Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Holiday Party Planning

I've been testing out certain recipes lately for the sole reason to wow my family this coming x-mas. I haven't celebrated x-mas with my family in eons and this year will be the first time for hubby.
Since I don't want my mother to stress over what I can and can't eat, I intend on bringing a feast to them...that is if Motozo agrees to help me carry the load for the 2 hour train ride there. So far, I only have this one dessert that is portable and very delicious! I know, I better get a little busier in the kitchen if I want to succeed in sharing more then 1 item, but this one I'm positive will be a winner! I can't wait for them to try this!

Sunday evening was an excellent time to test this recipe out. I pretty much followed Angela's recipe for Salt-Kissed Chunky Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies (whew! That's a long name!) with minor adjustments using what I had on hand. I'm not sure if its because I used a different flour and sugar then hers, but the mixture turned out too crumbly and dry for me to shape it into cookies so I had to add more oil and liquid than the recipe stated.

Vegan Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
What I Used:
  • 1 + 1/4 whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup organic brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp regular salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1.5 tbsp cacao nibs
  • 3-4 tsp 100% cacao chips
  • 1.5 tbsp smooth peanut butter
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 4.5 tbsp canola oil 
  • 1 tbsp rice milk
I'm sure if I followed her recipe to a T then it would have turned out better. She is a baking genius after all.  But these still turned out amazing! I'm still horrible at using my oven and put it on the wrong setting, so even though I only cooked them for 10mins like the instructions said, they turned out a litter browner then I'd have liked.
This photo shows the color a little better I think.

Even though they are hard on the outside, the inside retained their softness. Peanut butter and chocolate go so well together! The cacao nibs totally rock in these cookies giving them excellent crunch! I wish my cacao chips had a little bit of sweetness, because to a normal person (ie, hubby) it was a little too dark I think. But for myself, who is used to dark chocolate, it was perfect! Maybe I will try these next time with sweetened carob chips. 

After I made these, I was so proud of myself for not digging in immediately. I had a full and nutritious dinner before eating 4 cookies. :)

The next morning I almost ate them for breakfast, but made a deal with myself to have a green smoothie breakfast, vegetable/fruit lunch and an hour run before digging in. Running makes everything taste better and with cookies on my mind, my run went by fast!

And today, I'm feeling like cookies for breakfast again. Maybe its not a good idea to blog about food first thing in the morning. I promise I will run and drink a big green smoothie before cookies though!
Another drool worthy photo for you all. :-)

You know what I'll be thinking about during my run today.......

Monday, November 29, 2010

The sock that found his pair.

Once upon a time, there were 2 young girls who were best of friends. Sure they fought and were catty with each other as most girls are at a young age, but they still cared for each other dearly and no matter what differences they had, they always remained wonderful friends.
Like most young girls, they dreamed how their future would be. They'd spend hours and hours imagining how they'd be in their teens, 20s and 30's. Whether they would be married or not, whether they'd be living in a different country, and whether they'd have children. Most of these type of conversations would be as so:

Girl #1: I think you'd get married before me.

Girl #2: No, I think you'd get married before me.  And I think you'll have a child before me.

Girl #1: No way! You'll totally have a child before me!

Girl #2: Are you crazy! You're much more likely to have one before me!

And so on..........

One day the girls came across an adorable pair of turquoise colored knitted baby socks.  Girl #1 had a brilliant idea! She gave Girl #2 one side of the sock and said " Here, you take one and I'll take one. When we grow up and when one of us has a child, we'll give our side to the other. You have to promise me you'll keep it until that day! It'll be our special sock. Our special present to each other when either one of us becomes a mother. "
Girl #2 hugged her friend, promising to keep the sock until that day, whenever it would be.

Years went by. Both girls eventually moved away from home. Both forgot about the sock. Both went on to do very different things and although they could not see each other as often any more, they still called each other and enjoyed long conversations.
Before long, Girl #2 got married and Girl #1 traveled for hours to go to her friends wedding. Neither one had seen each other for years, so a wonderful reunion it was! Girl #1 introduced her boyfriend to married Girl #2 and she like wise introduced her husband.  They reminisced how their lives changed so much since their childhood and wondered how much more it would change.

