Classics trip: part 1 (Hi from JFK)

Leave it to the Northeast to deliver the first snowstorm to really pound the Mid-Atlantic and NYC all winter on the day we’re traveling across the Atlantic to Athens…

Happy March to you, too. It took us 5 hours to make it from Philly to JFK alone.

I’ve flown internationally in blizzard conditions before (to England a few years ago on a nasty night in January), and it wasn’t an experience I was looking to repeat. Ah well. My mom is somewhere in Philly having a heart attack over the conditions.

I thought I’d talk a bit about packing for international (or just long) travel, since this is not exactly my first time at the terminal-rodeo. I’ve managed to hone my packing and food prep over the years thanks to trips to France, Italy, and flights back and forth to London during my study year abroad.

Packing, while always annoying, is the easy part:

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I am my mother’s daughter. Pro tip: folding as thinly as possible is the name of the game. Stack as if your clothes are cheese in a display case: layer collars on opposite sides to keep things flat. You’ll fit a heck of a lot more than you would if you just stacked on two sides, and everything stays incredibly neat.

My #1 piece of advice for traveling overseas is obvious, but true: come to terms with the fact that you do not need NEARLY as much clothing & accoutrement as you think you do. Just because you CAN bring 50 pounds worth of clothes & junk, doesn’t mean you need to. For this trip– March 5th to the 20th– I’m hopping from NYC to Rome, to Athens, all over Greece, back to Rome, down the western Italian coast, and home again with 4 pairs of pants (including what I’m wearing at the airport), Sperry’s and sneakers, and a pair of flip flops for walking around the hotel room. I have a shirt for each day and two nice outfits (for fancy dinners in Rome, about which we were told in our itinerary). Other than that, I plan on layering for 50 to 60 degree weather in each country: a thin rain jacket in my backpack; a basic lightweight coat; and a warmer Patagonia. I have just one pair of PJ pants, a t-shirt per week to sleep in, and a sweatshirt in case I’m cold at night (and I’m always cold, so this was a necessity). I slipped a t-shirt, thin pullover, and pair of underwear into my backpack–just in case– and have one book and my iPad to keep me entertained. My luggage was 35 pounds, a much more manageable weight for me to “lug” around (ha) during our trip, which has us jumping from city to city every few nights.

On to the important part: the food.

If one picture defined my life, it would be this one.

Turning into a PB packet myself.

Plane food and I just “plane” don’t mix (ok, I’m done), and as you all know, I am both a real food and snack fiend. I have had some really painful experiences flying in the past due to bloating and general stomach discomfort…and if you know the kind of pain I’m talking about, you know that it’s NOT the way you want to kick off a 2-week trip. I’ve learned so much about how my body ticks since I first took off for Paris in June of 2006. Now I…

-Don’t eat plane food, to the extent to which that’s possible. It’s loaded with salt and preservatives, and drives my insides crazy. Even though it cost a fortune, I bought a grilled veggie sandwich from a panini place in JFK, snacked on a larabar in the terminal, and bought a huge bottle of water.

-Speaking of water…even though it means I have to find bathrooms all over the airport or use the dinky plane restroom, I try to stay just as hydrated while traveling as I would during a normal day. This way, I don’t become nearly as bloated (as long as I stick to foods without a ton of sodium).

-Try to eat on basically the same schedule as I normally would, meaning I pack lots of snacks and eat smaller meals throughout the day. Today, for example, I ate my normal breakfast of toast, PB and banana, packed a PB sandwich on Ezekiel bread, and had lots of celery and carrots on the side (with dark chocolate, of course).

-Even though it’s hard, I try to eat as few processed foods as possible. That means I packed lots of packets of trail mix with walnuts, almonds, seeds, and dried cranberries, dried fruit (DELICIOUS apricots from TJ’s), and about a zillion Larabars. Real food doesn’t tend to make even a blip on the radar of stomach irritation, so I stick to it. I even went as far as packing another PB sandwich on Ezekiel bread and stashing a banana in my backpack for breakfast after our long flight to Rome.

