Friday, September 30, 2011

Random Bread and Kaya Surprises

If all goes according to plan, I will be running 21 miles tomorrow.

And if you're anything like me, the first thing that comes to mind on the eve(s) of a (very) long run is....


This Nature's Own Whole Grain bread has a surprisingly good flavor and texture.  I don't know about you, but when it comes to the types of breads that come from most grocery stores, they leave much to be desired both in taste and texture.  This one wasn't too grainy and was soft. 

To be honest, I don't eat bread too often anymore, and I don't usually go for normal supermarket shelf ones.  However, for a bread of this genre, it's surprisingly good.

Speaking of surprises, "The Ukrainian" decided to celebrate our recent month-i-versary with this single rose that some lady was selling at a recent event we attended.  I always think those things are rip-offs, but admittedly, it was nice and such a plump flower!


Anyway... back to bread.  Recently, we had a can of this stuff, and any time this is smeared on my bread, I can't help but eat it all.  This is a can of coconut jam (kaya).  There are many manufacturers of this stuff, but Yeo's is the best.


I'd describe this stuff as smooth and sweet.  You should really hit up an Asian supermarket and seek this can.  It may not look like much, but the stuff inside will surprise you.

When I was little, I ate it on top of pillow (sort of like Hawaiian) bread.  Pure heaven.  Goes well with peanut butter.  These days, it tends to go more on sliced bread, but it's still soooooo good.

source
I will end this random entry with a recent surprise that was not as pleasant (that's an Endurance Bag).  And I only say this because I hate finding fur all over my stuff.

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FTC Disclaimer: I was able to try and honestly review this bread for free via BzzAgent.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

If You've Fallen

If you've fallen [as I did during this race... and maybe this one]


Get back up;


If you've been disrespected


Tell them to shove it Move on [it's their problem; not yours];


If you feel a little ache


Keep going [but not too much];


Caring too much does not heal wounds.


But maybe singing will:



That {classical} guitar above is mine!  I took that photo before I ever strummed a single note on her.  Yes, her.  I'm calling her Maria (accent on the "i") for now, short for Via Maria [accents on the "i"s] Tocando la Guitarra.  Surely it's normal to name your objects -- I've done that to most of my major possessions, except my car.  I don't make this stuff up, people.

Originally, I was planning on buying a guitar on Craigslist.  After some weeks, I finally drove to someone's place to do the exchange, he was a no-show with a turned-off phone.  After over an hour of waiting in decent, but foreign, territory, I got angry and left.  As I was driving to the music store, where I should have gone in the first place, I left a voice message that let him know how rude he had been.  Don't worry, no swearing involved.

I ended up paying a little more for a brand that didn't sound as cool as the rude-Craigslist guy's, but I saw them pull it out of the box for me.

I am determined to learn how to play this to some level of proficiency.  Since I learned a little bit some years ago on my father's guitar, some of it has been re-learning and has gone by fairly quickly.  My guitar is a classical acoustic, so it has a fatter neck, softer? (nylon) strings, and a deeper sound as opposed to my dad's "American" acoustic, though they are played the same way.

Here's me trying to practice in my cramp-a-rella room.  I banged Maria up on that ladder right there just trying to move around.  =(

My sister took this pic unbeknownst to me!  I have to hunch over in this arrangement, and my hair was clipped poorly due to bad, bad heat.


That aside, I'm gonna be a rock star!  "The Ukrainian" already told me he's going to lead my fan club.

I should add that he also bought Marìa a boyfriend:

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Book Review: LL Cool J's Platinum Workout

I am one of those people who would rather check out a book than buy it, at least while I'm reviewing it.  I've been following my budget (a New Years' Resolution that is finally coming to fruition!), and miscellaneous books just don't fit in it.

I was never fond of libraries as a kid.  I think I was traumatized by one once because I had to make copies of the encylopedia for a project, and I didn't have enough money. 

I guess times haven't changed much.

My library has lots of interesting, more modern books in it -- certainly moreso than when I was a kid.  Vegan cookbooks and even running books are there, and if they aren't, I can easily go online and request them.  Sweet!


