Monthly Archives: September 2010

Not Quite Nutella

Back in my pre-vegan days, one of my favorite guilty pleasures was the creamy, chocolately, hazelnutty spread known as Nutella.

I was first introduced to Nutella by Mrs. Mays, my high school French teacher. Then I rediscovered it a few years ago when I needed something to take to a party to share and the rest was history.

I was in love. I ate Nutella on bread, in oatmeal, mixed in with dry cereal, many many times. Check out this picture from February 2009:

But as much as I love Nutella, when I decided to go vegan in October 2009, I had to say goodbye. If only Nutella didn’t contain milk…it might be the only thing I really “miss” since giving up animal products.

I’m too lazy to make a homemade version myself so I’ve been curious to know if there is a vegan-friendly Nutella-like product on the market.

Then I found this:

I had seen the Justin’s Chocolate Nut Butters raved about on the blogs of both Heather and Matt, two of my favorites. So when I found it at Whole Foods a couple of weeks ago, I decided I had to see for myself.

I probably could’ve picked something better to try it on (like some French bread maybe?) but I drizzled it over my pumpkin oatbran on Friday morning. You know how I love pumpkin!

Now, don’t get me wrong or let the title fool you. This was a delicious breakfast and it left me full for hours!

But it wasn’t Nutella. Not quite anyway.

I’m starting to wonder if it’s just been so long since I’ve had the stuff that I don’t even remember what it tastes like? The Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut butter had a good flavor, but reminded me more of Dark Chocolate Dreams PB than Nutella.

It’s got to be the skim milk (note: Nutella also contains whey). Even the generic Kroger-brand version of the stuff is good. But I don’t do dairy anymore. Not even for Nutella.

Oh well. Perhaps I will give it another shot in the future on something other than pumpkin oatbran. What do you think?

Should I break down and try to recreate the stuff myself? Anybody got a recipe?

Pumpkin Gnocchi

Yes, more pumpkin! I’m glad you liked my Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins post from yesterday. Around here, it’s going to be all pumpkin, all the time. At least for a little while ;-)

For dinner on Thursday, I decided to try a new type of gnocchi (thanks to Matt’s post from earlier that day).

‘Tis the season!

I was really excited when I found this at World Market, the same place I found my Pumpkin Spice Coffee!

The first time I had gnocchi, I tried the Whole Wheat version and enjoyed that. I was super excited to see a pumpkin version but I wondered how it would taste, since most of my pumpkin consumption is in the form of sweets or oatmeal.

I cooked the package as directed and used this pasta sauce that I believe I purchased at Whole Foods (don’t quote me):

I mixed it with the last of these Boca crumbles which had been in my freezer forever. It feels so good to use stuff up, doesn’t it?

All together! It doesn’t look like much but this really filled me up and I didn’t want to stuff myself anyway because I went to a Body Pump class about an hour after dinner! :)

I believe the sauce might have taken away from the taste of the gnocchi but the sauce itself was delicious. I wanted to get pumpkin sauce to go with it but most of the ones I saw contained dairy. However, I did take a bite of one without sauce on it and the pumpkin flavor was still very subtle.

This was a good, healthy meal and very tasty but I think in the future, I will stick with the whole wheat gnocchi. Or perhaps I will try my hand at making some myself?

 What products have you tried recently that left you just slightly disappointed?

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins Redux

If pumpkin just totally disgusts you, then you may want to avoid this blog for…say, three months?

Turns out they had Libby’s canned pumpkin at the Walmart grocery store, so I stocked up, big time.

After a couple bowls of pumpkin oat bran, I decided that it was time to get baking with the stuff. After all, I did buy 10 cans of it. Yes, 10.

It’s my precioussssss….

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while have probably seen a few different takes on Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins.

The original recipe was not vegan, as it contained eggs, but I have been tweaking it over the past year to make these muffins friendly to my diet and still very delicious!

The last time I made them, they came out a little dry and stuck to the paper. I hate that!

I decided to give them another go this week for Girl’s Night Potluck on Wednesday. When I busted out the paper, I checked the date on it for fun.

I have apparently been using this recipe since 2008!

I made a few substitutions, quite a few actually, so I will share the recipe with you since it varies so much from the original (see picture and link above).

Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups Whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/4 cup Olive oil
  • 1/2 cup Agave nectar
  • 2 Flax “eggs” (2 tbsp milled flax seed mixed with 1/4 cup water)
  • 3/4 cup Libby’s canned pumpkin (accept NO substitutes)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (because I love it that much)
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • A few shakes of salt
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I use the Kroger brand which has no dairy)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375* (reduced heat due to use of agave nectar. See tips on that here)
  • Line muffin pan with foil or paper liners.
  • Mix the flax “eggs” and let sit for a few minutes.
  • Mix the agave, flax “eggs” and oil in a medium-sized bowl.
  • Add in pumpkin (I omitted water due to use of agave nectar).
  • In a separate, larger bowl, mix together flour, baking powder & soda, spices and salt.
  • Add wet ingredients to dry and mix together well.
  • Fold in chocolate chips.
  • Fill cups evenly and cook for 18-20 minutes (reduced cooking time for agave nectar as well).

The biggest change I made this time was with these two things:

I think the last time (when they stuck to the paper) I also used the Ener-G egg replacer, which is a good product but for baked goods, flax “eggs” work so much better. That’s just my opinion!

This is actually quite an easy recipe to follow and it made my kitchen smell really good!

So…how were they?

Pretty much perfect. They were sweet, moist, and delicious. No paper sticking this time too! My friends were ooh-ing and aww-ing all night so I’m guessing that they liked them too. :)

I am definitely sticking with this version of the recipe for a while. May have to print out this blog post and replace that old paper from 2008!

What is your favorite pumpkin recipe?

Downtown Doubler 15k 2010

There were a lot of factors leading up to this race that made me wonder just how it would go.

First, my running/walking partner had to back out due to illness. So I was alone. Then, I disobeyed a lot of the rules of what not to do the night before, such as staying up way too late and drinking alcohol (not a lot, but still, you risk dehydration with that).

I also did not train properly for 9.3 miles. The most I have run recently is 5, but mostly 2-3 on average.

While this story has a happy ending, I still feel obligated to say: Don’t try this at home.

Sunday morning, I woke up at 5:30 a.m. after having just gone to bed at 2. I had a late night PB&J sandwich when I got home from a friend’s house, so I wasn’t starving when I woke up, but I knew since it was a long race that I would need the fuel. So I had some frozen waffles with PB and banana. And coffee!

When I got to the course, I had to use the “facilities” which were just 4 port-a-potties with a line of about 50 people. I thought about backing out but I knew I’d feel better if I just did what I needed to do before I started running. So because of that, I started the race a little more than 4 minutes late, but that’s okay.

I had no agenda.

I didn’t know whether I would walk or run or for how long. I wore an iPod but not a watch. I ran when I thought I could run and slowed down when I needed to. I took walking breaks as necessary and hit all but one water stop along the way.

The course wasn’t much to look at but it was flat, which was a welcome break from all the hills I’ve been doing lately. I think that is why I was able to run more than I thought I could. I don’t know how people did the 30k though (you had the option of 15k or 30k), I can’t imagine repeating the same course twice.

I was glad they had mile markers for most of it (all but mile 6, I believe) because it helped me pace myself and realize how much longer I had to go.

For the first 7 miles, I ended up running most of the way, taking a 1 minute walking break after each mile. I used my iPod to gauge the time, basically when the third song started, I walked until the first chorus. Some songs have shorter verses than others but I’m sure it all averaged out.

Toward the end, I was taking more frequent walking breaks, at every song instead of every third song. Have you ever used something other than a watch to pace yourself?

When I saw the 9 mile marker, I knew it was time to finish strong. Even though my legs were starting to get tired and sore, I kept pushing and crossed the finish line, astounded that I had just run most of a 9.3 mile race.

It’s amazing how far your mind will take you (or in some cases hold you back).

Here are my stats for those who are interested:

  • Distance: 9.3 miles
  • Time: 1:54:39 (I started more than 4 minutes late! So really 1:50!)
  • Avg. pace (based on official time): 12:18/mile

This race made me realize something else about myself: I am built for endurance, not speed.

As much as I like to challenge myself and beat PR’s, I think I am going to leave speed training to 5k races only. Once I go beyond 3 miles, I like to just settle in and enjoy the run, covering the distance regardless of time. Anyone else like that?

Because of this race, I am not at all nervous about the half marathon I have in a month now (which uses most of the same course). In fact, I’m hoping to get in a few more long runs before then, now that I know I have it in me! :)

I took a nice epsom salt bath when I got home, had a little nap and also did this for a while:

But I was also sure not to rest too much and get up and move around some too, which was easy since we had a friend’s birthday party to attend yesterday afternoon. I have found that helps keep me from getting too sore and I am feeling pretty good today thanks to these measures (and some Advil, ha ha).

I also did some yoga moves that a friend shared with me to stretch out my legs and hip flexors. My hips give me more trouble when I walk but it’s still a good stretch to do for prevention of tight muscles!

Have you ever surprised yourself during a race or in another fitness venture? How did it make you feel?

