Monday, March 29, 2010

Tastebud Tango

Just got back from a run and started making pasta when I realized I needed to spice things up. Instead of resorting to my usual marinara I decided to give my tastebuds something new to sing about.

1 cup cooked whole wheat pasta
1/4 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 yellow pepper, sliced/diced and sauteed in olive oil
1 slice of white onion, same fate as the pepper
1 cup black beans
1 cup salsa, heated

Mix ingredients. Devour. Wish you had made more.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Out of the Woods

This week was particularly challenging on the running front. The 6-mile practice run last Saturday was invigorating but towards the end of a 2-3-3-2 mile sequence this week I was at an all-time low. Throughout the crazy work week my stomach had gotten cranky. I became dehydrated as a result. Working out every day felt great but probably wore me out more than I had realized. By the end of Thursday's run something was wrong. After a short high I got a killer headache with a side of nausea and blurry vision. Yowza!

On Friday I took a break from all physical activity, drinking lots of water with electrolytes and making sure to get enough protein. Our 10k was scheduled for the following day and, up until the morning of, I was unsure if I'd be up for the race. Thankfully, I felt better just in time! The guru and I headed to the Tyler Arboretum for the 6.2 mile trail run. My goal was simple: finish. Given the hectic week leading up to the race, I just wanted to complete it (I still kept my fingers crossed for a relatively good pace/finish time).

It was a chilly but sunny morning with a great turnout of runners and their good vibes. The race started out slow with people walking; the trail couldn't accommodate a quick dispersement. About 3 or 4 minutes in we were able to pick up the pace and it felt like the race was finally underway!

The trail was beautiful and I was pumped! We were all flying down the hills, the sun was shining, and I felt better on this run than I had all week. Then I saw my first steep incline. Yikes! It would be one of many throughout the course and one of several that I would walk up. I figured as long as a bunch of runners ahead were doing it, I could follow their lead.

Aside from the inclines, the run was really enjoyable. The steep hills nevertheless had me spent by mile 5. I ran the rest of the race on empty but reached the finish line with a time of 1:07! The guru finished with an impressive time of 48:50!

Now it's on to the Broad Street run! Ed and I are really digging the races and might do another one or two before the May 2nd 10-miler. The Bryn Mawr Running Club's Out and Back is a fun run for sure ~ 4 mile race along scenic Kelly Drive with a tomato pie (and beer) party following on Boathouse Row. I think another trail race will be in order too.

Does anyone have races to recommend?

Happy Trails!

P.S. Trail pictures are from the Delaware County Pennsylvania Road Runners Club site.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Green Goodness Smoothie

After experimenting with many greens and fruits I found a lovely blend:

1/2 cucumber
3-4 romaine leaves
1 avocado
1 pear
1 1/2 cups of coconut water
3-4 ice cubes

Mix all of the nutritious goodness in a blender. Yields enough to share with a buddy.

Note: Keeping this smoothie all to yourself will make friends green with envy. Spread the love.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Springing into Action

This picture doesn't do the first day of spring any justice! There were hundreds of people out on Kelly Drive with lots of sunshine and a great breeze. I couldn't think of anything more motivating to complete my first 6-mile run! For running enthusiasts, this distance is a small feat but for me it was a huge deal. It was an even bigger deal that I felt really great after it. The gorgeous weather played a major role. Now if only it could be this scrumptious every day!

The next race, a 10k trail run, is right around the corner. And the Broad Street run is fast approaching as well. Yikes! Thankfully, the food plan, the pilates and yoga, and newly added weight training/cardio, are all improving the running. Hopefully Ms. Sunshine and 70-degree weather will grace us with their presence at the upcoming races. Fingers crossed.

What helps you meet your running goals?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

An Inconvenient Truth

I just finished Dr. T. Colin Campbell's The China Study, a book that my dear friend Olivia sent to me as part of a fabulous care package from Korea. I put off reading it for a few months, mostly out of laziness and because I wanted, for a little while, to avoid the advice that lay within the pages of research: consider saying "So long" to meat and dairy.

The author, with almost 30 years of research under his belt, concluded that consuming a whole foods, plant-based diet is one of the most important contributions one can make to his or her health. The China Study, dubbed the "Grand Prix of Epidemiology," documents the most comprehensive study conducted on nutrition and its relation to cancer and chronic illness. Campbell also includes prominent studies by other researchers who have similarly focused on the connection between diet and health on multiple sclerosis, autoimmune diseases, osteoporosis, and heart disease.

Bottom line: when it comes to health, Campbell advocates a diet without meat and dairy, influential "foods" that play a role in chronic illness. Despite the telling research, I wondered about The China Study's reach into the mainstream. How convincing is this book and would it inspire people to give up meat? I'm not entirely sure of the answer. I would guess that most people reading the book are uber health nuts, researchers, doctors (fingers crossed), or people facing a serious illness. It's usually in sickness that people will seek such books, researching and committing to lifestyle changes in the hopes of healing their bodies and reversing and preventing future illness.

