Pause

Standard

Woohoo! I’m alive!! I have finally come through the other side of an incredibly stressful and completely jam-packed week and a half. I am now a certified Wilderness First Responder (WFR), after spending 5 full, consecutive days from Friday-Tuesday practicing how to deal with emergencies or any kind of injury/illness in the outdoors. The course was extremely intensive and required a lot of critical thinking, so I was exhausted by the end of each 10-12 hour day, but then still had to stay up late to do homework for my other normal classes in order to not fall behind. As of today I have now made up the TWO exams that I missed on Monday, and all my work is back up to date. Finally, I have a chance to pause and breathe. And sleep.

IMG_20150324_105407_539 IMG_20150324_111816_329 IMG_20150324_190544_438

A few vegan things that the WFR taught me included how to pack a full day’s worth of healthy snacks and lunch without relying on Shaw, which should be quite useful next year when I won’t have a meal plan. I went with the ol’ PB&J or AB&J (almond butter) for my lunches, and then brought an assortment of veggies like baby carrots or bell pepper (that I cut up that morning), cashews, apple + PB or AB, and a Bobo’s Oat Bar just in case. I try not to eat a lot of bars since they all have a disheartening amount of sugar, so I didn’t end up resorting to the Bobo’s bar after all. They key to vegan snacking, I discovered, is to have a protein/fat source along with it, such as the cashews or PB/AB, or else you can snack all day long on your low carb carrots and never feel satisfied. Also, for the sandwiches, PB&J gets old pretty quickly for me (especially since jam has LOTS of sugar), so I like to do hummus/salad greens/cucumber/whatever veggies you want sandwiches, which turn out really well and stick to you for a good while due to the hummus. And all of my sandwiches go on Dave’s Killer Bread! Recently I found a type of Dave’s bread called Powerseed (comes in a red bag) that is only sweetened with fruit juices, has low sugar, and has lots of protein from all the yummy seeds and nuts inside! Highly recommend it.

Back on the adventure front, I am excited to be shadowing our Ladies Rock Climbing Trip to Moab this weekend! Shadowing is the first step to becoming a Trip Leader in our Outdoor Rec program, so I’m on my way. Also, I plan to stay in SLC this summer, rather than go home to Nevada, and work with the Outdoor Program for their really cool Summer Program where we work with younger kids from the South Salt Lake area and take them on fun day trips and camping trips. This is the best way to really get my foot in the door with the program, so I’m hoping by this coming fall I will be a member of the main lead team on a trip or two!

The only thing still bringing me down (now that the WFR wall of doom has been broken through) is my very possibly broken middle right finger. I smashed the tip of it between two kettlebells at crossfit on St. Paddy’s day (how completely unlucky!). It began bleeding profusely from my nail bed upon impact and I started running around the gym shouting and grasping my bloody hand like a small child. It was quite the scene I must say. Anyway, it swelled up to be pretty large, and while the swelling is pretty much completely gone, my finger is still rather tender and weirdly kind of numbish/tingly when I put pressure on the tip. I would post a picture, but it almost made my roommate throw up when she saw it, so maybe it isn’t appropriate for all viewers. Unfortunately, this injury has set me back a little bit in crossfit, since I can’t really grip super heavy bars, and I’m a little worried about the upcoming climbing trip where all fingers are rather essential. Nonetheless, yesterday I made it down to crossfit after not going for a solid 6 days (darn you WFR!) and got a PR clean and jerk at 105lbs! What a great way to fully de-stress and get all the yuckies out of my system, even with a lame finger; it was the icing on the cake and totally rejuvenated me to return to the real world in my “life after WFR.” Just goes to show how amazing exercise and working out are for your body, mind, and soul.

I hope all of you who may be pushing through some tough parts in your life get a little hope from this post. Just know that whatever it is, it is impermanent. After some nitty gritty perseverance and hard work, you too will have a moment to pause.

Silver Linings

Standard

I have to say, ever since I arrived back in SLC from my adventurous break in Moab, I have been right back in the grind, but even worse than normal. This past Sunday (the 15th), all of my pre-practical tests for my Wilderness First Responder certification were due, which took a lot of time and effort. I worked all day Thursday, Friday, and most of Saturday to finish those up; my roommate even left for the night, came back the next day, and was concerned that I hadn’t moved from my permanent study spot on the couch. In addition, all of my other classes required quite a bit of work over break that is all due this week, including a lengthy research paper, with many tests looming next week (I know, it’s the first week back and there are already tests on my mind, ugh). And that’s just the general overview; you could say I’m pretty darn stressed.

