Monthly Archives: March 2012

landfills r us

I both live and work near large landfills that I’ve spent a lot of time trying to ignore. They are eye sores as well as quite stinky, as you can imagine, but on a less cosmetic level, they are frightening.

I don’t think about it often and I doubt most people do. I concentrate my efforts on recycling as much as I can and while I could do more, like compost, I don’t. We live very disposable lives. On more than one occasion, when the recycling bin is full, I’ve seen my boyfriend put a can or bottle in the garbage out of sheer laziness. It’s easier to throw it away than it is to take the recycling outside in order to make room for more cans and bottles. I don’t blame him, really: he is a byproduct of this disposable culture. We spend 99.9% of our day pretending like bad things don’t exist so we can focus on getting by. Point in case: we have a very scary percentage of people acting as though global warming is fiction. We are running our planet into the ground. But we don’t think about it because we’re really good at compartmentalizing, so that means it isn’t happening, right? Like child pornography and rape and drug cartells–if we just don’t talk about it, maybe we can will it to go away. Let’s just not give any oxygen to the fire and we’ll get through unscathed; let future generations deal with it.

I don’t think about landfills much. But I saw a WM truck yesterday that had some verbiage about how they “create and preserve habitats” (I’m paraphrasing because I couldn’t find an image of the actual truck anywhere out there on the interwebz). This pissed me off. When landfills close, waste companies have a whole host of money-making ways to incorporate that garbage-stuffed land into something usable, like golf courses, so at first I was outraged, thinking they’re turning the actual landfills into habitats. Upon further research, that doesn’t seem to be the case (at least, I hope it isn’t). But the idea is that big companies like WM are trying to make good and preserve wildlife habitats–to sweep under the rug the fact that so much of our planet is now being stuffed to the brim with waste.

From the source:

Waste Management’s continues to surpass their sustainability goal by earning Wildlife Habitat Council certifications at 110 sites and preserving 26,000 acres. The “Wildlife at Work” program preserves land as wildlife habitats by provides food, water, shelter, cover and space “suitable to animals’ needs.” A site must be actively maintained and monitored for a year before it qualifies for certification. The “Corporate Lands for Learning” promotes using “Wildlife at Work” certified land for hands-on environmental education by school and community groups. These certifications recognize outstanding native habitat management and environmental education programs developed through partnerships with local organizations.

PS, let me [sic] that because holy typos, batman. Who’s in charge over there?!

This may be better than doing nothing at all, but I have a hard time buying into this scheme. This may help the CEOs sleep better at night and it may give them a redirect for pissed off customers like me (“please see our website, which outlines our current ecological initiatives, we think you’ll be pleased!”), but it ignores the true issue at hand: the fact that we–the people–are acting foolishly with Mother Earth.

We are commonly told that we have but one body and we should treat it right. The same goes with our planet. There is only one Earth.

When I was in college, I had this one really great class. It was an English class called Postmodern American Literature. It was heavy on theory. My professor was just great–he was married to another of the English department’s professors and they were in the early 40s, childless, and I imagined them to have this amazing, enlightened life where they discussed politics and wrote poetry and traveled and hosted wine tasting parties. I don’t know if they did, but that was the kind of life I wanted to lead. He was really lenient with due dates, which I remember made him the anomaly of the department. He would rather we turn in our best work than turn in something half-assed on time. I don’t think I ever took advantage of one of his extensions but he granted them liberally. I thought that was really cool. He talked often about his graduate school days (at the University of California-Irvine, in the 90s, which I imagined to be a crazy, drug-addled ride). Anyway, one of the main course themes we discussed was consumerism and commodity fetishism. I wrote a lot of poetry that year, not for class but during my free time, due to his inspiring course. We read a lot of Joan Didion. This was my first exposure to like-minded people who were equally as outraged by the way our culture treats our planet.

But all we really did was talk about it, we didn’t do anything about it.

And that’s the problem.

