Chia seed pudding & the scoop on omega-3 fatty acids for vegans

I recently went on a camping trip and my dedicated adventure buddy surprised me with some chia seed pudding for our two mornings spent out on the trails. First of all, that was very nice of her. Second, it reminded me to talk about plant-based omega-3 fatty acids!

You can buy pre-made chia seed pudding at the store for about $4 a carton, but it’s much cheaper to bone up and buy a bulk bag of chia seeds (I spent about $9 on 1 lb) because a little goes a long way. I used a 1:4 ratio of chia seed to liquid, which worked out perfectly.

The fun thing about chia seed pudding is that you can put whatever you want in it. I personally like berries, kiwis, bananas, cinnamon, cacao nibs, and maybe some peanut butter if I’m feeling saucy. I was thinking it would be fun to purée up some berries and coconut oil and mix that into the pudding. The world is your oyster with this stuff.

chiaseedpuddingtitle

It definitely did not take me twenty minutes to perfectly stage this pudding.

Here’s the cool thing about chia seeds: they’re one of the best plant sources of alpha-linolenic acid (“ALA”), which is an essential omega-3 fatty acid and absolutely necessary in anyone’s diet. The body can’t synthesize ALA on it’s own, which is why it’s called an “essential” fatty acid. It is extremely important for vegans to be eating enough ALA. This acid will be converted to the longer-chain eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and possibly to the even longer docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), two non-essential omega-3 fatty acids. They’re non-essential because we can make them from another source — ALA. All cell membranes, especially the ones in our brains, are dependent on DHA/EPA.

Omnivores will get their omega-3s from fatty marine life (particularly salmon) for the most part, but plant-based folks need to make sure we’re hitting our quota of ALA. Unfortunately, it’s not easy for our bodies to convert ALA to EPA/DHA, so you may want to consider a supplement. Research shows vegans and vegetarians can be very low in ALA in the blood. But you can get these fatty acids from where the fish themselves get them — algae! Just look for algae-based EPA/DHA supplements in the stores. As a bonus, lab-grown algae should be free of mercury, and you’ll avoid that nasty fish breath.

Other sources of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids include walnuts, flaxseed, algal oil, and hemp oil.

Why do we care about omega-3 fatty acids? Research suggests that the anti-inflammatory omega-3s may help to protect against cardiovascular disease, dementia, and lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and triglycerides. Chia seeds in particular are high in fiber, magnesium, calcium, iron, and have about 5 g of protein in 1 oz.

The other polyunsaturated fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids, are also essential for the human body, but Americans don’t have a problem ingesting enough omega 6s. They’re concentrated in cottonseed, soybean, and safflower oils — and these oils are typically abundant in processed foods. They’ll oxidize pretty easily in your body, which is why omega 6 fatty acids are dubbed the “inflammatory” ones. Grain-fed meat will be high in omega-6 fatty acids.

How to Make Chia Seed Pudding:

Use a 1:4 ratio of seeds to liquid.

1. Mix 1 cup chia seed with 4 cups almond/soy/hemp/rice milk.

2. Add 1 tsp vanilla, and 1 tbsp sugar or syrup if desired. Alternatively, you could use a sweetened milk.

3. Stir periodically, making sure no clumps are forming.

4. Stick it in the fridge for 1-8 hours — mine was ready to go after about an hour but had an even better consistency the next morning. Keep it in an air-proof container in the fridge.

5. Portion out as you choose and add whatever topping you like!

Advertisements

Salad Rolls for the World

saladrollstitle

Everyone who knows me knows I can’t go to a Asian establishment and not order salad rolls. They’re one of my absolute favorite foods — crispy, fresh, colorful, and fun to eat, all at once. I’ve tried hundreds and hundreds of salad rolls in my life (okay, probably not quite that many). But not until yesterday did I concoct a plan to make them myself. I don’t know what took me so long — I guess I just thought the labor and art of salad-roll making was out of my league. Newsflash: it is. They may look pretty in the picture, but I’m not going to judge anyone for making some jacked up salad rolls because this is hard!

As a dietitian (and a human being) I really identify with the the principles of flexibility and whimsy. Salad rolls are totally in line with these ideas because you can fill them with whatever strikes your fancy at the moment. There are so many flavors in the world, and ALL of them have the potential to fit into salad rolls! Ah, life is magical.

