Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Marine Corps Marathon - Wrap Up!

The whole weekend feels like a dream now... kind of like my wedding. Boatloads of planning, money, nerves - then it all passed in a blur and I was left with sore feet and a serious case of exhaustion that I wouldn't trade for the world.

Super cool things about the marathon:
1. Marines parachuting onto the start line unfurling a 50 foot American flag as two Osprey's hovered above our heads - felt so patriotic!
2. The fall foliage and beauty of Washington D.C. We ran through so many lovely neighborhoods and saw all of the major monuments - from Georgetown to the Washington Monument. From the Lincoln Memorial, to the Capitol, the Mall and the Smithsonian - we saw it all!
3. The SPECTATORS were amazing. Upwards of 150,000 people lined the entire route and endlessly cheered us on. Some wore halloween costumes, hundreds held funny signs like... "3 Months ago, this all seemed like a great idea!", "Worst Parade EVER!", "If it was easy, I'd be doing it!" "You are the 1%! Who will ever run a marathon!".

Uncool things about the marathon:
1. A freak Noreaster blew in and it rain/snowed on Saturday with temps in the 30's. Not expected, anticipated OR appreciated. It was freezing at the start line. Literally. Girls should not have to wear trashbags!

2. Drumroll... I wore a jog bra, fitted yoga top, long sleeve wicking shirt, black running jacket, zip up throw away fleece jacket, another zip up hooded jacket, crazy fuzzy headband, two pair of mittens, running skirt AND yoga pants under my running skirt. I pulled the yoga pants on at the last second because Matthew told me that I would need them to survive the walk to the start. Sadly, I never stopped to take them off. I look like a crazy person who is afraid of sunlight running home from a funeral. Exactly what I was going for - awesome.

3. Because it was so cold, I knew I wouldn't be taking off my jacket to proudly display my "No Meat Athlete" tech shirt so I had to make a "No Meat Athlete" sign for my back. Less cool than my logo shirt for sure.

From a vegetarian perspective, I couldn't have run a stronger race. The sign on my back started many great conversations with other vegetarians & vegans. So yes, I represented! I ate a little something every 30 minutes or so and filled my water bottle at almost every water station. Basically, I chatting away and waited for "the wall" or something horrible to happen, but it never did. Runners were dropping like flies all around me after the 20 mile mark which really messed with my mind. Shouldn't I be losing it? When the 25 mile marker passed I realized that I had too much gas in the tank and that all that I had trained for would soon be over. After filming a short video that I can't seem to upload, I got up on my toes and raced up the steep hill to the finish line at the base of the Iwo Jima Memorial. It was everything I thought it would be. Not overrated in the least.

Darn that Colleen! Kidding... kinda...

I started crying post haste when I crossed the finish line and saw my awesome husband smashed up against the barrier of the finish coral, waiting for me. Cried some more when a Marine thanked me for running the race and placed this very cool medal around my neck.

I can't help but think... what's next????

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Easy Peasies - Yellow Split Curry

With my very choppy schedule - newsletter editor, boxing coach, yoga instructor, Stand Up Paddling newbie, wife, beach lover, marathon runner, blogger, mother to rabbit-like dog, etc - I'm an easily smitten kitten when it comes to recipes that require absolutely no brain power on my part.

Enjoy my favorite of the week...

Yellow Curried Split Peas

1 package dried yellow split peas - rinsed
1/2 package frozen spinach - drained
10 sliced baby carrots
2 Tablespoons each - Cumin, Coriander, Curry Powder
2 Vegetable Boullion Cubes
5 Cups of Water

Seriously... could not be easier. Toss all together in a large pan with lid and simmer for 40 minutes. Take a shower, blow dry, whatever. Oh hey... it's DONE!

Thank me later.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Running Through Sugar

So, me and my girls have been training for what seems like forever for the Marine Corps Marathon. I'm sure that many of you have screamed at my facebook page "JUST RUN THE DARNED THING ALREADY!" I don't blame you. With the long runs (thankfully) behind us and the marathon weekend just a few days away, I've had a little time to reflect on what this experience has taught me...

Never underestimate the power of my running girls. These are the people that see me at my absolute worst - and don't care. When we see each other out for ladies night, we marvel at how pretty the others are! "WOW you look AMAZING!". Could it be because I don't have bead head, mascara under my eyes and a river of sweat flowing from my running skirt? They know exactly how to cheer my good runs and commiserate my crappy ones. We know each others aches & pains, up-to-the-minute count of healthy toenails and can discuss poop schedules over dinner. Respect It.

Sadly, when a running girl flies the coop - it's devastating. For all parties. There is a big gaping hole where her shoes once padded along beside us and she is left fumbling around all alone in uncharted territory. Not a pretty scene.

Food is medicine. In the great tradition of Ayurveda, this adage couldn't be more true than when it comes to distance running. You can fix you with food and drink. You can also destroy yourself. The body screams out loud all the time, yet we find a way to tune it out. Pushing to our physical limits seems to turn on our Listening Ears. I love it.

Get my ass out of bed. Early morning running is non-negotiable in this climate. We start our long runs at 2:30 a.m. just to avoid the sunrise - like a band of roaming vampires. Beyond beating the heat, getting my ass out of bed has set the stage for a happier and more productive life.

Top Five Benefits of getting my ass out of bed:
1. Better sleep - I get to bed earlier and sleep more soundly. Early to bed kills recreational drinking. Huge benefit.
2. Life Organization - I have to have my sh*t together to be out the door by 4:50 a.m. Period.
3. I am a calorie burning machine.
4. I am a consistent runner. Consistency equals success.
5. I have seen like 300 amazing Caribbean sunrises of every conceivable color. Fact.

Good News! I have a simple two step plan that will help you become a morning person even if you've never been one before. Step One: Stop saying you aren't a morning person. It's weak. Step Two: Get your ass out of bed.

Planning = success. No one can fill a conversation like a chick heading into her first marathon. Irritating to non-runners. Yes. But, you simply cannot head out on a 20 mile run without a plan. The plan consumes a good part of your brain and you need to tell everyone the plan. The food plan, hydration plan, the clothing plan. Plan, plan, plan. A constant stream of planning, adjusting and learning. You can apologize to those you've bored to tears after the race.

Enjoy the road. I've taken so many snapshots with my mind. So many gorgeous sunrises I can recall at will. Triple rainbows, mud puddle stomps when we just couldn't get any wetter, Hillaire's goat and my two cows, Rachel wringing out her skirt, Poonam's sprint finishes, our first charge up the Sticky Wicket, the morning Suzanne was attacked, the headlights of Colin's car lighting our way in the dark, and our jingle bell run on Christmas morning in antlers. It's all safely tucked away in the photo album of my heart.

Soon I will trade in two years of long hot runs with a few precious girlfriends through miles of Barbados sugar cane for the company of 39,988 strangers (I deducted my family, friends and Drew Carey) in a city wrapped in fall and full of larger than life monuments.

I am thankful for the sugar cane...

Photos by Suzanne Durant on our 18 miler.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Third Incarnation Granola Bars

For the past month, I have baked several batches of these little gems and used the yoginis in my classes as a focus group. Finally, we've reached a consensus! These don't taste like store bought "candy" granola bars, nor are they boring. This recipe is a “no-fail” and you can make changes as necessary to taste. Just keep the ratios of wet to dry the same and you’re good to go. Here’s the version I liked the best!

Dry Ingredients
2 cups rolled oats
½ cup wheat germ (Ground flaxseed is another good option)
2 Scoops Vanilla Protein Powder (soy based - or omit)
½ cup shelled sunflower seeds (4 oz bag of Snackers at Supercentre)
½ cup unsalted peanuts (4 oz bag of...)
½ cup toasted pumpkin seeds (4 oz...)
1 cup dried Craisins (Ocean Spray are by far the sweetest – worth the extra $)

Wet Ingredients
¼ cup Honey
¼ cup Lite Pancake Syrup
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon margarine

Preheat oven to 350

Place the pumpkin seeds on a cookie sheet and spray with a little non-stick spray. Bake approximately 5 minutes or until they start popping. Remove and let cool. (If you decide to use cashews or walnuts – both equally delicious in this recipe – no need to toast)

Spread rolled oats and wheat germ/flaxseed across a cookie sheets and place in oven for about 10 minutes. Careful not to burn the oats – I did… twice! Turn the oven down to 300 and dump the cookie sheet contents into a big bowl. Add all of the nuts, protein powder and dried cranberries. Combine this mixture by hand and set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat all of the wet ingredients until the brown sugar has dissolved completely.

Remove the wet ingredients from the stove and immediately pour over the dry ingredients. Stir until the nuts and oats are evenly coated.

