Zigzag: Random thoughts about exercise, food and friends

Yesterday before the teenager and I took our impromptu trip to Hershey to visit with Curly, I had the good fortune to have a coffee date with a neighbor who has proven herself time and time again as a reliable friend.

We met while pregnant, due dates a week apart, homes a few blocks apart, and with jobs in the same town in the next state. Even though we lived less than a block apart for most of the teenager’s life (and the fact that her son and my daughter have first names that are one letter apart and family names that are very similar and fall alphabetically beside each other), she and I have not kept in touch the greatest— but somehow— when I need her, she seems to be there.

She even worked for me for about six months when I needed a staff member that could act without much hand-holding and understood my working style. The partnership renewed our connection— and the employer recently asked her to return to the organization and she politely declined.

We had the chance to discuss these things over “coffee” at the diner where the teen used to waitress. But the day was rainy and we both wanted soup instead of coffee, so we had our mom therapy session over bowls of pepper pot.

We talked about the teenagers’ post-high school plans, the value and frustration of college, our health, medical insurance in America, and how hard it must be to be a teen in today’s world.

I mention this as a reminder of how sometimes, sharing a moment can bring laughter and release.

Our latest Hungryroot box came, and I realized for the first times in all these months of Hungryroot that the reusable nitrogen ice packs are plant food. Now I can’t wait to pour that on our compost heap.

Speaking of food subscription services, my breakfast today was Cabot cottage cheese from Grocery Outlet and a sprouted multigrain everything bagel and garlic herb probiotic cream cheese from Hungryroot.

My lunch was leftover cauliflower linguine and one meatball from Hungryroot, basil tomato sauce from ShopRite and a pile of plain lentils I made.

Turns out lentils are a great way to add plant protein to spaghetti.

And finally, my session at Apex Training today was not easy— but I did it. We did a lot of sweat-inducing balance exercises. I have been having issues with stiffness since I left work and my walk has been unstable. This morning my right leg felt off. So I told Andrew and together we thought it might be super tight. Well, by the time I left, my right leg and back were screaming.

But after a shower and an NSAID to make sure nothing is inflamed, at least I don’t feel like a pile of grinding gears needing oil.

Rainy Mondays

This morning, I slept in until 6:30 a.m. and that felt like a luxury. My hip is starting to bother me less. I even managed to give the last foster cat her dewormer. Before coffee!!

I had a cup of my dark roast Supercoffee and a bowl of Cabot cottage cheese. I needed a shower, so I bathed. And then I called to see if I could move my chiropractor appointment up earlier in the week.

My plan is to confer with her about how best to strengthen my core and work with my hip. That will be Wednesday at 9:15 a.m.

Two hours had passed since my cottage cheese. I prepared my main breakfast— a vegan feast of quinoa, lentils, ancient grains, kale, pumpkin seeds, Hungryroot fresh salsa and my homemade roasted red pepper hummus as dressing. And the first batch of the days vitamins.

For dessert I had three slices of dragon fruit “chips,” which appear to be a great source of potassium and even have iron and protein. And a big glass of water.

I used my mid-morning to work on the Parisian Phoenix Publishing May newsletter.

It talks about upcoming events that will blend literature and fine arts.

I puttered about the kitchen and felt my injured hand becoming frightfully cold— so I started a second cup of Supercoffee at noon (which is way too much caffeine but it’s the only way I can keep my blood flowing without a workout and I don’t want to workout without supervision because of my recent falls and my mallet finger).

The teenager’s Keurig kept having some sort of stroke and just refused to make coffee. It acted as if it didn’t have water in it, so I unplugged it, added more water, took my fancy coffee pod out and ran the water through. Then I tried again. It took about three tries to get my coffee.

I gave myself two sesame mochi as a snack and curled up with the dog.

And after we got settled, the doctor’s office called to discuss paperwork for my employer and the disability company.

I’m watching some TV now and brainstorming ideas to make tomorrow a “writing day.” I just hope it finally starts to get warm.

Soothing my wounds with healthy food

After my doctor appointment yesterday, Nan and I went to Grocery Outlet. Advocating for yourself, even in a safe, familiar environment drains a person emotionally.

