Saturday, August 27, 2011

Preparing for the Storm

Maybe you've heard...there's a hurricane coming this way! I mean, has anyone else been talking about anything else for the last 3-4 days? It's not good for the anxiety-prone like me to turn on the news. Oh, if you cover all the windows in your house except one, and that one window gets blown out, your whole roof may blow off! And please have 1 gallon of water per person for 3-7 days. Gaaaah! It doesn't take much to freak me out. Where on Earth am I going to find 21 gallons of water, when everyone in the state of RI is at the stores buying up every last container of water, milk, and bread? I just went to the store and they only had a few cases of small bottles of water. I am filling jugs at home and praying we don't need it!

Whew. This hurricane is making me crazy! I was too rattled to even think about cooking last night. So I just made a big batch of my son's favorite noochy pasta for dinner. I figured all 3 of us could use some comfort food!

Noochy Pasta
Serves 2 hungry adults & 1 hungry toddler

1/2 lb whole wheat shells
Veggies, to taste: I used 1 small yellow squash, julienned; plus frozen peas, frozen lima beans, frozen butternut squash, frozen spinach, and frozen broccoli
Earth Balance buttery spread, to taste
Nutritional yeast, to taste
Bragg Liquid Aminos, to taste (can sub sea salt, soy sauce, tamari, etc)

Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Add ingredients one-by-one based on the amount of time each requires to cook. I start with the frozen lima beans (12-14 minutes), then add the butternut squash, pasta, spinach, broccoli, peas, etc. as the clock ticks down.

After everything is cooked, drain well and return to pot. Add Earth Balance, nooch, and Braggs, to taste.  What's not to love here? You use one pot (plus one colander), get some whole grains, tons of veggies, tons of protein and B vitamins from the nooch, vitamins and amino acids from the Braggs, and delicious faux-buttery-goodness (and omega fatty acids!) from the EB. Win-win-win!

This morning, my hubby, son and I wanted to get a good, long run in before the storm arrived. We ran an old favorite route that I haven't run in over 2 years! It was about 8.25 miles, and it felt great. Humid, but great! I was happy to rehydrate with some coconut water and a big chocolate-cherry smoothie :)

After breakfast, we got cleaned up and then headed to the store to pick up some emergency supplies. For me, that meant: bananas, avocados, tomatoes, a yellow pepper, 2 loaves of bread, some crackers (for my hubby), and 10 cans of organic beans (chickpeas, black beans, cannellinis). Hey, some people were stockpiling Doritos and Coca-Cola; whatever floats your boat!

After we got home, I was pretty doggone hungry. Running 8 miles will do that to you :) I wanted to make something quick and filling. Since I had just bought tomatoes and still had a bunch of basil left, I thought of the White Bean & Walnut Bruschetta from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan. Only, instead of serving the topping on crostini, I just toasted up 3 slices of the bread I just purchased and put it on top of that. Easy peasy!

This was exactly what my body was craving - beans, nuts, veggies, and bread!

Well, I'm off to obsess and stress more about this hurricane. Stay safe out there! xoxo

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Three S's: Soup, Salad, and Snacks

How did it get to be Thursday again already? Where does the time go! I feel like I've been a whirlwind of activity lately. Today alone I did the following: woke up and went for a run; came home and made breakfast for my son and got my hubby's lunch together; stretched and made a smoothie; did two loads of laundry; mowed my lawn (half-acre!); brought in all the toys/lawn stuff in advance of the hurricane; cooked soup, made salad, made salad dressing, and made roasted chickpeas; went to the chiropractor; vacuumed the downstairs; dumped an entire ice-cube tray full of water inside my freezer; mopped up the water that landed on every conceivable surface of my freezer; cleaned my bathroom floor approximately 27 times due to errant aim on my son's part; shopped online for sunscreen; and ate copius amounts of bananas, both in smoothie form and also just in its frozen-deliciousness-form, in order to fuel all these activities. It's now 8 pm and I'm tired!!

I haven't been posting for two main reasons: one, I've been super busy lately, and two, I've been eating a lot of meals I've already blogged about. But tonight, I have three (count 'em, three!) new foods to share with you!

