Archive by Author

What do you eat?

30 Mar

The following post is written by Willa – a Featured Contributor and vegan lent participant.

It’s hard to believe that we are at the halfway point in our vegan lent challenge. The week before vegan lent started I ate out a lot. To my great fortune, it coincided perfectly with Restaurant Week and my birthday. Not that I ever need them, I found myself with multiple reasons to go out and enjoy tons of amazing food.

I assumed that eating out would come to a screeching halt, but that has not been the case. Many restaurants already have a vegan option on the menu or they are willing to work with “special dietary considerations.” While I have put the latter to test with great success, I am not going to make a habit of it. I will leave the menu design and dish creation to the chefs.

Which restaurants are vegan friendly? More than you would think. While I haven’t personally eaten at all of these restaurants, I’d like to provide a short list that might appeal to all likings: Au Bon Pain, Shish Cafe, Chipotle, Pizza Luce, Triple Rock Social Club, California Pizza Kitchen, Ecopolitan, Everest on Grand, Turtle Bread, Red Stag Supperclub, and French Meadow Cafe.

An interesting predicament has arisen from my vegan experience. At this point, I don’t miss any particular foods eggs. While I have not found it hard to be vegan, I do not plan on being vegan forever. That said, I feel incredibly defensive when asked, “But, what do you eat?” or told that it is impossible to eat well as a vegan.

Modesty is going out the window. I am defensive because I know a lot about food. It is an obsession of mine, both for the better and worse. I cook great, healthy food. Prepackaged convenience food-like items with 50 ingredients that I can’t pronounce do not make an appearance in my kitchen.

I love to cook. It is not a burden for me. Am I perfect? Absolutely not. But, if you want to talk food and health with me I am well equipped for the discussion.

There are two very important factors that can’t be overlooked: 1) we can afford to eat well and 2) I am cooking for 2 people, not a family of 4 or more. I have the time and monetary luxury of making the food decisions that I do.

So, back to the original question, what do I eat? I seriously considered recording every single morsel of food that I put into my mouth and attaching it as an addendum to the blog. Really? Who wants to read about what I ate for every meal, every day, for forty days? I know I don’t.

Here is an idea of what I typically eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. In case you’re wondering, I am not starving nor deprived. I have not been eating a bunch of weird foods that you can’t find at the regular grocery store. You might agree or disagree with me. I know I am putting myself out there for critique but it is something we can all learn from.


Grape Nuts cereal, soymilk, blueberries or blackberries, chia seed; coffee

Ezekiel or sourdough toast, almond butter, banana; coffee

Oatmeal with banana, soymilk, and peanut butter (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it)


Handful of cashews and an apple

Cherry Pie Lara Bar and a pear

Peanut butter granola bar and a banana

Soy latte and a banana

Lunch and/or Dinner

Whole wheat penne with kale, garlic, cherry tomatoes, cannelini beans, kalamata olives, crushed red pepper flakes, olive oil

Giant salad with mixed greens, shredded carrots, bell pepper, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, garbanzos, edamame, pepita seeds and vinaigrette

Lentil soup, bread, salad

Stir fry with tofu, carrot, onion, red bell pepper, celery,  and spinach served with basmati or jasmine rice

Black bean chili, rice, salad

Whole wheat noodles with peanut sauce, red bell pepper, onion, carrot, cilantro, and tofu

I try to fill our plates with delicious fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and healthy fats (sounds a little like the Mediterranean diet to me, sans fish of course). Some days I eat more, some days I eat less. I typically eat a lot on Saturdays because that is our long run day. I always eat a lot on long run days because running 10+ miles makes me really hungry.

It’s funny, so many people have cautiously asked, “How’s it going?” I can see the disappointment when I don’t have any vegan horror stories to tell. All in all, I basically eat the same things that I did before vegan lent.  Anticlimactic, I know but it is a good example of how livable a vegetable based diet can be.

Are you willing to tip the seesaw of balance on your plate from primarily meat to primarily vegetables?

What do you think would be the biggest change, or the food that you would miss most?


Day. Night. Day. Night. Day. Night. Day…

3 Mar

At 5:00 a.m. my alarm sounds and I promptly pounce out of bed. I won’t claim that I am always raring to go but I am generally awake and ready to start my day. My snooze button is definitely neglected. I have always preferred to plan ahead and squeak out every moment of sound, continuous sleep.

