Thursday, October 30, 2014

Three Beautiful Things Thursday!

I've missed a couple of Tuesdays, but I thought it was about time for another Three Beautiful Things post!

*Three Beautiful Things Tuesdays is a series I was inspired to create after reading Clare's blog: Three Beautiful Things, and she invites everyone to join. The idea is that you post three beautiful things about your day, life, the world, whatever. Please join the fun and post your own Three Beautiful Things (3BT) in the comments (or on your own blog and post a link in the comments so that I can follow along)!*

1) I received two free 10 minute massages this week! Because my work is awesome and invited some massage therapists to give out massages at our Health and Benefits Fairs.

2) I finally talked to my mom on the phone today. We've been playing phone tag for a few days now, and we don't talk often. I invited her out to come stay with us for Christmas. Fingers crossed. They might not do it, but I pulled the grandma also lives out here, and she hates flying at Christmas card. Also, the my husband's family comes to visit all the time, and you've never seen our apartment cards! Maybe I will guilt trip them into coming. Haha!

3) Halloween is tomorrow, and I have a sweet costume to wear this year: The Bride (aka Beatrix Kiddo) from Kill Bill. If you don't know who that is, you need to watch Kill Bill Volumes 1 & 2 ASAP. They're both on Netflix. Also, here's a picture:
(I have the sword, and I'll be wearing the same jumpsuit, minus the blood splatters.)

kill-bill-the-bride
source

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Easy Weeknight Dinner

Today, I have a super simple recipe to share with you all: Vegan Burritos. These are very quick and easy to make and great when you're hungry now! For example, tonight, I went to a kettlebell class after work and got home about an hour and a half later than usual. So by the time I got home, I was definitely ready to eat something quick! They're also easily customizable to whatever produce you happen to have in your fridge.

Easy Weeknight Burritos


Ingredients:

*All starred ingredients are optional*
1 15 oz. can black beans
1/2 bag frozen corn (or about 1 cup of fresh corn)
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp nutritional yeast*
1/4 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp dried cilantro*
1/8 tsp garlic powder*
1/8 tsp onion powder (or you can use diced onion as noted below)
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp chili powder
1/8 tsp cayenne*
1/3 diced red pepper*
1/4 cup diced onion*(Bonus points if you use a purple onion)
red pepper slices*
chopped tomatoes or salsa*
avocado slivers*
romaine lettuce*
a dollop of Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream* (or your favorite brand or homemade variety)
1 burrito-size tortilla (I prefer whole-wheat.)

Instructions:

Drain and rinse your can of beans and add to a medium-sized pot. Mix in frozen corn and a little bit of water, enough to line the bottom of the pan. You can also add some olive oil if you prefer. Turn heat on low. Add all of your spices and mix well. I'm not too particular about the measurements when I make this, so feel free to add more or less of each spice to your taste. At this point dice up your onion and red pepper if you have them. Add them when you're done chopping and make sure to stir periodically. Add a splash more water if needed to keep from burning the beans. Cook for a minute, give it a taste and add more spices if needed. Cook and stir frequently for about 2 more minutes or until warmed throughout.

 
Turn off the heat and scoop your bean-corn mixture onto the middle of the tortilla. Chop and pile on your remaining vegetables and feel free to add a dollop of sour cream, salsa, and/or your favorite vegan shredded cheese. Roll it up and fold one end. Woila- burrito!  

Super quick and simple, no planning, and super delicious!


Friday, October 10, 2014

Meal Plan Update: Vegan Orange-Glazed Tempeh

Today's review is of Wednesday night's meal plan recipe: Vegan Orange-Glazed Tempeh from Odd Little Vegan's blog. Check out the recipe on her site: http://www.oddlittlevegan.com
 








This recipe was freaking delicious! I like tempeh, but I only have one sauce that I know how to make. Well, now I've found a new way to make tempeh. It's super quick and easy to prepare. I rounded this dish out with some brown rice and edamame. I recommend that you hop on over to Odd Little Vegan's blog immediately and try it out. Or try any of the other yummy recipes she's posted.

This week, I 've only been able to make the Clean, Mean Burritos from The Kind Diet By: Alicia Silverstone (which were awesome, as expected) and the Orange-Glazed Tempeh, but I hope to make a few more this weekend. I plan to carry over the ones I don't have time to make this week into next week's meal plan because I just really want to try them all eventually.

Also, I have a question for my vegan readers: What cruelty-free make-up brands do you recommend? I'm having a hard time finding products that I like and some of them are expensive. So it'd be nice to get some reviews or recommendations before I invest another $16 in sub-par, clumpy vegan mascara. Also, if you know of any reliable sites that review vegan beauty products, feel free to let me know about them in the comments.

Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Meal Plan Update

Last week, I tried out some new recipes with my first week of meal planning. If you didn't catch the first post, here's another look at the past week's menu:
 
 
Here are some reviews of a few of the recipes I tried:

Mexican Chorizo 


The Mexican Chorizo recipe that I made last Thursday was another Happy Herbivore hit! Her Chorizo recipe uses quinoa, which is pretty awesome. I ate the quinoa chorizo with leftover corn tortillas from Wednesday's taco night, Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream, Daiya shredded cheese, and some romaine lettuce. I'll definitely be adding this to my cooking repertoire. It's super simple to make and another way to make quinoa delicious.

Cornbread and Baked Beans

I don't have any pictures of the Happy Herbivore cornbread and baked beans that I made last week because they were that good. We demolished them! The baked beans were amazing, and much better than any baked beans that I've ever had before (probably because they were not canned). Also, the cornbread was moist and delicious, and the first time that I've tasted good vegan cornbread. It was very quick and easy to make, and I plan to make it again several times in the near future!

 Cheezy Shells and Broccoli 

 Whole Wheat Shells
 
 Cheezy Sauce
 
 Pre-Cheeze Sauce 
 Close-up of Cheezed Shells
 
 Finished Cheezy Shells & Broccoli

This recipe of Easy Cheezy Shells and Broccoli came from Vegan Comfort Foods from Around the World By: Veronica Grace  AKA Low Fat Vegan Chef. I've made this recipe before, but the first time I didn't have all of the ingredients to make the cheese sauce, so I just mixed some of them with a processed vegan cheese. This time I followed the directions.
 
I think this recipe is pretty good, but I would not recommend it for your omnivore friends and family. My omnivore husband was not a fan. It doesn't exactly taste like cheese, but it is a good sauce. The sauce doesn't have any added fat, so if you want to add a little bit of oil or vegan margarine to the sauce for a more creamy taste, I say go for it. I'm trying to be healthy and lose weight. So I only added a little extra paprika and chili powder.
 
In conclusion, the first week of meal plans went really well! I'm currently working my way through week 2 of Meal Planning, and I'll try to post an update on some of the new recipes I tried out sometime this weekend.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Three Beautiful Things Tuesdays #3

Welcome to my third "Three Beautiful Things Tuesdays" post!

*Three Beautiful Things Tuesdays is a new series I was inspired to create after reading Clare's blog: Three Beautiful Things, and she invites everyone to join. The idea is that you post three beautiful things about your day, life, the world, whatever. Please join the fun and post your own Three Beautiful Things (3BT) in the comments (or on your own blog and post a link in the comments so that I can follow along)!*

1) I worked out twice today! I did arm weights and crunches during my lunch break and 40 minutes of biking after work.

2) I didn't lose any weight this past week, but I also didn't gain any! :) I focused a lot on cooking and food last week, so I'm going to put a little more emphasis on cardio (biking, swimming, and maybe the elliptical if my foot permits it). I did not swim at all last week, which explains my lack of progress on the weight loss front.