This might all seem a bit extreme, but for those of you with stomach issues like me who rely heavily on a routine every day to combat living in mild but constant discomfort, this level of preparation helps me to enjoy one of my favorite things in life: exploring new places and engrossing myself in a new culture.

And with that, we’re boarding! The Classicist in me is writhing with excitement. To Greece we go!

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The Wild Half half marathon

When life hands you lemons…

like not making it into the Broad Street Run lottery…

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sign up for a half marathon instead! Goodbye 10 miler, hellooooo 13.1 miles along the beach. I’m considering it a kickoff to the end of the school year. May 17th, we’re gunning (or really, “running”) for you!

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Rich and I did a COLD 6-miler along the river in Philly yesterday. After we warmed up– we hadn’t accounted for the wind kicking off of the river a below 20 degrees– it turned out to be a really great run. Right around mile 3, we realized that there was actually a race going on, but it was so small that they hadn’t closed off the path. When we had turned around (we ran right into the city itself, passing the Art Museum and then looping back), we eventually asked one of the race leaders heading back towards the finish what the heck was going on– and, ironically, it turned out to be a 10k. If only we had known! Another .2 at that point wouldn’t have made a huge difference. We ran a solid negative split for the run, and ended up at around race pace (8:30) for the last mile or two. Long runs usually dictate that you stay around a minute slower than you’d normally run the race, but we were just in a groove.

I don’t have an actual “training plan” set for this race, but I’ve been following this general pattern:

Sunday: long run. We’ve been basing these on minutes, rather than miles (except for yesterday, because it was effing freezing and 6 miles brought us right to the car).

Monday: yoga class

Tuesday: 3.5-4 mile run, plus strength

Wednesday: fast tempo run, 3 miles at race pace, plus strength

Thursday: 6 am boot camp. I haven’t been making these a priority lately, frankly because I’ve just been interested in sleeping in and not seeing the 5 o’clock hour on my alarm clock. When the end of March rolls around and I’m back from vacation (I’ll explain below 😉 ), these will switch to Tuesdays, and I’m going to do my best to commit to them. It’s the only time of week when I do any legit lifting– I usually do body-weight strength workouts– so it’s important that I make it.

Friday: cross train, 35 mins on bike/elliptical + strength

Saturday: 3-3.5 mile tempo run. I like doing a speedy workout before a long run to warm my legs up.

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There’s been a lotta this outside lately…I have a new appreciation for those kind souls who salt their sidewalks. Think of the runners, people.

My middle-of-the-week runs will increase slightly in distance as the race approaches, but I aim not to increase my total mileage by more than 10% a week. I’m also going to TRY (key word…) to get up for a second yoga session at 5:30 am on alternating Wednesdays, especially after challenging long runs. I went to one session, and once you’ve woken up a bit, it’s actually a really nice start to the day. Other additions (mostly in late March-early April) will be some speedwork sessions and hill workouts.

In other news…

If one picture defined my life, it would be this one.

If one picture defined my life, it would be this one.

I’m in the process of packing for an epic, 2-week adventure to GREECE AND ITALY!!! Every year, a local teaching legend (and a personal friend/mentor) leads a departmental trip to Europe in order to study Roman and Greek historical sites, architecture, pottery, ruins, etc. This year, at my request :), we’re heading to Greece from March 5th until March 13th, and then hopping from Athens to Rome and traveling down the southwestern coast of Italy until we pack it in and fly home on March 20th.

And of course, the first thing that’s all set to go is my arsenal of snacks. 5 packets of Justin’s PB; 2 5-bar boxes of Larabars–Apple Pie and Peanut Butter Cookie + a few extras (I purchased the smaller size box at Target, in their pharmacy section);  4 packets of Trader Joe’s Omega Trail Mix (pre-packaged into perfect portions); 2 snack baggies full of organic dried figs (probably 4-5 servings); and plastic spoons. I also threw three more Larabars into my backpack (which will be my carry-on), three more packs of trail mix, and two baggies of dried apricots. We’re flying from JFK to Rome to Athens on Thursday night-Friday morning, and with all that air time, I know I’m going to be hungry. Plane food makes me bloat horribly (I’ve flown internationally regularly enough since I was 16 to have figured this out the hard way…), so I’ve made sure to have plenty of minimally-processed food for the journey to Athens, across to Rome, and back home on the 20th.

