Thursday, September 23, 2021

Mabon Feast!

Mabon (aka the Autumn Equinox) was Wednesday, and for the first time in forever, I'm actually excited about fall! Summer is my favorite season and always will be, but every year, I try really hard to get excited about fall. But every year, I can't help but feel like it's just the prelude to winter. In the South, we have about five months of summer temps and about one month of fall temps before winter hits us. And I really hate the cold! Granted, our "cold" here doesn't often get below 40 degrees, but anything less than 75 is freezing, in my opinion. 

Anyway, enough about the weather! I'm actually excited for fall because it means pumpkin spice everything, my birthday (Oct 16!), Halloween (the best!), and Thanksgiving (the absolute best!). Yesterday, on the first day of fall, the temps here fell down to the mid-70s, and the air had that crisp feeling that means fall has arrived. It was kind of magical! It rarely feels like fall here on the first day!

For breakfast, I made Pumpkin Pancakes with Vegan Butter Syrup and Cranberry Compote from the Llewelyn Sabbats Almanac. Served with vegan Gardein sausage.

The recipe wasn't vegan, but I veganized it! The pancakes were easy to veganize by subbing extra baking powder for the eggs. But the syrup recipe called for evaporated milk with butter and sugar. I googled "vegan evaporated milk" and found instructions for making it from scratch with soymilk. Basically, you just reduce soymilk by half on low heat. Easy enough! After the milk reduces, you stir in vegan butter and sugar. It makes a nice creamy, buttery topping. The cranberry compote was just cranberries cooked down with sugar and maple. 

I also made some Apple Pie Trail Mix from the Llewelyn book. This was a tasty morning treat at my desk. It has dried apples, cranberries (subbed for raisins in the recipe), pecans, walnuts, cinnamon, and vegan white chocolate chips. 

Dinner was a simple and delicious meal of Roasted Delicata Squash & Sweet Potatoes mixed with kale, homemade seitan, toasted pepitas, and an apple cider vinegar-olive oil dressing, served with a side of hearty barley. The squash and sweet potatoes were locally grown and came in my CSA.

Happy fall, y'all!

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Mid-Autumn Mooncakes & More!

Tuesday was Mid-Autumn Festival, the traditional festival celebrated in China, Vietnam, Taiwan, and several other Asian countries. According to Wikipedia, "it's the second-most important holiday in Chinese culture after Chinese New Year, with a history dating back over 3,000 years. The festival is held on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese lunisolar calendar with a full moon at night, corresponding to mid-September to early October of the Gregorian calendar. On this day, the Chinese believe that the moon is at its brightest and fullest size, coinciding with harvest time in the middle of Autumn."

Crosstown Concourse, the building where I work, holds a Mid-Autumn Festival, in partnership with the Vietnamese Association of Memphis, every year. Crosstown is home to a large Vietnamese population, so it makes sense that we have the fest at Concourse! Sadly, I missed the fest this year since it was held on Saturday, when I was running my 50K. 

But the actual Mid-Autumn holiday fell on Tuesday, so I went down to my neighborhood Vietnamese market, Viet Hoa, and bought some Vegan Mooncakes! Mooncakes are traditionally eaten to celebrate Mid-Autumn, but many brands are not vegan. Luckily, Viet Hoa had one brand that was. They had several flavors (mixed nuts, spiced salt, rose), but I opted for a traditional red bean paste cake. I enjoyed it with my green tea at work on Tuesday afternoon.

The outside was made of flaky pastry, and the inside was stuffed with a barely sweet and thick bean paste. I shared some cakes with my co-workers, and we all agreed that we enjoyed how it wasn't super-sweet.

I intended to grab some Vietnamese takeout for dinner from Phuong Long, but they were closed (maybe for the holiday?). Pho Binh was also closed (they're always closed on Tuesdays). And while we have many other Vietnamese restaurants in the neighborhood, I just decided to stay at home and make a healthy Tofu & Veggie Stir-fry with broccoli, bell pepper, and mushrooms over brown rice.

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival! And happy first day of fall (Mabon)! I'll be back tomorrow with a post on everything I ate today! 

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Race Recap: Stanky Creek 50K

On Saturday, I finally finished my first 50K race at the Stanky Creek 50K! This race finish was a very long time coming for me! I first signed up in 2018, but I got a stress fracture while training and ended up volunteering at the race that year (in a boot). In 2019, I signed up again, but I got yet another stress fracture in my foot while training earlier in the year for the Nashville Rock & Roll Marathon. By September 2019, my foot had healed, but I wasn't back to running long distances yet, so I bumped down to the half-marathon. 

In 2020, I'd signed up for the Big Buffalo 50K in March, hoping to make that my first 50K, but it was canceled due to COVID (and rescheduled to next month!!). The cancellation notice came one week before the race, and I ended up running the distance solo on the Big Buffalo course. So I'd run the 50K distance before but never with people! Saturday's race was such a big deal for me because it felt like I'd been training for FOUR YEARS!

But let's back up to the night before. I got home from work on Friday and scarfed down a quick dinner of Spaghetti with Marinara & Vegan Meatballs, plus some sourdough garlic bread. I eat pasta before almost every long run, so I know this is a meal that works for my body.