Another year went by and Girl #2 received an unexpected call from Girl #1.

Girl #1: I'm having a baby!!!!

Girl #2: OHG! Congratulations! 

It was only an hour into a hysterically happy phone call that Girl #2 remembered about the sock.

Joanna, my dear friend. Here is my side of the sock that I've kept for,exactly how long, I do not know. It has to be at least over 10 years old. It's a little rough around the edges. Time has made a few stains on the pair and to be honest, I thought about throwing it out a couple of times. You know, those times when I'd go through my things and get rid of whatever I'm not using. But I knew I couldn't let you down. I honestly always felt that I'd be the one to send the sock away. I was right! HA!
Its only appropriate that you'd get the sock as you were the one with the idea and I know for sure that you have your side right!? The sentimental thing that you are. I believe this is the most sentimental thing I've done in my life and I'm SO glad that I didn't throw it away.
I love you to bits and can't wait to watch you change into motherhood. One day I'd like to think you'll tell this story to your child.  One day, not to to far in the future, I hope to see you and your soon to be born child.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Raw Beet Macaroons

What to do with left over juice pulp? Make something yummy, of course!  DOH!
 For the pass few days I've been searching the internet, trying to get inspired to make something special with my beet/apple/carrot/ginger pulp from the red juice  I made a couple days in a row.  The most frequent way juice pulp is used is by dehydrating it into crackers/breads, but since I don't have a dehydrator I had to think out of the box. 
I conjured up endless ways to use my pulp. I could use it in a cake,muffins, cookies,etc but finally I settled on keeping it raw and simple. After a few days, I figured I should get started on something, even though I had no concrete plan, fruit/veggie pulp does go bad eventually, so I couldn't leave it in the fridge any longer.

Once I got into the kitchen and looked into my cupboards, things magically came together. Here's what I used.

  • Approximately 2 packed cups juice pulp (beets, apples, carrots, & ginger)
  • 1 cup raw (unsoaked) walnuts
  • 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 3 Tbsp maple syrup (not technically raw, could use agave or stevia)
  • Pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg
 Wished I added some salt to bring out the sweetness.

A pictorial break down follows. 

Processed the walnuts until slightly larger then flour grains.


Did the same for the coconuts. My shredded coconuts are long shreds so I wanted the size to be smaller. 

Mixed the two together and it turned out something like this. 

Next, I processed the pulp so everything was evenly mixed and any extra large apple pieces were shredded down. Added 3 spoons of maple syrup. If you look carefully you may be able to see a deformed reflection of my pink camera and I. Creepy, ha!

The syrup didn't mix very well in the processor so I transferred the pulp to the bowl and mixed with a spatula.  I then added in the walnut/coconut mix, saving a couple spoonfuls (very important step). Do not be alarmed by how raw meat like the mixture turned out.

Measuring a little less then a spoon each, I mashed them into balls and rolled them into the walnut/coconut mixture I saved earlier. Walla, the raw meat looking mixtured turned beautifully into festive red macaroons! 
I placed in the freezer to harden for an hour or two. Once I took them out to eat I noticed the center is slightly icy, but they "defrost" very quickly so next time I'll probably leave them on the counter for a couple minutes before devouring.

The taste? A delicious mixture of beet and sweetness of apple along with a tint of ginger and cinnamon flavor. Perfect sweetness! The coconut and walnut gave it some good chewiness.  This was a very healthy treat. Total guilt free success!  I love the colors and it matches the current holiday seasonal colors don't you think? :)
Yay, happy eyes and happy belly.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Osaka & Kyoto Trip

I've wanted to go to Kyoto since forever and although Motozo goes to Kyoto often for business, he usually goes and comes back on the same day. But this Tuesday was a national holiday and his business meetings were on Monday, so we took advantage of the perfect situation and planned 4 days out of Tokyo!

