A Plea for New Camera Recommendations, Double Sunday Running Round-up, and Delish Cookie Bars (sans pictures)

My camera is officially broken.

I thought I had enough pictures of un-blogged recipes to keep blogging, but I really don’t. I have enough for maybe a handful more posts. Sigh. It’s hard to get excited about posting a new recipe without pictures to go with it. I’ve made a few blog-worthy things, but without pictures, blogging just isn’t as enticing.

There’s something wrong with the camera’s internal mechanism for recognizing the memory card. Every time we put in the memory card, whether it is locked or unlocked, the camera tells us it can’t take pictures because the memory card is locked (even when it is not). My husband’s tried to release it using a straightened out paper clip, but to no avail.

Any suggestions?

If we have to get a new camera, any suggestions on what to get? We mostly take pictures of our kids, dogs, and food. 🙂

On to my running stats.

Last week: Monday 6; Tuesday 5, Wednesday 4.5, Thursday 0, Friday 3, Saturday 15, Sunday 3. Total: 36.5

This week: Monday 3, Tuesday 6, Wednesday 3, Thursday 1, Friday 17.5, Saturday 5.5, Sunday 4. Total: 40. Not bad! I really needed to get over the 15 mile mark; every long run I’ve done over the past few weeks has been 15 miles. The marathon I’m doing is in about 2 months, so I really needed to run more than 15, but somehow I just couldn’t do it. Surprisingly, the last 2 miles of this run were not bad! I must have just had a mental block hitting at mile 15. I did suck every last drop of water out of my Camelbak, and I listened to the entirety of Mahler 2 and Stenhammer 1….but it was a really good long run!

I made these fab.u.lous bars from Averie over at www.loveveggiesandyoga.com:

http://www.loveveggiesandyoga.com/2012/08/coconut-white-chocolate-chip-blondies.html

Her pictures are about 1,000 times better than any I could ever hope to take, so really, we’re not missing anything here by my lack of accompanying photos. Just check out her post. Drool.

I made a few adjustments:

I doubled the recipe 🙂 and used a 9 x 13

I wasn’t sure I’d be into a 1:1 flour-to-coconut ratio, so I used 3 cups of flour/coconut total, with about 2.5 cups flour and 0.5 cups coconut. I used unsweetened coconut because that’s what I had. The bars were plenty sweet.

I used flax seed and water to replace the eggs. It worked just fine.

I used vegan margarine instead of butter (duh) and vegan white chocolate.

I did not use any melted chocolate on top because I didn’t want anything to detract from the white chocolate flavor. I order vegan white chocolate from Amazon and basically hoard it. I love white chocolate and would use it instead of regular chocolate all the time, if it wasn’t so hard to find good vegan white chocolate. So, when I do decide to use some of my precious vegan white chocolate chips, I am very careful to make sure those sweet little morsels of deliciousness are truly appreciated and noticed.

These bars were incredible. They are definitely very sweet and rich; my husband found them a bit too sweet. I loved them. I definitely like sweet things, but not all the time. These I might be able to eat every day, if they were around. They are dense, chewy, with a good, substantial texture; the coconut is not overpowering, and the white chocolate both dominates the bar and complements the brown sugar and vanilla flavors. I love vanilla. I love white chocolate. I love brown sugar. These bars are essentially a perfect flavor combination for my three loves.

I’ve been trying for years to get that perfect dense-but-not-gummy, gooey-but-not-wet texture to vegan brownies/blondies. This recipe is ingenius because there’s no rising agent – no baking powder or soda. That kept the bars good and dense. The flax egg substitute gave moistness without making the bars cakey or fluffy. Perfect. Definitely a recipe worth trying.

Double Sunday Running Round-up and Healthy (-ish) Peanut Butter Cookies (plus some recipe lust)

YIKES! We were on vacation sans Internet, hence the lack of posts. I’m not doing well on my 5-posts-a-week goal. It will be better from now until Christmas, because I don’t think I have any going-away plans. We went to New Hampshire to visit my family. (Of course, we picked the one week when the temperatures got into the 90s, and of course there is no air conditioning there.) I got in some decent runs; we swam in the pond, hiked, visited a farm, went to farmers’ markets, ate fresh produce, had communal meals, played with nieces/nephews, had in-door parades during a power outage, and generally had a great time hanging with my family.

