Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Holy Six Pack

And not the beer kind. The kind that is forming on my abdomen! I have never, ever had abs like these, and truthfully, it wasn't that hard. I mean, yes, the 30 Day Shred is effing ridiculous (and this is coming from someone who took about two months to do 30 days of workouts), but the actual ab exercises were never so impossible that I utterly failed. And now, 9 days into the last 10 days of the workout dvd, I can honestly say, I have the shadowy beginnings of a six pack. I also can't believe that tomorrow will mean I have done Level 3 for ten days (in a total of 15 days - but that included Christmas vacation!). While my last post was pretty much a load of kvetching about how hard it was, nine days later, it's definitely doable. I feel pretty kick-ass getting through the whole workout without needing to modify any of the moves. The last set of cardio includes two moves that originally were so hard I could barely do the modified versions - jump squats and rock star jumps. Now I blaze through them, apologizing in my mind to my downstairs neighbors who must think that for twenty minutes every night, someone is either having extremely vigorous sex or a domestic dispute, minus the shouting.

In other updates: the old apartment, you know, the one we're paying rent on even though we moved into our cheaper apartment to save money (don't worry, I know the irony is just killing all of you) - might actually be leased to someone new soon! They are applying, and have a guarantor, so things are looking good... That apartment (and its astronomical rent that we're still paying) aside, I recalculated and found that I am now spending only twenty-six percent of my income on rent, as opposed to the previous forty percent. This leaves me with much more of my earnings to go towards my small school loan (credit card bill is paid off!) and into my savings.

Last update: Christmas was wonderful this year, full of family, snow, and many unsuccessful attempts to control Rupert in a house full of cats to chase and tall people who kept picking him up. I received some wonderful gifts, including two cookbooks (one vegetarian, the other vegan) which I can't wait to delve into, as well as a book on urban gardening so that I'll be able to figure out how to grow my herbs even without a terrace. Add to that the fabulously exciting immersion blender from one of my brothers, and you'll have to agree that I definitely lucked out with gifts this year.

Also, check out the new pages at the top of the blog under the title. Happy New Year everyone!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Death by Jillian Michaels

So, it turns out...Level 3 is FUCKING HARD. And by that I mean, panting, gasping, sweat-pouring, incapable-of-doing-any-set-completely HARD. I did it for the first time on Thursday, had to take Friday off because everything hurt (including my ribs...inexplicably), and then Alix and I did it together this morning. Alix would like me to point out that she jumped from not working out for at least two weeks to doing Level 3, and she did indeed - as Jillian Michaels instructs us to do - want to die. Let's hope upping the routine brings off those few pounds I gained during our lazy two weeks off. Aside from weight changes, I can definitely see some muscle definition. My abs and arms are stronger and more defined - now to just get the top layer of fat on top off so you can see them and I'll be all set. Next in the series of improved health is either to 1) redo 30 Day Shred for 30 days straight - no breaks, whatsoever, or 2) start Cardio Max dvd (also from the Biggest Loser trainers) which is a 6 week program that includes longer workouts. I'm worried about trying to fit longer workouts into my 14 hour workdays, but we'll do the best we can. Stay tuned for some after-pictures in a few weeks!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Risky Business

Today was an epic day. I. Invented. A. Recipe. This is a big deal. As adept as I may have felt in the kitchen before now, it was always as a result of my faith in the trustworthiness of recipes. I followed them to the letter, and most of the time, I liked the results. But lately, as I've been cooking more and cooking healthier, there have been times where I'll come across a recipe and think, "Hmm, that sounds decent, but adding *blank* or removing *blank* or substituting *blank* for *blank* might make it even better!" The results of my additions and alterations were also generally good and all of this confidence-building led up to tonight, where I decided to make something to go with some leftover polenta.

(Side note: When I was in college, I tasted polenta for the first time and thought it was disgusting. Then, a few weeks ago at the bakery, one of the owners made us polenta for lunch. I originally turned my nose up at it, explaining my hatred for it, only to be cajoled into trying it and discovered that polenta is by no means disgusting, it is FREAKING DELICIOUS. Which then inspired me to make my own polenta, so I pulled out my trusty vegan cookbook and found a recipe for Pesto-Infused Polenta with Portobellos. Then I made that, adding my own flare of balsamic vinegar to the cooking mushrooms and we ended up with a meal of pesto polenta with garlickly, vinegary, tender mushrooms to heap on top. The only hiccup to that meal was that because the floor of our apartment slants, the stove is also slanted, and two of the polenta slices slid off the cookie sheet in the oven, falling through the grates and onto the flaming gas. They were recovered, slightly mangled, but still edible. We ate all the mushrooms that night and so I had some leftover polenta to deal with.)

