Wednesday, July 25, 2012

How to get out of a Running (or any other sort of exercise rut)....and get your sweat on!

What's going on?!: So I have been going through a bit of a running rut the past couple of weeks. I feel like it's pretty normal for runners, or anyone whose into any sort of sport to go through ups and downs with this sport. Its happened to me before and I'm sure it will happen to me again, so if you have a lazy day, week, or month, don't feel bad, we all have them!

Causes for this catastrophe: I don't know every single cause for people to get stuck in workout/fitness ruts, but I know a few of mine:
- stress (more than usual that is)<----- this happened this time
- lack of adequate sleep
- sickness (I developped a cold, in the middle of summer.........awkward)<----this happened this time
- boredom with running route
- soreness/ankle pain
- eating too much too late and night and not feeling too hott as a consequence the next morning
- EXTREMELY hot temperatures 24/7<----- this happened this time


The panic sets in......: Most runners or active people will know what I'm talking about. You take a few days off from your usual activity, and you think that you've probably lost all fitness and need to start from zero....at least this is what happened with me. I didn't run for 3 days in a row, and then I thought "Oh god, I'm probably so out of shape" so I went another week and a half without running (okay.....with the exception of my long sunday runs with my dad because there is simply no way for me to not run those....peer pressure). This is a pretty big deal for me since I usually run every other days, and sometimes every day (with at least a day off per week ofcourse).

Ways to get out of your rut!:
1) Just say you'll run (or do whatever other activity it is) for 10 minutes. Usually after 10 minutes any tiredness or problems you thought you would have go away, and you end up doing a longer workout. And if worse comes to worse, and you still feel like you can't workout more than 10 minutes, then at least you actually tried, and know for a fact that you couldn't, rather than not knowing.
2) Add some new & exciting songs to your workout playlist.
3) Make a date with a friend to run or workout together. That way you will have to run or go to the gym, and trust me, once you start, it's so much easier to keep going.
5) Buy yourself a new piece of workout gear; it doesn't have to be expensive or flashy, it could be as simple as a new headband/sweatband, a bright pair of shorts, or some fun socks! Then you will want to make use of your purchase immediately, or you will feel like a fool if you don't ;)
6) If you usually run or workout with a specific speed/intensity/distance goal, just let that go for this workout. Get out there and run/cycle/elliptical/hike at whatever intensity feels good for however long feels good.
7) If you run or cycle, find a new/different route. You can map one out at mapmyrun or you can ask friends, neighbors, or my best friend Google, for good running and cycling routes near you.
8) Pick up an issue of Runners World, Shape, Fitness, or a number of other fitness magazines. Sure seeing people doing what you've been skipping out on might be annoying at first, but it's even more motivating in the long run. Read a couple of the articles and hearing about people talk about their workouts will get you pumped!
9) If you run/workout first thing in the mornings, lay out your workout gear the night before.
10) Read an inspiring running book such as Born to Run, Eat & Run, or one of the many other fantastic running books out there.
11) Sign up for a race or set a new goal that excites you. Whether it's a 5k, a marathon, a fun run, a sprint triathlon, or an olympic triathlon, sign up for a new goal that excites you. If you can afford the time & money, sign up for an event that is in an awesome city so that you can make a little trip out of it.

Motivational thoughts:
1) There are plenty of times when I've skipped a run, and regretted it, but there has never been a time when I went for a run and regretted it!
2) Run/workout because you CAN! Our bodies are amazing things, and we are blessed to have the ability to run and workout everyday, so get your sweat on as a celebration of what you CAN do!
3) Are you already signed up for a race? Picture yourself triumphantly crossing the finish line.....that is what every single workout is getting you prepared for!
4) Think about a particularly awesome running/workout experience you had, it could be anything from a random run through some city blocks that just felt extraordinary, finishing a race that is special to you, a spectacular spin class, or just an awesome elliptical session. Think about that experience, how great it was, and how awesome you felt during and after it. NOW go out and have a workout inspired by your previous awesome workout!
5) Okay so this last one is silly, and a lot of people would probably give me shit for saying this, but it's the truth. We run and workout to be fit. But a byproduct of said runs and workouts is that we get to eat more delicious food.....so think of a special meal, dessert, snack, or other treat that you love but very rarely have. Reward yourself after your run/workout by giving yourself that treat!

The Results: Well to wrap this all up, I went on my first, non-sunday run recently, and I'm not gonna lie, it wasn't the easiest run ever, but it sure as hell felt great! I realized how cranky and annoying I had been for the past couple of weeks due to a lack of running, because it contrasted so sharply with how energetic, happy, and at ease I was & am when I am running regularly.

