Author Archives: Alison

Thrive Review

October 1st, 2009 | Posted by Alison in Good Reads - (17 Comments)

Over the summer I was sent Thrive to read and review on the blog. I read it over the course of a few weeks and have written previously about how I’ve incorporated the concepts from Thrive into my life and with regards to training for the half marathon this summer.

Thrive Book Review

Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life was written by Brendan Brazier, a professional Ironman triathlete. In Thrive, Brendan describes how a vegan and largely raw diet can help you lose weight, reduce your biological age, improve sleep, increase energy and eliminate food cravings.

Thrive is one of those books that has altered the course of my life. In May I read The Raw Foods Detox Diet by Natalia Rose. Her book was my introduction to a raw foods diet and why eating living, uncooked foods is so beneficial to your health.

When I heard about Thrive and realized it was written by a professional athlete who eats a high raw and vegan diet, I was absolutely intrigued. Thrive filled in a lot of the gaps left from The Raw Food Detox Diet for me. It was easy to see that yes, this approach to eating works not only for athletes, but for anyone looking to simply achieve optimal health. With Brendan, the proof is in the Energy Pudding. He has been able to train harder, recover faster and perform better all thanks to a plant based diet.

The book begins discussing the effects of stress on the body, and that there is stress that is helpful and stress that is harmful. He calls them complimentary and uncomplimentary stress, respectively. The first form of stress being something like exercise. This sort of stress can be helpful as it allows the body to adapt and become more efficient. Uncomplimentary stress would be stress that does us no favors. Uncomplimentary stress can come from work, the environment, eating processed, refined foods that are a huge drain on our bodies and are very taxing to our systems. Nutritional stress from processed foods makes up the largest percentage of uncomplimentary stress in most Americans.

When you are burdened with a lot of uncomplimentary stress, you feel tired and drained. You have no energy and your immune function is lowered. You can reduce the stress load you put on your body by eating a diet full of whole foods, especially a diet comprised largely of plants.

I have to say that after reading Thrive and The Raw Foods Detox Diet, my idea of “whole foods” has changed. I use to feel I was still eating whole foods when I ate whole grain crackers and organic boxed cereals. These items are what Brendan refers to as stimulating foods. Coffee, or caffeine in any form really, falls into the stimulating food category as well, as does junk food, refined sugar, transfats and high fructose corn syrup. When you have a diet full of stimulating foods, your body craves that stimulation and you find your self longing for stimulationg by food again and again. This is what we of course more commonly know as food cravings.

I’ve struggled with food cravings a lot this past year as I’ve worked to maintain my healthy weight. I’ve gone through periods where it’s not an issue and times when all I can think about is sweets and comfort foods and wanting to turn to food as a form of entertainment.

Brendan explains that when you remove these stimulating foods from your diet, food cravings diminish and can eventually disappear all together. When you get started, it takes a few days to recalibrate your system, to adjust and rid your body of the need for stimulation. There will be a couple days where it feels like it’s a struggle to stay away from these stimulating foods. You’ll eventually come out of it though and “recalibrate”, seeing that light at the end of tunnel if you can hang in there.

In my case these foods would be crackers, cereals and other processed grains. Chocolate and coffee too. When I eat only fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and dried fruit and avoid these processed foods – even processed organic foods – my food cravings disappear. It becomes easy and effortless to eat a plant based diet. I can eat when I feel hungry, without worrying about how long it’s been since my last meal or snack. I eat until I’m comfortably satisfied without worrying about calories or portion control. It makes eating a normal part of life instead of the center of my life. I now feel like I eat to live, rather than live to eat. It’s as though I’ve been relieved of a huge burden, and this is what I mean when I say that Thrive has changed the course of my life – I feel like I can move forward now having made peace with food.

I’m not swearing off coffee, crackers, dark chocolate and boxed cereals or even junk food forever. I’m sure I will have these foods again but I no longer crave them or long for a day when I can splurge. I now understand what eating these foods regularly will do to me, and that they are the source of food cravings for me.

I know that there are people who will read this or read Thrive and think “oh, I could NEVER give up X”. That’s fine. You’re just not ready. Whenever someone finds out I’m vegetarian, without even asking or prompting I’m almost always told what they could never live without. Chicken wings. Turkey at Thanksgiving. Cheeseburgers. Meatballs. Even vegetarians when confronted with the idea of veganism say they could never live without yogurt, cheese, ice cream. I have to laugh because I remember saying these things myself. For me the vegetarian silver bullet was always a turkey sub. I thought I could never be a vegetarian because I just loved turkey subs too much. I wasn’t ready yet. While I don’t consider myself a vegan at this time, I do feel as though I’m moving in that direction.

When you’re ready, this comes easily. It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes baby steps to move toward a diet that is best for your body and your health. It’s taken me years to get here.

I started following the principles in the Thrive diet more closely at the beginning of September. The fact that I was already vegetarian and had already begun eating more raw foods made it easier for me to move forward with his concepts and stay on track. It’s been a month and I can say without a doubt that I’ve had more energy, slept better and needed less sleep these last few weeks than ever before. My runs have felt fantastic and I’m not completely dragging at the end of the day like I use to.

In summary, I would recommend Thrive to anyone without a doubt. Depending on where you are in your life the ideas in his book might seem too radical, but it can still be a starting point and can get you moving in the right direction. I not only recommend it, I highly encourage you to read it if you are at all intrigued like I was. There are no gimmicks, this is not a fad diet, I believe this is the way we were meant to eat and live and I’m excited to move forward and stick with it.

