Monday, March 31, 2008

I run this city

Deep breathe, whew. It has been a whirlwind week.

A week ago this time I was sitting at my desk trying to figure out whether or not I was going to be moving or not. My landlords hadn't found anyone yet and I was stuck in a nether realm, limbo, waiting at any moment to have to go into overdrive and move house. Or not. The possibility existed I would have to stay put if no one was found to take over my lease. I wanted to move though, I wanted to be closer to my new job, move out of an apartment that has started to haunt me. I didn't start packing, but gathered up things that would make it possible to do so if the time came. I stock piled boxes, tape and recycled bubble wrap. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday passed and I ran errands, fretted and did many worried laps around my apartment. I got home on Wednesday night and finally got the good news, my landlords had found a suitable replacement for me. Suddenly, I was in go mode. I hadn't found a new apartment, hadn't packed, wasn't ready, but I had to be out. They gave me until April 5, but I knew that this weekend was my only real window of opportunity. I spent the majority of Wednesday night packing up my clothing and bedroom. I had to sort my clothes carefully. One pile for storage, one pile for carrying with me. I had to pack like that in case I didn't find an apartment and needed to stay at my mom's for a bit. I didn't get much sleep, but woke up on Thursday morning with strong purpose. I left my house and headed for West Seattle with a list of apartments listed on Craigslist. I stopped off at Flying Apron and got a muffin and an almond milk latte. I could tell this day would insist on caffeine.

My long list of apartments became shorter and shorter, crossing off the buildings that we rented, not answering or otherwise unsuitable. I kept skipping over one that wasn't in the exact neighborhood the others were located but after seeing yet another 500 sq ft apartment for over $900, I decided to give a call. The building manager was there and said I could come immediately. I sped over to the apartment complex and checked out the building. Location, not bad. Building, secure. 4th floor apartment. As I sat in the building managers office, discussing the amenities offered in the place, I was liking what I was hearing but knew from experience that often times you open up that door and the reality doesn't meet the expectation. We went upstairs and checked it out. I had a firm grip on my mind not to take an apartment that I didn't love because I felt like I had to find something, anything. My mother had graciously said I could stay for a short while if need be and so my back wasn't really against the wall. I didn't want to make a rash decision. The door opened...

I liked it. I really did. It had everything that was on my list of "must haves" and some things on the "wouldn't it be nice ifs". I was sold. The price was right. The location perfect. I was moving. I signed the papers and settled up. As I walked out my new front door, I felt refreshed even though I knew I needed to coordinate a move within 24 hours. Yes, I was moving on Friday morning. I hurried back to my old apartment and called up the moving company that had moved me into my apartment back in September. 2 men and a truck would be at my front door at 8am. And pretty much nothing in my apartment was packed. Thankfully, I am very good at packing. I pack like I am running from the law. For 6 hours, I boxed, wrapped, taped and danced (to my music in my headphones) chipping away at things. By 5 I was ravenous and nearly done and was able to go meet my uncle for thai food at Bai Phai near my house. It was delicious. I finished packing everything, went for a super fast 8 mile run and then settled in on my couch to sleep. I wanted to get up at 5am to run, but my mind had other plans.

I had fallen down a rabbit hole at some point over the last few months, where my mind has started to play tricks on me and zig left, when it should be zagging right. It has been a deep melancholy which permeated everything. It manifested in strange ways: the desire to control things in my world, the constant nagging questioning, the bizarre equation that if something feels good, it must be bad. Its like I was talking about with PB. If I like it, if it made me happy, then it was to be feared, avoided and felt guilty about. I started to feel like I didn't deserve to be happy. As I lay on the couch, exhausted from the day, the conviction I had about making a good decision started to shake, waver and tumble down. It came crashing down around me. Had I made a rash decision, was I not thinking this through, this feels right, therefore it must be wrong. I grabbed my computer and decided that I would yelp my new apartment building and get reassurance on what a great place it was. There were not many reviews, and most were incredibly old and therefore not likely to be the case any more. But there was one and it was nasty. Suddenly instead of reassurance, I was in full panic mode. My entire thinking reversed in a 5 sentence review written by someone who obviously was quite angry. It was midnight and bursting into tears, I attempted to self-soothe and regain my rationality. It was one review. It was nothing so horrible, it was all things that happen in most apartment buildings (like someones car getting broken into in the garage). But it was too late, the ball was rolling and I was having a full on nervous breakdown. I got up from the couch and grabbed my cell phone. I hated to do it, but I called my mom. Not even for a second did she sound annoyed or vexed that I woke her up at 12:30 at night and she patiently and kindly tried to talk me down. I knew that she had to get up at 4:45 the next (same) morning and so I did my best to take deep breathes and calm down. Once the conversation started to get cyclical, I was able to let her go back to sleep and just kept repeating to myself what we had discussed. I felt a little better, but also just held on to what she said, "don't borrow trouble".

As I lay there after hanging up the phone, I decided to see if another thing that mother had said was true. That you could find negative reviews about pretty much anything on the internet and for the most part that is because people who have bad experiences tend to take the time to voice it more than people who like it. I yelped a few things, then I decided to take a look at the reviews of Flying Apron. I love Flying Apron. There is no doubt in my mind. There were plenty of reviews, a few positive, but a lot negative. As I read, I witnessed an interesting phenomena in my mind. My own conviction about how much I love Flying Apron started to waver. Was it really overpriced crap that I had been deluding myself into liking? I slid into doubt and just before falling off the edge, I caught myself. This was an experiment and it demonstrated what I had hoped. That the words of others held sway over me while in the state I was in, but that doesn't make them true. If anything, it showed that I had made the right decision for me and others opinions and experiences, while valid, were not my own. Though my worry was not completely gone, I could hold on the experiment to give me faith in my decision. I didn't sleep much but I managed to get some.

Friday was a blur. I woke without any energy and opted out of my run. I ate and waited for the movers. 8am it was go time. For 4 hours in the rain and snow, we moved my stuff. Once we arrived at the new place, I helped and we did a fireman fashion line. They brought things in through the garage and sent it up the elevator where I unloaded it and moved it in. By noon we were done and I went into true Devon mode and started hammering away at unpacking. By 7pm, everything was unpacked, arranged and in its place. The only thing left was to hang pictures, which I would leave for Saturday. But I was in, settled and for the first time in months, I felt true levity in my spirit. That feeling had buoyed to the surface when I got the job, but had been quickly squashed by my mind. As I sat down on my couch, I started to believe that perhaps I left the ghosts behind in the move and that I had reclaimed my mind and my sanity.

I run this city

Saturday passed nearly as quickly as Friday had, cleaning my old place and running errands. I was so sore from moving, I felt worse than I do after running 50 miles. Thankfully, by Sunday I was feeling much much better. I decided it was time to do something I hadn't done since I moved to Seattle in September. A long city run. All of my 20+ milers have been elsewhere since I moved here and that is quite bizarre to me. I have been getting in good consistent high mileage, so that fact is quite an oddity to me. I got up, ate my pre-run meal, strapped on my Nathan pack and headed out. Armed with my Garmin, a vague notion of direction and a mental map of the way "off the island"(i.e. West Seattle), I headed out. I immediately enjoyed the feel of my new pair of Adidas. Somehow I had let my old pair go an extra 300+ miles and I might have well have been wearing nothing. I ran over the Spokane St Bridge and down along the piers where the massive ships bring all sorts of imports. I was tooling along quickly, feeling great even at 7:15 min/miles. I passed along the more touristy piers, through downtown and decided to head up and over Queen Anne. I ran up the counter-balance, and yes, ran the whole thing. I crested the hill, stopped for a sip of water and continued north. I finally located How to Cook a Wolf and laughed as I headed down the other side of the hill into Fremont. I was on familiar ground now, having hooked on to my old normal route. I powered up Fremont Ave, running all the way to the top, jamming along to the tunes in my headphones. By now I had decided my turn around point, it would be my mom's house at Northgate. I was curious to see how far it was, especially in order to disable anyone's argument that West Seattle is too far away. I ran around Greenlake and headed up towards the mall. Door to Door it was about 13.5 miles. I popped up stairs to see if my mom was in, but she was at church. I checked my email to see if my former landlord had written (he hadn't), filled my waterbottle and headed back out before I got too cold.