3) I made up a new meal plan for this week with lots of fun recipes! They say it takes 21 days to start a new habit, and I want this one to stick. I've been trying out a lot of new recipes and actually getting excited about cooking something different each night. I can already tell I've got some winners planned for this week. Check out this week's meal plan below:


I'm actually a day behind on this week's meal plan because yesterday my husband had to go to a dinner meeting for work. His favorite meal is tacos, and I didn't want him to miss out on the deliciousness which will be burrito night! So I stopped by the store and got some veggie sushi for dinner for myself and some of the groceries on my list, which I didn't have time to shop for this weekend. I was too busy binge-watching Charmed on Netflix (Yes, it's kind of an embarrassing thing to admit.), taking my dog, Miki, to the dog park, and then also taking her to Petsmart in an attempt to meet Squidward from the Lost Dog Rescue.  Squidward wasn't there, but she became instant best buddies with a dog named Cooper, who unfortunately is much too big to share our 1 1/2 bedroom apartment. However, he is a very sweet guy if you happen to live in the DC/Northern Virginia area and are in the market to adopt a 100 lb. friendly, but calm love bug.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Liebster Award!

Kate from Odd Little Vegan nominated me for a Liebster Award. Yay! Thanks Kate! I hadn't really been blogging too much before Vegan MoFo (Month of Food). However, when one of my best friends texting me asking "What the heck is Vegan MoFo?" because of my post entitled Vegan MoFo Fail (before it was edited for clarification purposes), it kind of lit a fire under my butt to come back to the blogging world. And I'm back with a bang! Making new vegan blogging friends? Multiple posts in one week? Starting a new weekly series? Can I keep it up? Find out on next tomorrow's episode of Run, VegGirl, Run!

Vegan MoFo was so wonderful this year and introduced me to a lot of neat vegan blogs and amazing, compassionate people. So without further ado, let's move on to the Liebster:



The Rules!
1. Answer the questions given and then come up with 10 new ones to ask your nominees.
2. Nominate 8 other blogs, let them know you have nominated them and put a link to their blog in your post.
3. No Tag backs.
4. Nominees must have under 200 followers on any platform.
5. You must tell all the blogs that you nominate that you have nominated them.


1. What did you have for breakfast today?


C/o Cascadian Farm

Cascadian Farm Organic Cinnamon Crunch cereal with vanilla almond milk! I usually don't eat cereal, though. Nine times out of ten I have toast or waffles with preserves.

2. Are there any foods you miss not being able to eat as a vegan?

Pretty much everything I used to eat before can be made vegan, and I was one of those weird people who hated steak and ham and bologna before I even went vegetarian. I guess I miss quesadillas with cheese that melts properly because Daiya cheese and other vegan cheeses that I've tried don't melt before the tortilla gets browned. I usually have to resort to sticking my queso-less quesadilla in the microwave to melt it the rest of the way.

3. What’s your favourite vegan take-out?

Sesame Tofu and General Tso's Tofu from the local Chinese food place. My husband and I order both and then have a little bit of each kind of tofu. I've somehow convinced my crazy omnivore man to order tofu or Veggie Lo Mein, instead of chicken or beef dishes, so that he can share his food with me, too. This has proved to be a much better situation than him stealing almost all of my Sesame Tofu, me glaring at his Sweet n' Sour Pork willing it to magically transform into Sweet n' Sour Tofu, then resorting to waving my chopstick and repeating "Wingardium Levi-tofu-osa!".

4. Is anyone else in your family vegan?

Nobody else in my family is even vegetarian. I think I shocked my family about 3 1/2 years ago when I went vegetarian, and when I went vegan about a little over year ago, they just decided to write me off as completely insane. They're all very accommodating, despite all the silly obligatory Where do you get your protein and calcium type of questions.

5. What’s your favourite fruit?

Mangos!

6. What’s your favourite summer recipe?

Grilled pineapple and BBQ grilled tofu.

7. Name 2 really awesome vegan blogs that you follow, and you think people should check out.

Only 2? There are so many great ones! If you haven't already, you should check out Odd Little Vegan because Kate is awesome, and here are two more of my favorites as well (an old favorite and a new find):

       1) I've been following Cassie over at Pretty in Pink Vegan pretty much since she started her blog. Lately she's been hard at work getting her new restaurant "Pink Noodle" ready to go, but you should have a look through some of her archives!

      2) Weird! Why Aren't You Vegan? is another one of the new discoveries brought about by Vegan MoFo. I love Lisa's sense of humor, and her interview questions to omnivores (and their hilarious answers) crack me up! Note to self: Make friends with more improv comedians.

8. Living in the middle of nowhere and growing all your own food: heaven, or hell?

Heaven, of course! I have a secret dream of someday owning an Alpaca, Siberian Husky, berry patch, and organic vegetable farm somewhere outside of Dayton, Ohio. (Not so secret to my husband who would also like to add Nigerian dwarf goats to the menagerie of interesting animals.)  Also, I used to volunteer at an awesome alpaca farm in Terre Haute, IN (White Violet Farms), so I do actually know how to take care of alpacas (mostly you have to be willing to shovel a bunch of alpaca poop).  This dream will totally come true someday!  I've seriously told my Mother-in-law to keep a look out for "For Sale" signs at an alpaca farm that is near their home in the actual middle of nowhere in Indiana.

9. Have you enjoyed taking part in VeganMofo 2014?

I actually didn't really take part in Vegan Mofo 2014, or any Vegan Mofos for that matter, but I have been highly entertained by the posts written by bloggers who participated in Vegan Mofo this year and making new blog friends!

10. Do you have any four-legged family members?

I only have one: my all-white, blue-eyed Siberian Husky Miki (pronounced like tiki), and in our household, we have made up a plethora of songs dedicated to how awesome Huskies are. Such gems as "Hotdogs, Huskies, and Hullabaloos!" and "High Five from a Husky". (Did I mention she gives high fives?) Lately, I've been unsuccessfully trying to convince my husband that Miki needs a buddy and that we need to adopt this cute little guy:



His name is Squidward, and isn't he freaking adorable?!? He's only 10 lbs., and he doesn't shed. If you've ever had to vacuum up after a Siberian Husky dropping her coat for about two weeks straight twice each year, you realize how much of a great quality not-shedding can be in a dog!

***

Since it's October 3rd and Vegan MoFo has officially come to a close, I'm going to refrain from nominating any other bloggers (especially since most of the ones I would nominate have already received Liebsters), but I hope you enjoyed my answers! Thanks again, Kate, and I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Peace Out,
Elise

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Meal Planning: Chickpeas & Dumplings

Lately, dinner time has meant either one of two things: we need to go to a restaurant/get some takeout or I need to find out what I have in the freezer or fridge that I can somehow magically turn into a meal as quickly as possible. Being the proud owner of quite a few vegan and vegetarian cookbooks (see Exhibit A below), I decided to take charge of this problem by making a meal plan for the week. So this Sunday I planned out my meals, went shopping for ingredients specifically for the meals. This plan will also help us save money by 1) not eating out during the week and 2) only buying things at the grocery store that are actually needed for meals (NO impulse buys allowed!).

So, here's Exhibit A, my collection of vegan & vegetarian cookbooks:



And here's my meal plan for the week:



I'm incorporating some new recipes from The Happy Herbivore cookbook By: Lindsay Nixon and one recipe from Vegan Comfort Foods from Around the World By: Veronica Grace a.k.a. Low Fat Vegan Chef.