Spread the mixture into a 8X11 Pyrex. I tried several times to tamp down the mixture at this stage to no avail. It’s far too sticky. Just do your best and then place the Pyrex in the oven for 20 minutes.

With 10 minutes left to go,feel free to tamp down the mixture into the Pryex to your heart’s content. Things are less sticky at this juncture.

Remove the Pyrex from the oven and let sit until completely cooled. These need to come together and firm up. Seriously. Once cool, cut into 24 pieces – six rows of four squares. At this serving size, the nutritional values are listed below to the best of my ability to calculate them.

Store in a Ziploc or air tight container in the fridge.

Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 1 bars

Amount per Serving

Calories 121

Calories from Fat 39.4

Total Fat 4.38g 6%
Saturated Fat 0.64g 3%
Cholesterol 1.46mg 0%
Sodium 11.08mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 16.56g 5%
Dietary Fiber 1.67g 6%
Sugars 4.36g
Protein 4.37g 8%

Est. Percent of Calories from:
Fat 32% Carbs 54% Protein 14%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calories needs.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Vegan Baking Cheat Sheet

Thank you PETA! Not sure I'm fully on board with Peta's entire agenda but this baking "Cheat Sheet" is useful for vegans, vegetarians AND meat eaters. Before you guffaw at baking without butter, just give one of these options a try and see if you can taste the difference. Honestly. What could it hurt? Who could it help?

If you cannot expand this image after clicking, here is the link to view it on PETA's website.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

One Year Anniversary!

I’ve sat down to write this post many times and all that I’ve written has been garbage. This is my final attempt -without 9000 edits.

Today is my vegetarian one year anniversary. I am proud.

What started as an experiment in health has grown into something powerful in my life. It has been a year of discovery, hope, sadness and joy. I now know horrifying things about the lives of the 10 billion animals that are placed on our plates annually. For better or worse, I can never “un” know them.

There are many people who are trying to change these things and they inspire me every single day. Some days I feel so small and my efforts so insignificant. However, these small acts of thought and compassion practiced daily by thousands of people do make a difference. Connect us, and we are mighty!

One of the great joys of my year was watching my mom become a vegetarian. Against all odds, living in the south with a house full of meat lovers! My dad’s wife and three daughters have made the leap too. Now my Dad has become “take it or leave it” with meat - When in Rome! As I get older and the realities of aging set in, I pray for the good health of my parents like crazy. Knowing that they are eating healthfully gives me peace.

I’ve read thousands of “comments” that call vegetarians and vegans judgmental and preachy. Maybe that’s true. I am certain that I’ve quoted some stats in social situations that have driven people to the other side of the room. Oopsy. All I can say is that something clicked when my eyes and heart opened and I allowed the facts into my brain. As this year comes to a close, so goes my mouth. The “shock & awe” of the first learning has finally become manageable. But from the core of my heart I can honestly say, I am not against you … I am just for them.

I could never have predicted the events of the past year so I hesitate to make predictions for the next. But a girl can hope, right? I hope to continue to grow my little blog and add a series of podcast interviews. I hope to visit at least one farm sanctuary this year to hold a purring turkey and take a snooze against a gentle momma cow, letting my breath sync with hers. I hope to start hosting vegetarian potluck dinners in my home. I hope to drop cheese from my diet entirely. I hope to be more “veg active” in my own community by lovingly reaching out to restaurants and grocery stores. I imagine this is more effective than quoting veal stats at parties!

Thanks and love to everyone who has offered support or shared a kind word along this journey. Grateful doesn’t even begin…

“When you begin to touch your heart or let your heart be touched, you begin to discover that it's bottomless, that it doesn’t have any resolution, that this heart is huge, vast, and limitless. You begin to discover how much warmth and gentleness is there, as well as how much space.”
- Pema Chödrön

*The piglet picture is for Angie :)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bulgar Wheat Salad

This is a yummy “kitchen sink” kind of salad that I took to a party on Friday night. A few lovely souls asked for the recipe so here it is… with a few modifications and options! Because I just can’t leave “well enough” alone.

1 cup medium grain Bulgar wheat (located in Big B at the end of the cereal aisle)
2 ½ cups of water
2 vegetarian bouillon cubes or 1 veg/1 garlic onion bouillon cube
1 large head of broccoli florets – cut small
1 can Waitrose organic plum tomatoes (if you’re in the states, obviously use fresh!)
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds (I used shelled sunflower seeds on Friday but pumpkin seeds rule)
½ cup Mediterranean style Feta cheese

Options: I made this again on Sunday and added ½ cup dried green split peas and two tablespoons of chopped hot peppers (to be found below the pickles in Big Big). If you want to add a legume like green or yellow split peas or any type of lentil, just rinse them and get them into a pan with boiling water before you do anything else. Any of these varieties will be ready to add into the salad right on time! Don’t cook your legumes to mush – keep an eye taste test frequently.

Preheat the oven to 350 and then place the raw pumpkin seeds on a cookie sheet and spray with a little non-stick spray and a bit of kosher or sea salt. Let them toast in the oven until golden and puffed up. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Get the water and bouillon cubes onto medium heat in a large pan with lid. Place the broccoli in the water once the cubes have dissolved. When the water is just below a boil, add the bulgar wheat and cover. Let the bulgar come to a boil for approximately 3 minutes and then turn off the heat and walk away.

In the meantime, drain and rinse the plum tomatoes before a rough dice. Once the bulgar has absorbed the water, add the tomatoes and fluff everything with a fork.

Allow the bulgar to cool a bit and then add the feta and pumpkin seeds.

Delish! (add that too if you have it!)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Black and Blue Burgers

Have you ever created something in the kitchen and been unsure of whether it's right or so very wrong? I did! I was futzing around yesterday afternoon and came up with this nutty concoction. Try it and let me know - right or wrong?

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon horseradish
1/2 tablespoon garlic (run through a microplane or zester - you can also buy garlic paste at Big B in the Asian section - far right, second shelf)
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
Handful of BACOS! (this is where things fall off the rails)
1 tablespoon of crumbled blue cheese

Yeah. Bacos and Blue Cheese.

First, BACOS are a vegan food as confirmed by both Betty Crocker and PETA. If you're craving a little bacon flavor (and who doesn't?) this should cure you! Bacos fall squarely in the category of "Things I Would Never Eat Before Becoming Vegetarian". Use sparingly and admit to no one.

Second, I don't purchase cheese anymore. In my humble opinion, dairy cows have pretty much the worst lives of all animals we use for food. More on that another day. BUT, when cheese makes it into the house on a husband's whim, I'm not happy to see it go bad. To me, wasting it means the sacrifice of her calf was for nothing. That's how the blue cheese made it into this recipe.

On with the recipe...

Mash the black beans with a fork until you've got a good mix. I like to leave a few beans halves unmashed. Add the remaining ingredients except the blue cheese and combine. NOTE: If you don't have wheat germ you can sub wheat flour or extra bread crumbs.

I put the mixture into the fridge for about 30 minutes while I cleaned the kitchen and made Chapatis (see below). I have no idea if this helps to keep the burgers together but my burgers hung tight!

Heat a tablespoon of coconut or canola oil in a non-stick pan while you form your patties. Let the oil get pretty hot so that when the patty hits the pan, you get a nice brown crust.

Once the burger has been browned on both sides and cooked through, sprinkle a little blue cheese on the top to melt. A little goes a long way. Serve with your favorite condiments on your favorite bread. I made homemade Chapatis for the "bun" and seasoned them with thyme and rosemary for a homey taste. I'll post the Chapati recipe next!

Something about the faint crunch of the bacos with the bite of the horseradish and boldness of the blue cheese really worked for me. Again, I have no idea if this was good or bad. You decide!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Veg Roti - I Am Obsessed

Yikes! I just looked at my blog posts and realized that I'm becoming "Inconsistent Blogger Girl". Something I never wanted to become. I read a lot of veg blogs and nothing says "sad" like a neglected blog - last post, December 2010. Sad.

So, instead of waiting until I take the perfect picture, spell-checking the thing to death or attempt to limit my reckless use of exclamation points (!) - here is what I'm obsessed with lately. And by obsessed, I mean that this dish is in my refrigerator at all times and I start to sweat when the Tupperware is emptying and another batch is not yet on the stove.

