Archive for the ‘Reviews’ category

Five Fingers Debut

January 30, 2012

Over the Christmas holiday, I bought a pair of Vibram Five Fingers.

I know, I know.  I had a hard time admitting that I wanted a pair.  But, after reading Born to Run, I felt like giving my feet and legs a chance to perform more naturally could really enhance my running.  And the idea that a barefoot-like experience could help my feet naturally rebuild their arches got to me.  One of my arches collapsed when I was about 13–completely excruciating pain.  Over 20 years later, I still cannot relax enough to get a decent foot rub for fear someone will accidentally touch my arch.  And Jane once swung her little foot around and landed it right on my arch, and I almost puked.  So, yeah, if my arches could be less sucky, that would rock.

Since I have a  race coming up in March, I am leery of overdoing the Five Fingers.  I have heard that too much mileage too quickly can really trash a runner’s legs.  So, I opted just to wear them to the gym for their inaugural outing.

Now, I will freely admit that for whatever benefits they may offer, these things sure are crazy looking:

When I walked into the YMCA today, people could not stop staring.  Truly.  As I was dropping Jane off at the childcare area, a woman stopped me to ask me if I ran in those (as she pointed to my shoes).  I gave her too much credit and actually assumed she wanted a real answer.  But as soon as I said, “Well, not really…”  She jumped in with “Well, why are you wearing them then??”  Okay, Captain Combative… Do I really owe you an explanation for my footwear?  Then she proceeded to (very loudly) discuss with the woman next to her how much shoes like that cost.  Lovely.

After the initial encounter with a rather confused public regarding my choice of footwear, I made it into the gym and actually began working out in the Five Fingers.  Um… RAD.  I could feel the muscles in my feet and legs working as I went through my routine.  Heck, I could even see the muscles in my legs responding differently.  And I was comfortable.  I felt athletic… and natural, somehow.

I guess I will get used to people staring, because the Five Fingers will be making a regular appearance at the Y.  And I am hoping next week to ease them into a short run on one of my off days.  I really didn’t foresee crushing this hard on these crazy shoes.  But the three year old at the Y really got me (and the shoes)… he squatted down in front of me and petted them lovingly.  His horrified mom could barely drag him away.  And the whole way out, he kept talking about the shoes with the toes (over and over again).  Yeah, little dude, I totally know where you are coming from.

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Avoiding a Food Coma

January 23, 2012

Some out-of-town family visited recently, and one of them (who I am rather fond of), looked at me and said, “I mean… since you became a vegan, is there any food you get really excited about?  Do you ever think, ‘Oh, I can’t wait to have that?!'”

Of course, the only thing I could think of off of the top of my head was the “What’s the Dilly, Philly?” from Ethos.  It’s not that there isn’t lots of good vegan food out there.  But I don’t live in a big vegan market… so going out to eat is difficult.  Unless I am hitting up the Taco Bus, which is fast becoming one of my favorite haunts.

So, yeah… there is still food I get really excited about.  But more than that, what her question brought to the forefront is “Why would I eat food I am not excited about?”  Fortunately, only one food item in my current repertoire falls into the “not jazzed about” category:  Boca Original Vegan Burgers.  I know some folks love them… but I have to drown them in sauce to eat them.  That, my friends, is no way to live.  So, I bought these:

 

Exciting, no?  I kind of can’t wait to try them.  Lunch tomorrow, baby. It is ON!  I am even going to splurge for an out of season tomato and some decent lettuce.

Cross your fingers for me.  I really want a burger to add to my list.

So What? I’m Still a Rock Star

January 12, 2012

Amy and I got a hall pass for the night.

We haven’t been out together without Monkeybutt in months.  It sucks to ask someone to babysit in the evenings.  Jane goes to bed at 6:30.  So, basically, we are asking someone to come over and sit in our house while the baby sleeps.  And we don’t even have cable.

But tonight, a friend launched his magazine The Local Dirt.  We decided to go out and support his endeavors to raise awareness about local and sustainable foods in the Tampa area.  Amy’s folks came over to sit in our house, not play with Jane and not watch cable.  And Amy and I headed out to party it up in Ybor City.

Okay, okay.  Partying it up for me means seeing a few old friends, drinking some icy ice water and taste testing the salsa from our friend’s new salsa company.  By the way, the Mango Habanero had a lovely smoky and spicy taste.  Definitely my favorite of his offerings.

