Archive for March 2011

Vegan Reuben

March 17, 2011

My poor husband!  He works long, long days—he works hard!—and he has been living in a vegan household for almost a year.  I know he misses meat sometimes, although he enthusiastically eats whatever I put on the table each night for dinner, often toting leftovers for lunch the next day.

I decided to try and make a vegan version of one of his favorite sandwiches.  I figured I would go all out and make a vegan Reuben.  A traditional Reuben is corned beef or pastrami, Thousand Island or Russian dressing, sauerkraut, and Swiss cheese all layered and melted together on rye bread, either on a grill or toasted.  I was pretty sure I could pull it off with seitan, homemade dressing, and leave out the cheese.

Seitan, made from vital wheat gluten, is also called monk’s meat or wheat meat.  Buddhist monks figured out how to make it when they were searching for something more substantial and chewier than tofu.  It’s one of the highest sources of protein for vegans, and quite versatile.  You can buy it already made, or make it yourself (much less expensive and also easy).  I use the recipe in Veganomicon and it comes out perfect every time.  I often double the recipe, as it freezes well and is then ready on short notice.

I served up the Reuben sandwich to my husband.  He said it was delicious, but didn’t really taste like the real thing.  The next day, he went out to lunch with one of his work-mates and ordered the Reuben, came home, and told me mine tasted more like the real thing than the real thing!!!  Success!  It quickly became a staple weekend lunch at our house.

Vegan Reuben

Ingredients:

1 lb. seitan, thinly sliced (about 16 slices)

canola oil for frying the seitan

4 Tbsp. ketchup

6 Tbsp. vegan mayonnaise, such as Nayonaise brand

3 Tbsp. sweet pickle relish

1 jar good sauerkraut (We have been using Eden Organic—very, very tasty.)

8 slices rye bread, or other hearty whole grain bread

Method:

Heat 2 Tbsp. canola oil in large, non-stick skillet.  Add the sliced seitan and cook over medium heat, turning occasionally, until seitan is nicely browned.  Remove pan from heat and set aside.

Make the dressing:  In a small bowl, whisk together the ketchup and vegan mayonnaise.  Stir in the relish.

Drain about 1 cup of the sauerkraut in a colander.

To grill:  Divide the seitan equally between four slices of bread.  Complete the sandwiches with four more slices of bread and place on indoor or outdoor grill, or use the good old George Foreman Grill (two sides cook at once— fast and easy) and grill until bread is toasted.  (Alternatively, toast the bread first, then layer on the seitan.)

Open the sandwiches and spread one side of the bread with the dressing.   Stack 1/4 cup of the sauerkraut on the seitan, replace the top on the sandwich.  Cut sandwiches in half and serve immediately with crispy potato chips and carrot sticks.  Serves 4.

Avatar

March 15, 2011

The original title of this post was “Gym Rat”, but since I limped almost a mile home from my run this morning, I decided to delve a bit deeper into my vocabulary and psyche and find the truth here.  What I have discovered is that it’s really about the repercussions of perfidy, with a touch of James Cameron thrown in for good measure…

I recently joined a local gym  to learn how the equipment works.   I want to help some of my personal training clients who have gym memberships; my personal trainer certification course did not include learning the functions and use of gym equipment.  If a client really loves the gym and that works for them, I need to be able to adjust their exercise prescription to accommodate what they want.   I also thought it would be a great opportunity to mix up my workouts.  After the amazing Body Combat class I attended with my friend Charlene, I realized how much I loved the way it felt to move my body so differently.  The gym I joined is very affordable and only about 10 minutes away from home.  It’s open every day from 5 am to 11 pm, and offers a few classes.  Not Body Combat, but kick-boxing, spinning, and kettle bell classes.

