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!

Slackness, Show Tunes, and Cinnamon-Roll bread

Yikes. It’s been a few days, eh? I really meant to be better about this blogging thing. The whole intent was for me to write down recipes so that I can replicate stuff we like, with a secondary intent of showing folks how easy veganism can be (i.e. you don’t need to buy all those fancy, pricey faux-meat and fauz-dairy products, nor do you have to have all sorts of wierd and unusual ingredients to make vegan food). So really, I should be blogging every day or every other day to accomplish these goals. Oh well. It’s been a rough week, mentally, for me, but things are picking up. In addition to my running goal, I’m going to challenge myself to blog 5 out of 7 days this coming week, starting Monday.

Business first: Running. Eh, almost non-existent….I haven’t done more than a few 3-mile runs this week. Today I ran pushing the girls in the stroller, which always seems like it should count extra. I will run long tomorrow, but not likely long enough to meet the 25-mile goal. Oh well. Life happens. This week, I’m going to shoot for 4 out of 5 week days, at least two of those being 4 or more miles, and then one at-least-10 miler on the weekend. Oh, and weights and crunches, again. We’ll see.

Today I had the opportunity to spend most of the day playing music. It is a nice break from my normal life of lawyer-professor-mommy. I sub in with a sort-of-local brass quintet; they call me when they need me. They had a wedding gig this weekend and needed an extra horn player. It was a lovely ceremony at a woman’s house; we then played the reception in her backyard, right on the lake. We did not play any truly extraordinary music, or even any music that was challenging to the listener at all, because this was not an arts-type venue; we were there for entertainment. It was kind of nice to just let my mind go and just play, without having to engage in huge amounts of intense thought and concentration. The guys I play with are all good musicians, at least in terms of technique, so we end up sight-reading half the music we play at such gigs. That always keeps me on my toes; it keeps my mind awake, and lets me think only about the notes on the page as they go by. It’s a different sort of playing than one does when working up a big, serious work. One of the nice things about the reception today was the reaction we got from some little old ladies (they really were) who were sitting near us. We played something from some musical, and they just loved it, so then we started playing a bunch of showtunes. At the end of every one the little old ladies hooted and clapped; one in particular kept telling the trumpet nearest to her how much she loved it. It was nice to bring some joy and brightness to someone’s life, unexpectedly. I usually get bogged down in heavy, intellectually-and emotionally-challenging music; I love it, and it provides a certain service for my mind and soul, but every now and then it’s nice to see (and participate in) the fun side of music. We did that today, and it was truly enjoyable.

Onto a recipe…..I made this the other day. We’ve been eating it for breakfast. I love making bread. It is a very sensory experience, and somehow earthy and natural as well. It is also surprisingly easy. I’ve run into a lot of people who are completely intimidated by the idea of making yeast breads. It is SO easy one you learn the basics. Homemade bread is delicious, and cheaper than what you can buy at the store. I usually just make a standard half-whole wheat, half-white loaf, but when I have the time and mental energy, I get creative and make bread with herbs, or other seasonings, or shape it free-form instead of using a pan; then, when baked at a high heat, it gets nice and crusty.

I digree, however. If you’ve made bread, this is an easy recipe. If you haven’t, this will teach you the basics and give you a nice, cinnamony treat.

1 package active dry yeast, or 1 tablespoon

1 tablespoon white sugar

2 cups warm, not hot, water

salt, 1-2 teaspoons

4-6 cups flour; I use half whole-wheat, half white, but you can use all white (all whole wheat is hard to pull off, at least without a whole lot more sugar and oil)

1 tablespoon oil

for the filling:

2-ish tablespoons Earth Balance, or other vegan margarine

2-4 tablespoons cinnamon sugar

Method:

Put yeast, sugar, and warm water in a big bowl. Let it sit for about 5 minutes, until the yeast proofs – this means the mixture gets all bubbly; little bubbles will rise to the surface, and there will be a tan foamy substance on top of the water. It’s a fun process to watch, if you have time. After the yeast has proofed, add about 3-4 cups of flour, the oil, and the salt. Stir. Add more flour until you can’t stir any more. Scrape the spoon and bowl, flour your hands, and starting kneadin’ that dough! I like to knead it directly in the bowl. Add more flour as you knead, as necessary. Any time the dough starts sticking to you, add more flour. Usually, 5-6 cups will do it, but it depends on the humidity, the kind of flour you use, etc. You want the dough to be soft to the touch, but not sticky. So, when you have nice mass of dough, to test it for doneness, just poke it with your finger; if the dough attaches itself to your finger, keep going!