IMG_1637So there I was — I had all my ingredients prepped and in the assembly line (read: sitting in multiple bowl sizes haphazardly on my stove top), the big bowl of water ready to rehydrate my rice paper, and a supremely determined mindset. When I pulled the first paper out of the water and it immediately ripped and folded over on itself, I just laughed. Okay, take two!

The trick is to take the paper out of the water at about 15 seconds (not twenty) when it’s still got some stiffness in it and you can actually work with it. It’s like taking a cake out of the oven right before it’s actually cooked all the way through, because it’ll keep cooking (and the rice paper will keep absorbing the water as you’re filling it).

saladrolls2After you’ve readied your roll, simply tuck the sides in and roll it up like a tiny Asian burrito.

Yoga, Level: Cats -- "Now, take both legs and simply toss them around your neck . . . like a scarf."
No, I’m just kidding…it takes a little more finesse than that. But each roll I made was better-looking than the one before, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Just try to have fun with it! And remember — no matter what they look like, they’re going to taste insanely phenomenal. I could live off this stuff.

As for the sauce, experiment. We’re all different and I don’t expect you to like the same amount of spice or sweetness that I do. Much like every restaurant will serve their own version of a peanut sauce, all of ours will probably be tailored to our taste.

I really hope you do try to make these bad boys. Some recipes require a lot of repetition and help me to zone out in the kitchen, and this is one of them. It was a treat to spend my morning making these. And it was an even bigger treat to eat them.

And that, my friends….is a wrap. (ba dun dun.)

Peanut Sauce
* 1 tbsp peanut butter (I use natural crunchy)
* 1 tsp soy or tamari sauce (tamari for gluten-free folks)
* 1 tbsp thai chili paste (it’s not that spicy, but taste-check as needed)

Marinated Tofu
* 2 tbsp brown sugar
* 1 tbsp tamari/soy sauce
* 1 tbsp curry powder
* juice of a lime
* 1 tbsp minced garlic
* 1 tsp sesame oil

1. Mix all the ingredients together, and then throw in a package of tofu (16 oz).

2. Saute over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until most of the water has left the tofu. Take off the burner & set aside.

Pad Thai Noodles
1. Boil water. Insert noodles (a good handful). Boil for 8-10 minutes. Take out of water and set aside.

Salad Roll Recipe
* Pad thai noodles (or vermicelli, or thin rice noodles) – 1.5 cups
* Marinated tofu — 1.5 cups
* Raw red onion, sliced thinly (1/2 of one)
* Raw red pepper, sliced thinly (1/2 of one)
* Baby spinach (bunch)
* Raw avocado, sliced thinly (1/2 of one)
* Optional — cilantro or thai basil to taste (or both!)

Remember that this is YOUR food — sub in and sub out ingredients as you wish!

1. Insert rice paper into a bowl of water. Take it out (carefully) after about 15 seconds (it will be really thin and hard to work with). Lay it on a tea towel or a thick paper towel.
2. Arrange your filling as you want — I found it helpful to lay down the spinach/lettuce first, and then try to put the other ingredients on top of it.
3. Fold the sides over, and then either the bottom or top. Finagle. Roll into a tiny burrito.
4. Eat the delicious salad rolls.

17 Vegan Eats You Must Try in Portland

It’s no secret that Portland is a vegan mecca. It’s renowned as one of our country’s prime destinations for plant-loving persons young and old. The reputation is well-deserved — with offerings ranging from local mix-your-own salad bars, to late-night dives dedicated solely to vegan comfort food, to four-star rated vegetarian establishments that you’ll need to call ahead for a month in advance (seriously), Portland has it all.

I’ve lived in Portland for nearly three years, and when I first moved here from the D.C. metro area, I was overwhelmed with choice. “Choice” — that’s a word that can be pretty foreign to vegans. We’re usually pretty happy if one item on the menu is certified vegan, and resign ourselves to whatever it is, even if we really wanted a pasta dish instead of more roasted vegetables. I’m all for simplicity, but I really enjoy the luxury of poring over a menu rife with plant-based options before I pick a winner. This is why Portland is such a hotspot! Yes, the food is stellar. The people are friendly. The vibe is laid-back. But what Americans really love is choice, and Portland offers something for everyone.