I chose a different way back. I headed towards my old apartment, down through Cowen Park, along Burke Gilman, through Montlake and up the hill to Interlaken. I ran every big hill in Seattle, at least it felt that way. When running down through Cowen Park, I started to feel a little bit like I was moving backwards into my own head and quickly compensated the obvious sugar low by eating a pack of Pomegranate Luna Moons. I popped a caffeine and asprin in for good measure and instantly felt refreshed. I ran the SRC route across Capitol Hill and connected to Madison and zoomed down the hill to the water. I retraced my steps along the piers and through the very industrial area. It was very desolate, but pleasant. I wouldn't run this at night, but during the day, it worked. I got my 3rd or 4th wind as I headed over the bridge back into West Seattle, and pushed up the hill and around the corner to my house. I live on a very steep, but short hill and I sprinted all the way up to my front door. Watch stop, mileage counted. One very satisfied me. 3:28, 28 miles. Not bad. I ate some delicious leftovers from Saturday night, which I had been daydreaming about for at least an hour on my run (see recipe following) and then headed up north to work in the garden with my uncle. My lettuce and spinach are starting to come up and that makes me very excited. As soon as we started transplanting some things it started to hail and we headed inside for some tea. I finished off the day with a great meal at Hi Life with my mom. As I lay down to sleep, I could only sigh a satisfied sigh and hold on as tightly as I could to the deep abiding happiness that had settled in on my spirit.

Hungry girl casserole with Guacamole

There is this great movie called Waitress in which (among other more important plot lines) the main character makes these fantastic pies and gives them really great names, like, "I hate my husband pie, hold the banana", etc. I decided that I need to start making more creative names for my dishes too. Bubba cakes was a good start, but I am going to try and go even further.


2 cups cooked brown rice
1 can organic chili beans (NOT can of chili! Chili beans i.e. a combination of pintos, kidneys, etc)
1 TBSP evoo
1 small onion
2 small carrots
1 zucchini
1 bell pepper
3 cloves garlic
1 cup mushrooms
1 bunch kale
cumin, chili powder, oregano, italian seasonings, salt, pepper
1 can diced tomatoes with green chilis
handful cilantro
1 package Almond Milk Pepper Jack "Cheese"

Preheat oven to 350. In an oven proof skillet (I used my cast iron), heat the oil over med-high heat. Sautee the onions for 2-3 minutes and then start adding your other veggies at about one minute intervals, in the following order. Carrots, zucchini, bell pepper, garlic, mushrooms, kale. Basically you want them to start cooking, but not be too done since they will continue to bake in the oven. Spice with cumin, chili powder, oregano, italian seasonings, salt, pepper. Toss in the rice, bean and tomatoes and stir. Heat for 2-3 minutes and then add a handful or so of cilantro (small bits). Tap down the top of the mixture until flat and sprinkle the cheese over the top, covering it. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the cheese is browning and bubbly. Top with homemade guacamole and enjoy (preferable while relaxing on the couch). Makes 4 servings.

Why have one when you can have two oatmeal carrot muffins

Now that I am further away from Fremont and thus from Flying Apron, I am going to have to be more self-sufficient in the baking department and brave the world of morning pastries head on if I want to continue to have a nice health grain (muffin, scone, etc) as part of my breakfast. I was in the mood for an Oatmeal Carrot muffin and so I threw these together and success! They are fabulous, not very sweet (which seems to be a trend with me) but perfect. I wanted to add raisins but didn't have any on hand.


  • 1 cup almond milk

  • 1 cup gluten free oats

  • 1/2 cup carrot, coarsely grated

  • 1/4 cup sucanata

  • 1/4 cup Earth Balance margarine

  • 1 egg

  • 1/2 cup Buckwheat flour

  • 1/2 cup sweet sorgum flour

  • 1/4 cup(s) sugar

  • 1 tablespoon baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/4 cup pecans, chopped


1. In large bowl, pour almond milk over oats; stir to mix.

2. Cream together brown sugar, margarine or oil, and egg; stir into oat mixture and add carrots.

3. Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Stir into batter just until moistened, then add pecans.

4. Spoon into muffin cups which have been greased, filling almost to the top. Bake at 400 degrees F. for 20-25 minutes.

5. Let stand 2 minutes before removing from cups. Enjoy with a small pat of Earth Balance....yum!

Ode to my mother

My mom is great. Over the past few months, she has witnessed and supported me through a lot of craziness that really only existed on my own inner battlefield. She has been patient and kind, loving and supportive. She does not judge, or if she does, she does not let on. I know it has to be hard to watch your child struggle and I know that it hasn't been easy that I have laid my burden down at her feet. She is there for me in the wee hours of the morning and over monday night suppers. She is always willing to help, if at her own expense. The things she does do not go unnoticed by me. In this move, I feel refreshed, renewed and like I might finally have a fresh clean slate to work from. It is my hope, at least. My mom has been my greatest cheerleader and I hope that in this new opportunity I have, I can embody the things that she already knows to be true, and let go of the things she already knows are not. I often wish there was more I could do for her than just be grateful. She has sacrificed a lot in supporting both my sister and I become the people that we have. I know that there is not really anything I can do but extend the same love, support, acceptance and patience to her. I also see now that the most important thing I can do is be true to the me that she raised me to be and to be the best, happiest, at peace person I can be. For my mother, I honor her efforts through the way I live my life and the person that I am.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Living up to my namesake

Last night I lived up to my namesake. More just (someone with) my name. That is I made a delicious meal of a spin off of 3 recipes from Everyday Living (a Martha Stewart magazine). Get it? Martha... I whipped this up in just over an hour after getting home after a long day of hardworking out! It is nice to be able to enjoy a new recipe even when you are tired from a hard days work!

Stuffed Poblanos and Cilantro-lime rice

Stuffed Poblanos Ingredients
(The first thing I did was half the recipe and make it for two... one for me and one for me (the next day), so feel free to double it for more hungry mouths). Below is my interpretation of the recipe I found in this months Everyday Food.

1 can (14.5 oz) Fire Roasted Tomatoes with green chilis
2 chippolini onions (or 1 small white onion), chopped
3 cloves garlic (2 whole, 1 minced)
salt and pepper
1/2 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup organic cornmeal
1/2 cup Almond Milk pepper jack cheese
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 large poblano chilis, halved lengthwise with stems in tact, seeds removed

Preheat oven to 425. In a blender combine tomatoes, half the onions, 2 whole garlic cloves puree. Season with salt. Pour sauce into a 9x13 baking dish, set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine beans, cornmeal, 1/4 cup almond milk cheese, remaining onions, minced garlic, cumin and salt and pepper.