Once the dough is kneaded, cover the bowl with a towel that has been dampened with warm water. Place it somewhere warm and let it rise. Usually, an hour or so is enough for the first rising; you want it about double the original size. Punch the dough down. If you were making regular bread, this is when you’d put it into bread pans. However, we’re making cinnamon roll bread! so there’s an extra step…

Divide the dough into two. On a floured surface, spread out one of the sections of dough. You don’t need to use a rolling pin; just use your hands/fingers to smush the dough into a rectangle that is about 6 inches by about 12 inches, approximately. Smear the dough with 1 tablespoon Earth Balance and sprinkle it with cinnamon sugar. Roll, starting at one of the 6-inch sides. Gentle pinch the ends together.  Put the rolled dough into a greased loaf pan. Gently pinch the end of the roll. You don’t need to completely attach it, though. Do the same with the second piece of dough. Let the dough sit, covered with the wet towel, for about 1/2 hours to rise again. Bake at 350 for about 20-30 minutes, or until golden on the top.

My favorite vegan spinach pesto

Today’s run: 12 miles. Go me! Music: the last two movements of Brahms 4, all of Mahler 5, and a little bit of Mahler 6. It was pretty warm out today – about 60 degrees when I started the run, which was at about 6:30. Ugh. This does not bode well for a summer of good running. I want to run another marathon in the fall, but I fear that I will not be able to train sufficicently in the brutal southern heat. Bleh. Even at 5 a.m. in August, it is already 70 degrees, which is still SO hot for this Yankee girl. I didn’t get out as early as I wanted to this morning; I prefer to do my entire run in the dark, if possible. However, we are working on sleep training our youngest daughter, and she did not wake up for her normal 5 a.m. nursing session, so I waited until 6:30 to wake her up and nurse her (lucky for my husband, she and the 3-year old slept until 7:45 after that). She’s almost a year and a half old; I don’t mind nursing until she is 2 or 3, but I was getting awfully tired of the 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. nursing sessions that she demanded. She seems to have dropped all but one session in the middle of the night, which is really not bad, as it gives me more than 2-3 hours of sleep at a time. I’ll take it!

Exciting news: I ran into another runner on my run! That shouldn’t really be exciting, especially considering I was out for there 12 miles, but it is. The small-town rural southern area in which we live is not exactly known for its activity level, unless you count running from your car to one of the many weekend BBQ festivals as activity. As far as I can tell, there are 3 other runners in this town, and I know all of them. Two are sisters, one of whom is married to another local lawyer. The third, who I ran into this morning, is the dad of the only other rescued greyhound in town. Small world, eh? Anyways, we waved at each other as we crossed paths (he was running in the opposite direction as me). I ran into him at the coffee shop later this morning (again, small world, eh?) and we started talking about running. He was doing a 9-miler this morning; the longest he’s done is a half marathon but he wants to do a full sometime. We started talking about forming a running club, but I’m not sure it’d be a club with just the two of us. I enjoy my solo runs; I get a lot of thinking done while running,  but I would also enjoy having someone to run with every few months.