Brendan encourages you to start slowly and ease into what he suggests. The more gradually you make changes the more likely they are to stick. He discusses how a plant based diet is perfect not only for athletes but for everyone. He also talks about exercise for life long health, and that it doesn’t mean hours and hours of daily exercise to be healthy. If you’ve struggled like me with food cravings, your weight, lack of energy, fatigue despite getting enough sleep – do yourself a favor and check out Thrive. It could be a large piece of the puzzle that’s been missing for you. It certainly was for me.

I’ve written about Thrive in many posts, if you’re curious to read more about my take on this book and how I’ve incorporating these ideas into my life:

The Fountain of Youth (Reducing biological age)
No Rest for the Weary (Making changes thanks to Thrive)
Thrive Inspired (Fueling for a long run based on Brendan’s advice)
Make Your Own Cereal, Take 2 (Fruit cereal!)
Intuitive Eating Refresher (Giving up coffee and chocolate on a regular basis)
Re-Runs (Thrive inspired thoughts on fueling before the half)
Half Marathon Race Recap (Half marathon day prep based on Brendan’s approach)
Let’s Play Brendan Says (Needing less sleep)

He also discusses the environmental impact on eating meat and processed foods, and how a vegan diet is not only good for us, but good for the environment too. The end of the book is full of Brendan’s recipes and a 12 week meal to follow if you are looking for some guidance.

My buddy Matt at No Meat Athlete also read and reviewed Thrive this summer, you can read his review here if you’re curious about someone else’s perspective.

I want to express my gratitude to the folks at Da Capo Press / Da Capo Lifelong Books for the opportunity to read Thrive, and especially to Brendan himself for putting this information out there. I’m excited to see what following this way of eating on the long term can do for my training and racing in the future as well!

If you’ve read or decide to read Thrive in the future, report back! I’d be thrilled to hear what you think.

I Love the Smell of Hippie in the Morning

September 21st, 2009 | Posted by Alison in Morning Craziness - (16 Comments)

I’m not sure this photo really does the feeling of spilled green juice justice.

Liquid Bronze

That glass was FULL moments before that picture was taken.

The only thing I can compare spilling about 8 oz of fresh vegetable juice to would be spilling a 4 oz bottle of expressed breast milk all over your desk and work clothes. M@ther#F*ckr%! How quickly you understand why they call it liquid gold. Something you worked so damn hard for and is now gone, you’ve got a mess to clean up, a baby who’s going without lunch (kidding) or a husband who’s going without breakfast (talking about the other kind of juice now).

Lesson learned – although you think I would have learned this in 1st grade – dry your hands off before picking something up that is slippery when wet. What a concept.

The glass slipped out of my wet hand as I picked it up to transfer juice from the glass to the pitcher. Fortunately it was mainly cucumber, apple and lemon juice and all the gold (juice from the romaine) had already be transferred about 5 minutes earlier. So really I only spilled liquid bronze this morning. I’ve got a boat load of apples and lemons and cucumbers so I was able recover from early morning juice carnage without having to tell Zak that no, I didn’t make any juice this morning with one hand covering the green juice slopped onto my shirt while my other hand wiped off my green juice mustache.

In other hippie news – I got out the mung beans this morning and started soaking them to prepare for lift off. I mean sprouting.

Mung Beans There They Are

Why do I feel like I have a mouth full of pebbles every time I say the word “Mung”?

4 tablespoons of dried mung beans. Gonna let these little suckers soak for 6 hours and then let the sprouting fun begin. 3 – 4 days til complete sprout-age tells this impatient mama that it’s time to go find some more wide mouth jars.

I wanted to take a clever picture of my juice and my soaking beans, one in each hand, using my third hand to hold the camera. My third hand being comprised of the the timer on my camera and holding my camera between my chin and my chest. But what I wound up with was a camera that slipped from it’s position (stupid sweatshirt) and came crashing down on to the stove, MORE slopped juice that landed on my camera to top it all off. My camera seems no worse for wear but I don’t think it appreciates live enzymes and chlorophyll the same way I do. Yeah – not sure my sweatshirt is really the stupid one here.

Somewhere along my comedy of errors this picture was taken and you can bet my juice drinking bean sprouting ass it’s getting posted on the blog for everything I went through this morning to take it.

Talk to the Hand

So here’s my very non-clever, juice and camera friendly picture of what I did with myself this morning.

Oh how I love the smell of hippie in the morning.

I Love the Smell of Hippie in the Morning

That juice is now safely in my stomach and those beans are sitting on the window sill in my kitchen getting their soak on.

In other non-hippie news I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do this morning: run or ride. When I realized that neither idea appealed to me I counted backwards and realized I haven’t had a rest day since Tuesday of last week – so today’s the day. I “rested” today by cursing at myself while mopping up juice mixed with tears.

And a fun announcement: if you’re a blogger (or even if you aren’t!) head over to Matt the No Meat Athlete’s new(ish) blog Health Blog Helper to check out a guest post of mine today! Health Blog Helper is a site Matt designed to offer advice and tips for those who blog in the healthy living niche. I’m working on a new series for Health Blog Helper called Behind the Blog where I interview some of the rock star healthy living bloggers and give my fellow health bloggers (not to mention myself!) a peek at what makes some of the more prominent blogs tick. Be sure to check out my first interview featuring Caitlin from Health Tipping Point today! And be sure to poke around HBH while you’re there – Matt’s got a bunch of great posts and tips for bloggers of all shapes and sizes.

I’m Such a (Book)Mooch

September 20th, 2009 | Posted by Alison in Good Reads - (18 Comments)

Yesterday a fun package came in the mail.

