Monday, March 31, 2014

Oil Free Braised Greens Recipe

There are many iterations of plant based diets. Many of them fall on one of two extremes: lots of oils vs. no added oils. I try to limit how much oil I add to my foods but embrace foods that have fat like nuts, seeds, avocado and olives. I've developed a great way to cook greens without added oil AND with tons of flavor.

Oil Free Braised Greens Recipe
1 bunch greens (Swiss chard is my favorite)
1 small onion
1 lemon
Spices (salt, pepper, garlic & harissa are my preferences)

Prep your ingredients. Slice the onion in thin strips. Halve your lemon. Cut the Swiss chard stems off about half way up the stalk. Slice the rest of the chard (including stems) in thin ribbons and wash in a colander. 

Warm your pan (non-stick if you have it) on medium heat. When you can feel warmth in the pan throw in the onions in a single layer (top left). Let them sit for a few minutes, then squeeze your lemon over top. Stir the onion and scrape any brown bits from the pan. When your onions look like the right picture, add your sliced chard. 

Add half your chard on top of the onions and then top with your spices. Your chard will likely still be wet from washing, if not, add a splash of water. Stir in the chard with the onions until it wilts. Add the second half and repeat. These get better as they cook. Cook for at least 5 more minutes after all the chard has wilted.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Small Step Sunday: KISS

When I teach classes about presentation skills this is one of my slides:

I make them tell me what KISS stands for (it's usually good for a cheap laugh): Keep It Simple Stupid!

It's really easy to over-think things, especially when it comes to diet. I know a lot of people don't eat healthy because they think it's more difficult and time consuming. That can be true, but it's easy to make healthy choices if you keep them simple.

What this means in practice:
1. Use pre-sliced veggies and salad blends
2. Don't get fancy - if you want fruit, eat a whole piece! Don't worry about making fruit salads or smoothies if all you can manage is to eat the banana. I do this a lot with my dinners. I want to have a salad but don't feel like chopping things up small, so I just throw a handful of baby carrots or a few small peppers on the side of my plate.
3. Always make leftovers.
4. Use easy recipes. One blog I love for that is Lisa's Project: Vegan
5. Don't eat anything with ingredients you can't pronounce or that are a mystery. AKA eat real food

A good example: the main dish, a defrosted muffin and quick sliced veg!

Friday, March 28, 2014


In my RSS feed yesterday there were two posts about a recent photo in Self Magazine (from Fit and Feminist and Olive to Run. The photo showed a woman running a race in a tutu  listed in their BS meter section with the text “A racing tutu epidemic has struck NYC’s Central Park, and it’s all because people think these froufrou skirts make you run faster. Now, if you told us they made people run from you faster, maybe we would believe it.”

Without even knowing the back story of the photo (see the Fit and Feminist post above), it seems plainly ridiculous that a health and fitness magazine is wasting time shaming anyone for any fitness behavior. This is not to say they shouldn't include article on bad form or nutrition mistakes, etc. but any activity that is causing someone to enjoy being active should be embraced. Our culture has a fascination with judgment – of ourselves and others.

News and social media spend endless amounts of time/space covering gossip and making judgments about the lives of others. This creeps into our collective psyche, and is crowding out the compassion we should feel for our fellow human beings. In the example that sparked this post we find out that the woman in the photo was battling cancer and used her tutu to lift her spirits AND raise money for charity! I hope that we can all try to foster our compassionate selves, although it’s not an easy process.

I had a conversation yesterday with a friend about using machines vs. lifting free weights and how much easier it is to just do the machines. There are times when I catch myself having judgmental thoughts about what other people are doing. It is hard to change these thought patterns that are so ingrained in our culture. The first step toward a more compassionate path is to first recognize when these thoughts occur. Once you identify a judgmental thought you have control over it. I usually try to do one of two things: acknowledge that the person might be struggling with something I can’t see or find something positive in their behavior that I can celebrate.

Judgmental thoughts often impact our view of ourselves as well. I've still been struggling with my foot injury and when I go to the gym I am exclusively doing exercises that don’t require me to put weight on my foot. This is hard. Sometimes I look around and wonder if people are thinking I’m lazy or don’t know what I am doing. I am getting better at recognizing when I judge myself, and am trying to turn those thoughts into “Well, at least I am still doing what I can”.

