My 2010 Running Playlist

Happy Tuesday, NMA readers!  Erin and I had to go out of town unexpectedly this weekend so I didn’t get in the long run I had planned, but I did get out for an hour or so with my dogs. My next 50K is in a little over a month, so I really need to put in some miles if I want it to be any easier than the last, which took me five and a half hours.

Megan and I wrote a joint Running Shorts post this weekend about iPods and running music.  It reminded me how sorry a state my running playlist is currently in, so I decided to give it an update for the not-so-new year.  I checked back to the post I wrote a long time ago about my favorite running songs, where Googlers continue to submit their favorites in the comments section, for some ideas.

I pulled a bunch of songs from there to form a new 2010 running playlist, to replace my tired old one.  Some are old, some are new; some I’ve heard before but had never considered the possibility of running to.  Others (ahem, Matchbox Twenty) are from bands that I can’t stand otherwise!  Here’s what I came up with to give myself a little kick in the pants this year.

2010 Running Songs

  • Nada Surf – Blankest Year. badgeitunes61x15dark
  • Green Day – Jesus of Suburbia. badgeitunes61x15dark
  • Green Day – Minority. badgeitunes61x15dark
  • Dismemberment Plan – Gyroscope. badgeitunes61x15dark
  • Muse – Time is Running Out. badgeitunes61x15dark
  • Matchbox 20 – How Far We’ve Come. badgeitunes61x15dark
  • The Killers – Spaceman. badgeitunes61x15dark
  • Muse – Uprising. badgeitunes61x15dark
  • Blink 182 – Feeling This. badgeitunes61x15dark
  • Coldplay – Fix You. badgeitunes61x15dark
  • William Shatner – Common People. badgeitunes61x15dark

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In my iTunes travels, I came across something called “Joan Benoit Samuelson’s Women’s Marathon Mix.” badgeitunes61x15dark Joan Benoit Samuelson was the first women’s Olympic marathon champion in 1984, so she’s got some street cred in the running department.  But she sure doesn’t look like she rocks too hard.  Somewhat surprisingly, this running album actually has a lot of cool songs on it.  I kind of wonder why she called it a “women’s” marathon mix, though.  You have deeply offended me, Joan.

Please note: The links to iTunes on this post are affiliate links; that means I earn a few cents if you buy any of them.

19 Comments

 

From tarts to torts

Hello No-Meat Athletes!  It’s Christine again- twice in one week!  I know you are looking forward to your regular NMA posts for the week, but I just had to stop by with an important announcement: I’m going to law school!

Yep, I said law school

You may be left scratching your head and like most of my friends and family think this is coming from way out of the blue.  However, the idea to go to law school had been growing in me for a long time, before I even had a name for it.  In the end it wasn’t so much a decision at all, just something I knew I had to do.

If you remember, when I started writing my Sweet-Tooth Friday posts, I was busy getting my own business off the ground.  I wanted to make a new kind of dessert- ones that I could feel good selling to another person and know that I was doing their body good.  To me, this meant a dessert with no animal products, no soy, and no artificial sweeteners.  When customers ordered non vegan cakes, I made them with the purest ingredients I could find with minimal processing.

I had a good and growing customer base, enough to keep all of my weekends very busy with orders.  As I researched new ingredients for my business, I constantly came across the terms ‘organic’ and ‘sustainable.’  Those two words sent me off on more research- including reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma- and soon I realized that my love of food had shifted its focus.  I became less concerned with turning healthy ingredients into something yummy, and more into learning where these ingredients came from, the energy used to make them, and the environmental effects of their production.  Behind all of these issues was the law.

Beyond flax-eggs and agave nectar

Through writing my Sweet-Tooth Friday posts, I have been able to explore new aspects of legal issues with a much bigger audience than just my customers.  I truly feel that you NMA-ers have been a part of my decision; after all you were there when I learned about the political controversies surrounding stevia, the labeling laws required for fish products in alcohol, the environmental affects of cranberry bogs, and all the information about subsidies and genetically modified crops in my review of James McWilliams’ Just Food.

