Thanksgiving: Vegetarian Style

When I decided to try this vegetarian thing (which has been going quite well apart from those five meals with copious amounts of shrimp), I didn't really think about the upcoming holidays. Then, they were upon me.

I've used all of my vacation time this year to travel long distances to run or work, so I decided that this four-day Thanksgiving weekend would be the perfect time to stay at home and chill. An added bonus to this plan was the ability to cook my own holiday feast and not have to explain or discuss my plant-based diet at a time of year when so many tables feature giant roasted turkeys and hams.

(Which reminds me, I should probably break the news to my mom before I head home for Christmas.)

Not eating turkey on Thanksgiving wasn't much of a change for me. I do love a drumstick but the parts of the meal that I enjoy the most are stuffing and potatoes. Carby goodness!

Replace the chicken stock with veggie stock in the stuffing and it was perfect - just like my mom makes.
The mirepoix might be my favorite part of my favorite dish: stuffing.
Parsley, sage, and rosemary but no thyme.
In honor of Thanksgivukkah, I bypassed the traditional mashed potatoes and made latkes instead with the Smitten Kitchen recipe. For added flare, I used purple potatoes.
I used a red onion, too. It just seemed right. Could this be construed as supporting the Ravens?
The purple coloration was pretty noticeable, even after cooking.
Brussels sprouts are my favorite vegetable. So, when I found this recipe on Thug Kitchen (If you click the link, be ready for some cursing - TK is not the traditional cooking blog.), I knew I wanted to make it as the centerpiece of my Thanksgiving meal. They were a gorgeous part of the line-up.
Someone told me I wouldn't be able to make a Thanksgiving feast without meat.
I beg to differ.
What's your favorite Thanksgiving dish?
How do you feel about Brussels sprouts?

Official Race Recap: Millersville Turkey Trot Repeat

I ran my last planned race of the year and my first ever repeated race yesterday. If I'd had my druthers, I might have skipped this one, despite having paid for registration a month ago.

Fortunately, for me, my roommate needed an early morning ride to the airport, a friend was expecting me to pick her up for the race, and a few other friends were expecting to meet up at the race.

So, I woke up at 5 a.m., drove Larissa to BWI, gassed up the Chevy, and headed north.

I fetched my friend, LaToya, around 6:30 and we hustled up to Lancaster. Along the way, we had a great conversation about what we would do if we won the lottery - $100M plus jackpot, of course.

We got to Penn Manor High around 8:20. Last year, there was a huge influx of last-minute entries and the start time got held up by 20 minutes or so. The race organizers learned from last year and worked out some packet pick-up kinks so that everything got started right on time this year. We were all grateful given that the temperature was about 30 degrees cooler this year than last.

The start came pretty unexpectedly, no loud noises or announcements. All of a sudden, we were moving forward. For the first half mile, I was doing okay. In fact, I was at a pretty good 11-minute mile pace. It didn't last long but it felt good until it didn't.

Definitely no negative splits for this race but I'm glad I did it. And I'm glad that I had friends there to do it with me or, at least, meet me at the finish and remind me that where I am now isn't where I have to stay.

LaToya and I didn't plan to have almost exactly the same headband. :)

Me, Stacey, Rose, and LaToya post-race

Post-race selfie with Stacey - we've started a new tradition.

A Major Victory

I went for a walk today.

Big fat hairy deal, right?

The fact is, though, that over the past 2 months, my level of physical activity has decreased significantly.

I got tired and anxious and, instead of doing things I knew would make me feel better, like running or yoga, I sat in front of my computer or the television and watched more TV than any human should ever be exposed to.

Today, I got home, changed my clothes, despite the protesting voices in my brain, and headed out for a nice, brisk 30-minute walk.

Maybe this first step can't be considered a major victory but it feels like the beginning of something good.

Culinary Delights

I run/walked two mile today. It was not fun. I did not enjoy it. It was the first time I'd run in 12 days. I spent the entire time encouraging myself that it will be good again some day. Now, on to happier things.

Cooking is my favorite, so this weekend was a treat.

After a trip to the grocery store yesterday morning to purchase the necessary supplies, I started by soaking some black-eyed peas.

While those were hanging out, I put a yam and some beets in the oven to roast.

In the interim, I prepped an onion and a red pepper and tons of garlic for use in my vegetarian refritos (that's fancy talk for "refried beans").

As the beans cooked, I mashed up the yams and added some taco seasoning.

Once the beans were ready, the smell of sauteing onion and garlic filled my kitchen. When they were softened, I added the beans and combined everything with a potato masher.