Lesson Learned: Most of the time all it taste is one hard push to get the routine re-started, and it's a lot easier after that initial hard step. So read over the motivational tips, and get out there and get your sweat on!

I've got lots of restaurant reviews and recipes to share, and I promise those will be coming soon!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Rawesome Superfood, Super-powered gRAWnola!

Ohhh, granola.........few things are more comforting to me than a bowl of delicious granola & almond milk, or some soy-yogurt topped with strawberries and granola. Here is my problem though, I am extraordinarily picky about my granola. I have a huge checklist of requirements that a granola needs to meet in order to make me happy, both regarding taste and ingredients.

My gRAWnola creation :)
My granola checklist:
- no added fats or oil: I am not a fan of using fatty foods, especially oils in foods as they are not a whole food. oils such as olive oil, coconut oil, and other similar oils do not exist naturally in nature. They are a result of heaving processing of a food, and are much less nutritious than eating the whole foods from which they came.
- no processed sugar: This is both because processed sugar has a high glycemic index (it spikes your blood sugar rapidly) and because there are much more wholesome ways to sweeten things such as using dates, apples, or stevia.
- no wheat/gluten: This is because I like to avoid gluten and wheat when I can, since it already manages to sneak it's way into my diet through other sources. I will eat wheat products occasionally at home, mostly in the form of sprouted breads, and on special occasions such as dining out or when making a cake for someone's birthday, but I like to avoid it in day to day foods.
- contains only whole grains, preferable at least two types of grains: The whole grains requirement is pretty obvious, whole grains are the only way to go in my opinion. They have more fiber & protein than their processed, non-whole-grain counterparts, and they taste better in my opinion.
- sweet but not too sweet: I like for my granola to have a hint of sweetness, so that it can be had as a snack without any toppings; but I also often eat my granola with almond milk, bananas, and strawberries which add a lot of sweetness to the equation, and would be far too sweet if the granola is already pretty sweet on it's own.
- has at least one raisin/berry like ingredient: this is another personal taste preference. I always like granola to have at least one ingredient that is a dried fruit, whether it be raisins, mulberries, or goji berries. This adds some contrasting taste and texture to the crunch of the grains in the granola.
- bonus points for being raw! This is just a personal preference; I tend to enjoy the taste of raw granola more than cooked granolas because well........they lack that cooked/toasted taste and I feel like I can better taste the ingredients. Also there are a lot of health benefits to consuming foods raw, especially berries.

With this MASSIVE list of requirements to meet, I set out to make myself a granola (maybe even a gRAWnola?) that will make my body and my taste-buds jump for joy.....and I dare-say I succeeded on all counts!

The Lowdown: This granola contains buckwheat (gluten free) and quinoa (also gluten free) as the whole grains. It also uses chia seeds and flax seeds to boost the nutrition and flavor profile of the granola. If that weren't enough, I use apples and dates to add some sweetness to the mix, and lastly a cup full of goji berries to add extra sweetness, texture contrast, and color.

Rawesome gRAWnola Recipe (Gluten Free)
Ingredients:
- 1 1/2 cups buckwheat (soaked at least 6 hours and rinsed)
- 1 cup quinoa (soaked at least 6 hours and rinsed)
- 1/4 cup chia seeds
- 1/4 cup flax seeds
- 1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
- 1 (packed) cup soaked & pitted dates (soaked at least 4 hours)
- 3 medium apples, peeled & cored
Date Paste!
- 1 cup goji berries (or replace with any other dried berry or fruit of your choosing)

Directions:
1) Pre-heat your oven to the lowest temperature setting possible. If your oven has an option for convection baking, choose that option. OR if you are awesome and have a dehydrator, that's even better and you should just use that :)
2) Make sure you have soaked and rinsed the quinoa and buckwheat.
3) In a large bowl mix together the quinoa, buckwheat, flax seeds, chia seeds, shredded coconut, and goji berries and set aside.
4) In the food processor blend the soaked dates until completely smooth. It should look a creamy-caramel color. Empty this out into a small bowl.
5) Now process the apples in the foods processor until they are completely mushy & blended.
6) mix the apple slush with the date paste until the mixture is smooth and consistent.
Granola after mixing for 5 minutes.
7) Add the wet apple-date mixture to the large bowl of dry ingredients and mix well. It took me about 5 minutes of mixing to ensure that things were pretty evenly distributed.
8) Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper and place half of the granola mixture onto each sheet.
9) Spread the mixture as evenly as possible over the entire sheet. Then place in the oven BUT leave the door slightly open to allow moisture to escape and to keep the temperature down. **Alternatively, if you have a dehydrator you should TOTALLY use that. I just don't have one, and I know many people do not have access to one so the oven is a great option in that case**
10) If using the oven method, leave in the oven for 24 hours.
11) Remove the cookie sheets after 24 hours, break apart the now dry granola, and store in airtight bags. (Picture of the final product bellow & at the beginning of the post)


The Finished Product! SOO yummm



And now that we've made this monster batch of granola, how exactly do we eat this intense, superfood, super-powered granola?!? Why with everything ofcourse! It's great with some non-dairy milk and chopped up fruit, delicious to top off a morning bowl of oatmeal, fantastic as a topping for fro-yo or icecream, and best of all, as a snack on it's own! 