For example, I recently saw this LL Cool J's Platinum Workout on the shelf.  The first reactions I had were:

1) LL Cool J wrote a book?!
2) LL Cool J is that ripped?!

So... I checked it out -- err, the book, that is.  Combining my interests of working out and rapping totally reeled me in!

The book is broken down into stages -- basically, you spend a few weeks following his relatively clean-eating plan and workouts and earn a bronze body.... and then a few more weeks for a gold body.  After many weeks of craziness, you can achieve the platinum body

I was reading along in here in this sequence until I realized that there is a section just for "the ladies" -- the diamond body.  I love how his writing changes in this section to sweet-talk the ladies.  He tries to convince us girls that we want a diamond body when we're being presented with diamonds and that we shouldn't worry about bulking up, since he wants to be the hardest thing in the bed (whoaaaa innuendo!).

All in all, I don't have any room in my workout routine for whipping myself up into shape a-la Todd James Smith (his real name!), but the book was a good read with some useful tips and great color photos of each exercise he recommends (he's one of the models.............).  The book also has lots of great LL Cool J quotes (from songs) and recommendations for lifestyle changes in order to basically get ripped.

I will probably come back to this book at some point when I really need to whip myself into shape in a fun way.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Vegan "Chicken and Dumplings"

I love pot pie.  But they all have meat and are not very good for you.  But I love it so much that I try to make quick versions that don't work out perfectly.  I even buy boxed ones.

This dish is very similar to pot pie, and requires no baking!  This chicken/chickpeas and dumplings recipe came from the Peas and Thank You blog.

It comes together fairly easily, too!

Aromatics (carrots/celery/onion).  Ignore that arrowroot powder in the background!


Other ingredients... that bag of chips in the back was my cooking fuel... =)


Unlike last time, I managed to mix the cornstarch OUTSIDE of the pot, which meant no clumping occurred.  Score!


While the soup bubbled away, I made the dough/dumplings... sorry about the blurry pic here.  I was definitely in a hurry.


All you have to do is drop the dough by spoonfuls, and after 17 minutes (NO opening the pot!), you get this!  (there are those chips again!)


This was very flavorful, comforting, and filling!  It made great leftovers (the bottom pic is the soup the next day).  I would make this again... next time, not in the middle of summer! =P


Monday, September 26, 2011

Larabar: Chocolate Chip Cherry

If you check out my Reviews section, I've written a lot about Larabars, which are primarily made of ground-up nuts and fruit.

Well, the newest addition to the wholesome treat is:


Chocolate Chip Cherry!

I have no idea if I won a contest or just had a sampler sent to me for no reason, but it was a pleasant surprise.  Although Pikachu likes ketchup, he helped me display all these goodies.


source

And now, onto the bar itself.  I've tried the regular cherry one and find it pretty good, though maybe sour for those who don't like cherry.

This, on the other hand, is sweet, and those chocolate chip bits are really great to bite into!  Definitely one of my new favorites and will be yours, too, if you like black forest anything!


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Marathon Training: Week 11


If you're following along, here is the ELEVENTH week of training according to the 4 Months to a 4-Hour Marathon book.  The paces below are specifically for the 4-hour goal.  If anyone would like the paces for 4:15, 4:30, 4:45, or 5:00, I can start posting them alongside my plan if you let me know.

I am also posting on DailyMile, but everything (and more!) will be posted here as well.  This "Marathon Training" series is an experiment for me both in fitness and in blogging, as I am going to go into more detail than in previous training cycles, documented on my Training page.

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Last Week in Review:

Here is the original schedule from last week and my comments/modifications.

If I were to be hard on myself, I'd declare that I totally sucked this week.  Monday-Wednesday, I was feeling extremely fatigued for some strange reason, which I don't think had to do with last week's easy (or as "easy" as it can get) 19-miler, sleep, or food intake.  I don't think I was getting sick, either.  My theory is that I am having to rip myself out of bed almost every morning and have hardly taken any time off from work in months (since May, when I went to Fargo, which was a quick trip considering).  So naturally, my mind and body are rebelling.

