Archive for March, 2010

Pierogis & Broccoli, and Daiya day (to come).

Tonight was one of those night’s I had anticipated in advance being a “late night”, with two clients after work.  However, like clockwork the second client canceled and I found myself with an hour to kill.  Naturally, I went to Target because D had to work late.  This was no problem for me, as I had already planned tonight’s quick-fix dinner!

This is one of those meal’s I’ve mentioned before, and it is so cheap and easy that I cannot help but keep it in my cache of “easy dinners”. From Robin Robinson’s Quick-Fix Vegetarian, “Potato & Onion Pierogis with Broccoli & Walnuts”. The ingredients couldn’t be simpler (pierogis, broccoli, walnuts, onion, olive oil).  I like to use frozen chopped broccoli & chopped walnuts in this recipe, they crisp up real nice and absorb the flavors of the onion.

While it may not appear to be quite healthy, when you factor in the walnuts & broccoli, I consider it a fair trade for time.  The only thing I’m really lacking here is some serious protein. One-third of the whole dinner (about 4 pierogis), is about 375 calories.  I imagine you throw in a protein and take away a pierogi and you’d be set.  Besides, D totally loves this and pretty much eats the remaining 2/3 – which always makes me feel like a successful mom girlfriend.

Fitness-wise, due to the late night dinner I’m skipping tonight’s workout, but planning a double tomorrow: elliptical session & hot yoga (the first of my 20-classes in 30-days challenge).  I’m pretty sore from last night’s yoga, but can’t wait to hit the mat again and make my muscles scream some more. I only wish I had a washer/drier in my apartment to allow me to keep my yoga clothes and towels washed every few days rather than every week.

I spent some time today thinking about what my goals will be from this challenge.  Aside from the obvious (tighter arms/abs), I’m hoping to really improve my strength and push through some difficult poses.  I know some classes will be more challenging than others, but I hope when my 20 classes are up I notice some progress or at the very least, leave my comfort zone and try more challenging poses. Balance poses are really tough for me, no doubt that is connected to my knee issues, so any progress in that area will be very welcome. I also hope a nearly daily practice will allow me to bring the yogi energy with me daily during real-life scenarios.

On to more exciting life news, tomorrow or Friday I will be using my free time the best way I know how.  Hunting down vegan food products.  Not just any product, but the Daiya vegan cheeze, which as of TODAY is currently on sale at Whole Foods nationwide!!  I can’t wait to stock up and start playing, and I think if I can get my hands on a few bags by Saturday some vegan cheeze will definitely make an appearance at my family’s dinner Sunday.  I’ve had the pleasure of eating Daiya products at restaurants on two (grilled cheeze) occasions (pizza), and fell in love.  Go try it if you haven’t!

Any vegan products you’ve found that you can’t get enough of? I do love Gardein’s seven grain tenders, and my Sunday morning breakfast wouldn’t be complete without Tofutti French Onion cream cheeze.


March 31, 2010 at 8:45 pm 8 comments

Yoga delights.

I haven’t stopped for a minute today.  Okay, I stopped for an hour to watch Lost. I went from work, to private clients, to yoga, to shower, to dinner, to Lost, to make lunch for tomorrow, to edit D’s law school essay, to now. 11:22 p.m. I’m ready for bed so this will be short and sweet. First – thanks for the suggestions for family holiday food!  I think I probably will go with a lasagna (grandma gave me the approval haha).

Why is it that whenever I am trying to make a yoga class, I’m either entirely too early, or on the verge of being late?  Of course the possibility of being late conjures feelings of anxiety and nervousness – just the right type of energy to put out there before yoga, no?  No. Regardless, I was probably pressing the pedal a bit hard, on a rainy day, to make it to yoga in time.  A friend from work was going to meet me, and I was so excited that we’d be yoga-ing together and iIdidn’t want to walk in late. Plus this is an overflowing class. Of course, the world didn’t end and I made it on time. And I had a great time, and have two things to share with you, which if you’d like to not be enlightened by then just scroll to the food pictures!

