Monthly Archives: October 2008

Thursday Food Diary: Bircher, Beer and a Bonus Recipe

Breakfast: Bircher Muesli

Bircher Muesli

Lunch: Leftovers galore.

I made a taco with yesterday’s leftover fajitas and a little scrambled tofu, plus a mixed salad on the side (some of which ended up in the taco!).

Fajita/Tofu Taco with Salad

Snack: Half of a grapefruit


Dinner: More leftovers

Scrambled tofu, roasted cabbage (see recipe below), and a small slice of chive/corn bread.

Scrambled Tofu with Roasted Cabbage and Chive Bread

Not Shown: One Pint of Guiness and a Few Sips of Becks

I Heart Guinness

After dinner I went to the Water Poet to catch up with some former workmates. It was weird mingling with bankers again, and it felt good to not be one of them. Nothing against THEM, it was just that >>I<< am happier and it was nice hanging out with them and feeling happy rather than grumpy about work and the credit crunch. I was also in a good mood because I managed to nurse my one pint of Guinness for most of the night and then drank water the rest of the time. What was truly astounding was that this didn’t bother me at all and I didn’t feel like I was missing out. I usually feel pressure to say “yes” whenever someone is buying a round, but last night I felt immune from the pressure. Part of this is thanks to my wonderful former colleagues who are totally chill about drinking and don’t seem to share the “everyone must get drunk” mentality that many English people seem to have at pub situations. I apologize to any Brits in the audience because I don’t mean to generalize. But this has been one of the hardest things about living in London for me – learning to be moderate with my alcohol intake while living in a culture that takes pride in it’s LACK of moderation. Right. I must now try not to overanalyze the situation and instead just be happy for having a great night out with friends.

Bonus Recipe: Roasted Cabbage with Onion and Caraway Seeds

This is one of my favorite ways to enjoy cabbage.

In a roasting tray, combine:

1 Savoy Cabbage, thinly slice
1 onion, thinly sliced into rounds
1 pinch of sugar
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

Toss everything together then add a little water at the bottom of the tray. Roast at 350 F / 180 C for about 45 minutes, until cabbage is cooked and slightly crispy, checking occasionally and adding more water if needed.

Roasted Savoy Cabbage with Onion and Caraway

If the shoe fits…

Chuck Taylor's

My old pair of Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra GTX Trail Running Shoes were incredible. They were waterproof, comfortable, and quite stylish (to an urban hiker like me). I wore those puppies into the ground. So when it came time to replace them, I decided to avoid the shops and order a fresh pair of this year’s model online.

The shoes haven’t changed much, except for one thing: the size! Seems the new model runs a bit bigger, and I’m feeling a little less certain about my purchasing decision. This has prompted me to spend (waste?) countless minutes (hours?) obsessively pouring over articles about shoes.

For active people like us, having the right shoe is paramount to avoiding injury. This is especially true for runners who put a lot of stress on their feet as they pound away the miles on the hard pavement.

Whether you’re a runner, walker or hiker, the specific shoe you get will depend on your purpose, but here are a things I’ve learned while inhaling the internet:

How much wiggle room?

There should be adequate “wiggle” room between the end of your longest toe and the front of the shoe. If you don’t have about a half-inch between your longest toe and the end of the shoe — approximately the width of your finger — try a larger size.

How much heel room?

For a good fit and good stability, your ankle should fit snugly inside the heel cup of the shoe with minimal slippage.

Do this heel check: With your feet in the shoe, it should be difficult for you to slip your thumb between your heel and the back of the shoe. If you can, your shoe may slip causing nasty blisters on the back of your heel.

Feel inside the heel for a hard material. That is the heel counter. That counter should fit just right to your heel, but not press against your ankle bone. If it does, over time you may get a blister on your ankle.

How wide?

Mayoclinic says that the side-to-side fit of the shoe should be “snug but not tight”. So what’s the difference between “snug” and “tight”?

CoolRunning says:

Trying on a shoe, you should feel like your foot is evenly distributed inside the shoe and is not left hanging over the side of the midsole Tie the laces the way you normally do.

If you have a narrow foot, check that the material at the base of throat of the shoes where the laces start does not bunch up.

What about arches and pronation?