Both of these cookbooks happen to be written by authors who believe in the whole foods, plant-based, no oil, no added sugar healthy mindset, which is an excellent way to continue the second week of my recently refocused weight loss journey. (I lost 3 lbs. last week!)

Monday night, I made the first recipe on my plan: Chickpeas & Dumplings.  I followed the directions to the best of my abilities, but I may have added a little too much of the spices. I didn't feel like mixing together HH's Poultry Seasoning Mix because then I would have some leftover. So instead I added a teaspoon of each spice from the Poultry Seasoning Mix. Now there are only 3 teaspoons in a Tablespoon, which I didn't think about at the time, and the recipe only called for one tablespoon of the Poultry Seasoning Mix. Since there were 5 spices in the mix, that means I added two extra teaspoons of spices. It smelled very fragrant, but I will definitely use less spices next time I make it. I also added peas because for some reason, there were peas and carrots in the picture in the book, but there were none in the recipe or ingredients list.

Here's a picture from during the cooking process:


I've never had Chicken & Dumplings before, so I was a little off-put by the taste and texture of the dumplings. Maybe it's because of weird dumpling-taste or the extra spices, but this recipe was not a big hit at my house. My husband is also not a fan of chickpeas, and he told me there were "too many chickpeas".  I also wasn't entirely loving it because for some reason I was expecting the dumplings to taste more like cooked biscuits than chunks of unbaked dough. My final product turned out nothing like the picture in the book. Mine's a little goopy and brown and Happy Herbivore's picture had a whitish broth (plus the previously mentioned chunks of carrots).


I have liked every other Happy Herbivore recipe I've made before, so I will definitely be giving this recipe another try sometime in the future (with less spices) and maybe separate the mixture in half before I add the chickpeas (to appease the husband).
 







Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Three Beautiful Things Tuesdays #2

Welcome to my second "Three Beautiful Things Tuesdays" post!

*Three Beautiful Things Tuesdays is a new series I was inspired to create by reading Clare's blog: Three Beautiful Things, and she invites everyone to join. The idea is that you are to post three beautiful things about your day, life, the world, whatever. Please join the fun and post your own Three Beautiful Things (3BT) in the comments (or on your own blog and post a link in the comments so that I can follow along)!*

1) The cafeteria at my work now offers tofu on their salad bar! I'm a fan, and to show my total appreciation for this fact, at 12:30 pm, I bought all the remaining spicy Thai tofu and put it in a container to save for tomorrow's lunch. My coworker (a fellow vegetarian) and I also told the chef personally that we really love the new tofu he had out. So hopefully my cafeteria will keep it up with all the awesome vegetarian options!

2) I biked today (on an indoor exercise bike), and it didn't hurt my bum foot. Yay! My bum foot is not so bum anymore, and the cardio options are expanding!

3) I'm going to a mid-week party at a friend's house tonight and bringing some delicious homemade Baked Beans, recipe courtesy of Happy Herbivore!  Yes, mid-week parties are totally a thing when your husband and his friends happen to have weird work schedules where Tuesday is part of their "weekend".

***

Stay tuned for an update on the meal plan I made this week, which I am using in an effort to try new recipes from all the awesome cookbooks that I got for Christmas and my birthday and spend less time wondering what I'm going to have for dinner and from where I should order takeout yet again.  I received so many great vegan cookbooks! Thank you friends and family! This week my meal plan features The Happy Herbivore Cookbook By: Lindsay Nixon (who I actually met this past November when she came to DC) and Vegan Comfort Foods from Around the World By: Veronica Grace of the Low Fat Vegan Chef.

Also, I was totally going to upload a post about the first recipe (well, 3rd because I technically started the new-recipe-extravaganza on Sunday) I tried on Monday night, but my husband and I totally got distracted my adding new photos from my camera to Facebook instead of adding food photos to my blog. Oops!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Swimming, Swimming, In the Swimming Pool!

I don't know if any of you ever went to summer camp when you were younger, but the title of this post comes from a camp song from my youth. I went to Girl Scout camp, and there were a plethora of songs sung around the campfire each night, but for some reason this one stuck with me.  The original song goes a little something like this:

Swimming, swimming, in the swimming pool,
Some days are hot, some days are not,
in the swimming pool.

However, we also sang a parody of that song that I liked better and is the one that I remember most:

Swimming, swimming, in the swimming pool,
Some guys are hot, some guys are not,
at the swimming pool!

Anyway, my original point is that I'm getting really excited about being able to swim again. I went swimming on Monday evening and again today after work, and I'm feeling really good about it.

Things I love about swimming:

1)  First of all, the endorphins. I haven't been able to do aerobic exercise lately, so this is great. It's a major mood booster!

2)  Exercise! Did I mention that I really need the exercise after several months of little to no physical activity? I've gone up a few pant sizes since February, and I'd definitely like to go back down to normal sometime in near future. Ideally, I'd like to be fitting back into my old pants and clothes by November, and I think swimming combined with more vegetables and self-control in the food department will help me reach that goal.

3)  It's a very diverse activity. I used to be a lifeguard and did swim team my senior year in high school, so I know quite a few different strokes: freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly, etc.  It doesn't get boring when you switch strokes every other lap and make use of the kickboards, pull buoys (those little odd-shaped floats you put between your legs to focus on strengthening your arms only), and flippers.

4)  It's free! The pool I go to is free to all DC residents and military families. So, I just flash my military ID and get to swim without spending a dime on membership, which is super nice, especially when you know the exorbitant price of gym membership in the DC area.

5)  I think it's helping with my post-surgery foot recovery. My foot didn't hurt as much Tuesday or today, and I'd like to credit that to my swim session on Monday night. My podiatrist actually did say swimming is great for recovery; so I'd like to think this improvement isn't all in my head

6) My pool is conveniently located next to the biggest Whole Foods in the VA-MD-DC area (that I've visited). After exercising, the Whole Foods hot bar, with labeled vegan entrees, is a welcome dinner option. They also have delicious vegan bakery options, like multiple vegan bakery options: muffins, scones, etc. It takes me about an hour to get home. So if I want to eat before 9 or 10 pm, I probably should eat some dinner before I hop on the metro. 

Aside: Whole Foods in Falls Church: Please take note and hop on labeling the vegan options on your hot bar. It would be much appreciated by your faithful customers, such as myself. And if you would offer a vegan muffin or two in your bakery section, that would be totally awesome!


Also, I would totally share a picture of myself in awesome swim gear to accompany this post.  (I treated myself to a new swim cap, goggles, and a sportier swimsuit back in July when I started getting into swimming before my surgery, so I look like a serious swimmer now.) But let's be honest: that's just a look that nobody needs to be sporting outside of the swimming pool facilities!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

New Series - Three Beautiful Things Tuesdays!

I've decided to switch things up on the blog a little bit! Yes, I'm a vegan, and yes, I like to exercise, but I'd also like to write about non-vegan things, like doing crafts (mostly knitting and yes, there are some non-animal fibers vegans can knit), music I like, and just general life events that I'd like to share. I follow some other lifestyle blogs, and I really like the personal touch of reading along and following the story of someone's life.

I've been vegan for over a year now, and it's feeling like old hat to me now. Don't get me wrong! I still love reading vegan blogs and getting ideas for new recipes, and I'm sure I'll continue to post my own. However, I want to expand my focus to the wider, more accessible world of the blogosphere.

So starting today, I'm doing a new series: Three Beautiful Things Tuesdays! There is a wonderful blog entitled Three Beautiful Things hosted by Ms. Clare, and she invites everyone to join in the party. The idea is that you are to post three beautiful things about your day, life, the world, whatever. I don't think I can commit to everyday. Therefore, I'm only committing to Tuesdays, which should hopefully also help me stay more on track for a regular blogging schedule. (I'll at least be posting new content every Tuesday! Yay!)

