Friday, May 29, 2009

Vegan Challenge: The Workout

On Wednesday I talked about my husband's foray into veganism for the next 30 days.  So here is the second half of his vegan challenge.  Not only eating vegan, but lifting and maintaining an active lifestyle as a vegan. 
When my husband and I were living in Hawaii together, we went to the gym together.  A lot.  I was really stressed out during my last student teaching experience, so I cut out the lifting and stuck mainly to yoga.   

Last night was my first night back to some serious lifting, and while it went well, I definitely am noticing that yoga did much more for my upper body than my lower body.  My arms, back, and chest are still fairly strong, but my legs were getting spasmatic after two sets of deadlifts.  

My husband however, was lifting more than ever while he was in Iraq, so I let him choose this workout plan.  I don't necessarily love it, but I definitely missed lifting, so its good to be back at it.  Plus, I get to pick the next program...heheh.  It will probably be something equally as complicated as the 5-7-9 program I made awhile back.  

Since his is simple, it should be much easier to follow.  The idea was to do the exact same workout three times a week.  Well, I got him to change that at least a little bit.  There are going to be two rotating workouts, and while the big lifts will change a little, the smaller lifts will be staying the same:

Workout 1:  
Deadlift 5x5
Barbell Bench Press 5x5
Dumbbell Military Press 5x5
----------
Pullups 4x8
Dips 4x8
Barbell Curls 4x8

Workout 2:
Back Squats 5x5
Dumbbell Bench Press 5x5
Barbell Seated Shoulder Press 5x5
----------
Pullups 4x8
Dips 4x8
Crunches 4x8

If you knew my workouts well, you would see my obvious influence on this program.  Since you don't, I will tell you.  First, I refuse to do anything more than 8 reps, I get incredibly bored and antsy.  Second, the way it is split into two parts, with the bigger lifts first, and the smaller lifts second...very "me".  As is the way there are fewer, but longer, sets for the second half.  What can I say, he asked my opinion.  

Post workout last night was dinner.  I let him pick something out of The Vegan Table, and he chose the Pan-Grilled Portobello Mushrooms with Herb Infused Marinade.  What a mouthful.  These were possibly some of the best portobello mushrooms I've ever had.  I know it seems so simple, and to a degree it is, but the marinade was totally delicious, and the way they were cooked made it really soak in and just taste awesome.  


We had the mushrooms with roasted asparagus and mashed cauliflower (hummus is a good addition to this, if you were wondering).  

You'll have to excuse the lighting in our apartment for awhile.  I still need to play with it to find the best place, but I didn't want my food to get cold!   

He's got what I think will be some of his biggest challenges coming up this weekend.  Tomorrow we are having a BBQ at my aunt's house with some family that is in from Italy.  He'll have food to eat, no doubt, but I think it'll be hard for him to watch everyone else eating meat.  On Sunday we're going to visit his family.  It should be fine, they're really open to my being vegan, but I still think its going to be a challenge for him...but that was what he wanted, right??

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

He Goes Vegan

While my posts have been scattered as of late, if you've been following you know that my husband recently got out of the military, and after two long years, we finally moved back in together again.  

Last we were living together I was a vegetarian.  He's always been open to eating anything, and definitely had tofu and tempeh while we were living there, but he was definitely dismayed when he learned I would no longer be eating cheese or eggs.  

So, imagine my surprise last week when he tells me that, if I cook/pack him food, he will eat vegan during the week.  Okay.  They say that it takes about a month to break a habit, so I saw his challenge, and raised it to 30 days straight.  And so Vegan Challenge 2009 begins.  

Today was the official starting date, although he technically ate vegan yesterday also, so he's already got an edge on the non-existent competition.  

Our kitchen is still kind of in shambles, with pieces of it scattered across the country (our stuff that we had in Hawaii has been in storage since August 2007, and it is now in California waiting to be shipped to us here), but I finally broke out the few tools that we have, and made my first recipe from The Vegan Table.  I mentioned it a week or two ago, and I honestly wasn't planning on buying it...but once I saw it, I had to.  People, it is beautiful.  Plus...TONS of pictures!!  I'm way more likely to make recipes if there are pictures.  

