Tag Archives: veganism

ideal running conditions

If I’ve learned anything during this short foray into running, it’s that my body and mind depend on a certain set of conditions to be met before and during my run. Those precise conditions are something I’m still trying to nail down.

I had a wonderful 3.15 mile run on a nearby trail this weekend. It felt effortless and smooth. I took a few very short walking breaks but only because there are a few very steep hills on the trail and I didn’t want to expend all my energy climbing them: the breaks weren’t a necessity due to fatigue or breathlessness, a fact I’m proud of. I’ve been anxious to get back on that trail, and I did so today after work. This run felt laborious, difficult, and I was absolutely exhausted. I only completed 2.46 miles and I took a few extra walking breaks that I didn’t take on Sunday (but I did complete a mental and physical challenge: climb one of the steeper hills).

Last week I ate a lot of processed junk and drank a lot of beer, so this week I’ve been paying special attention to my diet: clean eating, lots of fruits and veggies, no beer. I thought this would help my run today, but it didn’t. I started to retrace my every motion from Sunday. What made that run different?

On Sunday, the weather conditions were perfect. It was about 80 sunny degrees during my mid-morning run. About an hour previous, I’d downed two cups of coffee so I was probably still feeling a caffeine buzz. Let’s not forget that it was the weekend so I’d slept a delightfully long weekend sleep. Perhaps most importantly, I hadn’t spent 2 hours in the car and 8 hours working prior to the run.

Fast-forward to today: it was cloudy, humid, and buggy. I had spent 2 hours in the car and 8 hours working before my run. And, though I’ve been trying to eat cleanly, I did eat a clif bar around 1:30 (which was the last time I ate before my run) and my body could have been experiencing a sugar crash by the time I went for my run at 5.

I’m a very calculated person and I refuse to accept that one day, I can run 3 miles effortlessly and three days later, I struggle just to get through the first mile. I’d like to get a discussion going, hopefully from both the running novice and the running extraordinaire: what are your ideal running conditions in relation to diet, drink, time of day, weather conditions, mood, etc.? How do you get through the difficult runs, if you have them? Am I the only one that experiences such inconsistency?

On Sunday, I thought I could easily blast through a 5k and potentially shoot for an eventual (in a year or two) half-marathon. Today, I don’t even know if I could get through a 5k in under 50 minutes. Are these simply the growing pains of the young runner?

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the one where I talk about the worm I found on my kale

Hi all. I haven’t been posting very often, and the reason for that is twofold: 1) I haven’t really been making anything interesting worth posting about, and 2) I’ve been kind of bored with my life and haven’t found much reason to update. But something so disgusting and so obscene happened just the other day that I’ve dragged myself here to write it down.

Around noon, when I was sitting at work, I got a craving for something salty and crisp. Remembering I’d purchased a big bunch of kale three days prior, I salivated at the thought of coming home to bake some kale chips. I was so excited because kale chips are the best, and I only recently discovered them. I got home from my workout and even before showering, I decided I wanted to get these puppies in the oven. I pulled out my bag of kale and picked out a few choice leaves.

As I was getting ready to rinse them, I noticed something black and white in the center of the best looking leaf. At first I thought there was just a small rotted piece. The rest of the kale looked fresh so I thought huh, how strange… I was getting ready to cut that piece out and then I realized it was not a rotted piece of the leaf: it was some sort of larva. Larva. In my kale. LARVA.

Did I want to take a photo of this? Yes. But I couldn’t stand the thought of this larva-infested piece of kale sitting on my cutting board while I went to find my camera. I have to assume it was dead but I didn’t let it stick around long enough to find out. My stomach turned. LARVA!

Needless to say, I did not eat any kale chips. I tossed the whole bunch. Poor kale.

This was bound to happen eventually, right? It only makes sense: produce comes from outside. And, duh, so do pests. But did I expect to find larva on my storebought kale? It wasn’t even organic kale, so no, I did not.

The sight of this white larva surrounded by black something-or-other has turned me off of kale for a while, I’m afraid. You best believe I’m going to be thoroughly inspecting my produce from now on. Ugh.