Veg Roti

2 cans of chickpeas, drained & rinsed
15 baby carrots, sliced
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 big bunch of Chinese Cabbage or spinach
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon coconut oil (or grapeseed or canola)
1 can (yes, I said it!) of Madras curry sauce by Pataks
1 large Roti skin (if you're not in the Caribbean, a large tortilla is as close as you'll come)

First, I love making my own curry but Pataks is yummy, spicy, FAST and economical - not easy to come by on Barbados. Pataks makes a simmer sauce (too mild) and a paste (requires coconut milk) so I get the Madras sauce in a CAN! If I was making this for a dinner party, I would make my own curry but since I eat this by the bowlful daily - hand me the can opener please.

Heat up the oil in a large pot with lid. Add the cumin seeds and let them sizzle and smell fantastic.

Add the onions and carrots and push around the pan for a couple of minutes. Next, add the chinese cabbage or fresh spinach and garlic. Allow the cabbage/spinach to wilt down a bit. Note: Do not use frozen spinach - this dish needs something fresh that "holds up" - frozen spinach becomes an unappetizing mushfest.

Last - add the chickpeas, Madras sauce and then a can of water - making sure to get all the Madras out of the can.

Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. It smells wonderful. Light some incense and you've got Instant Ashram!

Roti skins or tortillas are best when heated up on a gas stove burner. Let the skin puff up and get little char marks. Use a non-stick pan to heat the skin if you have electric. Microwave is a no-no. Heap a coffee cup amount of the chickpeas into the toasted roti skin, wrap it up with love and enjoy!

I like to top my Veg Roti will a little jarred crushed peppers - because hot is never enough. Also, roti skins are pretty high in calories so I limit the skins to one a day - I cannot say the same about the coffee cup full of the chickpeas!
See! A perfectly un-perfect picture of my chickpeas & crushed peppers. I'm out of roti skins... sad.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Handy Dandy Kitchen Tips

Here are some tips I’ve found handy lately. Being veg takes some mindfulness but it doesn’t have to be a time-consuming hassle. Each one of these tips takes a couple of minutes or less. Far less time than it takes to disinfect your hands, counter surfaces and utensils after handling meat :) Run through the list on a Sunday night and your week is set for success!

Let a package (or two) of frozen spinach defrost in your fridge. I can’t stand to use the microwave unless absolutely necessary so letting the block defrost is a good maneuver. Just wring out a handful and toss it into (almost) anything you’re cooking. Spinach is made of 45% protein and packs a decent hit of calcium. Time spent – less than 30 seconds.

Drain, rinse and press a block (or two) of tofu next time you toss in a load of laundry. When the washer is done, so is the tofu. Lately I’ve been slicing the block into thirds before I wrap it in a dishtowel and slap a book on it. Creating the extra surface space of three pieces pulls the water out faster. Wrap it up in a paper towel and pop it in a Ziploc for the fridge. Tofu is ready for your frying pan all week long… Time spent – 2 minutes total.

Drain and rinse a large can of chickpeas and two cans of black beans. After a good rinse, store them in separate containers in the fridge. You can toss a handful into just about anything (see spinach above!) and it couldn’t be handier. You need the protein of the beans so having them prepped and in your face is a good thing. Time spent – 3 minutes – maybe less.

*Note: I’m becoming a dried bean junkie. Something is soaking in my fridge at all times and my slow cooker has been on continuously for months. Canned beans, if rinsed very well, are an OK choice but if you can take the time to soak dried beans over night, (which consists of a whole 30 seconds to toss a bag of dried beans into a container of water and place in your fridge) and then dump them in the slow cooker before you leave for work the next morning (2 minutes) I bet you’ll love them! Tastes great, no can to recycle and easier on the wallet. Win.Win.Win.

Clean and slice every conceivable piece of fruit in your fridge – even apples. Get honest. How much fruit do you throw away each week? In Barbados, much of our fruit starts with the disadvantage of traveling thousands of miles to get to the market. We need to eat fruit quickly or it’s suddenly sporting a grey mohair sweater. This tip is now non-negotiable in my house. I clean/slice everything when I get home from the store and then store in Ziploc bags with the air pressed out. I use fresh lemon juice on my apple slices to keep them from browning but better yet… I EAT the apple slices in a timely manner instead of letting them rot in the crisper. Maybe 5-10 minutes depending on quantity.

A note about vegetables – I rinse/chop/Ziploc all of the lettuce and other veggies that don’t have a protective coating like broccoli, cauliflower. I leave veggies with a protective coating alone like cucumber, squash, zucchini, breadfruit. Peppers tend to dry out so those bend the rule.

Slam a Post-It on your Almond/Soy/Rice milk that notes the day you opened it. I had two open Almond Milk containers in my fridge BOTH with an expiration date in the next millennium. All well and good but once they’re opened, they must be treated like milk. I had no idea which one was fresher and couldn’t decide if either one was good. Both got tossed at $4/box. Time I could've spent to save the Almond Milk via Post-It- Approximately 15 seconds.

Finally, make an entire package of Quinoa at one time. No other pseudo grain rocks straight out of the fridge like Quinoa. Yes, it’s the Sun-Dried Tomato of the moment but that doesn’t mean it isn’t delicious! If you prep the other ingredients above, you’ve got a killer Quinoa salad full of protein at your fingertips 24/7. Wave bye-bye to crappy food decisions!

This is a two-way street friends... If you have helpful tips to make this beautiful life easier, please send them along. I need them!

And no… I am NOT a paid Ziploc representative.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Happy Jalapeno Hummus

Here is the recipe for the "light-filled" hummus I served at the party! Chuckle.

1 16 oz. can of chickpeas (reserve the can juice then drain and rinse the beans)
3 cloves of garlic - sliced and diced
5 jalapeno slices - of the jarred variety
2 tablespoons of the jalapeno juice from said jar
1 tablespoon tahini (optional and fatty but truly delicious)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of one lemon
Pinch of pepper

Get out the food processor (that you wish was bigger!) and get ready to blend the dickens out of this hummus.

The juice from the can of chickpeas is KEY in this recipe. It replaces a good portion of what would normally be olive oil. Some hummus recipes call for 1/2 CUP of olive oil. I'm sure it tastes delish but I just can't do it.

First, peel the chickpeas with love and then place them in the food processor. My food processor is brand new and TOO SMALL. I should've listened to my gut and gotten the bigger one. My bad. I have to split the can and do two batches.

Next, drizzle in the olive oil, jalapeno juice and 2 tablespoons of the chickpea can juice. Toss in the chopped jalapenos, diced garlic, tahini, smoked paprika and pinch of pepper - only leaving out the lemon juice at this point.

Blend away! Food processors don't like to be on for more than a minute so take a few seconds to scrape down the sides of the bowl and then start again. TASTE the hummus as you go and adjust the flavors. Odds are it won't be perfect the first time. If you like more heat, pump up the number of jalapeno or the juice. Yum.

If you need more liquid to keep the food processor going, use the chickpea juice. It does have some sodium but not the fat of olive oil. (Yes, olive oil is the good kind of fat but when your Kadooment costume is just days away - you do the math)

Finally, add the juice of half a lemon and blend for just a couple of seconds to combine. I like to squeeze the remaining juice on top just before serving. It really brightens things up!

In my world, hummus is a trigger food. I can eat it all day long and not think a thing about it. Make sure to check your portions with this one. It's far less fattening than the traditional oil laden hummus but still relatively calorie dense when you use tahini.


The Zen of Peeling Chickpeas

So, we had a bad experience in our running group last Thursday that caused a lot of upheaval. A man grabbed one of our girls from behind. She slid through his arms onto her back and kicked him several times in the chest as he grabbed for her iPod, scratching her arms and ripping out one of her earrings. We were there within 20 seconds (per our Garmin watches) and he fled when he heard the sprinting footsteps. We had followed the golden rule, keeping runners in sight of each other but he was dressed in jogging clothes and started chasing after her in our plain sight. She was even carrying mace – to no avail.

At first, we tried to place it in the category of “an iPod theft”, but after the police report was filed and I came home to get ready for work it started to sink in that my girlfriend had been attacked. No matter what he was after, he grabbed her and my sweet friend wound up on her back kicking and screaming. I got very angry and stayed very angry for two days. I took it out on my palm trees in the backyard with a hefty pair of shears and then I took it out on the toilets with a gallon of bleach and then I found myself standing over a HUGE bowl of canned chickpeas that needed to be peeled for hummus.

Note irritating little shells...

As I stood there I kept shifting my weight back and forth. My lower back began to ache. I was unable to be still and found myself more and more aggravated by the tedious task. Discarding the little peel makes your hummus much smoother (thanks for the tip Hillaire) but no lie - it’s a pain in the a**.

In Ayurveda, one of my favorite principles of eating is “eat only the food that is prepared by someone who loves you”. Food has energy. I can definitely tell when food was made by someone who didn’t care or used crap ingredients. Often, the best compliment we can bestow upon a meal is that it was “made with love”. Why does the phrase “it tastes just like my mom used to make it” mean that the food is wonderful? Because your mother loves you!

