Sunday, February 22, 2015

Tofu Chili for Everyone

For the past six months or so Woody and I have been following a mostly vegan diet. Spurred on by our continuing quest to live healthy and long lives, we've decided that cutting out most animal proteins from our diet is a step we feel comfortable doing as part of our efforts. I haven't talked about it much - if at all - because it's still new for us and we're figuring it out. Beyond this, I'm not planning to turn this into a vegan blog or try and convince everyone to make the switch like we are. While I generally hope that people will work to eat healthy diets (most of the time), what works for each of us is different, and likely changes quite a few times over the course of our lives.

How can I live without cheese?
It's true, giving up cheese and Greek yogurt were, by far the hardest things I've had to cut from my (almost daily) routine, but after a while it just wasn't a big deal anymore. To be perfectly frank, when I say we're following a mostly vegan diet that's because we have made a few exceptions and know that when we eat out a few things might have butter, or a little bit of egg (and we did indulge in burgers at Delmonico's when we were in NYC last fall). But generally we're pretty conscious of what we're eating and don't include meat, dairy or eggs when cooking at home.

With all that said, we've been experimenting with different foods lately to get the nutrition we need. With the cold and snowy weekend we've had, a big pot of chili sounded perfect for Sunday dinner. As Woody said when he finished his last bite, it's nearly the perfect meal - pretty cheap, really easy, and healthy (how I make it, anyway). To change it up a little I decided to add some tofu to the mix. 

Chili is really all about throwing a bunch of ingredients into a pot and letting in simmer for hours. As far as I'm concerned, it's even better the next day. The basics: lots of onion, garlic, and peppers...

Throw these into a pot with tomatoes (I opt for a mix of no salt added diced tomatoes & fire roasted diced), with a combination of black and kidney beans.

Using firm tofu, I drained then pressed it for about an hour to get a good amount of the liquid out. Then I rubbed in a bit of black pepper and chili season on both sides and baked at 400 degrees for just over an hour - flipping half way through. 

Cut into cubes I added it into the pot, added more chili seasoning and a little bit of ketchup and simmered for several hours.

So, all that was:
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Bell Peppers (any color will do but a mix is best)
  • Diced Tomatoes (no salt added & fire roasted)
  • Beans - Kidney and Black
  • Firm Tofu
  • Black Pepper
  • Chili Seasoning
  • Ketchup
I don't list quantities because it really depends on how big a pot your using and how many people you want to serve. I often make one pot then add a little more veggies for the second night if it seems like it could use a little bulking up.

The tofu really just added another texture to the chili. As far as I'm concerned, it doesn't have much of a flavor, so it won't overpower the other ingredients, but it does add a lot of protein without many calories. Next time I think I'll try preparing the tofu like a scramble - which should replicate the texture of ground beef. 

When Neil Patrick Harris was just about to take the stage for his Oscars monologue (really, he's the perfect host), I dished up the chili and topped it off with a bit of avocado, because let's face it, everything is better with avocado!

Did you have a favorite Oscar dress or moment? How much snow did you get this weekend? If you make tofu dishes, what's your favorite?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

I Don't Love Patterned Running Tights, And That's Okay

I’d like to preface this by saying that I fundamentally have nothing against the trend of bright-colored patterned yoga pants and running tights, and I do believe everyone has the right to express their personality in whatever way they like (so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else of course) and what gets one person off the couch and working out doesn't always work for someone else. As this is my blog, however, and I have the right to espouse on any subject of my liking (within reason, of course), I feel it’s a “safe” place for me to discuss my personal opinions about a new trend in fitness gear (or “athliesure wear,” as has been dubbed the new term) as I have a feeling there are some who might feel the same way I do - and many who don't.

Okay, that was a long introduction.

I'm sure you've noticed the proliferation of bright, patterned yoga pants that have been popping up everywhere over the past many months. They're all over my Instagram feed and on almost every page of the Athleta catalogues that arrive in my mailbox on a weekly basis. I'm going to take a wild guess and say that at least 60% of the women who read this post have at least one pair in their collection of workout gear.

Well.... I have a confession. I'm not a big fan of them.

Crazy, to some, I'm sure. But I'm perfectly okay with it. Don't get me wrong, I understand the appeal. We've been wearing black and grey yoga pants and running tights for well over a decade now and there are only a few ways to make those basic colors stand out from the rest of the pack. Even though sales of "athleisure" wear are surging, how many pairs of black workout tights can each of us really handle?

I can picture it now: a group of designers and marketers sitting around a big conference table looking over sales numbers and tasked with finding a way to sell more tights. When bam! Inspired by a floral or teak printed top, one genius person muses, "why not make tights out of that?" 

Okay, so that's probably not exactly how it started, but maybe.

When I started working out regularly and then began my relationship with running, I only wore the ubiquitous Nike shorts that make your butt look kind of poofy no matter what size you get. At that time there weren't a whole lot of choices. I probably had a half-dozen pairs of those shorts - in black - and a few pairs of running tights and capris, in black. Likely a result of living in New York City with a wardrobe that didn't wander far from varying shades of black and grey. Thankfully those days are over, but I haven't really strayed all that far.

My collection of running tights and capris has grown to a respectable, yet far from outrageous, five pairs, all of the Oiselle variety. I’m also embarrassed to admit how many false starts there were before I actually pulled the trigger on purchasing the two pairs that aren’t black or navy. And they aren’t even that crazy, heck the Moto Lesley Tights aren’t even patterned, they’re just gray (and I love them)! 