While I don't think there's much I can do about that any time soon, I have been a bit worried that my marathon training will go down the scrapper just because of a few botched runs.  I am feeling a little bit better now, so let's hope I can continue to keep on trucking.  I have about 3 more weeks until taper, and then I won't care if I start running out of steam....

Week of Sept 19 (Week 10)
Monday - jog 40 minutes <-- I think I made it about 3.2 miles, because I walked some of this
Tuesday - cross-train 30 minutes <-- tried to do Wednesday's tempo run because of a schedule issue, but ran 2 miles at pace and walked 1 for a total of 3
Wednesday - 6 mi at 8:45-8:50 <-- I started on this and then felt very weak, so I walked the rest
Thursday - jog 30 minutes or rest <-- finally did something right... 6.2 mph
Friday - cross-train 30 minutes <-- rested with the exception of 20 min upper body weights
Saturday - 10 mi at 10:40-11:10 <-- 10:11 pace; track not open, so surface was concrete per usual
Sunday - rest

This Week:


This upcoming week contains the second-to-the-last monster run in this training program -- 21 miles.  Since I did 19 a couple of weeks ago, I shouldn't be daunted, right?  Something about the 20+ mile range that really gets me psychologically.  Plus, I mean really, it's a freaking long way.  But given that this is a 16-week program with the appropriate 3-week taper period, that means that the end is in sight....

All I can hope is that I can run on a track for the majority of this run.  I love tracks and don't really get bored by the repetition of the 1/4 mi laps.


Week of Sept 26 (Week 11)
Monday - rest
Tuesday - jog 30 minutes
Wednesday - 3 mi at 8:45/mi
Thursday - jog 30 minutes or rest
Friday - cross-train 30 minutes
Saturday - 21 mi at 10:40-11:10
Sunday - rest

Where are your favorite places to run?

Besides the track, I like running at the regional park near my house that has a 2.2 mi loop, but I don't like driving anywhere to run.  The park is nice because it has different surfaces -- packed dirt, concrete, soft dirt, and trail-y dirt.  The path from my house to the park is about 4 miles, but some of it is on a highway where I must run at the shoulder.  For this reason, I have not been back and in while and instead run around a local high schoool in 1.2-mi segments.

To be continued...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sleep Number p6 Bed Set (and a chance to win)

This is my bed (look up!).


I've been sleeping in it for about six years now.  I bought the bed frame from my old roommate in college, where we shared a small one-bedroom apartment in Westwood, CA among three girls.  It was a solution back then, a way that I could actually fit into a small space.

And now, it's a pain in the neck (literally, especially lately).

Most people go into their beds for things besides sleeping.  Reading, surfing the net, taking naps, and so forth have no place in this Ikea "bed"/loft of mine, so I truly only use it for sleeping and don't know what it's like anymore to have a "real bed."  Apparently, I'm not important enough to have decent living space that would accommodate a "real bed" (and while I'm at it, I was told the same holds true for my diploma).

(Like my sticky glow-in-the-dark stars?  Leftover from childhood.)



So I only crawl in there to sleep, as my mom says, like an animal.  My bed is so close of the ceiling that I had to line the ceiling with cloth to protect myself against asbestos, and in the summer, you know what they say about heat rising (a few nights recently were INTOLERABLE).  =(  And after a marathon or long run, let's just say I am *thankful* that I work on my upper-body strength.  Did I mention I've been doing this for six years?

So now that the whole world knows about this (though that already happened after I randomly won a contest at Healthy Tipping Point), I can share some happy news:


This is my NEW bed.  When I was offered one of these, I had to do some legitimacy checks just to make sure I wasn't dreaming from my lack of good sleep lately or being scammed.  Since nothing about my personal situation has changed yet (it should soon), I am fortunate to have a holding place for this bed for now until I get my own digs.  This way, I can sleep in it when I am able and will just need to worry about moving it when the time comes.

The assembly.  The pieces mostly go together like Legos!



There is also an unpictured pump, which is energy-efficient and is only used to pump/take out air.

