Adventures in trying to be vegan in Barcelona: part 2

I’m back home now, and the remaining part of my trip wasn’t too successful in terms of finding more vegan food.

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I did go to another entirely vegetarian/vegan restaurant called Quinoa Bar Vegetaria. It was a tiny place but the food was insanely delicious. I had a vegan quiche with tomato and basil. I think the base of it was tofu, and it tasted like a margherita pizza in quiche form, but better.

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I also ordered a green smoothie, and it tasted extra good because I’d been deprived of greens the previous couple of days. I wish this place wasn’t so far out of the way from where I was staying, I would have gone there every single day.

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Chomping on the fruit I bought from the market earlier in the week

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I went on a tour of the Bacardi distillery in Sitges (the town I was staying in), and in addition to learning how rum is made, we were also shown how to make a Bacardi-style mojito. It was pretty fun, and mojitos are also vegan, which is why I thought I’d mention it.

How to trick yourself into running longer and further

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Running has always been one of my most hated exercises, mostly because it felt so boring and monotonous that I couldn’t muster the willpower go for longer than 10 minutes. A couple of weeks ago, however, I managed to trick myself into running 3 miles / 5 km, which is the first time that I have ever run that far!

But first, let’s talk about all the other things I was doing wrong.

Running mistakes I’ve made in the past

  1. Thinking I can’t walk in between

  2. Running at the same speed continuously
  3. Going as hard as I possibly could, to the point of wanting to throw up. The next time I thought about running, I’d consciously or subconsciously have the negative memory of feeling sick at the end of my previous run.
  4. Letting myself be bored either on the treadmill or with uninspiring views. Every minute feels like an hour and the whole time I’m thinking about when I could stop. Even watching my favorite trashy reality TV didn’t help much.
  5. Not doing any other form of cardio. I ended up getting ankle pain that prevented me from continuing to run. Mixing in other activities prevents injury.

What I do now

  1. My new trick: Run outside, and run half the distance I want to run in total before turning around to go back home. For example, when I want to run 3 miles, I make myself go 1.5 miles away from my apartment before turning back around. This is easy to do because I get to look at new stuff when I’m going away from home.
  2. Instead of running at the same speed continuously, I alternate running as fast as I possibly can with walking. Running fast feels way more fun to me than running at a moderate pace, and walking is a nice way to recover so I can do it again. I also use the time to take Snapchats of nature and stuff 🙂
  3. I do HIIT workouts on days I’m not running, incorporating things like jump squats, jumping lunges, plank jacks, and mountain climbers.
  4. I train comfortably and don’t push myself to the max, so it still feels fun. The gauge is that you’re supposed to be able to talk while running, otherwise you’re going too hard.

I plan on signing up for a 5k sometime this summer to motivate me to lower my overall time. Let me know if you have any tricks for race training or running in general!

Adventures in trying to be vegan in Barcelona

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Casa Batlló, a house in Barcelona designed by the famous architect, Gaudi

Hello from Barcelona / a town close to it!

Firstly, I apologize for the quality of some of these photos. Don’t laugh (ok you can laugh): I brought a high-quality digital camera with me on this trip, but I’ve been so afraid of getting pickpocketed that I haven’t been bringing it out. It’s been a couple of days and I still have all my belongings, so I feel safe enough to start using it from now on.

I haven’t been eating completely vegan on this trip since it’s been incredibly difficult, especially when I’m out with other people or not in the city. I do, however, want to share with you what I have been eating that is dairy and egg-free.

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The first place I went to was a teeny tiny but really popular tapas place called Quimet y Quimet.

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It’s like the size of a walk-in closet. You had to eat standing up, and the walls were covered floor-to-ceiling with alcohol.

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They had a delicious antipasti mixed vegetable plate with leeks, artichokes, peppers, olives, and mushrooms topped with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I don’t think there was anything else vegan on the menu — just a lot of cheese and meat.

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I ordered this vegetable paella in hopes that it was vegan, but I actually have no idea what’s in the sauce aside from tomatoes. A man was staring at me curiously as I was eating it, and I have no idea why. I ordered it around 4pm and ate it from the pan with a spoon, so maybe you’re not supposed to do one or all of those things.

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Whenever I pass by a McDonald’s in a different country, I have to go inside. Even though I almost never eat there, I’m super curious to see what twist on the menu each country has. In Barcelona, they have mostly the same items as in North America, but with a wider variety of pastries (including macarons), AND you can get gazpacho (cold tomato soup) in a bottle, shredded carrots, and cherry tomatoes.