My friend Peter is the Stanky race director, and he held packet pickup at Wiseacre Brewing Co. Paul and I headed there after dinner. I typically have one beer the night before a race to "calm my nerves" (that's my excuse!), so I had an Oktoberfest (tis the season!).

Then we headed home and got to bed. I had a 4 am alarm set! The next morning, I had my coffee and bagel with peanut butter (my standard pre-race breakfast), and then I drove to Bartlett for the race. I got there around 6 am to make sure I could get a spot in the parking lot since I'd be stashing some of my fuel in my car. I got a great spot next to the aid station! Here I am before the race, looking nervous. It was supposed to rain all day, so I wore a cap to keep the rain out of my eyes, but it never did more than drizzle, thankfully! 

At 7 am, the 50K-ers were off! I made sure to find a nice spot in the very back because I'm slow, and I don't like being in the way of the fast people on single track trails. One mile in, we came to the creek crossing, and due to heavy rain the night before, it was deep enough that there was no way to cross without getting your feet wet. 

For the 50K, we did the 8-mile loop (blue/white trails) four times, and there were two such creek crossings, so there was no way to keep your feet dry. I brought extra shoes and socks, but I didn't see a point in changing my shoes since they'd only get wet again and again. No blisters, but I did lose another toenail after the race.

For fuel, I brought Plant Bites (real food fruit bites from No Meat Athlete), Muir Energy gels (cashew, sunflower, and raspberry), and sesame rice balls that I'd trained with. Every time I passed my car (every 8 miles), my plan was to grab a rice ball since they were too big to carry in my pack. But after two balls, I couldn't stomach them anymore. Luckily, my friend Peter made sure to have vegan options at the aid stations. Here's the main aid station, which was stocked with almond butter sandwiches (I had several of those!), salted potatoes, pickles (these were my jam for the whole race!), bananas, Oreos, coke, Mountain Dew, and Gatorade. Oh, and Fireball! Both aid stations had Fireball shots. I took one at mile 8 and stuffed an airplane bottle in my pocket for emergencies! This is why I love trail running!

My first loop went great (feeling strong), and my second loop was great too! I actually met up with my friend Karla, who was running the 25K right at the end of our second loop as she was finishing. So I grabbed a pic with her. She has her medal, and I had a pickle and sandwich before heading into loop three.

Loop three was the hardest. I had some moments when I felt like that loop would never end. I was tired. My feet were pretty numb. My legs hurt, and I still had 16 miles to go. There were two aid stations (the main one above) and another in the woods at mile 4/12/20/28. That station was womanned by my friend Keshia. I stopped here around mile 20 (on that third loop) to get a photo with her and had no idea I had mascara all over my face. Ha! I had a hard time even working my phone's camera because I was so tired, and my brain felt broken. 

But I made it out of the woods at mile 24 and got a burst of energy. The fourth loop is the best because, every time you pass a landmark (a certain tree, a giant mushroom, a crappy hill), you can tell yourself, "That's the last time I have to look at that stupid tree!" 

I was DFL (trail speak for "dead f-ing last") the whole race, and I was fine with that. I'm slow, and my goal for this race was just to finish before the 9-hour cutoff. But around mile 29, I saw a guy up ahead, and he was walking. I was feeling pretty strong and still running. In fact, I ran the whole way (just slowly!). So I passed him up and shouted some words of encouragement, as trail runners always do as they pass (yet another reason I love trail running). 

About 1/4-mile from the end, Peter (the race director) met me on the trail and said he was proud of me and was planning to run with me to the finish! How many race directors do that?! So cool! He told me there was a group waiting for me at the end. I had assumed everyone would have gone home by that point, but people were there! I ran into the finish line at 8:43:56! More than 15 minutes before cutoff time and not in last place! I had my Fireball shot (it was still in my pocket!) to celebrate.

Check out the cool wooden medals! I was so proud to add this to my medal display at home.

After the race, I was pooped. I had thought I might grab something greasy from Imagine Vegan Cafe. But I really didn't have the energy to go anywhere! Luckily, I'd picked up a Veggie Burrito from The Fiesta Wagon food truck the night before at Wiseacre to have on-hand in case I was too tired to grab food. So I ate that and washed it down with a Crosstown Brewing Earth in Awe dry-hopped IPA.

But I was still hungry after that! So I made a Daiya Cauliflower Crust Italian Herbs & Cheeze Pizza and proceeded to eat 3/4th of that too. 

Later, after Paul got home from work, I made a big bowl of popcorn and we re-watched Tenacious D & The Pick of Destiny. A perfect day! Now I have to do it all over again next month for the rescheduled Big Buffalo 50K!

Monday, September 20, 2021

Vegan Goulash + Tasty Dal!

Last week, while menu planning, I asked Paul what sorts of dishes he'd like me to make for the coming weeks. He's been eating vegan meals with me most nights — a new thing, since before he tended to come home from work and heat up some frozen pizza or canned Spaghetti-Os. But he's started having health issues lately, and poor diet is definitely to blame. So I convinced him to eat more vegan meals. He's not all the way vegan by any means, but he's definitely eating more fiber now.