Fostering compassion for others and ourselves is a practice that takes thought and energy, but one that can be extremely rewarding. We can also choose to not support media outlets and people in our lives who choose to be judgmental and critical of others.  We are all struggling and we are all doing things worth rewarding, and it’s important to keep that in mind.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

What I Ate Wednesday - St. Pete Travels Edition

This week has a lot of photos because I spent a long weekend in the St. Petersburg area. I was supposed to run my second half marathon at Ft. DeSoto park on Sunday, but my foot is still injured and I couldn't run. We'd already paid a deposit on the hotel and taken Monday off work, so we decided to go for a long weekend getaway instead. I'm seeing another foot doctor on Monday so hopefully they will give me more guidance on how to get this thing healed! 

Southern style meal: braised collards, BBQ beans and sweet potato fries. 

This was a last minute lunch idea: hummus and raw veg wrapped in rice paper. It was delicious but I made them the night before and they didn't hold up as well because of the hummus. 

Roasted pear and lentil salad.

Top is an arepa (corn cake) topped with smashed black beans, sauteed mushrooms, onions & zucchini and roasted poblano pepper strips. Bottom is that topped with cilantro lime lettuce, fresh peppers and guacamole.

Our first meal of our vacation: Mangia Gourmet in Gulfport. I had the white bean zucchini vegan burger plate that came with lentil salad, orange slaw and quinoa. I also got a kale, ginger, beet & apple juice. I highly recommend this place! They had tons of gluten free options and meat too - great spot for plant based and omnis to co-exist.

Dinner at Alesia Restaurant in St. Pete. It's a Vietnamese/French fusion place. The veg options are limited but delicious. I got summer rolls and baby bok choy with mushrooms and tofu. Both were excellent. 

We had a fridge and some kitchenware in our hotel so we brought our own breakfasts. I'm so used to smoothies every day - cereal was a nice treat!

Action shot: playing mini golf!

Top photo is the spinach salad with grilled tofu from Red Mesa Cantina. Bottom is the cauliflower and falafel apps from Meze 119. Both are in downtown St. Pete. Meze 119 is totally veg and the food was fantastic! 

Lunch in Tampa on the way home at Bamboozle Cafe. The best way to describe this place is a Vietnamese Chipotle. They had a bar with all the ingredients and you could customize your own summer rolls, lettuce wraps (pictured), pho, banh mi, salads and bun. They had tons of sauces to add and everything was clearly labeled if it was vegan or not. These were amazing and you should definitely check it out if you're in Tampa! 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Identity + Community

Identity shapes many of the choices we make. We build communities based on those identities. How do we define ourselves? How do we choose our identities, and what do we do when one of them is stripped? How do we find new identities? Should we tie our identity to external things? These are some of the questions I've been struggling with lately.

I define myself in myriad ways. I’m a queer, female, plant based running librarian. I’m spiritual but not religious. I’m an avid reader. I’m a constant learner. I’m a New Yorker living in Florida, a Scorpio, an INFJ, and was born in the Year of the Rat. I’m in the Millenial generation. Some of these identities are arbitrary and based on things like when/where I was born. Some are tied to activities and interests. Some are innate and cannot be changed.

I used to have the identity of partner/girlfriend/”roommate”. I've been in a relationship with someone since September 2011 when I was sixteen years old. I dated three women between then and when I met Carly in October 2012, but never took more than 24 hours break from being in a relationship. Now that we are splitting up I realized that for almost half my life I've identified myself by a relationship. You don’t realize how often you get asked about your relationships until you've experienced the loss of a significant one. So much of what I do on a daily basis, and much of my long term plans revolved around this identity as Carly’s partner. Now that it’s gone I feel a bit lost.

One of my more recently formed identities is as a runner, and I still hesitate to call myself that. I didn't really embrace the title until I completed my half marathon in December. I’d hoped to be writing posts this week about tapering and getting ready for my half marathon this weekend, but my body had other plans for me. I wrote recently about my running injury, and I’m sad to report that it’s still lingering. I tried a run on Sunday morning and after a mile the dreaded pain was back. It hasn't fully gone away yet.

