So long, 2015!

You had your time. You saw me through some new adventures – hiking a 4000 footer, trekking through Hawaii, going backstage at a Broadway show, playing my guitar in public. You held with me through fun and hard days at work, the snowiest winter ever, and a return to my favorite summer camp. You were the end of my fearless 20s and the beginning of my confident 30s. You were there as I cried over political unrest and cheered for the better future I still believe is possible. 

  

It’s been real – and I’m thrilled to see what 2016 brings! Starting with a delicious dinner at a local restaurant with one of my favorite former Bostonians and her loved ones, and then the unknown adventure ahead. 

Happy New Year!

Kitchen Adventures: Easy Vegan Banana Muffins

In this VB6 phase, oatmeal will only take me so far. So I’m always on the lookout for other delicious vegan breakfast options to carry me through the week.

This weekend I dove into a new recipe: vegan banana muffins. And they were a HUGE success. I think they might be the best muffins I’ve ever made, vegan or otherwise!

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Check out the recipe at AllRecipes – my version was modified slightly:

  • I replaced the cup of canola with 1/2 cup olive oil (because I didn’t have canola) and it gave them a great depth of flavor
  • I filled in with the other half cup of oil by just adding more coconut milk
  • I only used lite coconut milk – it’s fatty enough anyway!
  • I used 2.5 bananas (having eaten half on the way home from the gym…) – I don’t think you can have too much banana in a banana muffin!

For next time, I’m going to try to cut down on sugar, which this recipe has a lot of. Overall, this made 24 medium-to-small muffins, which is how I like them – you could easily make one dozen plus a loaf of bread if you wanted.

What’s your go-to breakfast option? Bonus points if it’s vegan and thus can make my mornings brighter!

Vegan-ish

I love food. Baking. Cooking. Eating. Seeking out the best doughnut and the tastiest quiche.

But starting in November, I’ve been trying something new in my approach to food. After years of dabbling in Weight Watchers or trying just to limit sugar / eat more veggies / cut back on cheese, I’m taking a new perspective and trying Mark Bittman’s Vegan Before 6 (aka VB6) diet / lifestyle.

My coworker Theresa turned me onto the idea, and now my mom and aunt and I have all adopted different versions of it. The basic idea is just as it sounds – eat vegan until dinner each night, and avoid processed food and white sugars / carbs when possible. Eat whatever you want for dinner (which doesn’t mean eating until you’re sick, but it does mean you can have steak and fries if that’s what’s calling your name). The basis is that vegan food is better for lots of bodies and also better for our environment, but eating is also a highly social experience and any lifestyle that doesn’t recognize that and give you soon room to adapt to it is ultimately doomed to fail.

Unlike going totally vegan, this means that you can still just as easily digest milk and meat and whatnot when you do want them – that part of cutting something out of my diet never appealed to me (if I want ice cream, I don’t want it to come with an immediate stomachache). But it also means that for 3/4 of the day, you’re eating vegetables and grains and other whole foods.

The best part: it’s super easy to stick to. Yes, it means more oatmeal. But it also means that if I really love eggs (which I DO), I just eat them for breakfast and look forward to them starring in that meal. Dinner is just as easy – you can make a delicious meal with a side of meat / cheese and then just eat it without that piece for lunch the next day (like James’s delicious black bean soup mom and I made over Thanksgiving!). And because it’s flexible by its very nature and meant to be a sustainable lifestyle rather than a plan, if you decide that brunch is your non-vegan meal of the day or find that you need to make some swaps based on business travel restrictions (see last post), you don’t have to feel guilty, as some other tracking programs would have you do.

Mark Bittman said that when he moved to this model, it changed his perspective on life – he stopped just writing recipes and started writing more about food policy and production. And I can see it. By changing how I look at cooking and eating and dining out, it makes me want to focus on other, more interesting parts of my life – my guitar! Exploring new neighborhoods! Calling my friends who don’t live in Boston when I would otherwise be slaving over the stove!

It’s also opened my eyes up to how hard true vegans and vegetarians have it in mainstream food options. I was at the airport, looking for a healthy snack to take on the plane, and my only options were nuts or bananas. Not even an apple to be seen, or anything that wasn’t yogurt-based or a baked pastry. Or the time that we ordered pho and all the broth was chicken-based, or when wanting no egg in my pad thai meant that I couldn’t have any of the dozen lunch specials. It makes me want to cheer on people who serve almond milk along with the soy, or who offer tofu scrambles as an alternative to other breakfast items.

After doing this for a month, I feel better, lighter, and more free when it comes to what I eat, despite this new restriction. It makes me think – what do I really WANT now? That’s led to me leaving Bloody Marys sitting on the bar when it wasn’t the right thing for me, or spending more money to get two small vegetarian sides as a meal because nothing else was clicking.

Stay tuned for more vegan recipes ahead and other culinary adventures. If you have any awesome suggestions for vegan meals, please send them my way! And if you thought you could never be vegan, just wait until you hear about the muffins I made yesterday!

DC in 48 hours and 4 photos

My 48 hour business trip to DC, in four photos:

1. Business lady special breakfast. Aka left my hotel and took my laptop over to a fancy coffee shop near my client’s office, where I got an almond latte and a fresh-from-the-oven butterkuchen – perfect fuel for the five hours of meetings ahead.  
2. Chinatown by night, after a delicious and sweet dinner with a client (hi Laurie!) and coworkers. We’re all so rarely in the same place, it’s great to get together to hatch new ideas in person and toast to all our hard work in 2015.


3. Pearl Harbor anniversary wreaths at the World War II memorial on the National Mall. All the flowers were fresh from the service a few days earlier. I paused from my run to stroll and reflect, especially about my granddaddy, a Pearl Harbor survivor who never even got to see this memorial come into existence.


4. The view on my run up to the Lincoln Memorial. Even on these whirlwind trips, I try to get in one touristy or location-specific thing. On my last day, I took the metro down to the White House, ran on the mall, and took a taxi back to the hotel to get ready for work. It was glorious to be able to visit Lincoln with almost no one else there – the one Chinese family who let me take the photo so they could all be in it, the monument worker polishing the floor beneath the Gettysburg Address.


And that’s all in addition to the great food, the team karaoke competition that my friends ROCKED, the dozens of funny and useful conversations with my coworkers.

DC, you’re Definitely Cool. Looking forward to more adventures when I head back… next week!