Which is Better: Pre-or-Post Workout Noms?

There’s plenty of argument in both directions. My favorite advice involves chocolate milk post-workout, but that’s perhaps just me.

I stumbled across this article when I was searching for further advice on the topic, since I’ve recently (about 18 hours ago) decided to take up running in the mornings. Today, I admit, I didn’t eat before my… activity. (I hesitate to call it a run, since I’m sure I didn’t actually run more than a quarter of the whole mile track.) In retrospect, maybe I should have. The article points out that morning exercise often comes after something like a 10-hour fast. You’re running on fumes, the article says. I wonder if that might have anything to do with my exhaustion afterwards?

On the other hand, it is recommended that you allow some time to digest before you embark on your exercise routine, since activity directs blood flow away from your digestive system, which can cause problems. How early do I have to get up and eat before I can work out? Will I have to start getting up at 5:00 a.m. for a 6:30 jog? Because I barely managed to drag myself out of bed by 6:15 today. I imagine it will get easier, but how much of that will be ‘getting used to’ the schedule? How much of it will be eating right? Perhaps time will tell. Until then, I could go for a banana…

Tea time!

Tea. The magical beverage of wonder–You have it hot, or iced, or sweet, or bitter, with or without milk, with tapioca bubbles, over rice, mixed with alcohol, mixed with lemonade…! Tea is honestly my best friend, and with all the studies relating green tea to weight loss, there’s little reason not to drink tea.

I will admit, green tea is my favorite. It is the one with the most known health benefits, and there are so many varieties, it’s easy to find a kind you like. I have two green teas in my ‘Tea Shelf’ at the moment–one is Lipton’s Orange, Passion Fruit and Jasmine Green Tea, and the other is Bigelow’s Green Constant Comment. I love them both. Constant Comment comes in two varieties, green and black, and both are lovely for a morning tea in the fall and winter, where the warm, spicy tea works best to wake you up and get you ready for the day. The Lipton variety I have is a perfect afternoon cuppa, and it’s delicious iced with a little bit of agave nectar for extra sweetness.

My eighth birthday was a tea party. I invited the girls to get all dressed up, and we decorated lavender sachets, drank tea from my mom’s gorgeous teacup collection, and played board games in our delicate lace gloves. It was loads of fun. Additionally, in the five or six years when my best friends came over every Wednesday after school, my mom would always let us drink tea from the nice teacups before we did our homework.

In all that time, I’ve sort of ‘acquired’ some tea tips:

  • Black, mint, and herb teas are better sweetened with sugar, fruit teas are better sweetened with honey or agave. My favorite tea is Bigelow’s Plantation Mint, which is spearmint and black tea, and I’ve discovered that it just tastes better with real sugar. It brings out the mint better than honey does. Green teas, on the other hand, plus my Chamomile tea, are lovely with honey, which has a softer sweetness to it.
  • When heating water for tea, don’t use a whistling kettle. It completely boils the water before it whistles, and boiling water makes tea taste sort of dull. Maybe it cooks the tea before it steeps it or something, but it’s just not as flavorful. I use an old kettle that I remember using as a kid for years. When wisps of steam start to make their way up the spout, it’s ready. The water is steaming, it’s heated enough. You get–shock!–a steaming cup of tea, without it being boiling hot. How novel.
  • Steep your tea in a teapot, even if you only plan on drinking one cup. The stacking single-serve teapot/cup sets are lovely for this. It makes it easier to get another cup if you decide you want one (and I always want another, even if I don’t want to want another), instead of pouring more hot water in a mug with a mostly spent tea bag.

I could prattle on about tea for ages. I’ve got seven boxes of tea in my room at the moment, about evenly distributed across the spectrum of tea varieties. I might have to list and ‘review’ them one day soon. Fall is coming–it’s almost Tea Season!

Maybe, some day, Oatmeal and I will get along.

Yesterday, I mentioned a long-standing feud that I have with Oatmeal. I don’t like oatmeal. I have never liked oatmeal, but I have to eat it because it’s healthy.

