Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Mediterranean Chickpea Salad


Whenever I think of chickpeas, I consider their more sophisticated moniker, garbanzo beans.  This never fails to make me think of Gonzo from The Muppets.  Is anyone else a Muppets fan?  My most favorite "attraction" at MGM in Disney World is Muppets 3D.  Hm...now I really want to go to Disney (I've been many many times).  My husband and I are hoping to go when he gets back...we have enough credit card points for a week long hotel stay, so we're going somewhere.  

Moving on to today's specialty, which does showcase the delightful garbanzo bean.

Mediterranean Chickpea Salad


I think the name says it all for this one.  Its bright and shiny, and bursting with freshness and flavor.  I brought it to my friend's for dinner last night, and I kind of wish I had gotten to eat more of it.  I meant to put parsley in it but I bought cilantro on accident.  Since I was making it for others, I went light on it, since I know some people really hate cilantro, but my dad said it needed more (he wanted a bowl before I left, he was oggling as I was making it).  As I've mentioned before though, my dad likes really strong flavors.  

Recipe?  Yes.  

2 cans of garbanzo beans drained and rinsed
1 cup oil packed sun dried tomato, drained, rinsed, and sliced
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 red onion (small-ish?), chopped
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
2 tsp agave nectar

1.  Put the chickpeas through cilantro in an appropriately sized bowl.  
2.  Whisk the olive oil through agave nectar until well combined.  
3.  Pour dressing over chickpeas and toss until everything is coated. 
4.  Cover, and refrigerate for as long as possible (at least 3 hours probably).

Serves 8.
Nutrition Information:  217.9 Calories;  8.2g Total Fat;  1.1g Saturated Fat;  0.0mg Cholesterol;  31.5g Carbohydrates;  5.9g Fiber;  6.5g Protein

Really do let it chill as long as you can.  We probably had it refrigerated for about 5 hours and the acid in the lemon juice makes the chickpeas deliciously creamy, which is a really nice contrast to the crunchy raw onion.  

Switching gears to quickly wrap things up, I mentioned a few weeks ago that I bought some Pure bars.  I gave my review on the Cashew Cherry, but I also bought the Trail Mix...

...and it was also really good.  I have to say that the Cashew Cherry was probably my favorite, but this was a good one too, especially with the sprinkling of carob chips in it!    

I've kind of had a headache all day, and I know its because I haven't been eating very well.  Between all the family get-togethers, going out for the day with the fam, etc., I've sort of fallen off track.  Not that I've been eating badly, just that I am aware I haven't been eating enough, or drinking enough water.  I have been keeping up with the gym, which is good, I hate breaking that habit more than anything, but at the same time, keeping myself fueled and hydrated kind of goes right along with that.  Here's to tomorrow, I'm hoping to get three good meals and three good snacks (I eat quite a lot), and at least 3 liters of water.      

Monday, December 29, 2008

Quinoa Stuffed Mushrooms

Today actually was the dinner that I said I was going to.  I think I've finally gotten my days straight.  Today is Monday right?  Okay well it's 12:02 here, so technically its Tuesday, but you know what I mean.  

My friend told me she was making soup, but I was anticipating a lack of protein, so I decided to make some stuffed mushrooms stuffed with quinoa.  I was incredibly pleased with my time-management, actually, but the shrooms were good too!  


Quinoa Stuffed Mushrooms

Pre-oven

About 16 baby bella or white mushrooms (enough to fill a square baking dish)
3 cloves garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsbp salt free seasoning (I used Emeril's Chicken Rub:  red pepper, paprika, poultry seasoning, etc) 
1 1/4 cup cooked quinoa
3 tbsp dried basil
3 tsbp dried parsley
1.5 tbsp nutritional yeast
3-4 tbsp vegan cream cheese
salt & pepper to taste
paprika

1.  Preheat oven to 400.  Prepare baking by coating with a thin layer of oil, or use cooking spray.
2.  Stem and clean mushroom caps by brushing with a damp towel.
3.  Heat olive oil in pan.  Add garlic and saute for a few minutes, then add salt free seasoning, mixing to coat.  
4.  Add quinoa, basil, parsely, and nutritional yeast until well combined.
5.  Add cream cheese and mix well 
6.  Salt and pepper to taste.  
7.  Fill mushrooms with stuffing, sprinkle with paprika, and cook in preheated oven for 20 minutes, uncovered.  

Per Mushroom (about 3 per person would make a good appetizer serving):
Nutrition Information:  41.8 Calories;  1.8g Total Fat;  0.3g Saturated Fat;  0.0mg Cholesterol;  5.1g Carbohydrates;  1.3g Fiber;  2.0g Protein


Oh, cutest thing, my friend tried really hard to make stuff that I could eat.  She wanted to make potato leek soup, so I sent her a bunch of vegan recipes for it, and then she found her own recipe for vegan pesto.  When I got there, she said it came out really well, but she didn't understand why it told her to put yeast in it.  Too cute, she put regular yeast in it, when it obviously (to vegans) meant nutritional yeast.  It was seriously delicious though, even with the regular yeast.

We had a fun night, we ate, drank, there was a ton of food and not enough people to eat it.  Then we played Apples to Apples and Partini.  I am a big fan of Apples to Apples, I think because I am pretty good at reading people, so I often win.  I'm pretty competitive, so...I like any game I have a decent of winning, haha.  We were really frustrated with Partini at first, it seemed to hard, but it ended up being a lot of fun...so much so that I didn't realize how badly we were losing, and I actually didn't even care (shocker!!).

It still feels like the weekend to me!  My brother is home from school, my dad is home from work, I am just so damned confused.  So, I guess I should end this by telling everyone to have a great week!