So we've had a 28 oz can of whole stewed tomatoes with basil in the cupboard for over a year. Because of the basil, I've never used it in a recipe - until now. I was determined. I built a dinner around the jar of freaking tomatoes. It was so easy, I can't wait to make up more recipes. First, I sauteed some garlic and onions in olive oil until the onions were soft (I love this beginning to almost any recipe, especially when there are lots of onions involved. Alix can live with my bad breath, I don't care.). Then, I cut up the tomatoes in irregular chunks and added them to the pot over low heat. I also added a can of white cannellini beans (drained and rinsed), as well as salt, pepper, oregano, and hot pepper flakes. I let it all simmer while I pan-seared the polenta with some cooking spray, and voila - dinner! I grated some parmesan cheese on top of the whole mess and the meal was enjoyed by all.

Because today was my day off, I got super industrious and made two kinds of bread. The one that was more effort, a whole wheat egg bread was less than spectacular. It tasted like dense, healthy challah, and we all know that challah is only good if it is fluffy and bad for you. The other bread was from my vegan book, and it was a quick bread that took less than ten minutes to put together, and an hour to bake. It was flavored with molasses, chopped pecans (the recipe called for walnuts, but we didn't have any), and raisins. The bread was dense, dark, not too sweet, and perfect warm from the oven. I'm so excited by all of the delicious vegan things I'm finding I can make without noticing anything "missing"! Even the dinner tonight would have been vegan if the pesto didn't contain cheese (easy enough to leave out) and we hadn't put cheese on top (also easy to leave out).

In working out news - Alix is studying for finals and so is off the hook for now. I, however, have no such excuse and so am back to the regimen. I sadly gained back the 4-5 pounds I had lost during the Thanksgiving/vacation laziness, but this is the third day in a row that I have Jillian Michaels-ed it all on my own and I'm keeping track of my food again so we'll do a weigh-in at the end of the week and see where I'm at. All in all, I had a wonderful day off. I'm finishing this blog post just in time to watch the season finale of Biggest Loser...where my bestest friend Jillian will be present, hopefully looking as desperately attractive as she always does. No, I don't have a crush on my virtual personal trainer, what are you talking about?!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Stress-Free Vacation (Mostly)

Taking the easy life for the last few days in Vermont has been wonderful. I miss my Monkey so much, but not changing diapers or having to wake up at 4 AM for an entire two weeks have made it worth it. After a flurry of packing on Monday morning (and then an unfortunate pissed off twenty minute wait for a man to come move his double-parked car so we could actually get out of NY), we finally hit the road. Rupert promptly threw up (de rigueur), but since we were stopping quickly by Alix's father's house, we were able to clean up and drive the next six hours without any more emissions. Unless you count Tucker's frequent howls as emissions, in which case, our six hour drive was full of them. We stopped in Northampton, MA as a halfway point and ate lunch at one of my favorite old college haunts, indulging in shawerma on lavash (I know, not very vegetarian of me, but I've literally been dreaming of this lunch since I left college in May). After a quick walk through campus for Rupert to do his business - this included semi-frequent fawning by current students over his excessive cuteness - we were back in the car and heading further north. The snow started about an hour later and continued, getting worse and worse until we finally arrived around 7 pm (although it felt like it was at least midnight). Exhausted, we scarfed pizza and fell into bed.

The next day, though, we were up bright and early to shovel the entire driveway - take that Jillian Michaels! I don't need to do your workout twice a day if I burn 311 calories per hour shoveling snow! We did some grocery shopping and then allowed Rupert out for his first true romp in the snow.

He LOVED it. He couldn't believe how high he had to jump to get through it (a foot of snow is practically chin-level for him) but also how fluffy and utterly romp-able this delectable white stuff is. Alix and I had a blast watching him run off-leash, for once, and having the time of his life. And then, tragedy struck. Rupert, despite having previous experience with water at my parents' house, seems to forget that it is not land and found himself unfortunately tumbled into the semi-frozen pond next to the house. We sprung into calm, efficient action: Alix waded thigh-deep into the freezing water to grab our gasping puppy while I held tightly to the back of her coat to prevent any additional swims. She passed our soaked pup to me and we ran into the house where we dried him with towels and cuddled by the fire until he crawled shamefaced off my lap to go chase the cat. Clearly a full recovery was had.