**Note on "Raw-ness"**
Many super-intense raw-foodists would probably not like that I am using an oven whose lowest temperature is 130 and calling this "Raw" since technically foods heated above 118 are not raw. BUT I am not a diehard raw-foodist, and I also leave the oven door cracked open to keep the temperature in the oven lower than 130. The granola still came out tasting like lots of other raw granolas that I've had so it's good enough for me! 









Sunday, July 8, 2012

Don't be Corny!

AHH, this week has been super hectic and I haven't had a chance to post until today, so sorry! I have had many great runs and even more great recipes to share with you, but I've got to take everything one at a time. For now, let me share with you a comforting classic, made vegan.......
CORNBREAD

The Inspiration: One of my embarrassing secrets is how much I love cornbread. I honestly wish I could just eat it all day, everyday. I was strolling through the aisles of my local Whole Foods, and saw a delicious looking cornbread earlier today; sadly but not surprisingly it was not vegan and also had tons of not-so-healthy ingredients. Since it is pretty hard to find good, vegan cornbread made with healthy ingredients in most stores I thought I should try making some on my own.

Almost all of the ingreedz
The Recipe: This is a recipe I've been working on for awhile, and I think I finally got the ratios right with this batch! This cornbread is delicious, hearty, made with healthy ingredients, and free of added fats. The most processed ingredients are probably the flour and cornmeal, which are unavoidable in a cornbread recipe. You can make a double batch of this recipe simply by doubling the amounts of everything, I tried making a double batch and it turned out perfectly.

Ingredients:
Dry:
- 3/4 cup whole grain cornmeal
- 1/4 cup all purpose wheat flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/3 cup raw turbinado sugar**See alternative options at end of post**
Dry mixture on the left, wet mixture on the right.
- 1/2 tsp salt 

Wet:
- 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1/2 cup unsweetened soymilk (or any other non-dairymilk)
- 1 egg equivalent (I used the Vegg but a flax egg or Ener-G egg replacer should work fine)
- 2/3 cup fresh corn kernels (optional)

Directions:
1) Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
2) In a medium bowl mix together all the dry ingredients (cornmeal, wheat flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar)
3) In a small bowl mix together the wet ingredients (applesauce, soymilk, and egg equivalent)
Ready to go into the oven!
4) Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and mix until thoroughly incorporated.
5) If adding in fresh corn, mix it in at this time.
6) Line a muffin tin with muffin sheets or lightly oil the tin. Fill each muffin space until about 3/4 full.
7) Bake in the oven for 25 minutes.
8) Remove from oven and let cool.
9) EAT YOUR MUFFINSSSS



Cornbread Muffins.....ready to eat!



**SWEETENER OPTIONS**
 The turbinado sugar can also be replaced with 1/4 agave nectar or honey, you just need to reduce the applesauce to 1/4 a cup and incorporate the nectar or honey into the "wet" mixture. Another option is to replace the sugar with 1 tsp stevia powder, and increase the applesauce to 2/3 of a cup.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Vegan Pizza Day.......and I look like a Pizza!

For those of you who don't know, yesterday, June 30th was Vegan Pizza Day! My good friend Arik (pronounced "Are-ick") and I celebrated by spending the day at Venice beach and then going to Flore Vegan (one of my all-time favorite veg restaurants) for dinner!

We totally pulled a double celebration because not only did we order pizza for dinner but we also look like pizza sauce due to our horrific sunburns. More on this joyous accident at the end of this post.

