Catching Up

Don’t worry, you’re not supposed to be at work

Recently, I haven’t posted anything on Saturdays.  Blog traffic is always a little lighter on the weekends, and it just seems I have more good stuff to write about during the week.  But the idea came to me (on a run, of course) that perhaps Saturdays would be a good time to tell you about all the things that don’t fit in with my less personal, more informational weekday posts—my own training, baby news, recipes that for one reason or another don’t deserve an entire post, and updates on old posts (like how my coffee quitting is going).

So that’s the plan for now.  If it works; I’ll stick with it.  If it sucks, I’ll stop.

Quitting coffee made random

If you haven’t yet read my plan to quit coffee using randomization, take a look at it.  I started this Tuesday, and it’s working just as I had hoped!  The first day, I guessed that the coffee was mostly decaf because it didn’t taste as bright and acidic as usual.  But sure enough, I started to feel a little caffeine buzz as I was drinking it.  The next day, the coffee tasted great and I thought for sure I had hit the jackpot with a 100% caffeine dose, but I didn’t feel a thing from it.  I’m thoroughly confused, which is exactly the aim of the plan.  If by the end of the week, I can’t even point to the 100% decaf and 100% caffeine days, that’ll go a long way toward convincing me that a lot of the jolt I get from coffee is in my head.

50K a month away

ThriveFitness 3d cmyk US 214x300Only four weeks are left until my next 50K, February 27th at Hashawha Hills.  To be honest, I haven’t logged the mileage I had hoped for since having a pretty rough go of my first 50K.  I did manage to do a hilly sixteen miles on Thursday, and that went fine.  I ran the first half by myself, then met my ultra group for the second half, followed by a veggie wrap and a Guinness at a bar.  Though I tried two new drinks from Thrive Fitness (review coming soon!) to fuel up and recover, I made the mistake of not eating or drinking anything during the sixteen miles, and afterwards I didn’t feel very good.  Kind of like I did after the worst run of my life, but to a lesser extent.  Lesson learned.  Maybe.

Anyway, in the next three weeks I should be able to get in a twenty-miler and another long one, so that should be enough to get me through the 50K.  My performance won’t be stellar, but after that, I think it’s time to get back to serious training, having enjoyed a nice few months of relaxed running on trails since my Boston qualifier.

Holy chocolate almonds!

emerald 300x300I’ve always been a big fan of Emerald roasted almonds, but I’ve stopped eating them recently because they contain a lot of ingredients and are pretty salty.  But I still stop and drool over them at the grocery store, and last time I did, I saw these cocoa-roast almonds on the shelf next to them.  There are still a few ingredients whose names are too long to be healthy, but I gave them a shot and they are amazingly tasty!  And with the chocolate flavor coming only from pure cocoa, they’re probably not the worst thing for you.  (Emerald people: if you’re reading this and have any extra lifetime supplies lying around, what could a Superbowl ad do that an NMA endorsement couldn’t?)

The last word

Want more to read?  Check out Megan’s latest Running Shorts post “Who stole my Boston Marathon spot?“.

And since you’re presumably a dedicated reader, consider yourself among the first to know that I have a fantastic interview in the works!  I can’t tell you who it is yet, but here’s a hint: “Born to Run.” And it’s not the author.  Or the Boss.

Have a great weekend!

10 Comments

 

Sweet-Tooth Friday: Raw Chia-Carrot Cake

Happy Sweet-Tooth Friday!  This is Christine with a very special dessert this week—one that is not only vegan but also gluten-free and raw!  I’ve never made a raw cake before so I was pretty skeptical, but this cake was packed with amazing fresh flavor!

Ch-ch-ch-chia!

christine and vegan carrot cake photo 278x300Ok my apologies, but there has been a lot of talk about chia here on NMA and apparently my brain is hard-wired to sing that jingle every time I hear the word.  Matt had a post about chia seeds where he talked about their history as warrior-fuel for tribes of amazing runners, and then he got some more from his iHerb.com shopping spree.  My interest was sparked by the chia seed’s gelling ability- I am excited to see their potential in vegan baking.  And as an added bonus, the seeds are full of omega-3′s, antioxidants, and dietary fiber.