Today's Cooking Song of the Day:  "Don't Look Back in Anger" - Oasis       

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Mystery Fruit




Do you know what it is?  I'll give you some hints.   

I spent most of today in the city.  The city being New York City...as if there might be another, haha.  It really irritates my husband that I refer to it as "the city" even when I'm not even in New York and it isn't as obvious.  

Anyway, we went to Chinatown.  If you haven't been to Chinatown as a vegetarian, vegan, or just as a person who really likes animals, it is a little disturbing.  Dead poultry hanging in windows, barely live lobsters piled on top of one another, happy fishies swimming in storefronts, completely unaware that they are about to meet their demise...  

Despite this, there are some really delightful parts of Chinatown.  First, there is a lot of cheap knockoff stuff.  Not that I bought anything, but I always say I should.  But they also have lots of nice people selling some beautiful looking produce.  And almost every table that we passed was selling cherries, grapes, starfruit, and some weird bunches of brown fruit.  They looked something like this.  

Well the pictures give away the end of the story, I guess.  I couldn't resist buying some.  My brother and I started slicing them open a little bit ago, and found some really interesting fruit inside.  


They're also known as a dragon eye.  I tried to show it in the picture, but it was tough.  They have a really dark seed in the middle of them, and the flesh is kind of transparent, so it resembles an eye.  

If you are wondering how to peel them, my brother and I thought about making a video.  But then we found this cute video of a little girl doing it, and figured she was cuter than us.


If you don't want to watch, its not that hard.  At first I was slicing into the skin and then peeling it away, but you can sort of just give them a squeeze and the skin separates.  

The texture is really hard to explain.  If you've ever had a lychee fruit, they are similar, although I find them much easier to peel, and I definitely prefer the taste.  They're very juicy, not overly sweet, and almost have a kind of milkiness about them.  The seed inside can be boiled and eaten, so we're collecting them.  

Okay, are you exasperated that I haven't told you what they are yet?  Did you just skip to the bottom of the page because you are just too impatient?  I don't blame you.  

They're called a longan fruit.  They can be dried or eaten fresh, and they're most often used in Chinese cuisine, and even some medicinal practices.  I'm no expert though, I am citing this from the entries for Longan on Wikipedia, and you can read it too if you're interested.

For one fruit, raw, seed removed:
Nutrition Information:  2 Calories.  That's it really.  Everything else is so small it doesn't register.  
For 100g of fruit:
Nutrition Information:  60 Calories;  0.0g Total Fat;  0.0g Saturated Fat;  0.0mg Cholesterol;  15g Carbohydrates;  1.0g Fiber;  1.0g Protein

Long story short, they're good, and if you ever find them, you should try them!  Hopefully I will get a chance to make something with them, maybe dry some, and definitely boil the seeds.  I'll be sure to update on them!  


On a completely unrelated note, I was confused about what day it was yesterday, and my friend's party is tomorrow, hehe.  Oops.

Because some of you asked, my husband did not come home for Christmas.  When you are deployed, you typically only get to come home once, and he was here in August.  The good news though, is that he doesn't have too much longer in Iraq!  Thanks for asking too, I appreciate it :)       

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Peanut Butter Cookie Monster

I love dessert.  I love eating dessert.  I love the idea of making my own dessert creations.  Truth be told, however, I rarely actually do that.  I would much rather search for a recipe, be inspired by a blog post, or buy a cookbook by someone who is clearly more experienced than I, and avoid being disappointed.  You’d think, as someone with a science background, that the science behind baking would intrigue me, but...tis not so.    


Luckily, I got two vegan dessert cookbooks for Christmas:  My Sweet Vegan by Hannah Kaminsky and The Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.  I have to say that one of my favorite things about both of these books is all the pictures!  They make the recipes so much more mouthwatering and memorable.    


I was also elated to be gifted with a Kitchen Aid food processor from my parents.  So, the first thing I did was make peanut butter.  This is good for a number of reasons.  First, I can’t control myself around an entire jar of peanut butter, so now I can make limited quantities.  Second...um...I like peanut butter?  I’m not sure why I said there were a number of reasons, peanut butter just rocks.  

   



Anyway, after making my peanut butter, I was flipping through My Sweet Vegan and found the peanut butter cookie recipe.  The best part, they are made with red lentils...not only did I have them in my pantry, but it would make them gluten free!!  


So, you’ll have to get the book yourself if you want to try them, but I will tell you that I woke up bright and early this morning before my yoga class to make them, and they are awesome.  I am pretty sensitive to the bean flour taste, but you can’t taste it even a little in these cookies; they are chewy and peanut buttery and even better than I thought they would be!  I didn’t have parchment paper, so I just used a bare ungreased baking sheet and removed them soon after taking them out of the oven so they wouldn’t stick.  I suggest flattening them a little before baking so they have that flat peanut butter cookie look.  I skipped that on the first batch and they weren’t as pretty.          

Peanut-Plus Cookies  


Nutrition Information:  112.8 Calories; 5.5g Total Fat;  0.9g Saturated Fat;  0.0mg Cholesterol;  11.7g Carbohydrates;  1.1g Fiber;  3.3g Protein


These were perfect with a nice glass of unsweetened soymilk (sweetened with english toffee flavored liquid stevia).  I had them for breakfast :)  You might want to save them for dessert, but I couldn’t wait until then.


So that’s it for the food.  My holiday was fine, kind of boring, although every single gift I received was fabulous, I feel quite spoiled this year.  I also got Veganomicon and Great Chefs Cook Vegan, both of which I am excited about.  Actually about 95% of my gifts were food related, so I’m sure they will be popping up on here in one way or another!  


I'm going to dinner at my friend's house tomorrow and I offered to bring two appetizers, because they are having non-vegan potato leek soup for dinner.  I'm thinking stuffed mushrooms, any ideas for a second app?