Tonight’s yoga class was so packed tonight that the room was wall to wall yoga mats and bodies, with literally an inch at best between mats. This makes me nervous usually, however tonight’s experience was enlightening. While we sweat and flowed to pop tunes, the girl to my left, who I’ve never met before, on two occasions encouraged me to push myself.  The first time was when attempting tripod headstand.  We were just way too close to those around us for me to feel comfortable, however with her head an inch away from mine she encouraged me, “You’re so close, just do it.  You have GOT to just try it!”. I couldn’t help but smile and consider it.  The next time was during wheel.  We were encouraged to do five full wheels consecutively. I enjoy wheel but do not enjoy my wrists aching and feeling like they are going to give out.  During wheel #2 I started to lower myself at the 3rd breath and she again was there to urge me on, “Don’t give up, you’re doing great keep it up there.” And so I did.  But there is nothing like having your own cheering squad next to you.  During plow I had to return the favor.  (Disclaimer: I am the type who usually does my own thing at yoga, focusing on my mat and practice alone, and not steering my glances to those around me.  However after this girl has so kindly reached out to me, I had to step out of my confines.) She was struggling to pull her legs up, and had after a few tries thrown her legs down.  And so I turned to her and said, “You can do it! Try again you’re almost there!”. I just wish I’d said “Thank you!”.  I also wish I got her name but by the end of class I was so wiped I had forgotten the good she had done me tonight, so I’m sending out that energy here.

Other yoga mentionables tonight include attempting handstands with a very nice gentleman who was twice my height/weight, and having the teacher pull me up by my legs in bow and drop me due to my sweaty legs slipping out from her hands.  We’ll see how that feels tomorrow, but she picked me right back up and swung me from side to side. She’s a strong strong woman.

So needless to say, after yoga I was whipped and quite hungry, as it was after 8:00.  I forgot about my dinner plan and told D to throw on some pasta, it was going to be the easy night tonight. I threw some whole wheat rotini and marinara over a bed of spinach, and topped it with four meatless meatballs and some Vegan parma.  Yum!

I then enjoyed some delicious Trader Joe’s kettle corn during Lost, which I’m only sharing because they are awesome. They single handedly were able to satisfy my sweet and salty craving for 110 calories.

I’m excited to share my lunch tomorrow that I spent my last few minutes of free time tonight preparing.

How do you manage with having no “free time” at home some days? I know I should consider yoga my “free time/me time”, but when I come home and don’t stop for more than an hour I feel a little wacky.  Here’s to a wacky yoga filled month!

March 30, 2010 at 10:49 pm 9 comments

Southern comfort…food.

A Monday like today just begs for an indulgent, satisfying, comforting meal.  It has been a rainy, slow day today, and working with children just really wipes me out after a 2-day break.  So tonight I went with a “southern” meal.  I’m not southern girl, probably more Italian New Jersey as far as how I was raised with food (do not think Snookie or Jersey Shore, think pasta, pasta, meatballs, and more pasta!). With half a bag of potatoes on hand, I knew I wanted somethng  worth the work: mashed potatoes. I also had a little bit of pressed firm tofu left over from last week that I had frozen, so I thawed it out and for the first time went down and dirty with Veganomicon‘s “Chili Cornmeal Crusted Tofu”. And as for my “greens”, some fried peas and red onions. I know it isn’t the most “healthy” meal, but it was exactly what I had in mind.

I followed Veganomicon recipe to the “t”, choosing to bake them rather than fry.  The tofu came out so crispy and flavorful, with a bit of a kick (chili/cayenne). They were very very slightly on the dry side, but that very well can be attributed to the fact that the tofu was both pressed and frozen, which always adds to a chewier texture.  I would absolutely make these again, and D said he really enjoyed them as well.

For the mashed potatoes: I boiled 5 small potatoes until soft, then used my immersion blender to whip them up.  I added about a 1/4 cup of Silk Creamer, 1.5 tablespoons of Earth Balance, 2 pressed garlic cloves, and a pinch or so of salt. They came out absolutely delicious.  I may have overdone the Earth Balance, however D gobbled it up and I thought they were fantastic as well.  Honestly, NO ONE WOULD KNOW that these creamy, rich mashed potatoes were vegan.  Take that!

And then there were the peas. These were incredibly simple. I simply chopped up half of a red onion, and sauteed it for a few minutes in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  I then added 1.5 cups of petite peas. I let them saute over medium/high heat for about 8-minutes, until the onions got a little crispy and the peas were tender. Let me just say, this is the perfect compliment to mashed potatoes.  I just mush them together and enjoy!

Overall this dinner was everything it needed to be (and probably quite caloric). I don’t care. We don’t have meals like this very often, and D and I both licked our plates clean.  This is the type of meal you make to wow non-vegans, without ever even saying a word. Now if only I could figure out what to do with the rest of my potatoes!