My work in the kitchen not only provides the nutrients for my recovery from my mallet finger, but also helps me continue my fitness journey with Apex Fitness.

Maybe I’ll finally commit to losing weight.

Last night for dinner I had leftover pancakes, almond butter and apple slices with a can of blueberry elderflower sparkling water.

And this morning, Louise insisted I get up at 4:15 a.m. And it’s only Saturday not even a work day.

I cuddled her for a while, tried to go back to sleep, and finally just got up at 5:45ish.

Someone adopt this love so I can sleep instead of cuddle the cat all night

I came downstairs, had my coffee and started cooking my treasures. I sautéed kale (reduced for quick sale) in extra virgin olive oil, garlic, salt pepper and lemon juice. I made shredded potatoes in the frying pan with peppers. I prepared quinoa and midnight grains.

I fried an egg and mixed some of everything together with some apple, some of my homemade roasted red pepper hummus and pumpkin seeds.

Truly delectable.

And then right before the gym I had two medjool dates.

And I also prepped some plain lentils just to have on hand. I’m taking Nan some of the different ingredients.

Now for lunch I toasted some Ozery multigrain thin and made no-nitrate smoked turkey sandwiches (the free protein of the week from Hungryroot) topped with Brie, roasted red pepper, spinach, butter lettuce (reduced as well) and chipotle mayonnaise also from Hungryroot.

And I fell again today. At the gym today. Andrew my trainer seems to be concerned that I won’t make as much progress with upper body during my injury (but I did bench press today, but I inadvertently favored the right pretty heavily). But I’m okay with that — a body has to stay active and exercise, alcohol and excessive caffeine are the only way I can get my left hand warm. Well, unless I curl into bed under a heat blanket.

That’s two falls this week that lead to not serious but definitely painful bruises and scrapes.

Food and Fitness Update, plus more reviews of Purple Carrot and Green Chef.

Last night I not only made my metrics at work but I surpassed them. 106% without any accommodation for the six-minute all hands meeting we had or the observation with my supervisor. My legs are no longer hurting and it feels like my back pain is a one instead of a five or more.

Today was my 26th session with my trainer Dan at Apex Training and we worked on upper body, I was bench pressing some 25 pound dumbbells— almost was able to do 30.

Still no update from my medical team after receiving the results from the ultrasounds about 10 days ago. They found some things, not too big or suspicious things but things that may explain my symptoms I hope.

But the fun thing is I finally got my Purple Carrot box. And had my Green Chef Maple-Glazed Carrot power bowl for dinner.

Green Chef Power Bowl

I ate the bowl without the green goddess dressing and still thought it was amazing. Why can I not remember what the first Green Chef meal was? Ah, the farfalle with Brussels.Making the Farfalle.

Today’s Purple Carrot unboxing can be viewed here.

The refried butternut squash tacos were a great light meal.

The bottom left is prepared according to the recipe.

Review: first meal kit from Green Chef

Last week I got a hankering for a Purple Carrot meal kit delivery and I had missed the order deadline by a day.

A search of the internet indicated that I could order a vegetarian meal kit from Green Chef for half price, or $35 for 3 dinners for 2.

The box came Wednesday as I was headed to work. You can see the unboxing on YouTube here. Today I made the first meal— you can see it all from start to finish here.

While setting up the camera for the video I noticed this cool view of the bottles on my kitchen counter.

My daughter and I both thought the meal was tasty.

As I was unpacking and later preparing it, I noticed the packaging and style of containers/organizing mimicked Hello Fresh. The recipe cards very closely resembled Hello Fresh except that Green Chef color-coded the cards to the bags which I thought was convenient and clever.

But like Hello Fresh, they also had the annoying poorly labeled plastic bags of ingredients that I had to wrestle to open.

Purple Carrot has the best labeling and food storage containers— little plastic jars with lids that I reuse.

Green Chef had a strange combo of prepared ingredients, like tomato cream sauce, yet sent whole almonds that I had to “roughly chop” myself. So the preparation was far simpler than Hello Fresh, but not as quick as Hungryroot, and certainly not as protein-packed as Purple Carrot.