Last week I promised to work on a chia energy bar, but I’ve been feeling a little bit burnt out on bars and cookies and was in the mood for cake.  I found an interesting recipe for No-Bake Carrot cake in the book Sweet Alternatives by Ariana Bundy.  If you remember from my post on Vegan Rice Krispie Treats, her book is filled with dessert recipes made without gluten, dairy and soy.  I thought a raw cake would be the perfect venue to try out the gelling nature of the chia seed and let its nutty flavor shine through.  Here’s my adaptation of the recipe, with chia seeds added.

Vegan Raw Chia-Carrot Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 lbs grated carrots (eye ball this from a 2 lb bag of whole carrots and chop in a food processor, or get pre-grated)
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 cup chopped dried mangoes
  • 1 cup packed chopped dates
  • zest and juice of 1 orange (just under 1/2 a cup of oj)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 tbsp agave nectar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt

If starting with whole carrots, process to very small pieces or if you have the energy grate them by hand.  Stir together the carrots, walnuts, the 1/2 cup of chia seeds, mangoes, and orange zest.  In a food processor, puree the chopped dates, orange juice, 2 tbsp of chia seeds, vanilla extract, agave nectar, cinnamon and salt.  Mix the puree into the carrot mixture- you may need to wash your hands and get in there to get the job done!

Line a 8 inch loaf pan with plastic wrap.  It doesn’t have to be perfect because the weight of the batter will weigh the plastic down into the corners.  Refrigerate the cake overnight.  I didn’t plan the timing correctly so I just stuck it in the freezer for a couple hours, which turned out fine but I imagine overnight is slightly more solid. Turn the cake over on to a plate, and garnish with orange slices and extra carrot peel.

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I was pleasantly surprised with the results of this raw cake!  It was super super moist, and the chia seeds added a nice crunch.  While it was very different than carrot cake made with oil and flour, I won’t deny that I went back for seconds!  It was a lot of fun to make together with my dad this afternoon.  By the way, I think this recipe would be excellent as cupcakes.  I skipped making the orange-cashew-agave icing that went along with the original recipe but it’d be nice on the cupcake version.

I hope you give this recipe a whirl and reap the benefits of both the chia seeds and the joy of a healthy sweet snack!

Until next time, stay sweet!
xoxo, Christine

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19 Comments

 

Latest on the NMA baby

Hi everyone!  This is Erin, Matt’s wife.  Hope you all are doing well!   Due to popular demand, we decided that it was time to provide you all with an update on our little NMA baby, AKA Baby Fraz (our last name is Frazier).

Erin Baby Fraz 225x300I have been very fortunate to have had a very easy pregnancy so far.  I am 28 weeks pregnant this week, 12 more to go!  Time is flying by.  Baby Fraz is due April 19th and we are looking forward to finally finding out if it is an NMA boy or girl!

In preparation for the baby’s arrival I have done a little bit of shopping, and I actually designed a No Meat Athlete onesie for the baby!  It came out really cute.  We’ll have to make a little t-shirt as well for when the baby turns ’1′ and gets to watch its daddy in the 2011 Boston Marathon.  Instead of taking a picture of just the onesie, I put it on a giraffe that I recently knitted for the baby.  It’s his or her first stuffed animal!  So far the dogs like it; now we need to teach them to keep their paws off of it!

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My activity level has gradually decreased throughout the pregnancy.  It has been quite the change from my active lifestyle!  When we found out that we were having a baby, Matt and I were in the midst of marathon training.  I was quickly hit with a wall of fatigue and then before I knew it, things were getting uncomfortable!  So the marathon never happened for me, but in exchange I was able to be there to see Matt qualify for Boston at the Wineglass Marathon last October, an unforgettable experience.  Also very early in the pregnancy, my doctor told me that I had to stop with the road biking that I had been doing because any fall would be very dangerous for the baby.  Now at the 28-week mark I am doing something I haven’t done in a long time—just walking.  I miss all of the activity, especially as I see Matt running more and more, setting new training goals.  It is all worth it though, to have the opportunity to bring Baby Fraz into the world.