BUT, I am a firm believer in finding the little, happy things, even when times seem dark and gloomy. So today, I am grateful/excited about two things:

1. Shaw served a vegan lunch option, and it’s not even Meatless Wednesday! It was a delicious, light Indian curry type thing, with chickpeas and lentils for some good complete protein. I love finding proteins, like the beans today, outside of the classics like tofu, especially since there is some negative research about soy and its affects on hormones.

2. I maxed my deadlift at crossfit at 225lbs (personal record by a ton)! I have not really found my max for a lot of movements yet, so today was exciting just in that I got to work up to a max for once. But I also broke 200lbs, which I had no idea was even possible for me. This was a little glimmer of the improvement I’ve been working towards in crossfit. Sometimes it is really hard to tell if you are going forward at all, and it can seem like a lot of tough workouts for not a lot of results. But then there are days like today where you can really see all you’ve put into it. Stoked!

So I guess this wasn’t much of a vegan post aside from my brief lunch shoutout, but being a health freak, I do think it is important to focus on the mental health factors too (like controlling stress). Even the bad days have redeeming qualities. The world is not actually completely against you. And boy am I glad about that! Happy Monday!(:

Vegan Mac n Cheese Round 2

Standard
Vegan Mac n Cheese Round 2

The last time I posted about mac n cheese I swore it was probably the last time I would ever pursue a vegan mac n cheese. However, tonight I made mac n cheese from scratch, with a significantly more positive outcome!

My lovely friend Bridger, who is currently pursuing a mostly vegan diet (aside from eggs), decided it was time to whip up a batch and experience the novelty, and I just so happened to have a brand new bag of nutritional yeast on hand, so we teamed up for this culinary adventure. We used the recipe from Vegan Yumminess, which was the first thing that came up with a Google search. It has a 4.9 star rating, so it must be good right?

Vegan Mac n Cheese:
Ingredients
  • 10 ounces dried macaroni (or about 2⅔ cups)
  • 1 cup peeled/diced yellow potatoes (or russets)
  • ¼ cup peeled/diced carrots
  • ⅓ cup chopped onion
  • ¾ cup water (preferably use liquid from pot of boiled veggies)
  • ½ cup raw cashews
  • ¼ cup coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ¾ to 1 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 pinch paprika
Instructions
  1. Cook macaroni al dente, according to package instructions (usually requires boiling for 6-8 minutes in salted water), drain, and set aside.
  2. Bring several cups of water to boil in a small pot. Place chopped potatoes, carrots, and onion in the boiling water, and cook for about 10 minutes, or until vegetables are tender and soft enough to blend. Cooking time will vary slightly, based on how small you have chopped your veggies.
  3. When veggies are soft enough to blend, use a slotted spoon to remove them from cooking water, and place them in your blender. Add ¾ cup of that cooking water to your blender, along with your remaining ingredients.
  4. Blend until smooth.
  5. Pour sauce over your cooked macaroni noodles in a dish of your choice, taste for salt, and serve immediately.

For our dish, we used whole wheat shell pasta. Also, it is important to note that we used the thick, fully creamy coconut milk, not the thin coconut milk that comes in cartons to put over your cereal.IMG_20150314_185006_836

At first, I was pretty skeptical of the whole thing. Who would blend up carrots to make a cheese-like sauce?? Yet, the final product was weirdly cheesy. I was almost scared to try it, since it didn’t make sense for those ingredients to be able to come together to make a cheese substitute, but it smelled so yummy that I was ultimately tempted. The mac n cheese, while not exactly a rich cheesy taste, was very pleasantly creamy and savory. It had the same comforting effect that normal mac and cheese used to have on me. Moral of the story? Skip the boxed mac n cheese! Make your own! Homemade vegan mac n cheese is a treat every vegan should experience.

A Report on Vegan Camping (And General Spring Break Adventures in Moab)

Standard
A Report on Vegan Camping (And General Spring Break Adventures in Moab)

Back again! This week is my spring break, and I spent the first part of it, last Friday through this Wednesday, in the Moab area with my two friends Charlie and Devon. Charlie and I tend to do lots of crazy adventures together that result in interesting stories, and Devon added some craziness to the mix as well!