I’m hoping to blog the whole experience, but I have no idea what my free time/internet access is going to look like over there. I’m also not really worrying about training while I travel, since none (literally, not one) of the hotels we’re staying at has a gym. I’ll have my sneaks with me anyway– we’re climbing Mt. Vesuvius right at the end of the trip!– but I’m not comfortable running alone in Greece, and I’ll see how I feel in Italy. I’ll have plenty of time when we return to get my butt in gear for 13.1.

Do you have any must-bring snacks when you travel? I once ate an entire sleeve of English fig newtons on my way back from London a few years ago…I didn’t know that Icelandair didn’t serve in-flight food…

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A whirlwind: literal and figurative

Stop. Just stop.

Stop. Just stop.

So this is still happening. When the “feels like” gets anywhere NEAR freezing again, I’m going streaking.

I hope you all stayed warm and managed to get into a little fun (and get up to no good 😉 ) this weekend. Going into Saturday, Sunday, yesterday, and today, I knew this was going to be a pretty nasty week. Between the weather and my schedule, it’s brutal around these parts.

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I rip through yellow legal pads like a madwoman.

Every day when I stumble into work, I make a list as soon as I have a free period– sometimes that’s right away, sometimes it’s second (or even third) period, but I find that I become far less overwhelmed when I know exactly what I need to accomplish on the daily. I also get some kind of rudimentary satisfaction out of crossing a task off of a list; it’s the simple things. I use this technique when things are out-of-control-crazy-busy in my life overall, too. When I studied abroad for a year, I had a pretty rough go of it for a few reasons, and found that ticking off each month a day at a time helped me to cope with the stress of life. That’s why I made a little checklist from last Wednesday to this Wednesday…between two track meets, double dorm duty, weekend duty, and a mess of apartment-related things to do (ya know, like needing clean socks and food, oh and WORK TOO), I’ve been able to tick off the days as they pass. On Wednesday, the dust settles (a little).

Let’s back up to Friday, because Rich knocked Valentine’s day out of the park.

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Sttoooooooooop.

On Friday night, after I sweated it out hard core for 30 minutes on the elliptical, I met him in Wayne, the cute little town outside of Philly where I used to work and Rich used to live. He rolled up with his window down and these roses sticking out of the car window (no cat, unfortunately) and handed me a huge bag of Reeses’ pb cup hearts. The way to THIS woman’s heart is certainly the latter of those two.

I was too in-the-moment at dinner to take pictures, but our dinners were AMAZING. When we saw that they had grilled Romaine salad on the menu (with delicious rye croutons), we instantly knew we were ordering that…I think it’ll always be a “special dish” for us, since we tried our first grilled salad on the night we got engaged. 🙂 For my entree, I ordered mushroom “steak,” prepared with a carrot confit. Dear Lord, this was good. I barely touched the steak fries which came with it, the veggies were so delicious. Note to self: learn how the heck to make a confit. Good wine, good company, and my forever valentine.

We skipped desert at the restaurant to hit an old haunt:

Chocolate chip cookie dough pretty much screams Valentine's day.

Chocolate chip cookie dough pretty much screams Valentine’s day, in my humble opinion.

logically, ice cream sounded perfect on a 15-degree night.

Saturday sort of stunk, since both Rich and I had to work all day.

Accio ALL the coffee.

Accio ALL the coffee. At least the day started out deliciously: 1/3 cup oats, 1/3 cup 2% milk, 1/3 cup water, 1 tsp chia seeds, and a spoonful of PB, half of a sliced banana, and shredded coconut for topping.

I taught class until 10 am, and then hopped on a bus to our last track meet of the season. We rocked it, and ordered pizza with the whole team when we returned to campus. Even though the weather stunk, Rich and I went to my parents’ house and lolled about on the couch with everyone (and watched Father of the Bride…#tingles #90s).