Yesterday, my son and I went to visit my parents. Not only did we get to have fun with them, but we also got to go home with a bunch of free food (yes!!!) One of my Dad's coworkers has had a bumper crop of yellow squash, so my Dad sent me home with a whole bag of 'em! Aren't they cute??

My Mom's friend Linda also gave her an enormous bag of fresh basil, an enormous bag of fresh parsley (which I forgot to photograph - sorry!), and some gorgeous tomatoes. I was super impressed with the quality and size of both the basil leaves and the tomatoes - nice job, Linda!
I was not about to let this beautiful FREE food go to waste! I knew just what I wanted to make.

First, that huge bag of basil was just begging to be made into a summery salad dressing. I immediately thought of the Creamy Basil Dressing from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan. I've made this dressing several times before, and it is such a great use of fresh basil. It's also easy as 1-2-3.

I put all the ingredients into an old almond butter jar that I've cleaned and repurposed.

I use my immersion blender and whiz it up until it's creamy and emulsified.
Then I pop the lid on and stick it in the fridge until I'm ready to dress the salads.
I kept the salad simple so the dressing would be the star. This is baby spinach, cucumber, scallion, and fresh tomato.
 And here it is with the Creamy Basil Dressing. Yum.
As for the yellow squash, I wanted to make Sunny Summer Squash Soup from Susan Voisin's blog, Fat Free Vegan Kitchen. I'd made it years ago and absolutely loved it. I knew it would be the perfect way to use up a ton of that beautiful squash!

Yellow squash, potatoes, onions, celery, and spices are simmered together until the potatoes and squash get nice and soft.

Then you puree it up with an immersion blender so the soup gets nice and creamy. At this point, you also stir in a little bit of tahini and nooch to add some extra creaminess and body to the soup.

You know why pureed soups are great? Because you can get your picky toddler to eat a TON and not realize how many veggies are hidden in there :) He also had his first real salad tonight, and I'm proud to report that he ate several bites! I gave him exactly what my hubby and I had - spinach, cuke, tomato, and the creamy basil dressing. I chopped everything up into small pieces and also added some shredded carrot.

Finally, we noshed on some Lemon Rosemary-Roasted Chickpeas from Peas and Thank You. Chickpeas, lemon juice, olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper. So simple, so good.

I love to snack on roasted chickpeas - in fact, all three of us do! They're a great, handy little protein-packed snack.

Okay, now that I'm caught up on my blog, I'm off to watch Top Chef: Just Desserts. I taped it last night and I can't wait to watch it! Yes, I said taped. On my VCR. Stop snickering.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Back in the Kitchen

Wow, I can't believe it's Thursday already! This week has FLOWN by. I'm already getting excited for the weekend!

It's been a busy week. On Monday, my son woke up with a bad cold and it also rained over 5 inches (!!) in my town, so we decided to just stay inside all day and snuggle in my chair. We read books, watched Cars, played with some toys, and were just cuddle bunnies all day :) My son is just the sweetest little thing and it makes me sad to see him sick. But it was good to just take a day and rest. It was not, however, a good day for me and my juicer. Apparently, even some juices are a little too hardcore for me.

I didn't have cucumber, lemon juice, fruit, or anything else to make this taste better. It was straight up collard leaves, celery, ginger, carrot, and romaine. It was not good. I consoled myself with a delicious carrot-ginger smoothie afterward.

On Tuesday, he was feeling a little better, so we made a quick run to BJ's to stock up on the essentials. In my house, the essentials are: 6 cartons of Silk soymilk, 1 large bottle of carrot juice, 2 English cucumbers, 1 lb of baby spinach, 9 lbs of bananas (hey, those smoothies don't make themselves!), a 4-lb bag of raisins, a gallon of Almond Breeze almond milk, and Megamind. (Okay, Megamind isn't technically an essential, but it's very funny...and it was on sale :)

Yesterday, my hubby surprised me by coming home from work at 9:30 in the morning and announcing that he had taken the rest of the day off. This was indeed surprising, as he's only taken one day off this entire year! I was totally psyched. My son seemed to be feeling better, too, so we decided to pack up and head to the beach. I grew up in Newport, RI, and my parents still live there, so we headed on down to their house so we could hit the beach with my Mom.