Last week’s running, as much as I remember: Monday 0; Tuesday 6; Wednesday 4; Thursday 0; Friday 6; Saturday 0; Sunday 5ish. Total: 21. Not horrible, considering I was away much of that time and was hanging out with family I rarely get to see.

This week’s running: Monday 10 (in the New Hampshire mountains, no less!); Tuesday 3; Wednesday 0; Thursday 3; Friday 2; Saturday 3; Sunday 14. Total: 35. Not bad!

I’ve been listening to the following while running: Bach b minor mass; Stenhammer symphonies; Dvorak symphonies, and RadioLab podcasts. I really like podcasts for running; they keep me interested and not focused on any pain I might be feeling. However, I don’t get the daydream while listening to podcasts, as they require such concentration. Sometimes daydreaming during a run with music is just what I need. 🙂

What about everyone else: While exercising, do you listen to music, podcasts, something else entirely, nothing?

My husband has recently been put on a low-salt diet. I know this is healthier for both of us, but I LOVE SALT!!!! I think what we’re going to do is cook in a low-salt way, and I will add salt to my food if I want it (which I will). I am also trying to watch my food intake, as I have gained a few pounds over the last few months. I don’t weigh regularly, but I can tell my stomach is flabbier than usual, and my clothes are snugger. I don’t want a few pounds to turn into 20, so I figure it’s better to take care of it now. I always seem to gain a little weight when training for a marathon; I’m not sure why that is. Between nursing, running, and having a somewhat-fast metabolism, I’m usually pretty lucky to be able to eat whatever I want. Having just hit my later-30s, though, I guess I need to be more careful. Sigh. So, expect fewer dessert recipes, but they will still be made using real ingredients. I’m just not that into low-fat baking (or cooking), and I don’t like using too many artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes. First, they’re expensive (even the natural ones like agave); second, they don’t always give the same results (notably, Splenda and stevia); and third, I would rather have a smaller amount of a full-sugar, full-fat dessert than more of a reduced fat-and-sugar one. I think for me it has to do with sustainability: I don’t want to be hooked into buying sugar replacements and substitutes all my life, so I’d rather just learn how to control myself around the real thing. Easier said than done, sometimes, of course! 🙂

Another question: real sugar and fat, or substitutes (other than substitutes to make something vegan)? What’s your preference, and why?

With both of our new diet needs in mind, I made these cookies tonight. I couldn’t take pictures because there is something wrong with my camera. Like most PB cookies, they weren’t that much to look at, anyways. They were yummy and substantial, and not too sweet. The ground oatmeal gave them a really nice chewy denseness, and the combination of peanut butter and vanilla is just sublime.

They’re slightly healthier than other peanut butter cookie recipes because of the oats, as well as the lack of margarine. Most peanut butter cookies, even vegan ones, call for a fat other than just the peanut butter; in fact, my own go-to peanut butter cookie recipe calls for a cup each of peanut butter and vegan margarine. Skipping the margarine makes the cookies lower in fat, and, surprisingly, less crumbly than traditional peanut butter cookies.

1 cup peanut butter, softened in the microwave for a few seconds

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon salt, more if you are using unsalted peanut butter

approximately 1/2 cup soymilk, more or slightly less as needed

1 1/4 cups oatmeal, ground into flour (I use the Magic Bullet for this)

1 cup flour

Cream peanut butter, sugar, vanilla, and soy milk. Add in salt and flours and stir until well combined. Batter will be quite dry; add enough soymilk to make a pliable, but not wet, dough. I found that just under 1/2 cup (as in, a teaspoon or so less) was enough. I baked these in the toaster oven for 10 minutes at 350, because I didn’t want to heat up the whole kitchen; you could bake them in an oven at 350 for the same amount of time. Grab hunks of dough and flatten between your palms; place on cookie sheet and bake. These cookies will not spread, so you can put them pretty close together.