I suddenly remembered why I was making this double batch of pain-in-the-a** hummus. My friend who was attacked and her entire family (23 in all) were coming for dinner. If I put the anger into the hummus then the attacker wins. I’m literally feeding the bad energy back to my friend. Do I sound kooky? Maybe so. But in an instant my body language and thought patterns changed. I began to peel the little chickpeas with love in my heart and formed a light in my mind that brightened my kitchen and expanded out to encircle her entire family. I have to say that I still felt the light as I served up the hummus at the party last night. Good stuff.

I’m still angry about the guy and we’ve gotten quite a wake-up call. On our first run since the incident we looked like a Presidential Detail. The girls were followed by my big huge husband, running behind and keeping watch (a la Kevin Costner in The Bodyguard). He was followed by my friend’s father in an SUV with lights flashing. All I could think was “Liberty’s Moving!”

Sometimes bad things happened in good places to good people – it’s a mystery. For my running girlfriends all over the world, take some extra time this week to recheck your safety systems and make sure that someone is carrying a phone. Things can happen anywhere even when you do everything right. Stay aware, be vigilant and run on my sisters… run on…

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Broccoli, Chickpeas & Garlic - "Go To" Simple Dinner

Thanks Again Isa Chandra Moskowitz! This easy recipe has become a staple at my house. I can plow the whole Pyrex as-is but it also works well as a side dish for the carnivorous huz. To top if off, it couldn't be cheaper. Win. Win. Win.


1 Colander full of rinsed broccoli* florets (fresh only)
1 Can of rinsed Chickpeas
6-10 Cloves of Garlic, smashed
1.5 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
1 Cup Veggie Broth
1/2 lemon
1 Tablespoon of Nutritional Yeast (optional)
Salt & Pepper to taste

Oven at 400

Place the broccoli, chickpeas and garlic in a large Pyrex and work through olive oil, salt and pepper with your hands.

Bake for 40 minutes - turning everything over with a spatula at the 20 minute mark. At 40 minutes, the broccoli tips should be browning and the chickpeas should look like they're drying a bit. The garlic should be smelling delicious.

Next, pour the veggie broth into the Pyrex and turn to coat.

Remove after 10 minutes and squeeze lemon juice over the top & sprinkle a little Nutritional Yeast. Eat. Smile.

A word about Nutritional Yeast

Getting enough B12 is a concern for vegetarians and vegans. B12 deficiency is no joke. It can lead to brain damage and some studies show a linkage to Alzheimer's. It is often one of the loudest arguments against vegetarianism in the attempt to prove that we need to eat animals to survive.

In fact, B12 comes from bacteria in dirt - not animals. Back in the days before we washed and bleached our vegetables or grew them in sterilized GMO laden factories, we ate quite a bit of dirt! Now, the animals eat the dirt and the B12 is found in their bodies - which we eat.

Getting B12 without animals is relatively easy. Most cereals and many soy milks are fortified with B12, you can take a multi-vitamin (which you should be doing anyway) or you can sprinkle a little Nutritional Yeast Flakes on your popcorn, your broccoli, pita chips, rice, pasta... any place you would commonly use parmesan cheese. You can even make a "cheese sauce" with Nutritional Yeast Flakes.

I order NYF online in a "shaker" container much like Parmesan. KAL Yeast Flakes run approximately $9 for 10 oz. and a little goes a long way. Do I wish it had a different name? Yes. "Yeast Flakes" sound unappealing - but they're tasty little buggers that make is easy to erase the B12 Argument.

*I've made this recipe with broccoli, cauliflower and broccoli flowerk broccoli and brussel sprouts (thanks Angie!) or a mix of whatever is in my fridge. It's ALL good.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Making Life Easier - Part Deux

I live in Barbados but I’m from Portland, Oregon, so “going home” takes a full day of air travel. I took my first trip as a vegetarian in April and enjoyed every minute of it!

Before the trip I checked out the annual airport guide that’s published by the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine (2010 Report). I was flying through Dallas and was happy to see that DFW ranked fairly well in terms of vegetarian fare. The guide gives a few suggestions but mainly it’s helpful to know where the airport ranks – do I have to pack a bunch of food or not! Surprisingly, Detroit ranked as the healthiest airport in America for 2010. Shocker.

My flight departed at 10:10 a.m. so I had plenty of time for a good breakfast before heading off to the airport. Even if your flight is ridiculously early, take the time to eat a substantial breakfast OR pack a breakfast sandwich, etc. for the wait at the airport. Nothing says “poor decisions” like an empty stomach in a fast-food-filled-food-court.

In my carry on I packed some cashews, three Luna bars, two servings of Rosemary Triscuits, my thermos, 10 tea bags of various flavor and a tube of NUUN. I’m a big eater so this treasure trove is really just a tiny meal. I banked on the Dallas airport to come through big! And it did…

I had a 90 minute layover in Dallas that turned into 3.5 hours so I had plenty of time to check out my food options! Au Bon Pain was the clear winner in my wing of the airport – veggie burger on whole wheat ciabatta with roasted red peppers and guacamole spread. YUM. The sandwich at Au Bon Pain was so good that I bought another one as "food insurance" for the trip from Dallas to Portland. They also had two clearly marked vegetarian soup options. This is SO helpful as I’ve discovered that most soups that don’t have obvious meat are still made with chicken stock. You may have read my rant about Progresso Soups in a previous post – of their 11 Vegetable Classics Soups – only 1 is vegetarian. What is UP with that?

As I walked around checking out the airport restaurant menus I found a lot of decent options – not just salad. A good veggie burger at a sports bar, vegetarian pasta options at a nicer restaurant. Chili’s has the Guiltless menu with at least two meatless options, and then there’s always a bean burrito at Taco Bell. I’ve confirmed it six ways to Sunday – Taco Bell no longer uses lard in their refried beans. If all else fails, you can hit the magazine store and cruise the packaged snack wall. This is really last ditch as the sodium in those bags just adds to the flight bloat your body is already experiencing. Combat the bloat with plenty of water – rivers of water.

Next up was my absolute delight at flying Alaska Airlines. I am a big believer in the airlines not handing out meals anymore. Just think of how much unnecessary waste and waistline those meals produced over the years – sodium anyone?! Now we're able to do a rarely remembered thing in this world called “taking care of ourselves!” The best way to do that is to make us pay for what we want. Let us show you what we want with our precious dollars. Or not! We have options and responsibility! Top 3 ways Alaska Airlines made my day:

1) 100% of plastic service items are recycled in an initiative proposed by the flight attendants. They came through the aisles with big ol’ rubber gloves on and sorted the recyclables as they went. It made people SEE the effort and by the time the flight attendants got to my row, people had it DOWN and had sorted their own crap. Happy.
2) Alaska offered both a vegetarian AND a vegan meal right alongside the turkey club and Angus burger. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Mediterranean Tapas Picnic Pack - $6 USD
(Vegan and gluten-free)
Food Should Taste Good® multigrain chips, Mario® snack olives, Wild Garden™ sun-dried tomato hummus dip, Madi K's almonds, Stretch Island Fruit Co.™ fruit strip, Harry London dark espresso chocolate

3) The flight attendants were happy, well-dressed and fully amenable to filling my thermos as many times as I asked without the “harried flight attendant” look. I couldn’t ask for more.

One last tip - When you arrive at your destination, log on to Yelp and Happy Cow and enter the city or zip code + vegetarian. This will give you a base of information that comes in handy throughout the trip. Vegetarian and vegan restaurants crop up in the strangest places! Remember to pay it forward and submit reviews on Yelp and Happy Cow if you enjoy a restaurant or (better yet) if you find a great vegetarian dish at a regular restaurant. I found those types of reviews very helpful along the way. If you feel like taking a look into the face of Vegetarian Heaven – type zip code 97205 into Yelp and behold the wonder of Portland, Oregon.

I can't tell you how many times a day of bad travel eating has led to a vacation of unhealthy eating. It is the ugliest of chain reactions. Travel doesn’t have to knock you off your game. While you can’t control the weather, flight delays, slow walkers, militant stroller moms or air turbulence – you can easily take control of your food and your health while traveling.

I would love to hear from you. Do you have vegetarian travel tips to share? I’m all ears!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Making Life Easier - Part One

{This lamb has nothing to do with the following post but I cannot get over the cuteness! This photo was taken by the writer of one of my favorite beautiful blogs - Honey Rock Dawn - check it out!}

The first few weeks and even months can be difficult. You’re a little foggy on vegetarian options at your old favorite restaurants, whole entire zones of the grocery store are being avoided, and going to dinner at a friend’s house makes for uncertainty and potentially uncomfortable moments. Nothing screams *awkward* like your sad little plate of lettuce leaves at a dinner party where you don’t know all of the guests!