So, for dinner tonight we had the French Onion Pie.  



Sadly, it was about as gloppy a mess as it looks in the picture.  Maybe because I cooked my onions in a wok (again, making do with what I have), they were really wet, and the resulting pie was really wet.  It tasted good, but it was not very pretty.  And I think it goes without saying that I couldn't get the onions to caramelize...I can't even do that with the proper equipment.


The salad is nothing special but I just wanted to say "Oh my gosh the strawberries here are amazing" one more time.   


If you're anything like me, you may be wondering why he agreed to do this.  The impression that I get from him is that...he wants the challenge.  It also may give him some insight into something that is important to me, but for the most part he wants to see if he can do it.  He wants to see if he can eat vegan for 30 days, and more importantly, he wants to see if he can maintain or gain muscle on a vegan diet.  I, obviously, know that it is possible, but he wants to see for himself, and why would I deter him?!?  So here goes.  We're also going to start lifting together again, so I'll post our workout tomorrow.  

Also, I am behind on everyone's blog, we just got our internet hooked up today (and its not even wireless yet, I feel so lame).  I'm also REALLY sorry if you sent me an email and it took me awhile to get back to you.   You can expect me to be around with some regularity now though!!  

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wegmans Loves Coquitos

I think that the obvious thing that must be done when getting acquainted with a new area, is visit the grocery store.  

Okay, maybe that's just me, but regardless, Cherry Hill has been an adventure because there are about a million grocery stores.  Alright, not a million, but in less than a week I've already been to three.  Acme?  Meh.  Shop Rite?  The Shop Rite near my parents' house was amazing, so this one couldn't really compare, but it was decent.  Wegmans?  Love.  Seriously.  I might leave my husband for Wegmans.

I really REALLY wanted to take pictures, but I thought that would look SUPER creepy.  Instead, you are left with my narrative.  

First, off, I didn't really *need* anything per se, I just wanted to check it out.  But I was immediately assaulted by pints of local strawberries.  They smelled delicious, they were red and juicy, and they were even in cardboard containers like when we used to go to the strawberry farm and pick our own (there has been a bit of sarcasm in this post so far, so I feel like I should tell that I did actually do that).  The rest of the produce section was amaaazing.  Three different kinds of eggplant, more types of mushrooms (fresh and dried) than I bothered to count, fresh herbs, dried chilis, huge heads of cauliflower, sprouted beans, organic berries.....et cetera.  The only thing that was lacking was...the avocado.  I actually went back to produce to buy one as I was leaving, and they were all quite overripe.  There may have been one or two that would have been okay if I was using it today, but I wanted it for tomorrow.  I went with a bright shiny red pepper instead.

Then I went into the specialty foods section.  They had a whole Asian section, not only with different sauces and noodles and whatnot, but Asian snacks and candy too.  Other ethnic food followed, and I sadly just passed it all by, because we are pretty much living in a shoebox and I don't have room for... anything.  

Moving on, I went into what I thought was the bulk of the store, the "normal" section.  So happy was I to see so many products that are so familiar to me.  Look!  Puffins!  Look!  Laura's Junk Food!  Look!  Sweet Riot!  You get the point.  There was a gluten free section, a baby section, a bulk food section.  In a word:  Freakingawesome.  

When I got past that, I went through the frozen/refrigerated section, found the tofurky, coconut milk yogurt, and baked soyboy tofu, and then...I was on the "other side".  I honestly hadn't realized that I was in the natural food section because it was so big that I just assumed it was the regular store.  Look at that.  A soda aisle.  Chips.  A candy store?  Yeah, there was an entire bulk-style candy store in the middle of the store.  Coming from a former candy-a-holic this was amazing and horrifying at the same time.  I didn't spend a lot of time on the "other side" of the store, although it still looked like they had a lot of higher quality stuff.  

So, I signed up for my Wegmans card, and skipped out of the store (not literally, that would have bruised my strawberries).  

Gosh if you read that, then you shall be rewarded with pictures!  

First, the strawberries.  Heavenly.  


The first one literally exploded in my mouth (in a good way).  It reminded me of this picture I have of me and a girl my mom used to babysit, sitting on the front porch of our house, with a pint of strawberries we had just picked between us, and strawberry juice all over our faces.  If I had the picture, I'd scan it.  But I don't.  Story over.  