A recipe I saw today that I am dying to try is from Averie over at www.loveveggiesandyoga.com. She has great recipes, but this white-chocolate blondie looks a.ma.zing. They look SO dense, but without being wet or gooey. She seems to get the ideal consistency in her bar cookies; I’ve never been able to mine as perfect as hers. Mine are either too cakey, too wet/gooey, or too dry. I’m going to try these sometime later this week. I have some vegan white chocolate stashed away that I guard very carefully and use only in absolutely wonderful recipes; I think this one is deserving. I’m thinking some flax would be a good egg substitute, but we’ll see.

Some other upcoming recipes:

the BEST homemade vegan ice cream ever. No lie.

peanut buttery-oatmeal-chocolate no bake bars. Drool.

Sunday Running Round-up and Vegan Doughnuts from Revolution Doughnuts

This was a decent running week!
Monday and Tuesday: 3 miles each. Wednesday: 1 mile (cough, cough). Thursday: 5 miles, on a completely new route. Friday: 0. Saturday: 5-6 miles with my new running buddy! Today: just under 15 miles, in wretchedly hot and humid weather. I could have wrung out my shorts when I got home, it was that hot. Ugh. Total: about 32 miles.

My new running buddy has one of those fancy-schmancy running watches that calculates your pace and your miles (through gps). I have been toying with the idea of buying either a GPS or a Kindle for the past few years and have never been able to decide between the two. When I learned about this watch, it made that decision easy: I just ordered a Garmin running watch in lieu of either a GPS or Kindle. I’m very, very exciting about it. Today I meant to do 15 miles; I ended up doing 14.7, and if I had a watch that calculating distance, I would have run around the block to make it an even 15. Do any of you use any kind of tracking gadget while exercising? Do you like it? What do you use?

Yesterday I got to try some vegan doughnuts from Revolution Doughnuts in Decatur/Atlanta. Doughnuts are something I love and miss, and something I have not been able to make very successfully. These were GREAT doughnuts. They have both cake and yeast style; in Boston I grew up eating cake style, and had never had a yeast doughnut, but after having tried them yesterday, I think I’m sold on them. I still like the cake doughnuts, but there’s something so satisfying about the spring and chew of a yeast doughnut. We got a variety of flavors: cinnamon sugar (cake), chocolate glazed (both cake and yeast), strawberry lemonade (yeast), vanilla glazed (yeast), coconut (cake), and almond-covered (cake). My favorite was the vanilla glazed (gasp! what a shock!) but they were all good. It seemed like they used the same dough for each doughnut and the flavor was all in the glaze; this is probably typical, but somehow I was expecting the vanilla and strawberry lemonade doughnuts to have more flavor than just the flavored glaze. Still, though, delicious. It does bring up my never-ending desire to create the perfect at-home vegan doughnut recipe. The baked ones never are quite the same, and yet I cannot get the hang of frying; plus, I have never achieved the perfect dough consistency. I think this is a project I will embark upon in the fall. 🙂

I have some new recipes coming up, for some new no-bake bars, and ice cream. I had pictures of both but somehow they’ve disappeared from my picture list (AND I think I already deleted them from the camera….UGH!). I guess I’ll just have to make more and take more pictures. 🙂

 

 

Sunday Running Round-up (on a Monday) and Authentic Mumbai Vegan Recipes

Garnishes for the Indian dishes – so pretty! (and yummy)

Wow. I knew I hadn’t posted in a while, but I did not realize it had been 2 weeks! We were on vacation with my in-laws for more than half of that time, so I couldn’t blog then, but really I should have blogged as soon as I got back on Saturday. It’s not like I spent the time unpacking or anything….

As with most of the rest of the nation, it has been brutally hot here in the south. We reached temperatures above 100. This Northern girl does not tolerate heat well. I always feel like I will actually perish one of these days. Seriously, 100 degrees??? Crazy.  It was slightly cooler in the mountains, and I managed to get some good runs in.