At my last job, a small family-owned company, there was no recycling initiative. Which is scary considering it was a publishing company. I took it upon myself to bring in my own bin and everyone in my department brought their loose papers to me and I took it home and recycled it myself. It made me feel better. I think we often look at life through the eyes of one person who couldn’t possibly make a difference–but I’ve been that one person, and as one person who brought in one recycling bin, I transported pounds of paper to be rightfully recycled. That made a difference, though it might have been small. But it was something.

Maybe WM taking it upon themselves to preserve so many wildlife habitats is the exact same “something” but it’s not very helpful when the rest of us continue to ignore the problems and put it in the hands of large corporations. WM’s business model depends on us producing the same amount, if not more, trash. Capitalism doesn’t want us to rewrite that plan.

I’m not the next big brain of our time but maybe you are. Or maybe if we all put our minds together, we can be the next think tank our generation needs. I’d love to hear what you think. I’d love to be involved in enacting change. Our planet’s wellfare depends on it.

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food, guilt, and glory

I’ve been feeling a little guilty about what I’ve been eating lately, and with good reason. My cooking has gotten lazy and sloppy. I haven’t had one of my green smoothie breakfasts in a few weeks. I’ve been forgetting to sprinkle ground flaxseed on my oatmeal. I’m pretty much the worst vegan. I feel especially bad when I see posts like this where the fruit and veggies look so good but I can’t pinpoint why I’ve stopped trying. I had a great time acquainting myself with all sorts of new meals when I first went the vegan route but it seems like now, all I have any interest in eating is vegan cupcakes, fried seitan, and carbs. Whoops.

So in an effort to change all that… I went to the store today and picked up a bunch of fresh produce with great intentions to cook some delicious meals this week. However, the grocery store is out of kale. It seems like every time I have plenty of kale at home, so do they. But then when I show up, kaleless, requiring a bunch of it, it’s all gone. Ugh. Stupid.

Since I haven’t been eating the most balanced meals, I don’t have a whole lot of food to report from the past week…but I will share the few pictures I do have.

I discovered that I have an affinity for the Indonesian Peanut Sautee at Noodles & Co so I tried to recreate it at home. This wasn’t exactly a home run. I used rice noodles, broccoli, green beans, red and green bell peppers, water chestnuts, tofu, bean sprouts, and a bottled peanut satay sauce. The sauce was not great. I am in search of a spicy peanut stir fry sauce I can make it home on the cheap & easy. If you can address this need of mine, lemme know!

On my way home from work the other day, I received email notification that one of the lovely ladies over at Turning VEGANese had posted this and thought, man that sounds good. I skimmed the post at stop lights and decided to make a pitstop at the grocery store to pick up some peppers. I stuffed mine with arborio rice, kidney beans, lightlife protein crumbles seasoned with homemade taco seasoning, and I baked in the peppers for about 30 minutes, topping with some daiya cheddar for the last 5 or so minutes. It was delicious.

The rest of the food this week that goes unpictured was mostly takeout. I hate myself for that. I also made some more buffalo fried seitan on Friday because I like to treat myself on the weekend and that has quickly become one of my favorite meals. I also, against my better judgment, picked up one of these at the grocery store and made it for lunch:

Was this worth the 7.79 I spent on it? Um, hell yeah. I’m ashamed that I succumbed to paying that much money for pizza, but damn it if it wasn’t delicious. I had never had any of the Amy’s Kitchen products and I can now say with certainty that I know what all the fuss is about! I chalked this up to a need for some major comfort food after a very odd and offputting craving for mac & cheese. I used to love cheese and I think I pretty much ate it every day at some capacity while I was a vegetarian. Since adopting a vegan diet, I have had zero cravings for cheese (despite occasionally using daiya and teese…but honestly, I have not once really NEEDED cheese)…until today. I wanted it in the worst way. So I got this Amy’s pizza and it, in all its cheeseless glory, completely satisfied me.

My boyfriend and I went for a nice 30 minute walk this morning as the weather is just gorgeous. Thank god, it dipped down into the 60s this weekend. I was getting really tired of the 80 degree March days. It is just the perfect temperature for open windows. No sweat or misery today, and the sun is shining.