Anyway, after the par-tay, I was starving.  Just like old times leaving Ybor, except I wasn’t drunk, I wasn’t climbing into a cab, and I still remembered my home address.  But I was hungry, so we headed for the Taco Bus.  I am embarrassed to say that, after 8 years of living in Tampa, this was my first trip to the Taco Bus.  How could I have waited so long?!  It is a BUS, out of which they serve TACOS!  Brilliant!  And so very delicious.  They offer multiple vegetarian options… and they had vegan steak strips!  I ordered the tacos (flour) with vegan steak strips and all the taco veggies.  I got two.  I would happily have put back four; they were that good.  And the green salsa on the table, go for it!  It is hot, but so very tasty.

Thank goodness Amy and I got out tonight.  Turns out we both remember how to socialize a bit.  And we both still know how to scarf down food at the end of the night.  We are rock stars!   (Not really at all)

 

What Do I Spy Next to the Baby Cereal?

January 11, 2012

I am really into salsa right now.  For a while, hummus was my snack of choice; but, lately, I crave a good salsa while I am watching my daily dose of Netflix after Jane goes to bed (right now we are watching Damages–highly recommend).  What kind of salsa do I like, you ask?  Newman’s Own–either peach or pineapple.  The juxtaposition of the sweet with the hot pretty much rocks.  I enjoy my salsa so much, in fact, that I have been known to load the baby in the car and drive to Publix just to grab salsa for that night.  Yesterday, I did just that.

Last night, Amy fixed me a small bowl of salsa to go with my chips and brought it to me while I watched TV.  The bowl serves help me regulate my salsa intake, because I could likely demolish the entire jar without much fanfare.  I will definitely say that salsa was worth the drive to Publix.

Which is good, because the remaining 3/4 jar of salsa never made it into the fridge.  I found it in the pantry this morning, when I went to grab Jane’s cereal.  I take “refrigerate after opening” very seriously, so the salsa found its way to the garbage disposal.

Poor, poor little peaches that gave their all for that salsa…  And poor me, who suffered through hummus and pretzel chips tonight, all the while daydreaming about the salsa that met such a tragic end.  And poor Amy, who is going to have to hear about the premature salsa death for what very well may seem like forever.

(Psst:  Open salsa should go in the fridge.  Just sayin’.)

 

Orlando, do you like me the way I like you?

January 7, 2012

It seems as though I might be developing a crush on Orlando.  I find myself wooed by the vegan options and the adorable arts district.

Ethos Vegan Kitchen is located in Orlando’s Downtown Arts District.  I have mentioned Ethos before:  vegan comfort food.  Delicious.  I find myself almost overcome with excitement at being able to order anything in the whole restaurant without having to play 20 questions about the ingredients.  True, I always order the same thing (the What’s the Dilly, Philly?).  But I COULD order anything.  I am so enthused about this place that Amy bought me one of their shirts.  Now I can claim my veganism proudly, while advertising their rad restaurant.  Sweet.

After lunch, we trekked down to Artichoke Red Vegan Market.  The place is tiny, but they pack a lot in.  The have everything from fresh bread and some frozen meat substitute options to health & beauty type stuff and (this is the best part) candy!  Amy bought me a dark chocolate peanut butter cup.  I never really appreciated being able to walk into a store and just buy food that I wanted before I became a vegan.  But I appreciated the hell out of that vegan peanut butter cup.  And, just like Ethos, everything in the store is vegan.  No guesswork, no reading labels.  Just pick something up and enjoy it.

So, yeah, I am crushing pretty hard on Orlando and its vegan-friendly ways right now.  I have felt a little beat-up about the vegan thing lately, so I was pretty grateful for the reprieve today.  Cheers to the little things!

Cake Fail (x2)

January 6, 2012

I am a failure at baking boxed cake mixes.  A total, utter and complete failure.

In my defense, being a vegan ups the ante on the boxed cake a bit.  But not as much as my two attempts would indicate.

Many boxed  cake mixes are vegan, comprised of a whole lot of impossible to pronounce ingredients, but not of milk or eggs or butter.  The two mixes I picked left it up to the baker to add the eggs and the oil or butter (or Earth’s Balance, in my case).  Doesn’t sound too difficult, right?  Right.