I hope everyone had (or is having, I don’t think Hanukkah is over yet?) a great holiday!  I’ll be able to catch up on everyone’s blogs soon, if I haven’t already...I feel so behind!   

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Autumn Millet Bake

I know its no longer autumn.  But I had a butternut squash begging to be used before it was past its time, cranberries in the freezer, and a lot of people to food.  Enter the casserole.  

So today was my first time using millet.  I take zero credit for the recipe, it is one of Mark Bittman's recipes, and it was posted by The Woodstock Animal Sanctuary.  It is his Autumn Millet Bake from his book How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.  The original recipe is vegetarian.  However, the "veganized" instructions on the sanctuary's website aren't really veganized, although the ingredient list is.  If you ever decide to make it, I substituted the cream with soymilk...honestly I don't think it really did much, I think you'd be fine with just vegetable broth.  

I also added a package of tempeh, at the same time it tells you to add the squash and the cranberries.  I doubled the recipe, sort of.  I doubled the millet, doubled the cranberries, added an extra half cup of liquid, doubled the spices, seasoning, pumpkin seeds, and maple syrup.  I only used 4 tsbp total of olive oil.  It called for 1/4 cup, and I couldn't figure out why.  So I cut it to 2 tbsp, but added more since I decided to double it.  I think you could away easily with 3.  

Autumn Millet Bake
   
I thought it would serve less, my brother and sister in law are here, so there were six of it, and I wasn't sure if it would be enough.  It could easily serve 8 though, it did for us.  That millet sure expands.  Regardless, the nutrition information is for 6.  

Serves 6
Nutrition Information:  371.7 Calories;  15.6g Total Fat;  2.5g Saturated Fat;  0.0mg Cholesterol;  51.1g Carbohydrates;  2.4g Fiber;  12.3g Protein.  

We also had roasted Brussels sprouts, which weren't anything particularly different, but I told my sister in law I would describe more specifically :)  

Probably about 2 cups of Brussels (mine came in a little tub today)
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2.  Trim Brussels, save any leafs if they fall off.  You can do them whole, but I find them come out better if you cut them in half.
3.  Toss Brussels with olive oil, salt and pepper.
4.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, spray with cooking spray.
5.  Put Brussels on baking sheet and toss any leaves that fell off in the remaining oil.
4.  Roast for about 20 minutes, checking and tossing every 5 minutes or so.
5.  In the last few minutes, add the leftover leaves.  They should only take 5 minutes tops to be browned.  

They were especially good today for some reason, personally, I think cutting them in half helps. They had them on the stalk at the store today, and I almost got really excited, but they were really small, and not a lot of sprouts on it.

That's all I've got for today.  The rest of my meals were beyond boring.  In fact, they were largely Clif bars, because I have no self control sometimes...you may have noticed. 


Today's Cooking Song:  "30 Days" - nevershoutnever (Christmas Song!)      

Monday, December 22, 2008

Nutty and Nutritional "Parmesan"

Hi everyone :)  I was at my in-laws' this weekend, forgot my power cord and was busy, so I didn't have a chance to get on.  That's okay though, I'm sure you all needed a break from me anyway, right?  

Anyway, I drove home today, had two hours to catch up on a ton of email, then went to my brother's show.  I know I have posted this before, but he has a band, you can find them here.  

We got back pretty early, were kind of rude and didn't stay for the other band, even though we're big fans of one of them.  I was just tired from driving all day.  How does sitting in one spot make you so tired?  Regardless, I made some super simple pasta for dinner.  The only thing that is really worth mentioning is the Nutritional Yeast and Pine Nut Cheese, which is equal parts toasted pine nuts and nutritional yeast, pulsed in a food processor until it looks like that grated parmesan cheese you can buy at the store.  Today I had it with kale and broccoli with some tomato sauce.  I've also had it with just some vegan margarine, and it was also really good.  

Spelt Pasta with Easy "Parmesan" Topping
Nutrition Information:  414.2 Calories;  12.7g Total Fat;  1.0g Saturated Fat;  0.0mg Cholesterol;  62.6g Carbohydrates;  12.7g Fiber;  18.3g Protein

I can't call this gluten free because the spelt pasta does contains gluten.  Eden's Organic (the brand I used) says:  
Spelt is allergy friendly. Although it does contain gluten it is different from modern wheat, highly water soluble making it easier to digest. Research has shown that like kamut, another ancient non hybridized wheat, spelt can be an excellent substitute for most people with wheat allergies.
I'm not a gluten free expert, and I don't need to be gluten free, so I'm okay with this, especially because this pasta is tasty...but I do see a lot of recipes that are called gluten free that contain spelt?  Maybe someone who IS an expert can enlighten me on this.  The impression I got it that some people with a gluten allergy or intolerance are okay with spelt, but if you have Celiac Disease, its a big no-no.   

From here I just wanted to post some pictures from this weekend, so if you only came for the food, feel free to leave now.  Aww, you want to stay?  Thanks, that is nice of you. 

I spent a few hours Sunday in DC with my best friend from college.  I usually go to her place in Adam's Morgan, but this time we went to the National Cathedral for the gargoyle tour!  It was very cool.  Our tour guide was great (his name was Mark), very knowledgeable.  The only downside was that it was FREEZING.  Or, rather, WINDY.  We ended up asking him to cut it short, although he did spend some extra time inside since we were being babies about being outside (it wasn't just us, there were other cold people on the tour!).  So the rest are just some pictures from that, enjoy!  

Outside the Cathdral...looked like such a nice day


Looking up at the gargoyles


A DC Black Squirrel!


Ahh, leave me alone and stop taking my picture crazy lady!!!


