introducing: Jen and Company

10 Apr

After many hints and teases, the time has finally come.

Welcome to the new site! What do you think?

I’m super excited about my the new name, the new look, and the new web address.

Why the change?

As many of you know, this blog originally started as a co-blogging partnership and has sense morphed into a me being the main author and having featured contributors to keep it interesting. With all that change, it seemed a new look and a new name were in order. To learn more about how the blog came to be, check out the about page.

The name, Jen and Company, was my sister Jackie’s idea. She gets 100% of the credit. She is an idea machine. She helped me brainstorm (road trips are good for that) and then sent me an email chock full of ideas.  When she brought up this name, we came up with so many different interpretations and I love that. She meant it as I have a company of contributors on the blog. My other sister immediately thought of my love of entertaining. I thought of how I love to run and bike in the company of others. It just made sense.

Because I was making a change, I really made a change – new design, look and feel. This is all thanks to Julie who was great to work with and made things very easy for this non-techy gal.

What I’m not changing is the content. There will still be recipes, race recaps, restaurant reviews and random musings/rants on food and fitness.

So, what do you need to do?

If you subscribed to She said. She said., you’ll need to re-subscribe to Jen & Company.  If you go to the old site, it will re-direct you, but re-subscribing to the new site will make sure you get all the updates. To subscribe, you can just click on the subscribe button in the header above, or you can just follow this link to add this blog into your feed.

http://feeds.feedburner.com/JenAndCompany

If you have my blog on your blog roll (thank you!), I’d love if you can update the name and the web address.

There may be some hiccups on the way so please bear with me. In the meantime, I’d love any feedback!

What do you think?

food for thought: staying healthy on the road

8 Apr

I’ve been in Chicago this week for my day job. This trip was super fun because I got to meet up with fellow blogger, Liz from DC. Liz and I met last summer at the Healthy Living Summit in Chicago. It was so great to see her again and get caught up in person about our similar passions – healthy living and fitness. She’s a rad runner and she was also in need of oatmeal sans dairy so we were a perfect pair. We met at Cosi where they have steel-cut oats made with water and you get to choose your toppings. I love toppings. I opted for granola and strawberries.

Hello squinty eyes!

Between my work travels and my personal travels, I feel I’ve created some pretty solid strategies for staying healthy while on the road.

I want to share with you what works best for me to stick to a healthy plan. Plan is the key word here. If you do not plan correctly, you are setting yourself up to fail. There is no way around that. You can’t expect that being healthy on the road is just magically going to happen. Most of the tips below are geared toward work travel. I am not nearly as diligent when I’m truly on vacation.

  • If you are traveling to a conference, let them know if you have any specific food needs. I actually did not do this this time (fail!), so no one new I was vegan. Thankfully, I work with awesome people and the hotel I stayed at was extremely accommodating. I find that if you let people know, they really do want to help. However, if you don’t ask and are rude about it, don’t expect them to bend over backwards for you.
  • Pack snacks. I always bring a pile of snacks with me on every trip. Typically this includes larabars, mini bags of almonds and dried fruit, apples (they travel well), baby carrots and other cut up veggies (mainly for the plane ride) and sample packs of protein powder or super food. These come in handy for your actual travel time and if you are attending a conference where the food does not fit your dietary needs.
  • Stay hydrated. I find that if I’m at a conference, it is difficult to get enough water in as the rooms I’m in are usually freezing. When I’m freezing, water does not sound good. However, I try to take advantage of hot water when it’s available and force myself to down water throughout the day. Staying hydrated will help you not attack the lunch buffet and will just make you feel better.
  • Many hotel rooms have fridges that you can store things in (call ahead and ask). Many times I will find a grocery store as soon as I arrive and pick up things like fruit, yogurt, etc. to ensure healthy options.
  • You will not work out unless you bring workout clothes. Pack them. To me it’s worth having to bring all the extra gear and check a bag if I need to.
  • Use the workout gear you have. Just having it in your suitcase doesn’t count.  Almost every hotel has a fitness center. It may not be as nice as what you’re used to in all cases, but hey, you have to take what you can get. I find that staying on my regular workout schedule makes me feel better during my travels.
  • If you are traveling to a nice climate, ask the hotel if there is a safe place to run or walk outdoors. You want to make sure you’re in safe area. Please carry a phone and ID with you.
  • Yoga podcasts are awesome. I’ve downloaded a few Dave Farmar podcasts (they’re free!) and done yoga right in my hotel room.
  • Explore on foot. The best way to get to know a city (most of them anyway) is on foot.  Throw on the sneakers and get some fresh air!
  • Most conferences I go to have big meals plus treats during the breaks. I fill up as much as possible on fruits and veggies when they are available. I do my best to skip the desserts. I mean, I don’t eat dessert for every meal when I’m at home, so why would I at a conference? I’ll cave if it’s something that looks fabulous and that I can’t live without. More often than not, the desserts served in hotels or at conferences are not that great.
  • Limit the alcohol.  For me, this is key. Having more than one drink messes with my sleep and it makes me want to eat more. Plus, it makes it harder to get up and workout in the morning. If  I am feeling the pressure (why is there so much pressure?), I typically sweet talk the bartender to make a club soda and lime look like a fancier drink. Or I make one glass of wine last a looooong time. Sometimes, I may not even finish it.
  • If you have free time to eat out, research great restaurants in the area. Don’t settle for a chain or even worse, fast food, if you don’t have to. This past trip, I totally took advantage of the salad and hot bar at a nearby Whole Foods. That was dinner for me two nights in a row as I was working in my hotel room. I know…I lead a super exciting life.