I hope you enjoy my Three Beautiful Things (or 3BT), and also please check Clare's original TBT blog out!

1.  Yesterday night, I went swimming for the first time since my foot surgery on July 28th, and it was so great! I'm in much better shape than I thought. I swam 1,000 meters (further than expected) and even passed some people because they were swimming slower than me!

2.  This morning, I had an awesome (vegan) blueberry muffin for breakfast, courtesy of the awesome vegan-goods-stocked-bakery at the Tenleytown Whole Foods (near the pool where I like to swim)!

3.  I had enough time this morning to make a delicious chai spice latte and take my time to really savor it (with the previously-mentioned muffin)!  I'm usually in a rush in the mornings and not a morning person, so this does not happen often in my world.

Please feel free to add your own Three Beautiful Things in the comment section if you feel so inclined!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Vegan MOFO Fail

With all the stuff going on this month and my recent foot adventures, I totally forgot that vegan MOFO (*Month Of FOod*) is happening NOW, right this minute! I've been reading other blogs and following along, but I'm not making any promises about posting until things in my life slow down a bit. Lots of creative things are in the works, so look out for some new posts coming soon!



VEGAN MOFO UPDATE: In case you read my post and had no idea what Vegan MOFO is and possibly texted me in confusion to my curtly-worded ambiguously-abbreviated reference to it (you know who you are): It's a month, generally in the fall, where vegan food bloggers post often and sometimes they have fun themes on their blogs, such as movie or TV show-themed recipes or 20 different kinds of vegan mac n' cheeze. (Now that I've reminded myself of this, I totally want to do a Gilmore Girls themed-recipe week, but that probably won't happen until October after MOFO is already over. Womp, womp, womp!) Click here for more information and to view the main Vegan MOFO site with links to other bloggers who are involved in the month-long event and post much more prolifically than myself. Enjoy!

Also, here are some awesome links to some blogs that I like who have been contributing to Vegan Month of Food this year:

Vegan Crunk - Bianca is awesome, and I read her blog regularly even when it isn't Vegan MOFO. This lovely lady has published a book called Cookin' Crunk: Eating Vegan in the Dirty South with lots of delicious veganized recipes of your favorite southern comfort foods.

Cadry's Kitchen - Wonderful photo art and yummy healthy recipes. Check out her recent Vegan Barley Paella recipe.

Odd Little Vegan - Here's a new addition to my blogroll that I discovered through Vegan MOFO.

Weird! Why Aren't You Vegan? - I'm lovin' her "If You Can't Say Anything Vegan" series for MOFO, and you guys should seriously check it out, too!

Happy MOFO exploring!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Recovery Time

I recently had surgery on my foot to remove two Morton's neuromas (painful nerves bundles between my metatarsals) from my left foot, so I haven't been doing a lot of anything. Well, that's not entirely true. I have watched A LOT of Netflix (mostly Lost Girl and Malcolm in the Middle), watched several movies, played games on my cell phone, talked on the phone a lot, read six books, worked out a bit, and worked on some Russian Rosetta Stone lessons. For those of you who don't know me, I speak Russian and Spanish, but my Russian is really rusty. So my awesome husband got me Rosetta Stone for my birthday in May. I also went to a bridal shower and my grandma's 80th birthday party this past weekend, which was a lot more hopping around on crutches and social interaction than I've had in the past couple weeks.

Since I am not allowed to put weight on my foot, my workouts are pretty limited and running is most definitely off-limits. However, I rediscovered this awesome Tiffany Rothe Seated Workout video! I've been doing that video almost everyday once or twice and then doing arm weights and crunches. I haven't been able to run since mid-February, and I've put on about 25 pounds, which is really frustrating, especially since any cardio that involved standing on my feet was really painful with the neuromas. Also, now, as per the doctor's orders, I'm not allowed to put any weight on my foot whatsoever. However, I've been putting some extra effort into eating more healthy foods (and a lot less) with a focus on fruits and vegetables and also making it a priority to workout each day. I've lost four pounds in the last few weeks! So I'm headed back on the right track!

I also wanted to post a link to an awesome blog I discovered today called I Heart Running. It's written by a vegan marathon runner who lost 30 pounds after going vegan and starting to run, and she's pretty neat! Her dream is to run 50 marathons in 50 states, and she's well on her way! This link is to a post about running barefoot in Virginia Beach. I'm excited for my foot to heal so that I can finally start running again in a few months! Until then, it's seated workouts for me. Womp, womp, womp! :(

I'll see you soon, and let me know in the comments section what you've been doing to keep fit this summer, and if you have any suggestions for seated workouts!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

I'm Still Veg*n!

Dear Friends and Readers,

It's been a long time, but I'm back with a vengeance! You're probably wondering where I've been these past several months. Well, I've have some setbacks, and life has thrown a few curve balls my way. I'm still vegan, but I haven't been running for quite a while and also not cooking as much. I was super-hesitant to post anything for a while until I had good news because I didn't want to make this my complain-a-blog. Unfortunately, concrete good news took a bit longer than expected to arrive. I recently picked up swimming again to combat the non-running blues and a cure to the not-being-able-to-run issue is in sight!

A little before my last post, I started having some pain in the ball of my left foot while running. The pain got more severe in mid-February, and I haven't been able to run since that time. I went to the doctor and got lots of tests run and painful shots injected into my feet with no results and not much of a diagnosis until fairly recently. So I've been very down in the dumps and distracted trying to figure out what the heck was going on and get used to the new normal of living with the pain since there wasn't a quick fix in sight.

After several visits to my general practitioner, the x-ray and sonogram people, and two podiatrists (one not-so-good, one amazing), we've finally figured out that I have four Morton's neuromas in my feet (two in each foot). Neuromas are bundles of nerves that gather together and cause quite a bit of pain by concentrating themselves between your metatarsal bones. Some people describe the feeling as a balled up sock or pebble under your foot, but socks are much more comfortable in my experience. Lots of people develop them and they can grow larger over time depending on how you balance your weight on your feet when you stand, walk, or exercise and how much you wear uncomfortable shoes, both high heels and shoes that just don't fit your feet correctly or provide enough arch support. The condition is called Morton's neuroma, which is most commonly between the third and fourth metatarsal bones.

I'm 26 and fairly healthy, but I do exercise on my feet a fair bit. However, I do not wear heels often. Mostly just running shoes, tennis shoes, and flats at work. Apparently, it can also be hereditary. My grandma has actually had neuroma surgery three separate times. (Her story alone was enough to make me wary of surgery.) Anyway July 29th, I'm going to go under the knife for the first time in my life to have two of my neuromas removed from my left foot. (The right foot hasn't really been bothering me, so I'm holding off on that one because I'm already super anxious about surgery in general.)

Anyway, I have lots of new ideas in the works and after my surgery I'll have lots of free time since my doctor has advised me that recovery means I'm not to leave my bed or couch, except with the help of crutches to use the restroom.

For today, I'd like to share a few of the blogs that I read most frequently. Yes, I've been keeping up on my blog reading, and I hope to be more active with comments and the like soon!

First up, Bonzai Aphrodite: I love Sayward and her cute little dude, Waits, so much! I've been following her blog for about a year and a half, and I've also read all of her archives. This is one of those blogs that tells a life story, which I love. She also has lots of helpful environmentally-minded tips for cosmetics, hygiene, gardening, cooking, shopping and more. Sayward is so involved in her community and always has a million projects going on. It's so inspiring! She's also written an awesome book about raising vegan kids, which I'm sure will be a lifesaver someday...