Because I can't resist anything cat related..


Inside the cathedral, warming up.  

That's it!  There was actually a sad story about the cat, apparently he was carved after a real cat.  His owner was one of the cathdral carvers and was killed in a car accident right outside the cathedral just a few years before it was finished (took over 80 years to complete everything), and so the cat is watching over the place where his owner died. 

We also went to eat at Open City in Woodley Park (right near the Metro stop), and it was kind of vegan friendly.  Friendly in the sense that their vegan items were marked VEGAN in big letters.  However, there were only two of such items!  No matter, I kind of like not having to choose from a ton of things.  My food was okay, a veggie sub with hummus, but the side of fruit was actually awesome, as was the hot mulled apple cider.  Yum.  

In completely unrelated news, I am a co-owner and administrator of a website for military significant others.  It is a pretty huge site and we got hacked recently, but I think we've finally got it under control, its really looking good.  If you or anyone you know has a boyfriend/fiance/husband in the military, feel free to message me and I'll give you the address.  That honestly wasn't meant to be a plug for it, the whole situation has been stressful and I just wanted to say that I'm glad its up and running smoothly again.    

Today's Song:  "Nothing Happening" - Ben Kweller


*Oh, and I will be catching up on everyone else's blog soon, I promise!  There are so many posts!*  

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Seven Pound Vegan

Christmas is in less than a week!  Incredible!  I am going down to my in-laws tomorrow and had to finish that shopping today.  Shopping is exhausting.  

Anyway, I ended up with a lot of food today.  I made some bread, then made dinner for my family, then made lunch/dinner for my travels.  I usually take prepackaged sandwiches on the road but I haven't been eating that well, and I know everything will be screwed up this weekend while I am gone, so I wanted to make sure I had something hearty at least.  

Without further ado, I first present dinner.  It was from the January 2009 issue of Vegetarian Times; the Spicy Tofu Lettuce Wraps.  It was good.  It did not look appetizing though, I cooked it much longer than the recipe said to, letting it brown so that it got a nice color.  Anyway, sorry but these are the best pictures I could get! 

Toppings (Bell Pepper, Peanuts, Carrots)

Lettuce Wraps
(Nutrition Info is given in the magazine, which I don't have with me, oops!)

We had some rice with it, brown rice with grapefruit and scallions.  

I made the White Gingerbread from the current VegNews, which I believe was one of Hannah's features?  I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong but..umm..her byline was on it.  I made it gluten free by using spelt and brown rice flour.  It smelled like French Toast when it was baking, and I agree with Shelby that it has a chai taste, which makes sense given the spice combo.  Nevertheless it is delicious, and it went perfectly with my pear butter (which was why I made it)! 

I used Smart Balance Light, and some kind of artificially-maple syrup that my family had.  I think it was a light version.  Ugh, okay, ::checking::...okay, it is Aunt Jemima Light.  So it definitely affected the calorie count.  But with those two things, this is how it worked out...

Serves 12  
Nutrition Information:  157.8 Calories;  4.3g Total Fat;  1.2g Saturated Fat;  0.0mg Cholesterol;  27.6g Carbohydrates;  2.1g Fiber;  2.6g Protein.  
Because I would have preferred to use real maple syrup, I calculated it with that also:  
Nutrition Information:  175.4 Calories;  4.3g Total Fat;  1.2g Saturated Fat;  0.0mg Cholesterol;  32.1g Carbohydrates;  1.9g Fiber;  2.6g Protein

My lunch for the road is the Chipotle Chili with Sweet Potato and Brussels Sprouts from the PPK blog.  
I told you the pictures were bad today. 

I halved the recipe, eliminated the oil, and calorie-wise, it made two servings.  However, I was definitely full before I finished it.  
So, if you serve 2 (or 4 if you make the whole recipe)
Nutrition Information:  337.0 Calories;  2.1g Total Fat;  0.3g Saturated Fat;  0.0mg Cholesterol;  70.6g Carbohydrates;  18.5g Fiber;  20.0g Protein

I have to tell you, I wasn't thrilled with this.  I cooked it for longer than it said to, and I still don't think it was cooked enough.  The flavor was good, but nothing spectacular (sorry Isa).  

Anyway...I don't know when this will post, because I started it yesterday and finished it today, and that always confuses me, but I'm at my in-laws now.  I discovered Clif Bars today.  Yeah, I know not an incredible discovery, but I thought they had less protein or something.  I dunno, I had a reason for not buying them before.  I got the carrot cake flavor, it was delicious!  

I hope everyone has a good weekend.  Anyone get snow?  My family got a lot of snow (New York).  I left at 5AM to drive down here (Maryland), to avoid it.  There was just lots of rain here, gross.  

We saw Seven Pound today, the current Will Smith movie.  It was very cool, I thought, how often veganiam/vegetarianism showed up in the movie.  One of the main characters was a vegetarian, one of the supplementary characters was a vegan, and when Will Smith was sitting in the hospital waiting area, at one point, in front of a white board, and right over his left shoulder was VEGAN in big letters.  Besides veganism being featured, the movie was also really really good, but definitely emotional.  

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Adventures in Canning Land

Christmas gift-making Day 2:  Caramel Pear Butter


This was my first time canning anything...hence "adventures".  I was really nervous, but it was unfounded, it went really well.  

I made Caramel Pear Butter from Bon Apetit.  I don't remember the month (sorry).  I usually don't share recipes that aren't mine or that I haven't changed drastically..and I'm not about to do it now!!  However, someone else already did, so if you would like the recipes, take a look at it here.  The entire recipe is honestly copied practically word for word from the magazine, so if you're into it...go to it!  I did use one cup of sucanat instead of brown sugar, just because I ran out.  Also, I don't have a food mill, so I used a blender, and just made sure it to just barely blend it.  This probably made it thinner than it should have been but it still came our super good.  Anyway, what I did do was take some pictures for you, and calculate the nutrition info, because I'm like that.  