Charlie is not a big plan ahead kinda guy, so I was forced to either plan all of our meals and food or depend on Charlie’s stash of 15 bags of top ramen, a large jar of peanut butter, pancake mix, and various canned soups. Of course, I had to choose the first option, and I forced the boys into eating vegan with me for almost the entire trip.

When I began planning I realized I had no idea what to bring camping as a vegan. Also, I didn’t have a cooler, which was considerably limiting. I ended up purchasing a small cooler from Smith’s the day of departure and adding some hummus, salsa, mixed greens (which I didn’t use), garden burger patties (which I also didn’t use), and some soy milk. The rest of my stuff was relatively stable without refrigeration.

I had three staple camping foods on my menu plan for dinners that I have come across during my time with the Outdoor Rec program at school: burritos with beans, rice, and veggies; curried quinoa with veggies; and gado-gado (which I honestly have no idea how to spell).

For the Burritos:

Stir-fry some veggies and garlic in a pan; I used bell peppers and onion. Then set those aside and cook up some brown rice (boil-in-bag is pretty easy), toss in a can of beans, mix in the veggies, and season with some salt and pepper.  Add salsa on top and serve with tortillas.

Curried Quinoa:

Stir-fry veggies with garlic; again I used bell peppers and onion, also some chopped carrots. Set aside and cook the quinoa. Add in a ton of curry powder to the quinoa and maybe some salt and pepper too. Stir in the veggies. I also like to add some type of seed for a richer taste, so this time I added raw sprouted pumpkin seeds. Some people also enjoy raisins, but I prefer to leave those out.

Gado-Gado:

This dish is a Thai noodle peanut-buttery dish that really sticks to your ribs. Definitely my favorite, especially after a long day.

Stir fry some veggies with garlic (bell pepper, onion, and this time I added cauliflower too). Then cook some Thai straight cut rice noodles. Drain the water and add in quite a few scoops of peanut butter. The amount of peanut butter depends on how much rice noodles you have and also on how peanut-buttery you like it. Add in a few squirts of soy sauce, which you can also adjust to your tastes. Keep stirring it up until all of the noodles are coated (be prepared for some tiring stirring with all that peanut butter in there). Add in the veggies and mix it up one last time.

On the first night, we got into camp well after dark and had some considerable issues trying to fire up the stove. Charlie had neglected to test the stove before leaving. We made use of Charlie’s abundant top ramen store and ate raw, crunchy top ramen cakes for dinner. I also had a Bobo’s Oat Bar to give a little extra substance. Other than that, however, the planned meals worked out beautifully!

For breakfasts, we did pancakes, oatmeal, and cereal. Pancake mixes aren’t vegan, so that was a small fudge of my veganness for one morning, please don’t tell on me. Also, a camping tip for oatmeal: if you forget to bring any normal sweetener for your plain oatmeal, pancake syrup works pretty well.

Each lunch consisted of fresh-in-the-field as my dad likes to call it (not pre-made in the mornings) PB&J sandwiches. One jar of strawberry jam was just enough to get us through all five lunches. For trail snacks, I brought apples, lots of Clif bars, and Bobo’s Oat Bars. I also indulged in way too many Oreos because 1. Devon bought a package of double-stuffed, 2. Oreos happen to be vegan, and 3. they are stupidly irresistible and get me every time. However, I’m fairly sure I burned off the calories with all of our climbing, hiking, and rappelling we did.

Which brings me to the actual adventures we had! Unfortunately, I do not have the time or space to write it all out, and most people probably don’t have the patience to read through it all, so I’ll just add some photos and mention some highlights:

Charlie’s first trad leads (starting on ’30 Seconds Above Potash’ a classic 5.8 crack climb!)

First desert tower summits (Owl Rock and Bullwinkle Tower)

Three awesome rappels (Cable Arch, Looking Glass Rock, Morning Glory Arch)

Lots of hiking and messing around in Arches and Canyonlands National Parks

DSCN0058 DSCN0065 DSCN0118 DSCN0127 DSCN0134 DSCN0159 DSCN0163 DSCN0190 DSCN0209

Seitan! (Dun, Dun, Duuunnn)

Standard

This past weekend was extremely busy and stressful for me on the academic front, yet I somehow managed to squeeze in my first Seitan-making experiment on Sunday (I mostly used it as a break from writing my seemingly endless analysis of Paradise Lost). It turns out, Seitan is incredibly easy to make on your own!