Sunday morning was a long run day, but when I woke up and checked my phone, I saw this happy sight…

Sarcasm.

Sarcasm.

which sent Rich and me straight to the treadmill. We did 40 minutes, which really stinks inside, but we both agreed it was better than nothing. Afterwards, we rushed to get changed and head to my first of two weekend duties (manning brunch for a bit). We high-tailed it to the grocery store for a super quick trip, since I was on duty again from 1:45-4. We really wanted to make it to the grocery store because these days, with my schedule spiraling out of control and Rich’s busy season– thanks, America (taxes)– we literally go from 7 am-midnight nonstop. What makes that even remotely bareable is knowing that we have good, whole foods, pre-prepped and ready to rock in the fridge and freezer.

I try to make a casserole-type meal (sometimes it’s chili, etc.) that we can pick at from Sunday-Wednesday, and then we typically have a “date night” during Rich’s busy season at work– Wednesdays or Thursdays this year– so we actually cook or meet somewhere for drinks and dinner on those nights. Otherwise, I’ll just grab a portion of pre-made dinner, heat it up, and throw a handful or two of raw veggies on the side. This week, we made a version of Healthy Tipping Point’s Santa Fe Casserole, but upped the veggie content a bit, as well as washed and chopped up lots of celery, carrots, and peppers to pick at as snacks.

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I don’t buy baby carrots anymore…just a big ol’ bag of organic carrots, which I wash, peel, and chop myself. Chunky cuts = more space for hummus.

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To Caitlin’s base of 1.5 cups brown rice, 3/4 cup milk, 2 eggs, 1.5 cups cheddar (I used a Trader Joe’s sharp Wisconsin cheddar), 1 can of black beans and 1 can kidney beans, I added: 2 whole bell peppers, about 1/2 cup chopped green onions, half of a sweet onion, and 3 cloves garlic. The actual recipe calls for red onion, but I just wasn’t feeling that this week (bat breath).

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I definitely wasn’t going to make brown rice from scratch, so this Trader Joe’s pre-cooked organic was perfect. It only took 3 minutes to make, and comes with 3 packets…1 was perfect for the casserole.

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Kind of reminds me of a veggie version of skittles…

 

Voila! I love the colors. We’ve been eating with chopped veggies, tortilla chips, and salsa. It’s really hitting the spot with this nasty cold weather.

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On Sunday night, after finally cleaning up from dinner, I received about 4 calls that a pipe had burst right above my classroom, so I high-tailed it to my building and cleared all of my stuff out into a little library across the hall. Displaced all day = ^dark chocolate to the rescue…and a delicious chickpea burger for lunch.

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Dinner packed for dorm duty last night, scarfed after yoga.

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And some bluberries and Wegman’s organic semisweet chocolate chips for dessert. Looking forward to the whirlwind (weather and otherwise) coming to a close after an additional night of dorm duty tonight.

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Tell me: do yo have any favorite go-to casserole/”big batch” recipes? Feel free to comment or email me at battleofmarathonblog@gmail.com. I could really use some inspiration right now!

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Hummus and pickles?

Another Wednesday, another track meet. Thursday morning, you’ve never looked so good. Just one more meet on Saturday until we’re all set for the season. After six long months of coaching, I’m pretty pumped to have my afternoons free again. Come February 20th– our last day of practice for winter sports– I’ll be that much closer to my absolutely EPIC spring break…but more on that some other time. 😉

Don’t get me wrong: I’ve definitely enjoyed coaching track, because it gives me 4 coaches and thirty students with whom to talk running every day. However, one aspect of coaching which kills me is away games/meets. I’m ALWAYS hungry, and now, at the end of this season, I’m truly tired of having to think about what to pack so that I don’t get stuck eating PB&J on white bread and a packet of cookies.