7lbs of pears, peeled and cored


After being pureed, with sugar and spice added


Ta-da!

Recipe yields 8 8oz jars of Pear Butter.  The link I gave you above, she said she only had enough for 7 1/2, but mine fit into 8 absolutely perfectly.  

1 serving = 1 tbsp Pear Butter
Nutrition Information:  34.5 Calories;  0.1g Total Fat;  0.0g Saturated Fat;  0.0mg Cholesterol;  8.9g Carbohydrates;  0.6g Fiber; 0.1g Protein
Yeah, no protein, but its a condiment, give me a break.

So, all in all, I'm really happy with the way it came out!  I think it will make a great gift.  Plus, I overcame my canning fear.  I do have one more step to my presenting process, I'll post the whole package when I'm finished. 

The rest of my day was not as good.  Like I mentioned yesterday, my gym closed at 9AM this morning, so I planned on getting up early.  But when I got up, I realized my brother's school had a delay, which meant the gym was most likely closed, so I went back to bed...sort of.  I couldn't fall asleep because I was mad.  Anyway!  No matter, because I'm doing a split, I can do chest and then legs two days in a row and not be affected by it.  I'm going to my in-laws this weekend, which is kind of nice because I love to run at the lake near their house. 

Today had a Cooking Song!  Yay!:  "Lost in the Post" - The Wombats  
*This is the best band I have discovered from iTunes "free music Tuesday"

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

5-7-9 Workout


I'm feeling a little blah.  Mostly because I was SUPER pumped for my workout tomorrow, and now it is going to snow and I doubt I will be able to go.  For some reason, the town my gym is in is turning off the water at 9AM, so they are only open until then.  Sounds like schools will even be closed, so I doubt I'll be able to go.  This is extremely irritating to me.  I'm considering getting a guest pass to a gym in another town for the day.    

Anyway, I thought I would take this time to talk about my current workout a little.  I know the half of my blog title is "Strong", and I haven't really talked about that a lot yet, besides some running which...is not the foundation of my workout at all.  

I have what I affectionately refer to as gym ADD.  If I do a program for more than a few weeks I get bored, and if I am doing a program with too many reps, I just completely lose motivation.  As a result, the workout I have currently made up is far more complicated than any gym routine needs to be.  But seriously, I live for this shit.  Yeah, I like to cook and all, its great, but THIS is what I really know.  Currently, I am doing a body part split.  Typically I am a huge proponent of full body workouts, but I figured I'd do something different, and I haven't done a body part split in over a two years.  

Here is the idea behind it.  I split all my workouts into two parts.  3 "main" lifts, and 4 "auxiliary" lifts.  This makes more sense in a full body routine, but its still useful here too.  I am focusing on a fairly low rep range, but rotating it from day to day.  

Monday - Back
Deadlift
Lateral Pulldowns
Barbell Rows
----------------------
Hyperextensions*
Dumbbell Shoulder Press*
Pullups
Cable Bicep Curls


Wednesday - Chest
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press
Decline Bench Chest Flys*
Push Ups*
----------------------
Dips
Straightbar Pressdown
Upright Row*
Lateral Raises*


Friday - Legs
Back Squats
Straight Leg Deadlift
Walking Lunges
-----------------------
Leg Press
Stability Ball Hamstring Extension
Bulgarian Squats*
Rear Lat Raise*

The reps go something like this.  Every exercise is done for three sets.  The reps are:  5/9, 7/7, 9/5.  Like I said, unnecessarily complicated, to keep in engaged.  
Week 1: 
Monday:  first three exercises for 3 sets of 5, last four exercises for 3 sets of 9.  
Wednesday: all exercises for 3 sets of 7.  
Friday:  3 sets of 9 for the first three exercises, 3 sets of 5 for the last 4.  

Week 2 rotates:
Monday:  3 sets of 9 for the first 3 exercises, 3 sets of 5 for the last 4.  
Wednesday:  first three exercises for 3 sets of 5, last four exercises for 3 sets of 9.
Friday:  all exercises for 3 sets of 7.  

Week 3:
Monday:  all exercises for 3 sets of 7.  
Wednesday:  3 sets of 9 for the first three exercises, 3 sets of 5 for the last 4.
Friday:  3 sets of 5 for the first three exercises, 3 sets of 9 for the last 4.  

Repeat.  I'll do this twice, I try not to do the same thing for more than 6 weeks, although I have a feeling I'm going to have a hard time prying myself away from this one, I really like it so far.   

I set up a matrix for the six weeks that I am doing it so that I don't get confused:
5  7  9
9  5  7
7  9  5
5  7  9
9  5  7
7  9  5

The reason I'm not just doing sets of 5, 7, and 9 on rotating days, is because...well I don't want to.  Plus, it kind of even outs the time commitment for each day.  

At the end of this program (I am in the middle of week 3 right now) I'll post the weights that I'm at.  
In case you are wondering what I do for cardio, its not much.  Right now I am trying to put on more muscle, so I'm not trying to lose weight.  Currently I am running twice a week, doing yoga once a week, and biking once a week.  Come spring I'll be more focused on taking off the maintenance weight, and I'll be running most days of the week.  I'm planning on doing a 10K (I need a goal to convince me to run). 