Pronation describes the normal motion of the foot rolling slightly inward through the foot strike. Pronation is essential to shock absorption and forward propulsion. It’s when you overpronate or underpronate (supinate) that you need to be particular about your shoes.

Whether you pronate depends on your arch type. The three basic arch types – normal, flat and high – correspond to a degree of pronation.


What is my arch type?

Arch Type Wet Test

To determine your arch type and pronation, you can do a simple “wet test” with a bit of water and a paper towel.

Dip your foot in water and step on a piece of paper towel or cardboard. Examine your footprint and compare it with the arch types above. If you can see most of your footprint, you probably have low arches. If you see very little of your footprint, you likely have high arches.

Sierra Trading Post also suggests you look at your shoes:

Another way to determine arch type is to look at the outsoles of your old running shoes, although this method is less reliable than the Wet Foot Test. If the sole is worn equally on both sides, you most likely have a normal arch. If you have a flat arch, the sole will show excessive wear on the inside. A high arch usually produces a sole with noticeable wear on the outside.

Quick Tip: You cannot determine arch type by looking at the wear pattern on the heel alone, although this is a common misconception.

Which shoe for which arch type?

Your arch type determines your shoe type.

Normal Arches

Stability shoes have light support features on the medial side and well-cushioned midsoles to help guide mild-to-moderate overpronation. Runners with a normal arch can also benefit from light stability features.

Flat Arches / Overpronation

Motion Control shoes incorporate extra stability features on the medial side to help control severe overpronation. Runners with a severely flat arch are well suited for these types of shoes.

High Arch / Underpronation

Cushion shoes are the most flexible and encourage pronation. They incorporate extra cushioning and shock absorption, and do not have stability or motion control features.

General Tips

  • Fit your shoes to the largest foot.
  • Try on shoes at the end of the day (or after a workout for athletic shoes) when your feet are the largest.
  • Try shoes on with the same thickness of socks you intend to wear.
  • If you use orthotics, try the shoes on with them.
  • Your heel should fit comfortably with a minimum of slippage.
  • Your shoes should be snug but NOT TIGHT.

Extra lessons

I eventually caved in and reordered my shoes a half size smaller. Now I’m left with a slightly used (and slightly expensive) pair of shoes that I can’t return. There are two things I’ve learned from this:

Suck it up and go to the shop. No matter how much you hate shopping, it’s worth going to the store to try on a few different types and sizes of shoe. And if you’re lucky, the salesperson will know their stuff and be able to help you determine your arches and the best shoe for your feet.

Don’t wear shoes outside unless you’re 100% sure that you want to keep them. If you have the slightest doubt, wear them in the house for a few days and if you’re still not sure return them and try something else.

And if you still can’t decide

Two words: Go Bare.

Shoe Resources Galore

And if you’re in the market for a pair of US size 8 trail running shoes, give me a shout!


Wednesday Food Diary: Ayurveda Special

I started my morning in the usual way with a cup of lemon and honey tea. This ritual is such a nice way to start the day, and I just learned from Susan at Grounded Fitness that morning lemon tea is thought to be “healing” according to Ayurveda:

A very soothing Ayurvedic practice is drinking a glass of warm water with a slice of lemon or lime. The warm water wakes up your intestines and tummy. The lemons and limes are high in vitamins and minerals, which can help loosen the toxins in your digestive tract.

Bircher MuesliAccording to the post, Ayurveda also recommends a two other rituals that I already practice: get up before the sun rises and eat lightly. My Bircher muesli is fairly light, consisting mostly of fruit and raw nuts. I also don’t stuff my face with mass quantities of it.

As you can see, I haven’t quite given up on consuming fluids (rooibos tea) with food. But I have been trying to sip my tea more slowly while I eat instead of gulping it down as soon as it’s cool enough to do so. That’s where having a teapot comes in handy. I can poor a little bit of tea at a time, keeping it hot in the pot.

In the late morning, I worked up an appetite by doing a “core” workout, a new thing for me – I am still recuperating from shin splints and am starting to feel a little soft around the edges for lack of walking and swimming. For lunch I made a massive batch of scrambled tofu made with onion, garlic, peas, carrot, broccoli (stems, too), tomato, oregano, and fresh parsley. Tofu scramble is one of my favorite things. I had it with a piece of emergency chive/corn bread and a little extra broccoli on the side.