While most of the patterned running tights are quite beautiful on the hanger, and look fantastic on a lot of people, like every style of clothing they’re not for everyone, and I’m pretty sure they’re not for me. Call me boring if you like, but I enjoy sticking to the basics and adding in pops of color here and there. I’d rather not call attention to my least favorite feature with patterns in vivid colors. This is as crazy as I get with my running tights...

So what I’ve been trying to say in a very long-winded way, is that if you're also one of those runners, yogis, or simply someone who prefers to spend their life in the comfort of yoga pants but isn’t jumping for joy over this new trend, know that even though it may seem like it at times, you’re not alone my friend. 

Disclaimer: I maintain the right to change my opinion at any time with no fear of consequence if I meet the right pair of bright-colored patterned running tights.

Are you a fan of the new patterned tight trend? * What's your favorite workout for a snowy weekend? 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

ClassPass in Denver

A few weeks back I wrote about the first half of my month with ClassPass, and the classes I took at local studios including Thrive24, Club Pilates, Endorphin and Infinity Yoga, using the program's unlimited class offering. I'm thankful to ClassPass for providing me with a complimentary 1-month membership so I could take those classes and two others that I want to tell you about.

Ride - The Rider's Barre
The Rider's Barre stuck out to me immediately when I started looking through all the class and studio options. They offer single-discipline classes, like the Ride (aka spin or cycling) class I took on a really snowy Wednesday night, and classes that combine two activities like YogaBarre, YogaCycle, and Ride/TRX. The studio is in an older building in a small cluster of store fronts along S. Broadway. There's a rather large front area with a room for yoga and barre classes just behind and the room filled with spin bikes and TRX trainers is at the back. There were about six women in my class and the teacher, Erin, was upbeat, enthusiastic and didn't let the falling snow outside slow us down. The music was good - I heard the new Madonna song for the first time - and I definitely got a good workout but I wasn't completely exhausted after this one like I was after the class at Endorphin (granted, that incorporated rowing, weighted exercise balls, and lots of squats). I did wish by the end of class though, that I had invested in a pair of bike shorts!

If You Go:
- You don't need special shoes, but if you have them, great! These bikes are equipped to handle sneakers for those of us who don't take enough spin classes to make investing in special shoes worth it, and those who ride 5 days/week.
- Being on S. Broadway there isn't a ton of parking, but look for something in the neighborhood or come sans car if you live nearby.
The Bardo Coffee Shop, two doors down, is perfect for a post-workout coffee, or if you're looking for a bit more hearty breakfast, head up a few more blocks to Denver Biscuit Co. Looking for something a little different, check out Adrift Bar & Grill for a little tiki-inspired fun.

Pilates - Pilates Evolution
This class made me come to terms with the fact that my core is as weak as a leaf. I struggled through the 45 minute class from the first minute, making the class feel like it was never going to end, but yet it was over in a flash. Maybe the 4 mile run and lack of water had something to do with it, but my abs and legs fatigued quickly from the reps and resistance. When we got to the arm section towards the end, I could finally show off my mastery of the seated row! Our instructor, Shannon, was spunky, super-fit, and who's quasi-drill sergeant demeanor was slightly frustrating yet made me determined to push through. I definitely felt the burn the next day, particularly in my abs, which kind of makes me want to take the class again.

If You Go:
- The studio is very simple - just a large room with a good number of reformers. There is a drinking fountain but it's slightly hidden in the hallway shared with other businesses that leads to the public restrooms.
- Located in Cherry Creek, like Club Pilates, there are great restaurants and shops all around, including a Whole Foods 2 blocks away. Ink Coffee, also nearby, has an addicting drink called the Blended B&B (espresso, chocolate, banana, milk, ice) that tastes sinful but incredibly satisfying after a hard workout. I suggest adding some protein powder to the mix.
- Because of all the construction in the area, plan to park in the neighborhood and walk several blocks, or if you can, walk/run/bike from home.

Final Thoughts on ClassPass:
As for my overall experience with ClassPass, I did really enjoy trying out a lot of new classes and the variety I was able to put together. 

The website and app make it pretty easy to search for classes - via a list or map - and reserve a spot. The user profile not only keeps track of classes that are upcoming, but classes that have been taken, which is a nice feature if you want to quickly reserve a spot in the same class at another time or look back to see what you've taken recently. The reminder emails the day prior to each class were also helpful, especially because twice I needed to cancel my reservation due to work obligations and if you cancel less than 24hrs in advance you're charged $20 (which makes sense to me). At least twice during the month I got emails announcing that new studios had been added to the program, which was great to see. 

On the other hand, as expected, it seemed the vast majority of classes offered - as of January - were of the yoga/barre/Pilates variety. There a few clunky features with the website as more than a few times I tried to reserve a spot in a class that appeared open but didn't actually have any spots left. I spent a lot of time trying to find the right class, in the right part of town, on the right day, and at the right time to fit my schedule. I imagine though that after a few months users get to know what studios and classes they really like and these factors become less of an issue.

As much as I love trying new classes and expanding my fitness routine, I won't be investing in the $79/month membership on an ongoing basis. Woody and I have our early morning routine down, and I don't see myself deviating enough from that routine to make the expense worth it. Plus, I found it really difficult to fit classes into my schedule after work so most of these were taken on the weekend, which limits me to only a couple days a week. I do see how this would be a great option for those who love to take classes and have short commutes. If a lower cost membership option for just 4 or 5 classes per month was available, I would definitely consider it and I did find a few studios that I'll go back to for drop-in classes now and then!

What was your favorite/best workout from the past week?