After the run, the girls and I walked to the town square (well, they mostly rode in the double stroller) and we did some errands, ending up at the coffee shop and the library. I rarely allow myself two coffees in a week, but I decided to splurge and got an iced coffee. There is something just so refreshing about iced coffee, and for some reason I can drink it with just soymilk; with hot coffee I need soymilk and sugar. Weird, huh? We are really lucky to have a coffee shop; it was opened a few years ago by a young Mennonite woman, and everyone who works there is Mennonite. They always have soymilk, which is unusual here in the south. We love having it so close, and it’s right next to the library, so we always stop there too. Now that I have discovered the joys of iced coffee, I suspect that I’m going to be guzzling a lot of them this summer, particularly if this wretched heat keeps up. I may just have to cave and buy a coffee machine so that we can have coffee at home.

By the time we got home it was almost lunch time. My husband made the girls some cast iron skillet tofu (recipe posted under main meals, I think – super easy and yummy) and I made some of my favorite thing ever, spinach pesto. I needed some green veg, and I realized it was St. Patrick’s day, so I thought this was appropriate. I had it over brown rice, but I usually serve it over pasta. My husband had some on a Boca burger. Seriously, this is the BEST recipe I think I’ve ever made, so you need to go make it! Everyone I serve it to loves it. It is cheap, easy, HEALTHY, raw, kid-friendly, etc. Make it now!

Spinach Pesto

1 clove garlic

1/2 – 1 teaspoon salt, to taste (I use a lot because I love salt)

1 6-ounce bag baby spinach

1/4 to 1/2 cup raw nuts * – usually I use almonds or cashews, but use whatever you have.

2 – 4 tablespoons olive oil *

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast, completely optional

Method:

Put all ingredients in a blender or a bowl. I use the immersion blender for this so I use a bowl, but if you have a good blender or food processor, use that. Whatever. If you’re using an immersion blender, you might think at first that it won’t work, but trust me, it will! Just keep blending and pushing everything around. I put the nuts in first and then the spinach on top of the nuts, and the oil on top of the spinach, so that the oil helps blend the spinach and the nuts don’t fly everywhere.

Blend until it is of desired consistency. Eat and enjoy.

This is the first time EVER that I have added nutritional yeast to this recipe. It was fine, but it is completely fine without it, too.

* In terms of nuts and oil, it is perfectly yummy and creamy with 1/4 cup nuts and 2 tablespoons oil; however, the more nuts and oil you use, the richer, creamier, and tastier it will be (duh!). I’m sure I’ve even used less than 1/4 cup nuts when I don’t have enough, so use what you have. Trust me, this recipe is delicious and VERY forgiving. Oh, and very quick. YUM.

Quick Vegan Cinnamon Rolls and a Rainy Run with Mahler

Today’s run: 9+ moderately-hilly, cold, rainy, windy miles in about 90 minutes; Mahler 2 in its entirety. It was actually a really good run. It was drizzling when I set out, and I feared I would only be able to do 3 or so miles because of the rain (not because I don’t like the rain; I was worried about my IPod!). It continued to drizzle the whole time, but not enough to make me cut the run short. I got some funny looks from drivers-by – there’s very few runners in our town, let alone folks who run in shorts and a t-shirt when it’s 50 degrees and rainy out – but it was really a wonderful run. I prefer colder, greyer weather for running. It was quiet out; I did not see a single other person out, except for people in cars. Mahler is always a treat to listen to, and the 2nd symphony is truly a glorious work of art – hearing the organ come in at the end of the 5th movement always leaves me with chills. Such moving music. I came in from the run and made myself a BIG pot of Earl Grey, and enjoyed one of these cinnamon rolls. I have a stack of papers to grade by tomorrow, but I’ll get to those in a minute. 🙂

Did you ever have one of those moments when you told your parents you needed 5 dozen strawberry-frosted chocolate-filled vanilla cupcakes for school, and you needed them tomorrow, and oh, sorry, it’s 10:00 p.m. already?

Well, I had one of those moments last night. Except that I was the one being told that something was needed the next day, and it was by my husband, not my kid. Well, really, to be fair, he DID tell me earlier, much earlier, but….um….I sorta forgot until the night before that I promised to make him something. Whoops.

He needed some breakfast-y baked goods for a class he’s teaching. So I needed something quick and easy, something that I could make with ingredients I had on hand, and something that would appeal to a group of disgruntled, sullen, non-vegan teenagers….

