March Meals, Running Plans, and Smoothies.

This month has gone by in a flash. I think that's what happens when you're writing your dissertation proposal. A little scene like this has played a few times in my head:

[looking at the calendar] "What day is it? The __? Already?! But I'm supposed to have this proposal done in another month or two! HOW CAN THE CLOCK BE MOVING SO FAST??!!! AGHHHHH!!!!!!"

It'll get done. Little by little.

Anywho. Here are a couple of delicious foods we've eaten this month.

Southwestern Pizza
, found on Kira's blog, Cook-Pray-Love.

This is the first Mexican pizza I've made, and we were both really happy with it! Avocado+Greek yogurt+lime juice = happiness. It was perfect for some of the unseasonably warm weather we've been having. I love the mashed black beans as a sort of base instead of a sauce. To make this vegan, I'd omit the cheese (duh) and just mash avocado with lime juice for the topping. It reheats well! This will definitely be on the menu again soon.

Chickpea Picatta from the Post Punk Kitchen

John and I both loved this recipe. It's really easy, especially if you already have some bread crumbs on hand. The sauce just takes a few minutes to make, and the aroma had both of us drooling while we waited for it to finish. I took Isa's suggestion and made mashed potatoes. You can't see the under the chickpeas and greens, but they're perfect. We also served this over a portobella, which I loved, but John felt was just unnecessary.

In non-food-related news, I decided that THIS YEAR IS GOING TO BE THE YEAR.

I registered for the Fort4Fitness Half Marathon in Fort Wayne, IN. It's on September 29, 2012, so that gives me lots of time to get ready in what are debatably London's best running months of the year. Seriously, running in the summer here is designed for people like me who are a) students and b) too lazy to get up early. You can run in the afternoon here in the summer.

I digress. The half! I'm excited and nervous. My official training for it won't start until May, since I'm running the 10k at the Forest City Road Races on April 29th. That's a goal race for me, in my efforts to beat a 60:00 10K time. But I'm increasing my long runs to help train for that, so I should be in good shape to get ready for the half marathon.

Running the race in Fort Wayne is strategic. Besides just the weather, Fort Wayne is a fairly flat place (just like London). I'll get to run past mostly places I know, and the finish line is on the home plate of the relatively new baseball stadium in downtown. I feel like I need to prepare mentally more than anything, and I hope to write about that process here.

Slight subject change (no attempt at a transition here).
For me, one of the best ways to get motivated to run is to read about running. It's part of what I love about Runner's World and the may running-related blogs I follow. After Kira wrote about having read some running books, I decided to check out Born to Run from the library.

I'm about fifty pages or so into the book, and I'll just say that this story is way more complicated and interesting than I expected. Drug cartels. Ghost stories. Impossible terrain. Cultural traditions. Chia seeds. And running. I'm really enjoying it so far! Only some of the story is focused on the Tarahumara tribe and their running. The stories about other crazy trail runs in Colorado entertain me just as well, and hearing about other people's running experience gives me the itch to get out on the running path. It's great motivation.

But you don't have take my word for it
! It's on Amazon, of course, and (probably) at your local library.

And finally, this week one of my favorite health and fitness bloggers, Peanut Butter Runner, invited her to take part in a 7-day Green Smoothie Challenge, and I decided to join. On her site, you can see a list of readers and bloggers who are participating.

Day 1: check. You can see my collection of ingredients in that picture: spinach, almond milk, frozen banana (in tupperware), and frozen strawberries. Tomorrow's will be slightly different in that I've bought some hemp protein powder to experiments with. I have two different kinds of hemp powder so far, and I plan on writing a similar post about them. We'll see how well they blend into the taste. No matter what I put in those green smoothies, I find that the peanut butter/banana combo dominates. Just how I like it. I plan on trying a few variations on the usual recipe.

Here's to March somehow also going out like a lamb!