Is it worth it? Of course it is!

At 10 months into the journey, I’ve latched on to a couple of tip and tricks you may find useful.

Dinner in someone else’s home...

Who is meeker than a new vegetarian? “Oh, it’s ok, don’t worry about me” “I’m fine, I ate!” “Please… don’t make anything special for me”. Enough already! Please tell the hostess that you don’t eat meat. Remember – they invited you because they like you. Nothing makes a hostess feel worse than a dinner guest with absolutely nothing on their plate because they weren’t told there was a vegetarian in the mix! Telling them you’re veg doesn’t mean you’re dictating their menu but at least they will think to throw together some sort of side dish with the pulled pork. Think of it as saving the hostess!

I always offer to bring something as well. You can almost always bring a hummus plate to any party. If you’re concerned that hummus may be the only thing you’re eating at dinner, make sure to make plenty of pita chips to go along. Veggie sticks will not tide you over Rover! I brought an additional main dish to a dinner party recently (AFTER speaking with the hostess) and it worked out fantastic! The dish sparked conversation about vegetarianism and three or four people tried tofu for the first time and liked it!

Very Important If you get to bring a dish –make it delicious. This is not the time to experiment! This may be the only time a big burly meat-eatin’ guy will acquiesce to try tofu – make it count. Make it beautiful.

Dinner in your own home...

This shouldn’t be tricky but it is! If you plan on hosting a dinner party of your own, take your guests into consideration. My husband still eats meat so we provide an option for dinner – say grilled chicken. (I wish it wasn’t so but I’ve got to pick my battles!) It’s my job to make the side dishes so delicious and beautiful that the chicken takes a back seat if only for a night! If you live alone, cooking chicken for your guests is not going to happen so take special care to make a main dish that feels familiar and hearty. One of the biggest misconceptions about vegetarians is that we just sit around munching on carrot sticks. Not SO! Make a hearty dish – show em’ what we’re made of!

Another great option for a home meal is any kind of “bar” – taco bar, pizza bar, etc. Vegetarians can rule the roost here with loads of expertly cooked and seasoned vegetables and even some meat/cheese substitutes that may surprise your guests. During a Mexican fiesta with a taco or quesadilla bar I typically serve seasoned soy burger that goes almost undetected. If you have access to a Vegan cheese like Daiya no one will ever know the difference. One taco at a time! This type of “self-assembly” meal takes all the pressure off and lets your guests try new things if they wish…

Dinner out...

Go ethnic! Mexican, Indian, Italian, Chinese – these foods are your friends. At my fantastic Indian/Thai place there are so many meatless dishes that I haven’t been able to try them all! Black bean enchiladas avoid the “refried bean lard factor” and there is always a pasta dish with fresh vegetables or a wicked baked ziti on any Italian menu. The two times I’ve asked if the chef could make a vegetarian meal “off the menu” both were delicious and creative. You never know what skills the chef is dying to use! Let them run wild with no special conditions or suggested ingredients. You’ve already asked for something that’s not on the menu – the rest is up to them.

If you know you’re stuck going to a steakhouse for dinner (Sorry, by the way) just know that steakhouses have some of the best side dishes in town. Their salads are traditionally wonderful and there’s always the baked potatoes, creamed spinach and veggie sides. Not ideal but if it’s your niece’s rehearsal dinner and you really can’t shake the steakhouse – you won’t go hungry.

Lastly, if you are heading out for a meal with a group from work or with family and friends, suggest a vegetarian or vegetarian-friendly restaurant if you are asked. You may get overruled and that’s A-OK – you are ready and prepared for anything! But wouldn’t it be nicer if everyone in your sphere of influence had the opportunity to pick a kinder option because of your suggestion?

I started out as possibly the meekest veg in the world. Who was I to take up a vegetarian lifestyle? O’ Cooker of Pork! But slowly, I am coming into my own. I am finding my voice and I am beginning to use it. It’s easier to speak up when I remember that I’m speaking in support of my health and in support of those who have no voice. It all gets crystal clear in no time.

With love, Lauren

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Joyful Leaps of Logic!

I received this email today from a good friend who is an active and committed Catholic.

"It just dawned on me that, with your new stance on animals, you will be a huge proponent of pro-life. Then it dawned on me that all the vegetarians and vegans in the world must be pro-lifers too. Terrific!"

I looked at that posting and a big bunch of love washed over me for my friend. I love the logic and I love that vegetarianism sparks all sorts of fiery conversations. Using this logic, I too can assume that all those who take a pro-life stance must also be vegetarian or vegan. Life is life, right? Terrific!

These analogies and leaps of logic seem funny in a way but really, are they so far off? To me, this banter addresses the illogical ways we deal with the lives of animals and the ways we compartmentalize "life".

*We adore our pets but think nothing of eating pigs. Yet, pigs are more intelligent than our pets.

*We teach children to be kind to animals while we feed them chicken nuggets and a glass of milk.

*We make fun of and are repulsed by the fact that they eat dogs in rural China yet we slaughter 10 billion farm animals in America each year.

*We spend millions of dollars visiting zoos and animal refuges each year while wearing leather shoes and coats and stopping by the zoo café for a hamburger or hot dog.
Safari Kitchen at the San Diego Zoo
"The Kitchen is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the view of Lost Forest. The menu includes burgers, Hebrew National All-Beef hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, BBQ pork riblet sandwiches, taquitos, and nachos. Enjoy a specialty coffee drink and pastry at the adjacent Jungle Java!"

Is a beating heart a beating heart? Or not?

Not to infuse too much drama but that IS the question. Do you believe that animals exist solely for our use, our consumption and to endure our treatment of them? Or do you believe that they are uniquely created from the same light that created us -that they feel, love, mourn and know?

Q: If I know it's true of my dog, then why don't I believe it of a cow, a pig or a chicken?

"If any kid ever realized what was involved in factory farming they would never touch meat again. I was so moved by the intelligence, sense of fun and personalities of the animals I worked with on Babe that by the end of the film I was a vegetarian."
- James Cromwell

"The soul is the same in all living creatures, although the body of each is different."
- Hippocrates

"All beings tremble before violence. All love life. All fear death. See yourself in others. Then whom can you hurt? What harm can you do?"

Thanks to my friend for the thought provoking email! These are all things I will continue to ponder...

With love, Lauren

Monday, June 13, 2011

Polenta Sausage Stuffing - Quick Comfort!

Yes, vegetables are a crucial component of a vegetarian diet but they are far from your only option! Sometimes you just need to have a bowl of happiness that resembles (if not wallops!) an old favorite.

This quick dish provides a lovely side dish for your non-veg friends at Thanksgiving OR produces a big ol’ bowl just for you while watching back-to-back episodes of Grey’s Anatomy on a rainy day. Not that I would know anything about that…

¼ of a ‘polenta tube’* diced into 1 inch cubes (ish!)
1 Morningstar Farms Italian Sausage
¼ sweet onion, finely diced
½ stalk celery, finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely diced
1 big pinch each – Dry thyme, sage, rosemary, salt and pepper

I should say a bit about fake meats before continuing on with the recipe. I ate a LOT of fake meats when I first became vegetarian. For forty years, the overwhelming majority of my meals looked about the same on my plate...

Large piece of protein + smaller pile of carb + the hint of a vegetable = Meal.

Changing the look of my plate took some getting used to and fake meats helped bridge the gap. I’m a huge proponent of zero criticism of diet while newly minted vegetarians are starting out. Whatever you have to do to piece together 24 hour periods is just fine by me!

Once I got the hang of “no meat”, I knew I had to get closer to “no processing”. Ever check out the list of ingredients on a Boca Burger package? Do it – it’s biblical. I have since moved away from the fakes and do my best to include them only once or twice per month. THAT is why I feel A-OK about eating a "fauxsage" on occasion. I hope you enjoy it!

Spray a sauté pan with a little non-stick spray and place the frozen sausage in the pan. Turn every 30 seconds or so until all sides have a little browning. Pour 3 tablespoons of water into the pan and cover with a lid. Let it sizzle away until all of the water has evaporated. Move the sausage over to one corner of the pan.

Spray a little more non-stick spray on your remaining cooking surface in the pan and toss in the onion and celery. Cook approximately 3 minutes and then add the garlic for 30 seconds.