Divide mixture evenly between poblano halves. Place on top of sauce in baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over top.

Bake uncovered for 30 minutes, until poblanos are tender, sauce is bubbling and cheese crispy. (Note: the instructions have you cover with aluminum foil, bake for 45 mins. Uncover and continue until sauce is thickened and cheese is browned, 10 to 15 minutes). Mine turned out tender enough, sauce was thick enough and cheese crispy enough. Plus, who wants to wait that long!

Cilantro Lime Rice ingredients:
1 cup brown rice
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tbsp garlic sauce (store bought--olive oil, garlic, s&p, lemon)

Cook rice as you normally would.

In the blender combine cilantro, lime juice and garlic sauce with 2 tbsp water. Blend until smooth. Stir into cooked rice and fluff with a fork.

In addition to this I made some more delicious roast cauliflower with peri peri spice.

Interesting juxtaposition
After preparing the delicious meal above and consuming said dish, I collapsed on the couch, exhausted from a 5am 8 mile hilly run, 1 1/2 hours in the gym lifting weights, 1/2 core work and a decently speedy SRC 6 mile club run. I flipped on the tellie and found Biggest Loser and Throw down with Bobby Flay. I wanted to watch both, so I flipped back and forth. I started to think about it and started to laugh at how contrary my viewing choices were in relation to each other. On one hand, you have the Biggest Loser which was touting super low fat, pretty boring bear bones weight lose eating. Yes, the point is to lose weight, but it is also to maintain it and who is going to eat steamed chicken and veggies (cooked in plastic bags by Ziploc baaaaaaaadddd) and 100cal processed snacks for their entire lives? They were illustrating the evil "old way" the contestants use to eat and you could see a bit of longing in their eyes for a bite. Yes, they want to lose the weight and keep it off, but a life on a permanent diet.

On the other hand, you have the no holds barred, nutrition be damned, Throw down which was an episode about the best cheesecake. One slice of cheesecake by the cheesecake master whom Bobby Flay was as big as my head and included not only the cheesecake, but two layers of chocolate cake and frosting. Wow. I am sure a slice had enough calories for 2 people for 2 days.

It set me thinking though. Do we have to exist in a world where we either you are either in one camp or another? Should food be so black and white, good and bad? Should we be overly aware of the nutritional value of our foods or living ignorant bliss? When I was watching the shows, I felt strangely like I had to choose. But then I realized that I didn't have to choose, not now. Without knowing it over time, through education, choices and practice, I moved out of a place where I get to occupy the vast gray area in between those ends of the spectrum. I get to have an abundance of flavors and culinary experience AND fantastic nutritional value. How cool is that! Watch the two programs just insighted one of those ah ha moments, in which I realized that I don't have to compromise one for the other (nutrition for taste, taste for nutrition). And that is such an amazing realization. While I have known this for a while, I had been struggling with the trusting it. It was just one of those things where are hard to reach place in the brain keeps saying, "it tastes so good, so it must be bad!" Silly brain! Luckily for me, I transitioned to a place where EVERYthing I chose is good for me. And its not even a choice anymore, I just DO, when it comes to food. I don't drool over someone else's cheeseburger or pine away for a piece of pizza. I don't have to battle myself over a slice of cheesecake. Even though my brain is behind the time, my body is a whole food machine. What it comes down to for me, is essentially I get to live in informed bliss. It took time to get here, but it is a great place to be!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

la belle nouvelle vie; an overture in three parts

Despite being an up and down week, it truly is a beautiful new life. My saturday has been productive, I ran errands, I ran miles and I threw down in the kitchen! What more can you ask for?

Bubba Cakes-a work in progress

This morning I decided to attempt to make a vegan gluten free oak cake, based on the "flying aprons" at Flying Apron. I had a rough idea of the ingredients and absolutely no idea of ratios, amounts, etc so I just played around with it.

In the end, they turned out with great texture and layers of flavor. However, they needed a bump up on the sweetness factor. I was pleased with their texture, crispness and the berries. I topped with almond butter to add a nice sweetness. The recipe was good enough for a name, a special name.

These are called "flying aprons", but obviously since these are my own take on that and are uniquely my own, I can't call them that. But what are they? They aren't a muffin, they aren't a scone. It isn't granola, cereal, a cookie. It is mostly a cake. Not a birthday cake, cake. Instead an oat cake. How absolutely boring sounding!

I went for my run, leaving the creation sans name, off to enjoy a nice 15 miles in the early afternoon sun. As I ran, my mind wandered as it does and around mile 11 I started thinking about Julian. Julian and I dated for about 3 1/2 years and despite things not working out between us, I have absolutely no doubt that my love for him was never misplaced. He and I have been back in contact for only about a year and a half and his life has taken an interest turn over the last year, not only is he finishing up his PhD at UVA, he is about to be a father. As I ran, I began to wonder if his daughter had been born and resolved that I should email for details as soon as I made it home. A light bulb went on. The thought of Julian + baby= my oat cake's name. Bubba cakes!

Julian was a master mind of nicknames. No one I have ever known has given me more nicknames than Julian. I think we once counted and there were more than 25. Some of them were simple progressions of a word through different pronunciation or verbal laziness, much in the way that uisce beatha because whishkeyba became whiskey. One of my favorite nicknames he gave me was "baby d". This nickname would obviously spring to mind when thinking about his new baby girl, Evelyn Rose. Ironically, overtime and through pure affectionate sillyness, the letters got drawn out in baby and eventually became bubba d. I still can hear him drawing out the word bubba and almost howling it. Those are the little things about loving relationships that are most meaningful to me. And so, while this recipe is still in progress, it is in fact a labor of love and therefore worth a special name. In honor of that memory and in honor of a beautiful new life, I dub these cake Bubba Cakes.


1 cup oats
1/2 cup sweet sorgum flour
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp sucanata
1/2 cup frozen or fresh berries
1/2 cup almond milk
4 tbsp applesauce
1 tsp baking powder
note: these were in need of more sweetness, so I am considering using Maple Syrup or Agave in lieu of the sucanata.

Preheat oven to 375. In a large bowl combine oats, flour, sucanata, salt, and baking powder. Add in the applesauce until the mixture starts to stick together well. I used approximately 4 tbsp but I wasn't being all that specific in my measurements. Add the almond milk and berries and fold until well combined. Using a 1/2 cup dry measure, scoop out the mixture and place on a baking sheet that is covered with parchment paper. Press down with the bottom of the measuring cup to flatten. Bake for um....I didn't look at my watch.... 20 minutes? Until golden brown. If you make as is, consider topping with almond butter while still warm and enjoy! If you sweeten more, no need, but feel free by all means!!!

Saturday Salads and Spices

When I got home from my run, I immediately turned on the oven to 400 degrees to make a much anticipated roast cauliflower & broccoli with African Peri Peri Spice (made by Rub with Love). Peri Peri takes me back to South Africa and London and is a spice that is not readily available around here. It specifically reminds me of Nando's which was a chicken place that I ate *regularly* (ok,not that often but enough to remember!) while living in both countries, including a very memorable trip in my last week in London with my CI co-workers. I can still taste the peri-peri spiced fries. When I lived in Atlanta, I could get Nando's hot sauce, but nothing since I have been on the West Coast. My uncle Ray last wednesday showed me the spice rub he got at the fish store and was planning on putting on the fish he was making for dinner. It was peri peri!!! I was so excited. I resolved to pick some up asap. Yesterday I was at the grocery stumbling around looking for a smoothie after a really strong 10 miles on Cougar Mtn and I came upon the same blend my uncle had shown me! I snapped some up and looked forward to utilizing it in a spin off of a recipe I had seen for roast cauliflower with paprika. I tossed the cauliflower and broccoli with a tbsp of olive oil and a nice heap of the spice rub and tossed in the oven, until browned and perfect.