Traveling during vegan lent was interesting. The hotel I was at had great food and almost always had something I could eat at meals. The one plated meal was the only difficult one. I picked the cheese off my salad so that was easy enough. The main course was either chicken or the vegetarian option which was cheese ravioli. I asked very nicely if they would be able to steam some vegetables for me (seemed like something that wouldn’t be do difficult so maybe they’d be willing) and I was presented with steamed asparagus and carrots – score! That coupled with some bread held me until the next break where I grabbed my packed snack of almonds and dried cherries.

Breakfast was more difficult. I tried the nearby Corner Bakery and they down right refused to make oatmeal with water. Seems to me a funny thing to have such a firm stance on but whatevs. From then on I stuck with my standby, Starbucks. Starbucks make their oatmeal with water and it comes with nuts and fruit and they always have bananas. Thank you Starbucks. Vegans appreciate you.

I was lucky to be in a big city. Traveling to more rural areas as a vegan, or even a vegetarian would be much more difficult. I would to have to pack an extra bag just for snacks.

Do you have any tips on staying healthy while on the road? I’d love to hear them!

restaurant review – cafe maude

7 Apr

The following post is written by Featured Contributor, Liza.

 

A few weeks ago we went out for a grown-up dinner (this only happens a few times a year in our worlds right now) with our BF’s  to celebrate Matt’s Birthday.  Here are the BF’s Matt and Heather, aren’t they adorable?

Heather and I were brainstorming about places we would like to try and she suggested Cafe Maude.  I had heard great things about it and was excited to try it.  Here is a pic of the hubs and myself.

Here are the deets…

Atmosphere – We had made reservations and thank goodness we did because it was PACKED!  The vibe is very dark, cozy and warm; very bistro like.  Highly recommend making reservations especially since this was a Friday night.

Service – This is our big complaint.  Our server was definitely a bit slow.  We ordered several small plates that we shared and the time between courses was too long.  Not sure who to blame here the server or the kitchen staff?

Drinks – Their drink list was pretty fabulous.  Being the pregnant one, I opted for a mocktail – the strawberry starlight.  It was very refreshing and delish.  Matt order a margarita…ok maybe a couple.  This was a big deal as he typically orders something much more girly like a cosmpolitan =)  Heather drank the Natasha which was a blackberry cosmo.  The hubs ordered the Double Double.  The title says it all as it is heavy on the scotch and all you need is one.  Ever since traveling to Scotland last year he has become a real scotch lover and this didn’t disappoint.  He was toasty in no time.

Food – We started with hoisin spare ribs, grilled asparagus and house cut fries.  They were all delish but the spare ribs were superb!  Now I am not typically a rib kind of girl (I know, I know…) but these were AMAZING.  Seriously, I could have eaten a whole plate by myself.

Then we moved onto grilled hanger steak and mac and cheese.  Rob and Matt have a serious love for mac and cheese so this was a must order.  It was good with a lot of lemon in it which was surprising but we decided we liked it.  The steak was great as well, it really melted in your mouth.
The mac and cheese went so fast that we ordered another bowl and another order of fries (because the pregnant lady was craving them – therefore no questions asked).  However had we known it would have taken so long to arrive, we probably would have just skipped it for dessert.

It being a birthday of course we had to have dessert. Again Cafe Maude didn’t disappoint.  Matt and Heather ordered the milk and cookies.  It was a HUGE platter, more than enough to share.  And the milk was melted vanilla bean ice cream.  It was awesome.  Rob and I shared the hazelnut chocolate torte – it was ok, nothing to write home about though.

Overall Experience – It was a great night with awesome company.  The food was good and we would for sure go back.  Though for us it is more of a celebratory occasion kind of place but for some it could appeal even on a weeknight.