He could spend hours playing this game: "Where's my foot? Where's my foot? There it is!"

I think he had a little too much fun at the beach, though, because he woke up feeling warm this morning :( So, another day in the house was called for. My son actually asked to cook something with me this morning (*swoon*), so I decided we should make some snacky food. I thought it would be fun to try something out of Peas and Thank You, since I hadn't made anything out of the cookbook yet.

First up: Pumpkin Spice-Roasted Chickpeas (recipe here). Chickpeas, maple syrup, canola oil, cider vinegar, salt, nutmeg, ginger, and cinnamon are tossed together and roasted until they become crispy. Here are the chickpeas, fresh out of the toaster oven:
 I put them in a little container in the fridge for easy snackin':

We also made Chewy Energy bars (recipe similar to the one here). Maybe these will help me kick my Larabar habit.

After these were done, my poor little guy was needing a nap, so I put him to bed and then came downstairs, pondering what to make for lunch. I was feeling like chickpea salad, so I started grabbing some stuff out of the fridge and pantry, and in 5 minutes flat, I had a tasty lunch ready!

Speedy Chickpea Salad
Serves 4

1 15-oz can organic chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons Vegenaise
1 tablespoon capers plus 2 teaspoons brine
2 medium stalks celery, finely chopped
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon dulse granules (can substitute sea salt, to taste)

Mash chickpeas in a sturdy bowl with a potato masher. Add the rest of the ingredients and combine.

I decided to use it in some collard wraps. I destemmed a large collard leaf, then added some romaine lettuce and a big scoop of my chickpea salad.
I topped this with some sliced grape tomatoes...
And then rolled it up like a burrito.
I also had some stuffed into some little romaine leaves. I actually preferred these to the collard wrap!
I was pretty happy with how my quick 'n easy lunch turned out!

My son's up from his nap, and he just told me "I'm upset because you're on the computer." I think it's time for me to sign off :)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Noodles, Hemp-anola, and a New Smoothie

Greetings from rainy Rhode Island! It's been drizzly and dreary outside today. Yesterday was gorgeous, however, so I can't really complain too much.

Our Saturday started out perfectly. We woke up and it was 59 degrees outside! No humidity, no wind, just a gorgeous, fall-like sunny morning. My hubby, son, and I went out for our first run since our half-marathon, and it felt great to get our legs moving again. My son must have enjoyed the fresh air, because he fell asleep in the jogging stroller. Apparently, somebody was tired! And not just the two parents who actually ran 6 miles! :)

My son has not been eating all that well lately - he's going through a phase of rejecting "real" food and only wanting to eat cereal, fruit, and Larabars. He does love pasta and nut butter sandwiches, though, so I thought I'd try to combine both of those elements into a meal he might actually enjoy - Noodles with Spicy Peanut Sauce from 1,000 Vegan Recipes. However, I soon discovered that I had neither peanut butter nor Asian noodles in the house, so I had to make a couple of substitutions - brown rice spaghetti for the Asian noodles, and sunflower seed butter for the peanut butter. I also omitted the Asian chile paste, since I'm not sure my son would have liked the heat. The other ingredients sounded promising, though - green onions, garlic, ginger, sugar, tamari, and rice vinegar, simmered together with the peanut (sunflower seed) butter; sauteed veggies (I used onions, red bell pepper, sliced baby carrots, and broccoli); and a topping of chopped peanuts. I figured, if nothing else, my son might get a few veggies and some healthy fats into him. In less than 30 minutes, I had dinner on the table. Now, come on, doesn't that look good?

My hubby sure thought so. He ate a big plate and then went back for seconds. My son, on the other hand, only ate about two bites. *Sigh* Toddlers!