Next, add the polenta cubes and “pinches”. Let the cubes sit for a minute or so to crisp up and then flip each piece to crisp the other side. Once you’ve got a little crust going on both sides, begin to stir things around a bit. Introduce the onions, celery and garlic to their newly seasoned friend polenta. They should all be eyeing the sausage in the corner at this point.

Use the end of your spatula to cut the sausage into six pieces(ish). These sausages crumble a little which is ideal. As you continue to toss everything together in the pan, crispy little pieces of polenta will mix with the brown bits from the sausage and the familiar stuffing spices to create yumminess. Feel free to break down the polenta and sausage as much as you like! For the picture below, I was too hungry to mess around with making smaller bits OR checking to see that my camera was in focus! Sorry about that...

After everything is mixed nicely and piping hot, remove from the stove and eat promptly. There is no waiting as the sausages do not “travel well”. Heat & Eat on this one! Oh, and give my regards to Derrick and Meredith 

*I'm a big fan of the polenta tube on a couple of levels. First, it requires no refrigeration, water in a pan or measuring. In fact, the little printed ruler on the side of the packaging does all of the measuring for you! It's also cheap and keeps for quite a while in the fridge after opening. All great qualities!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Chipotle Lentil Burgers w/Cashew Miso Mayo

Our Vegetarian Cooking Class during Ayurveda Week was a yummy success! Once again, I have to send out huge thanks to Chandra Isa Moskowitz for her delicious recipes! Should I ever come across the opportunity to meet her - I'll probably tackle her :) For those of you who want to cook more of Chandra's delicious vegan recipes, check out her array of cookbooks including Veganomicon and Appetite For Reduction. Also, pay a visit to her popular website The Post Punk Kitchen.

Now, on with the show...

Chipotle Lentil Burgers

First, saute the following veggies for 7-10 minutes or until the zucchini is soft:
1/2 pound zucchini - cubed into 1/2 inch
3 minced cloves of garlic
Handful of rough chopped cilantro - stems and all

Transfer mixture to a food processor and add the following:
3/4 cup of bread crumbs
1 15 oz can cooked lentils (drained and rinsed)
1/4 cup chipotle chili in adobo sauce (seeds scraped and removed)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
Pulse until mostly smooth but leave a little texture and then transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Here's the trick - now add 1/4 cup of bread crumbs to the mixture and work through with a fork to combine.

Divide the mixture into six patties and cook the burgers in a pan with non-stick spray for approximately 12 minutes - flipping often to get a nice brown crust.

These burgers even taste great cold the next day! Great for a beach lunch when tucked inside of a pita with some sprouts and...

Cashew Miso Mayo
1/4 cup raw cashews (soak in water for one hour prior)
1/4 cup red miso paste*
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar

Throw all into the food processor and whip like the dickens - that's it! Spread a little happiness!

*I'm hoping Red Miso is available at Singapura in Lime Grove. Michele was kind to bring it in on her flight from New York. I can order from Amazon and then divide it up among the group. It has to be refrigerated after opening so let me know if you're interested!

Hillaire will be posting the wonton recipe and her Kick Ass Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe soon!

Thanks again to all who came, laughed, ate, drank and TALKED!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Thai Curry Tofu*

If you didn't already know it - Isa Chandra Moscowitz is my current idol. Not only did she write the quintessential vegan cookbook Veganomicon, but her latest endeavor Appetite For Reduction is rocking my cooking world! She is the owner of the iconic Post Punk Kitchen website and from what I understand, she might be the best vegan baker in the world. She's from Brooklyn but makes Portland (see previous post!) her home of choice. Buy her cookbooks - change your life.

I've made something new every day this week and have eaten every last ounce of it before taking any pictures! Tonight I forced myself to be patient before wolfing down this tofu. As with any recipe I post, our options are so limited on Barbados that I have to make numerous substitutions and tweak things to fit the circumstance. I chose to post this recipe because of it's flexibility - thanks for the inspiration Isa!

Mix Marinade: As noted above, I used what I could find...
2 tablespoons White Curry Paste (Any kind of curry paste will do)
1 tablespoon light Agave Nectar (Can sub another Agave Nectar but no honey)
1 tablespoon of light soy sauce (Tamari if you're gluten free)
1/3 cup of water

Start with one block of extra firm tofu - rinsed, pressed and cubed
(click here for sure fire pressing technique)
Heat 2 tablspoons of coconut or canola oil in a frying pan & add tofu cubes.
Brown on most sides & add a couple dashes of soy sauce. Toss to coat.
Remove tofu to side plate

Next, heat up a tablespoon of coconut or canola oil and add a minced shallot or small onion - push around until translucent and add three minced garlic cloves for about 30 seconds. Don't burn the garlic.

Throw the tofu and marinade into the pan on top of onions and garlic and let the sauce reduce down until the tofu is covered in a nice glazey mix of yumminess. Toss in some fresh chopped Thai Basil (or regular basil in Barbados) and let it wilt down.

Remove from heat and devour.

* I too am tired of seeing tofu used only in Asian applications but this is simply delicious and it's the only thing I have patiently waited to photograph. The next tofu recipes will NOT be Asian inspired - promise!

Eat Kind, Lauren

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Vacation in Wonderland

Growing up in Portland instills certain absolutes in your psyche – small business is preferable, recycling is the law, coffee is no laughing matter, local is best and berries rule. I’ve felt alien-esque in cities where I’ve asked about coffee shops and was directed to 7-11. While starting two small businesses in Delaware, friends would often look at me and say “how can you just start doing that?” In the airport in Dallas, I asked to recycle my juice bottle and suddenly no one could speak English – just lots of shrugging. I’m OK with looking a little loony and I’m proud of the things that Portland gave me as a kid. For this trip, I was SO EXCITED to see what Portland would hold for me as a vegetarian.

(BF Renee at Farmers Market!) Portland really is an alternate universe in regards to vegetarian and vegan living. There are farmers markets and food co-ops sprinkled all throughout the city, bike lanes take precedence over car lanes, almost all cups and straws are recycled and completely biodegradable. There must be at least 500 food trucks in the city, many serving veg cuisine or at least making some offering in that direction. Going to breakfast is a total Portland thing – the likes of which I’ve never seen in any other city. Even greasy spoons offer a tofu scramble and lots of fresh vegetables. There are several strictly vegetarian fine dining restaurants – can I tell you how happy it makes me? My BF Googled Vegetarian Breakfast + her zip code and over 30 restaurants magically appeared. Essentially, vegetarian and vegan options live side by side and equal to meat serving establishments, making it easier and normal for meat eaters to lessen their intake without feeling like they’re stepping into Granolaville.

Make no mistake – Portland is not representative of Oregon as a whole. I’ve heard it said “There’s the State of Portland and the State of Oregon”. Our trip to the coast was chock full o’ some of the largest, most unhealthy and saddest looking people I’ve ever seen. In fact, this was my first trip home to the States since giving up the animals and I was shocked by the state of things. At one restaurant, I watched a couple chew consistently for almost 90 minutes. I have no idea how all of that food fits inside of a human being. Another gal put back an entire sourdough bread bowl full of clam chowder with an extra order of shrimp dumped on the top. Even the bread bowl was gone when she stood up to leave. Where did it go? When a busload of kids was dropped off near our beach hotel and almost all of them were overweight and smoking, my jaw dropped. I realized in these moments how dire the health situation is in America. How do we fix it? Is it hopeless?

Rays of light emerged at some of the most unlikely places. At the Au Bon Pain at the Dallas airport I found a delicious veggie burger with roasted red pepper spread and garlic aioli and two vegetarian soup options. At a dive called The Underground in Yachats, I was pleasantly surprised to find a tempeh burger with fresh avocado. At the strip mall down the street from my brother’s house I found a vegan café called Sweet Lemon. I ate there a few times and the proprietors remembered my name every time. The restaurant was busy each time and while I waited for my takeout, I heard numerous customers comment that they “aren’t vegan or anything but this food is delicious”. Smiling on the inside, I thanked the owners for being in business and spreading compassion. I was thrilled to no end that my dad’s wife and one of her daughters had gone vegetarian in the past few months, making their home a soft and abundant place to land. The greatest ray of light shone upon arriving at my brother’s house and seeing the care my beautiful sister-in-law took in creating a whole tray of vegan enchiladas just for me. That’s love.

During my trip I rocked chickpea French fries, tofu curry bowls, vegetarian pho, five kinds of vegan cheese, pounds of Kale in every conceivable form, vegan chorizo, pesto pizzas with fresh spinach and artichoke hearts, black bean & brown rice bowls with little swimming pools of homemade hot sauce, tofu scrambles with spinach and double avocado served with spelt toast smothered in pear chai jam, lemon ricotta pancakes with warm marion berry compote, and an amazing mushroom masala heaped over crispy tofu and mashed cauliflower served alongside sweet potato fritters. And I can’t forget the berries – pints and pints of perfect berries – for $2.99. Happy happy girl!

