Monday, October 31, 2011

10K Race Recap

I've been meaning to write this post for a while but I was waiting for the race photos to be released. They were, but the organization committee is charging like 30 bucks a photo, so I am using my own post-race photo instead. 

As you guys might remember, I signed up to run my first 10K a while back and spoke about my training plan and getting off track with it, here. I did try to run as much as possible during the month leading up to the race, but I ended up missing a handful of training days because of other unforeseen circumstances. 

This is why I was pleasantly surprised to find out that a 10K is totally doable for me! The 6.2 miles pretty much flew by. It didn't hurt that the race was in gorgeous Prospect Park in Brooklyn, and the scenery (or should I say greenery), was so lovely to look at while running. I am also definitely a fan of tapering, or running less the week of the race to give your body a rest and to guarantee you will be fully charged on race day. I didn't run the two days prior to the race, which meant by race day I was raring to go.
Me with my medal. 

Of course, everything wasn't perfect. I would have preferred a later start time, like maybe 9am. The race started at 7.30, which meant that I was out the door by 6am, while it was still dark out, so that wasn't too exciting. Next time I sign up for a race, I might make an effort to find out the start time beforehand. I was so nervous I thought I might oversleep and miss the race I barely got any sleep the night before anyway. 

The race itself went really well. I wasn't even aware that I was racing until the 4th mile or so. I had made a great playlist which powered me through tough bits and I tried to keep pace with a girl I had met before the race started, who happened to run at my speed. When she'd pull ahead, I'd try to keep up with her. It's good to have someone you are secretly sort of racing against because it motivates you

Except for the last mile, during which I got a gnarly stomach cramp, everything went well. In fact, I enjoyed myself so much, and was so proud of myself after, that I think I might sign up for a 15K or something in the future. I like racing a lot. There's just something fun about joining thousands of people to run. I saw lots of father-son, mother-daughter duos running as well as a  man who seemed to be physically disabled walking the race. It was inspiring. 

I ended up running the race in an hour and 5 minutes, which put my pace per mile at 10.30 minutes. I usually run an 11-minute mile. I'm slow and steady so the fact that I ran 10.30 per mile is pretty exciting. 

If you're thinking about running a race, I highly recommend it! It's fun and a great way to challenge yourself. Plus, if you start with a 5K (3 miles), it is totally doable if you allow 1 month to train. If you're in good shape physically, you might not even need training time! 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Rich marinara sauce

There are some things that I just can't see myself doing in the kitchen. One of them is making my own pasta. I would like to, but I'm not sure if I have the patience. Having said that, I do believe fresh pasta is so much more delicious than dry. Last night my boyfriend picked up some fresh spinach and cheese ravioli from Whole Foods. I had been planning on making a stir-fry that night, but figured I could turn the veg into a side dish. 

I think one of the best ways to spice up a packaged meal is by adding something homemade to it, whether it be a sauce or a side dish. I made a fresh pasta sauce and sautéed vegetables to go with the pasta and the entire meal ended up being quite delicious. 

I have been meaning to try this recipe from Smitten Kitchen for a long time now. Now, this recipe is by no means healthy. I'm a bit embarrassed to even post it on here, to be honest. But I had to! After all Deb went on and on about how many top chefs have fawned over this recipe, despite the fact that it only has 3 ingredients. I couldn't imagine a pasta sauce without garlic and red pepper flakes being particularly enticing, but I went ahead and tried it anyway. Obviously the key to total tomato sauce bliss here is the butter. The 5 tablespoons of butter to be exact. What can I say, sometimes you need some butter, and since I'm almost done with my application to grad school, I thought I deserved it. 

This recipe wasn't healthy, but it's natural, at least, which is something I'd like to discuss on here another time. I like to make healthy meals most of the time, but I think the bigger issue facing our society today, when it comes to food, is the fact that most dishes are unnatural. Our bodies don't recognize stuff like high fructose corn syrup, and thus they happen to be much worse for us than something like butter. 

Anyway, that's a discussion for another time. The sauce was amazing with the fresh pasta and I added a side of broccoli, mushrooms and leftover kale sautéed in garlic and olive oil. Something about the tomatoes simmering in the onions for close to an hour really allows the flavors to develop. 