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Today as I begrudgingly walked my ass to the gym after work, I had an epiphany.

I hate working out.

But I hate the feeling I get when I skip my workout more.

Ever since the shin splints/ankle incident last Monday, I’ve been in sort of a rut. Especially after the cupcake binge on Sunday. I think I can attribute most of my bad feelings in the past week to feeling guilty for abandoning the couch to 5k program. I think the satisfaction I felt after my workout today was beyond the release of endorphins–I think I felt good because I jumped back on the horse. (Not that endorphins don’t play a pivotal role.)

Since I abandoned week 5 after day 1 last week, I figured I’d have to start week 5 over again and it probably wouldn’t be until next Friday that I felt physically ready to tackle day 3, which is 20 straight minutes of running.

Around minute 8, meaning I was almost done with my first five minutes of running, I got this burst of energy and I decided to try to tackle day 2 in the place of day 1. I had no idea if I’d be able to do it, but I was hellbent on trying. Today was about pushing my limits. I decided the couch to 5k program is only a framework. I don’t have to feel guilty if I don’t make it through the workout. And I should feel pretty good if I can push myself beyond it.

Today, instead of running three 5 minute intervals, I ran one 9 minute interval and another 6 minute interval with approximately 5 minutes of walking in between the two. Holy shit, I can’t remember the last time I ran 9 minutes without stopping. I honestly don’t think I’ve done that since high school. High school! I do this for time, not distance, so it’s not like I ran very far. After all my walking and jogging was said and done, I’d done 2 miles, which is about what I’ve been doing lately. I felt great during that first 9 minutes. The second 6 minutes was a little tough, but I made it through. That last minute especially had me wondering if I’d throw up or pass out, but I focused all my energy on trying to get good, full breaths into my lungs, and I counted down those last 30 seconds and felt complete elation when I was done. This was one big satisfying leap for me. Confidence, consider yourself renewed!

I can’t believe I was able to do this today. I knew I would struggle with week 5. And especially after the ankle injury that tore me away from my routine for over a week. The full 5k still feels unattainable to me, but I have a renewed sense of faith that I can get through this. I can. And I will.

And PS, my ankle feels fantastic.

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the unenjoyment of record highs in March

I know I try to make this a vegan/food/fitness blog most days, but as I have little to report on that front, bear with me.

As the Chicagoland area has been losing its shit over the unbelievably, unseasonably sunny warmth for the past week, it’s starting to lose its luster for me. I’m sort of a Debbie Downer, I guess. Was 75 degrees in March nice? Yes. For a time. Now it’s an 80 muggy degrees in my apartment, and why the hell would I turn on the A/C? It’s March, for crying out loud! This means I have to suck it up. My hair hates humidity. I hate the sticky, loathsome feeling of sweat (especially in dress pants and nice blouses…ugh). There are already mosquitoes, for christ’s sake. One of the only tolerable parts of summer, to me, is those first nice, crisp, clean 50 degree days that feel so hot after a rigid Chicago winter. Wait, what’s that? Oh yes, that’s right: the Chicago winter we all know and love failed to grace us with its presence this year. “Winter” was about one and a half snowstorms and a lot of 35 degree days. And “spring” skipped the 40s-60s entirely and jumped right into a full-fledged summer.

I should love summer. Everybody loves summer. Everyone loves driving with the windows down, backyard BBQs, getting to bring your winter workouts out into the actual sunny world for a few months. What’s not to like about outdoor concerts? Beer tastings? Baseball games? The sound of bullfrogs at night or the rumbling of a freight train when your windows are open and you’re curled up in bed pondering life’s biggest, deepest questions? And I especially should love summer because my birthday is in July. I was a summer baby. And I was born on one of (if not THE) hottest day of the year. You’d think I’d have a proclivity for things that are toasty warm. But I don’t. My disdain for summer, I think, can be mostly attributed to the self-consciousness it brought in my youth. I sweat more than the average woman (is this a fact? I have no concrete evidence except for the fact that I sweat. a lot.) and my hair turns into a big giant frizzball and who needs moisturizer when you have a constant glisten of wet sweat donning your face? Ah, summer.