Next, Ayinde Howell of I Eat Grass has an amazing new cooking show called "Like A Vegan"! Please, please, please visit the link on his site and watch his pilot episodes because his dishes and technique are awesome and I really, really, really want to see more of his new show! I've cooked lots of his recipes before, and they are always delicious and feature lots of comfort foods. He uses tons of spices, so his dishes are always very flavorful. Also, somehow he manages to perfect dishes from several different cultures with seeming ease. He has a new cookbook coming out in October, and I can't wait!

I'm also loving Almost Veg Girlie. She's a self-proclaimed "99% vegan", which in my book still makes her 100% awesome. I love her reviews on new foods and enthusiasm for life and shopping (both grocery and otherwise), and she does some personal heart-wrenching posts that are what keep me coming back for more. Did I mention I love reading life stories/personal journeys?

Last, but not least, Cassi from The Pretty in Pink Vegan. I love her style and her honesty. She makes lots of new and exciting dishes, but she also isn't afraid to tell you when she goes out to a restaurant or makes some convenience foods with extra love, like fresh ingredients added to vegan ramen. It's easy to relate to her, and you get lots of great ideas from reading her posts. After following her blog since its very beginning and learning about her love for Asian cuisine, I was so excited to read all about her trip to Japan this year!

Thanks to all my wonderful blogging friends, and keep on trucking! I hope to be more involved in the community again and maybe get back to running by October or November. Until then, I am

Sincerely yours,
Elise

Monday, February 3, 2014

Cauliflower Wings

Tonight, I made Vegan Richa's Baked Mango Sriracha Cauliflower Wings. They were pretty freakin' delicious! I thought about making them for the Superbowl Party I went to yesterday, but it was mostly guys and no vegans, so I didn't think they'd really like them that much. I think I made a good choice because everything they served yesterday had meat in it: buffalo chicken dip, grilled barbecue and buffalo wings, and burgers. I was very glad that I'd thought ahead and brought my own veggie-friendly snacks.

The wings did kind of stick to the cookie sheet after baking, but that might have just been because I used aluminum foil on the sheet to keep the clean-up easy. I would recommend some non-stick spray. Also, 1/4 cup of sriracha was a little bit too spicy for me, so I added more preserves and juice to balance it out. I put my wings on top of some millet and drizzled the glaze on top. Delicious dinner.

I would definitely make these again!

Also, hubby wasn't here for dinner, so that means plenty of leftovers to bring for lunch tomorrow!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Superbowl Spread

Today I'm going to a Superbowl Party! I'm not much of a football fan, but I'll use any excuse for a party. I enjoy watching the commercials sometimes, too. None of my friends are vegan, so I figured that I should probably bring some awesome snacks to share so I don't feel deprived. I'm bringing one sweet treat and another more substantial snack. (Also, I had some General Tso's Vegan Chicken for dinner instead of buffalo wings. Same thing, right?)

Here are the ingredients for my brownies:
I didn't actually use the brown sugar, and there was maple syrup involved.
 
My mini-cupcake tray to make brownie bites!
 
I used the recipe from Party Vegan. To adjust for the bites, instead of pan brownies, I only cooked them for about 15-18 minutes instead of 35 minutes.
 
Finished brownie bites!
 
They're tastier than they look from my silly camera phone picture!
 
I had some extra batter so I made another brownie for myself. 
My grandma made me that cupcake potholder. Isn't it cute?
 
Hummus platter with whole wheat and white pitas and three different kinds of bell peppers.

I hope you guys have/had a great Superbowl!

Friday, January 31, 2014

Happy Friday! Tackling Debt, and No-Spend January is almost over!

The End of No-Spend!

Today is the very last day of No-Spend January! Yay! My husband's on night shift for work, and I told him that he's allowed to go the grocery store after midnight tonight. (He already has a long list of things he wants.) I hope that when I wake up Saturday morning we have lots of yummy food! I also have a Fun Run Event planned for my Vegan-Powered Meetup group on Saturday morning that is supposed to end at Whole Foods so that we can all grab lunch afterwards. I'm planning on also picking up some grocery essentials.

I hope I don't go too crazy when I hit the stores on Saturday, but our pantry has been well cleaned-out. Also, there is not much food left in our house so we kinda need to replace everything we've eaten this month (and to restock my fridge with fresh produce)!

No-Spend January has been a good learning experience. We've cleaned out our pantry, gotten a little creative with our cooking, and learned that you can actually buy a lot of food, even on a tight budget. I've also realized that I don't need to spend as much money on convenience items to have a good meal. It's actually much healthier not to eat processed foods. I'm usually kind of an organic foods health nut, and I've realized that I could save a lot of money if I don't focus so much on "organic" produce as much as what's seasonal, cheap, and available. I plan on taking some of what I've learned and extending these practices into the future: get less expensive foods, price shop, buy more in bulk, focus on affordable produce, etc.

An added bonus to all of this no-spend-month-ing is that our bank account is looking pretty healthy! I get paid today, too, so there's even more moolah on the way! I've made some long-term budgeting plans, and I plan on cooking more, eating out less, spending less on groceries (in regards to convenience and junk foods), and using that extra money to pay down some serious student loan debt each month. I talked to my husband about this last night about debt and budgeting. We took a good hard look at our student loans and car loan and decided that instead of using Dave Ramsey's Snowball Method, we're going to pay off the loans with the highest interest first. We're also using Mint.com to keep track of budgeting. It's a great tool, and I've had an account for a while. However, I'm going to start taking it more seriously and checking how well we stay within our budget each month. It's time to start being an adult and stop spending money like it's going out of style! 

Tackling Debt 

Debt is a major concern of mine, but for a few years I've just been ignoring it and consigned to that "fact" that everyone has student loan debt and you're going to be stuck with them for a good long while. Not True! I've been reading up online about Dave Ramsey's method and lots of blogs from people who have gotten completely out of debt or are making serious progress getting out of debt. We're lucky because we've never abused credit cards and have fairly smart spending habits. Thanks mom for raising me this way! Well, we spend a lot of money, but we at least live within our means.

Now, I've got a serious action plan! We're going to knock out some of these student loans so that we can free up some money to pay for the things we really want! We'd like to have a house eventually and start having a family (Ah! The thought of having babies still scares me.). As we pay off our debts, we'll have more money available to put towards our house fund (which strangely has been getting smaller lately due to a large purchase of new living room furniture in October and from when we took out almost $4K to pay off one of my Sallie Mae loans in December).

It's such a great feeling to make your debt disappear! So far we've paid off: my husband's car loan, my Sallie Mae loan that had 10.75% interest (That was criminally high!), and one of my small federal loans! I'm excited to get rid of more of these puppies!


Anyways, let's end on a less serious note! One of my favorite bloggers, Bonzai Aphrodite, likes to start off her weekend's with a "love list", a list of all the great things happening in your life or things that you're loving. I'd like to mimic this with a love list of my own, and please feel free to submit your own little love list in the comments section below! (Also, check out her blog because she is one awesome chica!)

Things I'm loving lately:  Jillian Michaels ab workouts (This lady is one tough cookie, but she makes me smile while kicking my ass!); running outside in the cold single digit temperatures (Yes, I'm one of those crazy runners!); not spending a single dime on anything unnecessary this month; my Siberian Husky, Miki, and how she barrels through the piles of snow on our runs and never seems to get cold thanks to her super soft furry coat; my awesome husband for sticking it out with me through most of this No-Spend January challenge; and chocolate-cherry oatmeal (one of the few good foods left in my pantry)!