After my son went to bed last night, I decided to take my frustration out on a batch of homemade granola. I made Dreena Burton's Hemp-anola from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan, and it didn't disappoint. It has a lot of my favorite ingredients - oats, hemp seeds, coconut, almonds, cinnamon, blackstrap molasses, maple syrup, and raisins - and it was a breeze to whip up. So much healthier - and CHEAPER! - than the store-bought stuff:

This morning, I was not craving any particular smoothie. I think I'd had a chocolate-cherry smoothie every day this week, and I felt like having something different this morning. I looked in my freezer and spotted some blueberries and blackberries. Suddenly, I started tossing this 'n that into my Vita-Mix, and behold, a new smoothie was born!

Black, Blue, and Basil Smoothie
Makes 1 large serving / 2 small servings

1 cup frozen blueberries
1 cup frozen blackberries
1 large frozen banana
1/2" knob fresh ginger
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup fresh basil
1/4 cup fresh mint

Toss all ingredients into Vita-Mix or other high-speed blender. Blend on high until smooth.

After I got home from church this morning, I was pretty hungry. My breakfast smoothie was good, but there were no fats or proteins in it to help keep me full. Then I remembered my Hemp-anola and the delicious organic strawberries in my fridge. I knew exactly what I wanted for a snack!

A big, fat bowl of Hemp-anola, some sliced strawberries and bananas, and some almond milk. Yummmm. 
It was sooooo gooood! I haven't had homemade granola in a really long time, but it was definitely worth the wait!

Question of the day: how do you get your finicky toddler to eat his dinner?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Hearts of Palm and Jicama Salad

Sometimes, you find a great recipe where you least expect it. Two winters ago, I was in Florida visiting my parents for a week. My mom subscribes to Southern Living magazine and she noted a recipe in the February 2010 issue that she thought I might enjoy. For whatever reason, I always figured Southern Living would be full of recipes like Southern-Fried Chicken and Deep-Fried Donuts. I didn't think it would have anything remotely vegan, but sure enough, the recipe she'd noted was vegan, and it sounded really good, too - Hearts of Palm and Jicama Salad. It featured avocado, yellow pepper, jicama, and hearts of palm, something I'd heard of but never actually tried. I thought it would make a light and refreshing dinner salad, so we went off to the market and got what we needed. The salad was easy to prepare, and it was just perfect on a balmy night.

I've been in a main-dish-salad mood lately, so I dug out the recipe and made it again last night. I added a can of navy beans to bump up the protein and served it over baby spinach to make it a bit more filling.

I guess I was really hungry last night, because I was halfway through my meal when I realized I hadn't taken a photo of my plate. Oops!
Hearts of palm are pretty yummy! I can see myself adding them to more salads in the future....

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Roasted Beet and Cashew Goat Cheez Salad (and Bread and Pancakes)

I don't know what's gotten into me, but I have been on a baking tear this last week or so. I think I've done more baking in the last 7 days than I've done in the last 7 years. No kidding! I've always found baking to be somewhat frustrating in its precision - just the right amount of wet, just the right amount of dry, chemical reactions, humidity, blah blah blah. I've already lost interest just talking about it. But I've been feeling inspired to bake more things to stick in my freezer - waffles, quick breads, cookies, and today - pancakes!

Today's specimen: Pumpkin Pancakes from Vegan Brunch. I've only made these once before, but I still remember it like it was yesterday: warm, fragrant, autumnal flapjacks, topped with a delicious ginger-cranberry sauce. Mmmm.

But no such sauce today. Today's work was just about making pancakes for the freezer. I decided to make a double batch, since it really wasn't much more work to do so. I'm glad I did. If I have to get so many dishes dirty, it may as well be worth it!

Here's the first batch, getting all cozy and warm on the griddler:

They came out delightfully thin and soft.

Once they cooled, I stacked them all up. I just thought it would be fun to make a gigantic stack and pretend I was going to eat it like a giant.
But then I came to my senses and stuck them in a freezer bag. I'll be so glad to pull these out of the freezer whenever I need a quick breakfast or snack for my son! Or me.