No Cooking Song today, I honestly didn't cook anything but some breakfast, but I thought I would post my top ten workout songs.  
Dr. Yang - Ben Folds
I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor - Arctic Monkeys
Have You Ever - The Offspring
Ever So Slightly - The Title
Woman - Wolfmother
Stop! - Against Me!
A Certain Shade of Green - Incubus
Here In Your Bedroom - Goldfinger
The Magnificent Seven - The Clash
We've Got The Beat - The Go Go's        


So...everyone go out there and get their workout on!  And if anyone ever wants to chat about working out, don't hesitate to email me, IM me, etc.  

Have a great day tomorrow, I hope you're not snowed in!  

Monday, December 15, 2008

Spiced Sugar Almonds

While my family and my husband's family are getting traditional presents, I am also making a bunch of food-gifts...because its fun!  
Chai Spiced Almonds

The past two days I've been experimenting with sugared almonds.  If you've ever been to New York City (or maybe other cities too, I don't know), you have probably seen or at least smelled the "Nuts4Nuts" carts.  They are my favorite snack...ever.  Seriously, I love them.  I decided I would make my own, since I had no idea if the street cart version is vegan. 

The basic recipe is simple:
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 cup almonds

1.  Bring everything to boil in a pan.  
2.  Simmer mixture, stirring periodically with a wooden spoon.  

simmering

3.  When the sugar syrup starts to crystalize, remove from heat, and stir almonds constantly to coat.  
4.  Because of the nature of the solution, all the sugar will fall out, but not all of it will stick to the almonds.  So, you are going to put the pan back on the heat and stir, allowing the sugar that has fallen out to melt and stick to the almonds.

after removing from heat and allowing sugar to settle

5.  Remove from heat, separate any large chunks, and allow to cool.
  

Now, because I am a pain in the ass to myself, instead of just making one big batch, I made a few different versions:
  
Cinnamon Spice Almonds - before boiling add 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper and 1/4 tsp cinnamon

Chai Spiced Almonds - before boiling add 1/4 tsp ground ginger, 1/4 tsp cardamom, 1/8 tsp cloves, 1/8 tsp cinnamon, and 1/8 tsp nutmeg  
 
Orange Glazed Almonds - use 1/2 cup orange juice, and 3/4 cup water.  This didn't necessarily turn out the same as the first two.  It looked more like they were covered in caramel.  At first I was disappointed, and just put them out on the counter for my family...but then I ate them all.  They were actually really good.  If you want to try them, I don't have a picture (again, because I ate them all), but the directions were the same...the sugar just never really crystallizes, so once the sugar mixture is really thick, and everything is coated, lay the almonds out on a piece of waxed paper. 

If you are slightly masochistic, you may want to know the calorie count for these.  You're crazy.  Oh wait, that's just me?  Fine, whatever.  I only have it for the first two, just with the spice addition.  1 cup of almonds yields about 2 1/4 cups of sugared almonds (it is much less for the orange almonds, because not even close to all the sugar sticks, which is why I don't really have a way to figure out the nutrition info for them).  

1 serving = 1/4 cup 
Nutrition Information:  177.2 Calories;  8.0g Total Fat;  0.6g Saturated Fat;  0.0mg Cholesterol;  25.3g Carbohydrates;  1.9g Fiber;  3.4g Protein

I know that for the most part, I try to make healthy stuff, but its the holidays...and for the most part, I won't be eating it!  Plus, at least they have some protein.  By the way, my brother prefers these when they're warm and the nuts are still slightly soft.  I prefer to let them cool and dry, because then the nuts get crunchy again.

One other little Christmas related (for me) thing.  I was Christmas shopping in Express yesterday.  It is frustrating to me how much is made of sheep or bunny hair (not to mention that its itchy).  But I found myself in Express looking at a shirt that I really liked, but was made of 60% cotton and 40% modal.  What the hell is modal?  I wanted to know.  Immediately (I had a coupon, after all).  So I asked the salespeople, and no one knew.  So I called my dad.  If you ever encounter modal, you should feel pretty safe buying it.  It is a plant product, sort of similar to rayon.  Whew.  I bought two.  

Alright well, I'm not done with my Christmas gift making.  I doubt I will get to the next part tomorrow, but hopefully on Thursday!!  

      

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Maud Marta Spares the Mouse

So, I mentioned yesterday that I had to take one of the New York State teacher certification exams yesterday.  It was the LAST; Literature Arts and Science Test.  It was mostly common sense things, reading charts, interpreting pictures, and a lot of reading comprehension.  

One of the passages we had to read was by Gwendolyn Brooks, called "Maud Marta Spares the Mouse".  If you've seen this before, sorry :)  If not, then I think its worth the short read, something relaxing to do on your Sunday afternoon.

   Maud Martha Spares the Mouse

by Gwendolyn Brooks

There. She had it at last. The weeks it had devoted to eluding her, the tricks, the clever hide-and-go-seeks, the routes it had in all sobriety devised, together with the delicious moments it had, undoubtedly, laughed up its sleeve.

It shook its little self, as best it could, in the trap. Its bright black eyes contained no appeal–the little creature seemed to understand that there was no hope of mercy from the eternal enemy, no hope of reprieve or postponement–but a fine small dignity. It waited. It looked at Maud Martha.

She wondered what else it was thinking. Perhaps that there was not enough food in its larder. Perhaps that little Betty, a puny child from the start, would not, now, be getting fed. Perhaps that, now, the family's seasonal housecleaning, for lack of expert direction, would be left undone. It might be regretting that young Bobby's education was now at an end. It might be nursing personal regrets. No more the mysterious shadows of the kitchenette, the uncharted twists, the unguessed halls. Nor more the sweet delights of the chase, the charms of being unsuccessfully hounded, thrown at.

Maud Martha could not bear the little look.

"Go home to your children," she urged. "To you wife or husband." She opened the trap. The mouse vanished.