We left early Sat and our first stop was to visit his uncle in Osaka. Him and his wife showed us great hospitality, letting us spend the night at their lovely home and feeding us well. This is only the 2nd time to meet his Uncle Akira, the first time being at our wedding last year, but he's such a charming and friendly gentlemen that it was very easy to talk to him.  He practices yoga twice a week, so we had great discussion on yoga.  Akira's wife, Sumiko, prepared a vegan friendly nabe. The broth was kombu and uzu flavored with a variety of vegetables and tofu.  It was lovely to have dinner with Akira and his daughters family. 

The next morning we had a traditional Japanese breakfast, white rice, natto, pickles, miso soup (no fish dashi in mine), green salad, and green tea. Motozo, knowing that I'm not my usual (self proclaimed) happy self without a morning coffee, kindly asked for coffee to be prepared for me. Yay for coffee! 
We spent quite a while trying to set up Skype for Akira so he can contact Fumiko (his sister, Motozo's Mum) in the US on a regular basis. For some reason we couldn't download it and eventually gave up. 
Motozo always calls his mum over the weekend so we all took turns talking to her on the phone. It was great for Fumiko to talk to Akira being that the last time was over a year ago. 

After digesting the unusually heavy breakfast, I did my morning run while Motozo got a dip in the near by gym pool. I'm used to having just a green smoothie or fruits in the morning and I'd say 80% of my diet is raw so to have 2 cooked meals in row, sheez, I felt the difference. Its amazing how food really affects the body, especially durning a run. But I still managed a good hour and of course we had another cooked meal for lunch. Sushi. My veggie sushi's were good though! 

After saying our good byes we made our way to Kyoto. So many people EVERYWHERE! I guess that was to be expected being that its the prime time to visit Kyoto in autumn. The autumn leaves did not disappoint! I've never seen so many momiji trees (below picture) in their bright shades of red. Everywhere you looked were yellow, red, orange colored trees.....beautiful! 

We really did come at a perfect time! In the evening we took a stroll through Gion. We just followed the crowd and found ourselves in a really long cue. We had no idea what we were lining up for, but it turned out to be a light up of the autumn leaves inside a temple. This was the only photo that turned out. It was SOOOO spectacular and surreal! 

The next morning, we had quick breakfast together and Motozo went off to his meetings. I set out alone with the intent of seeing Kinkakuji, Ginkakuji and possibly a zen rock garden. I found some lovely trees along the way. 

While waiting at the bus stop I met a French tourist and we ended up sight seeing together.
He was planning to go to a zen garden to do meditation, but missed his bus and of course, meditation sparked my interest and we instantly chatted up a storm. 
He was great company....almost too great because we kept getting into these philosophical discussions that we'd missed our bus stop, failed to consult the map enough, and attracted unwanted attention with the two of us being the only passengers to be talking on the public buses. We finally managed to find our way to Kinkakuji and oh, what a beauty it is! 

Next we went to a rock garden and was blessed with rain. It seemed to make the autumn colors even more vibrant. 

Unfortunately, my view finder is not very large and failed to capture all 15 stones. But we only counted 13 anyway.  It was so peaceful here! Photos will do the talking now. 

I was in total awe of the beauty that I forgot to eat lunch. It was as if the beauty was feeding me. Finally, at 5pm, on the bus ride back to the hotel, I felt major hunger pangs. FOOD was all I could think of. I found a nice kale and apple smoothie in the down town area. mmm....did it taste delicious! 

Next morning I planned a run, but sleep won. I choose to get 2 more hours of sleep and I wasn't the least bit guilty! 2 days in a row of no running and hey, I'm alive! I guess it helps that sight seeing required LOTS of walking and hardly any eating. 
It was great that Motozo was able to go sight seeing with me this time. Although we had to rush a bit because we had a 5pm shinkansen to catch, we made the most of it. 
First we visited Fushimi Inari Shrine. I've always wanted to go here and it was such a shame we couldn't stay very long. Inari Shrine consists of thousands of tori's that travel up a mountain. There are trails that go on for at least an hour or 2 and the whole time you'd be walking under the tori's. We walked for a little less then an hour and had to turn around. It still was lovely though! I told Motozo I want to come back some day to walk the whole course up the mountain. 