I can’t dream of covering all of Portland’s vegan offerings — it seems like every time I take a walk around my neighborhood something new has popped up. But over the past three years I’ve honed in on a few of my favorite spots, so I’ll give you something to lick your lips over — that is, until you come to visit and give the wild and wacky world of vegan food a spin!

1. Blossoming Lotus / Prasad / Harlow
1713 NE 15th Ave. / 925 NW Davis St. / 3632 SE Hawthorne Blvd.

Each of these spots fall under the same overarching management, and serve some of the best raw, whole food I’ve ever had. Let’s just say their Vitamixes are on…ahem…constant rotation. The offerings aren’t cheap, but who can resist their “Bumblebee Shake” — a mouth-watering mixture of pb, cacao nibs, cocoa powder, coffee, and banana — after a yoga class?

A bowl, juice, and smoothie with goji berries from Prasad

Prasad is more of a light-lunch post-workout joint, whereas Blossoming Lotus and Harlow are more established sit-down restaurants. Their filigreed menus promise decadent and unique vegan treats, including Butternut Squash & Sage Penne, Raw Golden Beet Ravioli, and Pumpkin Empanadas. Blossoming Lotus is excellent at satisfying gluten-free requirements, and Harlow offers some absolutely decadent granola breakfast bowls. Call ahead for a reservation at Blossoming Lotus.

2. Vita Cafe
3023 NE Alberta St.

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 1.49.29 PM

(c) Vita Cafe.

This is one of my favorite brunch spots. Complete with local artwork (last time I was there, the most detailed mandalas I’d ever seen fully occupied my attention until my food arrived) and attentive servers committed to making sure your coffee cup is never less than half full, this is vegan comfort food at its finest. Biscuits and almond gravy? Check. Hash browns, grits, and corn cakes? Absolutely. Some of Vita’s finest selections include Chicken Fried Steak, Sloppy Joes, Thai Corn Cakes, and the Comfort Breakfast (my personal favorite). Breakfast is served until 3 pm — what more could you want?!

“The Vita Cafe is not your standard raw beet and rabbit food kind of vegetarian place. We specialize in huge servings…come hungry.” You may have to brave a bit of a line on a weekend, but Vita Cafe is well worth the wait.

3. The Bye & Bye / Sweet Hereafter
1011 NE Alberta St. / 3326 SE Belmont St.

These are two sister bars, one located in NE and one in SE, because Portland is convenient like that. I live within walking distance of The Bye & Bye, and find myself there a little too often! The Bye & Bye is an unassuming all-vegan bar — most of its patrons don’t even realize every food product served is completely plant-based. The best part? It serves vegan grilled cheese, meatball subs, and pretzel knots until 2 am. If a vegan meatball sub isn’t part of your late night plans, what are you doing with your life?

Meatball sub, (c) quarrygirl.com

4. The Waypost
3120 N Williams Ave.

This unassuming bar is one of my neighborhood favorites. This is the place I was served the best Old Fashioned of my life, so it holds a special place in my heart! The Waypost serves an array of vegan items, including plantain and mango tacos, taco salads, and vegan chili (are you sensing a theme?). You’ll probably run into a trivia night or a local band performance if you come by on a weekend. It shares a space with a community garden, so post up at a picnic table outside if you can!

5. Homegrown Smoker BBQ (food cart)
4237 N Mississippi Ave. (The Mississippi Marketplace)

I won’t lie to you: I have a punch card for this place. I first discovered it at the Mississippi Street Fair back in 2012 (now one of my favorite yearly events, and also one I featured on this blog). As food carts go, Portland doesn’t have much to want for — there are pods all over the city, and no lack of patrons for each cart. The Smoker BBQ offers some of the most intense meals I’ve ever laid eyes on — the “Macnocheeto Burrito” combines soy curls, vegan mac ‘n cheese, beans, and maple-bourbon BBQ sauce into a burrito bigger than my head.

mac n cheeze and a sloppy joe. (c) luminousvegans.com

6. Santería
703 SW Ankeny St.

You won’t find this place by wandering around.  Santería is tucked away behind the esteemed Mary’s Club, and shares a bathroom with this iconic Portland strip club. Go here for the Plato Vegan Tinga and bring your friends because the portion sizes are hefty.