Scrambled Tofu

Having just harvested our second batch of mushrooms from the mushroom log, I decided to make mushroom fajitas. I sauteed the mushroom with onion, garlic, bell pepper, cumin seed, and ground cumin, then added lime and cilantro at the end. They were pretty tasty, especially topped with fresh guacamole and served in a homemade tortilla. I also had a bit of mixed salad on the side.

Mushroom Fajitas

Holy Guacamole!


Fajita Taco with Guacamole

I forgot to take a picture of the grapefruit I ate after dinner. It was very tart and may have pushed me over the edge because I felt really full after dinner and EXHAUSTED. Another day of food, complete.

Tuesday Food Diary: Three Short Works

I am fighting a strong urge to go sleep at the moment, so I’ll keep this short and sweet.

Breakfast: Good ol’ reliable Bircher muesli.


Lunch: Black beans; corn on the cob; kale with caramelized onion, garlic and chili.



Dinner: Tofu “neatballs” with broccoli and marinara sauce.

Tofu Neatballs with Broccoli and Marinara

Dessert: A trip to the ballet, entitled “Three Short Works”. It was a little much for our two short attention spans – Tim and I left after the second “act”. Not that it was bad. It was just kind of, well, boring. But a good experience nonetheless. I enjoyed a glass of Royal Opera House Sauvignon Blanc before the performance. The Royal Opera House has a very nice Champaign Bar!

Royal Opera House Sauvignon Blanc

Three Short Works, Two Short Attention Spans

Monica in VegNews Magazine


Forgive the shameless self promotion, but I’m too excited not to share. I just got my copy of the December 2008 issue of VegNews Magazine featuring my article (!!!) about veggie travel in London! I’ve been waiting for months to see this in print and am not disappointed by the result.

You can check out the article by clicking on the thumbnails below, visiting my portfolio or better yet, by picking up a copy of VegNews!

VegEscapes: London Calling

Monday Food Diary: Hangover Cures and Cornbread

Breakfast BircherI woke up at the absurd hour of 5:30am with a headache and a thirst (I guess I drank too much wine the night before). I had my tea and an ibuprofen, pottered around a bit, and then went back to bed until 7am. I still had a headache when emerged for breakfast but that didn’t stop me from enjoying my morning’s Bircher just the same. It was particularly good – moister than usual, and somehow creamier.

Mid-Morning TeaI still had a headache and a hunger a couple of hours later. I was also incredibly tired. (“How pathetic,” I thought, “a small beer, two-ish glasses of wine, a big roast dinner, lots of water, and I’m still hungover.”) There was nothing to do but have a smoothie and some tea.

Mid-Morning Smoothie SnackTim introduced me to the idea of putting cocoa powder in my protein smoothie. I made the smoothie with whey protein powder, banana, flax meal, water, cocoa and lots of ice. It was incredibly good and didn’t even require extra sugar (though I’ve been told that my sweet tooth is much more subdued that other people’s, and I have a particular liking for bitter dark chocolate).

The tea and smoothie did wonders for my disposition. The headache vanished, I woke up, and was able to get on with some work.

I’m usually ravenously hungry by noon, but the smoothie was very filling, so I had a small lunch. I made a salad with mixed leaves, carrot, cucumber, tomato and red onion, dressed lightly with balsamic vinaigrette, with a slice of Heidi’s yeast-raised cornbread smeared with avocado.


Toasted Chive Bread with Avocado, Salt and Pepper

I’ve mentioned the cornbread before, and its notable un-corniness and strong flavor of chives. This was, at first, kind of annoying (I was after CORN bread, after all) and I wasn’t so sure I liked it so I delegated the bread to the freezer for emergencies. But every time I dip in for a slice I find I like it more and more. The bread is very light and nice out of the toaster. I think I may use the remainder for a stuffing this Thanksgiving. The vegetarian stuffing at the bakingsheet blog looks yummy.

That reminds me, I must get my hand on a Tofurkey before the end of November. I’m not usually one for fake meat, but I actually really like those weird Tofurkeys. Plus, my dad (a carnivore) LOVES them and he is coming to visit us in London for Thanksgiving. I’ve been trying to get a hold of one through Fresh & Wild (London’s Whole Foods owned hippy store) but so far they haven’t come through. Any ideas? (By the way, leftover Tofurkey makes great veggie reuben sandwiches!)