I'm sure you've heard of "Sleep Number" beds on TV.  They come with a remote control with which you control the firmness of your bed.  I tend to prefer a harder mattress to counteract some of the soreness I experience after a long day's exercise/work.

The Sleep Number p6 Bed Set:
  • Exclusive SLEEP NUMBER® DualAir technology lets you quietly adjust firmness on each side of the mattress with a quiet wireless remote, so you both enjoy ideal comfort
  • 12-inch Pillowtop features an advanced breathable knit fabric for soothing support
  • 3-inch exclusive comfort layer contours to your body for enhanced pressure relief

Review:

The bed is a great height, though this will vary since you can use your own bed frame if you want.  The motor for the pump does make some noise, but it is brief.  Obviously, don't play with the pump in the middle of the night if you're not alone!! =)

Okay, so to clarify, my "Sleep Number" is NOT 90 like in the picture below.  The scale goes up to 100, which is the setting you need it at if you need to carry around a stiff mattress.  I thought it would like a harder bed to put counterpressure on my muscles, but I actually turned it down to 25 and loved how I felt like I was kind of being cradled, yet supported.  I felt better/less sore (and hesitant to get out of bed) the next day!

"The Ukrainian" had to fiddle around a few nights, since he is housing the bed for now.  He eventually has settled toward the higher-end of the sleep-number spectrum (65+).  Typical man.  He finds the bed comfortable, though he doesn't have as many issues sleeping like I do.

I think it will take a while to feel the full effects and find the *right* setting (or maybe this varies from day-to-day!), but I am perfectly aware that I have felt the full effects of not sleeping well in the ol' bunk bed.  I am positive this will help in the long-term, and you know what they say about more sleep -- weight loss, for one.


WIN A BED!!

You can enter to win a Sleep Number bed as well!  Sleep Number is hosting a Tweet chat on September 23rd at 7pm CST.  They will be giving away a bed for YOU to try!  I am going to try to be there as well to chime in!

Access THIS link to join the chat:

http://beds.com/fan-community/the-september-sleep-better-chat-sweepstakes/


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FTC Disclaimer: I was compensated with this bed for this review. However, this entry reflects my own honest opinions.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

SalonPas Pain Relief Patch

Have you ever used pain patches?  Do they seem to work?

When it comes to running-related pain, I try to be careful distinguishing "normal" pain from "potentially long-lasting" pain.  For example, if I'm sore, I never use anything... it's that "good" kind of hurt that takes a while to set apart from "bad" hurt.  "Bad" hurts, for me, include any pain that is sharp and any pain that feels like a tender painful bruise to the touch.

The area you see in the picture below is of the latter category.

I prefer using patches over creams, mostly because they are less messy.  I find both effective if the pain is going to be receptive things besides rest.

I like these SalonPas Pain Relief patches because after a few minutes, the area under the patch feels slightly warm and cooled, at the same time.  Somehow!  These feel soooo good that I wish I could put a bunch all over my body, but I don't think that is safe. 

The patches themselves are flexible and stay on pretty well, assuming you don't put lotions under it or sweat too much or put it in a location that is simply not amenable to patches (like joints).

And thankfully, after a day or so of patches, this spot was declared healed... for now.

Monday, September 19, 2011

(My Own) Cheesecake Factory

For my sister's baby shower, I basically started my own "cheesecake factory."

Now, I don't want to sound arrogant, but I'm just going to state a fact.  Each time I go to a potluck/party and bring these, everyone raves and/or asks me for the recipe.  And I think I've made this cheesecake 10+ times by now and decided to share the recipe with everyone...... now my only social charm is gone, I suppose.

I based this off a Kraft recipe and have tweaked it over the years:

For ONE cheesecake (bar), 13 x 9" pan

6 tablespoons butter, melted
2 cups graham cracker crumbs <-- I use Russian tea biscuits
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened  <-- I use 1 package of neufchatel (1/3 fat) and 1 regular
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 (8 ounce) jar blueberry jam (or preserves) <-- I try to go with blackberry if I can
1 cup blueberries <-- Usually use frozen

Adapted from: HERE


So for this endeavor, I used to crush these manually using a stick and large bowl.  No more, now that this food processor is in my life!  I like to crush these finely but not into powder.