And Green Chef was the only delivery service so far to have coolant from the box leak all over my living room.

I will provide another update once I made the next two meals.

A Saturday morning fitness surprise and a delicious breakfast

So good morning all, and I have to say it’s a gorgeous Saturday and I had another great workout at Apex Training with my trainer Dan.

Me in my Best Strong t-shirt

The photo is actually from Thursday’s workout, taken by Dan so I could tag #NickBestStrongman on social media, which I did and his official Instagram account started following me.

But today, the teenager got up early and came with me to the gym. The teenager is super strong and very balanced with the use of her body, full of power, so I wanted her to have the chance to really lift.

I think she’d be an amazing powerlifter.

And she did most of my weights at the gym today without breaking a sweat. Flexibility is her weakness. Balance is mine. Well, other than the cerebral palsy.

The teenager and I did a barbell bench press of 55 pounds, and did some hex deadlifts as well.

I came home and had an almost vegan breakfast— cream of wheat, vanilla soy milk, fresh artisan cashew butter from The Peanut Company in Cape May, dried blueberries, chia seeds and the one animal product, local honey. That was so delicious.

My daughter won’t approve

So, my daughter asked me if I plan on returning to my vegetarian habits when she leaves home.

I said no, but the more I think about it— the answer might be yes.

I probably eat 75% plant-based naturally. I even eat quite a few vegan meals, like the Hungryroot zucchini falafel I had for lunch yesterday in a sweet potato wrap with green chili sauce and lemon tahini.

As the teenager likes to remind me; I put beans or vegetables in just about every meal.

I find plant-based cuisine quicker to prepare, very versatile and easier for me to get the nutrients I need. And harder to overeat. Easier to stay lean.

And easier to avoid processed or fatty foods.

But the volume of food needed to gain muscle and stay satiated when weight training is intimidating. If I weren’t at the gym— I know I could keep a good diet. But I’m already struggling with my macros so it makes me nervous.

This is when I turn toward Simnett Nutrition, Gaz Oakley the Avant Garde Vegan and even Abbey Sharp on YouTube.

I also ordered a Green Chef meal box. This accompanies the meals and groceries I have delivered from Purple Carrot and Hungryroot.

I “do” Purple Carrot and Hungryroot once a month each and I was jonesing for an extra Purple Carrot box last night at 1:30 a.m. but I missed my order cut off and found a discount code for 50% off a Green Chef box so…

And the teen and I are supposed to go grocery shopping at noon today. I intend to go to the gym, hit the weights hard, and come home and meal plan. I need to make it harder to abuse myself with food.

Speaking of the gym… My Nick Best/Best Strong t-shirt by Barbell Apparel arrived Tuesday night and I am so excited to wear it to the gym. Nick Best is a strong man athlete up there with Brian Shaw and Edie Hall, but Nick is in his fifties. I can relate to his philosophy:

Age is just a number.

Nick Best

Unboxing the Best Strong t-shirt can be seen on YouTube here: T-shirt and my new novel unboxing.

I posted the photo on Instagram and Nick Best’s Instagram liked it and followed me!

Order my novel here:

Fitness update and my favorite vegetarian protein sources

My trainer Dan at Apex Fitness said something last week that made me chuckle and made me beam with pride.

“I forget you can handle more [weight] than most [women].”

“I still got it?” I asked.

He laughed.

Dan is very good at using full body motions even on isolated body part days. So on leg day we’ll throw in some bicep curls after those deadlifts and on upper body day, we do things that focus on form and stretching the lower body in addition to burning out the arms and chest.

I’m noticing much more flexibility in my body and that my chiropractor has gotten more agressive as well.

And I get to play with Dan’s super adorable baby and we talk a lot about food. He just picked up a client who is a vegetarian and doesn’t like tofu and some other stuff. We were brainstorming protein sources.

I thought I’d make a list.

Here’s my favorite vegan athlete on YouTube: Simnett Nutrition. Look at the sheer volume of food he eats. That is why I can’t be vegan. It has nothing to do with the diet— I just couldn’t stomach that much food.

For more gourmet cooking, check out Gaz Oakley, the Avant Garde Vegan (here).