Have you been to Cafe Maude?  What was your experience like?

broken bones and other bits

6 Apr

The following post is written by vegan lent participant, Jon. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. The man has some wit.

It’s been a painfully interesting few weeks since my last vegan post. Here’s the abridged version: I biked out to meet friends for a St. Patrick’s day bump when a shoelace tightened around a pedal and pulled a foot through some front spokes. I have a shoelace, a pedal, a foot and some spokes. And since I don’t particularly remember otherwise, I can only assume my set of items is the same set of items that hurled me shoulder-first into dry pavement. Now there’s a 7-inch gash from my throat over my left shoulder through which a metal plate was inserted to bolt my clavicle back together. The pre-op x-ray shows four splintered bits of bone floating among muscle and lung. The wreckage can easily be imagined into a soup stock for cannibals, which I couldn’t possibly enjoy because this is the vegan challenge and food derived from animals is unfortunately off limits.

I’m healing quickly and my convalescence as afforded the opportunity to relax, a rare vacation form myself. My buddy Tilley lent me Anthony Bourdain’s “Kitchen Confidential.” I’m only 100 pages in, but am thoroughly entertained. It’s not the quality of the prose or the uniqueness of voice that get me hot because the prose is nonexistent and the voice is average. The book is great because there’s a bipolar flow to the narration that leaves me hating it but needing more. As a reader, I equally admire Bourdain’s appreciation of individual contribution to culinary culture, want to ingest diverse intoxicants with the guy, and give him a fist sandwich. But again, I digress.

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In the last few vegan lent posts fellow challenge-takers Willa and Meghan discussed —among other things — what they eat and what they miss eating, and I’ll agree with them on all points. It takes a degree of preparation and foresight to be good at most things, veganese is no different. It also helps to be prepared when people ask, “What do you eat?” Before vegan lent nobody asked, which is sort of a shame. Maybe they’d be more shocked by my former answer: a routine weekly grocery shopping list contained four frozen cheese pizzas, a red onion and two bags of barbecue potato chips. I have no clue how the onion was used. I do know that the pizza and chips were washed down with too much beer. And while my waistline hasn’t increased in 17 years since high school given a fortunate genetic predisposition and an active lifestyle, the fat in my diet was hiding somewhere on my frame. At weigh-in before the surgery, I was surprised to see I had lost 15 pounds through the winter. While I’m not intensely sure vegan lent was the only reason for the loss, eating clean-burning food certainly helped. And now with 500 grams of titanium in my left shoulder weighing me down, I’m going to need all the help I can get.

As I might have mentioned Harrisburg isn’t known for diversity in cuisine. And unlike everyone else who contributes to this blog, that’s perfectly fine by me. Different is good, but as long as brew pubs exist and I have pulse, they unarguably provide the meaning to life. Unique food is a far second to quality beer on my list of personal musts. So imagine my happy surprise last week when a different friend (Scott) with a different injury (torn tricep) from a different sporting accident (snowboarding) invited me lunch and the local brew pub (Appalachian Brewing Company), which had vegan pub food. We swaggered through the door in arm braces, slings, stitches, bandages and scabs — very much looking worse for wear. The waiter asked which us of won the fight, and I think I did because the ABC vegan menu fares better than the standard pub-grub. That afternoon I had a sun-dried tomato and roasted red pepper hummus wrap. Even though it wasn’t a regular menu item, I don’t think the waiter had many requests because he pronounced hummus, “hue-mas.” Again this is a Central PA brew pub and I’m not that into food. So in my colorful imagination I said, “yes, that’s what I’ll have, thank you. The hume-ASS.” Then Scott and I snort and giggle like pre-pubes on acid. Except we’re not. Two beat up white, middle aged guys in the middle of a Wednesday enjoying each other’s company at a place that serves more beer than food … as life is.

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So the wrap was all right but my happy surprise in finding a vegan brew pub was quickly unrequited last night when Henriët and I returned to the ABC for a second course. I had hoped there would be more of a selection, but was sadly confronted with only a pale black-bean, quinoa and curry patty surrounded by lettuce and rolled into a sloppily thawed tortilla. The redeeming part of the meal was more an after thought. I ordered onion rings and halfway through the eleventh of a dozen I realized the batter likely contained egg. In that moment it all became clear. The choices we make invariably deny us the alternative and that’s frequently for the best. Otherwise one might add hume-ASS to their clavicle stew and no one would mind.

 

Looking to catch up on other vegan lent updates?

a brief guide to making friends as a vegan in a country of cheese

The incredible edible egg

What do you eat?

a little bit of blog love

3 Apr

This weekend was pretty dang awesome. How was yours?