I know I shouldn’t complain about the wonderful weather because it comes few and far between but I am frankly tired of it. It was a nice honeymoon but now I’m ready for two months of spring that I feel I was robbed of. And all I keep reading about is how the bugs are going to be extra buggy this year because they’re all hatching or coming out of hibernation or whatever the hell it is they do way too early. And is anybody else just a wee bit concerned about global warming? Oh, no? Just me? Well okay then. This can’t be good for the polar ice caps…just sayin’.

And this concludes this episode of Why I Should Have Been Born a Canadian.

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vegan cupcakes take over the world

I have completely fallen off the diet wagon and have decided to hop back on…tomorrow. Well, okay, later today. Starting at dinner time. I’ve been feeling sorry for myself because my ankle has prevented me from working out but I think it’s getting better and that means it’s time to get my food situation in check, too.

Since we both took tomorrow off, today has been Sunday Funday! We went to the book store and I found it, I finally found it!

My boyfriend was kind enough to buy this for me as an “I’m sorry this weekend has pretty much sucked for you” gift. It was between this and Isa’s cookie book. It was a hard, hard decision but the cupcakes won out by just a smidge. Was this going to sit in my kitchen untouched? Um, no! I obviously had to try out a recipe.

I picked the cookies ‘n cream cupcake recipe which is a variation of her “Basic Chocolate Cupcake.” I realized when I was already mid-frosting that I did not have nearly enough confectioners sugar but decided to wing it. The frosting wasn’t perfect as a result and I actually have a little bit of a tummyache now because it called for nonhydrogenated shortening but I could only find hydrogenated (probably mostly because I’ve never purchased shortening before and had no idea what I was looking for). But the cupcakes are beauties. Just beauties! I really do love me a coarse frosting that can be spread with a spatula because pastry bags and piping tips and I just do not get along.

Isa really is a genius, which most vegans with a sweet tooth have known for years (I’m a little late to the party). I ate three of these bad boys before the tummyache came on. I really do have a problem soothing myself with food. After I stopped by my parents’ today, told my mom about my ankle, and she came back with “I don’t think it’s really swollen,” I decided maybe I’ve been making this into something it’s not. Time to jump back on the wagon!

Preoccupied by spitting venom in my last post about CPK, I forgot to mention my other rant of the day. I attended a St. Patrick’s Day/80th birthday party yesterday, which I’d been secretly dreading because I knew about it much sooner than I knew about the baby shower (which turned out to be a vegan disaster). I’d been thinking that this would be my first big social function as a vegan and I was unsure how to navigate. I obviously had a dry run at the baby shower a couple weeks ago and that ended pretty badly so I started to worry even more about the party. Luckily, there were plenty of people there and very little chance that anyone would question what I was (or wasn’t) eating. But of course, when we went up to get food, the hostess was right in front of us, paying very close attention to the fact that I wasn’t grabbing a plate–I was just putting the few things I thought were safe to eat on my boyfriend’s plate. When we said goodbye at the end of the night, she mentioned that it looked like I didn’t eat at all. Ugh, what do you say to that?

They were expecting quite a few guests and the party was catered. An assistant came to set up the food and help clean up and she was in the kitchen when we were putting together our plate. I asked my boyfriend to ask on my behalf about the carrots because I figured they were probably buttered. I didn’t want to draw attention to myself since the hostess was right there, so that’s why I volunteered him to ask. This was her response, which I can hardly believe: “I have no idea, I didn’t make the food.” You what? You don’t know anything about the food? What? You were hired to warm the food and be a representative of wherever this food was catered from. You are employed by the catering company. And you don’t know anything about the food? After the CPK incident, that was the last thing I wanted to hear. I’m realizing what a long and lonely road ahead this veganism will be.

Needless to say, I did not eat any carrots.

I realize I am a very small minority but again, like my complaint about the waitress at CPK, if you are a representative of a company or restaurant and you are the only person I can be in direct contact with, I expect you to be knowledgeable of the food your company or restaurant has provided.