Four cheesecakes = LOTS of crumbs.



This was the setup of the "cheesecake factory," the night before the shower.  Eggs and cream cheese need to hang around for a while as to not be cold solid from the fridge.



Four cheesecakes also equates to a LOT of butter.  This butter needs to be melted.  I prefer to do this over flame rather than microwave.  Once it's melted and cooled a bit, mix it with the crumbs.  Easy, right?!



Pressing the crumbs into pans.  I do NOT normally line with parchment, but this was for a larger crowd, so I did.  Otherwise, you can lightly spray a pan.



Dog not included, but he just wanted to say hai.



My little sister Kwi likes to help me bake, and I really needed it this time.  She helped me stir the jam to thin it out.  I had to spread it over the crumbs, which is always my LEAST favorite part of the process.  Try not to break your crumb layer during this part, though this is careful work.


Don't forget to add your blueberries on top of the jam!

The rest of the ingredients are beaten in a large bowl.  This is why the cream cheese should be soft.  Beat the cream cheese first before adding the eggs, sugar, etc.  I didn't take pics of this part, because doing this 4x got a little hectic.

But once it's all blended, it will be smooth and perfectly pourable.



Not much different after 30 min of baking at 350.



Let cool and refrigerate before slicing/eating.  It's best cold (and the next day!).



I have not tried making this in other flavors, though I'm sure it'd be just as good.  Let me know if you happen to try it.  Blueberries are my fave, though.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Marathon Training: Week 10


A pain in my @$$.  Heartbreak Ridge
Half-Marathon, 9/10/2011
If you're following along, here is the TENTH week of training according to the 4 Months to a 4-Hour Marathon book.  The paces below are specifically for the 4-hour goal.  If anyone would like the paces for 4:15, 4:30, 4:45, or 5:00, I can start posting them alongside my plan if you let me know.

I am also posting on DailyMile, but everything (and more!) will be posted here as well.  This "Marathon Training" series is an experiment for me both in fitness and in blogging, as I am going to go into more detail than in previous training cycles, documented on my Training page.

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Last Week in Review:

Here is the original schedule from last week and my comments/modifications.

With 9 weeks completed, I keep trying to remember that I only have TWO killer runs left (21 and 23 miles).  And I believe this also means that I have a month before I start "tapering."

I managed to do pretty much all of the workouts this week.  The tempo run on Wednesday was HARD.  I got super sweaty by the end, and I am not comfortable running at that pace.  I know I can... it's just that I am not used to it anymore.  The tempo runs start at 4 miles and go all the way up to 8 miles.  *freaks out*  I will have to start hauling butt because I don't have much time to work out in the morning before I have to make the trek to work.  Also, I mentioned in this other post that I've been strength training just 4 times a week for about 15-20 min each day.  This is all I really have time for right now...

Week of Sept 12 (Week 9)
Monday - jog 40 minutes <-- ran this at 5mph (12:00 mi)... practicing the Mile 20+ shuffle, I suppose!
Tuesday - cross-train 30 minutes <-- 30 min elliptical
Wednesday - 4 mi at 8:45-8:50 <-- this was hard to me
Thursday - jog 30 minutes or rest <-- jogged the 30 min
Friday - cross-train 30 minutes <-- SKIPPED this workout due to time constraints
Saturday - 19 mi at 10:40-11:10 <-- 10:27 pace, 14 miles of this done on a track = less pain!
Sunday - rest

This Week:


This is considered a step-back week as far as the long run goes (from 19 to 10), so I am just going to try to use the extra time stretching more.  Now that my work schedule is back to more-or-less normal for now, I think I might have time for more post-work relaxing and hopefully more restful sleep.

Week of Sept 19 (Week 10)
Monday - jog 40 minutes
Tuesday - cross-train 30 minutes
Wednesday - 6 mi at 8:45-8:50
Thursday - jog 30 minutes or rest
Friday - cross-train 30 minutes
Saturday - 10 mi at 10:40-11:10
Sunday - rest

How does your training/workout become affected by work or sleep?