Venice Beach
The BEACH: I love going to venice beach, it is so laid back and never too crowded by the ocean. We had a really sweet spot right by the water with a lot of space around us.
The Boardwalk: After hanging out in the sun for millions of hours (as evidenced by our gorgeous, tomato-colored skin) we walked along the boardwalk at the Venice Beach. If you have never done this, I highly recommend it! The people are very interesting, and there are tons of awesome vendors selling their art, statues, jewelry, and many other items. There are lots of palm readers/psychics too if that's what you're into. There were actually a couple of artists whose art I really liked, and if I had more cash on me I would have made some purchases. 
Highlights include:
- awesome art
- interesting street performers
- "Muscle Beach" which is a famous outdoor gym by the beach where super-juiced and muscular people work out while getting a tan. Anyone can go for the day for like 25 cents
- Famous Venice Basketball Courts right by muscle beach that are often used for movies
- lots of unique and some not-so unique clothing stores
- a "Freak Show" that includes things such as the "snake lady," the "Smallest Lady in LA," the "Man covered in hair," lots of two-headed live animals, and many many other freaky things that I don't remember. Just so you all know I didn't go into this, I just read the poster outside, things like this make me sad and I just feel bad for the people and the animals being put on display
- an entertainingly massive amount of Medical Marijuana clinics
- last but not least TONS of Fresh Fruit Stands that sell Mangos. Somehow they always manage to get them at the perfect level of ripeness........I want to learn their ways

Celebrating Vegan Pizza Day at Flore Vegan
We were pretty hungry, and our giant bag of mangos could only hold us over for so long, so we headed over to Flore Vegan for dinner!

The Lowdown: Flore is an awesome Vegan restaurant in Silverlake that serves up delicious vegan foods ranging from a variety of vegan sliders, to a delicious tempeh reuben, to bomb burritos, and of-course fantastic pizzas. Flore has the perfect mixture of comfort food type dishes (like their nachos or their biscuits with gravy and tempeh bacon), and very healthy foods (like all of their salads, rice bowls, and sandwiches). Everything they serve (including their 5, COUNT THEM, FIVE types of burger patties are made in house and are super delicious). They also have out of this world desserts that I often have dreams about. No, I'm serious.

The FOOD: I've been here a couple of times before, so I know my way around their generous and delicious menu pretty well. I ordered the raw carrot-ginger soup to start, and it was delicious as always. It is very light, and does not have any of that nut cream added that restaurants sometimes add to raw soups, which I greatly appreciated because it allows the soup to taste clean & refreshing without being heavy.

I then ordered a side of the Tempeh Tu-No deli-salad, which is something they are known for. It was my first time having this and it was delicious! It definitely has a lot of vegan mayo, and I wouldn't have minded if it had a little less mayo and a little more of the herbs/seasoning, but it was still delicious. 

I also ordered the Mushroom & Tempeh Bacon pizza that I shared with Arik. All of their pizzas come on a delicious spelt and cornmeal crust that is to die for! I loved that they bake it in a pan with walls so that you are guaranteed a nice amount of crunchy crust on each piece! The pizza had the perfect ratios of mushrooms to tempeh bacon to cheese; and the pizza sauce itself was DELICIOUS! The soy cheese they use was super yummy, much better than Daiya in my opinion!

Arik also ordered their Tempeh Reuben with a side of potato salad. He has had this dish before and absolutely loves it! I have had their  potato salad before, and I must say it is quite delicious, and I'm not even a potato salad person! I forgot to snap a photo of his food, but it was delicious and it looked delicious....trust.

Last, but most definitely not least was dessert! I was super-stuffed from dinner, but I knew I would kick myself the next day if I didn't get a couple of desserts to-go. I ordered the Gluten Free Carrot Cake and the Lemon-Berry Cake. OH MY GOODNESS I cannot even describe in words how delicious these two were. I am a diehard carrot cake fan, and am super-picky about carrot cakes, and this is by far one of the BEST I have ever had in my life. The cake was perfectly flavored and definitely did not lack the moisture that some vegan cakes do. The Lemon-Berry Cake was another superstar. The cake portions themselves were super-moist and lemony and also had poppy-seeds which I loved. My pet peeve is when sponge cake portions of layered cakes are bland and dry, and this cake was the exact OPPOSITE of that: Moist and Flavorful! The Layer of berries & cream in the middle was also delicious and fresh tasting, and the berry frosting was super light and fresh tasting; not at all too sweet or heavy which is often a problem with frosting. I seriously could have eaten another slice of that cake; no joke. 

BONUS: While we were eating dinner a well-known and super-skilled NBA Basketball Player turned Sports News Commentator named Juan Sally came in for dinner. I didn't recognize him, but my friend who is a super-intense NBA/Basketball fan recognized him immediately, so that was kinda cool.

We ended out perfect day with perfect dinner at Flore, and woke up the next day with a super-fun surprise. SUNBURNS!! I honestly am a huge sunscreen person, and somehow it just totally slipped my mind to put on the sunscreen, I even brought it with me but for some reason once we got to the beach I didn't even think about it. LESSON LEARNED!