Next, microwavable baby squash.  Hm?  What is baby squash?  

This is baby squash.  I also got some mixed veggies.  

I got these little bags of veggies because..well, I needed veggies.  They're the kind that you cook in the bag because I needed them to be easy.  To give you an idea of why, this is where we are currently staying:


Yes, I can fit the whole room in one picture.  And yes we are messy.  We got a sublet for the next three months though.  We move in this weekend.  We are very excited.

In case you were wondering (which I doubt, its random), Zoe is here with us!  


She is not very happy.  There are lots of young children running around outside, and she spends most of her time under the bed.  When I'm here, she comes out sometimes, but some kids just scared her back under there.  

One last thing.  Coquitos.  Cowhatos?  Even the cashier was intrigued.  


I had to do some research.  The package said they are:
Yes, baby coconuts.  The website claims the same thing:  Coquitos.  I am here to report that you can indeed eat them whole, although they are a *tad* difficult to bite into.    

But they sure are delicious.  They really do taste just like a very small coconut.  They suggest putting them on salads, or grating them as a dessert topping.  If you haven't seen them in a store near you, I hope you do soon, they're good.  If not, just feel comfort in knowing that they are listed under "amazon oddities" on Amazon.com, so most people probably don't have them in their local grocery store either.  

And if you're googling, there is also a Puerto Rican beverage called the Coquito, which is pretty unvegan, and similar to eggnog.  

As a short aside, today is graduation!!  I'm not walking, but I'm still graduated now, yay!  We are going to Candle 79 for my graduation dinner this Saturday.  I'm excited.  Any idea on the dress code?  I know a lot of you have been there before.  

Oh, and in case you were wondering, I have yet to hit up Whole Foods, or Pathmark...not to mention the many other Shop Rites in the area.  Also, I skipped an entire section of Wegmans, they have a whole prepared food section that I literally did not even step foot in yet.  Exciting!         

Monday, May 18, 2009

Welcome to Philly

Okay, so the title of this post is kind of a complete lie.  First, I need to finish with my last few bits about New York, and then...well I don't actually live *in* Philly.  But...well you'll see.  Read on if that didn't scare you away :)

The New York wrap up first.  My last cooked meal in New York had been bubbling around in my mind for about a week.  In fact, I roasted the garlic about 3 days before I ever even got around to making it.  What I ended up with was Roasted Garlic Mashed Cauliflower with Quinoa and Peas.

It really doesn't get easier.  It is just a head of cauliflower, steamed; a bulb of garlic, roasted, 1/2 cup quinoa, cooked; and a cup of frozen peas; defrosted.  The first three ingredients go into the food processor with a little bit of cooking water from either the quinoa or cauliflower, add a little oil (like, a tsp or two) if you want, and it is all blended together.  Then mix in the peas.  While its really easy, and uses minimal ingredients, it is also really really yummy.  

You may have noticed that I stopped calculating my nutrition information around the same time I started blogging with any sort of regularity, and that is simply because I just didn't have enough time.  I'm not a calorie counter, I just like doing that to show how nutritionally complete vegan food is/can be.  That being said...I have time now!

Serves 2 (with 2 tsp oil)
Nutrition Information:  359.4 Calories;  10.2g Total Fat;  0.8g Saturated Fat;  0.0mg Cholesterol;  82.5g Carbohydrates;  15.6g Fiber;  20.6g Protein

I also have something non-food related that I want to share before I move on to what I am currently up to.  This is the front door to my parents' house (where I have been living for the past almost 2 years). 


On Wednesday of last week, my mom, brother, and I came home, and a little visitor came in with us.  Turns out, we have had a tenant all this time and had no idea.  She lives in these flowers:


And....she has babies:


SO CUTE!!  We named the mommy bird Sangria, and the two babies are growing so fast.  We've been going in the side door to keep from a.) scaring them, b.) Sangria getting in the house again.  