It’s hard to have lost the ability to engage in running during a time of great upheaval in my personal life. Every runner I know is immediately sympathetic and I can tell they grasp the enormity of this loss in ways that non-endurance enthusiasts likely cannot. It’s hard to express how important running has become in my life, and losing that outlet is doubly difficult right now.

Even before I became a runner I've been exercising 5-6 days per week for over two years. I've also been taking daily afternoon mile walks. My foot has clearly communicated that I can’t do anything weight bearing so the walks, the cycling, the hiking, etc. are all off the table right now. The only activity I’ll allow myself to do is a strength/core routine that puts no weight on my feet and kayaking when my schedule/budget allows. I know that losing my fitness identity is only temporary, but it’s really disrupting my life.

The simultaneous loss of both these aspects of my identity has caused me to explore what else I enjoy and what else I identify with. I am reading more, but I’m also spending more time engaging in activities that aren't meaningful (TV and iPad games). I know I need to keep building my community here but I’m struggling with how to do it. I’m envious of people who have spiritual communities because it seems like churches and other religious organizations foster a sense of community that’s different from many other communities of interest.

Every running community has activities involving running (which I can’t do right now). The majority of the queer communities I've found here focus only on partying and superficial things. The plant based communities are great, but I find my conversations at their activities to be too focused on food or activism and sometimes I want more diversity. I’m still working on a meditation practice and am hopeful that I can find a community here for that. Being half of a couple for so long has made it harder for me to attend group meetings and activities alone because I've never had to, but it’s also limited my desire and ability to do so in the first place.

I am definitely at a crossroads in my life and in how I view myself. I hope to live past 60 so I won’t call this a midlife crisis, but I imagine this is what people feel when they refer to that phenomenon. My feelings about this crisis change throughout the day. Sometimes I’m bursting with hope and excitement about future opportunities. Sometimes I’m terrified and overwhelmed. Sometimes I’m sobbing and despondent. No matter how I feel in the moment I try to hold to my conviction that things can only get better from here.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What I Ate Wednesday - Carly's Birthday Edition

Carly's 30th birthday was on Thursday so this week is full of pictures from birthday related celebrations. If you're ever in the Orlando area there are some great places to visit where omnivores and plant based eaters can happily co-exist!

Shredded Brussels sprouts and snow pea stir fry on top of cauliflower rice.

Birthday dinner #1 at Kabooki Sushi. Great happy hour deal: veggie roll, sweet potato roll & tofu roll for $4 each! And then the best dessert ever: black sticky rice topped with mango and warm coconut sauce. 

Birthday dinner #2 at Prato. Heirloom tomato and eggplant pizza. Prato is excellent about customizing their dishes to fit any dietary restriction. 

Birthday beach lunch at d.i.g. homegrown bistro in Melbourne. Carly cured her hangover with this grapefruit juice. I had a weird mix of beet salad, hummus and squash fries. Everything was okay but not great. 

Ate a second lunch at the beach. This is the vegan happy meal from Happy Healthy  Human. It's a raw taco, an apple and two macro balls. All of it was insanely good. PLEASE VISIT if you're in the Indian Harbour Beach area!

Raw pasta topped with a saute of white beans, asparagus, chard and lemon.

Cajun spiced shredded zucchini and chickpeas on a salad with quick pickled radish and onions.

Summer rolls! These beauties had a combination of tofu, spring greens, noodles, cucumber, alfalfa sprouts, bean sprouts, sauteed mushrooms, and bell pepper. Sauce was a mix of tamari, PB2, hoisin and chili paste. 

Randomly felt like baking last night. Made a modification of these Stuffed Banana Pecan Oatmeal Squares from One Part Plant. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Orlando Day Trip: Wekiwa Springs Kayaking + Vitality Bistro

Orlando is known for it's attractions and theme parks. It's also about an hour from the beach. Many people don't realize that Orlando is also close to some wonderful state parks and outdoor recreation areas. One of the most popular is the Wekiwa Springs State Park.

From their website: "just one hour from most central Florida attractions, Wekiwa Springs offers visitors the opportunity to relax in a natural setting, enjoy a picnic, or take a swim in the cool spring. Canoeists and kayakers can paddle along the Wekiva River and Rock Springs Run. Thirteen miles of trails provide opportunities for hiking, bicycling, and horseback riding."

