Monday, July 21, 2014

Vacation - Exercise

We knew that Bill would get his exercise in during vacation since it involved 10 days of bike racing!  Kayleigh was missing the first week of Cross Country practice for our vacation, though, so I had all these ideas about how we would get our running in.  We would get up early and go running near the hotel.  We would drive to the lake in the town where we were staying and run there.  We would run at some of Bill's races.  So many ideas!

Although Kayleigh is sitting here, we actually did a lot of running around the various courses to get tons of pictures and videos of Bill.

Well it didn't turn out quite like I thought!  First of all, Thursday was spent driving so that day was out.  Something I didn't mention in the last post was that when we finally rolled up to our hotel (which I had booked months in advance) late Thursday, we were told that they overbooked and we were being sent down the road for the night.  So that meant Friday morning we had to head to the first race with our 10-days of stuff in the truck with us.  By the time the race was over and we got moved into our actual hotel, we were in no mood to go run.  Saturday is the day that we stayed later than expected at the race and then stopped at the vegetarian restaurant on the way back.  One more day lost!  The worst part about all this is the weather was really cold for the summer so it would have been perfect weather for me.

Bill and Kayleigh in the great room of our hotel watching the World Cup while waiting for our food to cook on the outdoor grill and our laundry in the next room.  We could have been working out, but we weren't.

Sunday I was determined to get out and do some real exercise.  Kayleigh and I got up early and went out for a run by the hotel.  It is located on a big circular road that looks like it will eventually be developed but for now is pretty empty.  We figured out how far we had to go for each mile.  I had been really slacking with my running so I was pretty happy when I ran for 25 minutes straight.  We think I got about 2.5 miles.  I then walked until Kayleigh got in the rest of her run.  

We found the water in Wisconsin to be completely disgusting.  We brought our Brita thinking just filtering the water would be fine but we were wrong.  Once we had to start buying bottled water, we soon realized how much water we actually go through.  It was crazy.

At one point when Kayleigh and I were still together, we came upon two cranes or herons (we aren't sure which) running in front of us.  It was so funny because they kept turning around and honking at us.  They may have thought we were chasing them! I felt really good after the run but then at Bill's race I developed a terrible headache which we think was caused by dehydration.  I made sure to drink a lot more after that but it made me nervous about running in the morning.


So, you know where this is going!  I barely ran the rest of the vacation!  Day 5 was at Schlitz Park in Milwaukee very close to the Riverwalk so Kayleigh and I wore our running clothes and went for a short run before the race.  Kayleigh went out for 2 or 3 more runs from the hotel in the evenings.  I think she did pretty good considering we had a chunk of our time already scheduled each day.

Kayleigh taking more pictures. See how high up we are?  Our truck is parked down there.  Which means...

We had to walk up and down all these stairs several times.  Not sure if you can tell in the picture but there were cool quotes on the steps.  Didn't make the climb any easier though!

The hotel had a decent gym and it was next to the laundry room so we could have easily gone in there while doing laundry - but we didn't.
It was absolutely freezing the day we were here but we still got a lot of exercise.  First Kayleigh and I went the wrong way trying to get to an overpass and walked about 4 times further than we planned.

Then Bill asked us to walk down this huge hill looking for bottles he threw at the end of the race.  We got all the way down there only to find out someone had already got them so we turned around and went back up.  

My suggestion for getting exercise in while on vacation is simple.  Plan an active vacation.  Even though we didn't get the runs in that we wanted, Kayleigh and I figured out that we walked over 70 miles across the 10 days.  Most of the bike race courses were about a mile around.  We always walked the whole course at least once or twice before Bill's race, several times during it, and often another time after the race.  And there were some decent hills thrown in there.  Plus we had to walk back and forth to the car and sometimes down the road for lunch.  To add to that, we also walked around downtown Oconomowoc (where we stayed), the mall, and a museum.  All that walking along with the few days of running kept Kayleigh fit enough to slip right back into practice with her team when we got home.

So it wasn't what we planned but we all came home feeling fit and healthy.

One of the many pretty lakes in Wisconsin that we walked along.  This one is in Fond Du Lac.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Vacation - Food

From June 19th through the 29th, we were in Wisconsin for the Tour of America's Dairyland.  Bill has been racing for about 10 years now but he had never done more than a few races during a weekend.  Last year he did 3 or 4 of these races but we thought it would be interesting for him to compete in the full 10-day series.

Personally I am not at all spontaneous and really prefer to stick to my routine.  I've learned to deal with my stress by controlling everything I can!  My main concern for this trip was our food.  I really don't feel well when I eat restaurant food and you can never be too sure if there will be any vegan options other than a side salad.  Bill added another issue to the food plan because, since he would be racing every day, we had to make sure he got enough calories and the right kind of foods to keep him going.  Thank goodness Kayleigh has no issues when it comes to food - two troublemakers are more than enough for any family!
Bill ate lots of bananas.