And while those issues can still seem abstract and distant from our everyday lives, I saw the very real impact of food laws with my health department class and food safety certification.  There are laws covering dishwashing procedures, internal temperatures of eggs, and even how you wash your hands.  Although some seemed silly, I knew that these laws were invaluable because anytime I entered the bakery I was responsible for the well-being of hundreds of people.  Food laws even made the news here in Baltimore when the city banned trans fats.

The more I understood how the law shaped what I put into my body, the more restless I became sitting on the receiving end of somebody else’s decision about what was best.  I wanted to be on the other side of the food industry, shaping the laws.  So, while I haven’t given up baking, I am on my way to pursuing a bigger realization of my ideals.

I hope you can see how passionate I am about this, but I wasn’t sure how “healthy baker” would stack up against other applicants who have been senator’s aides or spent years in the peace corp.  I took my chances and told the law schools everything I just explained to you.  (Oh yeah, and I worked my butt off studying for the LSATs.)

And guess what?  Not all my applications are back yet, but I’ve already been accepted into two programs that are ranked in the top 50 law schools in the country.

I can’t believe it’s really happening.  Thank you for helping me go from tarts to torts!

See you on Sweet-Tooth Friday!
xoxo,
Christine

P.S.  Another big announcement is on its way!

20 Comments

 

Sweet-Tooth Friday: Two Flax Desserts

christine cookies photo 225x300Hi guys!  Christine here, checking in for your weekly dessert fix!  As you may know by now, I love a good baking challenge.  So when Matt did a review of some flaxseed from Flaxmatters.com and left a subtle hint for me to come up with a new flax recipe, I was totally in!  To be honest, he requested blueberrry flax energy bars, but since this week was my birthday I went ahead and made my favorite treat instead: oatmeal cookies!  And I didn’t stop there—I was so excited with the huge bags of flax I whipped up some homemade granola too.  With two recipes we have a lot to cover today, so let’s get started!

Vegan Oatmeal-Flax-Spelt Cookies

A cookie with some many healthy ingredients in its title may make you nervous, but these cookies are AMAZING!  They are now my ultimate favorite STF recipe to date!

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup turbinado sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups ground flax seed
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups spelt flour
  • 1 1/2 cups oats
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup dried currants or other fruit

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together the spelt flour, oatmeal, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

Beat the coconut oil with a whisk until smooth.  You may have to microwave it to soften the oil a bit.  Whisk in the sugars, then stir in the flax seed.  Add the applesauce and vanilla and mix until uniform.

Stir the dry ingredients into the wet.  Fold in the currants.

Using an ice cream scoop, place large mounds of cookie dough on a greased cookie sheet.  Flatten the cookies with your palm so they are about 3 inches across.

Bake for 16 minutes, turning the pan around about halfway through baking.  Makes 15 large bakery-style cookies.

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Part of the reason these cookies are so yummy is because I used coconut oil in place of the butter from the original recipe, so they still taste luxiously indulgent like a bakery cookie.  I reduced the sugar down to my liking, but my brother said he would have preferred them a little sweeter, so you may want to add about 2 tablespoons more of each sugar if you’d like.  Since these are vegan, there are no worries about tasting the dough as you go along!  Applesauce works well here in place of the eggs by adding just enough moisture without competing flavors.

Vegan Blueberry-Flax Granola

Granola is one of those “kitchen sink” style recipes where just about anything goes.  I based the ratios of my version from the ones in “Even Husband Likes it Granola.” I intentionally undercooked mine slightly because I don’t care for really hard granola that scratches my mouth.  I also used rice syrup here since I invested in some last week and it lent a subtle sweetness without overpowering the rest of the flavors.

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups oats
  • 1 1/2 cups oat bran
  • 1 cup ground blueberry flax
  • 1 cup almonds, chopped
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 cup mixed dried fruit, chopped
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup brown rice syrup
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Stir together the oats, oat bran, flax, almonds, coconut, dried fruit, cinnamon, and salt.
Combine the canola oil and rice syrup together and microwave for about 30 seconds.  Stir to combine, then microwave another 30 seconds.  Pour the hot mixture over the dry and stir to combine.