It is easy to feel hopeless on this road. While I believe that each meal makes a difference, it all feels irrelevant as we drive through miles and miles and miles of dairy and pig farms. My choices feel obsolete when sitting in restaurants where everyone is overweight and mindlessly consuming piles of food – almost entirely made of animals. Hope is precious. Seeing my home city grow, experiment and succeed with plant-based living gives me just the thread of hope I need. Thank you Portland for showing me that it is possible and happening and that I am far from alone!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Baby Steps v. Cliff Jumping

There are probably as many ways to go vegetarian/vegan as there are people who choose to do it! In one of my first posts, I covered some of the various labels that are attached to different eating styles. Lacto-Ovo, Pescetarian, Fruitarian, etc. Frankly, I think that making any sort of commitment at each meal is hard enough without having to make sure you're in bounds with your label. We're all just doing the best we can out here :)

When it comes to transitioning to a vegetarian diet, there are two predominant ways to approach:

Baby Steps vs. Cliff Jumping

Statistically, people who take baby steps or phase out have the greater success rate for the long, joyful haul. Most human animals are averse to change - duh. Waving good bye to animal products over a longer period can be less painful. Perhaps the missing hamburger is less of an issue when you can still do a chicken sandwich. It all feels and looks the same on the plate which gives us a measure of comfort and familiarity. With any luck, when chicken turns to fish, you hardly remember the burger.

Matt Frazier from No Meat Athlete shares a great concept of making the change in "legs". Begin by not eating animals with four legs (cows, pigs, sheep, goats). When that's comfortable, remove the two-legged animals (birds, ducks, turkeys, etc.) and finally remove the "legless" (seafood, shell fish).

The following excerpt from Matt Frazier's audio interview with Registered Dietitian (and Vegan) Matt Ruscigno has really stuck with me -

"I've been vegan almost 15 years now and the people I knew 10 years ago who were vegan aren't vegan anymore. But the people I knew 10 years ago who were all vegan except for ice cream and pizza are still all vegan except for ice cream and pizza. They don't call themselves vegan. They just say they're vegetarian but they've figured out where they are in the spectrum of plant-based nutrition - found where they're comfortable and that's where they stay."

This resonates so much with me because the positive impact over time is much greater by those who don't put the pressure of a "cherry label" on a huge Change Sundae! If you decide over night to become a vegan and fall apart in 10 days, you'll be back on the animal wagon before you know it. While you're there, enjoy the double whammy of (a) feeling like you failed and (b) not putting in enough time to really feel the health benefits. What are the odds that you'll try it again? It's just like exercise - what idiot just keeps on doing it when they see no results?

I've heard friends say "I would be vegetarian but I love Thanksgiving turkey too much!".  So... eat turkey at Thanksgiving and be vegetarian the rest of the year.  Could that work? Or, "I could never give up chicken. Ever!"  Well, could you give up cow meat for 30 days and see how it goes?

This is a great opportunity to evaluate where you are in the spectrum. At the very least, it's an interesting exercise!

What are you already doing that's vegetarian? Expand those meals! Great salads? Rice and beans? Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches? Hummus & veggies? Tomato soup for lunch? Roasted Veggies, Spaghetti with fresh basil, Cereal or oatmeal?  Veggie Burgers?  Can you increase the frequency of those meals?

Are there any animals you just don't like to eat? Try drawing one line at a time and just see . During my 40th birthday cruise, I ordered veal. I'd never eaten veal mainly because other options just sounded better. Baby calves didn't seem all that appealing even when I was eating meat. It turns out that (to me) it tasted like crap. Veal - out - easy. Most of my friends already eat a limited amount of red meat. If only for the compelling health reasons, try saying that you don't eat cows for 30 days. If they sky doesn't come crashing down, perhaps you can add pigs to list next month!

Now for the other realm - my realm - Cliff Jumping! This isn't a shocker - no one who knows me would place "Lauren" and "moderation" together in a sentence. My life is a house built on change. Draw me a trench in the sand!  I drew my first line at eating no other animals except for locally caught mahi mahi on Sunday afternoons. The Sunday fish happened once and then I was over it. Done deal.

I don't think Cliff Jumping works for very many people but if you know it in your heart or you've been wrestling with the idea for awhile - the fastest route might be the best route!

Which ever route and to whatever degree you choose, I can promise you that there is an awesome place waiting for you. A place that provides calm in your heart, peace in your mind and a whole lot less illness, violence and suffering in this world. You make a difference.

Eat with reckless compassion! Lauren

Friday, April 8, 2011

Another Favorite Thing... Podcasts!

So, I'm beginning to LOVE podcasts. I got started by listening to audio interviews I received with the purchase of a marathon training guide for vegetarians. The interviews featured professional endurance athletes who are vegan and their experiences of running first marathons, training and nutrition tips and inspirational stories from their careers. I listened to all five interviews numerous times and took away new bits and pieces each time. I enjoyed listening at the beach so much that I started investigating the world of podcasts.

I found many podcasts on the subject of vegetarian/veganism but a shining star soon emerged. Food For Thought by Compassionate Cooks founder Colleen Patrick-Goudreau is my new addiction. I downloaded around 30 episodes at iTunes and I can't seem to get enough. Colleen covers a wide range of topics and I've found value in each one. Some of my favorites have been...

On the Road: Traveling Vegan
The Language of Meat
How to Talk to Hunters (or anyone with whom you disagree)
Speaking Your Truth
Responses to the common questions... "Where do you get your protein?" "Aren't you worried about calcium?" "Why don't you eat free-range animals?" etc.

Colleen is the author of several cookbooks and cooking DVDs. You can check out her website at Compassionate Cooks. I've gotten so much from her podcasts that I've decided to become a sponsoring member of her website. That's a first for me! Here's a little video about Colleen and the work she's doing through Compassionate Cooks - http://vimeo.com/20206422

There is something to be said for finding "community" in your veg lifestyle and Food For Thought provides a bit of that feeling. I admit that some days I feel hopeless when researching the meat/dairy industry. Sometimes I need a little community after a dinner with friends where all sorts of animals are consumed. Some days my eyes are so open that I just want to shut them and fall back into the darkness. Popping in a little Food for Thought is an oasis. I highly recommend it!

Every day, each meal, is a choice and every choice matters. Eat Kind - Lauren

Oh! If you'd like to check out the pdf marathon guide from Matt Frazier at No Meat Athlete, click here. Matt's take is down-to-earth and full of humor and wit. This is a fun site veg or not. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

What Time Is It? NUUN!

File this little gem under "things that make me a better athlete".

My amazing Ironman girlfriend Angie introduced me to NUUN back in December and I am nothing short of hooked. Like, heroin hooked. So hooked that I found myself counting out my remaining NUUN this morning before work... "Do I have enough to get me to Portland on the 15th?" 37 NUUN was the final tally X 15 days until Portland = Whew! I WILL make it!

My personal NUUN wasteland...

(Side Bar: Let's ask Angie - Does it annoy you when "Ironman" is included within 2 words of your name when I write about you? Because I think your accomplishments are stellar and due the respect of the Ironman reference. Please advise)

Back to NUUN.

The topic of hydration and endurance running has become a bottomless well of reading for me. We all know that we need to drink water - simple, right? I don't drink sodas (unless mixed with fine Bajan rum on the weekends) and I am careful to match my coffees with equal amounts of water to make up for the caffeine dehydration. I thought I had it all under control. Then I learned about Hyponatremia or "water intoxication". This is something for endurance athletes to actually worry about. When you drink only water and lots of it, it flushes the electrolytes (sodium, potassium, etc.) from your system and you can, for all intents, drown yourself on a cellular level. Even if it doesn't get to the level of Hyponatremia, flushing your electrolytes during a long run can really effect your performance. Bonkity Bonk Bonk!

NUUN tablets come in great flavors and the list is growing by the month (Tangerine Ginger and Tri-Berry are my favs). Just drop them into any ol' water. They contain only 8 calories per tablet and are only slightly sweet - more tart. Brendan Brazier of Thrive infamy contends that conventional sports drinks are absolutely ridiculous for many reasons but the one that hooked me was that when you are exercising, your pallet changes and sweet becomes even sweeter and does not refresh on any level. I found this to be true during my half marathons that were sponsored by Powerade and the like... it tastes absolutely horrible. The body really responds to something a bit bitter or tart - hello NUUN!