With a sprinkling of Pecorino Romano, it was a pretty decadent meal. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Spelt Pancakes + Gluten

GLUTEN FREE. The term is everywhere these days. What does it mean? Why do we care about gluten? Well, I'm not a nutritionist (yet) but as far as I understand, the wheat we consume today has more gluten in it than it used to, mostly because of how it is processed. Gluten is the protein in wheat, and while only a small percentage of people have an inability to digest it (those with celiac disease), many are gluten sensitive

If you have a sensitivity to gluten, after consuming (a lot of) wheat products, like pizza, cereal, bread or baked goods, you will feel a combination of symptoms which may include bloating, fatigue and even headaches. Although I don't think I am gluten sensitive, I think we are consuming way too much gluten and wheat today and that it wouldn't hurt to try to incorporate all the other delicious grains out there into our diets. 

Quinoa, teff and millet are just some of the grains that don't contain gluten that you may want to experiment cooking with. I am a huge fan of quinoa and love its nutty flavor and how light it is. It doesn't have a strong flavor though so I tend to cook it in veggie broth with maybe a small addition of olive oil or even butter, salt and pepper. You might not know that quinoa actually also has protein in it, so it's perfect for vegans and vegetarians too. 
I like mine with lots of berries!

Spelt is another grain that according to offers a number of benefits including:
* A wider range of nutrients compared to wheat
* Provides crucial nutrients such as Manganese, Fiber, Niacin, Magnesium and Protein. 
* It even says the combination of nutrients may be beneficial for "persons with migraine headache, atherosclerosis, or diabetes". 

I regularly use garbanzo-fava flour (lots of protein!), spelt flour and oat bran flour in my baked goods. You can't tell the difference between these flours and normal wheat flour and it's nice to mix things up. A few mornings ago we made spelt pancakes at home. My boyfriend is a big fan of pancakes but is a Type 1 diabetic, which means he needs to be careful with his sugar and carbs. Enter: spelt flour. The flour is low in sugar and does not cause blood sugar to spike like white flour. 

Spelt Pancakes
Makes about 8 4-inch pancakes
2 cups spelt flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 eggs
1/4 cup oil
1 3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Calories per pancake: about 150. 

* Mix dry ingredients and in a separate bowl mix wet. Combine the two, but do not over mix.     * The real key to amazing pancakes is cooking them on low and letting them be. I have major issues with this, so I'm usually the one who makes the batter and my boyfriend is the pancake-maker. See, I get impatient and so they burn and don't cook in the center. 
* Put a little knob of butter or a small amount of oil in the pan, unless you are using a non-stick pan, in which case it's unnecessary. Allow the oil to heat thoroughly and place 1/3 cup of batter in the center of the pan. Turn the heat to extra-low and allow to bake until bubbles form on the top. Flip and repeat. 
The boyfriend's version. 

Note: I also like to turn on the oven to 200 at the beginning of my baking and place the finished pancakes in the oven, to keep them warm, but this does tend to dry them out a bit. When it comes down to it, pancakes are best served immediately!

Serve with maple syrup and berries or smeared with peanut butter as I like them. 

Book recommendation: If you are into gluten and wheat and this whole issue, I would recommend 'Wheat Belly' by William Davis, M.D. It discusses this issue further and is quite compelling. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Sweet Potato and Kale Soup

A few weeks ago it was cold here in New York City and I wanted to make a soup using sweet potatoes. As much as I love sweet potatoes and butternut squash and all of the fall squashes, I hate that their sweetness is often highlighted in dishes. I prefer to use hot or spicy seasonings to balance the natural sweetness. 

I had also picked up a head of kale, my first. I wanted to find a way to ease into the whole kale thing, as kale is great for you, but has a very distinct flavor that takes a bit of getting used to. It's not like spinach, which has a mild flavor and can be used easily with lots of different flavors. 

As I was flipping through my cookbooks, I stumbled upon a recipe by Kim Barnouin, co-author of the 'Skinny Bitch' series. What was so great about those books was that they got the attention of many people who wouldn't normally read a book about veganism with a catchy, bitchy title. Kim went on to write her own cookbook titled 'Skinny Bitch: Ultimate Everyday Cookbook'. Though I've had it for over 6 months, this is the first recipe I've attempted, mostly because as much as I love cookbooks, I often end up using recipes I've found online instead. No rhyme or reason to this habit, it's just the way it is. 
I ended up using sweet potatoes instead of the potatoes she calls for because I much prefer sweet potatoes to regular ones, which aren't the nutritional powerhouse that their orange counterpart is. I also didn't want to use beans, so I left them out. So this recipe is more inspired by Kim's recipe, and not a literal recreation. And even though this photo isn't the greatest, trust me when I say this soup was delicious. Warm from the curry I added and very filling as well. 