As for my diet, I’ve had no trouble maintaining the vegetarian lifestyle throughout the pregnancy and, much to my relief, I have not had any meat cravings.  The biggest change I’ve noticed is that I have had a bit of a chocolate craving, which is very unusual for me.  I thought it was because of the holidays, but now I realize that was just an excuse!  Matt has done a terrific job planning the meals and making some great dishes that satisfy both me and Baby Fraz.

As Baby Fraz continues to kick and roll with increased enthusiasm in my stomach, we can’t help but wonder if we will have a little runner on our hands.  I am sure it will be hard not to be, with how much Matt and I love it.  I suppose the first step, once the baby is big enough, will be to get him or her out in a jogging stroller.  I have heard that the BOB strollers are good but there are so many to choose from.  Does anyone have a suggestion about which jogging stroller to get?  Initially I think the walking will continue and we will bring Baby Fraz along in a Baby Bjorn.

Erin Dogs 300x225So as this journey continues, we hope that all unfolds as smoothly as possible.  We feel so lucky that we will be bringing Baby Fraz into this world and can’t wait to be parents!  There is so much that we are both very passionate about and can’t wait to share it all with our baby.  We look forward to introducing Baby Fraz to all of you!  We appreciate all of  the support and enthusiasm that you have given us so far.  It truly is incredible.

Before I go, Matt wants me to tell you to read his most recent Running Shorts post.  It’s about his latest (crazy) idea to run a three-hour marathon.  And I came up with the title!

38 Comments

 

My Randomized Plan to Quit Coffee

Or, really, to quit drinking caffeine.

coffee beans photo 300x225The “why’s”: Making lasting change starts with having strong enough “why’s.”  Here are mine.  Caffeine is an incongruous part of my otherwise healthy way of life.  I try hard to stay away from acid-forming foods and to eat by the principles of Thrive, where energy comes not from stimulation but from nourishment.  I want to maximize the energy I have available to create an exciting life, and coffee, in the long-term, only robs me of this energy.

I’ve tried hard to quit coffee in the past—I even went a month without coffee a while back.  But I keep coming back to it.  I come back to it because I have this idea that it helps me think better.  I enjoy reading books and doing math more when I drink coffee, and I think I come up with better ideas when I’m caffeinated.  But I know that’s not true.  The type of thinking coffee helps me with is a very linear kind, a proficiency at checking items off a list or even of recombining old ideas in a new way.  This isn’t real creativity.  Real creativity is nonlinear, the creation of truly new ideas that haven’t yet been conceived, not simply the reordering of old ones.

The supplies:

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One pound regular coffee beans, one pound decaf coffee beans, and a bunch of little baggies.  And oh yeah, a randomizing device/wife.

The plan: Here’s the deal.  A standard weaning-off isn’t going to work.  I know this because I don’t have a problem going a day without coffee or caffeine.  I never drink it before long runs, so I think that one day off per week has kept me from developing a physical addiction.  No; my problem is that on gut level, I believe that coffee makes me happier and more creative.  This is what needs to change: I need to convince myself that my thinking is just as vibrant, or more so, without coffee.

I’ve often wondered how much of the caffeine high is a placebo effect.  What if, I’ve often imagined, I were given a cup of decaf that I thought was the high-octane stuff?  Might I experience the same mental fireworks, completely of my own accord?  My belief is “yes,” and it’s on this notion that my plan is based.

So here’s how it works. I use five scoops of coffee beans each morning.  I gave Erin (my randomizing device) the amount of beans that I’ll use this week, three-fifths of which are regular, two-fifths of which are decaf:

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I’ve asked her to put five scoops in each bag, but here’s the kicker: I had her randomize the number of caffeinated scoops and decaf scoops I get each day, and not tell me the amounts.  The only rules were that one day must be all caffeine; one day must be all decaf.  The rest of the proportions are to be whatever she decides.

I make no secret of my love for gambling, and my hope is that the “gamble” each morning, the chance that I’ll hit the jackpot and get the fully-caffeinated version, will keep the experiment alive.  What would be really special is if I find I can’t identify which days are hi-caf, or even better, if I find that I’m happy no matter what, but on the hi-caf days I get unpleasant jitters and fatigue later in the day.  That would go along way to changing my gut level associations to coffee.