So, that was the bad news, but I have good news too. I’m down 13+ pounds since I’ve started working out in February. I expected a faster weight loss since I have so much to lose (I aim to lose about 40 more pounds). But, instead of beating myself up for this, I’ve decided to embrace it and give myself credit where it’s due. I’m doing well and I should be happy. And, for the first time since high school, I ran 2 miles straight the other day on the treadmill. No, it’s not quite a 5k, and yes, it’s on the treadmill–which is much easier to me than pavement–but it was 2 miles! I’m well on my way. I will get there.

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kitchen successes & failures

I found myself with a strange craving for eggs the other day. I found this exceptionally bizarre because I really don’t find myself craving anything from my “pregan” days–not even cheese (though you’ll see below that I do tend to use daiya liberally nonetheless).

Not only did I want eggs, I wanted an omelette. A quick google search landed me on a potential recipe–basically, tofu scramble using silken tofu rather than extra firm–but it warned about the trickiness of flipping the “omelette” and keeping it all in tact. Silly me, I tried anyway. Here is the succession of my failure. I aptly refer to this as the tofu omelette mess:

Luckily, I don’t have too many kitchen catastrophes. I replaced tofu with seitan in my simple stir fry recipe and the results were sensational:

I’m a busy vegan lady and I don’t always have time to prepare everything from scratch. Luckily,it’s gardein and daiya to the rescue! Behold, “chicken” tender lettuce wraps with slices of daiya havarti (my number one most favoritest cheese substitute thus far):

So, that’s what I’ve been up to the past couple of weeks. How about you?

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some like it crunchy

I visited my parents yesterday and I was telling my mom about the amazing smoothie I’ve been having every morning. When I told her the ingredients–which include blackberries and raspberries–she said she wasn’t a big fan of berries because of the texture/seeds. I told her the texture doesn’t bother me a lick–in fact, I’ve been adding chia seeds to my smoothie after blending! I guess some just like it crunchy.

Out of This World Vegan Berry Smoothie
**the key is freezing your fruit. seriously. I didn’t freeze my fruit for a really long time and I don’t know why**
1 cup non-dairy milk (I prefer vanilla soy or almond milk)
1/3 cup raspberries, frozen
1/3 cup blackberries, frozen
1 medium to large banana, frozen
1 tbsp chia seeds (optional)

Blend fruit and milk until smooth. Add chia seeds and stir. Enjoy!

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spicy spaghetti

Some things are meant to be simple. Like Friday night dinners.

Thin spaghetti tossed with canned tomato sauce, crumbled “Italian sausage” seitan, and plenty of garlic powder, red pepper flakes, oregano, and black pepper.

Simple is a relative term…if only I can learn to heat pasta sauce without the tomato bubbles spitting fury all over my stove.

To make up for the absence of a real post, please enjoy one of my kitties really enjoying putting-away-groceries time. What a helper!

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kale chips are my jam!

I have very particular taste when it comes to vegetables. I love veggies, but I’m set in my routine. The only veggie that I always have on hand is broccoli. It’s my absolute favorite and a definite staple in my diet. It sneaks into all my meals, from tofu scramble to pasta. I’ve even been known to steam broccoli and eat it alone, as a meal in and of itself (though this was more common in my vegetarian days when I’d slather it in cheese).

One cannot subsist on broccoli alone, though. I never tire of it but I’m aware of a deficiency of variety. For this reason, I’ve (begrudgingly) been packing my work lunch with baby carrots. Carrots are not my favorite vegetable, but they’re easy to pack, low in calories, crunchy in a good way, and I can tolerate them raw. The boyfriend and I often disagree about veggies. He’s definitely Team Broccoli, but he’s also more of an asparagus guy, whereas I like to add bell peppers (against his free will) to most of my meals.

While all of the veggies mentioned above are nutrient-rich, there is a vegetable that reigns supreme, especially for us vegans: kale! This is old news, of course, but besides adding kale to my green smoothies, I haven’t spent much intimate time with this cruciferous wonderfood. This handy-dandy chart breaks down the health benefits of kale in a great way, especially for those visual learners out there:

The calcium count doesn’t look huge here, but as someone who has recently realized that they don’t consume near enough calcium, 9.3% per cooked cup is looking pretty darn good. In my MyFitnessPal account, I track my calories, carbs, fat, protein, fiber, and calcium. The only number that I miss by a longshot every single day is calcium. I thought I had it covered in my multivitamin, but my vegan vitamin only offers me 10% of the RDI (and who knows how much of that measly 10% my body is actually absorbing.)