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Now, onto my favorite part of this trip so far. For the last few meals, most of what I’d been eating was rice, bread, churros (they’re vegan by the way) and potatoes, and I was feeling pretty crappy about not having much protein or fresh produce, so I was ecstatic when I went into this vegetarian restaurant called Teresa Carles.

I wanted everything on the menu, but I ended up getting this AMAZING vegan ceviche which was also raw and gluten-free! According to the men, it has: young coconut, mushroom, hiziki seaweed, avocado, red pepper, and red onion over a base of coconut water and spirulina. I’ve never had a sauce with spirulina in it, so I thought that was pretty creative! The mushroom and young coconut gave the dish a lot of “meaty” texture.

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Fruits on fruits on fruits!

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Cute but probably doesn’t taste great

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My other favorite part of this trip was coming across this giant food market called Mercado de La Boqueria. There were so many vendors selling smoothies and endless varieties of fruit and pre-cut fruit. There was like every kind of tropical fruit it seemed — tamarind, guava, passionfruit, dragonfruit, rambutan, lychee, mangosteen, and more! There were other vendors selling infinite varieties of dried fruits, candied fruits, nuts, dried hot peppers, oils, etc. I wish I had been eating fruit from there the whole time and wanted to take home so much more than I did, but I also didn’t wanna carry around too much stuff while doing touristy things.

 

3 different things you can make with just bananas and oatmeal

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Bananas and oatmeal / oat flour are kind of a magical combination.

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I’ve discovered three completely different things you can make with just these two ingredients. But first, let’s talk about the nutritional value of oatmeal. According to Authority Nutrition:

Oats are among the world’s healthiest grains.

They are a good source of many vitamins, minerals and unique plant compounds.

Oats also contain large amounts of unique soluble fibers called beta-glucans, which provide numerous health benefits.

These include lower cholesterol, reduced blood sugar and insulin responses, relieved constipation and improved immune function.

In addition to all this, oats are also very filling, and may reduce appetite and help you eat fewer calories.

You don’t even need any added sugar if your bananas are ripe enough, so your blood sugar won’t spike as much as eating conventional pastries.

Muffins

Ingredients (makes about 5 muffins):

  • 4 medium ripe bananas
  • 2 cups oat flour

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Mash bananas with a fork or potato masher, or blend in a food processor.
  3. Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl until combined.
  4. Thoroughly grease a muffin tin, or use muffin liners.
  5. Evenly distribute batter into muffin tin.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.

Cookies

Ingredients (makes 6 cookies):

  • 1 ripe medium banana
  • 1 cup oat flour (ground up oatmeal)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mash up the banana with a fork.
  3. Add in the oat flour and mix until well combined.
  4. Optional: Add in dried fruit, nuts, cacao nibs, or anything your heart desires. I added a scoop of pea protein powder, one chopped up date, and some crushed up walnuts.
  5. Put onto a lightly greased cookie sheet or parchment paper and bake for 10-15 minutes or until firm.

You can eat these for breakfast!

Pancakes

Ingredients (makes 3 pancakes):

  • 1 medium ripe banana
  • 1 cup of oat flour (ground up oatmeal)
  • A few tablespoons of milk of your choice

Directions:

  1. Put everything in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Add enough liquid so that it’s not super thick.
  2. Heat up a lightly oiled frying pan to medium heat.
  3. Add spoonfuls of pancake batter into the pan to make 3 pancakes.
  4. Flip when bubbles start to form on the top.

Jazz it up

You can customize these up with whatever you have lying around in your kitchen, like:

  • dried fruit
  • cinnamon
  • protein powder
  • crushed up nuts
  • cacao nibs
  • chocolate chips
  • chia seeds

The world is your oyster!

 

Make your meal prepping eco-friendly

I started thinking about this topic during that week where I ate mostly raw. I came home with so many plastic bags of produce, which I crammed into my cupboard that was already full of them.

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Some of them are actually compostable, but the ones from my grocery store are not. Here are a few ways you can be a little more environmentally-friendly at the grocery store and in the kitchen.

Reusable produce bags

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I looked into reusable grocery bags, and I found a bunch on Amazon, but ended up getting these ones, which cost $11.92 for five. I used them the other day, and they were great (this post is not sponsored BTW).

Reusable zip-lock bags

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I also got these Re-Zip Seal Reusable Storage Bags to use instead of plastic Ziplock baggies. I did hesitate a bit because they’re almost $20 for five bags, but they feel nice and sturdy and so far I’m a fan.