I love to sleep. I am really good at sleeping. This is no joke; just ask my husband or my parents. I can practically fall asleep on command. Furthermore, I am a sound sleeper. I just prefer to sleep during very specific hours that allow me to maximize my time during the day. It is rare that I want to just lounge around in bed. I want to be up, doing stuff, getting things done.

I admit that winter mornings are tough.  Actually, that might be the understatement of the year. Really, I never look forward to facing sub-zero temperatures and the pitch-black sky in the morning. The early sun rise and warm summer weather make it infinitely easier to get out of bed. Nonetheless, the alarm will be set and I will get up.

One of the main reasons for my early rise is to workout. I love going to the gym in the morning. It is empty. I can park near the door (this is really important in Minnesota in February). Simply put, I get it done.

I always feel like I have so much more time in my day when I workout in the morning. I can run errands after work. I can meet a friend for coffee. I can make a lovely dinner to share with my husband.

Then, I go to bed at 9:00 p.m.

Here lies the dilemma that I debate with myself constantly. If I workout in the morning, it limits what I can do in the evening because I want to go to bed early in order to be prepared for the next day. Not everyone goes to bed at 9:00 p.m. I get that. You might be thinking, “Well, just sleep less.” I have thought of that too and I deplore the idea. Remember, I love to sleep. I feel best when I sleep 8 hours.

If I workout in the evening, well, it limits what I can do in the evening too. It doesn’t leave me with enough time for errands. It is also really hard to workout and then go home to make a balanced dinner. I am a very grumpy hungry person. The likelihood that I will make it to the gym also drops exponentially. There are always a million things that need to be done that somehow seem to take precedence over my workout. Just like everyone else, I am searching for that 25th hour in the day.

I do not like to flip-flop my schedule. I am really an all or nothing kind of girl. This means that I have to decide on a schedule and stick with it.

To a certain extent, we are hardwired for different schedules. I am not a lark but more of an early rising humming-bird. I can adapt to a later schedule if the overall benefit is greater. Determination and preparation are significant factors as well. If I am determined and prepared to workout in the afternoon, I will workout in the afternoon.

Are you a lark, night owl, or a humming-bird? How do you fit everything into your day and what is most likely to go to the wayside?

25 things – Willa

28 Feb

Meet Willa – one of the new contributors to the blog.  I’m so excited that my running buddy is joining the team!

A few details to enhance our acquaintance.

1.       I was born in Marin County California. Although I have not lived there for many years, I still consider myself to be Californian.

2.       My mom packed a lunch for me every day until I graduated from high school. They were extraordinary too, often including inspirational notes for the day. These details do make a difference.

3.       Canning scares me. Or, maybe it is just that I perceive it to be so much work.

4.       I want to inspire others the way that I have been inspired.

5.       I love grocery shopping.

6.       My bookshelves are overflowing with cookbooks covering everything from South American to Vegetarian food. I am admittedly enticed by their lovely photos and delicious words.

7.       It should be no surprise to know that I adore cooking and consider myself to be knowledgeable in the kitchen.

8.       I am in constant search of my “calling” in life. At least I have determined that I love food and cooking.

9.     Frequently, my decision making process is paralyzed by too much information.

10.   While I have a desire for perfection, I am flexible as a result of my own laziness.

11.   I love running and feel very fortunate to be able to run.

12.   My gratitude is endless for the friendships that have grown as a result of running.

13.   I want to run faster.

14.   I am uncertain as to whether or not I want to run farther but might be persuaded to do so.

15.   I am a very proud wife of an amazing Army National Guard soldier.

16.   I make a concerted effort to enjoy every moment and I know that health is central to being able to do this.

17.   My undergraduate degree is in Spanish and Portuguese. I speak Spanish fluently but would love to be even better; my Portuguese is very rusty.

18.   I studied for one semester in Toledo, Spain and wish I would have stayed longer.

19.   The focus of my college thesis was how food, restaurants, and grocery stores are central to the preservation/continuation/introduction of immigrant cultures in the Twin Cities and, moreover, how food is often the first, and key, introduction that people have to a different culture.

20.   I love simple recipes with short ingredient lists.

21.   I am having a difficult time thinking of a type of food that I don’t like.

22.   I once made a winter vegetable stew including what I thought was a parsnip; it was actually horseradish.

23.   I admire chefs and restaurant owners but don’t know that I would want to be one myself.

24.   I absolutely hate it when people add seasoning or sauce to something they have been served before they have even tasted it.

25.   Along similar lines, I don’t understand why people don’t taste their food as they are cooking it.

Missed the other new faces around here?

Meet Meghan

Meet Liza