Enter these yummy cinnamon rolls. They’re super easy, relatively healthy (I don’t generally cook low-fat on purpose, but these are certainly lower in fat than the average cinnamon rolls), and tasty.  They are not as hearty, substantial, or sophisticated as yeast-dough cinnamon rolls, but I didn’t have the time/patience to make yeast dough. These do the job when a sweet breakfast treat is required, quickly. Husband texted from his class to tell me they were a ‘smash hit’. Success!

Makes about 24  – recipe would be easily halved

1/2 cup sugar

4 cups flour (since I was making this for omnivores, I used all white flour – plus I had run out of whole wheat flour. I’m sure half whole wheat would work fine.)

2 tablespoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup oil

1 1/2 cups water

1 teaspoon vanilla

Filling:

2 tablespoons vegan margarine, melted

cinnamon sugar – about 1/4 cup total, made however cinnamony you like it

Frosting:

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

a dash salt

1 1/2 tablespoons soy milk, more or less

(Note: you may want to make one-and-a-half times the frosting recipe; I only had a cup of confectioners’ sugar left, and this baaarely made enough to cover the rolls. If you like really gooey, sugary cinnamon rolls, using 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar and 3 tablespoons of soy milk).

preheat oven to 350.

Method:

Sift dry ingredients. Add wet and mix until just mixed. This is a variation on an old biscuit recipe; you want the dough thick and solid, sticky but not TOO sticky, and not runny at all.

Put about 1/2 the dough on a greased metal cookie sheet. Using your hands, pat out to about 1/4-1/2 inch thickness; you want a rectangle that is about 6 inches by 12-15 inches. This is approximate; these are cinnamon rolls, not rocket science, so don’t worry if your dough is not uniform in thickness or is not a perfect rectangle. It’ll all work out, I promise. The dough will be a little sticky; a little will stick to your hands, and that’s okay. However, if LOTS is sticking to your hands and you can’t effectively pat it down, add a little flour. The dough will be too thick to use a rolling pin.

Once you have a rectangle, smear about a tablespoon of the melted margarine over the dough; sprinkle cinnamon sugar liberally over that, going as far to the edges as you can (but again, it’s not rocket science, so don’t worry about being too precise here). Using both hands, roll the dough length-wise (i.e. start rolling one of the long sides towards the opposing long side. Gosh, there should be an easier way to explain this….you want a log that is the longer length, so a 12-15 inch log rather than a 6 inch log. Got it?). Again, you might get all stressed that this rolling thing is not going to work, since the dough is kind of sticky. Don’t worry. You might have a few little tears but keep rolling, using both hands at once so that the dough doesn’t pull back. Any tears will correct themselves in the end.

Slice into 1/2-3/4 inch slices, approximately. Place on a rimmed cookie or baking sheet, with one of the cut sides (cinnamony sides) up. Leave some space between each roll because they will puff up while baking. If you use an unrimmed sheet, the cinnamon-sugar might ooze out and fall onto your oven floor, causing an icky burning smell.

Bake at 350 for about 20-25 minutes, until golden and no longer moist on top.

Mix frosting ingredients; you want the frosting not too runny; thick enough that it will stay on the rolls instead of dripping off (but some drips are good), but runny enough to spread.

When they come out of the oven, frost with the frosting. Cool in the pans. Enjoy.

These would also be good with orange icing (using OJ instead of soy milk in the frosting) but alas, we did not have any OJ on hand.

Question: if you’re an exerciser, do you use an Ipod when working out? I got through my first marathon and first 2 half-marathons without an Ipod (for either the races or training). Now, however, I’m pretty darn dependent on my Ipod. I can survive without it for shorter runs, but those lonely country roads get awfully long without some music or podcasts to accompany me. Is anyone similarly addicted? I read about the beauty of being alone with one’s thoughts during a run; I love that idea in theory, but in practice, it only works for me for about the first 5 miles.