Because of this we chose to stay in a hotel that offers full kitchens.  Our particular suite had a 2-burner stove, microwave, full fridge/freezer and a dishwasher.  There was also a community grill available.  Although pots, pans, plates, silverware, etc. were provided, we brought along our own pasta pot because Bill eats A LOT of pasta when he is racing.  It took a little maneuvering but we finally figured out how to get it to work in the very tight kitchen.  We also brought along several other small appliances, some more useful than others.  In the future, we can reduce the list quite a bit and save tons of space in the car.

Rice cooker - very helpful, especially since there were only 2 burners.  That's a keeper.
Vitamix blender - another must have.  I used it every morning (probably to the horror of our neighbors) for my smoothies.
Food processor - didn't use
Waffle maker - didn't use.  Turns out the hotel had a free breakfast.  I had my smoothies for breakfast and Kayleigh can eat dairy so she just made waffles downstairs.  I actually didn't notice what Bill ate except for potatoes but he also ate downstairs.
Stick blender - Actually didn't use.  If I wanted to be more considerate and not so noisy, I could have used this instead of the Vitamix, but for whatever reason, I didn't.
Popcorn popper - Leave at home!  Bill just got a new popper and the whole trip up there and back I was scared we were going to break it.  It seemed to always be balanced so that it could easily fall out of the truck when we opened the back hatch.  Somehow it didn't break but Bill only used it once.  He admitted he really only used it because it was there.  We thought he would snack more but he didn't.
Large skillet - We ended up not using it because it didn't really fit on the stove.

So I guess next time we bring just the rice cooker, Vitamix, and pasta pot.  That will help so much when packing the car!  I can't really think of anything that we regretted not bringing.

I tried really hard not to bring too much food with us.  We arrived late Thursday so I figured we needed stuff for breakfast and lunch the next day but then we could get to a grocery store after the first race (they were mostly at around 1 PM).  We also brought a few things  that I wasn't sure if we could get such as non-dairy milk, tofu, tempeh, etc.  Plus we had our favorite energy bars and supplies for PB&Js, but we take that stuff even when we are only going to be gone for a few hours!
Bread, smoothie (vegan!), cookies (non-vegan), kale, beets with beautiful greens,
 asparagus, broccoli, and parsley.

I had researched local farmer's markets. Saturday morning there was one in the town where our hotel was (Oconomowoc).  It was fantastic!  There was so much great produce that we barely needed anything from the grocery store.  We had to get a little creative when cooking though.  I never realized how much we put in the oven.  Luckily we brought foil so we made little packets of the vegetables.

The only seasonings we had were salt, pepper, and lemon juice but it all turned out pretty good.  During the trip Kayleigh discovered a love of grilled potatoes.  Unfortunately we don't have a grill at home but she ate plenty during the trip.  I also made a few sautees.  One was just beet greens, my favorite, but without my hot sauce, it wasn't the same.

Later in the week, I needed to use up the last of the produce so I sauteed tempeh, kale, and broccoli with some stir fry sauce we bought at the grocery store.

We ate out more than we wanted but tried to keep it healthy.  On Saturday we stuck around at the race site longer than expected so we stopped at a vegetarian restaurant.  It is called Cafe Manna and I've never been anywhere like it.  We have vegetarian restaurants in Chicago (not many but some) but they mostly serve diner type food, just vegan.  This was actual food.  I had a curry with eggplant, zucchini, and squash served with quinoa and rice.

Bill and Kayleigh both got pretzel-coated tempeh with mashed potatoes and green beans.

The fork wasn't as long as it looks!

It was like the food I make at home!  Kayleigh really liked hers.  Bill was always hungry so everything tasted good to him!  We also ate at PF Changs one day which was delicious as well.

We always took a packed lunch with us but a few times Kayleigh and I found restaurants to eat at or at least to add to our packed lunches.  My favorite surprise was a bagel shop in the middle of the race course in Beloit.  It had a vegan brownie.  Brownies are my weakness.  That thing was unbelievable and I made it last several days!

 At another race, they had food trucks.  As we walked past I saw one called Urban Caveman and I said to Kayleigh "doubt I can get anything there".

Turns out, that was the only one with a vegan option!  It was riced cauliflower with mushrooms and greens and some kind of sauce.  It was so good I ate half of it before I could even get back to the car and take a picture!

At the Downers Avenue race in Milwaukee, Kayleigh and I found a restaurant on the race route that was so good for lunch that we took Bill back there for dinner.

View of the race from our table.

We ended up with the same waiter so that was pretty funny.  They had vegan pizza as an option which I decided to wait until dinner for only to discover they ran out of vegan cheese.  Dang!  I still got a vegan pizza with lots of veggies and no cheese.  I don't like vegan cheese much but I was still really excited about having that option in a restaurant.
My lunch was a wrap with tons of mushrooms and olives.