Spread on a greased baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, stirring up the mixture on the pan every 10 minutes.  Allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

flaxseed granola photo 1024x768

This granola was excellent!  Much fresher, softer, and made with fewer mystery ingredients than most store bought kinds.  My only complaint that it was a little too crumbly- it worked fine as cereal but there weren’t enough large clumps for straight up snacking.  I think next time I may try to increase the canola oil by half a cup to help unify it better.  And I will definitely be making this again!

First Tastes of 2010: Pomelo

In sticking with my resolution, I am still trying one new food per week.  This week at my regular supermarket I spotted pomelos, otherwise known as Citrus Maxima. And the name is no joke- this is a huge piece of fruit, almost as big as my head!  My pomelo was delicious- it had all the flavor of grapefruit, just without the sourness.  They are considered in China to bring about good fortune, but I felt happy just to have tried it.

christine with pomelo photo 1024x682

pomelo photo 1024x682

One more thing before I sign off—when researching flax recipes, I came across an interesting one for Banana Flax Pancakes.  I ran out of time to give it a whirl, but it is on my list for this weekend!

See you next week!

xoxo Christine

27 Comments

 

You know you make me wanna sprout

Procrastination.  It sucks.  Destroyer of dreams and goals, and responsible for hundreds of billions of deaths each year in the United States alone.

sprout face killa 218x300Worse, it has prevented me from sprouting beans and seeds for the past six months.  When I first read Brendan Brazier’s Thrive while on vacation last summer, I couldn’t wait to get home and start applying its principles to my diet and training.  Eating raw foods and lots of greens, eliminating harsh stimulants like caffeine, and sprouting my foods.  Sprouting everything — sprouting beans, sprouting wheat, sprouting seeds, perhaps even sprouting sprouts.

But I didn’t do it.  I started eating more raw foods and I cut down on coffee—though, in the spirit of transparency, I must admit I’m typing this very post in between sips of java.  But I never started sprouting.  I didn’t buy a sprouting kit, and assembling my own just seemed like too much work.  Not to mention I’d have to wait THREE DAYS before I could even eat my sprouts!

ThriveFitness 3d cmyk US 214x300Thankfully, the perfect storm came together.  First, iHerb.com approached me with an offer for a $50 shopping spree in their online health food store, and one to give away to you.  Of course I took them up on it, and I decided to use my 50 bucks to purchase all the ingredients from Thriveand the new Thrive Fitness that I couldn’t quite justify before.  So that got me back into the Thrive mindset.  Then my thoughtful sister, recognizing my powerlessness over procrastination, gave me a sprouting jar for my birthday, and the die was cast.

(By the way, I’ll give away that $50 shopping spree once I receive my stuff and write a full review of the products and iHerb.com.  In the meantime, you can take a look around iHerb.com use my code RAZ652 at checkout to get $5 off your first purchase.  Since a sprouting jar costs only $4.42 there, you could use it for that and pay nothing except shipping!   Plus, after you purchase, you’ll get your own $5-off code you can post on your blog, Facebook, Twitter, or even hand out to friends, to earn commissions on sales.)

So I am officially a sprouter.  For my first batch, I started off with a half cup of dried mung beans:

mung beans photo 1024x768

Three days later, they looked like this:

sprouts day 3 photo 768x1024

Two more days, including one in the sun to get some chlorophyll, and look what I have now:

sprouts day 5 photo 768x1024

That’s right, a jar of bean sprouts the size of my head.  I think bean sprouts are more commonly used in stir-frys; seed sprouts are what people put on salads and sandwiches.  No matter—I made myself a nice little sprouts, veggies, and hummus pita for lunch today.  Stir-fry tonight, perhaps!  Up next: adzuki beans, chickpeas, quinoa, buckwheat, and whatever the hell else I want to put in the magic jar.

sprouts on pita photo 300x225In hopes that you won’t procrastinate as long as I did, here are the simple steps to doing your own sprouting.  Sprouts, in case you missed the memo, are nutritional powerhouses.  They’re alkalizing, easy to digest, and contain lots of amino and essential fatty acids.  And they’re dirt cheap: just look how much I got from a single half cup of dried beans!  You could buy them at the store, but they’re more expensive and notorious for harboring bacteria.  And there’s that quaint little story that they’re grown on feces, which I personally find to be a delightful image.