Have a great weekend and spread the love!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

No-Spend Month Update: The Final Stretch! (And partial failure)

I have something to admit: We failed!

We were doing so well on this challenge. Yeah, it's been hard, but I've planned ahead, cooked every meal at home, packed lunch every day, made very careful shopping trips to stay under budget, turned down invitations from friends, etc. Unfortunately, yesterday morning my husband made the executive decision to spend money on some chicken sandwiches for himself on his way home from work. This was very disappointing for several reasons: A) We only had four days left of the challenge! Four days! B) I had already made dinner for him. Yeah, it wasn't meat, but couldn't he have waited just 4 more days?!?  C) I knew that I would have to tell you (my readers) that we had failed to complete the challenge, D) We've worked so hard and made sacrifices all month!, E) He didn't even call me before he purchased them! I believe that I could have talked him out of it! and also F) He didn't get anything for me! Okay, maybe I should thank him for that last one. If he had brought home some delicious General Tso's vegan chik'n from Whole Foods (or something else pre-made), I probably would have been powerless in the face of such delicious prepared food!

Anyway, regarding C): My husband said that I didn't necessarily have to write on my blog that we failed because you wouldn't actually know that we screwed up. Also, he said that I haven't failed. He slipped up, not me! I have avoided spending money like the plague and have made very careful trips to the grocery store weighing my produce to make sure that we don't overspend!

I disagree with his first point because that's dishonest to myself and to my readers. I feel like for the sake of my own integrity, I should tell you about any slip-ups that we may make.  Also, by telling the truth it might help you to understand that it's not so easy to spend less than $1/day on food (and it sure isn't simple, especially as we near the end of the month and our pantry and fridge are emptying out)!  However, I kind of agree with the second part of what he said. Last night, I battled with myself over whether or not to just scrap the entire challenge for the remainder of the month since he'd already messed it all up. I came to the conclusion that : "It's just three more days, and just because he couldn't make it doesn't mean I can't!" The delicious-looking dark chocolate-covered raisins in the produce section tried to convince me otherwise, but I stuck to my guns!

Last night, after my running group, I went to the grocery store. We needed dog food (essential, not included in the $1/day budget for people food).  I spent $2 and some change on 1 lb. of collard greens and 4 bananas. I'm used to eating so many more fruits and veggies, and all we have left are some frozen mixed veggies, prunes, and dried cherries. So collard greens and bananas will have to help me through the rest of the week. For dinner I made the last of my udon noodles with a sauce that was a mixture of both tahini and tamari (which is basically gluten-free soy sauce). It was actually a pretty delicious combination! I also made popcorn with nooch. I'm all out of tahini and peanut butter now and running dangerously low on nooch (only about 2 tsps. left) and popcorn (my favorite foods)!

For dessert, I used some accidentally-vegan frozen pastry sheet that I purchased ages ago and made a chocolate filling out of powdered sugar, cocoa, and melted earth balance. It was delicious! I loved it so much that I made another chocolate pastry for breakfast. I also tried one with mango preserves last night. Yes, so I ate half of the package of pastry sheet, but I was super hungry after my run in the cold! Also, I haven't had a proper dessert in the past two weeks due to the limitations of my steadily-emptying pantry, so no excuses necessary. I can eat whatever and however much I want without justifying it!

Our pantry is looking pretty cleaned-out and so are both the fridge and freezer! There are actually only three items left in the freezer: non-vegan mochi ice-cream, which is off-limits for me, 1/2 bag of mixed vegetables, and 1/2 package of frozen pastry sheet (which I'm probably going to finish off for dessert tonight)! The fridge still contains quite a few condiments, pickles, cooked chickpeas, carrots, collard greens, and a few containers of leftovers. I cooked some extra quinoa and mixed veggies and put them into glassware to bring for my lunches this week since there isn't any quick and easy lunch food left in our apartment. The pantry is down to mainly just baking ingredients (flours, powdered sugar, etc.), rolled oats, brown rice, jasmine rice, lentils, spaghetti noodles, and a few odds and ends. It's slim pickings in our humble abode! I've been making meals out of whatever we have left, which means the food's been a little bland and my diet is heavy on the grains and light on the veggies lately.

I'm so looking forward to going back to the grocery store on Saturday! My friend suggested that when I return to the store I should make like Supermarket Sweep and just dump everything off the shelves and into my cart. :) Does anyone remember that show?

Wish me luck! Only 2 1/2 days left, and I think I can power through it (with or without the support of my husband)! The thought of my epic Whole Foods trip on Saturday, February 1st is helping me deal with the absence of delectable food and fresh produce at the moment.


Also, here's a picture of what I wore to stay warm while running in single digit weather:

I'm a crazy running ninja bandit! 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Six Week Six-Pack Update

So, I've been doing the Jillian Michaels Six Week Six-Pack video for 3 1/2 weeks now, and I'm seeing some serious results! I'm on week 4, so I just moved up to the Level 2 workout this week that I'm supposed to do for the second three weeks. It's a killer, but I'm loving it! I'm feeling fit, my stomach is looking flatter, and I think I can see some definition. I wasn't expecting a six-pack, but I think if I followed this program for another 6 weeks after this, I might end up with one. I actually was looking at Jillian Michaels' other videos online yesterday morning (right after my workout), and there's one called Killer Abs that's next on my wish list after I finish this one. Also, she has two different 30-Day Shred DVDs that look good.  If anyone's tried any of these, let me know how it was!

I've been getting up early a few days a week to do my workouts in the morning instead of the evening, which has made it so much easier and enjoyable. Working out in the morning just gets you pumped up for the rest of your day and wakes you up a bit! I hate waking up early, but it makes my evening so much more relaxed when I take the time to work out first thing in the morning.

Also, thanks to Cassi from Pretty in Pink Vegan for the advice on eating bigger breakfasts and lunches. I've been eating more in the morning and afternoon and an afternoon snack sometimes, and it's been helping me to take more time to cook food instead of just snacking on whatever's around and making quick meals. This is very helpful, especially since I'm doing this No-Spend January Challenge, and my meals seem to require a little more cooking lately. I haven't been eating any convenience foods in the past few weeks (mostly because I ran out of them in the first week and a half), and I miss them! Some nights I just want to come home and throw a frozen pizza in the oven, but I'm eating much healthier without that processed stuff and looking slimmer thanks to my diet, running, and Jillian Michaels!

How have your New Year's Resolutions been going?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

"No-Spend" Month Update Week 3

*If you're not familiar with my No-Spend Month Challenge click here to get up to speed.*

This no-spend thing has been getting a little tricky lately. My husband has already compiled a short grocery list for all of the things he wants once No-Spend Month is over!  I've had to get a little creative to use up some of the ingredients in my pantry for my Pantry Clean-Out efforts. 

Last night, I put together an impromptu chili in the crock pot.  I unfortunately didn't take any pictures, but the ingredients were: black beans, kidney beans, fingerling potatoes, carrots, onion, chilies in adobo sauce, chili powder, cumin, oregano, garlic, and lentils (which I didn't put in the mix until this morning so that they don't fall apart).  I cooked it all overnight, so I haven't tried it, yet, but I have high hopes for this protein-packed spicy chili soup.  It was partially inspired by a recipe I got from Happy Herbivore's meal plans, but never got around to making since it's a little more time intensive.  Her version has quite a few different ingredients, though, such as a sweet potato instead of fingerling potatoes.  I love sweet potatoes, and her recipe sounded more amazing, but I just used what I had on hand.