Our last stop was Ginkakuji. Again the line to get into the temple was outrageous! Even inside the temple grounds there were so many people that we just quickly took a photo of the temple and left. Its a bit of shame because in the temple grounds is a trails into the mountains and I'd have love to walk that.  
Gingakuji, compared to Kinkakuji is very simple. Simplicity is beauty though. 

Yay, I'm so happy to have gone to Kyoto in the perfect time of the year! 

This morning I thoroughly enjoyed my green smoothie. I missed it so much! 4 days of no shrek juice made me crave green! 

Last week's running mileage - 60.1k plus plenty of toning exercises

Mon - 11.5k 
Tues - 10.6k (hilly course), toning exercises
Wed - 11.5k
Thurs - intense toning exercises. 
Fri - 14k
Sat - more toning
Sun - 12.4k in Osaka 

Alright, this post is long enough. Is anyone celebrating Thanksgiving? 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Vegan Protein Energy Bars

Its no secret that I love reading food blogs! And lately I've been seeing a lot of recipes using oats. I decided it was time I made something oat related rather then drool over others creations.
Mine may not look very drool worthy, but I promise it's delicious! Let me explain why my bar looks slightly green. The secret ingredient, HEMP protein!  Hemp protein is the only protein powder I use and here are the reasons why.
  • Contains all 20 amino acids.
  • Contains all 8 essential fatty acids. (Who said vegans had to eat fish to get those fatty acids!?)
  • 80 percent of the fat from hemp seeds is unsaturated, which is the good type of fat.
  • The protein from hemp helps balance the pH level of our bodies.
  • Certified organic hemp protein is vegan, gluten free, kosher, and non-genetically modified. 
  • Hemp is usually very safe for those unable to tolerate nuts, gluten, lactose, and sugar. In fact, there are no known allergies to hemp foods. From personal experience, hemp protein is very easy on the digestion.
My favorite way to eat hemp is in seed form. But unfortunately, I'm all out. But the protein powder did just fine! 

I adjusted the recipe from here

1 ripe mashed banana
1.5 cup Oats
1/2 cup Goji Berries (soaked and drained)
1/2 cup Raisins
1/3 cup Cacao Nibs (finally used them Lils!) :)
1/3 cup Maple Syrup
1/2 cup Unsweetened Peanut Butter (will use less next time)
2 scoops Hemp Protein
2 Tbsp Ground Flaxseeds
1/2 tsp Cinnamon 
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
2 Tbsp Coconut Oil

Threw everything into a bowl. Mixed. Transferred to my Tupperwares (it made quite a lot) and left in the freezer for 1-2 hours.

The mixture turned out a little wet, most likely from the soaked goji berries, but the end result was fabulous!
 It harden up in freezer enough so I can cut them into little bars and wrapped them up individually.

This one didn't stay wrapped up for long! OOOO peanut butter, raisins, oats - YUM! The cacao nibs added just the right amount of crunch factor and goji berries added some juiciness :) Peanut butter! Delicious and oh so dangerous to keep in the house.

 These are really nice healthy treat and dare I say, MUCH better then store bought energy bars.
Now if only these bars stayed hard at room temperature, it would be a wonderful traveling snack. 

Today was a wonderfully unusual day. I went to Motozo's office to have lunch with him and a few of his colleagues. The last time we had lunch together on a work day was back in our dating days ha.   Ah, sweet memories.     
Check out the view from his office from the 24th floor. Hibiya Park in all its autumn glory.

Motozo asked me which tree was my favorite and I, of course, pointed to the reddest tree. He took a photo the best he could from his crack berry and said he'll keep an eye on it. Checking it daily to see how it changes color :)  Cheesy and sweet. It doesn't take much for that man to make me smile. 