While the roasting was going on, I constructed a salad that I was inspired to make after watching 30 minute meals with Rachel Ray (what can I say, it was Thursday and I was brooding and sulking). She was using jarred/pickled vegetables (antipasto) ingredients in a chef's salad. When I stumbled upon the Peri-Peri spice, I also came upon a veritable plethora of jarred/pickled vegetables. In a pinch, these add a great dimension to many dishes. If you are smart about selection, they actually have a lot of health benefits. Pickling is a fermentation process which adds probiotics and has a long standing history in world cuisine. There are also roast vegetables which are merely packed in water or olive oil, such as roast peppers. I picked organic varieties and ones that didn't include any ingredients that I couldn't pronounce (go for things that are pickled in vinegar, and don't have much more than salt added.

Ingredients for the salad (amounts are up to you!):
mixed baby greens
fresh fennel, sliced
fresh ripe tomatoes
salad sprouts
salad beans, from canned, rinsed
fresh anaheim pepper
jarred roasted bell pepper
jarred pepperoncini
jarred artichoke hearts
jarred spicy pickled beans

high quality olive oil
red wine vinegar
salt and pepper

chef's note: when dressing a salad, drizzle vinegar over the salad first, then olive oil, as if you do it in the reverse the oil will coat the veg and the vinegar will just slip right off!

Sleeping like a bat

After last years Mad City race, I experienced (another) very unfortunate side effect of long distance running. By the time I got home from WI, two days after my race, my legs and ankles were so swollen and my jeans were incredibly tight. What gives, I thought a bit panicky. I immediately emailed my friend and should be world record holder, Connie to see if this was normal. I was worried something was wrong and plus, who wants to feel like a cow after running 62 miles! She emailed me back, "yes, it is normal. Its the most messed up thing that you can run 100k and for a week after not be able to zip up your jeans". I was retaining about 6+ pounds of water. It makes sense though, it is the bodies was of healing from the "trauma" you inflict on it, much like the swelling you experience when you twist an ankle or the like. Thus, I had to "put my feet up" as much as possible. Inevitably that translated into me sleeping on the floor (with my back on a pillow) and feet/legs up on the bed. Over the rest of the year, I found myself more and more in this position after races. I dubbed it sleeping like a bat. This week I have been experience this once again and thus have been sleeping like a bat.

Other than having to sleep like a bat (and the reasons for that) & the endorphin crash, I have felt great this week. My recovery week was in fact a very strong training week, which is what I had hoped. I didn't train through Chuckanut per se, that is I didn't run a heavy mileage week and then race, but I didn't want to have much if any down time after the race and bounce back quickly. After a lovely Sunday off, I have had a solid week of training.

Monday I was able to work out the kinks in my legs in a moderately slow 10 mile jaunt. Tuesday I sandwiched a trip to Olympia to visit Alison and get a fantastic massage by her, with an 8 mile run in the morning and the SRC club run in the afternoon. When Wednesday rolled around and my emotional crash set in, I was only able to muster 8 miles and worried that I would have to take off more time than I wanted to. Thursday wasn't much better. I just couldn't get it together. I spent the entire day pacing around, but unable to accomplish anything. After aforementioned brooding and sulking, I managed to pull it together to spin on the bike in my kitchen for an hour. While I was spinning Krissy called and said that she was hopping a plane to come up for the night to attend Jenny U's going away party (which I was invited to but having a hard time motivating for). She said, that she would be there about 10:30 and I said to myself, come on now, if she can fly up from Bend, than I can drive a few miles. Plus, I have found one too many excuses to opt out of evening get togethers in recent months, I have been damn anti-social and that is not good. I think more than that, I just get settled on the couch and have a hard time rallying after getting comfy. To help me bridge the time and ensure getting to the bar at 10:30, I decided to head out for a run after spinning. It felt great to get out in the cool crisp evening air. I had thought I would just tool around G-lake for a 5 miler, but I was really feeling it once I got going and did a great, fast 8 miles down through Fremont.

Yesterday, I was starting to bounce back and headed out to Cougar to do the 10 mile loop. After starting off a bit slow on the incredibly long uphill, I started flying and feeling great. I got home, refueled and a few hours later was inspired to head out again for a high intensity 5 miler around G-lake. I felt great and again, it helped me bridge the time so that I wouldn't get sucked into my couch for the evening. Last night was my friend Monica's monthly wine tasting/dinner party. I have opted out of the other invitations she had extended to me, each time coming up with a thoroughly self-convincing excuse not to go. Afterall, who ISN'T tired on friday night? But I was resolute and I went and it was so much fun. The wine of the month was Syrah/Shiraz, each person bringing a bottle to share and enjoy. Monica made a delicious spread of food, including appetizers of artisan cheese and breads and a main course of bbq'd chicken and ribs for the meat eaters and vegan risotto and roast veggies. I am excited for next month and had a really great time mingled with the other guest! Next month I am going to help Monica in the kitchen and do a Vegan South American spread and have the theme be Chilean wines!

While I couldn't wake up this morning and motivate to go run Tiger with Jove like I had planned, I did manage to get out and run a nice 15 miles on the roads! Tomorrow, most likely Jove and I will head out to Tiger and do another 15. That means for my post-race week I am throwing down a serious 85 miles. Excellent. It has been a rollercoaster week, but really would I have it any other way?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Blues

I've got the blues. No, I am not about to break out into song like a commercial for that quasi-food stuff that comes in a blue box. But I got the blues. I got the everything is going right-post good race-sun is shining-weight off my shoulders blues. Wait what? It makes even less sense to me. I just have been having one of those days when no matter how I try to balance, the whole boat just keeps capsizing.

Thankfully, things really ARE great right now, so I am able to not feel as panicky as I have in past months when I feel this anxiousness set in. In fact, I think a day like this after such a huge weekend of positives is almost inevitable. You can't be at peak Endorphins and emotions all the time. Things really came together for me all at once, sweeping me almost unprepared into a state of mind which I have longed for and sought out unsuccessfully for a few month, that is: peace, satisfaction, center and dare I say, happiness. These have been relative strangers for a while as I struggled to get out of my own head, but inevitably just dug myself deeper and deeper.

Getting the new library job really changed everything. It parted the clouds, it lifted the 500 lbs off my shoulders. It unpaused my life. It freed me. It returned to me passion about my work. It gives me structure, human interaction and boundaries. It was everything I have been needing, not because it is inherently more than just a job, but because of what it enables inwardly and externally. It is the job I went to graduate school for and it is an adventure.

The race this weekend was a huge positive confirmation that my training is going well and I am doing the right things. It erased my doubts and fears of my own abilities and training. It just felt good. I had a great day.

My current employer and my current landlords surprised me with their unwavering support. Including my current employer wanting to continue to keep me on in a part-time capacity which precludes me from having to look for another job. My current landlords are working with me so that I can move out and get another place closer to my new work and less expensive.