It's frustrating that a book with so much to offer people hasn't gotten more attention. There are many explanations for this, of which I'll name a few. First and foremost, the meat and dairy industries have done a good job of marketing their products and are steadfast when it comes to lobbying and protecting their financial interests. Meat and dairy are pervasive and they are not going away anytime soon. It subsequently makes a diet without these products seemingly peripheral or even radical. Secondly, food is political. People with ties to various food industries, with much to lose or gain, have held seats on advisory panels and positions within government organizations. Case in point: Six out of eleven members on the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee had ties to dairy, beef, egg, and even Slim-Fast companies! Conflict of interest? I think so!

Lastly, food is cultural, emotional, and personal. Accepting a whole foods plant-based diet means, for many people, letting go of traditions, comfort food, and a way of eating that is commonplace and natural to them. A change in diet seems most likely to occur when health is compromised and it becomes a necessity to remove certain foods. For me, removing dairy was such a necessity. And while I started a meatless challenge to support a friend's Lenten practice, the research on animal proteins has convinced me to permanently abstain.

Regardless of your orientation to meat and dairy, I recommend checking out The China Study. It's an important contribution to the literature on the relationship between diet and health.

Check out Kris Carr discussing her cancer journey as influenced by The China Study. Note that she discusses several different food plans (macrobiotic, raw, alkaline). They all involve whole foods plant-based diets with different preparations.

Have you read the book? What do you think about Campbell's research?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Run Girl, Run!

Brag Alert!

A few months ago I started training for a 10 mile race in Philadelphia, which takes place in early May. My running buddy signed me up for some shorter races to get my feet wet and, on Sunday, I completed my first competition of the season. While I have gotten much more confident with running I was uber nervous for the race, particularly when minutes prior to the start of it I heard two ladies talking about the hills that we'd encounter. I hate hills. I curse them. My running guru promised me there'd be no #$%@*&^ hills on this course!

I started strong, mostly because the race started downhill and I had the Ting Tings blaring through my earphones. But halfway into mile one, my breathing was so shallow from the inclines that I thought I'd have to stop. As time passed I was able to breathe more deeply. It helped that the crowd had dispersed; soon it was just me, the open road, and scenic farmland.

The guru and I had worked two nights prior with speed exercises at a local track. We did two 1/4 mile and one mile runs as fast as we could. I thought my heart would leap out of my chest. But the exercises paid off in Saturday's race. I was shooting for a 38-minute finish but completed the race in 35:50, a personal best!!! Overall I finished 38 out of 102. Ed finished in 12th place! Yowza!

It gets better...

I was completely satisfied with my speed and placement in the race and was ready to leave when Ed and I learned that we had finished at the top of our age groups! This called for a lot of celebrating!

We stopped in Allentown, the next town over, to grab the vegan Nepenthe at Cali Burrito.

My darling friend Susan cooked us a victory dinner: whole wheat pasta with tomatoes, spinach, garlic and an amazing soy cheese topping. While she and Ed had some vino and beer I relished in a yummy non-alcoholic ginger brew. (Both products are available at Whole Foods).

Me and Ms. Medal

On to the next race, a 10k! If we continue this calibur of celebratory rituals I will be racing indefinitely.

P.S. Thanks to Ed for the awesome HHJ running shirt (pictured above).

Monday, March 8, 2010

Making it without Meat

Here's the latest on our meatless challenge, with 19 days completed and 27 to go!

Update from Ed

Here's a little background info on why I gave up meat for Lent. I started to become more conscious of the food and drink I put into my body last year when I gave up soda. Around the same time, I also stopped eating fast food. While I'm still off soda, I did begin eating fast food again over the holidays late last year. I was also preparing steak and pork for dinner multiple times a week. In order to get more creative with my cooking and to save some money, I decided to rid myself of meat for 46 days.

After 18 days sans meat, I'm happy with my progress. While I still crave a giant cheeseburger from time to time, I'm not giving in. Experimenting with different foods has also been fun! Instead of getting that aforementioned burger at a restaurant, I tried a delicious shrimp quesadilla. Instead of putting sausage in my spaghetti, I tried grilled peppers and onions on top, and it tasted better. After trying Chipotle for the first time, I was inspired to make my own burrito. There was also a tasty lentil soup in there somewhere, but I can't take credit for making it (Editor's note: Jen can :).

Going forward, I hope to introduce more greens into my diet and prepare a more diverse menu for breakfast and lunch at work. Reading The China Study has even given me second thoughts about going back to meat. Some hilarious excerpts from Skinny Bitch have reinforced those doubts. Admittedly, I'm still eating more junk than I'd like. Meat is out, but french fries are still in. I have more work to do, but I'm pleased that kicking meat to the curb has been almost as easy as ditching soda.