In the grand scheme of my health and my food choices on a daily basis, I know that one sort of crappy meal isn’t going to make or break me. It’s more that I enjoy food so much, and don’t feel at all satisfied after a meal like that. It’s also tough thinking about multiple meals at once. When we leave for our meet on Saturday morning at 10 am, for example, I have to think about what I need for a morning snack, lunch, afternoon snacks, and dinner. Ugh. For some (like Rich right now, who is a CPA and is busy doing everyone’s taxes until April 15th), I realize that packing a full day’s meal is a reality, and I really just have two rather obvious pieces of advice for those of you who do need to pack even just a lunch for the next day: plan ahead, and pack ahead. You’ll be WAY more likely to eat more balanced meals and snacks that way– and will (hopefully) evade the skittles in the vending machine at 3 p.m.

When I’m packing my lunch, snacks, or dinner, I find that it’s much easier to do when I’m excited about what I’m prepping and eating. So today, instead of the usual pb sandwich on Ezekiel bread, I decided to be a little wacky:

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Yup. That’s hummus, green onions, and pickles. And you know what? It was delicious. I also packed 2 clementines, an apple pie Larabar (obsessed), a homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookie (I make these weekly to satisfy my sweet tooth), and a baggie full of cucumber slices and celery sticks. Still not a warm meal (which I much prefer for dinner), but it did the trick. We also prepped veggie chili this past Sunday, so I haven’t actually had to cook all week. It’s definitely worth the little extra effort on Sunday to ensure quick and healthy snacks and meals.

I’ve had a really busy week overall, but I have managed to keep training for Broad Street. On Tuesday, I went for a frigid 3-mile run, and this morning, I did something I said I would NEVER do: I went to the 5:30 am yoga session. I’ve decided that while I hate actually doing yoga, I definitely feel more relaxed, stretched, and balanced afterward. After this winter term ends (March 5th) and I’m not on Monday night dorm duty anymore, I can attend the normal human hour yoga class at 7:30 pm. Here’s to making it there!!

Do you have any go-tos you pack for lunch/snack at work or school? How’s your weekend shaping up? I’m looking at a track meet and weekend duty– I’m driving a van of kids to Trader Joe’s on Sunday. Happy Valentine’s Day to me?

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Weekend warrior

7 miles in one weekend? That sounds like my February 2014 days.

Despite tutoring on Friday night and teaching almost all of my classes right in a row from 8 am-noon on Saturday, I still enjoyed myself this weekend.

After classes on Saturday, Rich and I went on a cold, sunny 3 mile run. I was exhausted and my body protested pretty hard, but I definitely felt a thousand times better for having pounded the pavement for a while. There’s nothing like a workout– and for me, a run in particular– to melt off remnants of work stress.

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This is becoming a favorite snack: lots of blueberries and a tablespoon of semi-sweet chocolate chips. Exactly what I wanted after three miles.

I eventually peeled myself off the couch post-run on Saturday afternoon and got all dolled up. After stopping to visit my parents right outside of Philly (plus acquiring a Dunkin Donuts coffee), Rich and I headed into Philly intending to grab dinner at an upscale Mexican restaurant with drool-worthy guac. They were booked when we called earlier in the day on Saturday, so we decided to take a chance on showing up and putting our name in, grabbing a drink at the bar, and snacking on delicious chips and guac until a table opened up. When we arrived, we were greeted with a packed bar and a two-hour wait. We were out the door more quickly than you could say ‘hasta la vista.’

Luckily, back in December on our way to see the Nutcracker, we walked by an Italian pizza and wine bar that was literally across the street from the sardine-canned Mexican restaurant. We had seen people sitting outside with scrumptious-looking pizzas and made a mental note to return there at some point. Talk about a delicious turn of events:

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Tallegia wine cheese whipped with sautéed veggies. This didn’t make it 5 minutes in front of us.

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This + marinated Greek olives (+ a fruity Napa Chardonnay…or three…) = the best appetizer I’ve had in a loooooong time, followed by…

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Arugula-topped wheat crust, smothered in pesto. OHMAN.