Lunch was an assortment of veggies and purple rice. I wasn't so sure if the dressing on the green salad was safe for me so I choose to not eat it. The rest of the food was good though. I particularly enjoyed the sweet potato strips. 

After spending almost an hour at Biccamera looking at phones and cameras, it was finally time to say good bye. I took a nice walk in Hibiya Park and discovered there is a huge beautiful rose garden in there! 

It was so lovely to walk around in the sun admiring nature! 

Early tomorrow morning were going to Osaka to meet some of Moto's relatives and then to Kyoto. I hope the leaves haven't fallen yet. I'm so excited! This will be my first time to go there. I'm going to be a tourist in my own country.  woohoo! Happy Friday everyone.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

My New Favorite Vegetable!

Introducing my currently favorite juicing vegetable. Ladies and Gents, the BEET!  (photo shamelessly stolen from google)   Along with a unique taste and color, beets are power-packed with iron, folate and antioxidants.  They also stimulate the muscle contractions in the gut which promotes regularity. No need to be shy here. Elimination is very important, especially for this runner! Ok, keeping with the topic........

Just recently I discovered they sell these in National Azabu and I was more then thrilled! It was only a few years ago that I first tasted a beet and loved it. But because average supermarkets don't sell it, I never made it at home until now :)
I usually steam my beets. but this time I wanted it raw and I wanted it this morning! Juicing it is then. 

An apple and a carrot should go with the beet nicely!

I may or may not have spent a little too long admiring the peeled beet. I can't help it! The color is something else! Don't you agree?

After juicing all 3 ingredients, I got this gorgeous colored juice! It was almost too purty to drink! The flavor was delicious! I was SOOOO excited about this that I promptly went out and got more beets. I have got to make this for Motozo tomorrow morning! 

This seriously is amazing! Each time I took a sip it made me smile and go mmmmmmmm. 

Starting my day off with a glass of red.....what can be better. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Autumn, stay forever!

The days are seriously getting colder and the Autumn leaves are looking more and more beautiful! Although I have to bundle up on my runs now, I often find myself smiling because the fallen leaves and vibrate colored trees are just so delightful! I keep telling myself to bring my camera with me on my run, but I always forget it, doh!

With the change of temperature I've been really enjoying a hot cup of Echinacea tea after my green smoothie. Green smoothies tend to lower my body temperature, so tea is appreciated.  I just noticed yesterday that the tea bags have these lovely little quotes on them. Oh, I love it!

 Today I had to pull out the long running tights, 2 layers of long sleeves, and gloves! Putting my brave/happy face on even though I don't feel like running in the cold.  How flattering these mirror photos are :)

This week I'm trying to catch up on some running that I couldn't get in last week. I usually try to run 4-5 days a week, but its easy to put off my run because I'm not training for anything. Running now is just for my sanity and weight management :)!

Last week I had a huge yoga week! I took 10 hours of yoga classes, plus my own practice at home and my thighs, buns and upper back was sore on a whole other level.
Special teachers Chuck and Maty did some intensive teaching for 3 weeks at my yoga studio. I finally managed to take their morning mysore for 4 days. Each class is 2.5 hours starting at 6:30 AM! It was exhausting waking up at 5AM, but I got SO much out of each session that it was totally worth it!
Chuck and Maty are extraordinary teachers! Maty has eyes like a hawk and can see a misaligned yoga pose from a mile away! It was great to get adjusted by her and I feel my standing postures are different now. I learned I was tensing certain muscles that prevented me from getting length in the spine or putting my hip off balance. Really really subtle adjustments made a HUGE difference in how I felt in a pose.
Chuck is such a warm gentlemen who has such a great way of explaining yoga. Yoga, not as an exercise, but as a spiritual journey. He really inspired me and made me smile so much!