Last Saturday: 5 miles, with a new runing buddy (a woman from my book club)

Sunday: 3 miles; Monday: 4-5 miles; Tuesday: 3 miles; Wednesday, 3 ish miles; Thursday: 14+ miles (hilly and hot – go me!); Friday: 3 miles; Saturday: 3 miles. Sunday: no run.

I need to do about 15-16 miles this weekend. We’ll see how that goes. If it doesn’t cool down I will just expect to have a miserably slow and hot run.

My Ipod died a few weeks ago, so with the exception of the 14-miler, I’ve been running sans-Ipod. (I borrowed my husband’s Ipod for my long run). I kind of like running sans-Ipod. It makes me think more and concentrate more on running and thinking through things I need to think through. I probably will be replacing the Ipod, though, just for convenience.

Before leaving for the mountains, I hosted our monthly book club meeting. The book club I am in is truly a beautiful thing. It is a group of about 10 women (we’ve had some leave and some come over the years) who all love thinking, reading, sharing, and being together. Particularly in a rural, unprogressive, largely un-educated area, it is a godsend to have a group of intelligent women with whom to discuss books. I am very grateful for my group. We read a mix of fiction and non-fiction; generally, the host picks the book. I picked “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” by Katherine Boo; it is a narrative, journalistic account of the lives of several people who live in a slum in Mumbai. The author is a reporter and basically lived in the slums for a few years, following several individuals and getting to know them, their lives, their families, and their stories. It is an amazing, breath-taking, beautiful book. It is also a quick, engaging read. I highly, highly recommend it. It is a very honest account and does not try to glorify the situation, or make it look like the people in the book are desparate to get out and be ‘saved’ from their situation – it is really a complete, developed society. Great book, if you are looking for something to read.

Anyways…normally, we just have desserts/snacks for bookgroup, but I decided to make some authentic Indian food, since the book was about India and I just happen to have a good friend who is Indian, a great cook, and a fellow blogger. I made two of her recipes: Peas Ragda, and Pav Bhaji. I also made chai-spiced cookies. The food was a huge hit! I especially liked the Pav Phaji. My friend Geeta blogged about this recipe on her own blog; it is apparently a common street carat food in Mumbia. I would eat it all the time, if given the chance!

The topping for Pav Bhaji it is served on bread and garnished with onions and cilantro

Pav Bhaji

Geeta’s post about Pav Bhaji is found here: http://foodiemomscookbook.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2012-06-15T20:52:00-04:00&max-results=1    She also takes beautiful photographs – much better than mine, but I will include a few of my own just for fun.

peas Ragda

The peas ragda is a dish made with spiced potato patties, covered in split pea sauce (I used red lentils for the sauce because that’s what I had on hand), and then garnished with onions and cilantro. It was so good. My girls liked both dishes, as did my mother-in-law, who enjoyed some leftovers. This are great recipes for kids, company, yourself!

The split pea (red lentil, in my case) sauce that is served over the potato patties

The potato patties used in peas Ragda

Sunday Running Round-up and Minty Chocolate No-Bake Bars

This week’s runs were sort of pitiful. I need to get into marathon-training mode! Since my 15-miler a few weeks ago, I’ve had mostly uninspired runs. I had a few good hilly runs while in Boston a few weeks ago, but that’s about it.

too much light, but you can see the three distinct layers: slightly crunchy crust with a wholesome texture from oats; smooth frosting-ish layer with strong flavors of mint and vanilla; and soft, sweet chocolate on top. Divine.

This week’s runs: Monday 0, Tuesday and Wednesday,  3 each; Thursday 0; Friday 3; Saturday 5; and today, a sloggish 10. I woke up at 4:30 (!!!!) today in order to get up and at ’em prior to the wretched heat setting in too badly. It was still pretty darn hot, but at least the sun was mostly not out. I went through almost all of the water in my CamelBak, which is somewhat shocking for only a 10-miler. I dread longer runs in August….I may end up having to buy a new, bigger CamelBak. Ugh.

To reward myself, and to help with end-of-the-semester grading, I made some minty chocolate no- bake bars, based loosely on this recipe from www.loveveggiesandyoga.com: http://www.loveveggiesandyoga.com/2009/11/vegan-creme-de-menthe-bars-no.html It is WAY too hot to turn on the oven; luckily, with this recipe you don’t have to! I used the microwave for the second and third layers, and only used the stove for the crust layer.

not enough light! You get the idea, though.