Cut to...today.  My student teaching is done, my thesis is finished, graduation is on Wednesday.  I still don't have a job.  I know that I mentioned my husband came home, I don't know if I mentioned that he got a job in South Jersey teaching ROTC.  Well, he did.  I really wasn't thrilled about it; when I came down a few weeks ago we were not happy, but for some reason, our attitude has changed.  I came down here last night, and today has been a really beautiful day, we found an apartment to sublet for August as long as the credit check passes ::crosses fingers::, I went to the ROTC commissioning ceremony this morning, and then...we went into Philly.  I don't know what happened, but it did not go well.  

We went to Govinda's, which I had heard was one of the better vegan places in Philly.  I, apparently, was wrong.  
Okay, that's a little harsh, but it did not live up to my expectations.  First, we went to Govinda's To-Go, which is apparently different from the actual cafe (which I just learned by reading online, oops), but it was kind of dirty, the employees weren't nice, and the thing that I really wasn't expecting was...it wasn't vegan.  Yes, it is called Govinda's Vegetarian Cafe, but for some reason, I was thinking "vegan".    

This was upsetting because the whole draw of going to places like this, is not having to ask questions.  Normally it sounds like "Is there cheese on the soup?" or "Is the broccoli cooked in butter?"  Which...is actually okay because it just makes me sound health concious.  But at a place like this you end up having to ask "Is the ______ vegan?"...and that's annoying to me.
For example:  "Is the soy cheese vegan?"  "Is that cookie vegan?"  etc.  
In case you were wondering, their soy cheese is casein free...I had to ask about that, almost all of their meals have either fake cheese (or real cheese if you want) or fake meat.  Since the employees weren't exactly courteous, I didn't feel like asking about the desserts.  

All that being said, I had the Chicken Quesadilla.  It was actually really good, although the picture isn't exactly flattering.  


So while the food ended up being pretty good, I doubt I'll go back.  I'm not big on fake meat and cheese, and I really didn't like the vibe of the place or the people who worked there.  

This explains why I've been in a bad mood today, my first vegan place in Philly and I have to give it THAT review?  Not as much fun as I wanted it to be.  If anyone is in/near Philly/South Jersey, or has been to the area and has suggestions...PLEASE let me know!!  Right now I've got a bad vegan taste in my mouth for Philly, and I'd really like to remedy that.  Gianna's Grille is next on my list right now! 

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Writhing With It

Anticipation, that is.  

I don't know if you all have noticed, but it is definitely new cookbook season.  I was lucky enough to be able to review one of them.  

PETA's Vegan College Cookbook arrived on my doorstep about two weeks ago.  I read through it (yes, I read cookbooks), and then it was left in the backseat of my husband's car.  My initial thoughts were that a lot of the stuff was simple, some of it was plain weird and...all that microwaving??  

Then I realized that this cookbook was actually completely perfect for this time of my life.  No, I'm not living in a dorm with limited space and cooking utensils, but I am definitely short on time.  Anyway, I think I reviewed it with justice, and I was very pleasantly surprised.  

First on the list?  Legume Va-Va-Voom.  


This was a rice based dish with avocado, lentils and peanuts.  The cooking time was pretty much just as long as it took to make the rice.  I made a half recipe, and I definitely had enough for three servings, which was exactly the yield (it always makes me happy when a recipe's yield matches my yield).  This was really good, incredibly filling, and super easy.  Plus, it was kind of different, which was why I made it!  

Next I made the recipe in the book that jumped out at me the most...I just couldn't get it out of my mind, I had to try it.  Called Sham and Cheez, it was, at its heart, a microwaved lump of pancake with fake ham and cheese in it.  Wait, keep reading!!!!!  Okay, well I don't really like fake cheese.  And I don't really like fake ham (or real ham for that matter).  The only fake meat that I almost always like is fake sausage patties, so I used two Yves breakfast sausage patties instead of ham, and I used a zucchini instead of cheese.  Still, the method was the same, and you had better believe that it was completely delicious...especially with some maple syrup on top, and dipped in some mustard.  


This also took all of 5 minutes to make.  It really is microwaved (vegan) pancake mix in a bowl, with the ingredients, and then popped out to give you a big fluffy mound of....goodness.  Are you getting the impression that I liked this?  I mean, I like it now, and I will probably eat it fairly often.  But I could totally see myself making this ALL THE TIME if I were still living in a dorm.  