There is a small concession area at the park where you can rent canoes and kayaks. The prices are very reasonable and the springs are easy to navigate by boat, even for newbies. You would be hard pressed to not see any wildlife. On our recent trip we saw our first wild alligators, birds of all types, hundreds of turtles doing yoga, and OTTERS.

It's $6 per car to get into the park, and we paid $23 for a double kayak for 2 hours. 2 hours was a great length of time for us, but it's only $3 per hour more after that! There are other places in and around the Wekiwa area to rent boats, but this is the best deal. There's also a large spring for swimming right by the concessions area. 

After kayaking we explored the town Mt. Dora since we were already halfway there. At the Central Florida Veg Fest in October I got a plate of raw ravioli from a restaurant called Vitality Bistro. It's completely organic & raw, and they sell some of their popular products like onion bread and crackers to go. They serve organic beer and wine, and have great desserts (we took a raw brownie to go). You should definitely check them out if you're in the area!

Appetizer: fruit and cheese plate. This was amazing! The cheeses were shallot & olive and sundried tomato. 

The daily special: spaghetti and meat sauce. That was an edible flower, which I quite liked.

The VB signature sandwich with a side of kale chips.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Small Step Sunday: Say Thank You

The University of California, Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center "studies the psychology, sociology, and neuroscience of well-being, and teaches skills that foster a thriving, resilient, and compassionate society." They are doing some great work, especially with studying gratitude. They've found that people who have a consistent practice of gratitude have lower blood pressure, stronger immune systems, more compassion, more positive emotions, and less feelings of loneliness.

It can be easy to get wrapped up in the things that make us feel stressed and angry and like the world is unfair. I've had my fair share of those moments lately, but I try to balance them with gratitude. The key to reaping the benefits of gratitude is to practice consistently. The easiest way to do this is to make a point to thank someone every day. You don't even have to thank them in a way they are cognizant of or even choose someone you know personally.

When I remember I try to spend a few seconds before I start a meal thinking about all the people who made it possible for the food to be on my plate, and to send them my thanks. I like to practice gratitude at work and in social situations by thanking people for things they do that go above and beyond what would be expected (like holding a door or picking up random trash). I heard a podcast the other day where someone said they literally begin each day by laying in bed and thanking someone in their life. I think that's beautiful and it's so easy to do.

No matter how badly you think your moment is, there is likely something to be grateful for. Take a moment today to make yourself aware of that thing and to be thankful for it. Today I'd like to send my thanks to YOU for reading my blog.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

What I Ate Wednesday

I'm not feeling wordy at the moment, so let's get to the food!

One of my go-to dinners: roasted cauliflower and chickpeas on a salad.

Fajita veggies on a salad with a black bean burger

Leftover chickpeas and cauliflower on a salad. I found a salad blend at the grocery store with shredded Brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli, red & green cabbage and sprouts - I'll definitely be buying that again. 

Picked up some beautiful local Swiss chard that I lemon juice sauteed with onions and roasted garlic - amazing!

The Swiss chard topped with a baked sweet potato, sauteed mushrooms & broccoli, fresh bell pepper, pepitas and tahini dressing. One of my favorite dishes I've eaten recently!

Fruity pancakes

A last minute dinner - refried bean tostadas topped with sauteed zucchini, onions, peppers & mushroom plus salsa and nooch. This was topped with a heaping pile of lime cilantro lettuce. 

Lentil plantain soup

Sweet potato nacho salad with refried beans.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Fruity Pancakes Update

I posted a recipe for fruity pancakes and have made some tweaks to the recipe that make them even more delicious, so I wanted to share those changes. I'm also adding two recipes for toppings!

Fruity Pancakes Recipe
gluten free & vegan

1 tablespoon flax meal
1/3 C almond milk

1 C oats

1 medium apple, cored and chopped
1 banana, broken in 2-3 pieces
1 handful baby carrots
1 C pumpkin puree or unsweetened applesauce
2 cups fresh baby spinach
1/3 to 1/2 cup almond milk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ scoop protein powder of choice (vanilla works best)
Pinch of salt

Combine flax meal and 1/3 C almond milk. Let sit for at least 5 minutes, if not 10.