Dal with Basmati Rice and Cabbage SaladI had a meeting at 2:30pm, which was just as well because I was VERY tempted for another slice of bread with avocado. My meeting went much longer than expected and I didn’t get home til after 6pm. The cycle ride revved up my appetite for dinner and my constant craving for Indian food. I made FatFreeVegan’s Red Lentil Dal with Panch Phoran with basmati rice and cabbage salad.

The cabbage salad is something I made up a while ago but I keep coming back to because it’s simple and refreshing. First, I slice the cabbage thinly and mix it with some fresh chopped cilantro. Then I heat up some olive oil in a pan, add equal parts cumin seed, coriander seed and mustard seed, plus 10-20 curry leaves. When the seeds pop, I pour it over the cabbage and toss with some lemon juice and a good pinch of salt. Finally, I sprinkle some coconut flakes over the top.

Indian Cabbage Salad

The Indian food hit the spot but I managed not to stuff myself silly (the nice thing about cabbage salad is that it takes some time to chew so it’s hard to overfill).

As I often do, I finished the day with a grapefruit.

The Grapefruit That Once Was

Sunday Food Diary: Raw, Roasted and Rockin’

Bircher BreakfastI made up for the wet and cold Sunday with lots of hot and delicious food. The exception was my breakfast Bircher muesli, which wasn’t hot but was delicious as always. I had my lemon and honey tea WITH breakfast this time, followed by my Rooibos. Yes, I seem to drink a lot of fluid with my breakfast. This leads me to a question:

Is consuming liquids with a meal bad for digestion?

I’ve read that drinking too much liquid with meals interferes with the digestive process by diluting the concentration of hydrochloric acid and enzymes needed for proper digestion. Ayurvedic, India’s system of traditional medicine, recommends sipping warm or room temperature liquids during a meal but cautions against ice cold liquids and foods.

I have noticed that I’ve been experiencing a slightly sour stomach after breakfast recently. For no logical reason whatsoever I attributed this to the milk in my tea or the sugary muesli (I don’t add sugar, mind you, but he apple, raisins and apricots pack their own sweet punch). I think I will try having my tea AFTER breakfast for a while and see how that goes.

Snack: Apple and brazil nutSo far, my attempts to avoid snacking have been somewhat dismal. I don’t really like “filling up” with my meals – this tends to make me feel gross and tired. And there is much to be said for eating frequently throughout the day. As long as I control my snacking without overdoing it, I should be fine. And really, when my mid-morning snack consists of a crisp Egremeont russet apple and a single Brazil nut, should I really worry?

(Random book-blogging and shameless self promotion: the book in the picture is Jenna Glatzer’s Make a Real Living as a Freelance Writer which I was referred to while writing my latest blog post at Writer’s Residence: Writing Samples Demystified. If there are any freelance writers in the audience, you might find it interesting!)

Cozy TeapotThis food diary is all about honesty, and so I cannot lie to you folks: I had another cup of caffeinated tea. I don’t feel bad about it. Hot Black Tea With Milk is NICE, and for me, one of the main detractors of veganism (that along with parmesan cheese and honey). I still won’t touch coffee though, unless it’s decaf (which I know isn’t really caffeine-free but really, how anal should one really be about these things?).

By the time lunch rolled around I was SO looking forward to some leftover soup. We made some rotini noodles on the side and poured the soup over the noodles. Pasta e fagioli! Sort of.

Zuppa di Fagioli

The soup liquid kind of filtered down over the noodles leaving lots of beans and veggies on top, looking more like a stew than soup. It was good though, and reminded me of chili mac, which in turn reminded me of the Texas Chili Parlor, which does a phenomenal five-bean veggie chili, served with crackers, onions and pickled jalapenos. I thought they did chili mac, but now that I look at their menu, I see I was confusing chili mac with Frito pie, another one of those awesome comfort foods that almost excuses all the bad things you could say about Fritos.

Simple SaladI also had a simple salad with my soup, consisting of mixed leaves, tomato, cucumber, red onion, parsley, and balsamic vinaigrette. The salad was nice, but I should have left out the tomato and used less vinaigrette. That combined with the soup was a bit too tangy for my taste buds, and I felt very sour in the mouth by the time I was done.