7. Tin Shed
1438 NE Alberta St.

You better get to Tin Shed early, and not just on the weekend. This place fills up fast and waits are at least 45 minutes. Luckily, you can leave your cell number at the counter and go shopping on Alberta while you wait! And if you don’t want to mosey, pour yourself a mug of coffee from the bar inside and start waking up. Tin Shed serves some delectable vegan breakfast options, and you’ll definitely walk away satisfied. Furry friends are welcome so bring them along (just don’t forget to sneak them some treats!).

(c) mindofmako.blogspot.com

8. Canteen
2816 SE Stark St.

I wrote about this spot when I first started this blog, but it hasn’t lost its spot in my heart. If possible, Canteen has more Vitamix action going on than Prasad, Harlow, and Blossoming Lotus combined. They love their smoothies, and it shows! Canteen also makes a kimchi to die for, which is great news for those of us bolstering up our gut flora.

9. Portobello
1125 SE Division St.

Pro tip: take a date here. In addition to the absolutely decadent food, service, and drink selection (who doesn’t love a good wine pairing suggestion, or a specialty Italian liqueur to pair with dessert?), this is the only place in town I’ve found that serves vegan tiramisu. Enough. Said. And if you want the noms without the ambiance, you can get take-out pizza.

Potato Gnocchi at Portobello. (c) pdx.eater.com

10. Natural Selection
3033 NE Alberta St.

Confession: even though this is on my list of favorites, I haven’t actually eaten here. I put it on the list because this is the gourmet, four-star restaurant perfect for celebrating your birthday, or a new job or house. You’ll want to make reservations well in advance for this gourmet hub. The chefs opt for seasonal produce for their meals, and will happily make vegan options. A prix fixe meal is $45 and wine pairing another $25, but I could see this being a fantastic special outing. (Any takers?)

11. Hungry Tiger Too
207 SE 12th Ave.

If you know me at all, you know I love dive bars. I personally think that the dive bar is becoming a lost art, as we make way for the classier things in life. But I especially love dive bars that offer good vegan late night options. HTT is one of these — choose from nachos, “Tiger Fries” (garlic, rosemary, and cheeze tossed hand-cut fries), “Vings,” corn dogs, and mac & cheeze to nosh on while you play some pool.

12. Fire on the Mountain
1708 E Burnside St. / 4225 N Interstate Ave. / 3443 NE 57th Ave.

Say it with me now: Vegan. Wings.

No matter how mild of sauce I specify, halfway through a six-piece plate of “drumsticks” I always feel like I mistook Cholula for mouthwash. Make sure you order a beer (or non-alcoholic refreshment) with these babies cause you will need it! This is also a great spot to watch a basketball, soccer, or football game with friends.

13. Blue Star
1237 SW Washington St. / 3549 SE Hawthorne Blvd. / 3753 N Mississippi

Blue Star is Voodoo Doughnut for the locals. They only stay open until all of the fresh doughnuts are sold, so you better get there early in the day! I’ve sampled the Vegan Pistachio Cake with Raspberry Hibiscus glaze doughnut many a time (I mean, even the name is dripping in sugar) and always been transported to a magical, sugary land full of happiness.

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 6.05.43 PM

(c) @bluestardonut instagram.

 

14. A N D Cafe
5420 E Burnside St.

This is one of my favorite brunch spots in Portland, hands down. And yet every time I visit, I’m faced with the quintessential conundrum….sweet or savory? A N D offers an assortment of Belgian waffles (Pumpkin Cheesecake Waffle, anyone?), breakfast scrambles, biscuits and gravy, and always has something special on the menu, which tends to change weekly. GF friendly. It’s a tiny spot, so expect intimate service from your server and quick coffee refills.

(c) neighborhoodnotes.com

15. Dove Vivi
2727 NE Glisan St.

A lot of people think that pizza for vegans means grabbing a frozen Daiya on the way home from work. No offense to Daiya, but this local cornmeal crust pizza place blows those frozen pies out of the water. My favorite is the Corn Cashew: a roasted tomato, corn and caramelized onion delicacy swimming in cashew cheese. I wrote about the science behind our “umami” taste sensation, and Dove Vivi exemplifies it perfectly. I suggest you grab a pie to go and bring it to one of our many parks for a summer movie screening.

(c) foodmtn.com

16. Black Sheep Bakery
PSU Farmer’s Market

Black Sheep is a vegan-only bakery that sadly closed its storefront doors in 2012. Luckily for you, it still operates as a wholesale bakery and provides muffins, cookies, and other pastries to vendors around the area. If you’re at the PSU Farmer’s Market, I would recommend a cranberry coffeecake to pair with a latte as you peruse the vendors’ stalls. You can also find Black Sheep goods at New Seasons, a local grocery store chain in town.