So why the blues? At first I did not recognize it. In fact, I cannot take credit at all for recognizing it. My mother called it when I emailed her to lament feeling like I went off a cliff and realized only then I didn't have wings. "Didn't you feel this way a few days after EVERY race you did last year?" Oh yeah, I did. Its like the worst sugar crash ever (but not an actual sugar crash, but an endorphins one). You are happy dancing one second and bursting into tears the next. Now that I have run 8 miles to try and work out some of the sad/anxiousness, I am able to see more of the humor in it. Its the emotional come down, its the back to reality. And at least for the next few weeks, my reality is still the same one as before the new job, yet filled with a bit more confusion and upheval (positive of course). For the first time in a long time, the fact that I have the blues doesn't actually depress me more. I am able to just snuggle down and weather the storm and KNOW (yes! finally! I see it!) it will pass.

Blues food
I didn't make this today, but comfort food is always helpful on blues days. I actually made this pizza last thursday before the race. And my god was it good. And easy too!

1/4 Pamela's Gluten Free Bread Mix prepare
Bell Pepper
Rainbow Chard
Marinara Sauce

Prepare the dough according to the instructions. Your smart, you can figure it out. More than one person....make more dough! Definitely dust with cornmeal for that nice bottom crunch. Saute onions and garlic in olive oil until onions carmelize. Remove from pan and put in a bowl for later. Saute the remaining veg until they just start to cook, they will cook more in the oven so no worries. Construct! Marinara on the bottom, chard next, veggies on the top! Whatever fun ingredients you want. Bake according to dough instructions. Enjoy....alot!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Chuckanut 50k Race Report

Last year, when writing race reports I would drop a hook into you and pull you along for a wild ride on whether or not I was going to make it or prevail, holding out until the end to give you the results and triumphant, "I made it". As I sit down to write this, a day after my first "real" race of only my second year of ultrarunning, I think its time for a change. This week of my life has been defined by change and mutability, so as goes my life so goes my blog.

This has been my week. Sometimes things just conspire to come together in positive ways all at once. Even when you are able to look back and see that you cultivated the seeds of what you now sow, it is still a validating feeling when things start to blossom. For the past several months, instead of things in my life feeling like they were coming together or even moving in a positive direction, they have felt instead very difficult, like there was a heavy weight on my shoulders. I kept working to put things in motion for that to change, but frankly, I was starting to lose a bit of faith. One of the things that weighed most heavily and influenced the most other things in my life was my job. While it offered the benefits very flexible hours, the ability to work from home and decent pay, it was crushing my soul. That may sound extreme, but imagine if you will feeling like those benefits were a mere tether or shackle to something you didn't want to be a part of. Compounding that feeling was the internal struggle about my job and desire to leave due to the fact that it is in fact a family business. I have been job searching seriously for 2 months now and even before that, I applied and interviewed to get into the Seattle Public Library and King County Library Systems continuous recruitment pools. It is very, very hard to get a job in either system. Put it this way, you have to do 3+hours of interviewing, just to get into the recruitment pool and once in you have zero guarantee they will ever call you up for a specific position interview. Since I was in grad school 4 years ago, I have been wanting to be back in the public library. In fact, public and academic libraries are the only ones I can see myself in and are also the two hardest types of positions to get. That is how I ended up in private industry. Late January, I received position from SPL for a children's librarian position and I immediately sent in my letter of interest and a few weeks ago went for my next round of interviews. I had felt the interview had gone well, but in no way felt I had it in the bag. Thursday, I received a call from the branch manager, offering me the job! In that moment, it felt like 1,000 lbs had been lifted off my shoulders, the clouds had parted and the sun was shining. On Friday, I enthusiastically accepted the job. It is a perfect compliment for my running, as it is not full time, but does include full time benefits and excellent wages (yeah for the librarians union!). While this literally thrusts me out of the comfortable, safe and stable position (in life) I am currently in, I feel like instead of being afraid, I feel liberated. It's like I jumped and realized, "hey, I actually CAN fly". This change is that significant and will quickly hasten in many other new changes, like moving to West Seattle where the job is located!

Running Chuckanut on Saturday would be the second high note of an already phenomenal week. I put together a really great race, finishing 17th overall and 1st place woman in a time of 4:40.

Over the past two weeks, I have been mini-tapering for Chuckanut 50k. While not an "A" race, it is a race to me. Not training, not training through it, nope. I wanted to be ready. And when I thought back to last year, I realized that I did in fact race every race that I entered. None of this "training race" stuff. Having recently read and reflected Greg's posting on "just a training run", I realized that I fully agreed with him. There is a benefit to "just a training run" races, yes. They are called FatAsses. For me, a race like Chuckanut no matter what I could have told myself had I decided to go into it not rested, is very much a race. And I would have paid a price running it under those false pretenses. Racing Chuckanut was a way to gauge how my training and fitness are progressing. Mentally it held alot of sway for me. I had been feeling pretty tired after a training block of 4 big weeks, a so took the past two weeks to taper, running 50+ miles last week and about 30 miles this week pre-race. For the past few days, I was not feeling spectacular. My legs were feeling a bit tired, I was overall just feeling a bit drained. When I got the good news on Thursday, I found a bit of levity but driving up to Bow, WA on Friday afternoon, I was a bit concerned how I would fare. Call it sophomore angst, call it what you will but a part of me was still wondering if I would be able to pick up where I left off. Despite how strongly I have been running and training this year, a sliver of doubt was stuck in my paw. Was last year a fluke?

I stayed with Race Director and very close friend, Krissy in Bow at her parents house, along with several other racers and volunteers. Late Friday night we had to "earn our keep" and help take all the kitchen stuff and food over to the race start and move it in. Before we left, I ate my usual pre-race meal of sweet potatoes and guacamole, as well as a large salad. We managed to get everything moved quickly and were home and in bed by 10pm. I set my alarm for 5am, so I could get up and eat and then head back to bed for another hour twenty of sleep. I did not sleep well. Despite having luxury accommodations (a room to myself!), I slept very restlessly. I woke up at midnight and was thoroughly convinced it was 4:45am. Once I established it was not in fact, I slept but had one of those miss the exam, show up to school naked type dreams in which I missed the race start because I was looking for a parking place. I have never had those kind of dreams and usually sleep incredibly well. To top it off, I was feeling a bit of the snuffles set in which was the last thing I needed or wanted. 5am rolled around, I hopped out of bed, went upstairs and made my rice bread with almond butter and ate my brutalized banana. I felt ok, but not great. I wasn't really feeling pre-race jitters as I looked outside at the rain, I was feeling almost indifferent, which is far more worrying to me. I headed back to bed and hope that the extra hour of sleep would make a difference.

It didn't, not much at least. I got up, suited up and ate two spoonfuls of Chia seeds. For those of you who have been wanting to know how I consume my Chia seeds, that's it. Two teaspoons straight up with lots of water. They would once again prove that they are a dream ultra food during the race. Dagan (Krissy's boyfriend who was running his first 50k ever!) and I headed out into the dreary rain and drove to the race start. We had reserved parking and so we got to sneak into the lot that was actually at the race start, while pretty much everyone else had to go to overflow parking which was decently far away.