My favorite vegetarian proteins that are not tofu

  • Greek yogurt
  • Cabot cottage cheese
  • Silk unsweetened soy milk
  • Nut butters (morning hack— coffee, nut butter and yogurt smoothie. Add dates if you want to feel trendy)
  • Homemade salad dressings featuring tahini or peanut butter
  • Add black beans or chick peas to anything you can
  • Add hummus or tahini and/or sprouts to sandwiches. Pick bread with higher protein.
  • Nuts and seeds (including chia, flax and hemp) on salads, oatmeal, in baked goods or smoothies
  • Ancient grain or chick pea pasta
  • Peas and lentils
  • Frozen lentil pasta
  • Morningstar vegetarian breakfast patties
  • “Wheat meat”/seitan
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Adding beans or eggs to soups
  • Eggs & cheese
  • Snap pea snack crisps
  • Special K nut and fruit protein bars
  • Sweet Earth frozen foods

And for vegetarian meal services/meal kits:

  • Purple Carrot offers meal kits and prepared food. They have low calorie and high protein options are plant-based and get on the table in about 40 minutes. Purple Carrot is expensive, and requires a minimum of three dinners a week. Read my previous blogs on Purple Carrot here.
  • Hungryroot has more flexibility than Purple Carrot and offers “free protein”with each box. You can order meal kits, prepared foods or groceries. I get one or two meals and spent the rest of my credits on groceries. A lot of their recipes include extra ingredients— instead of a small jar of a tablespoon of Chile sauce for example, they send a tub. So you can use the extra for other meals. They can get on the table very quickly. They use a lot of “whole” main ingredients coupled with prepared sauces which keeps nutrient value high but prep time low. Read about my impressions of Hungryroot here.
  • Hello Fresh has a lot of great recipes and offers vegetarian food. All the sauces are incredible. But you spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Also expensive. Servings tend to be small. I am told Every Plate is cheaper. My experience with Hello Fresh is here.
  • Green Chef, have not tried it

Review: First Purple Carrot shipment and their black pepper tofu

Unboxing first purple carrot box

First I’ll let the photos and video speak for itself.

Next, a little back story. Some familiar to my readers, some probably new.

1. When other people go to Target, order weird lamps off the internet, buy clothes or troll yard sales, my version of retail therapy revolves around food. Wegmans is my happy place.

2. I spent my twenties as a vegetarian— even tried veganism for about six months. Back then, you had to go to the natural food store to buy non-dairy milk and you had two choices: rice or soy. Both came in aseptic boxes that were shelf stable. I don’t like the big business that agriculture has become, and I don’t like not knowing what is happening to my food via industrialized farming.

Why did I stop?

I got pregnant. The teenager has always been a huge carnivore. I had gestational diabetes while pregnant so I started eating turkey sandwiches to change up some of my proteins.

Then when the teenager was about 18 months old, I started craving bacon cheeseburgers (and I don’t even really like bacon). That was probably when my anemia started.

3. I am really enjoying this tour of meal delivery kits I’ve been doing this summer. Hello Fresh has flashy recipe cards, a lot of rice, a lot of prep and amazing sauces. Hungryroot has a nifty blend of “groceries” and “recipes” so if I just want that out-of-this-world snack cheddar, I don’t need to order the whole grilled cheese kit. The recipes are an easy blend of processed and fresh, so the fridge-to-table time is a fraction oh Hello Fresh.

Now we add Purple Carrot. It’s the plant-based Hello Fresh. Three things about them I liked as soon as I opened the box:

  1. They send a booklet of all the recipes for the meals and extras, regardless of what you ordered. I lost the Hungryroot recipes. And Hello Fresh gives you your meals. This is practically a little cookbook.
  2. Their bags and containers are all clearly labeled.
  3. The bags and containers are all clear. It’s easy to see everything.

Based on my initial impression— making one of the four meals I ordered— here are my thoughts.

Pro

  • The vegetables shine, instead of being a side dish.
  • I finally know how to make tofu crispy.
  • Even though they are plant based, they still have high protein options.
  • So delicious

Con

  • Takes almost as long as Hello Fresh