Since I opened a gigantic can of canned pumpkin, I still had a whole lot of it left. Fortunately, I knew just what to do with it. It's called Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread.

But you know what's better than one big loaf of Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread?

Yeaaaah. Three mini loaves of Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread. Holla!

I've been making this bread for a couple of years. It's awesome. I've doctored the recipe up a million different ways, and it always comes out great. Today, I made a healthier version, substituting white whole wheat flour, agave syrup, maple syrup, applesauce, and flax "eggs"for the white flour, white sugar, margarine, and egg substitute, respectively. I also used 1/2 cup of chocolate chips and 1/2 cup of chopped pecans instead of 1 full cup of chocolate chips. Normally I do the full cup of chocolate chips, and it is decadently delicious. I decided to show a little restraint today. These babies, too, are going in the freezer. This bread freezes unbelievably well and makes a perfect packable snack for road trips. Or for just eating by yourself, standing in front of your kitchen sink while your son is napping. Ahem.

But even with all this baking, I figured I still needed to make something, you know, respectable and vegetable-y for dinner. I mean, there was pumpkin in the pancakes and the quick bread, but let's be serious.

I had some softball-sized beets hanging out in my crisper drawer, so I thought it would be a perfect night to have a Roast Beet, Goat Cheez, and Spinach Salad from Choosing Raw.

This is easily one of our favorite main-dish salads, if not one of our favorite meals, entirely. My hubby ALWAYS tells me what a nice surprise it is to have this for dinner! There are a few steps involved, but it's really not too bad to put together. The cashew goat cheez is amazing. I don't actually make Gena's version of goat cheez, but I do something similar. I soak some cashews and then food process them along with some miso, lemon juice, salt, water, basil, pepper, agave, and white balsamic vinegar. It's tangy and succulent and super-delish!

Other than that, it's just roasting some beets and whisking together a simple lemon-dijon vinaigrette. Aren't those beets gorgeous? Served over a bed of baby romaine and baby spinach, it's a great summer (or winter) salad. Some raw chopped walnuts add some crunch and earthy flavor.
I'm always looking for ideas for more vegan main-dish salads. What are your favorites?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Rock n Roll Providence Half Marathon

Yesterday, my hubby and I ran the Rock n Roll Providence Half-Marathon. It rained 2.25 inches in Providence yesterday. Most of the precipitation occurred during the morning hours, when the race was being held. It rained so much that some of the bands didn't even perform. It rained so much that 1,500 or so people who signed up for the race either didn't race at all, or didn't finish the race. It was WET. It was WINDY. It was easily the craziest weather I've ever run in.

But here's the thing. When you train for a race, or specifically a half-marathon, you prepare yourself and your body for a certain amount of punishment. You slog out the miles over a period of weeks and months, alternating tempo runs with track sprints, short runs with long runs, slow runs with fast runs. You build up both your weekly mileage and your total number of running days per week. For example, the last (and only other) half-marathon I ran was the 2007 Applefest Half Marathon in Hollis, NH. I diligently followed a 16-week training plan in Runner's World that had me start running 3 times a week for about 12 miles and finished with me running 5 days a week for about 30 miles. By the time I toed the line for my first half-marathon, I had several 10-, 11-, and 12-mile runs under my belt. (Incidentally, I was also childless, so I had plenty of time at my disposal to run said miles). I felt well-prepared, confident, and ready to tackle the race. And indeed, I ran pretty well in the race. Although my goal was to finish under 2 hours, I finished in 2:10:21 on a record-setting 85-degree October day. Considering how hot the day was, I was quite pleased with myself. All of my hard work had paid off.

Now, fast forward three years to August 2010. I saw that the Rock N Roll Half Marathon was coming to Providence in 2011. My interest was immediately piqued. Since becoming a mom in May 2009, my running had taken somewhat of a backseat to parenting. Sure, I still got out for early-morning runs before my hubby went to work, but the mileage was definitely low - usually 3-4 miles - and I only ran 3 days a week. When I heard about the Rock N Roll Half, I thought to myself, Aha! Just what I need...some motivation to get myself in running shape again. It's perfect - I'll have a year to get myself ready and train! I filled out applications for myself and my hubby and smiled with a sense of satisfaction. Maybe, just maybe, I'll even beat my Applefest time. I even put myself down for an estimated finish time of 2:00:00.