How to grow your own sprouts

  1. Place a small amount (two tablespoons of seeds or a half cup of beans/legumes) in a sprouting jar, and cover with three times as much water.  If your jar is small, start with less until you figure out how much your jar can hold.  If you don’t have a sprouting jar and don’t want to buy one, you can make your own by replacing the lid of any big jar with some cheesecloth, holding it in place with a rubber band.
  2. Let soak overnight.
  3. Drain the water by pouring through your strainer lid or cheesecloth) and rinse the seeds or beans.
  4. Leave in a dark place at around 70 degrees Fahrenheit for several days, rinsing twice per day, and laying the jar on its side so that the sprouts have room to grow.
  5. Once the sprouts are large (three days or so), place them in the sun for a day.
  6. Eat your sprouts, or store them for up to a week in a vented container in the refrigerator.

Happy sprouting!

39 Comments

 

Tuscan white beans and broccoli rabe

Morning!  I’ve been posting a lot in the afternoons/evenings recently, and I forgot how nice it feels to post in the morning.  I have a new recipe to share today; my mom and sister came over last night so I made dinner for everyone.  You can thank my friend (and NMA-reader since day 1) Pete for reminding me that I have “sold out” because I haven’t posted many recipes recently, and he has a good point.  Not only do recipes make good blog posts, they also help convince people that vegetarian — or in this case, vegan — food doesn’t suck!

But first, three things:

  • I wrote a new Running Shorts piece with my thoughts on people relying on GPS devices for running; read it so I get PAID!
  • When I announced that all my per-pageview ad revenue this year will be donated to the Humane Society, Katie from Life Discombobulated asked me to remind people of that fact in my posts, so that those who read in Google Reader would remember to actually view the page a few times.  Here you go, Katie.
  • Congratulations to my blogger-friends Caitlin and Rachel for running each of their first marathons at Disney World on Sunday!  Caitlin’s awesome mantra: Pain is temporary, quitting is forever. Will 2010 be the year you run your first marathon?

Tuscan White Beans and Broccoli Rabe

white bean and broccoli rabe pasta photo 300x225Of all the types of cooking I’ve played around with, my favorite by far is SIMPLE Italian.  To me, there is something sublimely alchemistical (a word, I checked) about turning a few plain ingredients into something warm and comforting.  Not to mention fast!  This recipe definitely fits the bill.  Broccoli rabe is the star, a bitter cousin of broccoli that so few people ever cook with.  In my grocery store, it’s sold in bunches near the kale, mustard greens, etc.  To use it, you just need to remove the thickest bottoms of the stems; the rest of the leaves and stems go into the pot.  The broccoli rabe accents white beans, a staple of simple Italian food that turns the meal into a main dish for vegetarians by adding some substance and a decent helping of that protein thing.

The recipe, from 1,000 Vegan Recipes by Robin Robertson (Wiley & Sons), is for just the white beans and broccoli rabe.  To serve it with pasta, I cooked a pound of whole wheat spaghetti and added the cooked spaghetti and about a half-cup of the pasta cooking water to the cooked (coarsely-mashed) beans and broccoli rabe, and tossed everything to coat the pasta.  I served it with a drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice and some fresh ground pepper and it was “simply” perfect!

Here’s the recipe, exactly as it appears in the book:

Ingredients (for 4 servings):

  • 1 medium bunch broccoli rabe (rapini), tough stems removed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups cooked or 2 (15.5-ounce) cans cannellini beans or other white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

1. In a saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the broccoli rabe until tender, about 5 minutes.  Drain and run under cold water, then coarsely chop.  Set aside.

2. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.  Stir in the beans and the rosemary, then add the cooked broccoli rabe and season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Cook, stirring, until the flavors are well blended and the mixture is hot, about 10 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Before I made this meal, I was envisioning more whole, wilted leaves and large pieces of broccoli rabe with the white beans, but the greens broke down enough that it formed a pesto-like sauce.  If you want it the other way, you could probably cook the broccoli rabe a little less at the beginning.

Nuun winner!

I, by nature, am tricky, and I was careful not to say “randomly” in describing how I would select the winner of the Nuun prize pack.  I decided to choose the winner based on the comment that I found most interesting, and that winner is Naveen!  Naveen asked about the differences between Nuun, coconut water, and Vega Sport, and I had never really thought about comparing the three.

Congrats Naveen, send me your info and I’ll mail out your Nuun stuff!  Thanks to everyone who entered the contest; look for a REALLY GOOD one coming soon.

18 Comments

 

Under review: Flax Matters

flaxseed photo 300x225In my house, we go through a lot of flaxseed.  For years, I’ve been adding flaxseed oil to my smoothies to get the benefits of the healthy fats and omega-3′s, but only recently have I realized how much more I like it in its whole-food form.  While flaxseed oil has a pretty nasty taste that I’m always trying to cover up, ground flaxseed has a nice, nutty flavor that there’s no need to hide.  But mainly, I add ground flaxseed to my smoothies to boost the protein a little—the only other source of protein in my smoothies is hemp protein, and per tablespoon, the hemp isn’t too high on the old protein-ometer.

The problem with ground flaxseed, which you know if you’ve ever left it in your fridge for long, is that it goes rancid quickly.  To avoid this, we grind only small quantities at a time (and it’s a pain).  So when flaxmatters.com sent me these two free, huge bags of Pizzey’s ground flaxseed to try, my first thought (other than being thankful to Kathleen from flaxmatters.com) was that there’s no way I could eat this much flaxseed before it spoiled.  But get this: thanks to the quality of Pizzey’s flaxseeds, theirs has a shelf life of TWO YEARS after opening, and it doesn’t even need to be refrigerated!  Call me impressed.

Pizzey’s flaxseed has the same rich, nutty flavor that is characteristic of good flaxseed, and so far, it’s exhibiting no rancid smell after a few weeks in my pantry.  Another cool thing is that Pizzey’s makes a ground flaxseed product with blueberries in it, and that’s mostly what I’ve been using in my smoothies.  (I’m also trying to get my sister, Christine, to come up with a good blueberry-flax energy bar recipe for me.  Coming soon, perhaps.  Do it, Chris!)

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Pizzey’s also sent me a box of their Chocolate Omega Bars to try; they’re granola bars with some extra flaxseed in them and chocolate chips on top.

omega bar wrapper photo 1024x768

omega bar photo 1024x768

Let me tell you, Erin and I did a number on that box!  We loved these suckers.  Each bar contains 7 g fat (1.5 g saturated, 650 mg ALA Omega-3), 26 g carbohydrates (10 g sugar, 2g fiber),  and 6 g protein.  So nutritionally, they’re decent; my only problem with them is the ingredient list.  I’m a big fan of Michael Pollan‘s five-ingredient, eat-only-what-you-can-pronounce rules, and these Chocolate Omega Bars violate both of those rules by a good margin.  So while I love the taste, the ingredient list will prevent me from buying these Omega Bars for myself.

You can find out lots more information about the benefits of flaxseed products, some flax recipes, and other fun stuff at flaxmatters.com.  And at Pizzey’s, you can request a free sample.  I have no idea what they’ll send you, but it’s worth a try!

Juice of the day

Erin and I are loving the new juicer!  I “invented” this juice yesterday: green apple + cucumber + lime + celery.  It was so good we had it again today!  Lots more juices coming as we invent them.

green juice photo 1024x768

13 Comments

 

Sweet-Tooth Friday: Vegan Millet Crispy Treats

christine cooking photo 300x200Happy Sweet-Tooth Friday everybody!  It’s Christine and I am totally psyched to be back—I took a small break with the last two Friday’s falling on Christmas and New Year’s Day.  I had a lovely holiday but now that the hustle and bustle is through I am ready to get crackin’ on 2010!

