Monthly Archives: December 2009

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Sue's Awesome Christmas Cookies

I haven’t disappeared – am just completely inundated in holiday-related travel and festivities. I flew to Chicago on Christmas eve and am now about to head to Ohio for more family fun (and a long road trip with the immediate family – haven’t done that in a while). I’ll be back in town on New Year’s Eve and just wanted to say Happy Christmas and Merry New Years to all my readers. I hope you’re all celebrating accordingly!

Now, I’m off for a swim at the local YMCA – a bit of a grind at 5am but I think I’ll feel a lot better for it after eight hours in the car).

Quinoa Combos and Other Tasty Meals

Food Diary | Monday, December 7, 2009


Sourdough toast with fresh fruit and almond butter

Sourdough toast with fruit and almond butter


Stuffed peppers with quinoa, cannelini beans and tomato sauce

Stuffed Peppers with Quinoa and Cannelini Beans

Stuffed veggies are awesome, especially when you happen to have some cooked beans or grains around. I happened to have both, so I mixed up some quinoa, cannelini beans, frozen corn, diced tomato, salt, pepper and thyme. I baked this for about 30 minutes while I made some tomato sauce to serve on top. Very yummy.

Hefty tip: when stuffing veggies, be careful that your stuffing doesn’t dry out in the oven. You can get around this by topping the stuffing with something “oily” like cheese or buttered bread crumbs. But if you want to avoid oil, instead of cutting the peppers in half, cut a hole in the top and remove the stem and seeds. Then jam your stuffing into the whole and bake the peppers on their side.


Hot sauce glazed tempeh with roasted brussels sprouts and pumpkin and parsnip mash

Parsnip and Pumpkin Mash

Something about this mash didn’t sit well with me. It didn’t really go with anything else on the plate, and I don’t think I cared much for the pumpkin prepared this way. Parsnip and carrot mash would be tastier I reckon. Or maybe something else altogether, especially with hot sauce glazed tempeh, which is best with regular mash, roasted potatoes, or quinoa.

Recipe: Hot Sauce Glazed Tempeh []

Food Diary | Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Oatmeal with pears and toasted pecans

Favorite porridge


Quinoa with Avocado, Greens and Black Beans

Quinoa with Avocado, Greens and Black Beans

Avocado is so incredibly awesome with quinoa – you have to try it. They someone compliment each other: the quinoa coats itself to the avocado, which brings out the avo’s creaminess while the avo brings out the quinoa’s beautiful texture.

So in light of my desire to avocado and quinoa, I made this quick quinoa dish with a mexican flare. First I fried some mustard seeds and cumin seeds in a little oil. When the mustard seeds began to pop, I added some diced chipotle pepper and crumbled tempeh and sauteed that until it browned. Then I added a diced shallot, one minced clove of garlic, diced bell pepper, corn, a couple squeezes of fresh lime juice, tomato, cilantro, salt and pepper.

I then took this mixture out of the pan and tossed it with a bowl of pre-cooked quinoa.

While the pan was still hot I tossed in some chopped and washed kale and cooked that until tender (the water on the kale was enough to steam it in the pan).

I had the quinoa with the kale, a side of black beans, and of course, the avocado. It was really nice and only took about 15 minutes to prepare!


Tempeh burger with cabbage and roasted brussels sprouts

Tempeh Burger with Sauteed Cabbage and Caraway Seeds

Brassica fantastica. That’s right, I had cabbage AND brussels sprouts in this meal. And quite a lot too. I’m a fiend for the Brassica oleracea family of veggies: cabbage, brussels, cauliflower, broccoli, kale. I’m also a fiend for burgers and sandwiches filled with sauteed cabbage, onion and caraway seeds. This burger was a variation on a tofu burger I’ve been enjoying lately. I must say, it’s way better with tofu.

“A lot of people are going to think you’re crazy.”


For someone who spends her whole life in front of a computer, I’m very disciplined when it comes to the websites I visit. Being prone to distraction has made me very anti-distraction, so I never look at YouTube, GoogleReader or anything else that might suck me in and spit me out two hours later with little show for it (the exceptions being RecipeZaar and Flickr).