Not really Fall

If you asked about weather preferences, I would be the first to exclaim that I am totally a warm weather person! I hate being cold, so cold that no matter how many blankets you throw on or cups of tea you drink, you can’t shake that shiver.

But this year, it’s just been HOT. We hit the 90’s in June and hardly looked back. While that is okay for the Summer months, here we are getting ready to celebrate the first day of Fall and it’s going to be 96 degrees.

So as much as I love Summer and dread Winter, I need a happy medium!

Even though Fall has yet to really arrive, I’ve been getting a head start on my favorite Fall flavors.

001I actually found this tea on our trip to Brown County back in July, I’ve been saving it for a while! :)

002 003

I also found some Pumpkin Spice coffee at one of my new favorite places in the world (haha): World Market!

Pumpkin spice coffee!

Sadly, even though I’ve been enjoying my pumpkin beverages, I have yet to actually make anything with “real” pumpkin. But it’s still early. Heck it’s not even really Fall yet.

Side note: has anyone been able to find Libby’s pumpkin anywhere? I’m still on the hunt. Whole Foods brand organic pumpkin just isn’t the same :(

Fleur de Lis Cafe

On Saturday, I had the pleasure of having dinner with an awesome group of friends at Fleur de Lis Cafe here in Louisville.

Fdl

Fleur de Lis Cafe is located in the Deer Park neighborhood on Bardstown Road in the same location as the former Sweet ‘n Savory Cafe. With new owners came a new name and a new menu. Here’s a great review from the Courier-Journal: Fleur de Lis meant to be savored.

As a vegan, my favorite thing about the menu was the inclusion of several vegan items to choose from:

Yay!

In fact, even though I was the only vegan in our group (we did have 2 vegetarians and 1 flexitarian), our entire table ordered from the vegan menu! :)

But first, we had to take advantage of the half price bottles of wine. For this particular selection, two glasses would’ve been $12, but the entire bottle was $11. No brainer!

Courtney and I split this one:

Purple Cowboy

Vino!

The blend was called Tenacious Red and we both really enjoyed it. It was quite smooth for a red wine!

As an appetizer, we all shared the fried plaintains, but I didn’t get a picture of them. Trust me, they were delicious! For being fried, they weren’t greasy and the salsa that came with it added a nice touch of spiciness.

For my entree, I ordered the black bean burger, which came on a bun with guacamole, greens and tomatoes, a side of fries, and a pickle.

Fleur de Lis cafe

Normally, I would complain about paying $12 for a meal, but this one was worth it! The bean burger was delicious and didn’t fall apart like the ones I make at home! And it was so comforting to order from a menu knowing what I’m getting is really vegan, without having to say “no cheese” “no mayo” and so on.

I should also mention that it’s quite a cute place, with lots of art work on the walls, white tablecloths and tiny flowers on each table. It’s the little things that impress me if you didn’t already know! ;-)

I appreciate the Fleur de Lis Cafe’s willingness to offer such delicious vegan items. A few of our friends tried the lasagna, which got rave reviews from our table. I read on their Facebook page that they will soon be offering a new Fall menu, complete with new vegan items.

So it looks like I will be visiting again soon! :)

Fleur de Lis Cafe on Urbanspoon

The Swan Dive

Have you ever heard of The Swan Dive?

I’m sure many of my vegan and foodie friends here in Louisville have. But, if you don’t fall into either of those two categories, you may not have. In fact, Josh thought I was going to a place where there were literally swans diving. Hmm…

Anyway, as my friend Courtney says The Swan Dive is exactly what it says…a dive.

Finally! :)

But they also just so happen to have a 100% vegetarian menu, a good portion of which is also vegan or can be made vegan.

I can’t believe in my year as a vegetarian I had never been to this establishment. But, I finally made it there on Wednesday night!

They had a lot to choose from and it was really hard to narrow it down but in the end, tempeh bacon won me over! :)

Vegan BLT

Sorry for the gritty picture — bad lighting!

I got the vegan BLT (which comes with tempeh bacon and Vegenaise) which came with a side. They had vegan mac ‘n cheese and french fries, but I went with a side salad specifically because they have Goddess dressing, ha ha!

For “bar food” I did not find anything to be greasy at all. What I ate was really tasty and fresh. And it was so nice to have so many options that fit my dietary preferences.

I loved it and I can’t wait to go back. Just got a few other places to try first! :)

Meat free: One year later

Wow, a year has flown by!

Prior to September 2009, the vegetarian (and later vegan) diet was becoming more appealing to me for a number of reasons. I started to notice more how I felt when I ate meat and when I didn’t. I had been an “accidental” vegetarian off and on because when I just ate what came naturally, I was usually not putting meat in my meals.