A Fun Package

Oooo I love packages! So what’s inside, what’s inside!?

Why it’s a book!

Intuitive Eating

Have you read Intuitive Eating? It quite literally saved my sanity early this year when I was having a tough time with food.

I’ve never really had a difficult relationship with food. I’ve never been a “dietier” per se, and have always known that it’s better to just live an active lifestyle with a regular diet full of whole foods – instead of eating diet foods, avoiding treats and junk food for a short period of time while you’re “on a diet” to lose weight.

Once I figured out the math behind losing weight (calories in < calories out) weight loss came pretty easily. I counted calories to lose weight, but what it boiled down to was smaller portions, not going back for seconds and cutting out mindless eating combined with regular exercise.

What you don’t find out until after you’ve lost a significant amount of weight (35 lbs qualifies as significant for me) is that maintaining your weight can almost be harder than losing it in the first place.

Last year at this time I’d reached the weight I’d dreamed of for almost 15 years. I’d run my marathon.  So now what? I was out of goals to work toward and felt like I had nothing exciting to look forward to anymore. I found myself turning to food for excitement and fun. I would restrict and “be good” during the week and then overeat on the weekends.  As horribly embarrassing as it is for me to write it: I would seriously overindulge on sweets on the weekends. I want to backspace that last sentence right out but I’m leaving it in because I know now that I’m not alone. I sure felt alone back then though. “Back then” being only 9 short months ago.

I honestly thought I was losing my mind – it was almost as if I had some sort of eating disorder!  Me!  The girl who loves to eat!  I definitely felt like it was out of my control.  Sometimes I’d be almost physically incapable of stopping once I finally let myself have even one treat.  I would get caught in that “well, I’ve blown it, might as well go nuts now” mentality. I would feel so guilty come Monday that I would restrict calories all week long to feel like I was making up for what I did over the weekend, promising myself that I’d never do that again. I would continue restricting calories for the second half of the week to save up calories knowing full well I’d splurge over the weekend – again promising myself that I wouldn’t go totally nuts.

But that “splurge” would inevitably turn into eating so much of some otherwise forbidden food that I would reach the point where I felt sick – both physically and mentally. This restricting and binging cycle allowed me to maintain my weight but it did a real number on me from a psychological stand point.

It was nasty cycle. I realized soon that this was not the way I wanted to live. I had to get to the bottom of what was going on – I’d never experienced anything like this before in my entire life. I knew it had to be possible to have a healthy relationship with food and also maintain my happy, healthy weight. These things couldn’t be mutually exclusive!

Enter: Intuitive Eating. I wasn’t blogging when I read this book but I have to give it a shout out because it truly turned things around for me. It pulled from me from the vicious cycle I’d gotten myself into. I read this book feeling like it was written just for me! The book describes 10 principles toward eating intuitively and while I found value in all 10 principles the big ones for me we’re honoring my hunger and making peace with food.

I got Intuitive Eating from library earlier this year and didn’t buy it because I got everything I needed from it while I had it on loan. It showed up in mailbox yesterday through thanks to this awesome website called Bookmooch! It’s a site that allows you to mooch books for free from other people – provided you list some books you have and are willing to allow people to mooch from you. All you have to do is pay for shipping your own books to other people and they pay to ship to you. I love Bookmooch and it’s a great way to swap out books I’m done with and get new books I want without having to pay for them OR pay late fees at the library! SCORE! I’ve mooched a bunch of great books and have emptied my book shelves of books I’m done with too.

I’d had Intuitive Eating on my “wish list” for a while and I got an email just recently when someone listed it in their inventory. I logged in and snagged it immediately and it came yesterday. The arrival of it prompted some reflection and lead to this post today. I’m very glad I own it now, and I’m even more glad I didn’t have to pay for it! I want to be able to refer to it if I ever need a refresher and I want to be able to loan it out to my friends and family if they’d like to read it.

Today was supposed to be a juice day but I dawdled too long at the computer this morning and before I knew it I was really hungry. I decided to honor my hunger and eat a bowl of cereal NOW rather than spend a half hour start to finish on juicing.

I was excited to bust out the cacao nibs from yesterday!

Cacao Power!

Yesterday Averie left a comment saying that she found cacao nibs to be bitter, and I thought the same thing when I sampled them straight up.

Sprinkled on fruit cereal this morning though the sweetness from the fruit easily masked any bitterness and they gave the cereal a subtle chocolaty flavor with a very nice crunch! Plus I love that they made the cereal completely raw. (Unsweetened cocoa powder is not.)

Fruit Cereal with Cacao Nibs

This morning’s fruit cereal combo was a diced banana, the last beat up pear and three chopped medjool dates all coated in ground flax. Sprinkled with some hand crushed walnuts and some cacao nibs and topped with unsweetened vanilla hemp milk.

Medjool dates in fruit cereal? Bliss. PURE. BLISS! I expected the cacao nibs to be the star but those chewy sweet dates stole the show!

Later this morning I had a couple of almond butter stuffed dates before I headed out for a nice leisurely Sunday long run. Yes. More dates. I’m making up for lost time apparently.

Dates Stuffed with Almond Butter

I was going to run 7 miles but felt so good at the 3+ mile mark that I opted to go the long way and do 8 instead. I was back in just over an hour.

Lunch today was a no brainer! We’ve got salad leftover from last night’s birthday dinner making lunch easy peasy.