Sweet Potato and Kale Soup
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
8 cups water
2 tablespoons white miso paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon curry powder
4 cups chopped kale
salt and pepper to taste

Directions are the same as always with a soup. Saute the onions and carrots in the oil until soft. Add the spices, potatoes, miso and tomato paste. Saute a few minutes, then add the water. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 30 minutes to an hour. Add the kale during the last 20 minutes. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Green Smoothie

I contemplated calling this post, 'Not Gross Green Smoothie' because I know there are loads of you out there who would never imagine ingesting a smoothie of this color. I actually have only recently come around to green smoothies. After reading about them in many health books such as 'Kim's Beauty Detox' and Kris Carr's 'Crazy, Sexy Cancer', I tried one of my own, about 6 months ago. Actually, it was green juice, not a smoothie. My sister and I diligently started our mornings off with them for a few weeks and then stopped. I honestly never enjoyed the taste, though my sister did. We would juice romaine lettuce, cucumbers, celery, parsley and a green apple. It was intense, and though it did make me feel fresh and glowy, the taste was a turn-off for me. 

I didn't touch green juices or smoothies for a while after that experience. I figured, I eat a lot of greens anyway, why bother? Until I came across this recipe from Angela from Oh She Glows. This is my favorite cooking blog of late; Angela features really delicious vegan recipes and updates her blog every day, which is always a plus. She's also managed to make a lot of seemingly devious treats healthy, like her Vegan Brownies: Two Ways, which look incredible.

Her standard green smoothie includes almond milk, a tbsp of nut butter (I use peanut butter), chia seeds or flax seeds (I use chia), spinach (she uses fresh; I use frozen) and a frozen banana. And wouldn't you know it, it actually tastes so good. Like 'you don't even feel like you're doing something good for your body' good. Like you might actually enjoy this and look forward to it. 

So far I have also subbed in coconut milk for the almond milk and a handful of berries instead of the banana. But the frozen banana is key as it adds a creaminess and blends everything together wonderfully. 

Angela has so many other great smoothie recipes I can't wait to try, like this Pumpkin-Gingerbread Smoothie (I love anything with pumpkin). 

And for those of you who can't imagine being satisfied on just a smoothie, these are actually quite filling. You could also have this first thing, and then follow with your regular breakfast, or a lighter version, an hour later. 

One of my favorite things about starting my morning with this smoothie is that I know I have started the day right, by doing something good for my body. I also know that within an hour of waking, I have already had 2 servings of fruit/veg

Give it a try! You might surprise yourself. 

Note: Keep in mind a high-powered blender is key here. I have the gorgeous Vita-Mix 5200, which is amazing and manages to remove all lumps, which is vital since a mouth of frozen spinach might put you off smoothies for good. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Spicy Tomato Soup

My boyfriend is in town visiting and got sick a few days after arriving. Either I got him sick, as I had been sick all week last week, or he caught a bug on the plane. He had the flu and it was raining all day so I knew I wanted to make a delicious healing soup

Tomato soup is one of my favorite's. I think everyone loves tomato soup. I don't like it cream based and I like it very spicy. My sister used to make us the best tomato soup ever when we were younger and it was always very spicy! I asked her yesterday what her trick was and apparently she would put both a spicy green pepper in as well as red pepper powder

I looked around for an appealing recipe online and decided on this one by Giada. I did make a significant number of changes to the recipe though. I knew I didn't want beans in the soup, because that would make it more like a minestrone. I also wanted to incorporate some whole wheat orzo I had purchased at Whole Foods earlier in the week. 

Spicy Tomato Soup
Adapted from Giada's recipe

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (26-ounce) jar marinara sauce
6 cups no-chickn' broth*
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/3 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp thyme
1/2 cup whole wheat orzo
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

*The original recipe called for 2 cups broth. Honestly, even with the addition of 4 more cups, the soup was still very hearty. I don't know how 2 cups would have worked! 