Yum, yum, and yum. (c) stumptownvegans.com

17. Junior’s Cafe
1742 SE 12th Ave.

I hesitate to even include this on my list of best vegan spots in Portland, because it’s my secret, cradled and dearly loved breakfast place. It is here that I tasted the most delectable, caramelized, crispy-on-the-outside-soft-on-the-inside vegan French toast of my life. It is here that I see the same two waitresses every time, who kindly and quickly refill my coffee and call me “honey” or “babe” (or both). I don’t want to give this little-known spot away, but — alas — you would probably find it anyway.

Other quintessential Portland spots serve vegan options — Salt & Straw recently started offering a coconut ice cream delicacy which is perfect for hot summer days. Like I said, I can’t cover all of the wonderful plant-based choices we have here in Portland. I certainly hope our offerings continue to grow and that other cities in the country — and the world — see how easy it can be to make vegan choices when you’re out and about, at a restaurant, or sitting down for an afternoon coffee break. If you have a favorite vegan spot in Portland that I didn’t mention, feel free to give it some love in the comments! Now, are you hungry or what?

Sweet Potato & Apple Pancakes

Fall has arrived once again in the Pacific Northwest. Due to our unusually hot and long summer (RIP), the fall colors are in full force. I almost feel like I’m back east. This means that, in addition to cooking up some delectable fall-inspired recipes, I don’t feel too embarrassed about getting my foo-foo lattes every once in a while (I’m usually a plain Americano type-person, for all of you who may want to bring me coffee in the future).

We have an abundance of pumpkins, squash, apples, and sweet potatoes at the local markets, and I was remembering my good friend and former roommate who used to cook some potato latkes to die for. And with that, I give you these pancakes.

 

pancaketitle

Make sure you don’t skimp on the (vegan) butter when you’re frying up these guys — you’ll need the savory notes to balance out the sweetness of the apple. If you don’t have a huge sweet tooth, I’d recommend going for a 2:1 ratio of potato to apple. I didn’t even put any syrup on these because they were flavorful enough on their own.

And don’t worry about peeling the potato or apple before you grate them. Keeping the skins on will preserve the rich fiber and you won’t even notice it once it’s all cooked.

pancake1

Combined with the flour, the pancakes formed patties well and stuck together without a problem. Easy for flipping!

pancakes2

 

potatorecipetitle

Best of all, a small potato and apple made three pancakes! Talk about an economical breakfast — invite your friends and make it into brunch! Did someone order a pumpkin spice latte?

Zucchini Tian with Vegan Parmesan Cheese

tiantitle

I recently acquired a humongous zucchini. This zucchini could not be controlled.

DSCF4317

(Side note: apparently huge zucchinis aren’t all that uncommon, at least according to my gardening friends. But this east coast girl still hasn’t got a handle on how most foods grow, so bear with me.)

I made it into tian, at the advice of my regular chef of a mom. Tian is French dish made by chopping various vegetables and cooking them au gratin in an oven. By using breadcrumbs, butter, cheese, or eggs (nearly all of which can be plant-based!), you can achieve a nicely browned effect when all is said and done.

Behold.

tian3

This dish is fun because you can arrange the vegetables in any way you choose. I like the spiral look, so that’s what I did. It took a lot time because I’m not very creative. But here’s what it looked like before I popped it in the oven.

 

tian1

Remember to be creative and make this dish your own — if you don’t love zucchini, how about summer squash or sweet potato?

tianrecipe

I didn’t make a recipe card for the vegan parmesan because it’s so easy: simply take about a cup of raw cashews and mix in with 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast. Put this in a food proccesser/blender and give it a few pulses. It won’t take long at all to blend up. You can sprinkle this on nearly everything, because cheese.

 

And in case you were wondering…I still have about half of that zucchini left.

 

 

Watermelon Agua Fresca

aguafrescatitle

 

As a dietitian, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I sometimes have a hard time staying hydrated. In fact, some days I drink more coffee than water! I know I’m not the only one, and that’s why I’m excited about this ridiculously easy way to boost your hydration status during the hot summer months.