At the store this weekend, I purchased a huge amount of kale. My grocer doesn’t sell it in realistic proportions. I now have a humungous bag of kale in my possession and have taken to creative ways to prepare it so I can waste as little of it as possible. Enter kale chips, something I’ve been weary of but decided to give a try. I had my doubts about this leafy vegetable crisping, yet not burning, in my oven. In fact, it did exactly as it was supposed to. It was magic, and so simple to prepare! I honestly see no reason for potato chips to ever make their way into my kitchen. Kale chips satisfy my hunger for a crispy, salty snack, in just a fraction of the calories–and a huge amount of nutrition to boot!

All you need to do is wash your kale, pat it dry, remove the ribs and chop into approximately 2 inch pieces. For about 2 cups of chopped kale, I used a tablespoon of olive oil, and you really need much less. I tried to pat some of it off because it was over-oiled. Stick your oiled kale on a baking sheet and dust it with sea salt or whatever seasonings strike your fancy (I think garlic powder would be divine). In an oven preheated to 275, bake for 15-20 minutes until kale chips are crispy and are starting to slightly brown on the edges.

That’s it! Crispy, salty, satisfying, and comparatively low in calories when stacked against its over-processed, fattening cousin: the potato chip. Who knew kale could be so tasty?

Gimme some kale love: what’s your favorite way to prepare it? I have a lot to consume by the week’s end!

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progress

I’m happy to report that my weight loss goals are (finally) on track. Vegan-me has lost 8 pounds, meaning vegan-me is now at my previously heaviest weight ever. Congratulations are not in order for that accomplishment, but what it means is that the ball is finally rolling. I’ve started to seriously track my food intake using My Fitness Pal and it has really, really helped. I thought I had a pretty good handle on things before but I’m finding now that I was just eating too much. Mostly my diet was healthy before, but too much of a good thing can still be bad. I haven’t wanted to eat my own hand yet so it seems that my body is adjusting nicely to the change. When I don’t work out, I tend to go over my calories by about 200–which is about what I burn when I work out–so clearly the solution is to keep working out. D’oy. It’s not realistic that I will get 30 minutes of cardio in every single day, but my goal still remains to work out more often than not. I aim for at least four days a week, usually taking the weekends off–but now that it’s summertime, I hope to get some exercise-that-doesn’t-feel-like-exercise in on the weekends. Leisurely walks. Trips to the zoo or downtown Chicago. Just something to keep my body moving.

I fear that my body will never look the way I want it to, but that shouldn’t stop me from aiming for the stars with this healthy new life. I’ve done some damage to my body by years of bad eating and inactivity that cannot be undone without the help of plastic surgery, which is out of the question, so I don’t think I’ll ever be proud to call this body mine, even if I hit my goal weight. But what I should be happy about when (not if!) that day comes is that I will be a healthier, happier, more vibrant me. And that’s nothing to sneeze at.

I didn’t work out all week until today and I found my muscles becoming antsy. I’ve never experienced that feeling before, but my legs were aching to move. My brain didn’t want to go to the gym but my body definitely did. I had a decent run/walk on the treadmill and now my legs are happily spent. This is good, this feeling. The feeling of wanting to be active is something I’ve never really experienced. I didn’t play sports as a kid and I dreaded gym class. I always identified as more artsy-fartsy than sporty, and I think that’s the difference between me and several other adults that aim to lose weight. Others are aiming to reacquaint themselves with an active life, whereas I’m starting from scratch and building from the ground up. After a few months of reluctantly dragging my ass to the gym, I’m starting to get into a groove. I’m starting to enjoy it. This is huge for someone like me. If I can enjoy exercise, I have faith and certainty that anyone can.

PS, lettuce wraps are my new favorite thing. Such a healthy alternative to tacos, burritos, wraps, or what-have-you. The possibilities are endless! Start wrapping your food in lettuce! Crisp, fresh, delicious lettuce. My personal fave is romaine.

PPS, how can you not be happy listening to this song?

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the healthy vegan: soy

If you’ve done your homework, you’ll know that the vegan diet, when done properly–plant- and whole foods-based–does wonders for the human body. The vegan diet means a cholesterol-free diet. It can drastically reduce the risk of several cancers, such as colorectal cancer, and can also reduce cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, and much more. Still, the diet comes with some concerns, which is what gives the vegan diet a bad rap to those unfamiliar with its benefits. Vitamin B12 in particular comes from almost solely animal-based foods, and omega-3 fatty acids can be equally difficult to get your fill of if you’re not actively seeking out plant-based sources of it, such as flaxseed.

