Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Warm Vegan Travel Wishes, Still Stuck in the Snow

The Jersey Shore/NYC snow situation is still totally crazy!  My car has been completely snowed in for days because of the intensity of the snow.  Major highways have only now began to open one lane.  There's about three feet of snow everywhere!  My snowbound brain has led me to websites that show warm beaches.  My restless feet just want to go to the beach and take pictures.  It seems that other snowbound people have made some footpaths through the snow, so hopefully I can get up there today.  

I've been on a tight budget lately, so upcoming travel is going to be tricky.  I'm determined to make it work though, and dreaming is free!  I have miles saved up on a few airlines, so not including airfare, these options might actually work.  Since I'm surrounded by snow right now and really love the beach life, I want scuba, snorkel, and surfing experiences.  Delicious vegan food and good coffee are sort of a necessity, though I have been known to do without while traveling to really cool places.  Here is a random list of places I've been thinking about lately.
Puerto Rico

Costa Rica
Surfing, diving, hiking, I've always wanted to go to Costa Rica!

Flights from the NJ/NYC/Philly area to Miami are pretty cheap, and I remember finding a hotel bargain in a really good area smack dab in the middle of South Beach.  

Hawaii (remember, this is not including airfare)
I've been to Kauai, and to this day it's one of the best places I've ever been.  Now I'd like to try out Oahu or Maui.   There's gotta be some budget hotels there, right?  I'll find out and keep you posted!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Blizzard at the Jersey Shore

On Christmas, I went to the beach for a quiet moment and snapped a few photos.  Little did I know that in about 24 hours, an epic blizzard would hit, and the entire Jersey Shore would be blanketed in more than 2 feet of snow!
The total amount of snow in my town is officially 30 inches.  It's crazy!  I couldn't open my back door so I climbed out a window to get to a shovel.  The most shallow snow was over my knees, making it really hard to walk.  Needless to say, the shoveling didn't get done.  Snow drifts were intensely high, completely covering cars!  Streets are completely impassable, plows are getting stuck and are being diverted to emergency situations.  Thank goodness I went food shopping on Christmas Eve day!  We've been watching TV, reading, drinking hot drinks, and eating yummy food.  Here's an organic TLT (tofu, lettuce, and tomato) with avocado on toasted whole wheat bread.
I want this snow to melt!  Here's a cool time lapse video someone recorded near here. 
December 2010 Blizzard Timelapse from Michael Black on Vimeo.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas, Snorkeler Style!

When I was diving at the Great Barrier Reef, I met one of the most peculiar animals.  Unlike wombats and giant clams, I never knew they existed until I saw them right in front of me.  They're reef dwelling, invertebrate filter feeders.  They're a couple of inches long, brightly colored, sort of shy and reactive, they're...
Spirobranchus giganteus photo by Nick Hobgood
Christmas Tree Worms!
Aren't they so cool?  The divemaster I was with would gently touch them and THWUMP!  they instantly retracted into their tiny little burrows in the coral.  Check it out in this video I found on YouTube:
Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Kale Chickpea Soup

I rarely make my own recipes.  I substitute and change around all sorts of things from my favorite cookbooks, but start from scratch?  Almost never (and salad doesn't count). 

I love soup for lunch in the cold months.  I had a craving for kale and chickpeas, so I put a bunch of stuff together in a pot and surprised myself by making this delicious, flavor filled and healthy soup.  

Here's what I used:
-2 stalks of celery
-1 onion
-half a green bell pepper
-olive oil
-2 cloves garlic
-2 cups vegetable stock
-1 vegan boullion cube
-1 large can organic chickpeas
-a bunch of kale, chopped
-3 carrots, chopped
-1/2 head of cauliflower, chopped
-1 tsp thyme

Here's I did:
1.  Saute diced onion, green peppers, and celery in olive oil in a pot until onions start to get a tad transulescent.  
2.  Add 2 chopped cloves of garlic and stir with a wooden spoon until the garlic gets fragrant and smells awesome.  Stir in the thyme.
3.  Add two cups of vegetable stock and stir.
4.  Add four cups of water and one vegan boullion cube (crumble the cube as you add it).  Stir and bring to a boil.
5. Add carrot and cauliflower and simmer for about 5-10 minutes.
6.  Add chickpeas and kale and simmer for 5 minutes or so.
I heated this up for lunch throughout the week, so good!  I especially liked it with a healthy dash of Sriracha hot sauce.  I will definitely make this again, and I'll try to invent new soup recipes since this one was such a success! Yay for soup making!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Winter Solstice and Lunar Eclipse!