At which point the crazy week behind and the crazy one ahead melted into food (and wine…)-induced bliss, a 10 a.m. wakeup (BLASPHEMY!), a delicious brunch, and a miraculous lack of hangover. (Hate to admit it, but the hangover definitely fell prey to the Cap’n…a.k.a. the gigantic bowl of PB Cap’n Crunch that I ate when we got home. With almond milk, ya know, because that makes the situation much healthier…)

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I’ve finally branched out from cinnamon raisin Ezekiel bread: sprouted grains this time.

And after feasting, snoozing, and brunching, Rich and I tackled 4 miles at Valley Forge. Sorry to my New England– and especially Bostonian– friends (Hi Mandy & Cat :)), it was 40+ degrees out and overcast. Hallelujah, y’all. Everyone (I should say every DOG) and their mother (owner.) was out to soak up some tolerable weather. I haven’t run 4 miles since November, and it felt damn good.

And speaking of damn good, we followed our run with the obligatory giant-diner-omelette. Look at all of those veggies! I split the plate in half, and boxed up the rest for today.

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Name every veggie you can think of. Other than radishes…or beets…this omlette had it.

Goodbye to another fleeting weekend…and hello hellish push to spring break.

Think we prepped enough chili?

Think we prepped enough chili?

Armed with vegan chili, lots of chopped crunchies (extra organic carrots and celery), and a fresh jar of Trader Joe’s natural crunchy PB, we’re armed to take on the week.

Hope you enjoyed your weekend! Anyone training for a race and do their long run this weekend?

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A Vegetarian at the Table

Howdy, all!

First, if you missed it, Battle of Marathon was on www.theleangreenbean.com on Sunday, talking about food prep! Welcome and thank you to those readers stopping by from there (and, of course, all readers in general) 🙂 I’ve really been enjoying writing this blog, and am especially excited for some series I have planned for the new year, as well as for some formatting upgrades I’ll be making over the next few weeks. Stay tuned for posts on resolutions, My First Weeks of Running, and soon enough, my Broad Street Run training plans…as well as some insight as to why I became, and stayed, a vegetarian.

Gushing over. After a cr-aaaa-zy week last week, the Christmas floodgates have officially opened. After teaching a grand total of one class on Friday morning– the most distracted group of freshmen I have ever encountered (can’t wait to grade THOSE quizzes)– I went absolutely Christmas ballistic in the kitchen, and loved every second of it.

Here’s what I made:

Oh, so NOW you want to be all neat and orderly, huh?

Oh, so NOW you want to be all neat and orderly, huh? They’re just showing off for the camera.

Vegetarian bean balls from Minimalist Bakers. These babies were a little tricky– I was glad I had a whole afternoon free to mess around with them. While they taste amazing (not a few were consumed as a pre-Christmas-party-afternoon-snack), the dough is really soft, and it’s a little tricky frying the “meatballs” before baking. I came up with a system of rotating every minute or so by hand (a spatula was tearing them apart) so that every side received a nice crisp and would keep the bean ball’s shape.

Before I hopped into the shower to primp for my school’s big Christmas bash, I also made a double batch of Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies:

We have a bleeder.

We have a bleeder.

One with mini Christmas m&ms (which lost their coloring because of the wet banana base…*taking notes*)…modern art cookies.

Anyone else bad with spacing things on the pan? I just start dumping cookies and never plan how much room I need...

Anyone else bad with spacing things on the pan? I just start dumping cookies and never plan how much room I need…

And one batch with this delectable (accidental) Weggie’s find:

It speaks to me.

It speaks to me.

You guys know I love my peanut butter, so this was like an early Christmas present ex deis (from the gods, non-Latin-lovers).

On Sunday, I prepped a huge vat (okay, that doesn’t sound appetizing) of veggie chili from Oh She Glows. It was intended to be a quick go-to meal as my family rushes around with last minute shopping details, but it turned out to be so delicious that everyone– meat lovers and veggies alike– has been digging into the stuff. Angela even includes a recipe on there for vegan sour cream, although I’ve just been throwing a dollop of 2% plain Greek yogurt on there, since I do eat dairy.

Other scenes from this oh-so-Christmasy weekend include a holiday party for the ages…

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Grossssssss.

Doesn't this look like one of those Dixie Cups you used to eat as a kid? Ignore the fact that this was 1,000x more delicious than that.