No Brainer

Red leaf, carrots, orange cherry tomatoes, green pepper, cukes, alfalfa sprouts and a sprinkle of raw hemp seeds too. Heather told me this morning that she sprinkles hemp seeds on salad, so that’s what I did with the ones I bought yesterday. You can see them in their untidy glory around the edges of the plate. Honestly I couldn’t even taste them. I sampled a small handful before I put them on the salad though and they had a nice nutty flavor.

We’re off now to a picnic with friends to say good-bye to summer and welcome the official arrival of the new season. Autumn is near!

Saturday Madness

September 19th, 2009 | Posted by Alison in Party Time - (18 Comments)

A Saturday full of non-stop action!

I woke up this morning to a balmy 47 degrees and decided to post pone my bike ride for this afternoon when it was a bit warmer.

Instead I warmed my hands with a pot of green tea.

Pot of Green Tea

And warmed my soul with a bowl of banana chocolate fruit cereal.

Banana Cereal at Desk

Zak had plans this morning so I schlepped the girls into the car and we ran off to run some errands late morning into the early afternoon.

I hit the Thrive jackpot at the natural food store today!

First, a new foodie toy that I’m totally freaking excited about. Gonna sprout my own beans and seeds! Brendan would definitely approve.

Aww yeah gonna grow my own sprouts

Who wants to do the Bean Sprouting Dance with me? You’ve got to ball one arm up into your arm pit (like a seed) and hold the other arm up in the air (like a sprout) and then you jack the lower half of your body around like a you’re working hard to keep a hoola hoop circling your hips and you can’t let it fall to the ground lest it burst into flames and kill 100 small children in South Africa.

Got it? Good. Now let’s dance!

Next up, I’m excited about “Raw Cacao Nibs” as I’ve read about them in recipe after recipe in Thrive. (I feel like I’m very proper saying “Cacao Nibs”.) I also scored a smallish bag from bulk of raw hemp seeds to try baby! Yes, I’m totally doing this to please and impress my new boyfriend Brendan. I’m That Girl.

Raw Cacao Nibs Hemp Seeds

I also got some amaranth seeds (used in quite a few Thrive recipes) and a bag of alfalfa seeds too. I practically did the Bean Sprouting Dance out of the store to the car.

Post Thrive shopping success, we came home to unload groceries and I threw together a fast veggie sandwich.

Veggie Sandwich

Toasted Ezekiel bread, mustard, tomatoes, green leaf, pickles and sprouts. You might also call this a salad between two slices of sprouted grain bread.

Passing the child-watch torch to Zak, I left on my bike for a 50 minute, 13 mile ride – home just in time to get started on a birthday feast!

Did you know that Ava was born 4 days after my dad’s birthday and Maxine was born 6 days before my mom’s birthday? It’s a fact. I planned it that way. Or at least that’s what I like to pretend.

If you couldn’t tell, that would be my segue into a birthday dinner here tonight for my mom.

She requested vegetarian lasagna for her birthday meal. I’m on it! Veggie lasagna made to order – her vegetables of choice would be zucchini, green pepper, spinach and portobello mushrooms.

I decided to let the portobello mushrooms steal the show and have a layer all to themselves. I peeled two portobellos and sliced them about a 1/2 – 1/4″ thick and sauteed them in extra virgin olive oil until they released their water.

Portobellos

Mmmm mushroom water.

The spinach got promoted from the sauce as well and was transferred to the cheese layer. Congrats spinach! You’ve worked hard and totally deserve that promotion. I used about 4 oz of frozen, thawed spinach in stirred it in with the ricotta (15 oz container), 1 egg and some shredded mozzarella.

Cheese and Spinach Layer

Garlic, diced green pepper and shredded zucchini sauteed in extra virgin olive oil. Once soft I added a 4oz can of tomato paste, a 15 oz can of diced tomatoes and about a cup of water. A little S&P, dried oregano and basil to taste.

Sauteed Veggies Sauce

A sauce layer, a lasagna noodle layer and a cheese layer, per usual. Then I added my layer of prepped portobello mushrooms.

Portobello Layer

Back to the standard layering of sauce, noodle, cheese, sauce, noodle, sauce, parm, done.

The birthday girl and my step dad came bearing WINE! My mom asked if I was going to be a party joiner or a party pooper. i.e., was I going to embibe or not. I opted for what was behind door number 1. Someone get mama (and granny) a glass!

Cupcake! How perfect for a birthday party.

Wine

And my mom made and brought her own birthday cake! Doesn’t that rock? She just finished reading A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan and a Sock it To Me cake is not only part of the story but the recipe for it is included in the book too, and she was inspired to make it. I was inspired to eat it!

We admired the cake while waiting for the lasagna to finish.

Her own Birthday Cake

Time to eat! Our birthday dinner spread.

Birthday Dinner Spread

A heaping salad with a square of veggie lasagna.

My Dinner

Post-dinner and presents, it was time to sing to Granny!

Sing to Granny

The cake was cut and served and it was then time to sing to Ava and Maxine too. This has become a tradition in our house – at every birthday dinner, we end up singing happy birthday to the girls too. They understand that it’s not their birthday, they just love blowing out candles. Why not?

Sing to Ava Sing to Max

I know what you’re thinking: it’s cute now, but what’s going to happen when they are 80? What kind of precedent am I setting? A non-screamy precedent, that’s what.

Now I’m off choreograph a Bean Sprouting Dance routine so you can all do it awith me. In fact, I think I smell a new work out DVD in the making. Move over 30 Day Shred, there’s a new bean in town.

One Armed Carrot Jokes

September 18th, 2009 | Posted by Alison in Late Night Craziness - (25 Comments)

Who doesn’t want a little AliSUN in their day?