Now, fast forward one year to Saturday, July 23, 2011. I knew it was two weeks and one day til the race. I should have been completing my last 12-mile long run before the half-marathon.

I did a long run, alright.

5.6 miles.

That was the longest run I'd done in almost a month. I did run 6.1 miles on July 2. The longest run before that? On May 18, I ran 6.08 miles. And this is where it gets really good. Before that, the last time I'd run 6 miles was in October 2010.

So much for my "year of training."

But back to the 5.6 miles on July 23. Boy, did that run make me tired. I mean really, I was pooped. I lost count of the number of times I said to my hubby, yeah, I am SO not running the half-marathon.

How could I?

The last time I'd ran a half - you know, the one I trained 16 weeks to run - I had built up to running 30 miles a week. This time? I'd run 30 just took me three weeks.

And then, the icing on the cake? On Sunday, July 24 at approximately 11:10 pm, I woke up from my slumber and stumbled to the bathroom. I knelt in front of my toilet and revisited the contents of my dinner. For good measure, I did this again at 12:15, and had an encore at 1:20. By this time, there was nothing left.

I woke up the next morning feeling like my head had been stuck in a vice and squeezed. My stomach felt terrible, I was achy, and I had no desire to eat. For the next 6 days, I pretty much existed on dry toast, brown rice pasta, water, and bananas. Forget exercising. I spent most of my days tending to my son and sitting on my recliner. I did go to the beach with my son and mom on the Wednesday of that week, but this proved to be idiotic behavior on my part, because I felt worse than ever on Thursday and Friday. Finally, blessedly, I started feeling better on Sunday, and Monday I started feeling somewhat human again.

That would be Monday, August 1. Six whole days before the half-marathon.

Let's recap.

1. I was barfing last week.
2. I hadn't eaten much of anything last week.
3. I hadn't exercised at all.
4. I had not been training for the race.
5. My longest run in the last year - I'm talking, 365 days - was 6.21 miles, completed on August 7, 2010. One calendar year to the day of this year's Rock N Roll Half.
6. A half-marathon is 13.1 miles. That would be more than double my longest run in the Entire.Last.Year.
7. I am not a fast runner to begin with. Heck, I'm not even a natural runner. I actually went out for tennis in high school instead of soccer because I didn't want to run during practices. Yes, seriously.

It was so not looking good for me.

In fact, I think it was on Monday, August 1 that I told my husband that I wasn't going to be running the race. There was just no way, I said.

He nodded sympathetically, and asked if I minded if he ran anyway. Even though part of me was a teensy bit jealous, I said okay. Guess what happened?

On Tuesday, August 2, my hubby woke up sick. And he was sick for two whole days.

Well, I thought...there's always next year.

But then my hubby did a funny (crazy) thing. He woke up on Thursday morning and felt better. Apparently, he felt so much better that he snuck out of the house and went for a run. I woke up confused, wondering where he was. Then he came into our bedroom and said he'd been out for a run. I told him he was nuts. Hello, weren't you just really sick? But as quickly as his illness came, it departed. He was determined to run on Sunday.

I, however, was only determined to run the next day - Friday. I had run 3 miles on Tuesday and felt okay - not great, but okay. I wanted to see how I felt on Friday. So, on Friday morning, I got up and ran 4.35 miles. I felt okay (again). It was about this time that I decided that if my hubby was crazy enough to run the race, then so was I.

Nevermind the overwhelming evidence that I was indeed not ready to run this race.

I remember feeling eerily calm on Saturday, the day before the race. I mean, what exactly did I have to lose? It's not like I'd trained for this. I wouldn't exactly feel like I'd wasted my time and effort completing a 16-week training plan or anything.

My goal - which I explicitly and repeatedly stated to my husband - was to just finish the race. I knew this would take some combination of running, jogging, walking, and maybe even crawling along. I didn't really care. I just wanted the race to be over with.