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So this week is three-fifths regular, two-fifths decaf.  Next week will be the same randomization process, with two-fifths regular and three-fifths decaf. The next will be only one-fifth regular.  I’ll keep it in this proportion, knowing that on any given day I might be drinking a fully-caffeinated cup of Joe, until I’m convinced that caffeine doesn’t make me any happier than I can make myself.

caffeine bluesMy biggest concern is that I won’t be able to make that gut-level change of the emotions I link to drinking caffeine, and to that end, I’ve ordered a book called Caffeine Blues: Wake Up to the Dangers of America’s #1 Drug.  I found this book thanks to Mel, one of the coolest bloggers I know, who mentioned it on her blog She Runs Brooklyn.  (Yet Mel still drinks coffee and loves it more than most.  Could that be why I think Mel is cool?   Hmm…)

So here I sit, Day 1, Week 1, with my cup of java.  I’m pretty sure it’s not the jackpot.  If I had to guess, I’d say it’s an even mix.  Or maybe it’s the all-decaf, and the little buzz I’m getting is my mind’s own doing.  And that’s exactly the point.

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iHerb.com shopping spree winner

While we’re expounding on the virtues of randomization, it’s time for a lottery draw!  There were 103 comments, and we’ll leave it up to the goddess Fortuna to bestow upon the lucky winner the $50 iHerb.com shopping spree.  Here we go…

screen#21 is Anne, another starving grad student, who said she would buy lots and lotsa chia seeds and coconut oil!  Congrats, Anne, enjoy your $50!

Don’t be too sad if you didn’t win; remember, you can still use my coupon code RAZ652 to get $5 your first purchase at iHerb.com.

Have a great hump day, and don’t forget, check out the 10 Races To Run Before You Die!

81 Comments

 

Robin Robertson interview

1000+Vegan+Recipes+blogAs you know if you’ve been reading over the past few months, almost all of my recent cooking has been from Robin Robertson’s newest cookbook, 1,000 Vegan Recipes. Though I’m not a vegan, I recognize that vegan food represents a diet upgrade for me: I don’t like eggs, so the only non-vegan part of my diet is dairy, and I’m pretty well convinced that dairy does not do a body good. Thus far, I’ve found my foray into vegan cooking to be surprisingly effortless; much of that is owing to the diversity, if not the sheer number, of recipes in Robin’s cookbook.

Besides 1,000 Vegan Recipes, Robin has also written Vegan Planet and several other vegan and vegetarian cookbooks, so she certainly knows a thing or two about meatless meals. To find out more about her cooking philosophy (and to figure out how to start making vegan buffalo wings), I asked Robin a few questions.

Matt: 1,000 Vegan Recipes is the first vegan cookbook I ever purchased; what made me buy it was that as I was leafing through it, I saw loads of substantial meals that looked simple to prepare and didn’t rely on soy for the protein component. Do you think about nutrition when you create a new recipe, or are you just trying to make the best-tasting or most authentic meal possible?

Robin: When I develop a new recipe, I consider many factors, including taste, texture, and visual appeal, because if something doesn’t taste good or please the eye, no one will want to eat it, no matter how healthy it is. In terms of ethnic recipes, I try to balance authenticity with ease of preparation for the typical American home cook who may not have access to exotic ingredients or lots of time to spend in the kitchen. Nutritionally, I try to include lots of fresh produce and whole grains and I try not to use too much oil, but I do stress in the book that people who want to use even less oil can easily do so.

M: I like that when you talk about nutrition, you go right to “fresh produce and whole grains” rather than focusing on protein, carbs, and fat. But from a runner’s perspective, one has to at least pay attention to these, and protein is the big concern for a lot of people when they talk about vegan or vegetarian food for athletes. Soy is an easy way to get it, and even though most of your recipes don’t use soy products, there are plenty that do. (With 1,000 of them, I suppose this isn’t surprising.) What’s your feeling about cooking with soy; is it a last resort or have others been too quick to demonize it recently?

R: I love soy and I use tofu and soy milk regularly in my own cooking, although I don’t think one should eat a steady diet of any one ingredient. For those who may be allergic to soy, I provide alternate ingredient suggestions. If you look beyond that faction trying to demonize soy, you will find lots of sound level-headed nutritional and medical evidence to the contrary. Read The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, or read what Dr. Joel Fuhrman, Dr. Neal Barnard, or John Robbins have to say about the benefits of soy. Susan Havala and other nutrition experts, such as Dr. Mark Messina and Virginia Messina have written with great clarity on the subject as well.