We went inside and procured our race numbers and I met up with Alison, who had also been staying at Krissy's parent house. We mutually lamented by our lack of motivation. I am not sure if "lack of motivation" is even the right way to describe it, it was a mixture of emotions I still can't even seem to describe. The start was much larger than most other ultras I have been at. Being the 10th largest ultra in the country, it felt more small marathon, than ultra. We lined up about 10 minutes late, I had hedged my bets and opted to not wear a rain coat and just wear shorts. As we stood at the starting line, it seemed like the rain had let up and the temperature was cool but just right, around 41-42 degrees. I mingled with the usual suspects and worked my way towards the front in order to get out at a good speed. Alison asks me if I am going to take off fast and I say no, that I am hoping to run mid 7's for the first 10k which goes along the flat, manicured Interurban trail. I said a brief hi to Scott Jurek, Brian Morrison and Bryan Dayton (the worlds most brief introduction ever). And we were off.

Immediately my word was out the door as Alison yells, "Bye Devon" and I sped off with the lead pack of guys. I cruised behind the fast guys about 20-30 feet back and told myself that I would be well advised to not try to keep up. It took about 4-5 miles before they were out of sight down the path,which meant I was clocking mid 6's. Two weeks ago, I had come out to the course and run the middle 20 miles with Fairhaven runner and friend Dan Probst, so I knew what was to come. As we crossed into a familiar section, I mentally prepared for my first hill. When Dan and I had run, it had been super slow going for me on the uphills, I had absolutely no juice on the hills, so as I approached the trail to Fragrance Lake, I was nervous at how much power I would have on the uphills. That said, knowing the course made a huge difference because I was able to know how much juice (strength) I needed at what points and what sections of the trail I could exploit either for its flat, downhill or technical.
Along the Interurban (photo by Glenn)

I sped through the first aid station without stopping, as my waterbottle was mostly full, the chia keeping my hydration steady. I also knew I only had 4.4 miles to the next aid station. I looped down back on to Interurban and then took my right hand turn up into the shade of the trees and started working my way up. I was pleasantly surprised how my legs responded. I didn't suddenly have super human ability to fly on the ups but I was tackling the hills well and my legs definitely were 1,000% better than they had been 2 weeks previous. I ran up the hill with a guy named Jason who was running his first 50k and had never done more than a trail 25k! We made our way up to Fragrance Lake, trading places on the ups and down. It was quite a mudfest, but not nearly as much as what was to come. Nearing the lake, another guy came up behind me was breathing hard behind me but just kind of lurked there for a while. He would come on strong on the ups and fade on the flats and downs a bit. I am perfectly willing to let someone pass, graciously in fact. However, all I ask is that we remember our manners and politely ask. Several times in the race, I felt like I was trying to retrain people passive aggressive natures and encourage assertiveness. How hard is it to say, "may I pass please?". Jason, myself and "Lurker" as I renamed him made it around the lake and headed down towards aid station 2. Jason introduced himself to Lurker and I laughed and said, that I had given him that name and he thought it was funny. He said he was lurking because Jason and I were much faster on the flats and downs so it made more sense to try and hang with us on the downs.
Mind the muck on the downhills, coming into Aid 2 (photo by Glenn)

We made it to aid station 2 and prepared ourselves for the grind up Cleator Road to aid station 3. It is 2.9 miles on a gravel road uphill the whole way. That said, it is a very runnable grade. Steep but not too steep. I again passed up aid at the station and got into a rhythm going up Cleator Road. Jason hung with me and Lurker took off ahead of us. Two weeks previously, Cleator had been a nightmare to me, but today it felt good. Really good. This pleased me greatly since I knew that once I made it to the top I only had one more "hill of significance"--Little Chinscraper. The section from Aid 3 to Aid 4 mostly was right up my alley. I made it to the top of Cleator Road and Krissy was there and it was really nice to see her. Jove and some other familiar faces were also there and I handed off my waterbottle to be filled with Nuun, especially since it was 7.6 miles back to this aid station (which was both Aid 3/4). I asked for Clif Shot but my hands were so cold, I couldn't open it. Krissy grabbed it, ripped it open with her teeth and handed it too me saying, "see thats how much love you!" It was a nice boost to see her.

I headed along the ridgeline with a pack of guys making my way over the technical landscape which rolls, dips and dives. I clipped along comfortably, though still pushing the pace as much as I could. I knew that the next woman could be right behind me, especially since there were some very fast ladies in the field. Somewhere along the ridge which offered no view today except that of dull gray clouds, Jason realizes he's made a huge error in judgement and starts fading. I run with a pack of 3-4 guys and finally made it off the ridge and to the lost lake trail. Let the shoe sucking mud begin. The trail is so muddy in parts that even the "clear" path still puts you ankle deep in mud. I am feeling strong still and make my way up a gentle grade towards the trail sign that use to have the dictionary on it. I was very sad to see two weeks ago that the dictionary that has been sitting on that trail sign was gone. Who steals a dictionary which is a mini-icon like that? Along the trail I see Doug M, former RD for the race and he says that at Aid 3, I was about 2 minutes up on the next woman. I knew I would be strong in the final 10 miles, but had to survive Chinscraper first. I told myself that if I could get over Chinscraper without being caught than I would be hard to catch. But knowing she was only 2 minutes back lit a fire under my ass and I flew down the hill towards the Chinscraper turn off. I took my S Caps, aspirin, caffeine and maca and drank some more Nuun. As I went down the hill I registered a sharp blister pain in my foot and went about stomping on it as hard as I could to pop it. The pain dissipated once I successfully popped it.Its 1 mile to the top of the hill and I powered up as fast as I could, which translated as a fast walk and jog on the flatter parts. I caught up to Lurker and another fellow. Lurker lamented that he didn't know what was wrong with his legs and that he usually felt way better on this hill. I fell in behind him and the other guy and made my way slowly to the top, glancing over my shoulder at every switchback, but seeing no one coming. Finally, I see a volunteer/fan directing us to the left and I squeal with delight, "we're at the top!?!", I run around the corner and Glenn is there taking pictures and cheering me on. I bound into the top parking lot where there are many fans congregated, cheering. I do a fist pumping, leg kicking, "I am over the top" dance as I run, saying "Yes, I am done with the hill!". The two guys who were ahead of me didn't seem to have anything to speed up with, so I kicked into next gear and apologized for powering ahead of them right before an aid station but I was on a mission. I flew into Aid 3/4 got more Nuun for the duration of the race and took off down Cleator Road. I had under 10 miles to go and my legs were feeling pretty strong. There was a nice 3+ miles downhill. I came running down Cleator and was nearing the sharp left off the road when I hear my name being cheered. I recognize James and wait.....Alison? Whats she doing there, shouldn't she be running? I hoped it wasn't her hamstring. They cheer wildly for me and I feel uplifted by seeing them. Part of me also say, if its not her behind me, who is it? Helps push me a bit. I make it down to the aid station and without breaking stride go right through and back on to Interurban for the 6.3 back to the finish.

Yeah I made it to the top of Chinscraper (photo by Glenn)

Finishing strong with Todd (photo by Krissy)

I had been about 10-15 yards behind a guy all the way down the hill and we were now running together, no one in sight either direction as far as the eye could see. We chat a bit, introduce ourselves and decide that the most mutually beneficial thing to do is to run together. Despite him expressing that his legs were not feeling great, we were able to keep an excellent pace. I am sure he thought I was a bit of a loon since I was chattering intermittently at a million miles a hour and was nutty like I get at that point. It is excitement and exhaustion all rolled into one. I ate another Gu not out of needing the calories, but wanting the caffeine. Chia had kept me hydrated and fueled, so I needed only 3 Gus for the race (really needing only 2). The Interurban is definitely not fun on the way back, but I was getting more and more excited to be done! Todd, my pace buddy was running his first 50k, but was a long time adventure racer. I apologized for being too chatty, but he said that he appreciated the company and that I was enabling him to keep going. We finally got into the more residential area and he said, just so you know, I am not going to try and take off at the end. I said, I usually push in through the finish but that I think it was appropriate that we finish together since we had helped each other. After about 3 different, "its just around the corner"s, we finally crossed up and over into the park and the finish line came into sight. They announced our names as we pushed through the final 50ms (mine correctly, his not). I had run the final 10 miles in 1:15 and finished the race in 4:40:29. Krissy was there to congratulate me, as were Alison and Alexa (my new best friend). Krissy told me that my time was great especially with the amount of mud we were facing. I felt great and couldn't stop smiling. I was also very excited because I was "test running" my new Inov-8 Roclite 295s and absolutely loved them. Flexible through the foot, wide in the toe box for my flipper feet! Love them!