Suddenly, she was conscious of a new cleanness in her. A wide air walked in her. A life had blundered its way into her power and it had been hers to preserve or destroy. she had not destroyed. In the center of that simple restraint was–creation. She had created a piece of life. It was wonderful.

"Why," she thought, as her height doubled, "why, I'm good! I am good."

She ironed her aprons. Her back was straight. Her eyes were mild, and soft with loving kindness.


That's it!  Short and sweet.  I hope everyone is enjoying their weekend!  

I got this from this link.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Hummus, Brussles, and Karma

Okay, so I missed yesterday, and I know its late, and will probably technically be tomorrow by the time I post this, but I wanted to get today in before my blogging is all backed up.  

I made some hummus yesterday, which was totally delicious.  I know hummus is nothing new, but if you're looking for a (spicy) recipe, this was awesome!  

Spicy Sesame Ginger Hummus


1/2 cup chickpeas
1 tsp hot chile sesame oil
1/2 tsp fresh ginger, minced 
1 tsp garlic, pressed
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp vegetable broth (or water)
season to taste

1.  Put it all in a blender, and let it do its thing.  
2.  I topped it with a little sprinkle of cayenne pepper and agave nectar.  

The nutrition info is for all the hummus.  I really wanted hummus.  This could easily be two or three servings.  

Nutrition Information:  166 Calories;  7g Total Fat;  0.0g Saturated Fat;  0.0mg Cholesterol;  22g Carbohydrates;  5g Fiber;  6g Protein

For dinner yesterday I had brussels sprouts for the first time.  They were so good, they kind of remind me of asparagus....I don't know if that is weird or not?  They didn't really taste the same, just something seemed similar.  Anyway, I just tossed them in some olive oil and roasted them at 400 for about 20 minutes.  I had them with tofu, that I just pan fried.  If you've never had it like this, its worth trying.  Press tofu, then give it a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Put it in a nonstick or a pan lightly coated with cooking spray, and just let it sit there until it gets all golden brown.  It takes some patience, but there is just enough fat in the tofu where it gives itself a nice golden shell without actually frying it in oil.  Yum!  I also made a mustard dressing for the brussles: mustard, lemon juice, cider vinegar, soymilk, and some sugar, salt, pepper.  Oh, I threw in some nutritional yeast to be healthy, but it tasted the same.  

Sprouts and Fu  

Serves 1 (whole meal)
Nutrition Information:  274 Calories;  15g Total Fat;  2g Saturated Fat;  0.0mg Cholesterol;  20g Carbohydrates;  9g Fiber;  17g Protein


Today was an out of the house culinary experience.  I had the second of three certification exams that I need to take.  Have I mentioned I'm getting a Masters in Secondary Ed?  Not sure.  Anyway, I had one of the tests today and it was stupid easy.  Best of all, the essay was on nutrition, haha, I was pleased when I saw that.  I have to drive about 45 minutes, to SUNY New Paltz to take the test.  There is a little vegan cafe there called Karma Road, that is just fantastic.  If you ever find yourself in or around New Paltz, I highly suggest it.  The people who work there are super nice, they make everything fresh, but they also have a deli counter of tofu burgers, a grain of the day, a bean of the day, roasted tempeh that looked awesome, all kind of tofu, bean, tempeh salads.  They also have a soup of the day, and today was Millet Mayhem, which I would have gotten if I were staying (they give a sample when you come in, it was really good, although hot and fogged up my glasses).  

I had the falafel wrap, which, if you look at their menu , it is baked falafel.  It was really good, my only complaint it that the tahini vegan sour cream sauce dripped on my new coat a little. 

  Karma Road Falafel Wrap

I don't know the nutrition information, although I could ballpark it, but I wasn't concerned because I hadn't had a lot to eat today, and it was pretty obvious that everything that went into it was good.  

I also treated myself to some "Oh My God" Chocolate Cake, which was their name, not mine, but it lived up to it!  It was also gluten free, made primarily with spelt flour, and it was so great.  It was really rich, but not too rich, and it had chocolate chips spattered throughout it, so you didn't get one in every bite, but there were enough that it kind of made them special.  The best part, I think, was that it just kept getting better the more of it that you ate!!  

The picture doesn't not do it justice:  "Oh My God" Chocolate Cake

Oh, and please excuse that these pictures were taken in my car...at least I wasn't driving, right??  

Okay, it is officially tomorrow, boo, but at least I got it done!  


Thursday, December 11, 2008

My First Award!



I have a couple of things I want to talk about today, but first and foremost I wanted to say  great big thank you to Joanna at A Cup of Jo!  If you don't know Joanna's blog, you should definitely go say hi.  She is super sweet and makes a lot of raw food creations that I can't wait to try when I get my food processor (how many days until Christmas now???).  
Now, if you don't speak a bunch of languages, I heard from Becca that this is Portuguese (I speak French though!).  Just the same, you might be wondering what this little award means.  Luckily, it came with an explanation.  

"This blog invests and believes the PROXIMITY - nearness in space, time and relationships! These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award."
Sweetest award, thanks again Joanna!  

I am passing this award on to:  

Okay.  Now go visit all of their sites and say hi!  

Just one other thing I wanted to talk about.  I have teeth issues.  Well, more (or less) specifically, mouth issues.  The corners of my mouth got really irritated a few weeks ago.  I happened to see the dentist and he decided that it might be my toothpaste, that I should experiment.  Great, thanks doc.  

So I stopped using whatever I was using (Crest, Colgate, one of those), and started using this toothpaste from The Natural Dentist.   

Success!!  No more chapped and red corners of my mouth...thankfully, as I actually had to wear makeup to cover it (I hate makeup).  So I figured something in the commercial toothpaste was bothering me.  I've always had a "thing" for teeth stuff.  I always want the newest toothbrush, cool toothpaste, etc.  So of course when this tube ran out I wanted a new one, so I got this toothpaste from Nature's Gate. 

