Recent Eats: Winter Edition

Hello everyone! Despite my intention to start blogging regularly again, it’s been a month since my last post. I haven’t felt like I really had much to share with you all, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been cooking!

I’ve been consistently cooking dinner about 5 nights a week, trying out 3-4 new dishes and 1 or 2 old favorites. I’ve found this allows me to balance making reliably delicious food (the old favorites) and experimenting with new dishes, most of which end up well, while others are just ok. I make a meal plan for the week every Friday or Saturday, so I’ll try to share this on the blog in the future, and then follow up with how I liked the recipes.

Meanwhile, here are some of my favorite meals that I’ve eaten in the past month or so. Click the pictures for links to the recipes!

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Turmeric Bean Burgers with arugula, tomato, and avocado
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3 Ingredient pancakes: (1/2 cup oats, 1/4 cup almond milk, 1 banana blended) topped with maple syrup
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Rainbow Peanut Noodles
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Kale and Tempeh Enchilada Casserole
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Bombay Potatoes and Peas
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Arugula, carrots, red cabbage, and black beans with homemade vegan caesar dressing
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Chickpea Lentil Quinoa Spinach Stew
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Chipotle Black Bean Sweet Potato Chili
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Carrot Fritters with Cumin Lime Cashew Cream
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Aloo Gobi Mutter
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Cauliflower Fettucine Alfredo (old favorite, with broccoli & peas)
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Roasted Broccoli & Rice Bowl with Chipotle Red Pepper Sauce
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Homemade Vegetarian Chili
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Pumpkin Alfredo Pasta (old favorite, with broccoli!)
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Sweet Potato Gumbo
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Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta
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Next Level Vegan Enchiladas
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Brunch out with No Meat Athlete Boston running club! This was a veggie scramble with tofu at La Sanghita Cafe
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Curried Vegetable and Chickpea Stew
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Cashew Cream Pasta with Lemon & Spinach (I left out the tempeh bacon and added cauliflower & broccoli)

Winter Fitness Plans

January is almost over, so I’m a bit late with this, but it took me until mid-month to really decide what my new fitness plans were.

With Marathon training taking over as my fitness goal from April or May through the end of October of 2015, I hadn’t really thought about what would come next. I figured that once the marathon was over, I would be totally sick of running and as the weather got too cold for me to comfortably run, I would once again become a gym rat.

But no, when the marathon was over, I really still wanted to run, and I missed my Saturday long run tradition. Throughout November and most of December, I continued to run 3-4 times a week (spurred on by the unseasonably warm weather) while slowly incorporating back in the strength work that had steadily declined during my training. I took a few fitness classes here and there to mix things up. With a week home for Thanksgiving, a few days away for Christmas, holiday parties, and some busy times at work, however, I didn’t make much progress. I definitely regained a little bit of strength, but not as much as I could have.

Not to mention, all of my runs were done basically at the same pace, not exactly an easy run, but not quite a tempo run, and were from 4-8 miles, which really wasn’t developing my fitness in any way. At the same time, after 4 months of challenging, strict training, I felt it was ok for me to take 2 months to basically do whatever I wanted on the fitness front.

Then when I got home from my week-long vacation from Barbados, during which I really couldn’t exercise like I normally would, I finally felt motivated & ready to take on a new challenge and a new routine. I had long been debating upgrading my limited gym membership, which came with limited hours, to a full gym membership, since it was challenging to find time to make it to the gym and work as much as I wanted to, especially when not working at home. By mid-January, the cold had finally set in, and it would be difficult for me to continue running outside comfortably. I bit the bullet, upgraded my gym membership, and decided I would start working out early in the morning.

I always wanted to be an early-morning exerciser, but never thought I really could. But I thought I’d try it and see what happened. For 4 days in a row, I got up at 6am, left the house at 6:30am (with a thermos of coffee in hand, of course), and was working out shortly after 7. And guess what? I loved it! It’s hard for me to wake up, but once I have had my coffee and I arrive at the gym, I actually feel full of energy. And it feels awesome to have completed my workout and gotten ready for the day by 9am. I also took that first week back to try out some new fitness classes and workouts and develop a routine. It’s now been 2 weeks, and I LOVE it. I feel totally invigorated by finally having a routine, structure, and goals again.

So what are these goals?

  1. Get stronger, but don’t stress about it, and listen to my body. (I.e. Do NOT lift if I still feel at all sore.) Last winter, when I tried to get stronger, I made a few mistakes, like lifting too often for what is enjoyable for me and complementary to my non-lifting activity level, not eating enough to support muscle growth, not resting enough etc. I think there were a lot of factors in play, but this is why I’m stressing listening to my body this time around.
  2. Get faster! Running season may be over, and I’m super proud of being able to say that I successfully conquered super long distances, but I really want to be able to run faster than I currently can. 10-minute miles are my “easy” pace on flat terrain, with 9:30 being my “comfortable” pace. For my fitness level & motivation, I should be able to do a lot better than that. And so…I will be interval training!
  3. Do yoga at least once a week. Yoga is the best. Enough said.