Overall I think we did really good.  We balanced trying new places while we were out with regular home cooked meals.  Bill kept his energy up through all 10 races and I didn't have any stomach issues.  I wasn't sure if we could pull it off for so many days but it ended up not being too bad.  The only thing I would change (besides not bringing so many appliances) is to bring some basic spices along with hot sauce and maybe soy sauce.  But in the end, it worked pretty well.

Other pics:

Is that Bill eating tofu?  Yep!  Like I said, he was really hungry!

Kayleigh's favorite grilled potato.  By the way, I took these pictures half way through dinner.  They started with more food than that.

Bill eating another banana.

Our typical sack lunch (besides peanut butter and jelly).  Cherries, rice and avocado, salads from the grocery store and, of course, more bananas.

Here is what Kayleigh picks when I let her go down alone for breakfast - donuts and fruit loops.  Really?!

Yes, we are those crazy people down the hall from you at the hotel cooking sauerkraut!

Links if you find yourself in Wisconsin:
Cafe Manna:
Beloit Bagel Shop with the vegan brownie:
Juice bar with smoothies, juice, vegan chocolate pudding:
Oconomowoc farmer's market:
PF Changs, Wauwatosa:
Urban Caveman:
Fond du Lac restaurant with vegan option:
Staybridge Suites (hotel):
Pick N Save (grocery store):

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Back to School Update

Hey, I just remembered I have a blog!  Actually even though it has been 2 months since I posted anything, I have actually been writing posts in my head all the time.  The problem was sitting down and actually writing them.  My chaos that I couldn't talk about before is continuing but it is becoming more routine so that shouldn't interfere so much any more.  Summer in general is kind of crazy which is funny because it is really only Kayleigh's schedule that changes but that seems to throw the whole household routine off.  And the worst part is just as I start to adjust, she goes back to school!

So, the ongoing process of getting my Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) designation.  I had planned to study about 6-8 weeks for the first part, take the exam, study for the second part, take that exam, etc. After studying about 5 weeks for the first part I was feeling pretty good about it so I decided to schedule the exam.  I was hoping to take it within the next 2-3 weeks.  Unfortunately, they didn't have any openings for almost 2 months.  I was horrified.  After freaking out for a couple days, I decided to move on to studying for part 2.  Now that I knew the time slots filled up fast, I went ahead and scheduled the second exam for 2 weeks after the first.

From the beginning I had mapped out my studying day-by-day to keep me on track and that became really important now that I was studying for two parts at once.  I ended up completing my study units for part 2, two weeks before my part 1 exam.  So at that point I switched back to reviewing part 1.  My study materials said that only 57% of the people pass the individual parts on the first try so that bumped my nerves to a whole new level!  I am happy to say that I passed part 1 on the first try.  I was so nervous and then so relieved, only to be followed by being nervous about the next part!

After I passed the first part, my co-workers got me a fruit bouquet and balloons which was fantastic.  I couldn't stop smiling for days.  I quickly realized that I had part 2 coming up in less than 2 weeks though, so had to come back down to earth and continue studying.  I passed part 2 on my first try as well.  I really can't believe it because I did not feel very confident.  I followed the study guide exactly how they suggested and I'm convinced that was the secret.  Shortly after passing part 2, we went on vacation so I haven't started studying for the third and final part yet.  I plan to start tomorrow.  Part 3 contains a lot more material (20 chapters in the study guide as opposed to 7 in the previous) so I'm feeling a little intimidated.  I'm sure I'll feel better once I jump into it though.

So I am living proof that you can do anything you put your mind to if you truly commit to it.  I had plenty of moments of doubt through the process but even though I haven't had to study for the past 20 years or so, I was able to get back in that mindset and do what I needed to do.

In a similar fashion, my husband just did something much larger than anything he did in the past as well.  We just got back from 10 days in Wisconsin where he competed in the Tour of America's Dairyland.  You can go here for their website and here for the Facebook updates if you are interested in more information. I have several posts planned about the competition in general and also what we did to plan for the trip, what we ate, and how Kayleigh and I fit in exercise around his races.  I'll give you a sneak preview though and tell you that he got first place overall for the 45+ Masters Category 3/4.  It was so exciting and, at least for me, completely unexpected.

Bill with Greg Hayes and Ross Giese
Masters 45+ Cat 3 & 4

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Can I Have a Glass of Water?

What is going on?  Just when I thought McDonald's couldn't get much more ridiculous...  First of all, I am completely against McDonald's.  I don't think anyone should eat there because what they sell isn't actually food.  There is no nutritional value there at all.  I can't remember the last time I even stepped foot in one.

But yesterday my husband forgot to take his normal breakfast to work with him so he stopped to get some hot cakes.  I guess you need some background.  My husband has improved his diet dramatically since I first met him a very long time ago.  The past few years he really stepped it up when he noticed the big effects diet had on his cycling.  He had to do something to combat the inevitable aging!  Now he is the one out there lecturing his friends about meat and dairy.