AliSUN

Anyone who doesn’t read this blog, apparently.

I ran to the soothing sounds of having New Moon read to me. Finally! Someone who reads to me!

New Moon - Visitor

I set out to run 5 miles and was back in about 40 minutes. I was ready to be done running but not ready to head back inside yet so I hopped on my bike for a 20 minute cool down ride and took advantage of the opportunity for a slightly longer work out today.

Home in time to be joined by a one armed carrot for lunch.

One Armed Carrot

What do you call an elephant with a carrot stuffed in each ear?

Anything you want, he can’t hear you!

I’m sorry. I googled one armed carrot jokes but I got nothing.

Google Carrot Jokes

At least the next person who googles “One Armed Carrot Jokes” should wind up here. Too bad I’ve got nothing. FOOLED YOU!

(If you are reading this post because you googled one armed carrot jokes, please report back with any good one armed carrot jokes you come up with so I’ve got one for next time.)

Moving on.

After listening to the sound of a one armed carrot clapping I enjoyed a giant salad and sound of Jillan yelling.

Jillian

Oh Jillian how I’ve missed you!

The phone rang tonight during bathtime and it was Zachary Green Juice Lover calling to report his motorcycle was out of juice and he needed to be rescued. I pulled my two prunes out of the tub and off we went on a rescue mission.

Rescue

Can you make out Zak in that pic? Are you making out with my husband?? *slap slap slap*

Words from the Weeds on the car ride to save dad?

Ava: Look! A wishing star! I wish I was a princess who never burped or farted! Isn’t that a good wish, mom?

Why yes, that is a good wish. I can’t say I haven’t wished that one myself. For both of us.

After rescuing the man I rescued the leftovers. Can we say bean soup and hummus? I think I just did.

Post Rescue Meal

Do you like that bite missing from the hummus on Ezekiel toast? Are you admiring how perfect my bite is? Two years of orthodontia baby! All leading up to this moment. You can thank my mom and dad in the comments for that.

It’s late and I’m feeling punchy (in case you couldn’t tell) from googling one armed carrot jokes and rescuing men and leftovers and wishing I was burpless fart free princess. I’m wishing that for you tonight too. You’re welcome.

It’s Juice Day

September 18th, 2009 | Posted by Alison in Breakfast - (18 Comments)

When I first started to consider vegetable juicing, Zak was skeptical. He didn’t understand what the point was or what was so great about it.

“Why not just eat a salad?” he asked.

Well sure, you could just eat a salad, but you’d have to eat A LOT of salad to reap all the benefits from the live enzymes and chlorophyll you get from a small glass of green juice. Or a big glass for that matter.

I was holding off buying a juicer because I felt some resistance and was not yet prepared to shell out big bucks on an experiment, but thank the heavens the juice gods smiled at us and the rest is history.

This same man that was so skeptical is now a green juice addict. He said yesterday he needs to know what the juice schedule is. I don’t think he cares so much about the health benefits of fresh vegetable juice as he does about the taste. And I’ll admit, it is way tastier and refreshing than I ever expected – thus we are still drinking it regularly nearly two months later.

How about every other day, does that work? We had juice on Wednesday, so that means today is juice day. I think we’ve got ourselves a schedule.

Zak left early to swim laps while I puttered around the quiet house and lugged the juicer out around 6:30.

It's Juice Day

Oh how I love the grinding sounds of a juicer in the morning.

My usual: a head of romaine, 1 cucumber, 2 apples, 2 lemons and a couple inches of ginger. Any leafy green veggie will do, really.  Enough juice for two.

It's Juice Day

I’m a lean green juice drinking machine!

Lean Green Juice Drinking Machine

The girls are with Ellen today per our usual Friday routine. I’ve got a laundry list of things to do and am hoping for an uber productive child free day.

I waited to go for my run, it’s so chilly in the mornings I decided to work through my usual AM run time and hold off until this afternoon when it’s a bit warmer. I love my early morning runs but with a good 6 months of cold mornings in front of me, I’m going to take advantage of the warmer running while I can.

This morning’s fuel was delivered via a bowl of chocolate banana fruit cereal goodness.

Friday Fruit Cereal

2 diced small-ish bananas, tossed in ground flax seed and unsweetened cocoa powder. Topped with sliced almonds and a spoonful of almond butter and a pour of unsweetened chocolate almond milk. Talk about dessert for breakfast. This my favorite fruit cereal combo yet, thus why I’ve eaten this exact combo over and over again.

The skies are looking kind of dark, looks like I better get my sneaks on and head out the door before my warm afternoon run turns into a wet one!

Tomato Currency

September 17th, 2009 | Posted by Alison in Dinner Time - (23 Comments)

Ava loves to ask what she’ll be able to do when she’s X years old. What can she do when she’s 7? How old does she have to be to drive a car? How old will Maxine be when she’s 9? How old does Mommy think she is eating all those prunes?

Today in the car on the way to the grocery store (where else would we be going?) she asked what she can do when she’s 13.

Me: *thoughtful for a moment* Ummm, you can babysit.

Ava: BABY SIT?!? Naw, that’s boring.

Me: You get paid money to baby sit.

Ava: *Absolutely incredulous* Are you kidding me?! Granny gets paid money to baby sit us?!

No, I’m not kidding you – and NO I definitely do NOT pay Granny to baby sit you. In fact, I make Granny pay ME with gazpacho when she baby sits you!

My mom has been singing the praises of gazpacho all summer and I’m finally just catching on to this gazpacho business.