Process the cup of oats in your blender until they are closer to flour than whole oats, a little chunky is okay.

Next add the flax mixture everything else to your blender (if you have a crappy blender it might be better to add 2-3 at a time). Blend, scrape sides, blend until you get pancake batter consistency. Add oats or liquid as needed to get to the consistency you prefer.

Heat your griddle over medium high heat. Pour 1/4 cup scoops of batter in the pan. These will take longer than traditional pancakes to set. I recommend using a non-stick pan or a good layer of coconut oil to fry them so they don’t stick. Mine took about 3-5 minutes on each side.

These were topped with runny PB2 with a bit of maple syrup. 

Maple Sunbutter Topping
2 parts sunflower butter (I like the kind with flax seeds)
2 parts real maple syrup

Combine the syrup and sunbutter in a small bowl and whip together with a fork. Spread on pancakes. Blueberries go well with this topping!

Pumpkin Maple Almond Topping
1/2 c pumpkin puree
1 Tbsp almond butter
1 Tbsp maple syrup
splash of nut milk

Combine the ingredients in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 10-30 seconds to get the mixture warm but not scalding. Stir again. Pour on pancakes with fruit of your choice.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Small Step Sunday: Set a Goal

Goals are important. They help us organize our thoughts, energy and time to achieve what we truly value. Without a clear idea of your goals it's much harder to make any change. Set a goal for yourself today. It can be a small one or a huge one. It's often helpful to set a big, scary goal (like running a marathon) and then break that down in to smaller goals that can be achieved along the journey.

Once you set a goal, let someone know about it. Post it to social media. Tell your parent, spouse, child, best friend, co-workers, etc. Identify people in your life who will be supportive of your goal or who have experience in achieving something similar.

I'm going to announce a new running goal to the world right now. Once my foot heals, I would like to work on training for a marathon. I'd like to run it sometime in December depending on my health, my schedule, and the races that exist.

I know my first small goal is to run another half marathon before then. Another small goal will be to research the various marathon plans, invest in one, and follow it closely. Up until now I've been combining plans I find online into my own mishmash, but I wonder if that caused this injury so close to my races. I have another goal to find a different pair of shoes that support my foot better, and this will help me achieve the marathon goal. Once you get started it's easy to break these big dreams down into sequential steps.

The last part of this challenge is to write down your goal and any small steps it takes to get there and put it somewhere visible. I keep an online to do list for all my work and personal goals. This is helpful for me because when I'm at work and checking my list I'm keeping my personal goals in sight as well. I hope some of you might reach out and share your goal with me!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

My First Podcast Interview + WIAW

Before I get into the food pictures from this week I want to say hello to anyone who found their way here from the Fitness Motivation podcast!

For my regular readers I am thrilled to share that my interview with Thomas from the Fitness Motivation Podcast is live today! You can find it at this link, or on iTunes. I loved doing the podcast but did not love listening to myself! I need to work on my ums and uhs :)

Onto the food!

Pretty much my favorite meal lately, lentil stuffed acorn squash

My monster sushi bowl. Greens topped with brown rice, sauteed mushrooms & broccoli, edamame, raw veg, seaweed flakes and sriracha. 

We took a beach trip on Saturday. We kayaked in the morning then drove to Cocoa Beach. Lunch was the quinoa bowl from Tiny Turtle and a blueberry acai smoothie from Surfinista Cafe.

Couldn't resist sharing a pic of this beautiful organic kale!

That kale went into this bowl of disparate delicious things. Kale sauteed with lemon, onions and roasted garlic. Mashed celery root with baba ganoush. Fresh carrots and peppers. Roasted beets and Brussels. 

On Sunday some of my colleagues and I met for brunch at Ethos Vegan Kitchen. I started healthy with black bean soup, grits and a spinach salad. I ended decadently with a vegan sundae!

Another staple of my diet: Bun Salad. Check out that bean sprout-y goodness!

Mexican veggie & bean bake on greens topped with fresh avocado. 

Bed of greens. Spaghetti squash. Broccoli, tomato, zucchini and onion. Olives, bell pepper and roasted garlic. Nooch. Harissa.