He still has a couple bad habits though.  The worst is his pop.  I quit drinking pop when I was 11 because I noticed it made me sick.  Therefore my daughter never did drink it.  Bill makes up for us though.  He goes through one of these a day:

Yes, I was horrified when he bought this thing!  Pop is his worst vice and overall he is pretty good but I guess everyone has something.  I am seriously irritated that it they charge only about a dollar to fill this thing up.  But that is a whole other rant.

So back to McDonald's.  He stopped and got hot cakes, no sausage.  Because he drinks so much pop during the day, he decided to get water with his breakfast.  He asked for a glass for ice water and was handed this:

He thought the cashier had made a mistake but when he looked around, other people had the same little cup.  This morning we measured.  It is a little smaller than the Dixie cups we keep in our kitchen.  You know, the little cups you use when you just need a sip of water to take a pill or whatever.

Why?  Seriously, why.  So we have people eating at a place with no healthy choices at all but they are trying to at least drink water and this is what you hand them?  Does anyone else find this as irritating as me?  It is as if they are making it as inconvenient as possible to make the most minor positive choice.  I shouldn't be surprised, I know, but this really just blew my mind.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Collard Green Smoothie

I've decided to jump right back into my healthy eating starting with my mid-morning snack.  Last weekend we went to Sam's Club and overall, their produce is too expensive but I always look anyway.  I'm glad I did because they had these huge bags of collard greens for $1.79 each.  EDIT - I just found my receipt.  They were actually only 98 cents a bag!

I got so excited, I bought two.  What am I supposed to do with all these collard greens?!  I've been eating them every day but I've still barely made a dent in the first bag.  I will say one thing I don't like about this bag is that the greens are chopped but they didn't remove the stems so you still have to go through and take all those out.  Not a huge deal but a little irritating.

So obviously, my smoothie had to have collard greens in it.  I looked through "Green Smoothie Revolution" by Victoria Boutenko and adapted her "Sweet Tart Smoothie" to what I had on hand.  It is delicious and I feel better already! As you can see it filled my glass to the very rim.  I have it sitting right in front of my computer screen so I remember to keep drinking it.

Collard Green Smoothie

1 cup collard greens
1/2 cup baby spinach and kale combined
1 cup frozen pineapple
1 frozen banana
3 Medjool dates, pitted
Juice of one lemon
1 cup water

Blend until smooth.

Too Much Stress!

The last couple weeks I've been under a tremendous amount of stress.  I'd love to get it all off my chest but unfortunately it isn't something I can talk about.  What I can talk about though is how I did exactly the wrong thing when all this turmoil began.  I quit exercising and meditating and started eating junk food.  Granted, my junk food isn't nearly as junky as the typical American diet but still it caused my body to get very confused.  I quit sleeping but then only had enough energy to sit around watching TV.

The worst of it is behind me now (I think) so I'm going to make it a priority to get back on track.  I bought plenty of fresh produce last weekend so our meals should be automatically more healthy since I don't want it to go to waste.  Also, I'm off work until next Monday so exercising shouldn't be a problem.

Even though I am disappointed with how I let this issue disrupt my healthy lifestyle, it provided proof that I've been doing the right thing over the past couple years.  Normally it would have taken much less stress to completely mess up my stomach, give me constant headaches, and kick my IBS back into full force misery.  None of that happened.  Yes, my stomach has been very quivery and nervous, but I've been able to eat and overall I've felt pretty good considering the circumstances.  I haven't neglected any of my other activities.  I still get up every morning, pack Kayleigh's lunch, fix breakfast, go to her track meets.  I'm really shocked at how well I managed to compartmentalize that small but extremely stressful part of my life so that it didn't interfer with the rest of my life.  Oh yeah, and poor Kayleigh had her birthday fall in the middle of all of this!

This has been rambling and incoherent but I guess my main point is that although I didn't keep up with my diet and exercise routine over the past couple weeks, the good habits from the last couple years helped get me through this minor set back without too much damage.

I have tons of planned blog posts that I haven't got to this month so I'm going to make those a priority along with getting everything else back on track.  Stay tuned!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Stuffed Pepper Pasta

Last week was a mess.  We are still not completed done with the remodeling in the family room but decided to jump to the computer room anyway.  So now we have stuff from both of those rooms all over the rest of the house.  That clutter is enough to drive me crazy but then on top of it I didn't plan our meals last week so I feel like I'm living in chaos!

Last night I went through the refrigerator to see what produce needed to be used up.  When I don't know what to cook, I always start with boiling water for pasta.  For some reason I had three bell peppers in the fridge.  I'm not sure what I was thinking when I bought them but they were still in good shape so I started chopping them.

Our weather continues to be very winter-like and I think I must have just been fed up last weekend because I bought some tomatoes.  I never buy tomatoes in the winter because they just don't taste like anything.  I had a few of these raw earlier in the week though and they weren't too bad.