After the race, I hung out with Alison and Alexa, who both pulled out because they weren't feeling it. I also chatted with top male/ 1st overall finisher and Inov-8 teammate Bryan Dayton. The top 5 men were within 4 minutes of each other (including fellow Inov-8/Nuun teammate Brian Morrison in 4th, behind Scott Jurek) and the top 3 woman were within 5 minutes, with the 2nd and 3rd coming in 4 and 5 minutes behind me respectively. What a great race. After a bit of mingling, I hoped into my car and headed back home. It was a very validating race and my doubts and fears about my training, fitness and abilities lifted off my shoulders. I hadn't realized it before the race, but upon talking to my mother after the race, it registered: I was running happy for the first time in a long time. Despite the doubts I went into the race with, deep down inside and more fundamentally my funk, my despair were gone, replaced with hope, happiness and deeply abiding peace.

It doesn't get much better than that. New job, great race, time spend with great friends. They say good things come in threes, so who knows...maybe I haven't seen the end of my luck just yet!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Changing of the Guard

Its funny how the seasons can seem to just change overnight. I have noticed (and appreciated) the edge of spring that has been slipping in between the seams of the day: a warming sun, a hint of blossoms on the wind, glistening afternoon sky. I've felt it too in my taste and appetite. Where the last few months have been all about warming foods and dense grains, seemingly my appetite has switch to lighter fare. Instead of wanting cereal and nut butter in the morning, I want smoothies and fruit. For lunch, I want salads and wraps instead of cooked foods. Even for dinner, my vegetable preparation has changed. Instead of wanting roasted vegetables, I have moved on to wanting lightly steamed vegetables. I actually realized that there is a distinctive cooking style that correlates to each season for me. In the winter, roasting. In the spring, steaming. In the summer, raw. In the fall, sauteing.

Chickpeas Romesco and Saffron Garlic Rice
Needlesstosay, what better reason than the changing of the seasons than to try new foods! With that in mind yesterday (and after a conversation with a group of ladies about different ways to make beans and rice), I looked through several cookbooks and finally settled on Chickpeas Romesco and Saffron Garlic Rice, from (you guessed it) Veganomicon. I also prepared a steamed vegetable medley with Earth Balance Vegan Spread. As sad as I am to see Brussel Sprouts on their way out, I am quite pleased to see Organic Asparagus available and finally having some great flavor. So I threw in some Brussel Sprouts, Asparagus, Purple Carrots, and Broccoli, steamed it for several minutes until tender crunchy, drained and then topped with Earth Balance. Earth Balance has a great buttery flavor and is very heart healthy. A bit of salt and pepper and I was set!

The Chickpeas Romesco and Saffron Garlic Rice were excellent. The Chickpeas Romesco takes the more classic flavors of Romesco Sauce (such as the sauce I used to top fish and asparagus with) and uses it in an unusual way. The sauce incorporates fire roasted tomatoes, peppers, almonds, onions, serrano pepper, chickpeas and garlic, slow simmered. The Saffron Garlic Rice was creamy and smooth. Saffron is an excellent spice, but definitely not something you can use on a regular basis as it is quite expensive. The garlic in this recipe also stands out and offers a boldness not usual in rice. The Chickpeas offer a nice meaty texture that is complemented by the Romesco sauce. The combination of the Chickpeas and Rice have so many layers of flavor, it will absolutely delight you!
Chickpeas Romesco with Saffron Garlic Rice & Roast Portabello Mushrooms

Steamed Vegetables with Earth Balance

Steamed Vegetables with Earth Balance

Saffron Garlic Rice

1 3/4 cup water
1 vegan vegetable bouillon cube
Pinch of saffron threads (5-6)
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced finely
1 small yellow onion, diced finely
1 cup long-grain brown rice, such as jasmine, rinsed and drained
Pinch of ground coriander
Salt and ground pepper
extra mushroom broth

In a medium-size saucepan boil the water, add the bouillon cube, and stir until the cube has dissolved. Turn off the heat, add the saffron threads, and stir. Cover and set aside until ready to use.

Preheat a medium-size pot over medium heat. Saute the garlic in oil until it has softened and is just starting to turn golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the onion and continue to saute until the onion turns translucent, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the rice and stir to combine. Saute the rice for about 1 minute. Pour in the warm vegetable broth and stir in the coriander. Cover and bring to a boil, stir the rice just once and lower the heat to low. Cover and let the rice simmer for 40 to 45 minutes, adding more broth if it gets to dry and not yet cooked. Cook until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender. Remove from the heat and allow the rice to stand for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork, season with salt and ground pepper if desired.

Chickpeas Romesco

1/3 cup slice almonds
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes (fire roasted are especially good here)
2 roasted red bell peppers, homemade or store bought
3 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced finely
2 shallots, minced finely
1 red serrano chili, seeded and minced
1/4 cup white wine or vegetable broth
2 tsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp evaporated cane juice
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried rosemary, crumbled
2 (15 oz) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 tsp salt, to taste

Using a food processor grind the almonds into a very fine, almost powdery crumbs. Empty into a small bowl and set aside.

Working in two or more batches, puree the tomatoes and roast peppers together until smooth. Pour the tomato mixture into a large bowl and set aside.

Preheat a medium size heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Saute the garlic, shallots and chiles in oil until the shallots are turning golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Pour in the white wine (I used broth) and stir to dissolve any browned bits of garlic from the bottom of the pot; simmer for 1 minute. Add the tomato puree, vinegar, sugar, thyme and rosemary. Turn the heat to medium high and bring to a near boil. Lower the heat to medium low and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the ground almonds and stir the mixture until they are completely combined. Fold in the chickpeas and simmer, uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes, until the sauce is slightly reduced and the chickpeas are very tender. Remove from the heat, season with salt and pepper and allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.


A lunchy bite

For some reason for the last week plus, there has been an absolute absence of gluten free tortillas in every grocery and co-op. It has been strange. I could have gone for a corn tortilla, but try to stay away from them, especially when I want to make a wrap. Finally, today there were Rice Tortillas at PCC. I grabbed two packs and headed home. Gluten free tortillas are generally disappointing because they don't hold together when wrapped, but I have to do what I can. Once home, I made a egg, avocado and roast pepper wrap with garlic sauce as well as a light salad with mixed greens, sprouts, tomato, green onion and a homemade balsamic Dijon dressing. Once I cooked the eggs up, I put everything in the wrap and then pressed/toasted it with my cast iron panini press. It fell apart a little bit, but was just delicious! The salad was light but filling all the same.