The directions for making a soup are all pretty much the same. Saute the onions in the oil, add the carrots and cook until soft. Add the garlic and cook until just fragrant; be careful not to burn. Add the marinara sauce, orzo, spices and no-chickn' broth and bring to a boil. Then turn low and simmer for 30 mins- 1 hr.

This soup was delicious! We added some shredded mozzarella and enjoyed with a slice of Ezekiel whole wheat bread (which, by the way, has zero sugar!). It was just what the doctor ordered and made us both feel much better. Don't hesitate to make this on a rainy day or any day really. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Easy Basic Salad Dressing

This has been one of those weeks full of cooking, but none of it particularly good. 

I made black bean burgers last night, and they weren't that great. We ate them, but definitely not worth sharing the recipe. 

Then I also made pumpkin bread yesterday using this recipe from Smitten Kitchen. Deb is usually super reliable, but this just didn't come out right. I used a new sugar-free sweetener, and as usual, used half as much as I normally do with Splenda, but this time it was not sweet enough. I made three mini-loaves and added a little sugar-free maple syrup to one of them at the last minute, and that one turned out the best. Either way, I need to play with the recipe more before posting. 

Here I will share my favorite salad dressing recipe. It is so, so simple I don't even know if it needs its own post; however, my friends have asked what I put in my dressing before so I thought I'd go ahead and share it anyway. Also, it makes a lot of sense to make a big batch of this and keep it in a jar in the fridge, ready for whenever the mood strikes. 

Easy Basic Salad Dressing
Makes 3/4 cup
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil, preferably cold-pressed, extra virgin
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1-2 tsp mustard, preferably dijon
salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Add equal parts lemon juice and olive oil, or if like me, you like your dressing more tart than oily, add more lemon juice than oil. Add mustard and whisk. The mustard emulsifies the oil and lemon juice. Add salt and pepper. 

There is nothing to this dressing. It's super easy to make, takes only a few minutes, but it's so yummy. I love my dressing with minced garlic but the key is to make sure the garlic is very, very finely minced, lest one of your dinner guest's bite down on a chunk of raw garlic! 
Also, the mustard gives just the right amount of punch to the dressing. I love to serve this over an arugula salad, whose peppery notes work well with this dressing. 

Make a bunch in advance and keep in the fridge for up to a week. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Getting off Track

Sometimes no matter how hard you try, it's impossible to stick to a regular workout schedule. 

As you guys may remember, I signed up to run a 10K in Brooklyn on Saturday, the 22nd of October. Being that it will be my second race ever and my first race in New York, I was beyond excited. I printed out a training plan and stuck to it religiously for 4 weeks. 

Unfortunately, I had to fly to Istanbul for a family emergency at the last minute and my training was derailed. I tried my hardest while there to work out, but some days I wasn't emotionally up for it (even though the endorphins would have made me feel better). 

Then, upon returning to New York, I got sick! For the last 4 days I have been in bed, sick with the flu, barely able to get up, let alone work out. I know some people push through the pain and workout while sick, but that's not my style. Especially since I have a very special house guest arriving tonight, I was focused on getting better as soon as possible. 

I'm finally better but the race is less than a week away. I figured some of you out there may face a similar situation, so this is how I decided that, yes, I will still race. 

1. Are you in good shape?
I am in good shape and work out regularly. Though I have never ran a 10K, I have run 6 miles before (even 7-8 miles), so it shouldn't be too difficult for me. 
2. Am I doing this for fun or to set a PR (personal record)? 
Being that I don't care much about PRs and don't regularly record my times, it doesn't matter how long it takes me to complete the race. For me, running is fun and a great way to stay in shape, so I have to remember this when competing. 
3. Am I okay with walking some of it? 
YES! It is okay to walk sometimes. I am stubborn and often get in the mindset of not wanting to 'ruin' a run with some walking, but this time around, I might have to. Actually, I probably will have to, and that's ok. It doesn't mean you didn't finish the race! 

So all these reasons and the fact that I haven't raced in a year led me to my decision to compete anyway. 

I don't have a lot of time left, so I threw out my old training plan and am going to try to get in one long run (Tuesday, 4-5 miles) before the race on Saturday. Today I ran 3 miles, after 5 days off so it's not bad. And tomorrow I plan to strength train (weights) and cross train (elliptical). Also, keep in mind that taking the two days off prior to your race is super important! Just as important as training, so don't ignore it. 