They emphasis that the most important thing in yoga is the breath and the mind. Those 2 aspects are really the most challenging part of yoga. Its not the poses that are hard, its keeping the breath smooth and constant (you won't believe how often we hold our breaths without being aware of it). The mind has to always be present so it can be sensitive to the body. Its easy for the mind to wander, so the challenge is keep it focused on what I'm doing in each pose. In 2.5 hours I felt like I used my mind for 8 hours straight. It was intense and exhausting, but also very rewarding!

Sunday was their last teaching day and of course I had to take their conducted class. We did a very slow Astanaga class and even though I hardly broke a sweat, my legs and arms were shaking with the intensity of each pose. During savasana Chuck said "If you want to feel a little bit of freedom, relax a little. If you want to feel more freedom, relax more. If you want to be completely free, relax completely." I can't say exactly why, but I started getting teary eyed after he said this. I wanted to be completely free and then suddenly I felt like a weight was lifted off me and I felt RELIEF.
Yoga has seriously changed my life! I don't know what I'd do without it!

But I still really enjoy running. My yoga teacher, Michael, said he hopes I can continue to keep the balance between running and yoga. Some runners get SO into running that they become so narrow minded about health and fitness. And the same goes for yogi's, its easy for us to think yoga is the best, but there's really no need to make it a competition. Do I think yoga will help runners? Absolutely! Do I think doing more yoga over running is better? No! And visa versa. Its all about maintaining balance.

Last weeks running/yoga log: Nov 8th - 14th
Yoga - 10 hours      Ran - 27.8k (lowest since September)

Mon - Off (legs needed a break from the 10k race)
Tues - 2.5 hrs Mysore class. 11.5k run (heavy legs)
Wed - 2.5 hrs Mysore class
Thur - 2.5 hrs Mysore class
Fri    - 9k run (easy run. Can't believe how sore yoga got me!)
Sat - 7.3k run after teaching yoga. (thighs still sore from yoga)
Sun - 2.5hr Ashtanga class

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Home Made Almond Milk/Pulp

The other day I was complaining how Japan doesn't sell almond milk. WHY?! Oh, well, I guess I'll just have to make my own. 
Super easy to do, but I don't/won't be making this so often because its so much easier to just buy non dairy milk. Raw organic almonds are expensive and since I hardly drink milk (not a staple in my diet), I'd rather use my almonds to eat just as is or in other forms. But non the less, almond milk is a healthy alternative to dairy. And far more superior to rice milk or soy milk.  Almond pulp, the "garbage" of the milk works really well in cookies and crackers as well.  If you Google on how to make almond milk, you'll definitely get a better pictorial how-to, but heres my experience with it. 

First things first, you want/NEED to soak your raw almonds over night.  Soaking the nuts (goes for majority of nuts) overnight removes enzyme inhibitors which allows for easier digestion.  It'll also soften the nuts to make it easier to blend.
Simply wash the almonds and cover them in purified water over night for 8-12 hours. Rinse them very well the next day and drain all the water. You do not want to use the water!

Washing and draining my presoaked nuts

Next, prepare the equipment you'll need. A blender, a large bowl, and mesh cloth. There are specially designed milk bags, cheese bags etc. But there's really no need to buy anything expensive. I've even seen people drain their milk through a thin kitchen towel or an old shirt.  I use a mesh cloth and it works well.

Blend the almonds in purified water. The ratio will be: 1 cup almonds with 3 cups of water. Blend until smooth. I have a crummy blender so I blend for a couple minutes.
The taste can be modified to personal taste. I added vanilla extract and would have added a date if I had any.

Strain the mixture through a cheesecloth into a bowl.

And here's the fun part! Time to get our hands a little wet, but a also a nice natural moisturizer. 
Gently squeeze as much milk as you can from the almonds.

And wala, you are left with beautiful almond milk in the bowl and left over almond pulp. Almond milk lasts up to 3-5 days in the fridge
If you aren't going to use the pulp immediately, its best to freeze the pulp and defrost on the counter when you plan to use it.

There you have it Lils :) Happy almond milk making!