As for my fitness, I consulted with the physical therapist at my school today (one of the perks of being a speech pathologist).  I described to her the onset and type of pain, and how I am pretty sure it’s the revenge of the IT bands from hell. She briefly asked my recent fitness history and routine to pinpoint what had changed to cause injury.  What did we come up with? THE ELLIPTICAL.  How ridiculous, but it makes sense.  Even though the pain began when running, she believes the motion I make when on the elliptical probably stressed the IT band and pulled at my knee funny, and when I ran it exacerbated the pain to the point where I am today.  Of course, she recommended a few things that were obvious, and some not.  I figured I’d share for those of you out there without a free PT consult and IT Band pain:

  1. Stay away from running/elliptical (hmm, the elliptical really?), and rather choose walking for the time being, especially if I’d like to run again.
  2. If choosing to walk, try the track where it is spongey (better for impact).  She shared that tracks are on an incline, and that if I walk one lap on the outer lane, I should turn around and walk the same lap but facing the other direction.  Continue to alternate each lap so that you don’t continuously overcompensate one leg’s work for the other.
  3. When seated on a couch, elevate the injured leg and tilt the foot to the nearest wall (e.g., I am tilting my right foot to the right, so it’s like a 45 degree angle).
  4. If I pursue yoga, which I am, she said to make absolutely sure that I am balanced in both legs all of the time, with weight equally distributed for all poses.  Any weight imbalances could further strain the knee.

That’s pretty much it.  I am going to roll out my leg and ice it tonight.  I also really want to hit the elliptical but know that I shouldn’t.  We’ll see, maybe I’ll change the stride length and see how that feels. That’s pretty much it tonight!  There are only 2 1/2 days left of this week and I am really antsy for some beautiful weather to enjoy.

If you cook vegan/vegetarian, what’s the most delicious meal you’ve made to wow your non-veg family/friends? I have to make some food for the holiday this weekend and am not sure exactly what to make to wow the crowd!

March 29, 2010 at 7:29 pm 9 comments

Super Re-Charge me (cookies).

Today, I kind of had the attitude that I would hang low, recover, and take the day as it came.  My knees still hurt, and so I didn’t plan much activity.  I did plan (and took) a 75-minute restorative yoga class this evening.  Although my official 20-day yoga start doesn’t begin until Thursday, I attendedtonight’s class and will be attending a class Tuesday evening as well.

Prior to class beginning, I informed the instructor about my current injuries, however she assured me I should be fine and should just modify as needed. Before class started I used the leg strap and stretched my leg across my body to warm up the IT band. The focus of today’s class was on breathing and ab-work, aside from a few lunges and vinyasas toward the end. Nothing really pained my knees, although they definitely clicked all the way through class.  I was really needing some vinyasa in my life, so even though we only flowed a few times, it felt fantastic.

By the end of class I had totally forgotten I had even walked in with knee pain!  I felt re-charged. It wasn’t until I was walking from my car back to my apartment that I realized I was plagued with only a mild aching, and so I am seriously crossing my fingers that a month of yoga will help get me back on track.

Since today was a lazy day, I pretty much didn’t cook any meals and was in no mood to do so, and so I ate a mish mosh of uncreative items. However, it wasn’t much and I soon found myself gravitating toward baking.  I didn’t want to make anything too tempting, because I am almost always the one who falls victim.  I went with an obvious blogger choice, as I have seen them time and time again.  Dreena Burton’s “Super Charge Me” cookies from Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan. The ingredients are all easily found in most pantries, and are absolutely wholesome: almond butter, oatmeal, raisins, maple syrup, flax meal, and coconut. No unrefined sugar, and no butter – so obviously these are not what I consider a true “baked good”.

Keeping in mind these are not indulgent dessert-like cookies, I have to say they are pretty good.  The coconut/cinnamon/raisin/oatmeal combo lends toward an oatmeal raisin cookie flavor, however the butter is obviously lacking.  In fact, D commented “these are good, but why not just make oatmeal raisin cookies?”, touche. In their own right, when viewed as a healthy alternative to a cookie (at approximately 105 calories each), they deserve credit.  I’ll be enjoying these for a few days happily, and I hope they satisfy my after lunch & dinner sweet tooth. And I’ll be honest, D and I each have had two.

I’m off to prepare for another week of work, and a kick start to yoga month.  Hope everyone has a positive and productive start to the week!

March 28, 2010 at 8:29 pm 3 comments

Blue Day.