(Oh, also. It really sucks when you’re the one person at a St. Paddy’s Day party that can’t take an Irish car bomb.)

But I’m going to jump off my soap box now. Too much strife for one weekend! I’m going to try to enjoy the beautiful, unseasonably warm weather and my extra day off tomorrow. Adios!

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vegan eats: a less-than-enthused review of California Pizza Kitchen

This weekend has been especially emotionally taxing so I’ve been finding comfort in food. I had a really irritating encounter at California Pizza Kitchen yesterday that I will write about only briefly as it really gets my knickers in a twist when I think about it.

We (my boyfriend and I) had some errands to run yesterday afternoon and we found ourselves out in public and hungry. We don’t eat out much anymore because of my vegan thing (and for budgetary reasons) but he said he really had a taste for California Pizza Kitchen. I’ve never been big on CPK and have only been a handful of times (we actually had one of our first “dates” there, and it’s probably only one of three times I’ve ever been). They have the menu posted outside and a quick glance showed me that I probably don’t have many options. I decided I’d just figure it out when we got inside.

They were kind of busy so I took to my phone to google “vegan CPK options” to see if anything would come up. To my absolute delight and surprise, CPK has a wonderful PDF guide to all vegetarian and vegan menu offerings. I started to feel much better and I wondered why all chain restaurants don’t do the same. I quickly located a few things I could order (with substitutions, of course) and noticed that the guide seems to be written for employees, so I sort of assumed maybe this is something the waitstaff and kitchenstaff are trained on: how to accommodate guests with dietary restrictions (either by allergies or by choice). I know nothing about the serving industry but it seems to me that restaurant staff, especially for chain restaurants that have lots of corporate rules and regulations, should be educated on these things because they are the difference between someone with a peanut allergy enjoying their meal safely or becoming deathly ill during their visit. (I realize now that my mistake here was comparing allergies to choices, but I still stand firm that the staff should be aware of different diets.)

But I digress. We were off to a bad start with the waitress from the get-go. I knew I should have just ordered the roasted vegetable salad with fat-free balsamic instead of messing with a pizza…but my desire for pizza got the better of me. I recited my order per the vegan guide: “Can I have the japanese vegetarian eggplant pizza, no cheese, on thin crust?” They have three crusts: regular, wholegrain honey, and thin. Thin is the only vegan crust and can be subbed in for any pizza on the menu for $1.50. I was willing to do this, of course. After I ordered, she asked “regular or wholegrain?” I was confused because I had just said thin, so I thought maybe they have two thin crusts. So I said regular.  A few minutes later, I really regretted that–I should have just repeated “thin.” I knew my pizza crust was not going to be vegan and my bad mood started. After I placed my order, she gave me a look and said, “Are you sure you don’t want goat cheese?” Maybe this was premature, but I started to get irritated. I just rattled off an order verbatim from the vegan ordering menu that was clearly designed for employees and she asked me if I was “sure” I didn’t want cheese. Again, perhaps premature, but this really rubbed me the wrong way.

Our food arrived and of course, as predicted, mine was not on thin crust. I am not the type to send food back, especially because I decided this was my own fault–she did give me the choice between the two crusts that weren’t thin and I didn’t correct her. My fault. I was not going to send it back. I told myself that maybe the crust just has a little honey or a little milk and it wouldn’t kill me. I was pissed, but I ate my pizza anyway. When my boyfriend and I were finished with our pizzas, we each had two or three pieces left. She brought us one small to-go box. I was irritated by this, too, because a) she assumed we lived together and are going to the same place. b) my pizza is vegan and his pizza was a meat-lover’s pizza, is she blind? I was just going to let it go but my boyfriend saw the look on my face so he asked her very nicely when she came back if we could get another box. She said, “Oh of course, I wouldn’t want you to get your meaty pizza all dirty with all those veggies on hers.”