And then? We heard the forecast for Sunday.

100% chance of rain. Thunderstorms likely. Winds upwards of 20 miles an hour.



I woke up on Sunday morning at 4:45. I hadn't slept well (what a shock, right?) I knew I had to run 13.1 miles beginning in approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes. I ate a banana and drank a little water. When we got to Providence, we took cover under a tree while it poured buckets all around us. I didn't warm up. I didn't even jog in place. I simply got into my corral at the appointed time, gave my hubby a fist-bump, and said good luck. I also said a prayer to God that He would help us finish this race and keep us safe. To be completely honest, I couldn't wait for this thing to be over.

At the signal, we began. Like most races, I went out a little too fast. It happens - you get caught up in the excitement and the fast pace of the other runners. Being in the fifth corral, I was running alongside people who expected to finish in 2 hours flat. That translates to a 9:10-mile average for 13.1 miles. Pretty fast, right? Especially for someone who didn't train? And was recently sick? And who doesn't run fast to begin with? And who ran her last half-marathon - fully trained - with a 9:59-mile average pace? Right.

Here's what happened:

I crossed the first mile mark at about 0:09:30. I crossed the second mile mark at around 0:19:00. I hit the 5K mark (3.1 miles) at 0:28:32. At this point, I was averaging a 9:11-mile. Not too shabby.

Shortly after I passed the 5-mile mark, my knees started to hurt. A lot. Both of them. The outside part of each of my knees burned with every single step I took.

And this is when I thought, well, this is it for me. 5 miles. Disappointing, yes, but what did I expect. I haven't run much more than this in the last year anyway.

But then, the words of Psalm 23 came to me. Specifically, the verse "For thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me." And suddenly, I wasn't running under my own power anymore. God was carrying me.

My knees still hurt with every step. My quads began to burn. And yet, I kept putting one foot in front of the other, sloshing through deep puddles. I never stopped running. I ran the entire time. I hit the 10-mile mark at exactly 1:32:00. This was a 9:12-mile average.


At this point, it was just 3.1 miles to go, or another 5K. I really couldn't believe it. My breathing was steady. I was not fatigued at all. I had no cramps or side stitches. I wasn't tired. The only things that were really hurting were my knees and my quads.

I realized: I can do this.

What I actually said to myself was: I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13.

I prayed this verse. I prayed this verse many, many times. I prayed it as my knees ached because my sneakers were completely soaked through and weighed an extra 2 pounds a piece from the rain. I hit mile 12 at 1:51:08 (9:15-mile pace). Just over a mile to go. I took my final swig of coconut water and began my dash to the finish line.

Yes, dash to the finish line.

No huffing or puffing. I was completely in control of my breathing, and I started to pick up my pace. I was running.

The race ended with a turn onto Francis Street in front of the Providence Place Mall. All that was between me and the finish line was one final hill. The biggest hill of the entire race, incidentally.

Let me tell you something - I hauled booty up that hill. I lengthened my stride, pumped my arms, and literally flew up that hill. I heard one of the spectators call out, "Great stride! Way to finish!!"

I crossed the finish line with a gigantic smile on my face.

My time?


That's a 9:16-mile pace.

For a race I didn't train for. For a race I wasn't even going to do 3 days ago. For 13.1 miles, more than twice as long as I have run in over a year.

I ran the entire time. I did not stop to walk. I did not stop to take a power gel, or a swig of Cytomax or water. I did not stop to go to the bathroom.

I did not stop at mile 5, when I thought my race was over.

I ran, and I kept on running, because of the power of God in me. God did that for me. God showed me what He can do when I just surrender to Him.

I didn't have the ability to run that race on my own. How on Earth could I have trained for the other half and finished in 2:10, and not trained for this one and finish in 2:01? In a complete, torrential downpour and windstorm? How?

There is no answer but God. And this will be my testimony. When I think of this race (and believe me, I will never forget this race), I will have an amazing story to tell.

But it's not about what I did. It's about what God did.

Believe me when I say this - I can be prideful. I can be full of myself and believe I had success because of something I did.