An agua fresca is a refreshing drink made by blending a fruit or any edible flower or seed with fresh water, sugar, and ice to make a thirst-quenching summer beverage. I didn’t think the watermelon needed any added sugar, so I simply blended one mini seedless watermelon with about 12 ice cubes, and served it immediately. I also added about a tablespoon of lime juice for some extra kick.  It’s so easy, I can barely call it a recipe.

You can do this with almost any fruit — melons and strawberries would  be easily blended. But I was excited to use watermelon: in addition to being 90% water and rich in potassium and vitamins A and C, it has some surprising benefits. It is rich in lycopene, which is a potent antioxidant. Watermelon is also a fantastic source of L-citrulline, an amino acid that aids in improving circulation and reducing muscle soreness. I drank some of this juice before working out yesterday, and I can (anecdotally) agree with that research today! I felt more energized during my work out, and today have minimal muscle soreness. L-citrulline supplements are sold over the counter, but research indicates that cells absorb it better from its natural source.

So there you have it — in addition to being a tasty way to hydrate and a fantastic source of nutrition, watermelon is of particular benefit to athletes. Give it a try!

Mighty Vegan Salad

Long time, no post! I hope you all didn’t miss me too much. I’ve been having a fantastic summer traveling the US and enjoying all the fun Portland activities. Seriously, I can’t keep up with all the events going on in town! We do make the most of our sunny summers here.

Tonight, I’ve got something that everyone can enjoy — a Mighty Vegan Salad! I’m not posting a “recipe” for it since this is more of an intuitive nightly ritual for me. I hope this gives you a little inspiration to make a mighty salad of your own!

MightyVeganSalad

Tonight, I had:

Spinach (2 cups)

Chives, chopped (2 tbsp)

A handful of raw, whole almonds

A handful of cilantro

Some fresh mango chunks

1/3 cup cooked wheat berries

1/4 cup of lemon hummus (store-bought)

1 small avocado

About 8 cherry tomatoes

Marinated and sautéed tempeh strips (olive oil, soy sauce, pepper, coriander, chipotle)

…all drizzled with a dash of balsamic and some grape seed oil.

 

 

You can see the ingredients a little better here:

 

-7

 

I was curious myself, so I calculated the nutrition information for this salad (just the protein, fiber, and vitamin/mineral content, as I’m not concerned about calories or natural fats).

You might be surprised what this lil ol’ vegan salad brings to the table!

 

  • 28 grams of plant-based protein!
  • 1237 mg of potassium! (if you are trying to decrease high blood pressure, try for more potassium and LESS sodium)
  • 8 grams of fiber!
  • 38% daily value for iron! (with plenty of vitamin C — 83% daily value — to help it to be absorbed)
  • 23 % daily value for calcium!
  • 54% daily value for magnesium!

And who says vegans are undernourished?

That’s it for tonight, folks. Hope everyone is enjoying their summer. Make a mighty salad for me!

 

 

Sautéed Avocado & Nectarine Salsa

Sweet, savory, which to choose? With this salsa, you don’t have to. It’s got the tangy sweetness of the nectarines, coupled with a healthy dose of garlic and the incomparable mouth feel of the avocado. Throw it all together with a little salt and pepper and sauté in vegan butter, and you’ve got yourself a sweet and savory flavor bomb that goes well on a variety of dishes. I roasted a sweet potato for this salsa’s accompaniment, but it would go well on a rice pilaf or over tofu.

salsatitle

If you need some spice in your life, how about adding some cayenne pepper to the mix?

subpicture1

 

I love this salsa because sautéeing it allows for crunchy texture to form on the nectarines and avocado. Don’t be afraid to turn the heat up under the saucepan to allow that texture to form. (But don’t, you know, burn the butter.)

salsarecipecard

Serve immediately! 🙂

 

“Summer is Coming” Salad Medley

Don’t be discouraged by Game of Thrones. Summer is coming, folks. And I have a feeling it’s going to be a good one.

saladmedleytitle

What’s better for a summer lunch than a hearty and protein-packed salad full of fruits, veggies, and the most underestimated nutritional powerhouse combo, rice and beans? The citrus in this dish keeps it light and fresh, and the rainbow of colors means you’re reaping the benefits of vitamins and minerals across the board. Baking the asparagus and beets beforehand means you’ll get a nice crunch in there, too.