I’ve made this recipe a number of times, but I’ve never followed it exactly because I’ve never used nuts in the crust.

This is the only piece I ate. Right. Ahem.

Here’s what I did this time. I think the bars came out the best ever, and will make it this way again:

-I used all ground oats for the crust, and I melted the confectioners’ sugar and cocoa powder in with the margarine. This made the crust layer all fudgy. In fact, it was so good I think it could stand on its own. Note to self: make no-cook fudge using ground oats, cocoa powder, and confectioners’ sugar. NOW.

-I used just a tablespoon or so of cocoa powder in the crust layer, and about 2 1/2 tablespoons of margarine

-I used quite a bit of vanilla in the crust – 2 teaspoons, maybe?

-I used 2 tablespoons of margarine in the frosting layer, and lots of vanilla and peppermint extract

-I used about 2 tablespoons of margarine in the chocolate topping

Other variations I’ve made: crushed Oreos and margarine for the crust (yummy but crumbly) and combinations of whole and ground oats in the crust.

Sunday Running Round-up

In addition to Friday Fun posts, I’m going to start Sunday Running Round-ups: a summary of my weekly running, because the daily running posts are a little….bleh.

Monday: 6 miles

Tuesday: 4 miles

Wednesday: 0 miles

Thursday: 3 miles

Friday: 2ish miles

Saturday: 15 miles

Sunday: an easy 3 miles with my favorite furry buddy (I’m not showing favoritism between my two dogs here. My other dog is not furry. Thus, Shadow really is my favorite furry buddy.)

Today was the first round of homemade vegan ice cream of the season. I used almond milk, and topped it off with my husband’s hot fudge sauce, which is based off of my mom’s recipe which he veganized. The ice cream was a great texture (which is more than half the battle when it comes to homemade vegan ice cream) but it wasn’t sweet, so I need to adjust the porportions of ingredients.

I also made fudgsicles for the kids: banana, almond milk, cocoa powder, blended and then frozen in these cute little molds my sister-in-law gave us. Only the oldest got one because the youngest didn’t eat anything for dinner, but the oldest loved her first popsicle. I think she also loved learning how to say the word ‘popsicle’. Cute.

Dinner was a stir-fry with lots of veggies, brown rice, tofu. Good, but not my best, and not picture- or blog-worthy. Eh.

Cast Iron Okra, Vegan Jacksonville (or not) and Some Other Favorites

I made these vegan peanut butter cups the other night. I’m still working on the recipe so I will post about it soon, but suffice it to say, my husband ate three in one evening. Yikes.

I am soooo far behind on posting about running…that was supposed to be 1/2 of the blog. Oh well. I guess food is just more fun to write about, eh? Anyways, I’ve mostly just done short, 3-5 mile runs the past week. We were visiting family in Jacksonville this past weekend, and I didn’t want to take too much time away from them, so I stuck to shorter runs. Speaking of Jacksonville, it is a way cool city with lots to do and lots of kid-friendly stuff. We ate at a great Middle Eastern place called the Casbah; I’d recommend eating outside with kids because inside is a little bit hookah-bar-ish and not particularly kid friendly. It had all the standard vegan Middle Eastern fare; the falafel there is unlike any I’ve ever had. It is bright green (from the parsley?) and super garlicy. It is worth getting.

We also went to the Jacksonville River Art/Farmers Market, which is a seasonal outdoor market. It was fabulous! It is under a bridge, so it is outdoors but shady. In terms of prepared food, it was very meat-centric, but there was one booth that had a few vegan cupcake options. I had a peanut butter cupcake, which was pretty tasty, and something I’ve never tried making. It was a nice treat, and a surprise to find. I had searched online for vegan/vegetarian places before we went, and there were none at all that I could find. We managed to do okay, though, and had a great visit.