When I began to run longer distances I was so eager to "get it over with" that I couldn't be bothered to drop water along the route, carry water with me OR do the dreaded leave water in the car and run loops. I know me. When I see my car during a run I am most definitely getting in it and driving home to a green shake, a cool shower and a nap with my mutt. Since NUUN entered my water - and my life - I take the time to place water on the route in strategic locations (read: when I am most likely dying) and I can actually feel myself revitalize with the water. Sounds crazy and I'm not even a NUUN spokesperson.. yet!

For the full scoop, check out NUUN at www.nuun.com. It's a fun company and growing FAST. There is a market out here for people who are sometimes bored with water alone, don't have a desire for 12 tablespoons of sugar, aspartame or splenda in their electrolyte replacement drink, and those of us who just enjoy the yummy bubbles!

Eat Kind, Lauren

Recipe - Cumin & Spinach Rice

Here's a quick recipe that has earned a coveted spot on my side of the refrigerator -

Cumin & Spinach Rice
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 tablespoon of cumin seeds
1 small diced onion
1/2 package of frozen spinach (I would use real but our spinach is often bitter)
1 cup of vegetable stock
1 cup of water
1 cup of basmati rice

Let me start by saying that coconut oil is the bomb. It's the best oil for higher heat cooking with virtually none of the fat going "trans" on you. (Note: Olive Oil should not be used for high heat cooking - toxic city - listen up Rachel Ray!). Coconut oil turns solid at temps below 75 degrees but don't let that weird you out! Just scoop it out and fire it up! While coconut oil smells very coconutty, it produces little to no flavor in your food. If you don't have access to coconut oil, my vote is for Canola. Yes, Monsanto is involved but sometimes I have to choose between my heart health and evil genetically modifying corporations. Like I said, Canola is a second choice. I always wondered what the heck a "Canola" was... it turns out that Canola oil is produced by pressing rapeseed. Rapeseed is a member of the turnip, brussel sprout, cabbage family and the "invention" of this oil is credited to our neighbors up North - O'Canada! The name "Canola" is derived from "Canadian Oil - Low Acid". Something new everyday, eh?

Heat the coconut oil on medium heat in your rice pan and add the cumin seeds and stir around the pan until they pop and become fragrant. Add the diced onion and cook until translucent. (Note: If you'd like to add soaked or well-rinsed black beans or 75% cooked lentils at this juncture - go for it!)

Next, add the vegetable stock, basmati rice, spinach and water. Cover with a tight lid and move to low heat. I always turn off the heat when the rice is just a bit watery and let it finish quietly on stove. In my crazy brain, this somehow makes my rice more peaceful.

Did you know that spinach is made up of 45% protein? Crazy. Spinach also contains calcium but in a less bio-available form than it's cousin Kale. Still, every little bit helps! So simple, so tasty. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Home on the Free Range - Eggs

I published the post below back in March of 2011 and I felt inspired to add the latest and greatest news on eggs.  The science, public opinion and policy are ever-changing so I hope you enjoy this new and improved look at eggs!

Free Range, Organic, Grass-Fed, Cage-Free - the backlash against factory farming has produced all sorts of terms and variations on feeding, raising and slaughtering 10 billion animals annually for consumption in the United States. 10 billion animals = BIG business.

Before I went veg, I chose these alternatives whenever possible with the hopes that my fryer somehow lead a brief but happy life or that the hen that laid my eggs got out of the cage each day and hung out with her girlfriends and pecked around the yard. I know...wishful.

After listening to a great podcast from Food For Thought (highly recommend!) entitled The Language of Meat, I thought I'd get out and research these terms for myself. To keep this information in bite-sized pieces (pun intended), today I'm turning the focus toward Organic Egg production. I no longer eat eggs but many people I love do! I found something wonderful that I'd like to share. Read on...

First - it's important to know that the USDA guidelines for the term "Free-Range" only applies to chickens raised for meat production. I will cover the guidelines (or lack thereof) on "Free-Range" fryers in a future post. Warning - it will make you mad. With regard to egg laying hens, cows, pigs, sheep, goats and rabbits, the USDA "relies upon the testimony of the farmers" who label their eggs or other animal products as Free-Range. The term is hot right now so keep your eyes peeled - if you see it on eggs or any other meat besides chicken, it means absolutely nothing.

However, Organic Eggs are another thing all together. I stumbled upon an amazing organization called The Cornucopia Institute that did a two-year study on Organic Egg production. They produced a short video (below) that I encourage you to watch. It is not harsh, there are no bad pictures - this is not the stuff of nightmares - I promise! Just a great video packed with information to make you a more conscientious consumer. The end result of their work is a downloadable "scorecard" that will help you make humane and healthy choices when buying eggs in the supermarket. I think the whole website is fantastic!

The U.S. could definitely take a few pointers from the UK and European Union on egg labeling. In the EU, all "free range" egg-laying hens are guaranteed continuous access to the outside with adequate shelter, water and vegetation on the ground. All eggshells across the EU are stamped with a number to alert the consumer to how the egg was produced (genius!) Organic = 0, Free Range = 1, Barn =2 and Cage = 3. Is that so hard? A large number of farmers in the UK are revolutionizing Free-Range by allowing chickens to be outside continuously from just four weeks of age in plenty of space. Sixteen weeks is the norm. Kudos to the farmers that are taking these steps toward humane treatment of these animals.

One last word on eggs in general. I often hear friends say they eat eggs because it doesn't hurt the animal but whether it's a factory farm, free-range farm, pasture farm or even an organic farm, all of the male chicks are killed through a process called "culling" approximately 72 hours after birth. The chicks are either gassed, electrocuted in large groups, or fed into a live grinding machine called a Macerator.

Chickens that are raised for meat are different breeds than their egg-laying cousins. Rarely do the chicken meat and chicken egg industry cross paths. I didn't know about the culling before I became a vegetarian and it made a difference to me so I thought I'd share the information.

And in the NEW NEWS department, a company called Hampton Creek Foods is on the brink of unleashing a truly vegan EGG!  I can hardly believe it myself.  Please take a moment to watch this video and see how it's done!  Even in the hard moments (like looking at many pictures of chicks being culled to select one for this article) I have HOPE!  A vegan egg would go a long way to ending a whole lot of bad juju in this world. (This company is backed by Bill Gates, FYI!)

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Hopefully, this information will help your voice be heard through your spending dollar. When we know better, we do better and shop smarter.
Eat Kind. Lauren

Monday, February 28, 2011

Green Machine

The Girl Who Hates Lettuce has come a long way in the vegetable department in six short months. For the first few weeks I would think "What am I going to eat today?" before breaking out in a little sweat. As long as there was meat in the fridge, I just had to figure out what else to throw on the plate. The meat was absolutely the focus. Now I'm closer to "What am I not going to eat today!". The previously unknown world of vegetables has been revealed and I'm happily overloaded with options - I love it!

I still haven't crossed the Salad Threshold (and probably never will) but each day now contains more fresh vegetables than I used to eat in a week. The more I push my body through running and yoga, the more my body politely asks for more vegetables. Sometimes it's not so polite.

The game changer in greening up my diet has been what I lovingly call The Phoenix Smoothie... it rises from the ashes of crappy nutrition. Every morning - no exceptions. It's like nutritious crack. I got started with a Vega product called Smoothie Infusion but the components are all things that I've since purchased separately. I can get larger quantities and saving a little dough along the way.

Hemp Protein Powder (very easy to digest and comes green and alive!)
Chlorophyll (yeah, the good stuff found in all the plants I never ate)
Ground Flax Seed (must grind - whole seeds don't digest)
Udo's Oil Blend (I got the 3.6.9 - not for cooking but is yummy for dips and dressings)

Just toss in an assortment of fruit, a little pineapple juice and some almond milk. Voila! Green Crack!

I've experienced so many benefits from the liquid greens. I feel more alert and can focus for longer periods of time. My hair is shinier. My nails are growing faster and stronger. I'm recovering more quickly from my long runs. Even the fine lines around my eyes are lessening - Hello 41. It's all pretty miraculous!

Another useful trick is to make a large batch of spinach & broccoli soup on Sunday evening. It's super simple - just cook down onions, garlic, fresh broccoli or broccoli flower, and either fresh or frozen spinach in a small amount of canola oil. Add a dose of cumin and black pepper and then pop into the blender with some vegetable stock. Nothing is easier than taking soup to work for lunch. It's also low enough in calories to make a great dinner if I get stuck eating late. This bright green soup is lovely to have around!

The bottom line is that I've finally accepted that Green = Good. I was always fooling myself about the number of vegetables I was eating... mega low ball. Paying some respect to the vegetable is paying some big dividends!

Eat kind, Lauren