For me, personally, a little tiredness actually helps me perceive less strain during my runs, but when work gets crazy, everything pretty much flushes down the toilet.  This is one reason why I almost always work out in the morning now, so that if work DOES go awry, I have already gotten the workout out of the way.

To be continued...

Friday, September 16, 2011

Guest Post: 5 Ways Running Can Improve Your Life

Bonus post!

I have a 19-miler tomorrow, and at times, I feel like all this running business is ruining things I used to enjoy in life -- weekends, sleeping in, going out late, high heels, etc.  When I get daunted by distances, I often wonder why I still "do this to myself."



Phil, a fitness enthusiast and writer at Daybreak, volunteered to guest post a few things to remind me why I keep heading out that door each weekend and why I should continue to do so.

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5 Ways Running Can Improve Your Life


--By Philip J Reed, on behalf of Daybreak and Northern Nevada Medical Center

Cardiovascular exercise is an important part of maintaining your health, and running is one way to accomplish that objective. Aside from providing a great opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, here are a few reasons running is beneficial.

Blood Pressure, Heart, and Lungs

Running helps people control their blood pressure. Because the arteries expand and contract more than normal when a person is running, the exercise keeps them elastic and blood pressure in check. Heart and lung strength also increase. Running can even aid in preventing heart attacks.

Weight Loss

For someone interested in running, this form of exercise is a great way to promote weight loss. You’ll boost your metabolism and burn extra calories. By monitoring what you eat and making sure you use more calories than you consume, eventually the extra pounds will start slipping away. If you suffer from “stubborn fat” spots, especially around your stomach, jogging can help address that trouble as well, the Motley Health Web site has explained.

Controlling Joint Pain

Your knees will thank you if you start running, too. If you’re overweight, you could be feeling some joint pain because there’s more strain being placed on those parts of the body. Start working on getting rid of that excess weight, and you’ll likely notice some benefits.

For those who worry that running will actually cause knee problems, remember to exercise responsibly, the Runner’s World Web site has advised. Wear proper shoes, and avoid running on slanted or potentially dangerous surfaces. Don’t forget that rest days are important, as is cross-training to create an appropriate exercise balance.

Strengthen Bones

Osteoporosis is a serious condition affecting millions of people around the world, but there are steps that can be taken to help prevent this condition. Because your bones are living tissue, they also grow stronger with exercise. To “work,” bones must experience impact through activities like dancing, running, tennis, and aerobics. The right exercise helps build and maintain bone density. It’s important to know the condition of your body, though. If you are not capable of high-impact exercise, explore other suitable options with your physician. And if you do find yourself injured, be absolutely certain to treat it correctly, preferably with the help of a professional sports medicine clinic!

Mental Health Benefits

The physical benefits of running are clear, but some runners say they run for more the great emotional high it provides. Moderate exercise can boost levels of a brain chemical called phenylethylamine, or PEA, which is a natural stimulant. PEA may create a “runner’s high” or euphoric mood. For someone who wants to feel good, and even for those who are struggling with depression, exercise can be a natural way to help encourage positive emotions.

As always, remember to consult a physician to learn how much running is appropriate for you, and formulate an exercise plan appropriate for your abilities. Start small and realistic, and work your way toward a larger goal. Healthy living is not beyond your reach, and running is a great way to get there! Just be sure to do it intelligently and responsibly!

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We all know about these basic benefits, though I can probably add a few more, just for fun.  Running:

- Works your mental discipline muscles.  Each time you overcome your urge to stop or skip a run, you make yourself stronger mentally (though this can get overused/burnt out!).  Of course, this means I do have thoughts such as, "Yeah, this studying sucks, but easier than running for three hours!"

- Allows you to cover a lot of ground on foot.  I love running destination marathons because I get a point-of-view I never could otherwise.

- Gives you an automatic awesomeness factor.  Lots of people are unable to run, or they choose not to run for various reasons.  Compared to that latter group, you have something that they don't -- mojo, insanity -- whatever you want to call it.

Well, gotta eat some carbs!