I learned on my first visit that I should have made an initial appointment if I wanted someone to show me around.  I also learned that the gym has a solid core of members, many of them also personal trainers.  Friendly faces greeted me as I made my way around the machine circuit, and a woman who was working out stopped to show me how to use an entire roomful of machines.  She was tiny and unbelievably strong, without a lick of judgment.  She quickly demonstrated upper body and lower body moves, then waved me on each piece to try.  She kindly adjusted the weights so I could actually perform a set of reps on each one without rupturing my muscles.

My second visit included another learning session, this time with a kind and patient man.  He took his time instructing me on equipment I had not yet tried.  He showed me how to check my form in the mirrors.  Every wall in the gym is mirrored!  I felt self-conscious and had a hard time focusing, but after a little while, I got into it and felt like Wonder Woman  after an hour.

I met one of my clients on the third visit, and was able to go through most of the gym fairly knowledgeably, planning out a program for either a fast, intense workout or a longer, more relaxed one.  We used the treadmills and the elliptical machines last, and reviewed intervals on both.  I left him jogging on a treadmill, both of us satisfied with the new plan.

I made three trips to the gym last week.  Some muscles ached a little bit, but overall I felt pretty good.  I ran before I went each time, not trusting I would get an adequate workout without it, and also because the thought of not running outside was unbearable.  I have found a couple of things I love:  a pull-up assist machine, an upright core machine, and a weighted squat machine.  All three give me the support I need to work upper body, core, and lower body in a fresh new way.

I have also found a couple of things I strongly dislike:  the elliptical and the treadmill.  One of the best aspects of running for me is the satisfaction of landing.  I was not aware of this until I used the elliptical for 15 minutes.  I felt like I was in the film Avatar.  I remembered when the avatars ran, they seemed to glide, barely touching their feet to the ground.  Each time my leg came down, it just slid behind me.  My quads seemed like they were about to explode.  I could not find a rhythm, could not find a cadence that made me feel grounded.  And that grounded feeling translates to my mind and all that I am when I run.

Another aspect of running that satisfies me is movement.  Specifically, forward movement.  The treadmill is stationary, even though I’m running.  I could not let go of the feeling of being out of control, of being about to fall.  A nasty sensation of not being in the driver’s seat (or the runner’s feet?) overwhelmed me as the belt went around and around beneath me.  I held the side handles for dear life, raising the incline to 12 to try and lose that feeling.  12 was fine, actually, since I like hills, but not really what I wanted in terms of running.  Here’s where the perfidy comes in.  To top it all off I felt guilty, as if I were cheating on my one true fitness love.  Even as my legs spun around and around the belt, I found myself fantasizing about being outdoors, feeling the air against my skin, my feet softly landing on the ground like butterfly kisses over and over again.

My running partner Sue and I went to the gym together on Sunday.  She showed me her regular upper body routine, I showed her some of the lower body machines I had learned, we did core work together, then we split.  She hopped on one of the elliptical machines while I finished a circuit I liked from last week.  I joined her for and extra 15 minutes of cardio. Right away my left quad started to twinge.  Avatar!  Avatar! I just wanted it to be over.  I wanted the real me.  Outside.

So—lots of new moves, and extra workout time.  I should be feeling pretty good.  But I miss my free weights.  I miss my living room.  I miss the plyometrics and balance work.  And although I am still running outside, I somehow sense an ugly, passionless infidelity when I am at the gym.

Now for the repercussions.

This morning I planned to run the usual six miles.  The cold spring air opened my heart and my mind; I decided to go on to Halibut Point.  I have finally figured out a loop from the street that takes me through the park and all I could think about was the view of the sea from that long dirt road, with the feel of the earth beneath my feet.  The connection between mind and body is strongest in this place.

My left quad started feeling cranky as I exited the park.  I slowed down, easing my way along the side of Granite Street.  I foolishly turned onto Curtis Street, then Stockholm, thinking that the pain would subside.  I slowed even more when I turned down Story Street, and took it easy all the way to Beach Street, skipping the lovely downhill sprint I adore.  I wanted to run home.