This was the last straw for me. I don’t know if she was trying to be funny, or if she was trying to be flirty, or if she was just truly ignorant, but I was just in disbelief. I think at any other restaurant, I wouldn’t have been bothered by any of this. For me, it is the fact that I walked in there, was delighted to find that they have an employee guide to vegan and vegetarian menu items on their website, and my service proved to me that they have not actually educated their employees on this at all. I don’t know if I was more irritated by her ignorance which could be quite independent of the restaurant, or irritated that the website marketed the fact that their employees are aware of these things but have not followed through with the training necessary. I don’t mean to be psycho-vegan and I know this is all just par for the course, but I walked in having no expectations, was thrilled to find the vegan guide on their website, and then went on to be extremely disappointed. A more militant me would write a letter to their manager. But I don’t aim to get anybody fired. That’s not my thang.

And now to prove that I am human (ha), I am about to confess something extremely embarrassing. Yes, I am annoyed by people in the service industry who don’t understand dietary restrictions (whether they be by allergy or by choice), but it wasn’t that long ago that I was fuzzy on what “vegan” meant. Several years ago I heard this song…

There is a line in the song that goes like this…

so what do you do?
oh yeah, I wait tables too
no, I haven’t heard your band
’cause you guys are pretty new
but if you dig on vegan food
well come over to my work
I’ll have them cook you something that you’ll really love…

When I first heard this song, I was totally perplexed by this and thought the lead singer was trying to be funny–because I thought that “vegan” and “raw diet” were synonymous. Yikes! I thought he was being facetious by saying “I’ll have them cook you something” when raw food isn’t cooked. Oh, the strides I’ve made!

Moral of the story: we can all make mistakes/be uneducated. But I still find it less acceptable when your job is to serve others. Maybe our waitress didn’t deserve my wrath (and I still thought I was a very polite customer, I was not difficult, and we still tipped her 20%) but I couldn’t help but feel extremely angered by the entire situation.

Now on a lighter and less obnoxious note… some food porn. And cats. Because cats are cute and cuddly and make everybody on the interwebz feel better.

Buffalo seitan spinach wrap… (I really need to get off this seitan kick, I always wear out foods I love)

Vegan chocolate chip pancakes…

And finally, kitties!

they love to burrow in my very non-vegan-friendly winter footwear

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dreamsicle smoothie

I have taken every day since Monday off from the couch to 5k program and have been battling a wicked case of body shame. When I think of “body shame” what springs to mind first and foremost is young women adjusting to their newfound sexuality, wearing revealing clothing, and being “slut-shamed,” but there is a very different, very real alternate form of body shame going on in my head. I’m angry at my body because I feel like it’s failing me. I feel handicapped by this ankle injury–which isn’t even much of an injury at all because there was no trauma. It’s just wear and tear. I feel much older than I am and I feel regretful for letting myself get to this point. Crying and whining won’t change it, but with a bum ankle, there isn’t much I can do to change it. So, for now, I am throwing myself a pity party. It’s been hard. But my coworker did say that I looked thinner, which made me feel .0001% better (only because I know the truth, that I’ve only lost a measly 5 pounds, but I accepted the compliment as graciously as I could).

In a workout rut and in sort of a cooking rut, I opted to order pad thai tonight instead of trying to cook a vegan version myself. I’d never had pad thai so I decided I’d be better off seeing if I even like it before trying to cook it. Ordering vegan pad thai turned out to be quite an ordeal. My boyfriend placed the order and he asked for “no eggs” and “no fish sauce.” They called him back 10 minutes later and informed him that every sauce they use is already prepared and has fish sauce already in it except for three–teryaki, orange sauce, and sweet & spicy. The pad thai sauce that normally accompanies the meal is a sweet & sour. They subbed in the sweet & spicy for me and added a bunch of veggies. They were very accommodating and I was thankful. But I also just realized the huge amount of fish sauce (and potentially shrimp sauce in my favorite, red thai curry) that I’ve consumed in the past couple of months. Ugh. There’s nothing I can do about it now, and at least now I’m educated, but I hate to be a pain about ordering because I know chefs aren’t too thrilled about changing their recipes for picky customers. This all goes back to the guilt and shame I carry with me–I hate being difficult.