The first cake I tried on Christmas night, after everything had wound down; my parents, Amy and I were kicking around, and a quick cake and coffee treat seemed in order.  The chocolate cake mix called for 3 eggs.  I decided on applesauce as my egg substitute, and dumped 3/4 of a cup into the mix.  Fast forward through the cake’s allotted bake time–it is still like batter in the center.  I left it in until the edges teetered on the threshold of overdone.  The result?  Molten cake.  Not like the cute little molten cakes that are actually baked properly and then surprise the delighted diner with a warm chocolate filling.  Nope.  The whole dang cake was the consistency of pudding.  And we ate it anyway.  My dad kept saying, “Well, it doesn’t TASTE bad…”

I approached cake #2 with grim determination (the cake mixes had been by one get one at Publix).  I mentally sorted through my limited knowledge of baking.  None of the recipes that I had baked successfully had ever used over 1/3 cup of applesauce.  And, to make pancakes, I use one teaspoon apple cider vinegar and one teaspoon of baking powder to sub for the egg.  So, since the cake called for 3 eggs, I used 1/4 cup of applesauce and 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar and 2 teaspoons of baking powder.  Sounds like a plan, right?  I KNOW.

I can’t tell you exactly how the cake turned out, because the consistency depended on where the cake was cut.  Oh, wait… you are confused?  Me, too!  One corner was moist, but crumbly.  The other corner had a consistency like brownies.  The middle was sunken in a bit and almost molten (but not quite).  Totally edible.  But totally weird.

I give up.  I will make cakes from scratch (using a recipe, of course!).  And one day my daughter will say to me, “Why don’t you ever bake cakes out of the box like Nana does?”

Muffins, Cookies & Toasties. Yum!

January 1, 2012

This holiday season I conquered my fear of baking.  In just over a week, I managed to turn out four different baked goods exceeded my expectations for awesomeness.  Let’s review, shall we?

Lemon Cranberry Muffins (Vegan Yum Yum)*:  I shied away from these muffins at first, because Amy is not a fan of lemon (I know, I know… lemon is right in the name).  But, I have never had a recipe in the Vegan Yum Yum cookbook steer me wrong.  So, I threw caution to the wind and chose these muffins as my first foray into baking.  Um… YUM!  I made them on Christmas morning (no pressure… I could just have ruined Christmas if the muffins didn’t turn out well), and true to the cookbook’s promise, they took under 30 minutes.  The only part of the recipe that was even remotely challenging was the zesting of the lemon.  Otherwise, an easy recipe that yielded muffins that tasted like I had spent hours in the kitchen.  A huge hit.  *The muffin recipe is only in the cookbook, not on the website.  But, if you are a vegan or if you are veganish, you need to purchase this cookbook.  I use it all the time.

Apple-Cinnamon Toastie (Babycakes):  This recipe is the most complicated of the three I chose for our New Year’s Day gathering of family and friends.  Even for a novice, this cookbook offers detailed recipes that take some of the trepidation out of the baking experience.  This recipe made me feel like I had mad skills, since there is a layer of cinnamony goodness that has to be swirled through the cake using a teaspoon.  Nifty.  The toastie turned out to be so delicious that I am going to overlook that I had to cook it for almost half an hour longer than the recipe called for.  Yes, I had the oven set on the right temperature.  Gah.  But seriously, I had multiple people ask for the recipe.  And these folks are total omnivores, so I got a kick out of their clamoring over a vegan toastie.  And I really like to say toastie.  Toastie.

Gingersnaps (Babycakes):  Folks scarfed these up today.  Maybe it is because gingersnaps seem like holiday cookies.  Or maybe it is because I made the cookies way bigger than the recipe called for (I have limited spatial-orientation skills), so people could say they just had one cookie and leave out the fact that it was HUGE.  But there were only a few left by the end of the party.  The recipe was easy to follow and quick to prepare.  And the cooking times on this one were accurate down to the minute.  Spicy goodness.

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies (Babycakes):  I love chocolate.  Love.  And these cookies surely didn’t disappoint on the chocolate front.  In fact, there were so many chocolate chips in the dough that they kept falling all over as I tried to spoon the dough onto the cookie sheet.  Not a bad problem to have at all.  I think these are Amy’s favorite of all the baked goods.  Can’t say that I blame her.  I haven’t had a chocolate chip cookie this good since I became a vegan–or long before that, for that matter.

And that, friends, is the Holiday Baking Extravaganza review.  Consider buying the Vegan Yum Yum and Babycakes cookbooks.  Neither will disappoint.  And they will make you look like you know what you are doing in the kitchen… but make sure to wear an apron and toss some flour about while in the process of baking.  You wouldn’t want to make it look too easy.