A couple things to resolve

Like my big bro, I look forward to making New Year’s resolutions and changes.  I have two main goals this year, and both are continuations of things I started in 2009.  I think that getting these out here publicly will help me stay on track.

1.  Try 52 new foods in 2010, or one new food per week.

Since I started writing Sweet-Tooth Fridays, I have continually ventured out to natural markets and ethnic stores in search of ingredients. In the process, I have tried so many things I had never had before.  My list includes tamarind, yucca, choyute, rhubarb, kukicha twig tea, coconut water, kumquats, stevia, hemp milk, and almond butter.  I’ve noticed that when making my weekly menus I am often in repeating cycles of lentil sloppy joes and black bean burritos.  So this resolution demands that my menu stays exciting and my palate expands.  I’ll keep you guys posted at the end of my dessert posts about what I discover each week.

2.  Make an exercise plan and commit.

EssentialsJacketIsn’t it funny how a small thing like the wrong playlist on your iPod can keep you from hitting the gym for weeks?  No matter how much I enjoy exercise while I am doing it, it’s always so easy for me to trail off and procrastinate it again.  For the first half of 2010, I have committed to 30 minutes of cardio 3 times a week and 30 minutes of Core Performance Essentials stretching 3 times a week.  I’ll keep the cardio off the pavement to avoid another stress fracture and reevaluate the plan as needed.

The new bakesale staple

This week for my healthy dessert I decided to try an update for the classic Rice Krispie treat.  I got the idea from a book I checked out of the library called Sweet Alternative, by Ariana Bundy.  All of the recipes are made without gluten, dairy, and soy.  Alas, if they only had nixed eggs as well I would be one happy baker.  The book is more geared toward allergies than lifestyle choices, but at least many of the recipes happen to be vegan without my sworn enemy soy margarine.

The recipe in the book calls for puffed quinoa, but at the natural store I could only find puffed kamut and millet, so I went with the latter.  Millet is chock full of vitamin B and has some protein too.

This recipe also includes rice syrup, and I reluctantly picked up a jar of organic brown rice syrup for around 9 dollars.  I say reluctantly, because I would like your opinion on this- why is brown rice syrup preferred over corn syrup? Besides the organic bit, they are both sugars taken from grains.  I see rice syrup recommended all the time in healthy desserts, but it makes me wonder if it is being glorified only on the basis that corn syrup is associated with junk food and sodas.  I’d love to hear your opinion before coughing up over double the cost again.

Vegan Millet Crispy Treats

millet krispies ingredients 300x200Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup rice syrup
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 1/2 cups puffed millet
  • 1/2 cup neutral-flavored dried fruits, like apricots and apples, finely chopped

Combine the peanut butter, vanilla, salt, and rice syrup in a saucepan and heat until boiling.   Remove from heat and immediately stir in the puffed millet and dried fruits.

Spoon mixture into a greased 8 inch square pan.  Press evenly to fill in entire pan.  Allow to cool, then cut into 16 squares.

millet krispies photo 2 1024x682

These millet crispies smelled amazing and were really good- but they were just short of being awesome.  I think to have the ooey-gooey goodness of the classic treats these bars need more liquid or less millet.  Next time I will increase the peanut butter and rice syrup by 2 tablespoons each, but that’s just my preference.  I definitely recommend giving these bars a shot—try substituting puffed kamut, different nut butters or different dried fruits!

First Tastes of 2010: Pomegranate

Before I sign off, I just wanted to share my first experiment with my New Year’s resolution!  This week I tried a fresh pomegranate.  I have had this flavor in juices and tea, but I never cut up and and dug out all the juicy seeds for myself.  WOW!  No wonder this fruit is included in Greek mythology—I was in absolute ecstasy eating the seeds by the spoonful and enjoying the tiny crunch.  I can’t wait to include pomegranate in a cool dessert or an avocado salad.  A wonderful start to my new year of new tastes.