It seemed great.  I loooove foamy toothpaste, and this is super foamy!  And its a gel, not a paste, I like that.  But lo and behold, the corners of my mouth started getting all red and chapped again.  Dammit!  If you are asking yourself by now why I am writing about this, I don't blame you.  But what I'm getting at is that, the little banner on the top left of the Natural Dentist paste says "SLS free".  What the hell is SLS?  That's what I asked myself when I bought it, and now that I'm having problems again, I looked it up.  Long story short, while you can't be allergic to Sodium Laurel Sulfate, its not uncommon to be sensitive to it.  You can read about it here if you are interested.  And guess what it is?  A foaming agent!!!  The foaminess I love so much is exactly what was causing me such discomfort.

And I'm not kidding about loving teeth stuff, I found these at Target a few days ago. 

They're so cool!  I mean, the flossing thingys aren't new, but they're completely compostable/biodegradeable.  So much fun!  Yeah I'm crazy.

If anyone is wondering why I didn't post any food today it is because my first two meals were leftover Two Bean Quinoa Casserole from yesterday.   I also had a beautiful grapefruit, some Fig Date Bread, protein shake, etc, because I was running all over the place getting my project done to meet with my professor.  It was fine, it only took 5 minutes...waste of 2 hours in the car.  Dinner was leftover polenta with the Mushroom Sauce from Vegan with A Vengeance, carrots, and kale.  It looked...gross.  It tasted delicious, but I am doing you a favor by not photographing it, I promise.            

That's all I've got for today people.  Sorry if it was boring!  I'll be back with some food tomorrow, I am hoping to get some Christmas present stuff done!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Don't Trust a Ho

Today dragged by.  Don't days always feel like that when you really spend the ENTIRE day procrastinating?  I woke up late, I waited for my husband to call..he didn't, so I got to the gym super late, today was weights and running, so I was there forever, and then I bought Shirataki noodles at the grocery store, and they weren't in the system, so I was there for way longer than I wanted to be, and then I was busy eating a box of Peanut Butter Puffins.  They're really good and I'll probably never buy them again because I ate the whole box.  If you have self restraint around things peanut butter, I highly recommend them.

Anyway, on to the food.  I had a tofu scramble for breakfast, the first time I've put nutritional yeast in it.  It didn't really change the taste that much, so I'll probably keep on doing it since its so damn good for you.  It was pretty much the same as my standard, but I did put the last of my spinach in it and used peppers instead of scallions.  

Dinner was for my family tonight.  I usually end up making dinner on Wednesdays.  I mentioned a few days ago that I got Vegan Fire and Spice by Robin Robertson out of the library a few days ago.  I just haven't had time to make anything out of it, and figured this was a good time.  Then I remembered that my mom doesn't like anything remotely spicy and my brother's tolerance is just slightly higher than hers.  Ooookay.  Well I picked a recipe that only had one chili pepper (I think it goes up to three), and then I completely changed it.  So much so, that the recipe deserves posting.  

The recipe it evolved from was called Red Beans and Rice Casserole.  So, let's call this a: 
Two Bean Quinoa Casserole.

     
The picture is lame because I thought I was going to have more leftover my my family ate almost all of it.  

Anyway, it goes like this: 
1 tbps olive oil
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup red pepper, chopped
1 poblano pepper, chopped

3 cups cooked quinoa
3/4 cup chickpeas
3/4 cup black-eyed peas (leftover from the Black-Eyed Pea and Quinoa Croquettes)
1 can diced tomatoes, drained

6.15 oz Mori-Nu Silken Tofu (half a package)
2 tbsp unsweetened soymilk
2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp paprika

salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat Oven to 375.  
2. Heat oil in a large skillet, add both peppers and onion, toss to coat, cover, let cook for 5 minutes.
3.  Add ingredients Mori-Nu through paprika to blender or food processor and blend until smooth.  
4.  Add tofu mixture, beans, tomatoes, quinoa, peppers, and onion to a large bowl, and mix until everything is coated.  Season to taste.  
5.  Put the mixture in a 2 1/2 quart baking dish, cover with foil, at bake for 25 minutes. 
5.  Take off foil, sprinkle with chili powder and cilantro (or parsley if you're a cilatro hater, its just to look pretty).  Return to oven for 5 minutes.  Serve.  

Serves 4.  
Nutrition Information:  364.4 Calories;  7.8g Total Fat;  0.8g Saturated Fat;  0.0mg Cholesterol;  61.9g Carbohydrates;  10.0g Fiber;  13.1g Protein.

My family really liked it, the tofu mixture made it so creamy and moist.  It was also my family's first experience with black-eyed peas.  About halfway through dinner, they started debating what kind of beans were in it, and the resulting conversation went something like this:

Brother:  "Black-eyed peas look weird"
Mom:  "Ooooooh...so that's why they're called black-eyed peas!  They have little black spots"
Me:  "Hahaha, you didn't notice when we had them last week?"
Brother:  "Don't trust a ho" 
Everyone:  "... ... ... " 

What?  Yeah, apparently, it made him think of The Black Eyed Peas, the band, and...that's what came out.  He's fun (that sounds sarcastic, but its not).  

We also had roasted cauliflower and carrots, sprinkled with salt, pepper, and cinnamon.  Excuse the ugly picture.    
  

Today's Cooking Song:  Norwegian Wood - The Beatles (my favorite Beatles' song, if you were wondering).  

I also wanted to add that, my day was so screwed up from waking up so late and getting back from the gym so late, that the entire box of cereal actually worked into my calories for the day.  Sheesh.