But today I did something I rarely do: I surfed the web. I don’t know why, who cares. I got to stumbling around blogs on “primal” fitness. Zen To Fitness, Mark’s Daily Apple, Feel Good Eating – these are all blogs about the primal lifestyle, a nutritional plan based on the presumed ancient diet of wild plants and animals that cavemen used to eat. As Mark Sisson puts it: “eat as our ancestors ate and you’ll be healthier for it.”

The primal lifestyle consists mainly of meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, roots, and nuts; and excludes grains, legumes, dairy products, salt, refined sugar, and processed oils. Now, as a dal-loving, bread-baking vegetarian, I’m not about to take up the primal lifestyle anytime soon. However, there are aspects of the diet I find interesting (e.g. its emphasis on raw food) and I like reading about how people have used this diet to better their health and explore aspects of human nutrition.

Enter Son of Grok. He went from being a 250 pound smoker and heavy drinker to a 186 pound beefcake with abs of steel and perfect cholesterol levels. I stumbled upon his blog post from last August: One Year of Cavemanning It. His before and after photos were impressive, but what really got my attention were his list of things he learned along the way. Some of these lessons were just so spot on, I had to share:

– It is WAY easier to be fit and healthy that you would expect
– A lot of people are going to think you are crazy
– You have to do it for you
– The outdoors is an awesome place to be
– Over-analyzing and over-sciencing your approach is a waste of time
– Food is more than something to tide your hunger over. Real food is delicious.
– I love cooking
– I really can live without bread and french fries and chips and corn and sugar… and live well!
– Eating fat can make you NOT fat
– Most people do not realize how much of an impact what you eat has on your health
– I don’t think that I ever want go back

Except for the bit about living without bread, I could totally relate to this. And it got me thinking… he’s doing the primal thing… I’m doing the mostly vegan thing… other people out there are doing other things…. who’s to say one lifestyle is better than another. Getting fit isn’t about being “primal”, or vegan, or finding the perfect diet, or training for a marathon. It’s about finding the lifestyle that lets you realize your full potential, and that’s going to be a totally personal choice. Like SoG says: “you have to do it for you.”

I think what really pumped me up about that post was the reminder that a lot of change can happen in a little amount of time. I mean, look at all that stuff SoG learned in just a year. And life is just a lot of years tied together until you die – so why not make every one of those years like SoG’s caveman year? Not from the primal aspect, but from the “do stuff to make life better” aspect. I want to be able to end every year with a big long list of awesome things I’ve learned. And the only way to do that is to keep learning and experimenting. And yeah, people will think I’m crazy, but so what – they already do, especially after I tell them that I live in a barn in the country.

So where to start. I have a few things in mind for this year:

  • Fix my ankle
  • Start running again
  • And if I’m running, why not start training for a triathlon?
  • Do some cycle touring
  • Do lots of camping and hiking around the UK
  • Start a garden
  • Get a bird feeder and learn about birds
  • Learn how to identify UK trees, shrubs and shrooms – especially the edible ones!
  • Figure out this whole strength-training-at-home thing
  • Publish more freelance articles
  • Learn how to make really good sourdough bread
  • Brew my own beer and/or wine
  • Keep a journal

And probably a lot more stuff I can’t think of right now. So I guess I better get started, before I get sucked into primal-inspired caveman musings:

Easy Tofu Whipped “Cream”

Blackberries and "cream"

When I’m in the mood for crepes but don’t have soy yogurt around, I whip up this quick silken tofu “cream”. I just made another batch this morning and took note of the ingredients (I usually wing it). It’s super easy, and you could easily adapt it to fit your feast by adding chocolate, fruit juice, spices, whatever. I’ve also used this as a base for a savory, sour-cream type dip for potato pancakes by adding chives, dill and garlic.

Easy Tofu Whipped “Cream”

This “cream” isn’t very sweet – I like it that way because I usually have it with fruit or syrup which are sweet enough for me. Feel free to add more sweetener to your liking

350g (1 box) Firm Silken Tofu
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp agave or other sweetener (or more to taste)
pinch of salt
pinch of cinnamon (optional)

Put everything in a food processor. Blend on high speed until everything is silky smooth (about a minute). Taste and add more agave if you like, or more lemon zest, cinnamon, or anything else that suits your liking! Chill before serving.