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See you next week!
xoxo Christine

21 Comments

 

Feelin’ flexy

One of the common things people say to me, when we’re talking about being vegetarian, goes like this:

“I think I could probably be vegetarian, but the problem is that my wife/husband/boyfriend/girlfriend/kid eats meat like a fiend, so it would never work.”

penne puttanesca photo 300x225If this is you, I implore you just to try it.  If you have a desire to cut out the meat, even if not completely, then you’re doing yourself (and the animals you’re eating) a disservice by taking the easy way out and blaming your chuck-chomping on someone else.  And you have a terrific opportunity to be an example for your meat-loving loved ones.  You don’t need to poke fun at them and call them savages; simply by being a vegetarian at their dinner table, you’re changing their image of vegetarians from one of pasty, tree-hugging weirdos to one of normal people who eat consciously.

Logistically, though, it’s hard.  If you’re the cook, it’s kind of a dick move to just all-of-the-sudden stop making meat for your loved one.  If they’re the cook, good luck getting them to make meatless meals.

Enter the flexitarian approach.  It’s a term that’s caught on over the past few years, helped largely by the books The Flexitarian Diet and The Flexitarian Table that you’ve surely seen in Barnes and Noble if you go there half as often as I do.  Though it can refer to a diet that’s mostly—but not completely—vegetarian, I think the term is most useful in reference to meals that can be “flexed” — made in both meatless and meaty versions, in order to satisfy vegetarians and meat-lovers at the same table, without the need for separate menus and/or family civil war.

In case you’re not into buying books just because a stupid blogger tells you to, there’s a perfect way to try flexitarian cooking for cheap, offered in the most recent (Feb/Mar 2010) issue of Fine Cooking.  It’s an article called “Flex Your Meals,” and it presents six meals that can easily be flexed to satisfy the whole family: vegetable red thai curry (+chicken); cannelini bean and kale soup (+Italian sauage); spicy red lentil dal with winter vegetables (+lamb); penne alla puttanesca (+shrimp); fennel, pepper, and saffron stew with garlic toast (+halibut and mussels); broccoli and shiitake stir-fry with black bean garlic sauce (+skirt steak).

Since Erin and I are full-blown veggies now, we were just happy to have some vegetarian recipes in a Fine Cooking issue.  It has always been one of our favorite cooking magazines, but with only a few vegetarian meals in most issues, recently its arrival to our mailbox hasn’t been the cause for celebration it once was.

lentil dal photo 300x225But we were so excited about this one that we made a day of it; we had the penne puttanesca for lunch and the red lentil dal for dinner.  And we were happy with both: the pasta had a  bright, fresh flavor, and the Indian dish was a nice, spicy lentil stew that even the meat-eating fam enjoyed. (We invited them over and said they could supply their own lamb.  They didn’t.)  Not quite like going out to Sizzling Bombay, but close.  And it’s not really much to look at, sorry.

Fun fact: puttanesca literally means “of the whores, whorish, or whore-esque.”  I guess it’s because the traditional ingredients in pasta puttanesca (olives, capers, tomatoes, etc.) were readily available on the street and inexpensive, making the dish suitable for those practicing the world’s oldest profession when they had worked up an appetite for a flexitarian snack.  Sexitarian flexitarians?  Told you it was a fun fact.

Nine miles in the dark

I’m meeting my group for a nine-mile run in the woods tonight, starting at 6 pm, so my headlamp will be out in full force.  I ran three miles yesterday with my dogs, my first run since the 50K last Saturday.  And somewhat surprisingly, everything felt great.  No soreness, no injuries, even the blister I got from my new shoes didn’t hurt me.  As much a toll I felt like it took on me while I was running, I’m ecstatic to be feeling so good already.  I have a month and a half to train for my next one, and I’m looking for some big improvements.  Assuming I don’t get eaten by a bear tonight, I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

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