This morning I was welcomed by some cool (well, relatively speaking – 50 degrees) air; we’ve had a recent hot streak, so the colder, rainy weather today was a wonderful relief. I listened to more Brahms. I did have an exciting (well, to me) listening moment on my way to work. I was running late, so I was able to hear some classical music instead of solely Morning Edition (our NPR station switches to classical at 9 a.m……as I said, I was running late!). They played part of the 1st movement of the Mahler Resurrection symphony, which is one of my favorites. As I was listening to it, I started thinking about all the times I’ve run to that music, and started thinking about running in general, which lead me to thinking about what music to next download onto my IPod. I decided it would be nice to run to some of the Bach Brandenburg concertoes – and the very next thing they played, after a fundraising pitch, was Brandenburg 3! Weird, eh?

Anyways…A few days ago I picked up some okra. My oldest daughter, who is three, really likes okra. I try to ignore it as a vegetable, because I consider okra a very southern veggie, and I try hard to resist liking things that make me southern (yes, I’m still slightly bitter about living down here! That’s why they call us damn yankees). However, it’s hard not to provide a green veg to a 3-year old who is clamoring for it. Who can turn down a kid who is begging for more veggies? Not me! Anyways, I usually do a light pan-frying job on the okra, and I have to grudgingly admit that it’s pretty darn tasty. It’s hardly a recipe, but here it is:

about 2 cups sliced okra

about 1/4 cup whole wheat flour

salt or seasoning salt

about 1 tablespoon olive oil

Put the sliced okra in a bowl; cover with the flour and salt and stir until each piece is individually covered.

Heat up the oil in  a cast iron skillet (my favorite kind!). When the oil is hot, add the okra. Cook for 5-10 minutes or until lightly browned.

I’m pretty proud of myself with respect to dinner tonight. My husband had made some fresh salsa, but that was about all we had around. I had a clingy one-year old who wanted to keep nursing, a whiny greyhound who wanted attention, and a talkative three-year-old who was hungry. Somehow, after a long day at work and many demands on my attention, I managed to make some tofu, pasta and spinach pesto. The best part of dinner, hands down, was that the one-year-old actually ate. The three-year-old is a fabulous eater, but the younger child is just not as interested in food (maybe because she’s still nursing….hmmmm). Today she ate salsa, tofu, and pasta with spinach pesto. Score.  My oldest was clamoring for tofu and broccoli. Sadly, we did not have any broccoli, but I did make the girls some of my famous quick cast iron tofu. I’ve blogged about it before several times but I cannot figure out how to link back to my own posts. So here’s the recipe, with an old picture:

cube a pound of firm tofu – press it if you have time but don’t worry about it if you don’t

oil, about a tablespoon

soy sauce, about 1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons

nutritional yeast, about a tablespoon

optional: garlic, hot sauce

Heat oil in a cast iron skillet. Throw in tofu and cook for a minute or two. Add soy sauce and nutritional yeast; stir to coat. You can east this right away, but I prefer to let it cook for 10-15 minutes until all of the liquid is absorbed and the edges get all brown and crispy. If you press the tofu first, you can cook it less and get the same result.

Tonight I also made one of my favorites, spinach pesto (again, NO idea how to link back….). This time I used raw sunflower seeds, which was new. It was delish. Once again, I cannot figure out how to link back to my previous posts about it, so here’s a basic recipe and a picture of the pesto on pasta that I packed for the girls’ lunch tomorrow.

1/4-1/2 cup raw nuts – almonds, cashews, even sunflower seeds, or a combination thereof; today I used half raw almonds and half raw sunflower seeds

1 bag (6 oz.) baby spinach

1-2 cloves garlic

1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste

2-4 tablespoons oil

Put all ingredients in blender and blend, or put ’em in a bowl and use your trusty ol’ immersion blender. The more nuts and oil you use, the richer and creamier it is (duh). This is a fast, fast recipe – it comes together while the pasta is cooking. It is healthy and raw, and everyone to whom I’ve served it loves it, including kids.

I’m working on a few recipes right now: Vegan Peanut Butter Cups, Vegan Oreo-Stuffed Brownies, and Granola/Breakfast Bars. Wheeee!