Once I decided to add those to the peppers I realized I basically had the same ingredients as we use for stuffed peppers.  Our favorite recipe stuffs the peppers with a rice and tomato filling so I took that idea but chopped up the peppers and put them on pasta.

For the stuffed pepper recipe, I usually use fresh parsley but when I haven't had any, I've been able to get by with dried.  Right now I have some growing in my window sill (ignore the filthy window - it's still winter here!) but there wasn't much so I probably only used about half the amount I would have liked.

It turned out really tasty and it only took a few minutes to make.  I was shocked!

Stuffed Pepper Pasta

1 pound pasta of your choice
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 bell peppers, chopped
3 green onions, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes or about 1 1/2 cups fresh
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (I make a vegan version from Everyday Happy Herbivore)
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
Ground pepper
Garlic salt

Prepare the pasta according to the package.

Heat the oil in a skillet.  Add the peppers and green onion and saute for about 5 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, Worcestershire, parsley, salt and pepper and heat through.  Combine the pasta and peppers and enjoy.

Monday, March 31, 2014

March Goals Recap

For March, I set 5 goals for myself.  Overall I'm happy with my results.  Two of them worked out so well I plan to continue.  The first success was drinking a glass of water every morning when  I first get up.  I managed to do that all but two days this month.  Now I'm so used to it, I feel funny if I don't drink water within the first half hour of getting up.

Parking in the back of the parking lot at work started off with a challenge because it was snowing the first day I went to work this month.  I was really tempted to pull into my normal spot but then I stopped myself.  I couldn't mess up a goal on the first day!  So I pulled all the way to the back and after a couple days discovered a hidden bonus.  I was actually able to get out of the parking lot much quicker in the evening because I didn't have to wait for everyone else before I could pull out of my spot.  So I walk a few extra steps and get home several minutes quicker!  Definitely going to continue that one.  There was only one day I parked closer but that was because it was raining and later in the morning I had to go to another location with someone else.  I didn't think it was nice to make her trek across the parking lot in the pouring rain so I parked in my old spot.

The exercising went OK.  I didn't always get it all in but I liked the variety of doing yoga, running and strength workouts.

I didn't meditate nearly as much as I would have liked but I did get more in than usual and I definitely felt calmer.

The sugar - well.... I really only gave this a half-hearted try.  I didn't make any cookies or anything like that this month but I still ate sugar.  I switched it from trying not to eat any sugar to just being aware of how much I was eating.

So overall it was a good month.  I haven't decided yet if I'm going to do something similar in April.  I have a couple hours to figure it out!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Back to School

When I was in college, I remember seeing a quote that went something like:

Every day do something for the sole reason that you don't want to.

I have no idea who said it and can't seem to find it now so I may be remembering it all wrong.  Regardless, the idea of stepping out of my comfort zone has always stuck with me.  So many times when an opportunity presents itself, my gut reaction is always to say no.  Even when it is something non-threatening like going out to lunch with someone.  Although, if I ignore my gut and do it, pretty much every time I'm happy that I did.

With my new job came the opportunity to get a new certification.  I already have one for a specialized area but this one is much more broad and covers every aspect of my profession (I won't bore you with details about auditing!).  I had actually considered doing this on my own when I was unemployed because I thought it would help me find a job.  Even though I'm now working, it can only help me in my current position and put me in a better position if I find myself unemployed again.

Even though I knew all this, when it was first suggested, I hesitated.  I've been out of school a long time.  This is a three part exam that will probably take about a year to complete.  That means hours and hours of studying and then concentrating through 2+ hours of testing at a time.  I was really tempted to say I didn't have the time to commit to it.  But then I realized that was crazy.  My daughter is in high school and always busy with her own activities.  She certainly doesn't need much of my time any more.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized this is actually the best time for me to do this.  Plus, what kind of example would I be setting for her if I didn't continue to improve myself?  I always tell her that you have to keep learning so it is only right that I lead by example.

So I agreed to work towards my certification.  I ordered a study program and immediately became overwhelmed!  But I quickly fell back into the routine of studying.  I worked out a plan of attack and scheduled all my study sessions for Part 1 in my calendar.  I'm now 5 weeks into it.  I'm hoping to take the first exam sometime in April.  Some of the sections have been easier than others but even when I struggle, I just keep going.  One chapter in particular is just killing me.  I've taken quiz after quiz and I feel like I'm getting worse!  But even when I get frustrated, I'm enjoying the challenge.  Losing my job last year was a bit of a blow to my confidence but now I can feel it coming back.  It feels good to take on a challenge and feel like I'm really accomplishing something.

Last year my big challenge was running that 5K.  Hopefully this will be just as successful as that!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Bean Enchilada Casserole

The last few weeks, we've had several unexpected expenses come up.  To get back within our budget, I've tried to cut back on grocery shopping.  Luckily I have a ridiculously well stocked pantry.  I seriously think we could survive for months!  It's always nice to have some quick and easy recipes that can be made with things you always have on hand.  A few years ago we came up with this casserole and it remains one of our favorites, even when we can afford groceries.  It also warms up well in a microwave at work the next day.