M: I find that many of the best vegan and vegetarian meals are so good because they come from cultures that have historically eaten very few animal products, so there’s no need to adapt them. But every once in a while, it’s fun to have a vegan or vegetarian version of a favorite non-vegan or non-vegetarian meal. Is there a process that you go through when you sit down to come up with such an adaptation? For example, if you wanted to come up with a recipe for vegan buffalo chicken wings, how would you go about choosing what ingredients to use and how best to prepare it?

R: Most of the vegan recipes I’ve adapted from non-vegan classics have to do with mentally matching up taste, texture, and appearance. Once I do that, there are usually obvious choices of how to best prepare the dish. Sometimes seitan works best, other times beans, tofu, or even mushrooms can be used quite successfully. (For vegan Buffalo wings, I’d go with seitan.)

M: Were you a non-vegan cook before you became a vegan cook? What made you want to start doing strictly vegan recipes? Ethical reasons, health reasons, a new challenge?

R: I was a restaurant chef for years in mainstream restaurants. I went vegan for ethical reasons soon after I quit the restaurant business. I always loved animals and it never made sense to me that we should kill them and eat them. Once I quit cooking animal parts for a living, I was able to be true to myself and become vegan. Soon after, I began to help others go vegan through cooking classes and my writing, especially through my cookbooks, including Vegan Planet and 1,000 Vegan Recipes.

M: You’ve certainly helped me branch into vegan food! Even as a vegetarian, I thought vegan food had to be bland, or full of weird, processed substitute meats before I found your book. So now that you inspire so many vegan cooks, where do you turn for cooking inspiration?

R: Being a food professional for more than 25 years, my brain is tuned in for inspiration all the time. Traveling and eating in restaurants can be the most inspiring, but often it’s the ingredients themselves that inspire me. After a trip to the farmer’s market, I spread all the gorgeous produce on the counter in my kitchen and it’s like opening a treasure chest. The hardest part is deciding what to cook first.

You can read more of Robin’s writing and find some of her recipes at her blog, Vegan Planet.

Mac and Chard from 1,000 Vegan Recipes

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To go along with the interview, I made Robin’s Mac and Chard, a vegan mac n’ cheese made without the use of soy or nutritional yeast, two ingredients that tend to turn non-vegans off.  The cheese is replaced by a silky-smooth sauce made from dijon mustard, cashews, and pureed vegetables—not only does it look just like cheese sauce; it’s delicious and healthy too.

Here’s the recipe from 1,000 Vegan Recipes, by (of course) Robin Robertson and published by Wiley.  (The grocery store didn’t have chard when I went; I used collard greens instead.)

Ingredients (makes 4 to 6 servings):

  • 12 ounces elbow macaroni
  • 1 medium bunch rainbow chard, tough stems removed and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 chopped yellow onion
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 medium Yukon Gold potato, peeled and cut into quarter-inch slices
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups vegetable broth, homemade or store bought
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 3/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/2 cup unsalted roasted cashews
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs

1. In a pot of boiling, salted water, cook the macaroni over medium-high heat until al dente, about 8 minutes.  Drain well and set aside.

2.  Steam the chard until tender, about 5 minutes.  Set aside to cool.  When cool enough to handle, squeeze any remaining moisture from the chard and set chard aside.  Lightly oil a 9 x 13-inch baking dish and set aside.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

3.  In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, garlic, and potato.  Season with salt and pepper to taste, cover, and cook until the vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes.  Add 1 cup of the broth, the turmeric, and 1/2 teaspoon of the paprika and continue cooking, uncovered, until the vegetables are very soft.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

4.  Grind the cashews in a high-speed blender until ground to a fine powder.  Add the onion and potato mixture, the remaining broth, lemon juice, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste and blend until smooth.  Taste, adjusting seasonings if necessary.

5.  Combine the sauce with the cooked macaroni and steamed chard and transfer to the prepared casserole.  Sprinkle with the bread crumbs and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon paprika and drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil.  Bake until hot and golden brown on top, about 30 minutes.  Serve immediately.