But, the meal was delicious and I have plenty leftover to eat at work tomorrow for lunch.

I leave you with this: I discovered an amazing smoothie concoction that I am deeming the “dreamsicle smoothie” because that’s what it tastes like!

+ = smoothie love

It’s also great with pineapple chunks. Let me know what you think if you try it! I have no measurements to provide–just wing it!

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big burger

For the first time in five weeks, I am taking an off day. Granted I’m only working out 3-4 times a week, so it’s not like I haven’t had any down time, but I’ve stuck very rigidly to my Monday-Wednesday-Friday running days but unfortunately, I couldn’t make it today. After I posted about shin splints on Monday, I asked my boyfriend if he’d be ever-so-kind as to rub some icy hot on the culprits. When we lifted my pant leg up, we saw that my left ankle was double its size–nearly softball sized! My right ankle was a little swollen, but not nearly as bad. I thought back to a couple weeks ago when I was running on the treadmill and slightly sprained my ankle (which I just laughed off at the time, because who sprains their ankle on a treadmill?) I decided it’s quite likely that my ankles have been swelling through this whole program and I had no idea because I never thought to examine them. Yikes.

So I promptly iced and elevated it and went to bed early. I went to work yesterday and it was a little tender, but it’s not like I had a limp. I couldn’t work out after work because I had a dentist appointment and I had to volunteer at the pet store’s adoption room, so I figured I’d get back to my run on Wednesday. This morning, my ankles (both) were a tad bit sore, but as the day wore on, I was feeling much more comfortable in my gait. It was a last minute decision to skip out on the work out just because I thought I could use an extra day. I don’t want to worsen an injury that will keep me from the program for even longer. But for all intents and purposes, I felt totally fine.

When I got home, my apartment was blazing hot (it was nearly 80 today!–in Chicago, in March!) so I stripped off my pants to put on some comfy shorts and saw that my ankle was even more swollen today. What gives? It definitely hurts much less. I have to wonder, because my left knee is a little sore, too, if my ACL reconstructive surgery I had 8 years ago is at all playing into this. I don’t know much about the body but I know my left knee is taking this pretty hard–I wonder if somehow that forces some swelling as far south as my ankle? I don’t know. I’m just thinking out loud.

So instead of resuming tomorrow, I may be taking the whole rest of the week off. I’m really, really bummed about this because it’s beautiful weather and I even considered walking or running outside after work until I saw the swelling. Blah. I’m mentally driven but feel like my body is failing me. I’m angry and saddened that at 23, my body is so susceptible to problems. This doesn’t bode well for me as I age.

I didn’t feel much like cooking when I got home but I had a pretty big appetite. I decided to make not one but two vegan burger patties, resulting in the BIGGEST BURGER of ALL TIME. I’ve had some Morningstar patties in the fridge for days like these. I’m not crazy about them (I miss the “grillers prime” but those aren’t vegan) so I loaded up my bun with all sorts of veggies and a little bit of vegan mayo and I added a handful of daiya to the burgers as they cooked to mask their less-than-desirable flavor.

Behold, monster burger:

I unabashedly consumed it in its entirety. Don’t judge me.

I’m off to ice my ankle, I guess. Blah.

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feel the burn

I’m beginning to think my fancy new running shoes are causing more grief than good. The reason I bought them was because of some mild discomfort in my ankles and knees when running–it seemed obvious to me that this was due to poor running shoes and I needed an upgrade. So I bought running shoes that are full of good support (I can feel it, really!), but today I experienced a common little side effect: shin splints. Burning, awful shin splints. I have avoided them up until now, but now my workouts are upping the ante and I’m running for more prolonged periods.

It seems the longer I run at one time, the worse my shins feel. And it doesn’t really go away during the walking recovery. In fact, I’d say it’s worse during my recovery walks. I almost gave up on my workout entirely today, but decided the only option was to tough through it. By the end of my workout, the pain was markedly lessened–either that, or the pain had a numbing effect on my stupid little legs. I have yet to decide.