Kiwi and a CarrotSnack attack hit at around 4pm, and I made do with a carrot and a kiwi fruit. It sounds like the most pathetic snack in the world but I adore simple foods like these. It occurs to me now how much raw food I eat. Up until dinner, everything I ate except for the soup had been raw. This isn’t unusual. I crave vegetables, especially raw ones. The other day Tim and I were talking about lunch and he said he could make do with toast and peanut butter. Don’t get me wrong, toast and PB is one of life’s simple pleasures, but I don’t really see a meal as complete unless it comes with a lot of vegetables.

Roasted Veggies and KaleDespite my propensity for raw veggies, I also adore vegetables prepared at the other end of the spectrum: roasted for ages with olive oil! And so dinner approached with great anticipation, as Rory invited us over for a roast. I don’t eat meat, but roast dinners always promise lots of delicious veggies. I was not disappointed.

The roasted veggies consisted of onion, carrot, parsnips, squash and rosemary. They rocked my world! As did the kale, which Rory prepared with lemon and sesame seeds – a novel idea courtesy of the Tesco packet.

Cucumber & Tomato Salad

Couscous with Pine Nuts, Prunes and Apricots

I also got my raw food fix with some cucumber and tomato salad, as well as some tasty couscous made with lemon, apricot, prunes and pine nuts.

Chicken!The meat eaters enjoyed their couscous straight out of the chicken, which I did not eat, but chicken-fans in the audience may find the couscous “stuffing” to be a novel idea.

Serious FaceDespite looking very serious about all of this, I was very happy with the food (and the wine, not pictured). But I cannot say the same for my friend, the bird.

Saturday Food Diary: Soup and Salad

Bircher BreakfastSaturday morning. Woke up to another cuppa lemon & honey tea (not shown) followed by my reliable Bircher muesli. I think I need to cut back on the apple I put in my muesli. It tends to overpower the nice nutty flavor of the oat and flax.

Salad with Roasted VeggiesLunch was highly anticipated, as there were leftover roasted veggies to consume. I heated them up in the oven and served them on top of some rocket leaves with a few cannelini beans for extra sustenance. The beans did a nice job of sopping up the juicy eggplant, tomato, red romano peppers and whole hot red chilies. I seemed to have received a comparatively large amount of chilies with my helping, which Tim dared me to eat all in one bite. I love spicy food so this was not a problem.

Roasted veggies are great, and so versatile. They’re good in a sandwich, on a salad, with pasta. Next time I have leftovers, I’d like to try them on a pizza.

Snack: Carrots and Cannelini Bean MushI’m trying to avoid snacking in between meals. TRYING. But I firmly believe that letting oneself go starving-hungry is bad for the body and bad for the soul, so I caved in before dinner and had a small snack of carrot sticks with a bit of impromptu cannelini bean mush: beans, olive oil, salt and rosemary, pulverized with the underside of a fork. I’d do this again.

Zuppa di FagioliDinner was a simple affair: I made soup. Think pasta fagioli without the pasta. In other words, onion, garlic, celery, carrots, tinned tomato, kale, parsley, veggie stock, cannelini beans, and the magic ingredient: parmesan rinds. Next time you finish a wedge of parmesan, save those rinds for your next soup. It adds such a wonderfully rich flavor. I had a bit of the No Knead bread with my soup, but neglected to take a photo. So here is a photo of the loaf (again).

Cross Section: 100% Whole Wheat No Knead BreadSomeday I will write at length about my love of bread, but not now. I am tired, and am also trying to psych myself up for some non-wheat-based grain intake. It’s good to mix up the diet, I reckon. I sense a polenta kick coming on.

Science Sunday: Running, Lifting, Drinking, Praying

Drinking in the sun

Binge drinking is bad for your bones

If a wicked hangover isn’t enough to convince you that binge drinking blows, then how about this: a Loyola University study found that Alcohol disturbs genes necessary for maintaining healthy bones.

Researchers injected poor unsuspecting mice with alcohol equivalent to three days worth of binge drinking or to chronic alcohol abuse for four weeks. They found that alcohol affected the amounts of RNA associated with these genes. (RNA serves as the template for making proteins, the building blocks of bones and other tissue.) According to bone biologist John Callaci, “the expressions of certain genes important for maintaining bone integrity are disturbed by alcohol exposure.”