Watch and learn

Two things I am excited about currently: Top Chef and Run Fatboy Run. I don't usually get attached to tv shows (last 2 years I had to go over to a friends house to watch tv as I didn't even own one), but I am all about Top Chef. It is a great show on Bravo and the new season starts tomorrow night at 10pm on Bravo. The chefs are amazing and it just inspires me to get in the kitchen and keep on learning.

Run Fatboy Run is a new movie coming out on the 28th of March. I have long awaited a new Simon Pegg film, as I know many of my London family has. We all watch Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz over and over again (as well as play drinking games to it) and this new movie is sure to be another great one. Not only does it have Simon Pegg in it, but its about running a marathon, with a dash of romantic comedy. Whats not to love?

Friday, March 7, 2008

Peanut Butter as a metaphor

I had a realization yesterday that peanut butter is the perfect metaphor. Not peanut butter just sitting there in the jar, but the consumption of peanut butter by me. I stopped eating peanut butter and made the jump over to its much sweeter cousin almond butter about a year ago and except for the occasional Thai food or even more rare gluten free peanut butter cookie, I have avoided peanut butter. I stopped eating peanut butter once I learned that it was irradiated and also contained a harmful carcinogen, aflatoxins (which are found in other foods as well, and peanut butter contains less than just plain peanuts). Furthermore, almond butter contains a better fatty acid profile. It was a tough switch at first, but then I came to prefer the taste of almond butter and haven't looked back since.

Until that is, I bought a jar of Organic Maranatha Peanut Butter to use in my chile chocolate mole sauce. I figured since the amount in the recipe was significant enough that swapping would change the flavor but small enough that I wouldn't be taking in too many bits of the bad stuff. I mixed it in the recipe and decided to take a little taste of straight up peanut butter. I tasted it and at first nibble it tasted like Tahini to me, very not sweet. But I nibbled a bit more and suddenly my mouth was filled with the familiar taste sensation of a rich peanuty flavor. Yum and uh oh. I had told myself that a little bit (i.e. the recipe amount) of the "bad" stuff was fine, but as the exception rather than the rule. But suddenly, it was all I wanted. And this gave me a great deal of conflict. Do the benefits outweigh the drawbacks?

You have to understand that while many of you have the luxury of not having anxiety about the nature of your food and its health benefits, I slipped and fell down a slippery slope from which, despite my best efforts I have not been able to clamor out of. It began when I went into my holistic natural chef program at Bauman College. I do not think that the process that went on in my brain is what happens to everyone when exposed to the type of information I was. We learned all about the types of foods we should eat and the things we should avoid. I was already a really healthy eater but learning about radiation in your peanuts, mercury in your fish, the dangers of processed food, phyto-estrogens in soy, chemicals (among other things) in your meat, the way homogenized milk permeates the digestive wall, etc profoundly affected me. When we first learned these things, I had not yet learned all the ways to incorporate and keep variety in the good healthy foods I was wanting to eat. For the first month and a half, I would go into a grocery store and wander around for 30 minutes, reading labels and putting things back on the shelf, paralyzed, not able to find anything I wanted to eat. It was not a nice way to feel, but eventually as I learned more I was able to navigate the space and still find plenty to eat without delving back into those foods that were not good for me/things I no longer accepted as food I would consume. Unfortunately, what remained was a warped sense of what healthy eating was and "being bad" was.

A few years ago, when I lived in London, despite loving a salad, I still pretty much ate whatever came my way. I had a healthy appetite and enjoyed a moderately healthier version of the S.A.D. (Standard American Diet). As my running increased, so did my bodies demands for pure clean healthy food. I got into cooking and I began to be much more discerning, I became a foodie. Over the course of three years, I found what worked for me and made me feel good. Once, I started my program, I went to the next level of this and incorporated new things, or moreso, eliminated more things. I felt an amazing boost in my energy, mental clarity, running and general health. I shed a bunch of weight. I found out I was gluten intolerant and later soy intolerant and that explained some of my digestive woes. At long last, I had a laundry list of what I would and wouldn't eat. I became "that" girl at restaurants who has to ask for special considerations and what is in every dish. I definitely didn't/don't mind it because I am giving my body good clean healthy fuel. The things I gave up, I didn't desire anymore. I had broken my addiction to them. I never looked at a cheeseburger or slice of pizza and said, oh I really want that. I had transitioned from not knowing what to do or eat (as in the beginning) to knowing exactly how to find something I could eat no matter where I went and not compromise my food values. I found it interesting though that instead of leveling off and just cruising along, the anxiety I felt those first days in the grocery, pushed harder and made me feel like, well if you feel this good eating this, then.... even though there was pretty much absolutely nothing in my diet that really could even be argued as a vice or indulgence, but my brain would not rest. Every time something tasted too good, my brain would try to chime in that I must (if something tasted so good) be eating something bad. Now, I know that is ridiculous. Despite having conflicting feeling, I also have strong logic. I am able to compare my list of food values and am able to pull myself away from that edge. But it is intensely frustrating. Have you ever felt conflicted over drinking a cup of coffee? Or eating a gluten free, vegan, alternative sweetener scone? Probably not. But that is what my brain does. I don't eat meat or dairy, soy, gluten, corn (when I can avoid it), refined sugar, processed foods, sweets or snacks, vegetable oils (canola), coffee or alcohol. I only recently started eating (again) cage-free organic hormone free eggs and wild line caught fish (and only a few times a week). Over December, I thought about it and determined that I could actually remember the last actually "bad" (and still not that bad) thing I had eaten during the year, some Peanut M&Ms after my WC100k. It is ridiculous that I was able to even determine that or know that. I am well aware this is not a normal thought process. The best way to be healthy (including having optimal digestive health) is to have positive thoughts and beliefs attached to the good foods you eat. You do your best to eat a healthy diet and don't beat yourself up when you slip up. I am trying to learn how to not beat myself up and abide by the prevailing thought that you don't have to be 100% pure and perfect all of the time. Not only do you not HAVE to be, its damn near impossible. You have to live your life and as I ponder a jar of peanut butter and feel the conflict welling up inside me, I have to remind myself that its peanut butter not a cigarette, its not even a double cheeseburger. And even those things in moderation aren't inherently bad, its the habit that is bad. It is when those things are the norm. My screwy mind fails to give me credit for the fact that even my deviations are healthier than 99% of what others eat.

I took another nibble of the peanut butter, fearing not some invisible toxin or other ill that may or may not exist in an otherwise perfect running food (fats are a runner absolute must have!), I realized that I had a lot to learn and that my foremost concern was relinquishing some control and letting go of a pursuit of perfection that could never be obtained. I realized with each bite that, look, I am still alive, still healthy, still ok and that the anxiety not the good/bad food was what was more damaging to my health than anything. The underlying issue is what needs to be discovered and addressed. It may not mean that the anxiety goes away immediately but it goes a long way in helping me get on the right track and break out of my funk. The healthy way I eat is not in danger of changing back to my old ways and consciously choosing on occasion to include a few things on the periphery of my list, is not only ok, but a meditation in breaking out of very negative thoughts and overcoming the neurotic mind.

What it comes down to in the end with all things, whether it is food, running, working, loving, living, existing is that you do what you can, you try your best and you let the rest of it go. Stewing, fretting and guilt over your failings ultimately serves no productive purpose and can only be of further detriment. So I for one will eat my peanut butter and sip my occasional almond milk latte with a clear heart and mind, having learned the peace I have found with those (and other) choices is the best possible thing in the world I could do for my health, spirit and being.

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