At this time you may be noticing the clutter that is all over my photos.  I totally just don't have time to clean up, so this gives you an idea of what my life has looked like for the past few weeks.  

I wanted to review one more recipe before I made any kind of official decision on how to review this book, and I went for a side, the Limon Spinach.  This was super super easy.  I made it for my brother and I along with the new Cluckphrey breaded chicken patties from Food for Life (the people who make Ezekiel bread products).  I made them parmigiana style, with some Teese that I bought awhile ago and I just have to tell you...I just don't like processed vegan cheese.  Any of it.  It does melt though.  

Anyway, the point is...the spinach was good!  


And the final point is, I really like this book!  I was very skeptical, a.) because I think the girl on the front looks like a robot, and b.) because a lot of the recipes were stupid easy (think, cut up fruit with vegan yogurt).  But really, a lot of the recipes were innovative, and from what I tried, really good!!     

Some things to note about this cookbook.  I like that they have three separate sections for specific foods that they like:  peanut butter, potatoes, and ramen.  I haven't had the chance to try anything from those sections yet, but there are definitely a few things on my radar like the :  Idaho?  No, YOU da ho Potatoes Au Gratin.  Another thing I like?  Silly recipe names!  

One thing I'm not a huge fan of is the number of recipes that rely on fake meat and/or cheese.  I understand that they're really convenient, but frankly, I have found very few meat substitutes that I like, and even fewer fake cheese substitutes (as in, none..see above).  


Their publication date is officially this Tuesday, May 12th, but I've already seen it at my local Borders!  

And, just for fun, some other books that I saw there that I am dying to get my hands on:  
Ani's Raw Food Desserts (Okay, I already bought this one, you know how I love Ani)
The Vegan Scoop - an entire book of vegan ice cream recipes
Babycakes:  The Cookbook - baking from the famed vegan bakery in NYC
The Vegan Table - by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau of Compassionate Cooks and the Vegetarian Food for Thought podcast (which you should download if you don't already)

...and let's not forget that Isa Chandra Moscowitz's Vegan Brunch book comes out this month too!!  Also, did you know that Isa and Terry Hope Romero are coming out with Vegan Cookies Invade your Cookie Jar(gotta wait til fall for that one)???  Holy vegan desserts, man.  

So hopefully you're anticipating something out there too.  I've got far too much on my plate right now, that little things like cookbooks are exactly what I need to keep my mind off of things!  

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Success?

Seriously, what makes a good brownie?  Some people like them fudgey, some like them cakey.  

Personally, if I wanted cake, I'd eat cake...with frosting.  Fudgey brownies are so moist and squishy, they don't really need frosting.  

Well, my husband and I are going to have dinner with my best friend and her husband tonight.  I am bringing dessert.  A few months ago I brought brownies that were a complete disaster.  I had to redeem myself.  

I don't claim to be a baker, so I used the Fudgey Wudgey Brownies recipe from Veganomicon.  Were they fudgey?  Yes.  Were they wudgey?  Yes.  If you are wondering what wudgey means, make the brownies and I think you'll be able to come up with a definition.

Are you a middle or end person?  I really love the corners, I think the "crust" of the brownies is by far the best part.   

I was able to get kind of solid pieces out of the sides:


However, the middle came out looking like this:


If you decide to make these, I suggest making it as she directed, with the blueberries.  I made the raspberry variation, and I think the raspberries broke down to much and added too much moisture, and making the middles become brownie wudginess.  

But...these are still completely delicious.  I can't believe I almost forgot to add that.  Yes, you may want to eat them with a fork.  Yes, you may only want to eat one, because they are intensely sweet and rich.  But they have such a great combination of fruit and chocolate, along with chunks of fruit and chocolate chips...they're just yummy.  

Life is still a little crazy here, although I now officially never have to see my last "cooperating" teacher again.  I'm going on the field trip with the kids monday (she isn't going), and then I'm going to go back and spend a few days at the high school again.  Grad school will be over this week too.  

I really can't believe its all coming to an end :)  Brownies will be a perfect way to celebrate!  