Let’s not forget the added risk of falling on your ass and breaking a femur. If you must binge drink, please mind your step.

Runners burn more calories, even at rest

Runners in the audience: rejoice. All that truckin’ pays off, even while vegetating on the couch. From the New Scientist:

Endurance sports such as long-distance running are known to increase the number of mitochondria, the tiny engines inside cells that convert sugars and fats into ATP molecules, the cell’s energy carriers. This boosts the capacity of muscles to consume oxygen and work at higher power during exercise.

Now [researchers] at Yale University say that the mitochondria in the muscles of men who run at least 4 hours a week consume 54 per cent more fuel at rest than those of men who don’t run. Yet the amount of ATP produced by the two sets of men was the same, indicating that when at rest the extra fuel was being “wasted”, and turned into heat.

Western diet increases heart attack risk all over the world

A recent study of dietary patterns published in Circulation, the Journal of the American Heart Association, shows that the typical Western diet — fried foods, salty snacks and meat — accounts for about 30 percent of heart attack risk across the world.


The Haul from the Newington GreenmanResearchers identified three dietary patterns in the world:

  • Oriental: higher intake of tofu, soy and other sauces;
  • Prudent: higher intake of fruits and vegetables; and
  • Western: higher intake of fried foods, salty snacks, eggs and meat.

After adjusting for known risk factors, researchers found:

  • People who consumed the Prudent diet of more fruits and vegetables had a 30 percent lower risk of heart attack compared to people who ate little or no fruits and vegetables.
  • People who consumed the Western diet had a 35 percent greater risk of having a heart attack compared to people who consumed little or no fried foods and meat.
  • The Oriental pattern showed no relationship with heart attack risk.

If prudent is perfect, then I’m very happy about my recent grocery shop (shown right).

Old people need freeweights, too

A Manchester Metropolitan University study has found that taking carbohydrate and protein supplements just before and just after low-resistance exercise could boost muscle performance and slow muscle wastage in people over retirement age.

Douglas Robb of Healthhabits says:

This will not come as a surprise to many of you fitness junkies out there. Pre and post workout nutrition has been recommended for enhancing performance and recuperation for years.

But the fact that this concept is being applied to our aging population is significant. With the leading edge of the Baby Boomer generation entering their senior years, maintaining health and fitness is about to become a major demographic concern.


Cure for depression: “existential well-being”

Those who worship a higher power often do so in different ways. Whether they are active in their religious community, or prefer to simply pray or meditate, new research out of Temple University suggests that a person’s “religiosity” can offer insight into their risk for depression.

Lead researcher Joanna Maselko characterized the religiosity of participants in terms of three domains: religious service attendance, or being involved with a church; religious well-being, or the quality of a person’s relationship with a higher power; and existential well-being, or a person’s sense of meaning and their purpose in life.

Researchers found that those who attended religious services were 30 percent less likely to have had depression in their lifetime, and those who had high levels of existential well-being were 70 percent less likely to have had depression than those who had low levels of existential well-being.

“People with high levels of existential well-being tend to have a good base, which makes them very centered emotionally,” said Maselko. “People who don’t have those things are at greater risk for depression, and those same people might also turn to religion to cope.”

Let’s just hope doctors don’t start prescribing religion as a cure for depression. Time to hire the existential detectives…

GetFitPod: Podcasts for your workout


Do you wish you had a personal trainer but don’t have the money to hire one? Getfitpod may be able to help…

Getfitpod is a podcast that features specially designed workouts in addition to other information about fitness, diet and health. I’m impressed by the number and variety of workouts they have available for free download, such as treadmill training, stretching, strength training and interval training. No Calories Needed has wonderful things to say about the interval routine:

The routine from Get Fit Pod kicked my butt. I managed to do MOST of the routine, but the two longest sessions, where Skip asked us to run as fast as we could for a full 2 minutes, right in the middle of the routine, just killed me. I managed to go 1:45 for the first all out interval and 1:30 for the second. Other than that, I managed to keep up with him. And now, hours later, I can STILL feel the effects. Amazing.

Know of any other fitness podcasts worth recommending? Let us know in the comments!