Bean Enchilada Casserole

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup green salsa
1 cup vegan cheeze sauce (we like the one in "Vegan on the Cheap" because it stays creamy)
1 can red enchilada sauce
Corn tortillas (about 8, but it depends on your pan)

Preheat oven to 375.  

Mix the beans, green salsa, and vegan cheeze sauce together in a large bowl.  

Cover the bottom of a 9 X 13 pan with a thin layer of enchilada sauce.  Cover with corn tortillas.  Top the tortillas with the bean mixture.  Add another layer of tortillas, beans, and then tortillas again.  Cover the casserole with the remaining enchilada sauce.

Bake for 20 minutes or until warmed through.  Top individual portions with more cheeze sauce, avocado, vegan sour cream, salsa, etc.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

New Yoga DVD

I've noticed that a lot of people seem intimidated by yoga.  I always tell everyone that if I can do it, anyone can.  I don't look anything like the instructors but I still get something out of it.  Because I'm not at all flexible, I prefer to stay home instead of taking a class.  I have one yoga DVD that I've been using for years (Yoga for Inflexible People - I knew it was for me when I saw the name!).  I also sometimes record a couple yoga shows on TV or get them from YouTube but those are usually way too hard for me so I only make it part way through before I collapse.  Still I always enjoy yoga so I try to fit it into my regular routine. Over the past few weeks, I've been doing yoga first thing in the morning or right before bed a few times a week.  I've really seen a difference in how I feel both physically and mentally.

I'm usually pretty good about avoiding impulse buys.  A few weeks ago, though, I found myself buying a new yoga DVD from the grocery store.  It was the weirdest thing.  We were walking from the shampoo/makeup area of the store to the grocery section and before I new it, I had detoured to the exercise area and thrown a general yoga DVD in the cart!  Luckily, and much to my surprise, I really like this one.

It's called AM & PM Yoga for Beginners.  It is a little pathetic that I've been doing yoga on and off for about 15 years and yet I'm still at the beginner stage but I still enjoy it.  I've been asked more than once how I can do these poses so many times and yet not become any more flexible.  I seriously have no idea but if I ever manage to actually touch the floor without bending my legs, I'll probably die of shock!

Anyway, I like both the morning and evening routines.  They do exactly what they promise.  The morning routine gets me energized and ready for the day and the evening routine relaxes me and stops me from thinking too much.  I also like that they are short enough that I can squeeze them in first thing in the morning or right before bed.  Another benefit for me is that they don't require a lot of space so I can do the routine anywhere, instead of needing to kick everyone out of the family room.

Some of the poses are challenging for me (does that mean I'm pre-beginner?) but I've been doing them long enough that I know how to modify them on my own.  She provides some modifications but not for some of the more difficult (at least for me) poses.

One of the main benefits for me is that I don't have to think about what routine to do.  I just put the disk in and pick the time of day.  The less decisions I have to make, the more likely I am to exercise so this is a big plus for me. Especially at 5:15 in the morning!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

March Goals

Back in December I had my workout goal of 2 hours a week including at least 4 miles of running.  That worked well to keep me motivated for a little bit but then that fell apart and wasn't really motivating me any more.  Kayleigh's track season started a couple weeks ago and Bill is training for his upcoming training camp (for cycling) so I decided I needed to come up with some kind of focus as well.  Last year I had the 5K that I was working towards but I don't really have anything specific like that this year.  Instead of picking one big goal, I decided to pick several enhancement kind of items that I could work on this month.  I'm generally happy with where I'm at right now but there are always small tweaks I can make.  I thought it would be good to have general health improvement actions instead of just exercising.  Here's the plan:

  • Do yoga, running and ab workouts each at least two times a week.  I came up with this one because I was considering buying Insanity.  I decided I should prove that I was more dedicated to my current workouts before I spend money on a new one.
  • Drink a glass of water first thing in the morning.  I usually drink a lot of water through the day but lately I've been so busy at work, I barely drink anything at all.  Starting the day with a full glass of water should get my day off to a good start.
  • Park at the back of the lot at work.  I usually get to work early so a close spot is usually available but that doesn't mean I have to take it. 
  • Meditate every day.  I already meditate on a regular basis but I'd like to increase it to daily.  I see a big difference in my stress level when I take the time to slow down for a few minutes.
  • Reduce sugar.  That's my hard one!  I'm going to try to cut out most sugar and use only fruit, maple syrup, stevia,  or agave sparingly.  
I've managed to make it through the first two days but we'll see if I can keep it up.  I'm hoping by the end of March I'll see an actual improvement in my overall health, fitness and mental attitude.  