Doesn’t this look like one of those Dixie Cups you used to eat as a kid? Ignore the fact that this was 1,000x more delicious than that.

And pre-Nutcracker Ballet (recovery) dinner and gelato in downtown Philly on Saturday night. I spent most of Saturday in bed rolling around bemoaning the world, finding pizza crumbs from 1 a.m. Domino’s everywhere in the process. Sign of a good night, or masochistic exercise in torture? I don’t have it quite figured out yet.

I’ve also managed to sneak in a few 40-minute walks, and knocked out ALL of my Christmas shopping yesterday with my mom– I have 11,000 steps on my Pacer app to prove it! My mom broke her foot last week, so navigating the crowds was a challenge, but she handled the experience like a champ.

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With all of this Christmas prep going on– both food and wares alike– I started thinking about those who have a vegetarian at their table, or visiting at any point over the holidays (or ever!). When I first went vegetarian back in my freshman year of college (2009!!), I remember my mother stressing out hard core about what the heck to feed me when I came home for breaks. The natural reaction: “fake meat products.” We picked up some Morningstar burgers and Italian chicken patties, and I lived off of those and mac n cheese. I’m convinced that every vegetarian goes through this “fake meat” phase– unless you come from a family with an experienced vegetarian around– because it seems like the natural route. Can’t eat chicken? Duh. Fake chicken patty, lovingly dubbed “ficken” by Rich.

In my 5+ years of being a vegetarian, I’ve definitely moved past this point. I do still eat the occasional veggie burger, of course (Amy’s or Dr. Praeger’s usually), but for the most part, I don’t always look to “replace” the protein served to meat-eaters with some frozen vegetarian equivalent. Over time, I’ve become comfortable enough in the kitchen (and acquired the tools necessary) to create real-food alternatives to whatever the main course might be. A great example of this would be my foray into real-food veggie bean balls (seen above): my family eats meatball sandwiches before Christmas Eve mass, and we would normally just pick up a box of frozen veggie “meatballs” so that my sister and I would have something to eat. Sorry, Morningstar, but you just don’t hold a candle to the real stuff. My sister said it all yesterday when she had the veggie chili I made for the 3rd (4th?) time since Sunday… “Amy’s chili is…okay…but…stops speaking and inhales a huge bite of homemade chili with spices galore and lots of sharp cheddar cheese, scooped up with a TJ’s tortilla chip…” No words necessary, straight from the stomach of babes. My mom loves all of the new recipes and has been joining in full-force in helping me to create new, real-food alternatives to things we make every day. Truth be told, she often prefers the veggie version… 😉

If you’re kicking around for something to feed your vegetarian table mate or table-visiter, know a couple of things. 1. Unless we’re really, really new to the game, we’re usually preeeeetty crafty. If there isn’t a “main course” I can eat at a party or over someone’s house, I just add a little cheese or olive oil (or both) to what I’m eating, and that fills me up more than enough. 2. We’re often a-okay with eating sides– at least, I know I am. However, if you have a little time and know you’ll be having a vegetarian guest, there are so, so many easy options out there to make; often, just leaving the meat out of one or two sides is more than enough.

Minimalist Bakers just did a great roundup of their always super-simple vegan recipes…

Oh She Glows is a goldmine of recipes (the chili was out-of-control good)…

Kath at Kath Eats Real Food (hey, me too!!) offered up a delicious-looking dressing for the season with butternut squash, kale, and mushrooms…

Or, tweak a family recipe (and let me know about it)!

Off to take a rainy walk (is it weird that I like to walk/run in the rain? It’s so cozy when I come back inside). I’m curious…do you accommodate special dietary needs at your holiday table/party? Or, if you’re a vegetarian, do you take it upon yourself to make sure you have something to eat? I would say I fall between the two categories…my mom usually plans what we’re having, and we work together to come up with an alternative for non-meaties. If you have a particularly good go-to recipe, feel free to share!