But not this time. This was all God. I am so completely amazed and humbled at what He showed me yesterday. And He can do amazing things in your life, too. Just ask Him!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Baking Bonanza

Yesterday morning, my son and I were puttering around the house, trying to think of something fun to do. Well, at least I was puttering around - my son was contentedly plopped on the living room floor, hoovering some Kashi cereal and watching Curious George. What to do, what to do. Then, I had a flash of inspiration...

"Hey, you want to cook with Mommy....again?"

Hey, I didn't say it was a flash of genius, or creativity, or ingenuity. I mean, it's not like we didn't just cook together a few days ago. But we'd had a lot of fun, and I was feeling ready for our second cooking session. My son happily agreed and dragged a chair over to the kitchen counter.

I was feeling very ambitious. I decided we would tackle not one, not two, but three different recipes. I wanted to make some waffles to freeze for easy breakfasts; some quick bread for easy snacks; and some more healthy cookies, because, well, who doesn't love cookies?!

I knew the waffles would take forever to make, so I decided to start with them. I opened Vegan Brunch to our favorite recipe, Gingerbread Waffles. Spiced with ginger, cinnamon, and cloves, these molasses-sweetened treats are a big hit in my household. Here, get close and take a whiff...

While the waffles were cooking, we started on our next recipe, Ginger-Molasses Bread with Blueberries from 1,000 Vegan Recipes. I guess I was in a gingery-molasses-y kind-of-mood yesterday, I don't know. Anyway, my son was thoroughly perplexed when we made vegan "buttermilk" by mixing soy milk and cider vinegar together. He couldn't understand why his beloved beverage started to look so...curdled. Fortunately, he didn't dwell on this too long. Once I gave him a wooden spoon and a measuring cup loaded with blueberries, he was one happy camper.

But let's face it...while he was happy to be helping make the bread, what he really wanted to do was make the cookies. So, after we got the batter made and put the bread in the oven, it was cookie time.

When it comes to cookies, I don't mess around. I don't bake all that often, but when I do, I want the cookies to be good. I mean, gooooooood. There's no one I trust more for cookie awesomeness than the cookie queen herself, Dreena Burton. Seriously, the woman knows her cookies. Her recipes are very specific in terms of how long to cook, how long to keep them on the cookie sheet after they come out of the oven, and how big to make them. If you follow her directions, you're sure to come out with delicious cookies every time. As a bonus, her cookies are usually loaded with healthy ingredients, like whole-grain flours, natural sweeteners, and superfoods like chia and hemp. In short, they're yummy cookies I feel good about giving my son!

We got to work on making the Super-Charge Me! Cookies from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan. These cookies contain oats, whole-grain flour, coconut, raisins, carob chips, maple syrup, and almond butter. Yum!

Soon after, we had the cookies in the oven, the bread in the toaster oven, and waffles coming off the waffle iron. It smelled heavenly in the kitchen!

Witness our bounty: first, the gingerbread waffles, cooling on the rack:
A close-up of a Super-Charge Me! Cookie:
And more of his little friends:
Finally, the Ginger-Molasses Bread with Blueberries was ready:

By this time, J and I were hungry from all our cooking. He wanted to try some of the bread, so I cut us each a piece and slathered them with some Earth Balance.
That's his Buzz Lightyear plate, BTW. Not mine.

I took a bite, and know what this reminded me of? Brown bread. That wonderful, mysterious bread-in-a-can that adorned many a meal in my childhood. I can't even think of hot dogs and baked beans without thinking of big slabs of brown bread, fried in butter and then smeared with cream cheese. Mmmmm. This bread had that same delicious dark sweetness and crispy texture, minus the rings that came from being molded into a can. I am totally digging the molasses-and-cornmeal combination. There needs to be more of this in my life. Molasses and cornmeal smoothie, perhaps?

No baking today, though. My hubby and I are running the Rock and Roll Half Marathon in Providence tomorrow, and we spent today getting our gear at the Expo and visiting my parents, who will be watching our son while we run. Wish us luck!