Well I did it.  I decided (against my better judgment) to go out for a “short run” today.  I strapped on my new running toy, a Garmin Forerunner, and set forth on a flat path toward a goal of 3.0 miles.  No sooner did I hit 0.20 miles, my right knee had a slight pain to it, mostly higher and I associated with my IT band.   I had forgotten my IT band compression strap, should I go back? Nah I’ll be fine. I stopped, stretched, and kept trudging on.  I thought “mind over matter, I’ll just take it slow”.  I stuck to around 9:20 for the first .75 mile then it struck again. Ow! I stopped and massaged and started back up at a slower pace.  I stopped every .25 mile until I hit 1.5 miles to stretch and massage.  Now, I’m 1.5 miles from home and my knee is killing me and I’m at a 10:40 limpy pace.  I say, “chin up” and start heading back.  At mile 2.0 it was impossible.  I limp jogged at a very, very sad and painful 11:40 pace and yelled out a few times in pain.  I knew this was no good.

What a sad start to my new toy.  I recalled all the things my physical therapist and doctor had told me to do four years ago when a similar pain had struck me and I was diagnosed with ITB syndrome of my left knee.  Today we are dealing with my right knee. My left knee is aching but not popping, crunching, and killing me.  Anyhow, I instantly whipped out the tools I had and did the following:

  • Took 3 200-mg ibuprofen
  • Iced knee with some frozen vegetables for 10-minutes (*need to purchase gel packs, this barely did the trick, any tips?)
  • Rolled my IT-band on my super-dense foam roller for a few minutes
  • Did 3-sets of 15 leg lefts with a 3-lb ankle weight

We’re on our way to becoming very close.

I realize I pretty much set myself up for this, but 3-miles, really?  This is pretty bad.  Needless to say, I won’t be running anytime soon and am shelving my new Garmin until I feel pain has subsided and I have treated my knee properly.  How long should I wait before I see a specialist?

This is the perfect segue to share the only EXCITING news I have today, which absolutely pertains to my fitness:  I signed up for 20-sessions of hot yoga in 30-days for the month of April. I am so absolutely excited, and the opportunity couldn’t have come at a more perfect time (see knee issues above).  I really hope this helps me build some much needed strength and give my knee a rest, as there really won’t be much time for running anyhow.  I had to ask D if he minded if I took on this “challenge”, and he said if it’s what I wanted to do, then of course not. Actually, what he said to me was that and “Are you still going to have dinner for me?”.  HA HA.

What does this mean? The next months I am going to be running from work, to clients, to yoga.  I probably won’t be home for 12+ hours a day, and will be eating dinner late.  My dinners may not be as exciting, creative, or interesting, but I am going to try my best. I will be also be spending most days wearing this little man around my leg:

Today’s food was rather uncreative.  I was mostly mourning the fact that I tortured myself.  So I cooked up the remaining 1/2 cup of quinoa I had, and decided to treat it as pasta (or pastina).  I added some marinara sauce, vegan parmesan, and meatless meatballs.  It made a big miss and isn’t pretty, but it was tasty and protein-licious!

So from hereon out, expect more “quick meals”, knee progress, and yoga updates.  I’ll try to keep my bitching to a minimum, but do appreciate any tips on how to make my situation a bit more tolerable.  Tonight we saw Alice in Wonderland in 3D.  D was a little shocked when I limped out of the theatre.  I’m not sure if it was the position my knee was in, or just the pain settling in and the ibuprofen wearing off, but the pain was close to intolerable.  I had to limp my way to the car quite literally, as it hurt when my knee was bent and so I had to keep it straight and sort of drag it.  In public.

I hope you all had great Saturdays, with delicious food, and better fitness results than I. Here’s to a sunnier tomorrow!

March 27, 2010 at 10:06 pm 10 comments

Quick Tacajito Night

First, I must apologize for yesterday’s unsolicited rant.  Possibly losing one’s job does that to people.  Today we had a bright and early meeting to discuss such possibilities, and then I saw a client after work.  Originally I had another client scheduled and didn’t expect to be home until around 7:00, but they happened to cancel and my possibility window opened!  While I had already scheduled a “quick dinner”, and wasn’t quite prepared to go for a run (still nursing my knee) – this did mean that I was able to get an hour elliptical workout in – and for that I am grateful!

Dinner tonight continues in the fashion of the rest of this week – quick and easy. I had leftover pressed firm tofu, wraps, and an onion to play with. I added some rice, black beans, pepper strips and called it a tacajito. Yes, a tacajito.  Here’s why:  I used taco flavoring to season the tofu and vegetables (taco), the vegetables were fajita style (fajita), and the added rice/bean blend and wrap was reminiscent of a burrito (burrito).  I know, I’m quite creative.

I cut the tofu into strips and let it marinate in a soy sauce/taco seasoning mix for about an hour. When the time came, I misted my pan with olive oil and let my tofu steaks get all nice and golden, aren’t they gorgeous?