I've spent $17 and some change so far.  I spent $15.20 on groceries last Thursday, and I let my husband order two items off the McDonald's dollar menu on Saturday.  He came to a Ragnar Relay Race running event that I'd been looking forward to and didn't complain when I parked us 1.8 miles away so that we wouldn't have to pay to enter the park. (Yes, I'm cheap, but it's No-Spend Month and I had to get in 8 miles on Saturday anyway.)  We jogged there from our car. I joined the 60 minute running group, and my husband did the 30 minute group.  One of my awesome friends from my Tuesday night running group luckily offered us a ride back to the car.  It was freezing out, but it was a good time, and I made some new friends who work at my favorite running store, Potomac River Running, who hosts my weekly Tuesday night running group each week.  Except yesterday it was cancelled because of the horrible weather/snowstorm we had here in Northern Virginia. :(

On the way home, my husband said, "Man, I'd really like to get some steaks right now."  He's an omnivore, and he ran out of meat and cheese in the first week or two because he only asked me to get one thing on my pre-No-Spend Month grocery-shopping trip, despite the fact that I asked him what he wanted and even asked: "Do you want anything else?"  (I actually got him two items and some eggs and shredded cheese.)  So anyway, I took pity on him and offered to get him some dollar burgers from McDonald's on the way home.  (I didn't want anything because I don't really like McDonald's, plus the only vegan options there are fries or a salad without the meat and most of the toppings.)  It was actually still breakfast time, so he ordered two burritos and still ate 3 or 4 of the blueberry pancakes that I made for myself.

I'm planning on going to the grocery store again today to pick up some cheap spinach, canned (or dry) beans and anything else on sale.  Probably bananas and carrots because last time I went they were only $.79 and $.69 per pound.  The only things I really want are produce, and I don't think they usually have coupons for those.  Last week I got lucky and they were having a two for one sale on salad, so wish me luck with that!

Receipts from this week/weekend:
Mickey D's for my husband as a reward for sticking with me on this challenge and coming out to run with me on a super cold morning! 
 
Update: Groceries from Wed. night
 
We have spent a grand total of $21.90 so far out of $31 for the entire month. (I got cash back because I felt really silly using a debit card to pay for less than $5 worth of food.)  Pickings are getting slim, my stockpile of canned goods and grains are being used up, and I plan on giving the fridge a nice wipe-down this weekend while it's still pretty bare!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

"No-Spend" Month Update - Week 2

*For all the details on what No-Spend Month is to me, please read this post first.*

Two weeks down, and I've spent $0*.  I've been slowly making my way through the frozen veggies, excess amount of grains, and used almost all of my frozen fruits making a green smoothie this weekend.  It was actually more of a purple smoothie.  I used a handful of kale that was still alive from the pots on my balcony, 1 frozen banana, frozen mango, frozen berries, peanut butter, hemp protein powder, and a little bit of agave nectar.  So I ended up with 3 smoothies, but I only have one left in the freezer because it was a pretty delicious combination!  I'm going to try to make it to the store to pick up some cheap produce, salad greens, and maybe some frozen or canned vegetables or fruits tonight if I'm not too tired after Jillian Michaels and dinner.  I heard that the best store deals usually happen in the middle of the week on Tuesday or Wednesday, so I'm hoping that I'll find things for cheap since my budget for the trip will only be about $15.

Not having as many things to choose from has made me plan out my meals a little better (and cook way more)!  Last night, I had some Shells & Cheeze to use up some Daiya slices that I have leftover with a side of peas and corn.  I've already planned on making some tofu and vegetable curry tonight for dinner.  I have a can of coconut milk that's been sitting in my cabinet forever, a block of tofu from my last grocery trip back in December, some frozen broccoli and bell peppers, fresh carrots, and a huge bag of brown rice that's still looking pretty full.  I'm going to try to make enough so that I'll have leftovers to take in for lunch on Thursday, but my husband can eat a lot, so we'll see if that plan works out. 

I also still need to use up my quinoa, couscous and lentils.  If anyone has any good recipe ideas for quinoa, couscous and/or lentils, let me know!

*I do have to disclose that my husband went to drill for the Air Force National Guard this past weekend.  While he was super awesome about trying not to spend money and brought food from home to eat on Friday night and ate lunch on base on Saturday and Sunday, he went out for dinner on Saturday night.  So that's technically cheating, and he felt bad about it because he could have went back to base for a free dinner at the cafeteria.  However, he was out of town and didn't really have a kitchen to work with, so options were kind of limited.  He said he didn't want to drive from his hotel all the way back to base in a thunderstorm because sometimes they'll make you stay on base when the weather gets really bad.  However, other than that one slip-up, we've been doing pretty well.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Six Week Six-Pack and Mini-Marathon Training Update

Jillian Michaels Six Week Six-Pack

I'm finishing up Week 2 of the Jillian Michaels Six Week Six-Pack (or 6W6P as I've been marking it on my calendar), and this week has been a little more difficult.  Week 1 I was super pumped, and there was a convenient holiday in the middle of the week.  Doing the Jillian Michaels workout 5 days/week on top of mini-marathon training and my busy work schedule has been tough, but I'm sticking with it!

Here's the problem I'm having: When I get home from work around 6:30 pm after my hour-long metro/car commute, the first thing I want to do is EAT because I'm super hungry by then! (Maybe I need to try eating a bigger breakfast or lunch?) So I usually make dinner as soon as I get home, then eat and watch some TV with my husband and end up commandeering the TV set (We only have one.) to do my JM workout around 9:30 pm or sometimes even later in the evening.  This keeps me awake later because I have to get my heart rate down, relax, and take a quick shower before I can go to bed. On Tuesday night I had my running group, so I didn't do my Jillian Michaels until after 10pm, and then I still had to shower, pack my lunch, etc. afterwards.  So it feels more like a chore because I'm relaxed and feeling kind of lazy by the time I start working out.  (But I do feel really good about it afterwards!)

What's a busy/lazy girl to do?  I'm not a morning person, so I'm definitely not getting up super duper early at 5:50 am to do my workout before I need to get ready for work at 6:30 am.  This week, I ended up skipping two of my workouts during the week because I was just too tired and it was already late, which means that I have to do them on Friday and Saturday when I was planning on taking those days off.

Possible solution:  I'm going to try eating a little more for lunch or maybe having a snack in the afternoons so that I can do my workouts right away when I get home from work or running, then make dinner, etc., etc.  I hope this works out!  If not, I'm going to have to try the waking up early idea, and that will probably make me tired and Ms. Grumpy-Wumpy Pants.  :(  And nobody wants to see grumpy Elise in the morning!

On the plus side, the moves in the video are getting easier with experience, and I've been moving up to doing the more difficult moves for most of them!  I can feel a definite difference in my stomach! (No six-pack, yet, but I'm actually hopeful that I'll have some visible definition and serious size reduction in the abs region by the end of 6 weeks.)  I'm even thinking about sneaking a few Level 2 workouts in next week!  You're supposed to do Level 1 for 3 weeks, and then Level 2 for 3 weeks, but I'm feeling pretty strong and think I might need more of a challenge.

Mini-Marathon Training

I've been running more miles this week and feeling great about it!  This past Sunday I ran 6.4 miles (!) with my Siberian Husky, Miki, for my long run of the week.  (If you're a serious distance runner, yes, 6 miles is a long run for me. Don't make fun!)  She loved it!  I was only planning on running 5, but I was feeling good and my dog wasn't slowing down at all, so I kept going.  Now I'm a week ahead of schedule for my training plan!  This was the longest run I've done in probably the past year, so it was a big achievement for me.  Also, the weather was ridiculously cold and there was still lots of slush on the sidewalks, so it was a big effort just for me to get myself out there.