25 Comments

 

Sweet-Tooth Friday: Vegan Merlot-Berry Sorbet

christine sorbet photo 300x225Hi everybody!  Sweet-Tooth Friday is finally here, so this is Christine with your healthy dessert of the week.  Sorry for the late start today- I wanted to make sure you had plenty of time to register for Matt’s $50 shopping spree giveaway from iHerb.com.  Ok that would be a good reason, but honestly I just needed a little post-work nap today!

For this week’s dessert I made Vegan Merlot-Berry Sorbet, made with organic merlot and blackberries.  When my dad got an ice cream maker for Christmas, I knew I had to try it out.  I picked up a book from the library called Ice Cream! by Cuthbert and Wilson.  The title may be straightforward but the recipes are anything but!  They offer some really interesting ‘happens-to-be-vegan’ flavor combos like Strawberry and Balsamic Vinegar Sorbet, Melon and Chile Sorbet, and Pear and Bay Leaf Sorbet.

sorbet ingredients photo 300x200With a lot of deliberation, I thought a red wine sorbet would be the most daring—sure to impress my foodie friends.  The original recipe called for cabernet, but my favorite is malbec.  I found a $10 bottle of organic malbec called Vida Organica that was just delicious!  So good, in fact, that it never made it into my sorbet.  Oops!

I ended up using organic merlot, but if you have another preference or have just seen Sideways too many times, you can choose any red wine you like.  I was excited to tell you about all the heart-healthy resveratrol found in red wine but guess what—those antioxidants are oxygen sensitive, meaning that by the time this sorbet is prepared all those antioxidants are most likely out the window!  No matter, this is still a delightful no-fat vegan treat.

This is my version of the Ice Cream! recipe:

Vegan Merlot-Berry Sorbet

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup turbinado sugar, ground fine in a food processor
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups organic merlot
  • 1 cup blackberries
  • 2 tbsp lime juice

Combine the fine sugar, water, and vanilla in a sauce pan.  Heat to boiling and then simmer without stirring until the color darkens to golden.  (This is a little hard to judge because of the vanilla extract, but about 5-7 minutes should be good.)

Pour in a splash of the wine.  If there aren’t lots of bubbles, heat the sugar mixture a little longer.  Pour in the rest of the wine, and stir until uniform.

Add the blackberries and lime juice and simmer for about 15 minutes.  You want this time to both cook off the alcohol and get all the juice from the berries, so every now and then smoosh the berries with a spatula to release more juice.  Strain.

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Let the mixture come to room temperature, then chill for 2 hours.  I am usually pretty loose with chill times, but here it is important that it is as cold as possible before putting into the ice cream maker.  Follow the directions in your ice cream maker, then freeze again before serving.  If you don’t have an ice cream maker, try following the directions here.

Wow!  This sorbet was really yummy!  Very intense and  elegant flavors, but not overwhelming.  I was pretty sure I cooked all the alcohol off but I swear I felt a little loopy after a dish.  It would be great served for a dinner party or maybe just for your sweetie this Valentine’s day.

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New Tastes of 2010: persimmon

This week I tried a persimmon for the first time.  I got the Sharon variety, which are sweet and seedless and come all the way from Israel.  They look like firm bright orange tomatoes, but taste like a mellow papaya or even honeydew.  I ate some with the skin on but preferred it peeled.  They made a super exotic addition to my salad!  Yum!

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See you next week when hopefully I will successfully concoct a chia seed energy bar…

xoxo, Christine

9 Comments

 

iHerb.com shopping spree!

Alright people; it’s time.  iHerb.com has been generous enough to give us three things: a $50 shopping spree for me, a $50 shopping spree for one of you, and a coupon code (RAZ652) that anyone can use to get $5 off his or her first purchase.

So, here’s the deal with iHerb.  They’re an online health-food-slash-supplement store.  One look at their homepage should tell you that they’re a little different — no photos, fancy logos and graphics, or other distractions.  (This is also the approach taken by another company you might have heard of, called “Googol” or “Google” or something.)