I then sauteed some pepper strips with onion strips until … they seemed ready?  I added some more taco seasoning to this mix as well.  On the side I had cooked up some brown rice and combined it with black beans, then added a bit of lime juice to take it up a notch.  I think what I was missing was a bit of cilantro (boo!).  I threw it all on a whole grain wrap and topped it with a spoon full of salsa:

This was probably the messiest dinner I’ve eaten in awhile.  I tried my best to capture the moment in all it’s messy glory, but decided to take it down a notch and share this one.  Anyway, it was pretty delicious.  I know it was simple and didn’t really require much thought or preparation at all, but that is the beauty of this dinner and most of my dinners this week: they have all proven to be simple and reliable. D cleared his plate and cleared the pot. I’d say he enjoyed it!

So I was just browsing over at Book Publishing Co., which publishes a large amount of books about healthy sustainable living, and I came across this book:

At first glance I thought it was a book that you give to non-vegans to help them understand veganism (which I thought was pretty funny and worthwhile), however it seems like its more of a memoir.  Regardless, had to share it!

Thank goodness tomorrow is Friday, have lots of work-related activities to do, and D and I are not going out on our Friday night dinner.  What’s looking good though, is getting a run in on Saturday.  I’m pretty excited to test out my new toy and my knee as well. Hope everyone has a great Friday – any good plans out there?

March 25, 2010 at 7:58 pm 8 comments

Education Rant & A Quick Dinner.

Ugh.  It’s totally been one of those days.  I’m not going to go into fast-forward complain mode, but I would just like to thank New Jersey’s Republicians for not giving a crap about the future of education. Thank you for cutting teachers.  Thank you for cutting extra-curricular activities.  Thank you for cutting in-class support.  I’m sad to think of how much these children are going to end up missing.  For many kids, schools are the one place that they can rely on for structure and support.  Bye-bye! What’s most painful is the large chunk of 35+ years experience tenured teachers who voted for the man who is making these changes.

Aside from the fact that I am directly affected, and my position may or may not exist next school year (won’t know until May 20th), our new governor has outwardly slammed the middle class and is going to further drive our economy downward.  What do you do with thousands of teachers who are getting cut?  They can’t just go out and find a position at a new school (in an already tight job market), as all schools in the state are affected.  So? More unemployment, less spending, and a whole bunch of other great benefits, etc. etc. etc. You know how that goes.  Not to mention the fact that now towns must hike up taxes (but only a small percent) to meet growing budget gaps. I’m sure people are just going to love that!  Yay for the middle class!

Rant over. I guess I just needed to explain why I just devoured a bag of veggie stix with no true hunger.  Stress.

So, after work we had a meeting to discuss the mess mentioned above.  I then rushed to Bloomingdales to get my pants hemmed (which by the way, denim is 15% off now and there is also a 20% off friends and family promotion going on now – hit. it. up.), and then rushed to get my hairs cut.  I had to stop at Trader Joes as it is the closest one to me, at 30-minutes away, and across the street from my salon.  Long story short – that’s how I got the veggie stix.

What I’m getting at is that I came home not entirely prepared to make dinner, mildly hungry, and annoyed that I wasn’t going to have time to work out tonight or tomorrow (work, work, work). A quick scan of my cookbooks left me uninspired.  I knew I just wanted some broccoli.  So I whipped up my short-hand version of Cavatelli & Broccoli – sans cavatelli.

  • 1/2 box of cooked whole-wheat fusilli (or pasta of your choice)
  • 3 cups of chopped broccoli (I used frozen)
  • 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 4-5 garlic cloves, chopped (what can I say I love it)
  • 1.5 cups of canellini beans
  • 1-2 tsp red pepper

Sautee the garlic in olive oil until fragrant, then add the broccoli and red pepper.  Stir until softened, then add the beans.  Stir for another 2-3 minutes, then add the cooked pasta.  Mix and enjoy!  I added some vegan parmesean to up the flavor a little.  This is not a true cavatelli & broccoli, however it’s so quick and easy and I do go to it in times of desperation (like tonight).

I hope not too many of you are affected by the cuts, as it appears NJ gets to be the leader of all things sucky. I hope now that I’ve indulged myself with a bag of veggie stix I can move on to a better non-emotional day tomorrow.  I want so bad to just enjoy some nice weather and go for a leisurely, non-painful, run.  That’s why we have weekends right?  On a more positive note, HOLY LOST!

March 24, 2010 at 9:33 pm 3 comments

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