This weekend, I'll be running 7 miles on the trails at Great Falls Park with some lovely people from my Tuesday night running group!  I'm excited about this!  I reached out and let people know that I was looking for a buddy for some longer runs leading up to the mini-marathon in March, and found a whole group that meets regularly for morning runs over the weekends. 

Yes, I'm a runner, but during the winter time I have a lot of trouble with motivation because of the colder weather and precipitation.  This year, I've improved leaps and bounds in relation to this problem.  One of the women from my running group proposed a challenge to run just 1 mile every day from Thanksgiving to New Years.  This challenge really helped keep me accountable and whip me into shape.  I missed a handful of days, but only a handful!  And I normally probably would have only run once or twice a week without this challenge.  It got me a little more comfortable with the treadmill, too.  (Or the "dreadmill" as I prefer to call it because I finding running in place to be ridiculously boring!)

Vegan-Powered MeetUp Group

More great news on the running front!  As well as being a regular attendee of a Tuesday night running Meetup Group (DC Capital Striders NOVA, Tuesday Tysons Corner run at Potomac River Running store, in case you're in the area and wanted to join), I'm also a member of the Vegan-Powered Meetup Group.  I'm not a very active member, but I try!  Recently, the head of the group sent out an email to the group asking for suggestions and talking about events in the upcoming year.  I responded talking about some races I'd like to do and how I'd love to get together for some group runs with the group.  She responded and asked me to be a co-organizer of the group to set up events for these races and group runs

I sent out an email and created some events for the group, not expecting much response.  The positive feedback has been overwhelming!  I've received over 25 email responses!  I'm so pumped about putting together and leading these runs!  It's only been about 24 hours, but I already have 7 attendees who RSVP-ed for my first Fun Run group run on February 1st!  (Okay, that's probably WAY too many exclamation points in a row, but I'm SO EXCITED!)

Things are seriously looking up on the exercise front, despite my struggles with finding time to get my Jillian Michaels on, and I'm looking forward to organizing all of these events and running the DC Rock n' Roll Mini in March! 

Readers, have you been exercising more this year or have you made any health/fitness-related resolutions?  What's your favorite type of exercise or what exercise do you plan to try out for the first time in 2014?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

"No-Spend" Month Update - Week 1

*If you're no familiar with my No-Spend January Challenge, click here to get up to speed!*

The first week of "No-Spend" Month hasn't been too hard. We have spent $0 of $31 allotted with the $1/day rule. In my last post, I said that I stocked up at the grocery store on the 29th. Apparently, I did a pretty decent job stocking up. I do think I'll have to go to the store this weekend to get some more produce, but I plan on staying within the $1/day limit. For example, if I go on the 11th, I'll try my best to spend less than $11 (and definitely no more than $31). I just checked our bank account (literally just within the last minute), and I'm not seeing much of a difference, yet. I think it might take a few more weeks for these changes to make an impact, considering I just did a larger than usual grocery trip at the end of December and the beginning of the month is when most of the major bills come due (rent, student loans, utilities, health insurance, etc.).

I've also been making an effort to do a Pantry Clean-Out during this "No-Spend" month. I buy a lot of food items, and sometimes even doubles of items that I use very sparingly because when I come home from work, I don't want to spend longer than I need to cooking. In fact, a lot of times, I just eat frozen pizza, freezer meals, grab-and-go foods from Whole Foods or Trader Joes (which can be expensive!), or processed vegan products because I don't feel like spending time in the kitchen. Frankly, I'm generally pretty lazy unless I'm feeling inspired and excited about a recipe. It's not a good habit because well, we all know whole foods are better for us than processed foods. Also, processed foods cost considerably more than whole ingredients. And a major part of No Spend Month is spending WAY less and saving more, so the only processed foods that we'll eating this month are ones that were purchased before January 1st.

This has made me a little more creative in the kitchen this week because I'm using ingredients that I don't often use in my cooking. I've also spent more time in the kitchen because between my husband and myself, I do 99.5% of the cooking. (Talking to one of my friends about this, she suggested that he may just not feel comfortable cooking vegan food (yet, I hope), and since I've only been vegan about 5 months, that makes sense. Tom, if you're reading this, I have half a shelf full of cookbooks for whenever you're feeling adventurous!) Also, if we want to stretch out our food supply without being bored, that requires more preparation.

Following this train of thought, I've been making more things out of the products that take a little more time. Today I made some "Meat"loaf Bites from Happy Herbivore's recipe from her new cookbook, Happy Herbivore Light and Lean, using some of the instant oats that have been sitting in my pantry for the past few months without being opened. (The link is to a video of Happy Herbivore making her "Meat"loaf Bites and two other delicious-looking dishes.) I'm excited about her new cookbook, and I plan to make Happy Herbivore Light and Lean one of my first purchases of February since I unfortunately didn't get it for Christmas. Before you start feeling bad for me, I did get a lot of other awesome cookbooks like The Veganomicon, Party Vegan, Vegan with a Vengeance, and Quick-Fix Vegan (from one of my bosses!). So I've been busy trying lots of delicious recipes! This Saturday I made "The Best Pumpkin Muffins" from Vegan with a Vengeance. They're called "The Best" for a reason, and I do love pumpkin! I have to admit that I ate FIVE of them (and that was just on Saturday).  So warm, so delicious, so punkin-y!  My husband and my coworker also approve of these muffins. (My coworker almost didn't get one because my husband ate all but one of them before I could put one aside for her.)

Anyway, back to my original point...Pantry Clean-Out! So I used some of my instant oatmeal and a can of great northern beans (supposed to be kidney according to the recipe, but we didn't have any) for the "Meat"loaf bites this evening. I also cooked lentils while making the Meatloaf Bites to save time in the kitchen, and so that they'll be pre-cooked for tomorrow when I want to make curried lentils. (I'm not sure what I'll make as the side dish to the lentils, yet.)

For the record here is a list of a few of the items that I have in my pantry and cabinets:

-Lentils (2 packs of red ones. I guess I thought I might be out and bought another one. This happens a lot)
-Quinoa (2 packs)
-Black Beans (1 bag of dry beans)
-Brown Rice (1 large and 1 small bag)
-White Rice (1 large bag)
-Quick Oats
-Rolled Oats
-Millet (never cooked it before, but it sounded cool!)
-Couscous
-Gluten free flours: brown rice, arrowroot, almond meal, potato starch)
-Xanthan gum (for use with the gluten-free flours)
-Regular flour
-Whole Wheat flour
-Rye flour
-Whole Grain Sorghum (Why?!?)
-Ground Flaxseed
-Bisquick Heart Smart Mix
-Pinto Beans (canned)
-Garbanzo Beans (canned)
-Coconut Milk
-Tomato Sauce(Two large cans)

I'd really like to clean out some of the doubles/multiples that I've obtained. If you have any ideas using any of these items, please leave some comments below. I could use some fresh ideas, and I always love to get comments!

Also, if you're wondering what I did this weekend that involved spending $0/day. I had a private Doctor Who Season 4 marathon and knitted up a storm on Saturday. Results: a leaf-patterned hat* and matching emerald green cowl in a simpler seed stitch pattern. Note: these were knit with cotton yarn. My first Vegan Knitting project! Picture below!  I apologize for the bad photograph.  I seriously did receive an amazing new camera (Canon Powershot G15) from my awesome husband for Christmas.  Unfortunately, I did not receive a cord to connect it to my computer, and it's "No-Spend January"!  Womp, womp, womp!


* Hat pattern is called "Foliage" from knitty.com, my favorite free knitting zine!