Last week I got to go to L.A. to present at a conference. During the trip - subtitled "Random Girls Weekend in the Desert" - I got to spend time with some of my favorite people, like my brother Andrew and my good friend, Sargibso.

Obviously, I took about 5 pictures to commemorate my travels.

2 of the five pictures were of Zorro, Andrew's dog. Surprise!

Instead of tons of picture of sunny Santa Monica, here are some highlights!

- This was the sixth trip I've taken to L.A. since my brother moved there in '94 to go to film school at USC. And I finally had my first celebrity citing! Nothing too life changing. We went to a restaurant called Rustic Canyon and saw Michael Keaton at the bar. Andrew asked if I knew who he was (a fair question, I've only seen about 12 movies in all my life), and I said, "Of course! He's Batman! And Beetlejuice!" At that point Andrew told me to stop looking at him, so as not to be obvious. Michael K. looked good for his age, but older than I picture him.

- I went on two pretty memorable runs while on the trip. The first was during my day alone in Andrew's neighborhood in Santa Monica. Since his house is only about a half mile from the ocean (!), I started there and ran 6 miles total along the ocean-front path, including a brief stint in Santa Monica Pier. To my right were trendy, cool houses, to my left was the ocean, and dead ahead I had a great view of the mountains.
The second run was more impromptu. I left on Sunday morning from Sargibso's apartment, in a totally different part of town than where Andrew lives. From his house, it's hard to get lost, since the ocean is a good mark of where you are (duh, on the land). But from Sarah's, all I had was a giant mall (The Grove), and my mental image of the route she and I mapped. Unfortunately, my 3-mile route turned into a 5.35 mile exercise in suppressing fear, since one of the key turns did not make it into my list of directions. I managed not to panic, though, and got directions from a dude at a Von's grocery store.
Related side note: for some traveling entertainment, I bought the Kindle version of Mindy Kaling's book, Is Everybody Hanging Out Without Me?, which I would totally recommend. Near the end of the book, Mindy reveals that she lives in a Spanish style house near the Grove - Sargibso's neighborhood! In my 10-block hike up Sarah's street (after getting directions and figuring out that I was a mile out of the way), I may have passed her house! Very exciting. Maybe even more exciting than seeing Beetlejuice.

- The real reason I got to go to California was to present a paper on George Crumb at the Frederick Loewe Symposium on American Music, at the University of Redlands. It was a productive little conference of 5 papers by grad students and 1 young scholar, followed by a keynote by Larry Starr. We had a modest panel discussion at the end of the day, and the topic was something like this, "Analysis: what's the point?" My favorite topic!
Sargibso agreed to go with me to Redlands, and we stayed for the night at the Dynasty Suites, a perfectly nice motel with a few oddities inside. Sarah kept referencing an episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia where Frank recounts the story of a bar he once owned called "Shadynasty," (terrible youtube clip, but it's the only one I can find and you get the point) pronounced either sha'Dynasty or Shady-Nasty. What with the fake fire place in the entertainment center, or the torso-level mirror in the shower,* you can guess which one we used to describe our lodgings. But it was fine, for what it was. Sarah and I bought cheap wine and bridal magazines at CVS and then settled in to Shadynasty for the evening.

- The night after we returned to L.A. from Redlands, I went with Sargibso and her boyfriend, Aaron, to a vegetarian restaurant named Hugo's in West Hollywood. Hugo's had a HUGE menu, or so it seemed, since I'm used to picking the one veg thing on the menu and calling it a day. I ended up choosing the vegetarian club sandwich, with tofu, guac, and fake bacon,** and it was delicious - though not better than the AMAZING lentil soup with carmelized onions. I need to recreate that.