French Toast Oatmeal

For a while, I had a fling with French Toast.

I'm pretty picky about my French Toast.  It must be crispy on the edges, a little moist in the center, and I must be able to taste egg over the milk.

Due to the milk that's in these things, I feel guilty about ordering this dish, and due to its bread base, it's not really a great one to partake in that often.

Here is my solution to this "problem":


With a little overhead costs, I procured ingredients that would yield me many, many servings of "French Toast" at a fraction of the price and less-than-healthy ingredients (bread, cow's milk, etc.).

This version tastes pretty similar to the "real thing" and can be made in a microwave.

Ingredients (serves 1):

1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 Tbsp flax seeds (optional)

1/2 cup of unsweetened almond milk (or 1/4 cup almond milk + 1/4 cup water for a less creamy version)
1/8 tsp maple extract (can use real maple syrup for better flavor, but this is my poor man's version)
1/8 tsp pure vanilla extract (to taste)
1/2 packet of stevia or raw/turbinado sugar
1/8-1/4 tsp cinnamon (to taste)
1/4 c. egg substitute OR an actual egg, lightly beaten

Directions:

1) Put oats in a deep, microwave-safe bowl (if using microwave).  Add flax seeds, if using. 
2) Pour in milk (and water, if applicable).
3) Add cinnamon, sweetener, maple and vanilla carefully.
4) Set microwave to half-power (50%) and set the timer for 3.5 minutes.  Watch for overboiling.
5) Pour egg substitute or egg on top of the mixture without stirring.
6) Microwave for another 1.5 minutes, or until egg is done.
7) Once slightly cooled, mix oatmeal to break up the egg and let sit for a minute or so before eating.

(Microwave times may vary based on actual heat generated.)

Personally, I really liked this version of oatmeal, and I know it will save me from some uncalled French Toast runs at some of the local joints around my work.  Think of the potential money saved, right?  Once you get these ingredients, they should last quite a while!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Book Review: Gym-Free and Ripped

I was given the opportunity to read Gym-Free and Ripped by Nathan Jendrick.  After this post at The Fitness Dish about gym ettiquite, I'm glad that I read it!


The author, a trainer named Nathan Jendrick, is married to an Olympic swimming champ Megan Jendrick.  I totally know what it's like having a significant other root for me and try to train me, so I find the relationship cute.  The premise of the book is that you don't need to go to a gym to get "ripped" and that exercise and genetics really contribute only 10-20% to what you ultimately look like.  Food is the other 80%.  (Does that mean I look like a muffin, then?)

Therefore, the book mostly focuses on strength training, stretching, and a little cardio.  Given that I am training for a marathon, I could not fully adhere to this sort of proportion, but I could see the point behind it.

The book is broken up into an explanation of why and how to eat healthfully, the moves, training plans, stretching, supplements, and recipes

I found the part about food kind of preachy, but I think that's because I am a little sad that the things he says are true.  Not like anything was new to me, but it's SO hard to eat differently from your friends (as he says), etc. etc.  But I figure any improvement in my eating habits will help.  If I had to complain about anything else in the book, it would be that it seems like it's written for dudes... I mean, I don't think many girls could pull off some of the moves in there -- handstands! one-legged squats/push-ups! -- and the only model in there is male.  But... I can try!

There are great photos of every move in the sample training program, which takes you through a few weeks of training 4 days a week.  You can modify the plans according to the book, but I followed this 4-day thing for a couple of weeks.  Day 1 is Chest, Day 2 is Back and Core, Day 3 is Legs, and Day 4 is Shoulders and Arms. 

Even though I'm used to using weight machines in the gym for 20 minutes a day, these workouts not only cut my strength training time, they also made me sore almost every day.  By just doing 3 sets of incline pushups and 3 sets of decline pushups, I found myself sore (and this is after I've tried the 100 Push-Ups Program!)Over these past few weeks, I have felt more muscle tone, and having done that spending less time on strength training than I had been is a plus! 