So here’s what my weeks will look like

Monday: 5-mile interval run: Short intervals (1 minute or less)
Tuesday: Strength Training
Wednesday: 5 mile interval run: Long intervals (.25 miles or more)
Thursday: Strength Training
Friday: 5 mile run: Hill intervals OR steady-state
Saturday: Body Combat (Fun martial arts inspired workout)
Sunday: Yoga (It’s all stretching & releasing, so I count this as my rest day!)

For my interval runs, the 5 miles includes a .5-1 mile warmup and cool-down, with 3-4 miles worth of intervals. While I generally find running on the treadmill boring, constantly changing up the speed and incline makes it, dare I say, actually FUN! I really enjoy the challenge and the constant variety. So far, these workouts are feeling great, so let’s hope I actually make some progress.

For Strength Training, I will probably do a more detailed post at some point, but I’ve been doing 4 sets each of the following exercises: Deadlifts, Stationary Lunges, Goblet Squats, Dumbbell Chest Press, Seated Row, Captain’s Chair (core exercise), Side Raises (oblique exercises), Assisted Pullups, and Resistance band Side Leg Lifts. I’m already seeing an improvement in strength, and I think 2 days of full-body will really work well for me.

One last thing: I’ve decided to track both my running and my strength training, so I should be able to easily see the progress I’m making. I’ve never really done this before, so it should be interesting!

Highlights From My Barbados Vacation

Hello! It’s been exactly one month since I posted. I didn’t exactly plan to stop blogging, but life got so crazy around the holidays. I was away for 3 or 4 days around Christmas at my boyfriends’ family’s house, then away again in Barbados for the first week in January.

Once I was back, I felt almost afraid to get back into blogging. I had missed so much! Wasn’t I supposed to recap my Christmas vacation and all of my time in Barbados? And try to post all of the food and workouts I’ve been eating over the past month? I didn’t exactly want to write about all those things, and how would I ever catch up?

Then I realized that this is my space to write, and I never have to post anything that I don’t want to. What a freeing feeling! That being said, I do want to recap a few of the highlights from my vacation. The first week in January, I spent a week with my parents (It is their 30th wedding anniversary today!) and my boyfriend in Barbados exploring some of the beautiful nature and historical sites, laying and walking on the beach, swimming, drinking rum punches and margaritas, and eating out i.e. attempting to find restaurants with some good vegan food (with some success, some failures).

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My favorite sites that we visited were the Barbados Wildlife Preserve, Nidhe Israel Synagogue, Harrison’s Cave (the coolest!), Flower Forest, Andromeda Botanical Gardens, Animal Flower Cave, St. Nicholas Abbey, George Washington House, and Pebbles Beach.

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Nidhe Israel Synagogue
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The beach on the South Coast
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Harrison’s Cave
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Animal Flower Cave

My favorite restaurants were The Good Life (a vegan restaurant!!!), Fish Pot, and Champers. All the food pictures are terrible because all of the places were super dark :(

A few notes if you plan to travel to Barbados any time soon: We soon realized that the pace of life in Barbados is much slower, and we had long waits for food at every place but The Good Life and Champers. At some places, the service was actually quite bad and the waiters unfriendly, while at others, the waitstaff was quite friendly and warm. All of our dinners lasted at least two hours with ordering two courses. Also, the food prices are very expensive, probably twice as expensive as I would expect to pay for similar dishes in the US. Just be prepared!

The Good Life, a vegan restaurant!
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Teriyaki “chikin” wrap at The Good Life
Delicious Kasmiri Curry with Poppadum
Delicious Kasmiri Curry with Poppadum at Fish Pot
Bean Curry at Champers
Bean Curry at Champers
Sorbet, the vegan dessert I had most nights. Mango was the best!
Sorbet, the vegan dessert I had most nights. Mango was the best!

If you are friends with me on Facebook, you can check out more from my photo album. Overall, I enjoyed exploring and experiencing Barbados, and it was great to spend a week with my parents. The weather was fantastic, we saw a lot of beautiful and unique flowers, trees, and animals, drank the local rum, enjoyed long dinners out took in views of the water, and played a lot of Kaluki (a great card game). Still,  it was nice to be home after a week. I missed being able to work out properly (The roads were no good for running, and it was too hot & humid to comfortably do any HIIT/strength work outside), cook my own healthy food/not have to worry about finding good vegan options, and sleep in my own comfy bed.

George Washington House
George Washington House
Turtle at the Wildlife Preserve
Turtle at the Wildlife Reserve
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Caiman at the Wildlife Reserve
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Mara at the Wildlife Reserve
Green monkeys!
Green monkeys!
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View outside Animal Flower Cave, North point of the island
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St Nicholas Abbey rum tasting
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Petting the cat at St Nicholas Abbey :)
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Rum being made at St Nicholas Abbey

These are just a few of the highlights of my trip, but I hope you enjoy! I’ll be back later this week with a fun fitness update.