In typical Alison fashion – just in time for the first frost and for tomato season to be officially over. Way to go me! But then again it’s not unusual for me to be running late, returning library books a couple days after their due date, keeping fetuses locked up inside beyond 40 weeks. That’s just how I roll. I guess this should come as no surprise that I found a new favorite dish at the end of tomato season.

Last Saturday I practically had to pry a dish of gazpacho from Granny’s white knuckled clutches before I left her house with my children. In fact I threatened not to take them home with me unless she handed over the goods. I ate it after the half marathon on Sunday and it was so good I settled out of the court for the recipe so I could recreate it at home.

This is my mom’s recipe, inspired from the gazpacho recipe in The Raw Food Detox Diet by Natalia Rose.

4 or 5 medium tomatoes, seeded & stem removed
½ large red bell pepper, seeded
½ English cucumber, peeled (or ½ regular cuke, peeled and seeded)
½ to 1 clove garlic, chopped
½ cup vegetable juice Vegetable juice? Yeah, there’s none of that laying around here. Cause I DRANK it all!
¼ cup (or more) olive oil
1 t salt, or to taste
1 t cayenne pepper, or to taste

Put all ingredients in food processor and puree until smooth.

Refrigerate several hours & stir again before eating.

She also notes not to omit the olive oil because it imparts a great flavor, and for raw tomatoes, it’s the only way that your body can access the lycopenes. I did NOT know that. Is that in the Raw Food Detox Diet? I got from the library and returned it (late) long ago so I don’t have the book anymore to go back and look. Good thing that question didn’t show up on the Raw Food Final Exam.

So here we go, the start of my seven course dinner.

Veggies, into the food processor bowl. Enter Course 1: the other half of the red sweet pepper that wasn’t required for the recipe of course.

Gazpacho - Before

I wanted to stream the olive oil into the food processor as it was doing it’s thing, but trying to do that and hold the camera steady to take a picture at the same time? Not so much.

Take 1 and Take 2.

Olive Oil Stream - Take 1 Olive Oil Stream - Take 2

There were no more “Takes” after Take 2 lest my gazpacho have more lycopene’s than you can shake a fist at.

My very first gazpacho. Also, my Course 2.

My Gazpacho

This is SO good I did NOT refrigerate it for even one moment before I tossed that spoon into the corner of the dining room and slurped it straight from the bowl. OK I guess I did use the spoon for a little while but there was definitely bowl slurp-age at the end. My breakfast tomorrow is refrigerating as I type.

Next I did what any sane person would do and made a batch of sun dried tomato hummus since I already had the food processor out.

Make Hummus

I swear to God, give me a jar of sun dried tomatoes and I’m putting them in anything and everything until the jar is empty.

Enter: Course 3

Course 3

Toasted sesame Ezekiel bread, mustard, fresh sun dried tomato hummus, spinach and sprouts.

And HALLELUJAH Medjool dates are back at Wegmans! They’ve been out for at least two weeks and I’ve been suffering the symptoms of date withdrawal, having to tape prunes to my upper arm like a nicotine patch for crying out loud. But oh yes, that was me tonight leaving the store with the 8 lb box of medjool dates, escorted by security whilst snarling and snapping at anyone who raised an eye brow or asked if they could have just one.

Course 4

Almond Butter Stuffed Dates

And Course 5 and 6 and 7 too.

Course 5 Course 6 Course 7

That’s right. FOUR. Don’t judge me.

I almost hyperventilated when I realized that tonight is the season premiere of 30 Rock and The Office! I haven’t watched TV all summer but you can bet your butt I’m clicking Publish and am off to dig out the Bendryl to make sure Thing 1 and Thing 2 go down without a fight!

Alright, alright just kidding – settle down! The Bendryl is here on my desk I don’t have to dig anything out.

ANOTHER JOKE – geez man don’t call CPS on me, the neighbors call enough as it is.

OK I’m stopping now. Really.

Tea Time

September 17th, 2009 | Posted by Alison in Breakfast - (16 Comments)

I was on the fence about running this morning since I ran yesterday, but then it was decided for me when Maxine woke up early. I spent the time getting caught up with all things house and life instead. It’s amazing how just straying from the norm for a few days throws everything out of whack.

When I felt ready for something to eat I whipped up a bowl of fruit cereal. But today, I had the GOOD prunes. That’s right, the good prunes. I’m joining Holly in the kingdom of g-ma’s and I’m proud of it.

Woodstock Farms, I heart your dried apples – but I’m sorry, there’s some room for improvement in the Prune Department.

Newman’s Own Organics, congratulations, you have won the award for Best Organic Prunes!

This is only my second bag of Newman’s Own Organics prunes, the first being from the box of goodies they sent us to review.  The second bag I finally managed to stalk down at the food co-op on Tuesday. They have the biggest Larabar selection this side of the Mississippi so I was only half surprised to find NOO prunes there, but it didn’t stop me from giving a store clerk a love pat on the ass as he walked by. I would have high fived him but his hands were full pushing a dolly of bulk almond butter. (He got a love pat on the other cheek for that.)

Surely you know I jest. Prunes do crazy things to me. CRAZY THINGS I TELL YA!

So where was I? Oh yes. Fruit cereal with the good prunes.

The Good Prunes

This morning I diced up my last banana (write them on the list!!), a beat up pear, 4 or 5 of the juiciest, most delicious prunes you’ll ever sink your teeth (or gums – if you wait until you are an old wo/man) into, breaded in ground flax, topped with sunflower seeds and a nice pour of unsweetened vanilla hemp milk.