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Catching Up


This is an old meal, but I really wanted to share it.  Not to mention the fact that I haven't really been taking any pictures, so I have nothing else to share.  

When I finished my cleanse a few weeks ago, I asked for suggestions:  tofu, tofu salad, BBQ tofu.  Miss Shelby suggested BBQ tofu salad.  When I think of that, I usually think of BBQ tofu in a salad (like, with lettuce), but I'm not a big lettuce salad person.  What I do love, however, is a mock "chicken" salad, so BBQ tofu salad it was.  

It started with the BBQ tofu, and while it would have been nice to cook it on the BBQ, it was just marinated for about 2 hours and baked at 400 degrees for about 50 minutes. 


 The BBQ sauce was "homemade", kind of.  I mean, it didn't come from a bottle, but it was super crazy easy because I am almost always in a rush now.  It was 1/3 ketchup, 1/3 soy sauce, 1/3 agave nectar.  Ta-freaking-da.  Seriously, its really easy, and its not the *best* BBQ sauce in the world, but for the amount of time it takes, its awesome.  

I let it cool in the fridge, overnight, before using it in the salad.  


Its pretty easy.  You can probably come up with it yourself, but this is my version.  

About 5.5oz tofu (two of the blocks I made above)
Vegenaise
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped celery
1 minced clove garlic
1/4 cup cabbage strips
salt & pepper to taste, if you want

That's it.  Easy easy, and SO good.  Actually, I kind of wish I had some right now.    

This would be equally as good in a sandwich, I'm just not really a big bread person.  It just doesn't do anything for me.  So if possible, I don't eat it.  I've been on the run a lot lately, so I've been having wraps and sandwiches more, and I don't like it.

In other news, I received some pomegranate juice from the wonderful people at POM wonderful a few weeks ago.  

I only drank one straight, and its such good stuff.  Really tart, but sweet.  Careful though, it stains (my brother stained a shirt, but then, you aren't going to spill yours everywhere, are you?)

I had intentions to do all kinds of fun stuff with this.  Then after a few days, I had intentions to do at least one fun thing with it.  Then...it was gone.  It actually all went into some variation of this:

Yes, I've finally jumped on the smoothie bandwagon, and its all thanks to POM.  I believe this particular one was made with a banana, a mango, and pomegranate juice (topped with some pomegranate seeds, of course).  

Since then, I've actually jumped on the green smoothie bandwagon, which is sometimes cool, when its actually green, but today, when it is kind of brown (cherries, bananas, coconut milk, spinach), its not as fun.  But I have been having a smoothie every day for breakfast, and I love it.  I've also been in love with scones, but that is a story for another day.  Actually, if anyone knows of some awesome scone recipes, pass them on!  

So, that's all the food for today.  Sad, right?  I'm gone for three weeks and that's all I've got.  There has been so much going on.  My husband did, indeed, come home about 3 weeks ago now.  Its been kind of hard, because I'm at student teaching all day, then I have class at night, and I have to plan lessons and write my thesis.  Plus, interviews here and there, job fairs, which are in Maryland, so a lot of driving (I have spent over 50 hours in the car since he came home).  I know that you all don't need an explanation, I'm just like....Ack.   

Right now, he is working somewhere in NJ.  What's kind of...um...strange, is that I am not at all looking for a job in that area.  I have interviews mainly up here, in NY, and in Baltimore County.  So, that's interesting.  He's staying down there for the time being, and I'm going to be going down there today, and when school is over, I'll stay with him until I find something.  Then we have decisions to make.  

Speaking of student teaching, I only have a week left!  Its crazy, really.  My new cooperating teaching isn't the same as the guy I was with at the High School, but I still LOVE the kids here.  I can't believe its almost over.  I'm going to spend a few days with my old mentor teacher and the High School kids when I'm done at the Middle School, until grad school is over.  He would just sign off on them all, but what else am I going to do for those three days??  

So, things have been kind of crazy, but I have been planning out all my food pretty well, which is excellent.  For the time being, don't expect any nutrition information, it takes awhile to do it.  If I get the chance to come back and add it in, I will.  

I'm still not sure how regularly I'll be posting, although I'll be bored as anything after May 15th, so you can probably expect to be hearing too much from me around then!