I followed A Vegan with a Plan’s recipe (look her up, she is awesome!), which used vegan bouillon, garlic powder, onion powder, poultry seasoning, and nutritional yeast to season it. I didn’t have any nutritional yeast however, so I just left it out, and instead of using bouillon cubes, I used the vegetable Better Than Bouillon, which worked perfectly. However, there are tons of seitan recipes out there on the internet, and the basic process is pretty much the same. The only major difference is how you choose to cook the seitan. I wanted to try A Vegan with a Plan’s method of cooking the seitan in the oven on a rack above a pan of water, but I don’t have a rack that can sit in a baking pan, so I had to browse the web for another option. In the end, I simply rolled my seitan log in aluminum foil and stuck it directly on the oven rack. I baked the seitan at 325 degrees for 90 minutes total, turning the log over once half way through. Pretty darn simple.

My seitan turned out with a firm yet very bite-able texture, and it was not super chewy (which I was worried about, because the seitan at Shaw is incredibly chewy). The shape is a little freaky though; we all decided it looks like brains that have been mashed up and put in a log shape, but I try not to think about that too much. Otherwise, the seitan is fabulous! Right now it is sitting in the fridge for sandwiches or whatever, but I can’t wait to start actually making meals with it. I’ve seen some really cool things that people do with seitan, from buffalo wings to fried “chicken” to sloppy Joe’s. Really stoked to try them out!

IMG_20150301_163937_909

I also would like to congratulate my darling parents for their recent vegan culinary endeavor: last night they made vegan mac-n-not-cheese from scratch! After my poor experience with boxed vegan mac ‘n cheese, I was prepared to bid farewell to the dish forever, but my parents reported that their homemade version was a total hit. They used cashews as a cream base and added yummy stuff like mushrooms and sautéd garlic. You can find the recipe they used at http://detoxinista.com/2011/01/move-over-kraft/ Here’s a few lovely photos of their culinary adventure, including one of my dad, who is a professional model as you can tell.

PART_1425268458573_IMAG0345 PART_1425267881168_IMAG0344

Crazy Cool Costco Coconut Curry

Standard

The title pretty much explains it: tonight I made some crazy cool coconut curry using a sauce from Costco! Who knew Costco had fresh (in the refrigerator section), vegan curry? Even better, it is Costco size, so if you are cooking for a whole crew, you will have enough. Or if you want a good batch of leftovers to last the week, BOOM, you got a pot of curry.

The important part of tonight’s cooking, however, was the prep of the tofu. A while back I discovered the importance of draining tofu as much as possible, but I never went all out. Usually I would just pat the brick dry and press it between my hand and the cutting board for a few 5-second intervals and call it good. But no, being vegan requires the REAL tofu prep techniques, none of this amateur stuff. Tonight I used a technique I saw on A Vegan With A Plan’s blog. All you do is put a colander in a pot, put your bricks of tofu in the colander (I managed to fit 2 at once), put a piece of plastic wrap on top of the tofu (lacking plastic wrap, I cut up a ziploc bag…#college), cover with a plate, and stack something relatively heavy on top. Then you pop the whole thing in the fridge, come back in an hour or so, and tah-dah! Nicely pressed tofu, ready for any cooking endeavor.

IMG_20150226_152138_110

To complete my curry masterpiece, I chopped up some onion and got it sautéing in a pot, then added the tofu and let that brown up for a while. Unfortunately, I made such a massive amount that there wasn’t enough pan space for proper browning, but each piece got a little golden on at least one side, which works for me. Then I chopped up two heads of broccoli, a big carrot, and a big red bell pepper and threw them in, along with the whole tub of curry from Costco and a can of light coconut milk from TJ’s. I find that adding a can of coconut milk to most pre-made curry sauces works really well both in increasing the volume and in taming the strong curry flavor, which can be pretty concentrated. To serve, I put a couple big scoops of curry on top of a bed of a 2:1 quinoa-brown rice mix from the rice cooker. YUM.