For these reasons, I take a vegan multivitamin. Not everyone agrees with this choice. The theory is that any diet, when done properly, should afford the correct amount of essential vitamins and nutrients in order to thrive. I don’t always trust my diet to do what it should, so I supplement. I try to my best but we are a busy people, and sometimes nutrition falls by the wayside. While my calorie tracking on MyFitnessPal proves that I find no difficulty in obtaining my recommended daily dose of protein, there is more than the “do vegans eat enough protein?” question when it comes to overall vegan health. Although I actively add flaxseed to various foods, like oatmeal, and I also add nutritional yeast to a variety of my meals, which is rich in B12, I ere on the cautious side and continue to supplement. This choice is largely in part to a blood test I was subjected to while I was a vegetarian, about two years ago. I was low on Vitamin D and B12, and my doctor recommended I supplement those two vitamins. Since giving up all animal products, I’ve begun to fear that perhaps I’m not obtaining enough iodine or iron from my diet. While perhaps unnecessary, I continue to take my vegan multivitamin, especially because when I skip it for longer than a week, I feel lethargic. This may be a psychological mind over matter situation more than an actual deficiency, but I’d rather be safe than sorry.

Besides B12, D, iodine, and iron, there is an even more hotly contested concern in the vegan and vegetarian community: soy consumption. There have been studies done that link a diet with increased soy consumption to thyroid disfunction. Until now, I’ve taken that research with a grain of salt, pushing it out of my mind. When I had the aforementioned blood test done, my doctor also performed a full metabolic panel because I’d come to her with symptoms that she said resembled hypothyroidism–depression, fatigue, weight gain, weakness, and muscle and joint pain, to name a few. When she examined my thyroid, she did not feel anything abnormal–it wasn’t enlarged and she could not feel any nodules. My metabolic panel came back just fine. I have to keep in mind, though, that this was when I was a vegetarian, not a vegan. Since adopting a vegan diet, I have drastically increased my consumption of soy. I eat tofu at least twice a week. I eat tempeh at least once a week. I put 2 tablespoons of Silk soy creamer in my coffee every morning. This doesn’t sound out of line to me, but several sources I’ve looked at state that “high soy consumption” is considered consuming soy three or more times a week. I certainly fit the bill.

One source writes:

Daniel Doerge and Daniel Sheehan, two scientists at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) spoke out against claims of the supposed benefits of soy. In a February 1999 letter to the FDA they wrote:

“There is abundant evidence that the isoflavones in soy demonstrate toxicity in oestrogen sensitive tissues and in the thyroid. Eating as little as 30 grammes of soy per day can result in hypothyroidism, with symptoms of lethargy, constipation, weight gain and fatigue.”

I’m weary of what the FDA presents to us as truth, and this study is 13 years old, after all. Given my recent difficulties with losing weight and chronic fatigue, however, I have to wonder if there’s any truth to this claim. There’s no way of knowing unless I march back to my doctor and have my thyroid checked out once again. It’s a scary thought that my healthy diet could be damaging my body, but I also have to question whether my “frequent” consumption of tofu, tempeh and soy creamer is all that different from the consumption of soy of the typical processed-foods, meat-eating diet. Soy is an ingredient in many processed foods. It finds its way into everything. I’m not sure how much different my soy consumption really is stacked up against an unhealthy processed diet, but it certainly provides me with some food for thought. Soy consumption has been said to mimic, or even exacerbate, an increase in estrogen in the human body, and this seems to be the root of the problem, if I’ve examined the issue correctly.

I’m not sure if the damage that soy might do to the body can be reversed by avoiding, or limiting, soy consumption, or if its a permanent damage that cannot be undone. I’d love to hear your thoughts from your experiences or your own research. I aim to eat as healthfully as possible. I don’t want it to come down to a doctor’s visit where my doctor warns me that my vegan diet is doing more harm than good. I wouldn’t believe that if I heard it. In fact, I might find it time to find a new doctor if that’s what she had to say.

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lettuce eat!