Actually, iHerb is like Google in another way: They make it really easy for you to find information.  Everything is sorted by product and brand, so for example, it’s easy to see all Vega products or all meal replacement shakes for comparison.  My favorite feature, though, is that iHerb.com is connected to an online health library — when you’re shopping in, say, the “digestive enzyme” category, you’ll see links to relevant articles to help you decide whether you really need digestive enzymes or whether they’re the snake oil of the 2010′s.

So that’s why I like iHerb, not to mention ease of checkout and free shipping for orders over 40 dollars.  If you need more reasons, take a look at their Top 10 Reasons to Shop at iHerb.  Or check out their free samples page.

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The loot

ThriveFitness 3d cmyk US 214x300For my shopping spree, I wanted to have a theme.  You, the NMA reader, expect more than a random hodgepodge of products, right?  In the spirit of the new book I’m reading, and to accompany my recent sprouting exploits, I went with a Thrive and Thrive Fitness theme: I ordered lots of the ingredients from the super-recipes in Thrive (and some from Thrive Fitness) that I had never gotten around to purchasing in the past, either because I couldn’t find them or due to budget constraints.

Here’s what I got:

white chia seed photo 300x225White chia seeds (salba) – A while back, I wrote a post about chia seeds and their legendary ability to revive Aztec warriors (and now, runners).  Well, according to Brendan Brazier in Thrive Fitness, the heirloom variety called white chia is actually the one that the legendary fighters drank for endurance while getting their battle on.  It’s high in protein, antioxidants, and omega-3′s.  Brendan uses it in pre- and post-run smoothies; so far I’ve only tried it in chia fresca.  It gels just like regular chia, and tastes the same.  But now I have this inexplicable urge to pilage and plunder a nearby village. 

maca powder photo 300x225Maca root – Another ancient superfood, this one Incan.  Maca is a root that’s ground into a fine powder, suitable for adding to smoothies.  It’s known as an adaptogen, which seems to mean “something that helps the body adapt to stresses with no negative side effects.”  Maca has so many supposed benefits, especially for the adrenal system, that I can’t believe it’s not as trendy as acai and gogi berries.  And it has a pleasant smell and taste.  Bonus — it’s a purported libido enhancer!  Cue the bass guitar lick, and watch out, Erin!

cacao nibs photo 300x225Cacao nibs – As we continue our tour of the superfoods of  South and Central American tribes, we turn to the Mayan cacao.  A raw, vegan alternative to chocolate, cacao is really just cocoa; it’s the powder that comes from grinding cocoa beans.  Brendan uses it in smoothies and energy bars.  On its own without sweetener, it tastes like a combination of dirt and coffee bean.  Yum!

chlorella photo 300x225Chlorella – Chlorella is a freshwater algae, somehow made into a deep green powder for diet supplementation.  It’s loaded with protein, antioxidants, and vitamin B12, which is difficult to find in non-animal products.  I’ve been adding it to smoothies.  It actually does impart a little bit of a seaweed taste, which was always my least favorite part of eating sushi.  But somehow, it’s not gross in the smoothie.

dulse powder photo 300x225Dulse powder – Apparently, the term “seaweed” is offensive, so now we use the P.C. term “sea vegetable.”  Sea vegetables are packed with nutrients and ten times the calcium of cow’s milk!  Dulse is a sea veggie, ground into a powder that can be used as a substitute for salt because of its flavor and electrolyte content, and is what’s actually called for in some of the Thive recipes for natural sports drink and raw energy gels.  (I’ve always just used salt.)  To me, dulse has a stronger seaweed taste than chlorella, and I have serious trouble stomaching it.  Perhaps it’ll grow on me, or maybe the taste will be covered up in the sports drink or gels.

buckwheat flour photo 300x225Buckwheat flour – Buckwheat is neither a buck nor a wheat — discuss.  It’s actually a seed, and as a rule, seeds are better than wheats (or bucks).  A lot of Brendan’s recipes call for sprouted or cooked buckwheat; I made the mistake of getting it already ground into a flour, so I won’t be able to sprout it.  But I’ll still be able to use it in buckwheat pancakes and as the base for the new energy drinks from Thrive Fitness.

The giveaway

And now it’s your chance to win your own $50 shopping spree at iHerb!  All you have to do to enter is leave a comment telling me what you’d buy with 50 bucks at iHerb.  Boo to contests requiring tweets or links!  (Through they’re always appreciated.)  Get your comments in by next Monday, January 25th, and then I’ll choose the winner at random.