- The only other restaurant whose name I wrote down was Zengo, where I had brunch with Andrew, his wife Nora, and some of her family. It was a belated birthday brunch for Nora and her brother, David, and the food was tapas style. Of course, they had several delicious vegetarian items, like the veg omelette, the veg benedict, and veg sushi with a tasty sauce. I loved having so much choice! It's a wonder that I did not eat my weight in brunch food. The hilarious - and best*** - thing about brunch at Zengo is the DJ. Oh yes. They can't just play an ipod or internet radio. They had an actual DJ for brunch. Andrew leaned over and said he expected to hear a record scratch, followed by, "This is BRUNCH, muthafuckas!"

- Andrew and I got to take a walk around Santa Monica the day before I left, where he graciously bought me beer at bars on Main St. The weather was perfect for my entire visit, and it was great to do something relaxing and mundane with my brother, who I rarely get to see.

- Sarah had some errands to run at USC the day we left for Redlands, so I chilled in the main library and (theory nerd alert!) read Thomas Christensen's edited book of papers presented at a conference on early tonality (two thumbs up, if you're interested). Andrew pointed out to me that the inside of the main USC library has been in several movies, like - wait for it -


It has an impressive painted ceiling, and when I walked in, I immediately thought, "Wow!...Private school." And then I pictured Andrew, Nora, Mike, Heather, and the other folks I know who have gone to USC, studying for their undergrad classes there.

It was a great trip! All this is to say, I wish I lived closer to California.

The view from basically every spot on the Redlands campus.

*"The mirror I never knew I always wanted."
**or, "fakon."


February in Food

Our kitchen didn't produce a high number of outstanding meals in February. Being busy meant turning to old stand-bys and only making a few adventurous dinners. But here are some recipes that stand out.

Black Bean Cakes with Corn Relish and Avocado Cream Sauce from Annie's Eats.

My only complaints here were that this recipe took kind of forever and it has eggs in it, so it's not properly vegan. But they were SO flavorful! And I'm glad to have made the avocado cream, which is just lime juice, mashed avocado, and greek yogurt together. Dream come true.

ndurance Crackers from OhSheGlows.

When I made these, I felt like I'd performed a magic trick! Chia seeds + water + time = glue. These are gluten free, soy free, nut free, and vegan. Just a bunch of seeds hugging each other in a delicious cracker. I think I'd add a little more salt and pepper, just because I expect a cracker to be salty. They were delicious and we'll definitely make them again. I loved taking them with some hummus for my lunch.

Quarter Pounder-Style Beet Burgers from Post Punk Kitchen

These may look and sound a little strange, but I cannot wait to make them again. We both drooled over these burgers. The texture is great, and they look disturbingly similar to ground beef! Cast iron worked perfectly to give them a little browning, and they held together better than any veggie burger I've made. This is my new favorite veggie burger by far.

Beet Bourguignon from Green Kitchen Stories.

John has a thing for the real version of this dish with the beef, and when I saw a beet version, he was ready to try it. Neither of us is big on beets, but after the burgers went so well, we figured this preparation might also be good. It's basically just a stew made with wine - what could be bad about that?
I think we both wanted to tweak this recipe slightly. It calls for 8 beets, and we felt that was too much labor and too much beet. Four would be plenty, and we would up the mushrooms. Big slices of portobello give this a meaty flavor and texture, especially when combined with the lentils. We served it over mashed potatoes. I think I would also up the herbs (more thyme, especially as a garnish) and wine (maybe 1.5 cups instead of 1, and definitely an additional splash with every re-heat). Still, we were both pleased with it and it was a delicious way to end a cold, damp day in February.

I'll leave you with two images from our trip to Bloomington a couple weeks ago. First, this onesy I saw in the window at Greetings. Excellent.

And last, John and Mark in the on-going arm wrestling battle. Even though John has built up a lot more upper body strength, he has yet to beat Mark. Ultimately, Mark has a fierce desire to win that John cannot seem to match. This month's battle took place at Nick's where we watched the IU basketball game with my mom and some other IU people. It was a great trip to Bloomington and I'm glad that we'll have more and more reasons to return there soon!