I tried to think of a cutesy name for my most recent creation–lettuce wrap burritos–but “lettuce” and “burrito” just don’t meld well. Letturito just doesn’t do it for me. Fortunately, what this dish’s name lacks in creativity is more than made up for in big taste. Mmm, low(er) calorie burritos encased in crisp romaine lettuce, what could be better?

The romaine I used was a little bit unruly, as you’ll see in the photos. Turning Veganese posted a recipe utilizing the same concept and I think they’re onto something over there–cabbage might be the way to go! I do ❤ romaine, though…

Vegan Lettuce Wrap Seitan Burritos
1 package Upton’s Naturals chorizo-style seitan
1 tsp vegetable oil
3 large romaine leaves
1 cup basmati rice
1 handful finely chopped cilantro
Juice of 1 lime
1 can pinto beans
1/4 yellow onion, chopped
1/4 tomato, chopped
Sea salt, cumin, Tofutti sour cream, and/or taco sauce, all to taste!

In case you don’t see a theme with my recipes, I don’t like messing around. I’m impatient. I don’t like to juggle too many ingredients. It should be no surprise that this is simple to throw together. The only wrench that could be thrown in the plan is that you can’t locate chorizo-style seitan. Soyrizo is an alternative–or if you’re feeling ambitious, season your own seitan to taste chorizo-y! (It should go without saying that I am not that ambitious, so you’re on your own with that one.)

1. Prepare cilantro-lime rice. Bring 2 cups water to a boil. Add 1 cup basmati. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. At the 10 minute mark, add finely chopped cilantro and lime juice, stir, cover, and cook for 2-5 more minutes. Optional: add sea salt, like I did. I love sea salt.
2. Prepare beans of choice. I accommodated the boyfriend’s request to use pinto today but I’d normally opt for black beans. I boiled my pinto beans with cumin, salt, and pepper for 10ish minutes. I don’t really know how you’re supposed to prepare canned beans but this is what I did and it worked.
3. Finally, prepare seitan. Warm oil in a frying pan. Add seitan and crumble. Fry for about 5 minutes or until heated through.

Load up your lettuce leaves with rice, beans, seitan, and all the toppings–I opted for tomato and onion, with some hot sauce and Tofutti sour cream on the side for dipping.

Dig in!

they were easier and less messy to consume than they appear!

close-up. mmmm.

This yielded: three lettuce wraps for me, one burrito as big as your head for the boyfriend, and plenty of leftovers to satisfy one or two more meals. Isn’t it nice when something so simple yields enough for leftovers?

Happy Friday!

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coconut rice stir fry, aka YUM!

Thanks to the adventures of the lovely Vegan Charlie, I was recently reminded of how delicious coconut rice is. My last foray with coconut rice got a little off track–I went a little nuts with the cayenne pepper and the dish was almost too spicy to consume (almost being the operative word here). I decided to use Vegan Charlie’s recipe idea as a launching pad and I concocted something similar, but a tad bit different. And it was delicious! Here’s what I came up with, mostly credited to Vegan Charlie, of course!

Coconut Rice Stir Fry
1 cup uncooked basmati rice
1 can Thai Kitchen Lite Coconut Milk
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp+ red pepper flakes (to taste)
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/4 yellow onion, chopped
1 cup broccoli florets
1 container baby corn, halved
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp teryaki sauce
3 tbsp House of Tsang spicy szechuan stir fry sauce
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Bring coconut milk, rice, and spices to a boil. Cover and simmer on low heat for 12 minutes, or until rice is tender and much of the coconut milk has been absorbed. In the meantime, heat oil in a frying pan and begin browning the onions. A few minutes into cooking the onions, add mushrooms. Onions and mushrooms take the longest so they need more time than the broccoli and baby corn. When the mushrooms and onion are nearly done, add the remaining veggies. Stir fry for a few minutes until veggies are at your desired consistency. Add combined sauces and continue to stir fry for 2-3 minutes.

I have been on such a mushroom kick lately–this coming from someone who used to order omelettes and pizzas sans mushrooms!

Simple! And delicious. The combination of sauces is simultaneously sweet, salty, and spicy. A wonderful combination of tastes that uniquely complements the flavor of the coconut rice. I can’t even describe this flavor combination to you. It’s strangely satisfying! Try it, already!

This recipe yields about 3.5 servings, each serving coming out to less than 400 calories. How’s that for a home run?

Happy stirfrying!

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