-6

This is great dish to prepare ahead of time if you like to pack your lunch, or if you plan to delight your friends at a potluck. It’s also completely flexible. Don’t like kidney beans? That’s fine, you’re dead to me. I mean, *cough* throw in chickpeas or fava beans! And for the citrus addicts here, you can add some pineapple or strawberry to boost that flavor profile. Mmm, vitamin C!

Fair warning, though: your hands will look like Carrie when you’re done with the beets.

-7

Rice and beans are one of nature’s best combination foods, and serve as a complete protein source — that is, the two of them together provide all the essential amino acids your body needs to survive. And because it’s rice and beans, your stomach won’t be growling for afternoon munchies.

saladmedleyrecipecard

Garnish with your choice: cilantro was a no-brainer for me. And summer…come quickly!

On the anticipation of working out

Before you read this post, listen to your favorite fist-pumping workout song.

I’ll wait.

All set?

Now start reading.

 

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the psychological willpower of working out. Maybe I’ve been reading too much Runner’s World, or maybe all the people being active in sunny Portland these days have got me thinking.

My willpower and motivation have been a little — well, a lot, actually — stagnant for some time now. The hardest decision in the world for me is whether to leave my apartment to go to run club, or to yoga, or for a hike, or to just stay in. And forget doing these activities on my own. I’ve already written about the benefits of community for the active person, and I’m finding myself relying on my community more than ever these days. But day by day, I’ve been choosing being active over being sedentary, even if it’s just a neighborhood walk. Some days, for me, that is a really. big. deal. And I won’t say that every day I’m getting better, but at least every day has opportunity. And in all of my twenty four years of life, I’ve never, ever, regretted moving my body. Even if it was hard.

One day in yoga class, my instructor was leading us through a flow. Instead of being present in the moment, I was anticipating the next move, the logical progression of the flow to the opposite side of the body. So when I — and about half of my classmates — moved into a forward lunge on the opposite leg instead of listening to what our instructor had asked of us, even if it didn’t seem to make logical sense in the flow, she simply said, “stop anticipating.

That phrase has popped up a couple of times in the past weeks for me. The anticipation of a work out can be so stressful that it prompts even the best-intentioned of us to quit before we start. “What if it hurts? What if I don’t run as fast as my normal time? What if I pass out in class? What if I can’t do it?

And then I realized: I’ve never not been able to get through a yoga class. For all the times after work when my brain tricks me into skipping class because “I need a rest day” or “it’s too hard right now,” I haven’t been thinking clearly, and remembering all the classes I have made it through. And if I ever — and I have — have to move to child’s pose for a rest, so what? My work out is for me. It’s not for anyone else.

The same goes for running, for hiking, for climbing, for lifting, for paddle boarding, for rowing, for cycling, for _______. You fill it in. If you have to stop and walk, do it. If you have to stop and sit, do it. You’ll still put in the miles, and you’ll still be doing something worthwhile.

Some of us hold on so tightly to our perfectionism, our competitiveness, and our need to please, that we beat ourselves up for the few backslides we may have in our workouts. But we don’t reward ourselves for the big picture. I hiked 6.8 miles this weekend up to Dog Mountain with some friends, the first four of those miles at a pretty steep incline. I wasn’t first in line; in fact, I was hundreds of feet behind my friends, taking pictures and adopting more of an amble than a fast-paced hiker’s clip. But did I have fun? Did I get to pet a lot of dogs and exchange a friendly “happy hiking” to everyone on the trail? Did I release some of my stress into the abyss instead of holding it in my muscles and joints, all without having to go at a breakneck speed to the top? Did I smile, while out in nature, in the beautiful region of the country in which I live, and realize for one second how lucky I am? Yes, to all of the above.

So don’t be afraid to call yourself an athlete. Don’t be afraid to say you are a yogi, not a once-weekly attempter of airplane pose.  A runner, not a jogger. A hiker or a climber, not an “I like being outside and taking pictures while simultaneously crawling on alternate terrain” sorta person.

Because I have a confession to make: I am the latter of all these labels. But I choose to call myself a yogi, a runner, a climber, a hiker, and whatever else I want to be.

For all of us who have been inspired to incorporate more adventures into our days off, or add more activity into your life, or to find the sport that gets your adrenaline going like nothing else, just take a second and recognize how great that is. That idea blossomed in your mind and you held on to it, instead of letting it go.

Happy hiking.

-1