But, nothing was ever official until September of last year when I decided to take a “gradual” approach to refining my diet (read: “To vegan or not to vegan”).

You may also remember this post, on September 10th, when I ate at Shane’s Rib Shack for my Dad’s birthday. It was the last time I ever ate meat!

A few days later, after a fun trip to Chicago to see U2, I realized that this was going to be a great change for me and I wanted to go a step further to eliminate all animal products from my diet. It was just going to take time and baby steps in order to get it right.

I did not go vegan until October 1st, but I am definitely celebrating my year of meatlessness today. I wasn’t sure at first if this would be a permanent change or just an experiment, but after feeling as great as I do, learning things I have learned and living healthy and happy for one year without meat, I know this is the way for me. I don’t need meat and I don’t want it.

I also recently read a quote that my friend Carrie posted on Facebook that made me happy too:

“As a vegan, you personally save the lives of approximately eighty-three animals a year, reduce your carbon output by an average of 3,000 pounds, and conserve 1.4 million gallons of water a year.” – Jolinda Hackett

Today is once again my Dad’s birthday (hooray for another year of life) only this time we are having dinner somewhere other than Shane’s Rib Shack, which still remains a family favorite.

At least I can fondly remember that place for the time when one chapter of my life ended and another began. :)

Pioneer 5k 2010

Subtitle: Cooler weather is my friend! :)

This past Saturday, we ran another 5k. This time, the run went through Seneca Park here in Louisville and the scenery was beautiful. It was a cool, crisp morning, so I ran in a long sleeved t-shirt for the first time this season. I foresee a very good Fall and Winter for myself, at least as far as running goes.

The first mile went really fast, as it was mostly flat and downhill, and when I crossed the guy with a watch calling out the times (“10 minutes even” he said as I strode by) I knew this would be a better finish than my last few 5ks.

The second and third miles had a lot of hills, but still weren’t as bad as those darned ones in Cherokee Park. Why does that place bother me so much? It’s such a beautiful park but I hate running in it.

Maybe it was because that was my first race in a while. Or maybe I just need to practice more there? I don’t know, ha ha. I do know that my preferences for running in parks goes: Iroquois, Seneca, Cherokee. Tom Sawyer park is okay but I didn’t really care for running in the grass.

Anyway, I digress. I finished the second mile in 11 minutes, so my time slowed considerably for those hills. But I did not have to walk at all! I just slowed down on the uphill and then let the momentum carry me back down the hill.

When we got toward the end and I could see the finish line, I ran as hard as I could while keeping good form. Farrah kept yelling “Put your arms down and use them!” Ha ha, I do tend to tighten up my arms, which is why my shoulders get so sore from running. Weird, huh?

When I crossed the finish line, I was so proud of myself. This is just the beginning of what is sure to be a triumphant return to running for me!

  • Distance: 3.10 miles
  • Time: 33:17
  • Average Pace: 10:42/mile

That’s a 3 minute, 29 second improvement over my last time! Hence the subtitle of this post. Cooler weather is definitely my friend.

Looking forward to my next race on September 19th — a 15k! That’s 9.3 miles people. Better start increasing my training distance :)

Three years ago

Sometime in September 2007, I decided that I wanted to run.

I had never really ran before, in fact I did my best to avoid it for most of my life. Even while playing sports in high school, I would pretend to have a cramp during practice so I could walk or fake an asthma-like attack, which I am so ashamed to admit.

But that’s the mentality I had back then, when I was unhealthy.

In early 2007, when I started my life over and became healthier, everything changed. I no longer wanted to get out of stuff. I wanted to conquer the world. Running had always been that thing I knew I “couldn’t” do and I wanted to prove myself wrong.

So, I went and signed up for a half marathon! Luckily, I gave myself 7 months to get there :)

In September, I started a 10 week running program to “learn” how to run with my friend Candy. We would meet at my house or a local park and go through the intervals, starting with 2 minutes of running/4 minutes walking, repeat. We all have to start somewhere.

I worked my way up each week, increasing my running time and decreasing my walking time until I could run 30 minutes straight. This program really worked for me. After that, I started focusing on mileage and followed a 16-week training program for the half marathon, including my first 5k, 10k and 10-mile races!

When I cross the finish line of each race, I am reminded of where I have come from and it overwhelms me. When I get down on myself, thinking I’m not training hard enough or running fast enough, I try to remember those times I faked an asthma attack or injury to get out of it.

Now I pay to run! Who am I? ;-)

You can read more of my running story here, but I just wanted to take the time to remind you all that if there is something you want to do, go for it. Don’t think you can’t do it just because you never have before or because you had a bad attitude about it in the past.

Three years later, I’m still running :)

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