I'm not quite "ripped" yet, but I did notice that I have gone back to my normal weight range since reading this book, probably due to better food choices.  Of course, I learned that "The Ukrainian"'s scale had collected some dust and was since cleaned, perhaps explaining the extra weight I thought I had put on.

Since I got this book, I have not touched a weight machine in the gym and feel pretty confident that I could stay fit even if I didn't have a gym.   In the meantime, I know that I can do these moves if I am on the go, and it's motivating to carry around a book with chiseled abs on the cover!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Blender Bottle

This is a review of something I'm really glad I finally bought!

I used to mix protein powder in cheap water containers with a sport/pop top that I'd get from expos or job fairs.  The protein would clump and plug up the opening, so I'd have to drink the stuff by unscrewing the lid.  I'd have so much trouble getting the protein IN the bottles that I almost gave up.

I could blend protein powder in smoothies, but I go to the gym on the way to work, so that's not really a practical solution.  Yes, I drink my protein straight. ;)

But then, I got this Blender Bottle from yes... GNC.  There was a promo on it, so "The Ukrainian" also ended up with (a larger) one.

Pros:
- Small size (10 oz) is perfect for my needs... I fill it up about halfway with water after the protein powder.
- The blender ball... I don't get any clumping in my protein
- The flip-top lid is perfect for drinking!
- No leaking (make sure you snap everything into place first!)
- BPA-free


Cons:
- Bottle rattles when you walk around with it empty... but who cares?
- Protein "milk" mustaches and embarrassingly taking photos of said mustache


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Accents and Fly Tofu

It is a bit of an inside joke for Asian-Americans to order things like "fly lice" instead of "fried rice."

Some people take offense to this little play on Asian-to-English accents.  As someone who has been stopped by people to tell me that I speak perfect English, I don't mean the use of the word "fly" for "fried" to be offensive at all.

You see, I have been put down by other Asians who think that I am not "Asian enough" because I don't have any accent.  And it definitely stings, because deep down, I want to be connected to my culture but have reached a point at which it's kind of awkward now and associated with things I'd rather not remember.  My culture will always be a part of me, but still, no accent.

Anyway , I love accents (I guess by definition, we all have one, by you know what I mean!).  I once accidentally gave up a seat in class that I was saving for my friend because a guy with a hypnotic British accent asked me if the seat was taken.  "The Ukrainian" also has an accent.  I love.

So where were we...?  Oh yeah, "fly tofu."  This is another method I use to cook tofu besides trying to roast it.  This is how I make it:

1) Drain a package of Extra Firm tofu.  The one pictured is about 16 oz, but you can use whatever amount you have on hand.  I tend to cut a hole in the packaging and drain it in the sink this way.  If the tofu was frozen beforehand, thaw in the microwave (using Defrost settings) or put in near-boiling hot water to thaw.  I've heard that freezing, although not recommended on the tofu packages for some reason, actually helps with the later chewiness of the finished product.


2) Press the tofu.  In this case, I put it between two plates and a heavier weight on the top plate.  Don't use anything so heavy that it breaks the tofu, though!  If you have one, use a clean cloth to wrap around the tofu while pressing.... it helps a lot.

3) After 15 or so minutes, you should see a bunch of water.  Hold the tofu onto the plate as you drain this.

4) Slice the tofu.  I like to cut mine in half lengthwise and then into half-inch pieces width-wise.  Try to get them even in size, unlike my cutting....

5) Heat up -- medium/high heat -- a large pan with oil, about a tablespoon or more, depending on the size of your pan.  It should be enough that you can swirl at least a little oil onto most of the surface.  I used virgin coconut oil for this, since I have a big jar.  It also imparts a nice coconut flavor!

6) Carefully place the tofu in the pan, not crowding them too much.  Season with some salt if desired.  Use tongs if you can.  You'll want to leave the tofu be for at least 5 minutes before checking on them.  If you check on them too soon, you're not going to get the same kind of browning you would had you waited.  You've been warned.

7) Flip the tofu and cook on the other side for about 4-5 minutes.  (I think I checked on some of these too soon! -- "on purpose" so I can show you what happens if you do.)  After removing these from the pan, you may have to add more oil if you have more tofu to fry.