Snapchat-8233810941397000053

On another note, today is the first day of the Crossfit Open, which is the crossfit competition that is open to anyone who wants to sign up. They even have a new Scaled category this year, so that you can do the Open even if you can’t snatch 5000000lbs or whatever it is the top athletes do these days. I’m not signed up this year, because I didn’t want to dedicate my Saturdays to crossfit when I could be skiing/volunteering/homeworking/sleeping/recreating in some other fashion, which I seem to be prone to do on my weekends. Anyway, in celebration I watched the recent documentary released on the 2014 Games, as well as the first Open event showdown between the 2014 champ and 2nd place finisher at the Games. Those athletes are truly inspirational. But it made me think a lot about what it takes to be at that level, and I decided its mostly a lot of commitment and a very high pain tolerance. No matter how strong and bulky you are, you will have to push through some mental walls that you might not even know are breakable. Both inspiring and frightening to think about, especially since I am so passionate about crossfit and am at the prime starting age for training for competition. Would I ever want to go to those lengths, and spend that much time, for what is essentially a glorified workout? I guess it’s some food for thought.

Although I’m no pro crossfitter, I did get some exciting feedback yesterday and today! My coach, the lovely Taylor, commented on my push-up form and strength yesterday and how much it has improved since my arrival a little over a month ago. And then today, during my now normal 70ish Burpee warm up, my friend Kiersten commented on how big my triceps have gotten! This is encouraging news, since I am still struggling back from my “Freshman 10” during 1st semester where I put on 10lbs within the first month, as well as trying out this whole vegan+fitness thing. While I am still at the same weight (after a small drop in January), I am proud to say I have experienced some body composition changes, and I feel a lot stronger! This just goes to show, once again, that a tiny waist and slim legs and arms don’t have to be the only image of sexy ladies: muscles are healthy and sexy too!

Triumphs and Failures

Standard

Let’s start with the failure first: Protein Oatmeal

This morning I woke up ready for a hot bowl of oatmeal. I haven’t had oatmeal for a week or so, and I was really excited for a warm, hearty breakfast this morning. I also really wanted to try my latest food experiment: adding protein powder to oatmeal. Before I was vegan, when I was eating clean, I had oatmeal and egg whites for breakfast so that I could get both protein and carbs in my meal. So I figured, wouldn’t it be great if I could slip some protein into my morning oatmeal? Then I could maintain that nice carb-protein balance for breakfast without eating eggs or whipping up a tofu scramble all the time. Unfortunately, the experiment was a dud. I used the RAW brand of vanilla protein powder (which I LOOOVE in smoothies, thanks Auntie Katherine for hooking me up with it), and I just dumped in a scoop right after adding my oats to the pot of boiling water. I also added 1/2c of frozen blueberries and a handful of cashews. I thought that since the protein powder is so good mixed in smoothies, it should be fine in oatmeal too. Nope. The powder didn’t really dissolve well and therefore made the whole thing really gritty. Also, the flavor was kind of chalky and almost bitter unless I got a blueberry in each bite. I wonder if this flavor problem is a product of cooking the protein, since normally it is meant to be consumed in cold water/smoothies. The whole thing could have been improved with some agave I bet, but I really hate adding sugars into my food when I should just tough it out and accept a less sweet taste. If you do decide to try adding protein to oatmeal, try it with maple syrup or agave! (and let me know how it turns out, or if a different protein brand worked better).

On a different front, I did have an exciting vegan success today: Vegan Cream Cheese!!

Audrey and I have been craving bagels lately, and with every good bagel comes some schmearing of cream cheese. This becomes an obvious predicament for vegans, so Audrey sucked it up and bought us some bagels (from Trader Joe’s) and vegan cream cheese (from Whole Foods) so we could satisfy our craving at last. The cream cheese she bought was the plain kind from Go Veggie. And it was surprisingly delicious! We had tried a vegan cheddar cheese the other day by the same company and it was awful. My friend Bridger, who also tried it, described it as being in a junk yard with a bunch of tires, starving, and having to eat the tires as a last resort. Not good. However, the cream cheese from Go Veggie was a triumph today. In fact, having a toasty, crunchy bagel with a salty schmear of creamy goodness was probably the highlight of my day. (Shocking, I know, that a breakfast food was my high point today). Next up: making my own cashew cream cheese! From what I’ve seen, most recipes are pretty simple and college-dorm-kitchen-friendly. I cannot wait to try it!

P.S. Here is a picture of my breakfast from Sunday, my last meal of my fabulous, gluttonous weekend with my parents. We went to the Blue Plate Diner, which was PACKED. They serve both nonvegan and vegan foods, and it seems like they are pretty well known for both varieties. I got the vegan pancakes and added banana and coconut. Dad got the tofu breakfast burrito. Mom got the tofu scramble, which was cooked in a soy-saucy asian style that I must try at home.

IMG_20150222_104700_651