One meal he requested was goulash. I'd had it before, but it'd be a looooong time, and I'm pretty sure I'd never tried a vegan version. So I googled and found this recipe for Vegan Goulash (American-style). It was super-easy to make and has lots of vegan grounds (I used the Simple Truth brand) cooked with bell peppers, tomatoes, and onions. I used a gluten-free pasta for this because Paul prefers white pasta over whole wheat, but I wanted to use something a little healthier. This pasta was made with brown rice flour.

This was really good! I will definitely make it again! I would probably just go with a whole wheat pasta (or maybe even a chickpea pasta) next time because the gf pasta was a little soft. But still very good. And the recipe made a ton! On the side, I roasted some okra in the air-fryer, my new favorite way to eat okra.

Here's a quick meal from lunch today. This is mostly all from a bag. I'd purchased some TastyBite Coconut Squash Dal and TastyBite Brown Rice bags for our camping trip, but I never ate them while we were camping. So I heated that up in the microwave while I sauteed the last of some spinach that was about to go bad. Not toon shabby for a microwave meal!

Tomorrow, I'll blog about this weekend's awesome 50K race! I didn't have time to write a full race recap tonight, but I've got lots of fun pics to share. Spoiler: The race went great!!

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Breakfast Nachos! And Minestrone!

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I've tapering for my 50K this week (it's Saturday!), so that means I've been doing a lot less running and a lot more breakfasting. On Tuesdays, I usually run and then have a smoothie for breakfast. But this Tuesday, I slept in and had a big meal of Breakfast Nachos! I made tofu scramble with bell pepper and onions, seasoned with my signature scramble mix (onion powder, garlic powder, nooch, oregano, Bragg's, turmeric, celery salt, and black salt — it's in Cookin' Crunk!). 

I air-fried some corn tortilla wedges until they were crunchy, and then I topped them with scramble and some leftover potato-carrot cheese (from The Plant-Based Athlete). Plus, chives and black olives. Scrumptious!

I'm using a free taper nutrition plan that I downloaded from Another Mother Runner, and it included a recipe for Classic Minestrone. The recipe called for chicken sausage, but of course I subbed vegan sausage. I've been enjoying this every day for lunch this week with a vegan grilled cheese. 

I also had planned to show you the awesome goulash I made last night, but I forgot to take a picture! I never do that! Luckily, I've got lots of leftovers, so I'll snap one later this week.  

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Tofu Scram, Tofu Thai Curry, & Mac & Cheeze!

It's taper week for my 50K! And that meant Sunday's recovery run was extra short. And that meant that I finished my run in time for brunch. And that meant Tofu Scramble & Avocado Toast

I listened to a Another Mother Runner podcast about taper nutrition a couple weeks ago, and they included a taper nutrition plan in the show notes. So I downloaded that plan, and I'm using it to plan my meals and hydration this week. The plan came with a couple recipes, and though they weren't vegan, they were easily veganizable. There was a Thai Curry that called for chicken so I made it with tofu (which was actually a suggestion on the recipe notes, so that was cool). It's not the prettiest curry, but it was tasty. The sauce is made with coconut milk and red curry paste, and it has red bell pepper, zucchini, and tofu. I air-fried some okra on the side (a gift from my neighbor Dennis' garden).

For me, tapering is all about getting in those healthy carbs! So I'm doing lots of potatoes and whole wheat pasta this week. I made this Vegan Mac & Cheese with Potato-Carrot Sauce from The Plant-Based Athlete, and it was AWESOME. The sauce is made from potatoes, carrots, nooch, and miso, and you stir in pasta, vegan sausage, and broccoli. The recipe was contributed by Julia Murray of Hooked on Plants, and her stuff is always great.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Beans & Cornbread, Chickpea Pasta, & Loaded Sweet Potatoes!

A couple weeks ago, I stumbled across a bag of 15 Bean Soup in the grocery store, which I hadn't had in years. I used to love this stuff as a kid! It's like a rainbow of beans for your soup bowl. I checked the ingredients to see if the little ham-flavored seasoning pack was vegan, and it was! It even says VEGAN on the bag. So I had to get it! I cooked these in the slow cooker and served with cornbread, and it really brought me back. Paul loved this meal too! It doesn't get much better than beans and cornbread.

Here's another ramen bowl. I've been eating lots of ramen lately. I had this bowl, with tofu and veggies, before the screening of Tampopo (the 1980s Japanese ramen western) at Crosstown Arts. I'm glad I had this before the show because I would have left that theater craving ramen so hard otherwise.

Here's a night-before-my-long-run meal of Chickpea Pasta! I put this together with bits of leftover stuff — some whole wheat pasta from the bottom of a bag, leftover marinara from another meal, the last of a can of chickpeas (that I air-fried with Italian spices), and some zucchini that was about to go bad. 

And here's a Sunday night dinner of Loaded Sweet Potatoes! I topped this with pinto beans, baby spinach, homemade kraut, and avocado. So simple and delicious.