Nell and Paul Newman look on with approving smiles.

Nell and Paul Approve

Fruit cereal is so perfectly satisfying I keep giving myself love pats on the ass to make sure it’s not all in my head.

It is down right chilly here this morning and I was in the mood for tea. Time to dust off my sweet little tea pot, tea time is upon us!

Sweet Little Tea Pot

I love my tea pot because it was a gift from one of my dearest, sweetest friends, and I think of her every time I use it. But more than that, I love that I can have tea all morning, it stays warm and with the cover on the tea pot the tea brews the way you are supposed to brew tea; with a little something to hold in the steam for 10 minutes or so.

Red Raspberry Leaf

This morning I’m drinking Red Raspberry Leaf Tea from Traditional Medicinals. I discovered this tea when I was pregnant with Ava, it’s a uterine tonic. Mmmm. Uterine tonic. That’s what everyone wants from their tea.  Well, I don’t know about you but I get warm and fuzzy when I think about my uterus post-pregnancy.  You did good uterus!  I’m happy to drink a little something for it every now and then.

OK really I’m drinking it because it’s the only tea in my cupboard that appealed to me this morning but shhhh don’t tell my uterus that.

Two Lefts Don’t Make a Right

September 16th, 2009 | Posted by Alison in Dinner Time - (26 Comments)

Immediately after I hit Publish this morning we were off for a homeschooling meet up with some friends at a playground.

Tube Crawlin'

Do you remember being a kid and running without wondering when it was time to stop? Running to try and catch a bird or running like you were being chased by a monster in the basement that was going to pull you back down if you didn’t get to the top of the basement stairs before the door closed at the bottom of the stairs behind you?

Run Ava Run!

(See her out there running like it’s nobody’s business?)

No?  I guess that last one was only me.

Watching Ava run like she was being chased by a swarm of bees after her honey reminded that kids don’t worry about their form, their stride, their pace or their heart rate. They run just to RUN.  Too bad she won’t appreciate it until she’s 30.

Despite a chilly and windy day, we managed to spend the whole afternoon at the playground.  This was the perfect set up for another soupy dinner, so it was worth it.

Tonight I made Black Bean and Salsa Soup, one of my all time favorites. Not only is this soup fast and easy but it’s delicious too.

I made some changes tonight to my usual recipe for Black Bean and Salsa Soup, but the changes made even it easier.

I sauteed a little garlic in extra virgin olive oil and added two 15 oz cans of rinsed and drained black beans with a couple cups of water, a cup of vegetable broth and a 16 oz container of medium salsa.

I brought everything to a boil and reduced it to a simmer. I ladled out about half into the food processor (instead of the blender, which is harder to scrape out) and pureed it until smooth.  I poured the pureed beans, broth and salsa it back into the pot with the unpureed soup. This is my absolutely FAVORITE way to make a base for soup!

Black Bean and Salsa Soup

With the base ready to go, I added about 8oz of frozen corn. I took a cue from my new best friend Brendan and decided to replace white rice with quinoa. I love to add rice because it makes it feel more like a meal. But the addition of rice means I have to cook the rice in a separate pot, dirtying another pan (BOO!) and more time too. To add quinoa I just rinsed it and then added it to the pot with everything else.  it cooks up in 15 minutes or so and VOILA. Ready to go, extra protein to boot. (YAY!)

The quinoa was perfect and honestly seemed no different than it does when I make with rice.

I added a couple shakes of cilantro, cumin and a smidgen of roasted red pepper for a little spice.

Why does soup taste better out of a mug? And why does soup taste better with big chunks of avocado on top? Why does anything taste better with big chunks of avocado on top?

Soup in a Mug

I’m going to leave you tonight with a special post from the first runner I ever knew. My dad. But a little background first.

For as long as I can remember, my dad has run on his lunch hour at work. He runs every day, with out fail. Like a mailman, he braves all kinds of weather. People say “You’re not going out TODAY?!” and look at him incredulously as he heads out to run on a 100 degree day with 99% humidity or 30 below and it’s snowing so hard you can’t see your hand in front of your face.

He runs Every. Day.

The other day he calls to tell me a story.  A story that gives new meaning to the word dedication.  A story that had me wiping tears from my eyes.  I asked him to write it down so I could share it on the blog. This was too good not to share.

Like most runners, I have a closet with more than a few pairs of running shoes in it. Some still in service, some awaiting the end of the road as lawn mowers or painters. We feel good about squeezing the last bit of toothpaste out of ‘em.

So a couple of dark Monday mornings ago, I was too rushed to simply hit the light and see what I was grabbing. After all, I know where my bag and trusty Nike summer trainers are. Feeling around, I grab my shoes, shove ‘em in the bag, load in the togs and towel, out the door.

Now, I run at lunch. Have for 30-plus years. You can forget a thing here or there but you are not getting it done without shorts or shoes. Open the locker, start getting ready, shorts on, shirt on, pull out the shoes. You idiot. Two different shoes. Two different LEFT shoes. One Nike summer, one Asics trail. Both lefts.

Panic.

But wait, I can always just go to the weight room, shoeless, but at least I can get that in anyway.

Hold on here, I muse. How bad can it be? I mean, what if I were getting my shoes out of a dumpster?  It could be worse.

OK, let’s see. I try the left Asics trail shoe on the right foot. My foot looks like it was caught in an elevator door. It feels like walking in a brick. But now the left Nike on the right foot…hmmm, kind of unstructured, a little softer. I unlace the whole thing, slap it on. It actually looks believable, feels a tick weird, but OK. I figure to hit the weight room for twenty minutes and see where I come out with this idea. Oh, the idea? Why running in two lefts, of course.

