the horse. As it were. Last week wasn't the greatest exercise-wise, either, as I expounded upon in my last post. I'm pleased to repot that this week has been much better so far.

Monday morning it was raining like crazy, so we decided to do weights and save the run for Tuesday. I did over an hour of strength training and half-assed yoga/stretching and was surprisingly not really sore at all the next day. I used my new stability ball for the first time, too - serious fun was had. Also serious falling over, because that thing rolls like nobody's business. Hmm, I wonder why? I think maybe it's the whole no corners issue.

Tuesday's run went very well. We decided to do Week 6 again, so it was 5 run/ 3 walk/ 8 run / 3 walk /5 run. I wouldn't say that I'm madly in love with running, but I have grown to like it well enough. Well, the afterglow more than the, um, during-burn, but overall I don't mind doing it. I really want to order some kickboxing videos so that I can have alternatives on days when inclement weather or my own inability to get my ass out the door interfere with running. I also want to get off the track, because while it's a comfy surface to run on and good for keeping track of distance, going around and around and around is just too boring for words. I like to feel like I'm getting somewhere, not just looping endlessly for 20 minutes. Next week starts straight 25-30 minute runs, so I'm going to look into finding some suitable trails to run on.

Today I did another hour of strength training with a bit of yoga/stretching at the end. I'm using 5-pound weights more often than the 3-pounders I started with now, so that's some progress.

However..... I still cannot seem to lose any weight. It's really starting to piss me off, too. I'm seeing little changes. I'm pretty sure I've lost a bit as far as measurements go. I feel better. I know this is working. But the scale just refuses to move. I'm eating fairly well. I've never been more active in my life. So what gives? I don't want to start tracking my calories again, but I will if I have to. This whole crusade isn't just about the scale, but the fact is that I will never be happy at this weight. It's just not going to happen. And it shouldn't happen. It's not like I'm at a healthy weight and am just in denial about it. So something needs to change, and the only place I can realistically lay blame is on my diet.

May 13, 2006

Exercise Stuff + Evil Chocolate Cake

When I disappear for a few days - from the blog, that is - it usually means that I either haven't had the time/inclination to cook much or that I've been slacking off on the diet/exercise front and don't want to face up to it. Well, this time it's a little bit of both. My work schedule has been such that I haven't been home for dinner, and not cooking much. I've been eating very randomly, erring on the side of not enough (check hell for snowcones!)... until last night when I decided to bake a cake. Now I have eaten four - yes, FOUR - pieces of cake in the last 24 hours. Luckily there are only three left, so one way or another this delicious menace isn't long for the world.

And I seem to have been struck by a disease that renders me incapable of waking up in the morning, which has put a serious kink in my workout schedule. I've only gotten in two runs and one strength training session this week. Bad. It's still more than I ever used to do, though. And I completely changed up my strength training routine, so I've been sore for the last three days. You don't realize quite how accustomed you get to doing certain exercises until you try something different and then find that you can't lift your arms over your head without crying the next day.

Also! I got a stability ball. It's pretty exciting. I wanted it specifically for ab stuff, because I want to do more ab work but doing it on the floor really hurts my tailbone for some reason. Possibly because it's a floor, and therefore hard and uncomfortable. Or it could be something else, who knows. Anyway, I'll definitely use it for ab stuff, but I think it's going to add a lot to my workouts in general. It's a lot of fun to just roll around on too.

And now I leave you with this delicious piece of cake, because this is a food blog after all.

P.S. Don't frost the cake with peanut butter frosting when it's still hot. Your lovely peanut buttery fudgey frosting will turn into weird, melty, tummy-upsetting stuff. Don't fret, though. A night in the fridge will mostly fix it.

This cake is your standard Wacky/Crazy Cake plus the peanut butter frosting from Veganmania.

May 07, 2006

Sun Tea, Fruitapalooza, Moong Dal + Samosas

Blueberry sun tea a-brewin'. There's just something about sun tea that tastes better than regular iced tea. Vitamin D? Melanoma? Nostalgia? That all-important secret ingredient, love? The world may never know.

Lunch! Pretty self-explanatory, I think. Banana, cantaloupe, honeydew, strawberries, a tangelo, and a rice cake with peanut butter and raisins. Normally I wouldn't take a picture of something like this, but fruit is just so pretty.

Moong Dal with Browned Onions from World Vegetarian and Potato-Green Pea Samosas from VwaV. I never feel like making the dough to go with those, so I've just been using phyllo. Not quite as good, but definitely quicker. This was my first time using moong dal, and I was pretty excited because I've had a bag cooling in the pantry for months. It was good - a bit bland, but in a creamy, comforting sort of way. It was extremely filling as well. And it's a great color, if I may take a moment to be completely superficial. I don't know if this particular dish will become a staple, but I'll definitely be experimenting more with moong dal.