I made it to the bandstand by Back Beach before listening to my body and giving in.  I walked the last .8 miles home, shoving the pain and fear back down each time it rose up inside me.  I fought back tears, trying to distract myself from the throbbing ache in my thigh and the acute awareness of the short two months until the Twin Lights Half Marathon.  I hobbled through my front door, swearing my allegiance to what works for me, ready to heal and get back to training for my first half marathon out in the real world.

Leap of Faith

March 1, 2011

I registered for the Twin Lights Half Marathon last week.  I know the route.  It begins at Good Harbor Beach and follows along route 127A right through downtown Rockport to Phillip’s Ave., looping there and returning along the same route, ending back at Good Harbor.  I run much of this route almost every day.  And I have run longer than 13.1 miles many times.  Yet, since the moment I started to fill out the application online, I have felt the flutter of butterflies in my stomach.  Well, maybe not butterflies, maybe more like the pounding of elephants charging through the jungle as they are chased by a pride of lions.  Each tap of each key of my computer laid the foundation for this unlikely terror.  When I listed my emergency contacts, it was the cement between the bricks.  By the time I typed in my credit card number, I was shaking.  I was also grinning, so don’t worry too much about me although…

I am filled with doubt.  Every twinge of a muscle reminds me that I am 47 years old.  Every ache seems it might be the start of something much worse.  I wonder how many runners will be there.  I wonder if the weather will be just so—cool, dry, filtered sunlight, precisely the way I like it.  Will all my winter training pay off?  Will all those miles logged in freezing rain and snow, in motion-stopping, icy ocean winds and bitter cold darkness give me the strength I need to finish strong?  Or will I have exhausted my middle-aged self, collapsing before I reach the finish line, straggling in like either a baby or an old woman, aching, sobbing, or, worse yet, picked up by EMTs and driven through an ogling crowd?

I know.  This does not sound like me at all.  I, mighty runner of many miles, woman who can finally do pull-ups and hold plank for more minutes than I’m willing to admit, crazy weight lifter and relentless personal trainer, am never in doubt of my abilities.  I jump into everything with both feet, never looking back (or ahead!).  I have only ever participated in one race, and it was just a 10K.  Piece of cake.  I experienced no pre-race jitters and ran the whole thing like it was any other day, except for the excitement of being surrounded by dozens of other runners.  I loved it!  I even came in first in my age category.  (Oops.  Is that a humble brag?  Nope. It’s a real one!)

Any other day, it’s one foot in front of the other.  That’s pretty much how I run.  Some days rock!  The legs, the lungs, the mind—they all meld into one and I go and go and go, surprised that an hour or two have passed and I’m already strolling through my front door.  I’m sweaty, happy and standing on top of the world.  On the not so good days, I still manage to run at least six miles, even if I’m slower than usual, a little winded on the sprints, or caught up in untangling a clingy worry.  So here I am, writing this, clearly with the sole purpose of giving myself a pep talk.  Here we go:

The race isn’t until May.  There’s plenty of time to rest, cut back on the miles, the weights, and even get in a little cross-training and rest.  Hmm.  I have time to work on speed drills, with or without my running partner, depending on her mood and availability.  I bet I can talk my hubby into coming to the high school track with the stop watch for a few mile repeats.  I can take one long run each week, even run the entire course a few times, just to let my body know what’s coming.  I can eat more, maybe gain a couple of pounds. Fries?  Cookies?  Coconut-milk ice cream?  (It’s not going to happen with leafy greens, that’s been proven…)  I can back off for a couple of weeks before the event, letting my body absorb the training and some extra rest, just to be sure.  Make the leap.  I know I can do it, and do it they way I envision it for me.

I have been writing fitness rules for more than a year, encouraging my readers and clients to adopt them into their fitness plans.   I want them to incorporate my fitness rules into their visions for how they can change their lives by making a few simple changes in attitude and behavior.   I think it’s time to write one for me.

Fitness Rule #18:  Take a leap of faith.  It’s the only way to uncover the truth of what I am capable of  in my life right now.