I'll let you know how it goes. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

An Ode to Essex Street Market

There are two places I shop for groceries on a regular basis in California, Whole Foods for unique items and Trader Joe's for staples. Although I would love to shop at Whole Foods all the time, I really love a good bargain and Trader Joe's just can't be beat. 

So when I moved to New York, I was disappointed to find out that there is only 1 Trader Joe's and it's always packed! I have been twice so far, both times during the week, when you'd expect most people to be working, and both times there was a line of at least 30! Plus, I have yet to purchase one of those awesome metal basket/carts that old Asian ladies love using to haul their goods, which is one of the reasons I have yet to stop by a farmer's market. I often have a hard time controlling myself when it comes to fresh and cheap produce, and I am just not up for hauling 3-4 bags of produce ten blocks, all sweaty by myself.

Anyway, so when my friend Sasha suggested I try Essex Street Market, I was curious and hopeful. The market is located on Essex Street (go figure), only a few blocks from my house. It's actually between my apartment and my friend Sasha's apartment, which is convenient since I'm at hers at least 3 times a week. 

The market is phenomenal! Not only does it have unique items I usually have to head to Whole Foods for like Vital Wheat Gluten and Kale Chips, but it is dirt cheap. They have the most amazing looking produce section and I actually purchased tomatoes yesterday! I am obsessed with tomatoes and can't stand when they don't taste and smell like tomatoes. And I usually am not a fan of buying them out of season, but I can't wait to try these because they smell amazing. Anyway, I digress! See what happens when you get me started on tomatoes!
Look at the colors!

The best part is I only spent $32.76! It's almost impossible for me to get out of Whole Foods without spending at least $50 and I got a bounty. 

This is what I purchased:
1 large head kale
2 red bell peppers
2 carrots
1 bag Bob's Red Mill Oat Bran
1 packet mushrooms
1 bunch organic tomatoes
1 packet Bob's Red Mill TVP
1 package blackberries
1 package blueberries
5 lemons
1 butternut squash

Whoever says being vegetarian is expensive is crazy. Needless to say, Essex Street Market has become a new favorite of mine. Plus, I love supporting smaller non-chain places, especially those in my new neighborhood. If you happen to live in the area and haven't checked it out yet, you must. 

And if you live in New York, please share your favorite grocery stores with me. I love checking out new places! 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Amazing Vegan Chili

For the last ten days I've been in Istanbul with family. Seeing as my sister and I moved out of our place there, I didn't have a space to cook and unfortunately (fortunately?) ate out a lot while there. 

I do love to eat out and try new restaurants but I really can't go more than two or three days before I crave a nice, home-cooked meal. Thankfully, I got to enjoy some of those as well while in Istanbul, but I'm excited to be back at home and in my kitchen this week. I plan on making lots of yummy stuff and not eating out till the weekend hopefully, so I should have some fun recipes for you guys. 

One of my favorite dishes to make is a big ol' pot of chili. Chili is super easy to make, doesn't take a lot of time and gets better the longer it sits in the fridge, in my opinion! The flavors meld together and the quick addition of some fresh ingredients like cilantro* and avocado make it feel like it was cooked that day. 

I mentioned that I purchased the Happy Herbivore cookbook a while ago and I've been super impressed with all the recipes I've tried since. The best part is that most of the recipes are low fat or even  fat-free and you can't tell at all! Trust me, the author Lindsay did a great job and you won't be disappointed. 
Look at all those great colors!

Unfortunately it turns out I can't actually copy the recipe here, so my apologies and from now on I'll only recreate recipes that are printed somewhere else online from now on or that I have permission to reprint. If you do happen to want to check out the book, it's available on Amazon here and the recipe is on page 81. 

I omitted the textured vegetable protein (TVP) because I don't like it very much. Feels too artificial to me and I knew it would be great without it (and kinder on my stomach!). However, this meant that the broth should have probably been reduced a bit, seeing as most of the broth is meant to rehydrate the TVP. Having said that, it was amazing as is, but next time, I might reduce the broth by 1/2 cup (depends how soupy you like your chili). 

I added some diced avocado, cilantro and hot sauce and it was the perfect meal. I served it over spinach the second time I ate it and it was even better! 

Keep in mind this is a great dish to make and enjoy all week, for those that don't have a lot of time to cook every day. 

*I recently read an interesting article that says cilantro love or hate may actually be genetic! I'm one of the lovers, but interesting to know either way! 

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