We did our Jillian Michaels last night and will do it again today, probably twice. We're still doing Level 2 since we took such a long break from working out at all. Also, we're both scared of Level 3. I think I might die doing it and that wouldn't be so fun. The plan is to do Level 2 for the rest of this week and then see how we feel about moving on to Level 3 once we are back in the big city (where there is no snow. Sad.)

As a side note, thanks for reading everyone. I love writing this, and I hope you like reading it. Hope everyone's holiday (and finals!) season is going well so far. XO

Sunday, December 5, 2010

You Wanna Wonton?

Unfortunately, the past week and a half have been fairly unsuccessful as far as the healthy eating and consistently working out goes - it started a couple of days before Thanksgiving and has slid on until now. I spent a whirlwind two days at home with my parents (requiring almost eight hours of driving each way) and Alix and I leave for Vermont tomorrow morning, with a stop in Northampton halfway through so I can weirdly reminisce about a place I loved and hated for the last four years. In the midst of all this traveling (me) and studying for finals (Alix), time has seemed to go by way too quickly. I am already halfway through my two weeks of vacation from nannying! I better make the most of these next few days in Vermont where the regimen is going back into place, big time. Get this - workouts twice a day. No reason not to, since we've no other commitments. And after eating our way through Thanksgiving and its leftovers, we sure need it.

Tonight's dinner was another adventure in my cookbook Vegan Planet. We made Ginger-Scented Vegetable Pot Stickers with a Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce. The pot stickers lived up to their name and tried hard to stick to the pot (the recipe said to use a non-stick pan but since we don't own one, we used what is apparently an extremely sticky pan, with questionable results).

As you can see, the pot stickers on the right look relatively normal. The ones in the top left, however, have been relegated to the time-out corner where they have been instructed to "think about what they've done" and ultimately wound up in the trash. But the others were pretty good! Crispy on the outside, and the tofu, cabbage, ginger, carrot, and garlic filling was delicious and didn't taste like it was "missing" anything by not having meat in it. The best part of the night, though, came as I turned around from picking up my camera to take this picture and saw Rupert licking the messed-up pot stickers (I had, stupidly, put the plate on the coffee table, directly in his line of access). I gasped, yelled a firm "DON'T!" and watched, aghast, as Rupert backed up a step, looked me in the eye and slowly, slowly opened his mouth as wide as it would go and licked his chops, all the way around. The message was clear: "Mom, I don't have to listen to you. But you do make some damn good pot stickers." I laughed so hard that the reprimand was useless. Thank goodness he only licked the messed-up ones, right?

The peanut dipping sauce was truly spectacular. Probably because we both love peanut butter, but it tasted great with the wontons and I can imagine it being delicious with any number of goodies. I love to dip my food in anything and everything (ketchup, pickle relish, ranch dressing, peanut butter, etc) and Alix is not only the opposite, but she thinks my habit is disgusting. So it's saying something that we both liked this spicy smooth cilantro-infused sauce. See here she is, modeling her joy at Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce!

In other news, while I was home, I cooked a batch of Lentil Soup with Chard and Orzo for my parents with some Whole-Grain Herb Bread on the side (both from the vegan cookbook). I do a lot of cooking when I'm home with my parents to give my mom a break from it all and also, because, well, there's not a whole lot else to do. Making bread is especially fun because I have the four hours to devote to it, no problem. As everyone knows, the best and most fun part of baking bread is the moment when you first get to punch it down. (Or maybe you didn't know that, but now you do and you should go learn how to bake bread just so you get to experience it. It's that good.)
Soup simmering, orzo cooking
Herb bread, freshly sliced
My soup and bread were well-received and it made me appreciate how much I love this cookbook for giving me vegan recipes that don't make me feel like anything is missing from them. They just taste like good food, except cruelty-free. Yay!

Lastly, in spite of this last week of overeating, I had to buy new jeans (in a smaller size) and my belt is one notch tighter. Let's see what a week of double workouts (bring it on Jillian!) will result in. Maybe this will be one holiday season that leaves me smaller than I was before it all began.