Use less water when making pasta

Usually when people make pasta, they first fill up a pot with an arbitrary amount of water, which will often be way more water than actually needed. Instead, add the pasta FIRST, then add cold water until it just covers the pasta. This way you are using exactly the amount of water you need.

Freeze leftovers to avoid wasting food

Sometimes life gets in the way and you realize you’re not going to be home to eat all the food in your kitchen. I love freezing food I can’t eat in time, particularly breads, baked goods, fruits, and soups. A surprising number of foods can be frozen and still taste fine when re-heated, look it up!

P.S. Did you know about edible cutlery?

There’s an innovative company from India called Bakies that came up with edible spoons and forks that you can eat WITH, and then EAT when you’re done, so your meal can be waste-free. You can also compost them if you don’t want to eat them. They’re made from grains and come in a bunch of different flavors!

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I hope one day we can replace plastic cutlery and wooden chopsticks in restaurants with edible alternatives.

What are your tips for making grocery shopping, cooking, or packing food eco-friendly?

6 tips for keeping salads fresh for a whole week

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A common complaint or misconception about making salad in advance is that it will get soggy or not taste as good as when it’s fresh. Well, it doesn’t have to be this way! Here’s how you can keep your salads fresh for a full 7 days:

1. Instead of lettuce, choose heartier leafy greens

Lettuce is like a frail old lady compared to kale, collard greens, and swiss chard. I feel like lettuce becomes wilted if you so much as look at it for too long. Opt for these other leafy greens, or don’t even include leafy vegetables; there’s no rule that salads have to have them. P.S. Brussels sprouts taste great as their own salad when shredded up.

2. Leave water-based dressings on the side

Oil-based dressings make the salad taste even better when it marinates (like a massaged kale salad, for example). But because excess moisture is one of the main reasons that veggies become soggy, dressings that are mostly water should be put on just before eating.

3. Don’t use ingredients that produce a lot of water

Again, excess moisture is the enemy. Certain produce, like tomatoes and cucumbers, start leeching water when they’re cut up, so leave them out of your salad. You can use cherry tomatoes instead, however, and leave them whole.

4. Dry your ingredients

Did I mention excess moisture yet? Pretty obvious, but after washing your produce, make sure to dry it in a salad spinner or pat it with a clean kitchen towel.

5. Squeeze lemon juice on fruits that turn brown

Some produce turns brown when exposed to oxygen, like apples and avocados. Although I think eating browned produce is ok, but it can be pretty unappealing to look at! Squeezing some lemon juice on sliced avocados, apples, and other fruits to prevent browning is an age-old trick.

6. Keep your food cold

If your salad is out of the fridge and sitting at room temperature, it’s going to get ugly pretty fast. If you have a fridge at work, immediately put your salad in there when you get into the office, and don’t forget about it being in your bag (I’ve done this, because my bag is often like a black hole). You can also consider bringing it in an insulated lunch bag or a cooler.

Vegan comfort food at Doomie’s

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A few days ago I was in Toronto and went to a new vegan comfort food restaurant that had just opened, called Doomie’s near Queen and Dufferin. I’d been waiting since before they opened to go because I heard their LA location was really popular. We had to wait 30 minutes to get a table when we got there around 12:30 (they opened a 12:00), which wasn’t bad considering many places in San Francisco require a 2-hour wait.

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When you go downstairs to the bathroom, the walls are covered in comics from Vegan Sidekick.

Ok, onto the food!

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My boyfriend and I started off with Jalapeno poppers, which apparently JUST came on the menu and we were the first people to order it! Whaaaaa! They were delicious.

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For my main, I ordered “chicken” and waffles, which was super decadent and came with a side of sticky fries (which are sweet and I think sticky because of maple syrup) and topped with vegan butter.I’m not sure how I felt about french fries being sweet but the rest of it was really good, although I could only eat half of it.

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My boyfriend ordered the “chicken” sandwich. I had a bite of it and it was delicious. He was full for the rest of the day from just the burger and actually wasn’t hungry enough to eat dinner like 7 hours later.

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I had to order dessert even though I was full, because who knew when I would have the opportunity to be back there again? We got the pumpkin Doomie bits, which are kind of like Tim Bits. If you’ve never been to Tim Hortons, Tim Bits are basically donut holes. They came topped with vanilla ice cream and it was all very yummy. My mouth is watering as I type this.

If you are in Toronto, I highly recommend checking it out. If you like vegan comfort food, I ALSO recommend Hogtown Vegan, which is near Bloor and Ossington and also very delicious!