Nobody has noticed at this point. Maybe it’s just that we are all so used to each other. Maybe it’s because they wouldn’t DARE say anything. Well, I assure you that I have running companions who live to torture, deride and insult each other, me included. But they are nowhere in sight.

By now I’m actually comfy! I decide not to look down. If I can get even a paltry three miles in, I’ll be happy. Off I go. Past the bank, out the front door. State Street. Noon. Nobody notices that I look like I play in Green Day.

Two miles. OK, I’m a little crampy. I look down. Even I have to start laughing. What am I DOING? Should I turn back, heck it’s going to be four miles!  No way. Point of no return straight ahead. I vow for six. I mean hey, there’s this guy who runs mega in bare feet.

At mile five, I’m almost home free – well on the way back. No. Can’t be. The King of Insults, Mikey with Paul and John in tow. I decide to just act natural as we pass on the venerable river trail. Mikey spots the two misfit shoes immediately and starts to heckle…then I stop, hands on hips, posed like black and white TV Superman. Then they realize that it’s two lefties.

After they get Mikey back on his feet and stop him from convulsing in laughter we are off on our separate ways, echoes of “idiot! moron!…” fading.

I can’t wait to tell my daughter, I call her right away…basically repeating the story you have so kindly indulged me in telling. She is such a good sport, and nothing is as sweet to me as the sound of her giggles or uncontrollable, stomach holding laughter…which I assure you, she provided.

I told her that NEVER again will I tell my granddaughters that they have their shoes on the wrong feet.

Two Left Feet

I don’t know about you, but if I showed up at the gym with two left shoes, that would totally would have been my sign that it was a day to go out to lunch – not my sign to figure out which left shoe was a better fit on my right foot! Chipotle here I come!

The Marathons are Over

September 16th, 2009 | Posted by Alison in Party Time - (26 Comments)

A whirlwind day yesterday with so much going on, thank you all for all the birthday wishes for my baby girl!

After Maxine opened her gifts from us in the morning I got started on her cake. I used a chocolate cake recipe I’ve used in the past.

Dark Chocolate Cake
2 c boiling water
1 c unsweetened cocoa powder
2 3/4 c flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 c butter, softened
2 1/4 c white sugar
4 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line bottoms of cake pans with parchment paper and grease sides. In medium bowl, pour boiling water over cocoa powder and whisk until smooth. Let mixture cool and set aside. In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in vanilla. Slowly add flour and cocoa mixture to batter, alternating flour and cocoa until completely combined.

I greased two cake pans with coconut oil (forgot about parchment paper until I was writing this post!) and lined cupcake pans with muffin tins.

Two Cake Pans Cake Batter

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 – 20 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. (20 – 22 minutes for cupcakes.)

I cooled the cakes in their pans for about 15 minutes, then removed from pans and let finish cooling on a rack. This recipe made two 9 inch cakes and 16 cupcakes.

Once completely cool, I used a serrated knife to level the cakes and cut off the top layer to make them flat.

Leveling Leveled

For the filling I made a chocolate butter cream frosting.

1/2 c butter, softened
2 c powdered sugar
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 oz heavy whipping cream

Cream butter until fluffy. Add sugar and cocoa powder and continuing creaming until well blended. Add vanilla and whipping cream. Blend on low until moistened and well combined. Add more cream if necessary, beat at high speed until frosting is fluffy.

Filling Filled

I used a wide frosting blade to cover the leveled side of one cake, and then laid the top layer leveled side down so I would have a nice flat surface to frost later.

Two Layers

Cake in the fridge to set, I whipped up two sun dried tomato hummus sandwiches for me and Zak and we were out the door to take Ava to her homeschooling class in the city.

Two Sandwiches

After dropping Ava off the three of us spent some time at a park waiting for Ava to be done with her class.

Playground Birthday

We got home with an hour to spare to decorate the cake and finish getting the house ready for visitors! I used the same buttercream frosting recipe for decorating, without the cocoa powder. I tripled the recipe and had MORE than enough for the cake and cupcakes.

The birthday gal got some fun gifts and then it was time for CAKE!

Dolly

My cake decorating skills are amateur at best, but I was still pleased with the way it turned out. Maxine was delighted and that’s all that mattered.

Maxine's 3rd Birthday Cake

I had very specific instructions for “An Ariel cake, but no fish and no crab”. OK kid, your wish is my command.

Lesson learned from Ava’s 5th birthday: make lots of cupcakes, just in case. I made Ava a Backyardigans cake for her 5th birthday in March and she loved it SO much that she absolutely screamed like I was cutting into her flesh when I tried to cut and serve it. I had to cut the few extra cupcakes I’d made into tiny portions served with big scoops of ice cream. Fortunately everyone laughed and were good sports but I wasn’t going to risk that happening for two birthday parties in a row!

Cupcakes

Maxine had no problem cutting into her cake – I’ve got lots of cupcakes left over. Want one?

It was right about this time that I realized I was having cake and ice cream for dinner! Oops! Oh well, at least it was real butter and sugar instead of partially hydrogenated goodness and high fructose corn fun.

Dinner

Green juice was most definitely in order for this morning after my 4 mile run. I need to detox the sugar and butter from my cells! (But it was totally worth it!)

Green Juice For Sure!

The two big events that were on the calendar are now behind us! The half marathon and Maxine’s birthday and celebration – and I feel like I’ve run two marathons back to back. How is it Wednesday already?