After a round of dishes, I cut up carrots and sugar snap peas, added the roasted beets and some freshly fried tofu, and marinated it all with thyme vinaigrette.

That was it for last night.

This morning, I started by making a medium bowl of guacamole with plenty of onion and garlic and maybe a little too much lime.

At the same time, some brown rice, onions, garlic, lime, and vegetable stock were simmering in a large skillet.

Of everything I made, the only dish that didn't turn out exactly as I was expecting was the rice. It tastes alright but the texture leaves much to be desired. {Someone needs to teach me how to make brown rice that isn't simultaneously glue-y and partially uncooked.}

Here's the end result: Crazy Delicious Yam-Filled Quesadillas
Yams, refried beans, and cheese inside. Rice, tomatoes, guacamole, and sour cream on top. All in my belly now.
I'm already in planning stages for next week's adventures in cooking! Lentils will definitely be involved, possibly some chickpeas.

PLEASE, someone, teach me how to cook rice.

Eight Things You Might Not Know About Me

This is a meme over on Facebook. I wrote it there but I added the pictures here. Aren't you lucky, blogfriends?

1. I was in show choir for three out of four years of high school and participated in at least 4 musicals, possibly 6. I can't quite remember. (definitely Guys 'n' Dolls, Hello Dolly, Godspell, and Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat)

This is an actual photo of my actual high school music teacher. I swiped it from his website.

2. I once watched Sense & Sensibility 6 times in 5 days, so it's probably not surprising that I can quote almost the entire movie from memory. I could watch it every day for the rest of my life and never tire of it.

3. My Meyers-Briggs type is INTP and, secretly, I think that makes me better than you, unless you're also an INTP. Don't worry, I know it's not true.
Some say Einstein was an INTP. I am inclined to agree.
 4. I recently watched every episode of Supernatural straight through twice in my spare time. (This fact does not fill me with pride.) Sam and Dean's voices became so familiar that, for a while after finishing, I felt like I'd lost a friend or loved one.
Loved it when Sam still looked like a college kid.
5. Jack Black and John Cusack are my two biggest celebrity crushes.
6. Men with beards make me incredibly happy. In fact, I wish that all men could and would grow their whiskers.
Huh...What? Your gorgeous facial hair distracted me.
7. Despite the fact that I haven't run a single step in almost two weeks and I despair of finding the motivation to start again, I remain convinced that I will be in shape to complete my fifth half marathon by early May and have also been looking up more races for 2014.
It's just 13.1; NBD.
8. I hate light. When people come into dimly lit rooms in which I am reading and turn the lights on in an effort to be kind to me, I curse them in my mind. Driving at night is my favorite until there is oncoming traffic with their stupid headlights. Summer is the worst because the night is so short.
Tell me something I don't know about you. Should be easy for all you lurkers. :)

Lesson Learned

Our beautiful halal truck.
I can't remember how long we've been going there but several co-workers and I have developed the habit of visiting a halal food truck about a block from our office. With 47 reviews on Yelp, they have a 4.5 star rating. The food is plentiful, cheap, and delicious and the the men who prepare and serve it are very friendly. They know us and what we'll order. I always get lamb over rice with white sauce and no hot sauce. It's the first place I've ever been a regular.

We get halal when someone needs to be cheered up or when we're celebrating. There have even been jokes made about the stars aligning for halal - one was even posted on our quote board for a while. Trips to the halal truck are sometimes delayed a day because we want to make sure everyone who loves it is included in the trip. Other times, we've just gone two days in a row. We like it enough that we walk right past another halal food truck on the way.

My regular order - except I don't get hots.
Unfortunately, the halal truck doesn't have any readily available vegetarian options. I considered asking them to piece together various parts of other meals to make a vegetarian meal for me but, instead, I decided to have one last halal. I thought, "Hey, you didn't know your last halal was your last halal. One last time will be okay."

Boy, was I wrong. After two weeks of no greasy meat, the giant (super-delicious) tureen of lamb and white sauce I ate left my stomach terribly unhappy. For the rest of the afternoon, I was groggy and my stomach hurt. I could probably re-acclimate to greasy meat if I wanted to but I'm going to take it as a sign that my body prefers to avoid it. Though meat tastes so good, I'm beginning to think I feel better when I avoid it.

I don't want to give up the hall truck but I may have to become *that* person who asks for something special - I think I'll try rice, pita, salad, and white sauce for a start - and daydream that in years to come my "special" will catch on and be added to the menu.