Operation: Shake That Ass Update: Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to announce that I ran for 20 minutes straight today. Twenty minutes! Five weeks ago I couldn't run for two minutes. So yeah, I'm pretty proud of myself right now. I feel like exercise is becoming less something I have to do and more something that I actually want to do. Unfortunately the scale is still not giving it up, and I'd be lying through my teeth if I said it didn't bother me. But I just keep reminding myself that these things take time. Slow and steady wins the race. Insert motivational platitude here.

I may start keeping track of my food again, just for a week or so, to see if I can determine what the problem is. Either I'm not eating enough or I need to cut out my evening chocolate chip habit. I'd pretty much bet my life on the latter, but oh, to dream! I don't think under-eating has ever been a problem in the 22.85 years I've spent on this planet.

May 05, 2006

Catching Up + Pants Rant

Contrary to what the lack of updates here would lead you to believe, I have been cooking - and taking pictures. It's just that, for the most part, what I've been cooking hasn't been that exciting. Simple things. Variations on a theme. But I thought I'd post them anyway, because... well, because.

Baked pasta with Vegan Gourmet mozzarella, plus steamed broccoli and carrots. Also a slice of "garlic bread," read: toast with Earth Balance and garlic powder because I didn't have any roasted garlic hanging around.

Peanut butter french toast with shameful "pancake syrup" and sliced strawberries. Peanut butter french toast is so easy: whisk together some soy milk, creamy peanut butter, a little flour, and optional vanilla and cinnamon. Dip bread. Cook. Eat.

Greek-style green beans, mashed potatoes, and corn. Best green beans ever, no contest.

Leaving food aside for a moment, can I just ask: why have low-rise pants taken over the world? Seriously. I'm not totally averse to the low-rise. They look much better than high-waisted mom pants (no offense to any stylish moms out there, but my mom wears 'em, so to me they're mom pants). But I do take issue with the sort of low-rise pants that introduce strangers to your pubic hair, and it seems as if it's getting harder and harder to find any sort of middle ground.

I was at Old Navy yesterday looking for some new jeans. I hate hate hate shopping for pants. It's impossible. And the proliferation of low-waisted pants is not helping things at all. Old Navy claims to offer 4 rises, but I could only find two: low-waist and ultra low-waist. The latter is just not an option for me, which is unfortunate because all of the jeans I liked were of this variety. But awesome love handles + ultra low-waist = nausea, disorientation, and possibly blindness. So, no. I tried on like 6 pairs of pants, found three that would sort of work. I say sort of because the low-waist requires constant adjustment, so even if they fit well I'm forever pulling them up over my pudge. Because with mom pants your rolls get pushed up, but with low-waisted pants everything just kind of spills over the top.

And on top of this, it seems that there is a gang of stumpy girls roaming around buying all the 14 shorts just before I arrive at the store. Luckily I only bought one pair of full-length pants, and I did manage to dig a short pair out of the entrance to Narnia that is the back of the rack. On the plus side, that pair was on super sale and I managed to find two pairs of capris that are actually the right length. Mostly because they're supposed to be bermuda shorts, but I'll take what I can get. They still suffer from low-waist overflow, though.

Man, I just went on for way too long about pants.

May 03, 2006

Workout Wednesday 5/3 and Hiking Pictures

I was supposed to start week 5 of the Couch to 5K program on Monday, but due to a spontaneous hiking trip - and the sudden return of my inability to wake up in the morning - things got a little off track. I still did my strength training on Tuesday, and I did the first run of week 5 this morning. It's going to throw the schedule off a bit, but I suppose my running week can begin on Wednesday just as well as it can on Mondays.

At first I was upset that my schedule got messed up, because I'm notorious for missing one day of exercise and then never starting up again. But the hike we took was exercise - we were out for 3 1/2 hours, which, according to several calorie calculators, burned around 1,600 calories. I really balked at that figure. I mean, that's what I eat in a day. But I checked about 5 different calculators, and it was a pretty strenuous hike - hills, rocks, etc. So even though I missed my run that day, I burned way more calories hiking than I would have if I went running anyway. Besides, life happens. I need to learn to be more flexible. Thing can't always be regimented and scheduled.

It was an amazingly gorgeous day for a hike, too. We went to the Holtwood Environmental Preserve, about half an hour from Lancaster. There are miles of trails, plus a lake with a hydroelectric dam and fish lifts. Yes, fish lifts. The fish need to go upstream to spawn, but of course they can't get over the dam... enter the fish lift. It's an elevator for the fish. This concept totally made my week. Unfortunately we didn't get to see it, because by the time we got off the trail it was nearly dark, but I will get back there to see it. ASAP. It has become a life goal for me.

Anyway, photos. Click to enlarge.