December 2, 2011

Workouts: November

For November, my goals were simple: run more and bike less. And I can say with confidence that I succeeded at both.

I logged 41.1 miles of running in November - much more than the 24.5 miles in October! My half marathon training is going exceptionally well - last Sunday I knocked out an amazing 7 miler, and tomorrow I'm set to do 8. My mid-week runs, I work on speed; on, Sunday long runs, though, I take it nice and slow. Focus on distance, and run at my intended race pace for practice. I'm very pleased with the splits from my last long run:

I can't say it enough, I love running long and slow. As much as I desperately want that sub-30 5k (I tried again a few weeks ago and was slow hitting the stop on my Garmin, and it turned to 30:00. Blerg! That was my closest yet!), I really love the feeling of running for over an hour. The feeling of physical health, yes, but also, intense mental clarity. With the end of my first semester here at my new university winding down, I couldn't ask for a better stress reliever.

I biked 296.9 miles in November - still quite a bit, but nothing compared to the 519.66 miles I had logged in October. I'm very happy about this because the scale still isn't moving. That might seem backwards, but hear me out - the scale didn't move with 200+ more miles logged, either. I didn't overdo it on the biking because I had to counteract huge binges. My eating in November was not ideal, but certainly better than previous months, and I'm pleased with where I'm looking to end up by the end of the year.

It's strange to think we're already at the end of the year. I'm working on a list of 2012 goals, which I'll share later this month (as soon as I finish). I'm still so in awe of all this year's changes and transitions - with weight, with location, with friends, with family. But all in all, this year has been a good one, full of hard-learned lessons and so many wonderful people and moments. Looking back on my 2011 goals, I feel incredibly pleased with my progress, and I'm looking forward to the year closing with as much passion and excitement that I had at its beginning.

What about you? How was your November? What are your goals for December? What is the best advice you've heard for surviving the holidays?

November 27, 2011

Eggplant "bacon"

Last Monday, I hosted my second dinner party since moving to California - this time, it coincided with my book club's second meeting. We discussed F. Scott Fitzgerald's "Tender is the Night" - a surprisingly tough read for me. By the end, it was better, but the first part was a struggle - I just didn't fall head-over-heels the way I did with "The Great Gatsby."

Given the story's settings in France (both the South, and Paris) and in New York, I had originally intended to prepare dinner to match the theme. Unfortunately, while the south of France is well known for seafood dishes, one of the guests is a vegan/social vegetarian (will eat eggs/dairy), so my adventures in bouillabaisse will have to wait. Since the meeting also synced up with my birthday, I decided to venture into pizza making. I love pizza, but cannot not eat it all on my own, so having six or seven other people to cook for made this the perfect opportunity.

In Chicago, before getting healthier, I'd make pizza all the time. I would hop on a couple of buses to a little Italian bakery on Grand Avenue that sold raw pizza dough by the pound (and arancini, and cannoli, and amazing non-deep dish pizza by the slice - I'd get something to munch on while waiting for my pizza to cook, of course). It was amazingly delicious, and my mouth is watering thinking about how many little things I miss about living in The City of Neighborhoods, things that are unavailable in small town California.

Since D'amato's just isn't an option right now, I decided to try and make my own crust. I used The Pioneer Woman's recipe, which was not only delicious but ridiculously easy.

The star of the pie, though, was not the crust, but the delicious smoky eggplant "bacon" I topped it with. I have seen several different recipes around on different websites, and combined the suggestions of a few of them to make these bits of crispy veggie deliciousness:

1 1 lb. eggplant, handsliced in 1/8" slices
1/4 c. low sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp. liquid smoke
olive oil cooking spray
Preheat oven to 425º. Arrange eggplant slices in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Bake for 8 minutes, then flip, respray, and bake for another 3-5 minutes or until lightly browned and a little crispy. Remove from oven and reduce heat to 350º. Combine soy sauce and liquid smoke and dip eggplant slices into the mixture, then replace them on the baking sheet. Bake for 3-5 minutes or until cooked through.

As easy as that! Crispy like bacon. Smoky like bacon. But meat-free and much lower in calories! I put them on the pizza with baby portobello mushroom slices, homemade tomato sauce, and a blend of Italian cheeses - not exactly a low calorie dinner, but better than if I had used real bacon.

Since the eggplant didn't soak up all the soy sauce/liquid smoke mixture, I saved the rest of it and tried basically the same recipe with brussels sprouts yesterday afternoon - I heated the oven to 400º, tossed a pound of halved sprouts with the leftover liquid (about half the original recipe), then arranged them split-side-down on a baking sheet I had sprayed with cooking spray. I baked them for 5 minutes, then flipped them over and baked them for 8 more.

I loved brussels sprouts before. But I think I love them even more now.

I want to investigate more into liquid smoke, and see what I can do with it - if I could use it without the soy sauce, since even low sodium soy sauce is very salty. Liquid aminos, perhaps? We'll see. Expect more good things from my kitchen soon!

What about you? What new ingredient(s) have you tried lately?