And don’t forget, anyone can use my coupon code RAZ652 at checkout to get $5 off your first purchase at iHerb!

Last thing, of particular interest to bloggers but possibly to others as well: once you buy something at iHerb, they’ll give your own coupon code you can share with your readers (or Facebook friends, or Twitter followers, or even real people).  They’ll get $5 off; you’ll get commissions on sales using your code, and everyone makes out!  Plus, the rewards program is tiered, so you’ll earn credit on sales of sales of sales.  For more, check out the rewards program details.

Fine print: The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only, and the winner must register at iHerb.com to claim their prize (don’t worry, it’s easy and free and they won’t spam you).

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Rethinking running plans

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Image by Horia Varlan via Flickr

Plans have a funny way of getting screwed up.  What’s that they say about the best laid ones?

After I qualified for Boston back in October, I was ready for a change.  I read Born to Run, started running on trails, and genuinely enjoyed running in a way that I hadn’t in a long time.  I was seduced by the idea of running ultras — by comparison to fifty or a hundred miles in the woods, 26.2 on the pavement seemed sort of like watching the black-and-white part of The Wizard of Oz.

And I was ready for a rest.  For six months, I had worked harder than I ever had at running, and I had gotten what I wanted.  It was time to slow down, to still put in a lot of miles but at a lower intensity, and to trade in my post-run sports drink for a few too many IPA’s.  I set the goal of running a 50-miler this year, and without really thinking about it, figured my next marathon would be a slow one at Boston 2011, a delayed celebration of my achievement. (Newbies: my baby’s due date is April 19th; that’s why I’m not running it this year.)

I should have known it wouldn’t last.  Four months later, I’m itching like a schoolboy (?) to get back at it.

The idea of running a three-hour marathon only recently occurred to me.  While Boston-qualifying (3:10) once seemed near-impossible, a marathon time with a “2″ in front of it would have been better described as unfathomable, for me.  But when I finally did qualify and realized that I haven’t yet hit a plateau — before my 3:09:59, my last race was a 3:20:30 — what had previously been a no-way became a maybe.

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Image by Rennett Stowe via Flickr

And now it’s that maybe that won’t shut up, that won’t let me be satisfied with running trails and drinking beer.  Don’t get me wrong: I love trail running, and the Thursday night runs/drinks with my group are more fun than I ever thought running could be.  A 50-miler this year and the 50K’s in February and March are what I’m focused on right now.  But there’s something about that three hours that won’t go away, and in some strange way I’m craving those lonely track workouts where I feel like vomiting as I finish the final few repeats a few seconds slow.

I don’t know if I’m going to go for it this year.  I do know that if I don’t do it soon, the 3:10 of last October is going to be a tiny speck on my fitness horizon, if only because I don’t keep up that intensity of training when I don’t have a clear goal in mind.  I’d like to, I just don’t.

Three hours at Steamtown in October is very sexy, indeed.  Steamy, even.

More running!

I just got back from a seven-mile run in my Vibram FiveFingers, followed by the now-standard grocery store trip where everyone looks at my feet funny and where I probably smell worse than I realize.  It was the second time in a week that I’ve run seven or eight miles in them, so I’m happy to have finally built up my mileage to the point where I can go out for an hour-long run in them without worrying about getting hurt.  If you’re at all on the fence about trying out a pair, I’d say go for it.  It really is a fun way to run.

Also, I wrote a post on Running Shorts yesterday about some tricks I’ve used for getting out of training ruts, the times when I just don’t feel like running (this happens a lot, actually).  I forgot to mention it yesterday; please check it out so that the number of views it has isn’t quite so sad. icon sad

Tony! Tony!

That’s me chanting.  I always mention Tony Robbins on this blog, and I’m sure there are plenty of you who don’t know who he is.  Well, lucky you.  He has a free 15-minute video online right now about planning for the New Year and the difference between what most people call a resolution and a real decision.  I watched it this morning, and there’s no catch — just good, inspiring content from Tony.  (Not to mention it ties in nicely with plans/goals theme of this post.)  Check it out.

iHerb.com giveaway tomorrow!

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