Update from Jen

I started going meatless in moral support of Ed. He had been helping me improve my running and I felt I could help him out with his latest food challenge. I had been vegetarian a few years ago and knew I could do this challenge. While Ed has been embracing the pescetarian lifestyle, which includes dairy, eggs and fish, I am exploring la vida vegan.

I had never really been a big meat eater but had resorted to it as a protein source when I developed sensitivities to dairy and eggs. As an almost-vegan, I consumed mostly fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and several servings of meat per week. I must say that going completely vegan has been a challenge when dining out or eating at work. But, overall, the change has been quite positive. And after reading several books on factory farming, the health risks of eating meat, and the benefits of a vegan diet, I plan on leaving meat out well beyond this 46 day challenge.

Like Ed, I've been experimenting with recipes and new foods and have been cooking daily. This has proven a little more cost-effective than regularly eating out, although Whole Foods is still expensive (but worth it). My only concern at this point is a lack of energy, which I think has more to do with a need to up my caloric intake. I haven't yet added enough food to compensate for all the running that I've been doing. Just need to eat more. That shouldn't be a problem :)

Update from Olivia

I went on a bit of an information binge this winter in response to a renewed sense of urgency to learn more about my food—and how my body reacts to it. I read Eating Animals, The China Study, and Revive: Stop Feeling Spent and Start Living Again. My man and I spent many nights watching documentaries like The Cove, Food, Inc., and Food Matters. I scoured the Internet and joined health forums. All of it led conclusively to one decision: I had to work on this vegan thing.

To give you an example of what a big deal that is for me, my second date with my partner was a bacon safari, during which we toured Philadelphia looking for tasty pork products. So, am I vegan? Nope. But I haven’t had land-dwelling meat since the first days of 2010. I’m not ready to end my love affair with sushi and shellfish, but I have reduced my fish intake drastically. Eggs never really did it for me, so that’s been an easy omission. And during my latest health cleanse, I realized (read: finally admitted to myself) that, like Jen, I have a pretty serious case of lactose intolerance. Headaches, digestive issues, the whole bit. All in all, I would say I eat a vegan diet at least half of the week, and when I do consume animal products, it’s in greatly reduced quantities: butter used to sauté mushrooms, a small slice of Brie, or a bit of crab pad thai.

As much as my heart, my body, and my brain want to be vegan, my taste buds haven’t fully caught up. And I’m ok with that. Because this transition is so important to me, I’m content to go slow. I want the changes to stick, so slow and steady it is.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Veggieful Life ~ by Lauren

Okay, I'll be honest. I started off the new year with a new deep fryer, frying everything from chicken to twinkies. Remember my fried oreo quest, Jen? Can you believe that I can now create the fabulous fried oreo in the comfort of my own home?! Gratefully, a deep fryer wasn't the only thing I got for Christmas. I also got a book called Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer.

One review boldly predicts that "the everyday horrors of factory farming are evoked so vividly...that anyone, who after reading Foer's book, continues to consume the industry's products must be without a heart, or impervious to reason, or both." It's true. And I haven't even finished the book yet!

Before I decided to stop eating animals for moral reasons, I wanted to stop for health reasons. Or more accurately, to start for health reasons. I simply wanted more room on my plate for fresh vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. I also found it very exciting that this change would allow me to explore new recipes. I think vegetarianism causes you to be more creative in the kitchen. Everyday I ask myself "what recipe (out of so many) can I create today?" While some people view vegetarianism as limiting, I see it as expanding. My meals are not just without meat. They're with everything else I was missing out on before.

Today I ate a black bean burger with baby spinach in a whole wheat wrap, sweet potato carrot soup, edamame, refried bean enchiladas with mole sauce, avacado, salsa, and carribean rice. My favorite new indulgences are hummus, three bean chili, butternut squash soup, hot and sour soup, and vegetarian reubens.

I now look forward to tasting these delicious foods and enjoying the rejuvenation I feel after consuming real nourishment. I encourage others to try vegetarian eating, even if it's not every minute or every day. Don't think of your diet as meatless, think of it as full of everything else! Add some vegetarian dishes into your week and you might just love the veggieful life!

Babes that Blog II

During my first week into a no-meat challenge, I started connecting with vegetarians and vegans on food matters. My friend Lauren started sending me awesome recipes and was telling me about her journey as a vegetarian. Her outlook on this way of eating is inspiring and I've asked her to share her story with HHJ readers. Welcome, Lauren!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Puddin' Time

I was making nutmilk this afternoon when I realized I still had not found a good use for the leftover pulp. I had tried a few online recipes but never really fancied any of them. Today, however, I experimented and found me some creamy goodness. The following measurements yield one serving of pudding from almost one cup of pulp.

3/4 cup cashew pulp
3 frozen strawberries
2 tbsp of shredded coconut
1/2 cup filtered water
2 tbsp flax meal
1/2 banana

Mix in blender until smooth. Store in fridge until cool or add ice cubes while blending for an instant treat. Feel like a kid again.