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Weekly Meal Plan #3

It's been a while since I posted a meal plan so I thought I'd post what we followed last week just because it has several recipes from another one of my favorite cookbooks.  Vegan on the Cheap by Robin Robertson has recipes easy and quick enough for my husband to handle.  Since my daughter now has practice every night until 5:30, he has to be able to make dinner completely by himself with no help at all.  It helps if they are quick as well because he refuses to start cooking until about 4:50 and I come home at 5:30 absolutely starved.

I originally bought this book because it has the word cheap in the title and I live by my very strict budget.  She has a note at the top of each recipe telling you how much it costs per serving.  I've never tested the amounts against my local grocery costs but they seem reasonable.

We didn't have any leftovers to eat last Saturday so this plan started that night.  There is only one night that we didn't eat what was planned so that will be for tonight's dinner.

Saturday:  Coconut Curry Rice - Vegan on the Cheap

Sunday: Cornbread and beans - family recipe posted on my old blog, Besides Pizza.  The cornbread recipe there calls for milk and eggs.  Obviously we switched to non-dairy milk since then.  We still sometimes use eggs in this if we have them but this time I didn't have any so we used our favorite arrowroot replacement (see here, here, or here for the amounts).

Monday: Mu Shu Burritos - Vegan on the Cheap - Bill wasn't home so Kayleigh and I had to fix this when we got home.  I use the seitan recipe in this same book and freeze it so it is ready to go when we make this recipe.  I also ate this Tuesday and Wednesday for lunch and Thursday for dinner.

Tuesday: White Bean Bruschetta - My own recipe.  I'll add this to my list of recipes to post.  It's a good recipe when you don't have any fresh food on hand.

Wednesday: Quinoa with Chickpeas and Spinach - Another one of my recipes.  It is basically quinoa cooking in orange juice and added to chickpeas, spinach and a few other things.  Bill wasn't home this night either but I didn't know that when I made the plan.  Still we were able to get dinner completed before 6.  This was my lunch for Thursday and Friday.

Thursday: Samosa Pie - Vegan on the Cheap - We ended up having leftovers because the fridge was getting full so we''ll have this tonight instead.  That's probably for the better because this one would have been hard for Bill since it includes a pie crust.

Friday: Deconstructed enchilada bake - Vegan on the Cheap.  I also use her cheese sauce on this.  Delicious.  We'll get a couple lunches out of this.

I'll post next week's plan next Saturday.  We're in a bit of a financial crunch all of a sudden so I planned next week so that I wouldn't have to go to the grocery store this weekend.  Lots of pantry items.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Blackberry Smoothie

Look at this gorgeous purple smoothie and how badly it clashes with my kitchen!  I love smoothies with vibrant colors.  Usually for me, they are green but this one turned into a fantastic purple.  Smoothie recipes always seem a little silly to post since basically you just dump things in a blender and see how they turn out. I have a couple reasons for posting this one though.

First, for some reason blackberries have been really cheap the past few weeks.  All the other berries have been pricey (as you'd expect in Chicago in the winter) but blackberries have been about a third of the price of the others.  Since fruit choices in the winter are slim, I grabbed them.

My second reason for posting this is that I used Vega powder with it and this combination completely hid the grainy texture that you usually get with brown rice powders.  I don't mind the powder but they aren't my favorite and this was my best attempt to disguise the texture and taste.

So, here is another smoothie recipe!

Blackberry Smoothy

3 oz. blackberries (this was half my container or about 12 blackberries)
1 banana
8 oz oat milk or non-dairy milk of choice
1 scoop protein powder (I used Vega Vanilla Almondilla powder)

Blend everything together.  Even in my VitaMix, I couldn't get rid of the blackberry seeds so I strained it before drinking.  I've had this the past two mornings and both times tried to drink it with the seeds but they bug me too much!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Cookbook Review - Isa Does It

I think I have all of her cookbooks.  If not all of them, definitely most.  I'm prepared to say that this is my favorite Isa cookbook, and that includes "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World"!  I liked it that much.  I tried at least one recipe from each chapter and there was only one recipe that I wouldn't make again.  Some of them became instant favorites.  Not only did they taste good (which is obviously the most important) but the recipes also lived up to the claim of quick and easy weeknight meals.  
Outside of the recipes, the book is organized well with a lot of beautiful pictures.  It is also enjoyable just to read.  The introduction includes lists of tools, pantry staples, plenty of tips and hints and even a few pages on various ways to cut up tofu.  This is a pretty large hardback book with 309 pages, and (I counted) 144 recipes.  I feel it was a really good value for the money.  I can't remember the last time I was so happy with a cookbook.

I actually remembered to take pictures of all the recipes except two.  I'm going to break them down by chapter.

Chapter 1 - Soups

Why not start with one I don't have a picture of!  The worst part is I just had the leftovers for lunch an hour ago and still didn't take a picture.  We had Cheddary Broccoli Soup during the week.  Kayleigh made it and said that it was easy except that our immersion blender broke a week ago so she had to use the regular blender which was not large enough to hold all the soup.  I missed all that drama though and just ate it.  It was very rich and creamy and delicious.