Serve on top of fresh fruit, pie, pancakes, or anything else that calls for a creamy infusion. My favorite use of this stuff is on fruit-filled buckwheat crepes!

Vegan Dessert Crepe

Quote of the Day

A reader sent me this quote from Adam Trimble after reading Tuesday’s update on my ankle injury:

It is very difficult to train for a marathon; but it is even more difficult to not be able to train for a marathon.

I don’t know who Adam Trimble is but he feels my pain. Looking forward to having this ankle fixed so I can stop feeling stifled. I don’t know if marathons are really “my thing”, but I’ve always wanted to do a triathlon. And finish Alfred Wainwright’s coast to coast walk across England.

It’s good to dream!

Not Giving Up

It’s time for another ankle update (read the background if you’re unfamiliar). A bit more optimistic than usual…

Before I moved from London, I’d been seeing an NHS physiotherapist who prescribed some stretches and strength exercises to help my ankle. It’s been over a year since I started seeing him and there’s been no improvement. In fact, things have gotten worse, with my ankle causing me almost constant dull pain, particularly on the outside above my ankle bone and on top of my foot, even if I’m not walking or running, and shaper pain if I twist my ankle the wrong way.

I registered with a GP here in Oaksey, who said I’d have to wait 6 weeks for him to get my paperwork from London and decide where to go from there. I was sick of working the system, free as it may be.

Thinking back over the last 5 years of ankle bullsh!t, I would happily have paid thousands of pounds to have a pain-free ankle again. I hate to sound like an old fart, but those were the last 5 years of my 20’s, and I’ll never have them back!

So, as my mind toiled over private healthcare, the stars seemed to be aligning in this direction. I was talking about my ankle with a friend at a party, when a women introduced herself who turned out to be an NHS physiotherapist. She kindly listened to my saga, and when I said “I haven’t run in years because of this” she passionately exclaimed “Don’t give up! You must never give up! See as many people as it takes!”

Maybe she was just doing her bit to bring her physio friends more business, but even so, she got to me. The next day I found a physio in my area and made an appointment for that week. I saw this physio twice, but he didn’t really “feel right.” So I posted a message in the Runners World forum asking for physio recommendations in my area. Someone came back with PhysioPlus in Chippenham.

I had my first appointment with “Andrew” yesterday and I’ve gotta say: he could be the one. The guy basically gave me a once over – had me run and walk on a treadmill, felt all my muscles from my legs up to my neck (and asked, unprompted, “do you get headaches?” which I do, horrible ones, about 2-3 times per week, “cuz you should – you’re hard as a rock up here”), he looked at my feet, tested my flexibility, and so on. He discovered a few things:

  • My back muscles are extremely tense, which could be causing pinched nerves sending pain down my legs
  • My left arch is slightly dropped, which is causing more pinching on the tendons in my ankle
  • My left hip is extremely tight, possibly due to my legs being slightly uneven in length
  • When I walk, I don’t spend very much time coming off my left toe

So he did this thing where he basically twisted and stretched my back, then massaged my hip, and I instantly felt relief in the outer part of my ankle and calve. He prescribed me some stretches to do and I’m to try retraining myself in “how to walk”, making sure I follow through on my left foot, rather than hopping quickly off the toe (not sure if this makes sense to you, but I get it).

Until this point, I thought that the source of all of my ankle problems were in the ankle itself. But now I see that my entire body is at play here, and I need to work on my hips, butt and back as much as I do my ankle. Amazing how the body works together to build (and break) itself with every move.

My next appointment is in a week, where he’s going to do more work on my back and neck. I can’t wait, especially if this can solve my headaches, too. He’s also referred me to a podiatrist in the NHS who can look at my feet and determine if I need insoles.

What’s really exciting is that the physio thinks in three weeks or so I might be able to start running again. THAT would make VERY happy. I think one of the reasons that SmarterFitter has moved from a fitness blog to a food blog is because I feel sort of crippled from doing the “fit” stuff I want to do. I want to run, but I can’t, so I get down about it, and bake a cake. Now if I could both run AND bake cake, now that would be the life.