 In honor of the cool things happening in space, here's a photo of a moon jelly I met. 
I'm soooo looking forward to longer days and shorter nights!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Cheap, Vegan, and Eco-Friendly Solutions to Dry Skin

Between the windy, cold air outside and the dry heat inside, my skin and lips have been parched.  Here's what I've tried and loved:

I slather a stick of cocoa butter on my lips and all over my face before I go out for a run.  It gets super windy at the beach and boardwalk, and this helps seal in some much needed moisture.  I prefer this to Vaseline, much more eco-friendly.

A jojoba and cocoa butter mixture-I scoop out about 1/2 teaspoon and let it melt in my hands.  Then I rub it into my face and lips as a mask.  It eventually gets absorbed and leaves my skin soft and happy.  I don't recommend doing this right before you go to sleep unless you only use a little bit.  You could wake up with greasy hair if you use too much and don't let it sink in first.

Straight up organic coconut oil-Let it melt a little on your finger, put it on your lips.  Delicious, eco-friendly, and super moisturizing. I also do this with vitamin E after I use this amazing lip scrub from Lush

The other thing that I've been doing is eating more healthy fats.  I've been making some baked goods with organic coconut oil, eating avocados, and I've been taking more omega 3 supplements.  This all seems to make a difference!

I'm still looking for a good, long lasting vegan lip balm though.  Maybe I can mix my own with cocoa butter, vitamin E, and coconut oil.  I just need to find a little jar I can re-purpose so I can carry it around with me.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Vegan and Gluten Free Cookie Sandwiches

I love looking through old photos.  While reliving the highlights of my life for the past few months, I came across these cookie sandwiches from the BabyCakes cookbook.  I thought about this frosting recently when I noticed a container of dry soy milk on my kitchen shelf, and I forgot that I made the cookies to go along with it.    This frosting is not thick like margarine based frosting, but it definitely does the job.  It's not as full-on as other frostings, rather it kind of just sits back and enhances in a mellow and yummy way.  The cookies were great, and together...whoa!  Sweet, fun, and I don't feel a blood sugar spike when I snack on them.  I love moderately/somewhat healthy baked goods!  The recipe for the frosting can be found here (care of Gwyneth Paltrow) and the cookie recipe (care of Oprah) is here.

As an aside, did you hear that BabyCakes is opening a location in Disney World?  Amazing!!!

Monday, December 13, 2010

I Love Purple Foods!

When I saw these organic purple potatoes and this stripy organic eggplant, I couldn't resist.  I had to have them! 
 Look at this amazing color!
I chopped and combined the eggplant and potatoes with olive oil, chopped garlic, salt, and rosemary and baked them for a while at around 375 degrees.  That's mock chicken with rosemary on the side.  Though the potatoes taste like potatoes, I think they're more fun when they're crazy purple!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Vegan Running

Though I've maintained a gym membership for years, last summer I decided to start running for real.  I went for the longest run I could handle in the humid Jersey Shore heat on the boardwalk.  Though I went far, I felt like my lungs were turning inside out and my leg muscles turned into jello!  Bad way to start running.  I was sore for a week, and I quickly realized that the way I went about it was all wrong.  Zero to 5K=bad idea.  Even though I ran on the treadmill for months and felt ready to run outside, I wasn't really prepared for the difference between treadmill running and real running.  

I had a busy summer, but by the time August rolled around, I was ready to start running outside again.  I  got an 8 week plan by googling "how to start running" and clicking on the first link that popped up.    Starting out slow is the way to go!  As the weeks went by, the summer humidity gave way to cool autumn breezes, the crowds parted, and the boardwalk became filled with mostly runners. 
Walking back from a run in November.

Now that I'm officially a "runner", I find that I feel stronger and have more energy.  These days, the challenge lies in staying warm when it's in the 30's and super windy and dark.  After running outside for months now, I tried treadmill running again to beat the cold.   Weirdly, I hated it.  I used to enjoy running on the treadmill, but now that I'm used to the sound of the boards under my feet and the waves on the beach, the wind and the fresh sea air, I couldn't deal with the stale and boring treadmill.  Outside, the yoga pants that provided enough warmth for the fall are now woefully inadequate.  I did splurge on a rain jacket after a chilly rain soaked me to the core, but now I'm thinking I need running tights, long sleeve shirts, and gloves.  Thankfully, most running shoes and clothes are vegan, and it's pretty easy to avoid leather or wool.

Here are some vegan/vegetarian blogs I've been reading for running inspiration: 

No Meat Athlete- Matt Frazier is a vegetarian marathoner.  As a beginning runner, I'm learning a lot about endurance reading this blog.

The New Me-  Chrissy is a vegan runner in East Texas.  I especially liked her recent post about a perfect run

Run Fast. Run Vegan. is written by a 15+ year competitive vegan runner whose accomplishments are waaayyy beyond anything I could do or care to do, but it's cool.

Jeffrey Eggleston is another crazy accomplished runner that's vegan. A 14 minute 5K?  Damn.

Healthy Ashley-She's an ironman!