The other soup we had was Chickpea-Rice Soup. Here comes the recipe I would not make again.  First of all the name is misleading.  It is mostly cabbage and so un-soup-like we actually ate it as a side dish (see second picture at top).  It was bland and boring. 

Chapter 2 - Salads

The Kale Salad With Butternut Squash and Lentils was good the first day and held up really well as leftovers for the following two days. I roasted the butternut squash ahead of time and used canned lentils so this was really quick to throw together when it was time to eat.  Kayleigh also liked this.

Chapter 3 - Handheld

I was worried about these recipes because we are still in the dead of winter and buried under several feet of snow.  Not the best sandwich weather.  Luckily both of these were so good that we didn't mind.

Red Hot BLTs - tastes nothing like a BLT so we are going to call this Spicy Tempeh Sandwich from now on!  It was very good but if you are looking for a BLT, you will be disappointed.  

Roasted Vegetable Romesco Sandwiches - Kayleigh didn't care for these and ate the vegetables out of the sandwich.  She is never a big fan of spreads.  Bill and I both enjoyed it though.  We ate ours on sourdough bread which was probably not the best option since it fell apart.  Still, it was good.

Chapter 4 - Pasta and Risotto

We love pasta but hate risotto so several of the recipes in this section were immediately eliminated.  The very first recipe I made out of this book was Roasted Red Pepper Mac & Cheese.  Unfortunately I don't have a picture of this one either.  I threw this together at the last minute for a weekend lunch.  It was very easy and I thought it was fantastic.  It tasted like pizza to me.  Bill and Kayleigh didn't like it.  Their reasons were crazy.  Bill thought it tasted too much like pizza and Kayleigh said it was too creamy.  What??!  They are insane.  Take my word for it - delicious!

Bill is not home for dinner on Mondays and he doesn't like eggplant so that was when we tried Eggplant and Bread Crumb Fettuccine.  This was probably one of the fastest recipes in the book.  Bill started the pasta water for me before he left but I had to do everything else since Kayleigh was at track practice.  I got home at 4:50 and we were sitting down to eat at 5:10.  That makes it a winner right there but then it also tasted good.  The downside was that it doesn't warm up very well because the bread crumbs loose their crispiness.  
Chapter 5 - Stews, Chili's and Curries

Much better for winter time!  We had Red Lentil Thai Chili.  I expected it to be much spicier but it wasn't.  I've tried a lot of chili recipes but this is one of my favorites and it really filled me up thanks to the kidney beans and lentils.  The sweet potatoes add a nice twist to your typical chili.

Chapter 6 - Stir Fries and Sautes

Cast Iron Stir Fry.  Loved this.  We had it on quinoa which I made the night before.  The prep was a little irritating because you cook each of the vegetables separately and then combine them at the end.  It wasn't difficult though and went quickly.  Bill was worried about the hoisin because that isn't his favorite but it didn't really stand out.  Kayleigh really liked the tofu and sauce and already said she would like to have just those without the other vegetables!

Chapter 7 - Bowls

I wasn't feeling well mid-week so Kayleigh had to throw something together for me to eat.  We had Curried Peanut Sauce Bowl with Tofu and Kale only without the kale.  We ate it over rice.  This was another big hit with Kayleigh.  The peanut sauce was so good I'm tempted to eat the leftovers with a spoon!

Chapter 8 - Sunday Night Suppers

Nirvana Enchilada Casserole is definitely not a weekday meal.  It took a long time to make.  I didn't really like her enchilada sauce, though, so in the future I'll use a canned version and that will save some time and mess.  The pumpkin seeds seemed like a weird topping but they were good.

Chapter 9 - Few Basic Proteins
This is the only chapter we didn't make anything out of.  I had planned to try the Sesame Tofu but we went through our tofu supply with the other recipes.

Chapter 10 - Breakfast, Brunch and Bakes

Originally I skipped over this section because I already have her Brunch cookbook.  But when I went back and looked through it I saw there are some really yummy looking recipes in there.  I'll definitely have to go back and try some of them.  This morning, I threw together Muffin Pan Mini Omelets.  I liked them even though I was really weird and ate them on top of raspberry jam toast!

Speaking as someone who still eats eggs from time to time I can say these do not taste like eggs but they were good in their own right and really easy.  I mean, really, does that even look remotely like an omelet?!  I'm interested to see how these hold up as leftovers.  This may be a great packed lunch idea.

Tasted better than it looks!

Chapter 11 - Desserts

Seriously, Isa has the best vegan dessert books out there so I doubt anyone is buying this one for the desserts.  Still we had to try one, just to be fair.  Of course these Lemon Lemon Cookies were fantastic.  All her desserts are!

So if you made it this far in the post, it should be clear that I highly recommend this book.  The tastes were often surprising (in a good way) and they really are easy to prepare.  The other thing I noticed is that they are relatively inexpensive recipes so that's a nice added bonus.  I feel like after only two weeks, I've already got my money's worth.