Apparently I needed to complain about my spring training for it to turn around. Willa and I had a fantastic 10 mile run on Saturday that was really key to get both us back into being enthusiastic about training. The 50 degree and sunny weather was key in our spirit lifting run. Yay for spring!

In addition to the great run, I also helped out at a Triathlon 101 clinic put on by Trinona (I’m completely biased, but this is the best triathlon MN has to offer). It is so fun to see newbies to the sport. They are so excited/nervous/anxious and are so fun to talk to.

I also got a much needed massage, finished the taxes and managed to relax with Brette. And as I write this, I’m enjoying pizza (sans meat and cheese) and some red wine. I couldn’t ask for a more perfect weekend.

I thought it would be fun to share with you some recipes and articles that caught my eye recently on other blogs. In addition to reading cookbooks and multiple cooking magazines, I read a LOT of food blogs. It’s a little ridiculous. There is just so much great content out there. So here are a few things you might like.

Articles

Recipes

 

That’s a good list for now. If this is something you like, I’d be happy to post links to things I find interesting more often…just let me know.

 

What have you been reading lately that you found thought provoking or appetite arousing?

gourmet dinner club: mexican

31 Mar

It’s funny to me that we’ve had so many gatherings of the Gourmet Dinner Club and this our first Mexican theme. We were definitely due to tackle the very popular Mexican cuisine. Rick Bayless – watch out! Lee, our host, did a great job of creating a Mexican evening that we all enjoyed. This time around, we let everyone know what we were bringing so that we knew all bases were covered. And boy were they covered.


This particular evening happened to fall during vegan lent and since I’m trying to do this right, this night was not an exception. So, even though I didn’t sample every dish (so hard!), I am doing a thorough write-up and made sure to get everyone’s thoughts.

The appetizers

Liza’s mom was our special guest for the evening and she brought one of my all-time favorite foods, securing her on my favorite people list forever, guacamole.

We won’t talk about how much of that bowl I ate. it was fantastic. Did you know that you should leave the avocado pit in the guacamole because it keeps it from browning? I always learn something new at the GDC.

Also on the appetizer table were sopes – made by Kari.

Aren’t they beautiful? They got rave reviews too. Some had shrimp on top and others had a black bean mixture along with Mexican cheese of course.

Lee had quite the array of beverages to help us wash down the guac and sopes, inlcuding Mexican Beer,water, juice and a  Mexican sangria that was super tasty. She served them in very small glasses which made it completely acceptable to have three.

After we were finished with our apps and I was finished telling my story about cooking at the Corner Table, it was time to move to the table.

The Main Meal

First up – vegan tortilla soup! Amanda is such a sweetheart and found a vegan version of this Mexican favorite. I found it to be super tasty and I didn’t miss the chicken at all.

I never knew that tortilla soup had pureed tortillas IN the soup. Is this a well known fact that I just was not privy to? The crunchy strips on top were my favorite part.

Mike, who always wins for presentation, had another home run with his Mexican Rice topped with edible flowers. He created his own recipe because he’s cool like that and it included  garlic, cumin, chili powder, mint (common in the Oaxaca region), tomatoes, stock and a good grating of cotjia cheese. What’s not to like?

I took the vegan route of course and made potato and kale enchiladas from Veganomicon. They were a bit time consuming to make, as I need to roast peppers, make two different sauces, cook the potato and kale and then assemble. I’m pretty sure I dirtied every dish in my house. It looked like a bomb went off. I served them with extra sauce, cilantro “cream” (tofu), and pumpkin seeds. I would definitely make them again, but on a weekend. They keep well and I think they would freeze well too.

Here’s a look at it all put together. You can also see the black beans that Lee was kind enough to make for me. Thanks Lee!

For the main course, Lee tackled Rick Bayless’s carne asada. It looked delicious.I had some of the sauce on my beans and it was tangy and sweet. Why was it sweet? Because it had prunes in it! Fun, right?

Dessert

I love sweets so this was the hardest thing for me not to eat. Liza made tres leches cake using this recipe. There were lots of moans and groans of happiness around the table as people ate. It was an absolute hit. I think Mike tried to actually steal the leftovers at some point. Amanda who doesn’t normally like tres leches was smitten. I think she’s a convert.

No one ever leaves the GDC hungry and this evening was no exception. Despite not being able to eat many of the dishes, I was still stuffed when I left. I blame the guacamole.

As we were prepping dessert, Amanda and Mike were trying to figure out if they are related. I think the mystery is not yet solved, but how cool would that be? I can see the headline: Gourmet Dinner Club brings together long lost cousins.

It was another great evening of the GDC.

Do you have a favorite Mexican Recipe? Are there any above you’d like more detail on?

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.

Breakfast

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)

Snack

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?