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Food for Thought: Christmas food prep

Heyyy y’all,

HAPPY 1. ALMOST CHRISTMAS (or whichever holiday you celebrate), but especially, 2. ALMOST CHRISTMAS BREEEEAAAAAKKKK. To those of you who don’t work in a school, keep in mind that I teach on Saturdays, so we’re pretty much breaking even. Imagine that when you’re hungover at 7 am tomorrow…

This was definitely a week to which I’m glad to (almost) bid ‘adieu.’

Pretty much sums up my attitude for the week, except it would be more like, “I have no free time…I’m eating on the fly…my pet’s head is falling o…” well, nix that last one. Minnie is fine.

Hey.

Hey.

Now that I’m one hour-long class away from a two-week vacation, I feel like I can breathe again. Despite the craziness of dorm duty, extended classes, track practices and a 7-hour-long track meet, I still managed to fumble around every morning to make a green smoothie to take to class as a mid-morning snack. I also did myself a favor on Tuesday and Wednesday nights and went to bed SUPER early. Sleep + lots of fruits and veggies = I didn’t rip a student’s head off this week, so I’ll call that a W in my book. Those two things really are secret weapons to health and to living like a quasi-functional human being amidst a mountain of stress.

The usual.

The usual.

My students are used to me slurping away at one of ^these babies in between classes by now, but a few were beyond grossed out at first. Truth be told, I was a little freaked out by how these guys look when I first tried one last summer.

Yellow bell pepper, mushrooms, onion, tofu, over a bed of kale & topped with salsa.

Yellow bell pepper, mushrooms, onion, tofu, over a bed of kale & topped with salsa.

A quick, pre-chopped dinner was all I could really manage most nights. I didn’t even snag a picture of my other creations, but Rich roasted some mean Brussels sprouts last night. I’ll do a post on some of my favorite roasted veggies at some point, because at this time of year, I crave them on the daily.

Today’s roundup isn’t as much a roundup as much as it is a preview. If you’ve followed the blog at all, you’ve probably noticed that I’m a pretty big fan of pre-prepping meals, or even just portions of meals/snacks, for easy grabbing throughout the week. I feel like one of the biggest snags people run into during the week when it comes to healthy eating is that it takes soooo much time. Honestly, I feel ya. By the time I’ve taught all day and coached, I certainly don’t feel like cooking a darn thing.

Two big things lately have helped me to stick to eating healthy, veggie-packed home-cooked meals:

1. Planning out meals for the week. If this isn’t your thing, at least give it a shot. I find that if Rich and I haven’t talked about at whose apartment we’re meeting, or what we’re having for dinner, and especially if we don’t buy the ingredients for those dinners when we raid Wegman’s (affectionately dubbed “Weggies”) on Sunday afternoon, then we end up picking something more processed on the fly and eating super late– which for me, who has trouble keeping my blood sugar steady, is honestly a nightmare. It usually takes a 5-minute conversation, and we often pull new recipes and give them a shot because we had time to think about it.

2. Taking an hour, or even just a half-hour, on Sunday afternoons to wash and chop some veggies, cube tofu (if that’s yo thang), or draining and washing beans. For my non-vegetarian friends, this could mean baking some chicken along with your Sunday night meal.

With all of this as well as the craziness of the holidays in mind, my mom and I are tag-teaming to make large batches of homemade and veggie-packed meals for the week. After classes today, I’m tackling these veggie meatballs from Minimalist Bakers, as well as two different Christmas-themed versions of my oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. My mom is making this veggie chili (it’s vegan, actually), so that my vegetarian ally sister and I can grab that as a quick lunch or dinner between shopping trips.

Lindsay over at www.theleangreenbean.com does a post every week in which she features the Sunday food prep of various individuals and blogs– look for me on there this coming Sunday! You can see how the cookies turned out…muhahaha. I’ve got some pretty awesome sub-ins for chocolate chips going in there.

All hail the giant oatmeal canister.

All hail the giant oatmeal canister. I nearly cried (not really.) when I saw this on sale…I rip through oats like nobody’s business, since they’re gluten-free and don’t irritate my stomach.

Happy weekend to you all, be safe, and enjoy those holiday parties!

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