Today was three running periods of five minutes each. Wednesday will be two running periods of eight minutes. Friday is the make-or-break day: 20 straight minutes. I thought my biggest issue was my breathing–because I normally don’t feel much pain, fatigue, or discomfort in my legs at all, it’s really just the breathing that trips me up. Now that the breathing is more under control, I have the shin splints to tackle. It’s always something! Can’t I just have a good workout that leaves me feeling good and accomplished? It seems I always have some ailment to complain about.

I wonder if I should give my old shoes a go and see if that cures the problem. I’d rather feel mild knee and ankle discomfort than the shins-on-fire feeling I battled today.

If you have any suggestions or home remedy tips, I’m all ears.

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accidental transcendental lentil salad

I just had a religious experience with the most wonderful salad I think I have ever prepared for myself.

I thought I had a love for my favorite fruit salad (various fruits atop a bed of fresh baby spinach, sliced almonds, and raspberry vinaigrette) but by far, the salad I just ate reigns supreme. This salad was magical. I’m not sure if it was my low expectations or the sheer magnificence of the salad itself, but I was just floored.

It all started with a trip to a local health foods store to pick up some more seitan (obsessed with the stuff). I’ve been reading about tempeh and having never eaten nor prepared it, a package of sesame garlic tempeh caught my eye. I thought I’d play it safe and purchase an already-marinated product to see if I even like the stuff before preparing a marinade from scratch. I also stumbled upon several amazing vegan products, all outside of my budget for the month. But it’s good to know that they have such a wonderful selection! Will definitely be checking it out next time I go grocery shopping.

I digress. The sesame garlic tempeh was calling to me, so I bought it. I brought it home and hemmed and hawed and thought, well what am I going to do with the stuff? I had intended on making a big fat salad for dinner to try to negate all the bad stuff I’ve put into my body this weekend. I wanted to start the week on the right foot and what better time than Sunday night? Somehow I recalled a package of lentils I bought weeks (maybe months) ago that have been sitting in my cabinet. And then I remembered a salad dressing recipe I’d been meaning to try–Tahini Soy Dressing from my friend at Crash Test Vegetarian. Everything started clicking. I have so much fresh produce in the fridge from all the cooking I did this weekend. I wanted a big fat lentil salad!

I made the salad dressing this afternoon and refrigerated it. The only change I made to the recipe was using Braggs liquid aminos in place of soy sauce, only because I am fresh out of soy sauce and keep forgetting to pick it up. I prepped a few fresh romaine leaves, one tomato, half of a green pepper, and I had some leftover fresh broccoli florets from the pizzas I made last night. I cooked the lentils, then rinsed with cold water. I fried the tempeh strips in a teensy bit of oil. I was nervous because I’ve never eaten anything that had tahini in it. I started to worry, what if I don’t like it?

I sat down to enjoy my big salad. Slathered it in the dressing. The outcome was a magical sensation in my mouth, my tastebuds were so happy! I can’t imagine anything better. The pre-marinated tempeh slightly distracted from the main flavors of the dressing, so I would recommend marinating your own tempeh in the dressing rather than purchasing the pre-marinated sesame garlic. But, it was still damn tasty. And since I wasn’t too hungry when I sat down to eat (I was only really eating because it was dinner time, I felt like cooking, and I’m trying to get into the new daylight savings schedule), I have a wonderful salad packed for lunch tomorrow. Nom!

Excuse the poor quality of the images, my camera is fresh out of battery power and I can’t seem to locate the charger, so these are cell phone pics. From every imaginable angle…

yes, that is the dressing…in a little espresso cup. have I mentioned all of my dishes are hand-me-downs? I don’t really have anything to pour dressing from.

I’m now enjoying a steaming cup of chai. I’ve had such a wonderful Sunday! I normally dread Sundays, especially the day we lose an hour, but I’ve had just a wonderful day full of cooking, a nice walk, some home yoga (haven’t been to an actual class since my book club ended) and relaxation. Happy Sunday, all.

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