What foods have you given up that made you almost regret making healthier choices?

Cheater, Cheater, Shrimp Purse Eater

Mmmm...shrimp purses
Since October 30, I've been eating a plant-based diet. It hasn't been that difficult since I love veggies and I haven't given up dairy.

One of the reasons I've not pursued a vegetarian diet before was that I didn't want to inconvenience others. Yes, I recognize it was a silly reason for not doing something that primarily impacts my life and health, but it was something I took into consideration.

So far, I've found that most people are interested in my choice rather than disturbed or annoyed by it. Of course, I have heard anecdotes about relatives and friends who were vegetarian and developed various deficiencies and began eating meat again as a result.

It's a similar phenomenon to all the well-meaning people who share similar anecdotes about friends and relatives who ruined knees and backs and feet through running.

I appreciate the concern shown and do my best to steer the conversations toward the positive reasons for my decisions and the improvements I've seen in my life and health.

Though it has only been 11 days, I've learned a couple things:
  1. When ordering at a restaurant, if there is a meat option with a similar name to the vegetarian dish you are ordering, be very clear that you are asking for the vegetarian option. Otherwise, the waiter is very likely to bring you a heaping bowl of seafood primavera when you ordered pasta primavera.
  2. Which leads to my second observation: It's amazing how many people consider seafood a vegetarian option. This has puzzled me for many years but seems even more baffling now.  I can see why people use the term plant-based diet; apparently, it's a lot clearer to the non-vegetarian.
  3. In a well-balanced diet, a vegetarian meal doesn't look all that different from a meal with meat included. All week, my plate was filled with greens, fresh fruits and veggies, nuts, homemade bread, yogurt, and other delights. While my co-workers added salmon or chicken to the mix, the majority of their meals looked exactly like mine.
Anyone else notice how small the meat segment is in this pie? And that the FISH is there?
Also, confession time, I ate some shrimp last night. It was a conscious decision. After grocery shopping (I'll never do that on a Saturday night again!), I got some Wegmans Chinese food and was really craving some shrimp purses. All of the other items I got fit within my plant-based diet. After resisting bacon and ham all week at my work retreat, I decided it was alright to indulge one craving if it could help ease my transition to vegetarian eating.

Vegetarians: Did you indulge any cravings as you transitioned away from meat?
Non-vegetarians: Is meat the center of your meal or merely a part? 


Though I am not a generally anxious person, I do have occasional bouts with depression and anxiety. Sometimes, I don't even realize I'm anxious until I start to feel like I'm having a stroke or a heart attack.

It started yesterday afternoon. For a while, it felt like someone was pulling the skin and muscles on the left side of my neck taut. Then the left side of my face felt numb. Then my left arm. There wasn't any pain, just semi-tingly numbness.

If my mood is already tending toward anxiety, my brain will focus intensely on minor aches and pains and scroll through a long list of diseases or conditions I might have based on the symptoms I (believe I) am experiencing.

The problem is that once my brain fixates on a particular symptom or condition, it will amplify that symptom and create others. A further problem is that it's not easy to tell the difference between real and perceived symptoms. So, how am I supposed to decide which symptoms of impending death deserve medical attention?

Our brains are powerful instruments - they can do wonderful and terrible things.

During a particularly difficult time in my life, a few years ago, I was so convinced that I was having a heart attack that I drove myself to the hospital at 1 a.m. This example shows how rational my thoughts are when I'm in this downward spiral.

When I was running/exercising regularly, even when my life was stressful, I didn't experience this type of anxiety. I suppose that's another item to add to the list of reasons I need to become active again...

Have you ever experienced anxiety/depression?
What did you do to cope?

Vegetarian Noms

It's only been three days without meat but, today, I was feeling tempted to go to Chipotle and get a giant steak burrito. I considered getting a veggie burrito instead but then I remembered the scads of delicious, already-purchased food in my house.

Though I already had a ridiculous amount of cassoulet prepared, I decided to use up some other ingredients that were hanging out in my pantry: an avocado, a leek, several cloves of garlic, a handful of grape tomatoes, and a bunch of fresh parsley.

I quickly sauteed the garlic, leek, and tomatoes until the leeks were softened. I added the cooked ingredients to my Nutribullet, along with the parsley and avocado, and blended until smooth. With the addition of some salt, freshly ground pepper, and chili powder, I had something like guacamole, only mellower.

Alongside a grilled cheese and avocado sandwich and some Food Should Taste Good Olive Chips, I had a scrumptious and satisfying dinner.

My sandwich cutting skills left something to be desired tonight.