For the longest time, the mere sight of cooked oatmeal was mildly nauseating. I could handle oatmeal baths, oatmeal raisin cookies, no-bake cookies… But a regular bowl of oatmeal? Perish the thought. I made it a point to try it every few years. Before this week, the last time I tried oatmeal was three years ago, sitting down for a bowl of oatmeal at Starbucks when the shop in my school had a morning sale on it for the winter. I put all of the provided nuts, fruits, and brown sugar into it, plus some more sugar, and a little milk. I think I was trying to make it into an oatmeal cookie.

But I failed, and only choked down three or four bites before I gave up and, hating myself for wasting food, threw it away. Unwilling to repeat the embarrassing mistake, I avoided oatmeal like the plague for a while yet. I only purchased the Oat Revolution packets on the condition that my roommate would, should I discover that I found it entirely unpalatable, eat the rest for me.

Fortunately, with the help of some Kashi cereal for texture, I managed to choke down the first bowl. It was horrible, mostly because I made it in too shallow of a bowl, so it got weirdly crusty and tough. Recognizing my mistake, I didn’t entirely give up, but it was a few days before I tried again, this time in a smaller bowl. I added a half cup of dried berry mix I had gotten at Wal-Mart for that very purpose, and managed to eat the entire bowl with slightly less gagging.

I doubt I will ever truly enjoy it, but since oatmeal is one of the healthiest, most filling hot breakfasts you can find, I will continue to seek out ways to make it edible for me. Here is a list of ways I’ve found so far:

  • Add dried fruit, like cherries, blueberries, cranberries, raisins, and such.
  • Add fresh fruit, like diced apples, which hold their crunch well enough in the mush.
  • Add granola or cereal to oatmeal after cooking, to add texture and give you something to bite into.
  • Blend it into a smoothie.

Okay, I haven’t tried the last one, but I’m considering it. I’ll let you know how that goes!

Rome Wasn’t Cleaned In A Day…?

I will be the first to admit that occasionally, I’m kind of a slob. My single-teenage-girl’s bedroom was almost always messier than my two-adolescent-brother’s shared bedroom ever was. I’m not dirty, exactly, I just don’t like putting stuff away, when the floor is so much closer!

However, when I moved into an actual apartment for the first time, with a kitchen and laundry room and separate bed-and-living rooms, with my own private bathroom and a whole real pantry, I felt kind of like hot stuff. And I kept most of that mess clean.

…For all of a week.

For me, the urge to have things tidy and orderly is passing, and while I occasionally go on spring-cleaning-scale rampages, in the meantime the mess can start to get out of hand. So, as part of my New-Month’s-Resolutions (I’m aware it’s past mid-month anyway), I’m going to work on cleaning again. It’s not as if I have an excuse. School dosen’t start for another 5 weeks, and since I only work 6 hours a day on average, it’s not like I don’t have time.

The biggest issue for me, is breaking it into manageable chunks. I don’t like working for hours on end, only to realize that i’ve technically only crossed one thing off my list. It’s a little bit of a mind-trick, but when you put: “Sort Clothes, Wash/Dry Clothes, and Fold/Hang-up Clothes” on your list, instead of “Do Laundry”, you feel a little better being able to check off the steps, showing progress, instead of having to wait three hours to check one little box.

Everyone has a lot of the same basic tasks. Laundry, Cleaning, Preparing for upcoming events and obligations, and so on. I just mentioned how I like to break down laundry, but my mother goes a step further: She makes a grid of check boxes for five loads of wash, dry, and put-away, that way she can track her progress throughout the day as she slogs through piles of my brother’s football jerseys and dad’s three changes of clothes for work, relaxing, and chores.

Speaking of chores, there’s plenty of other things that can be broken down into parts. Cleaning can break down, not only into categories like “pick up papers” and “sweep/vacuum”, but even further down into “clean sink, clean toilet, mop floor, replenish toilet paper” for a bathroom.

Writing down all the single steps to a task helps keep me on track when I’m not really wanting to clean, and it helps keep me focused when I go on cleaning rampages, because otherwise I’d have half the house clean–in tiny spots that get quickly overwhelmed!

I think, when I get home today, I will sort, launder, and put away the backlog of clothes I have waiting for me, before putting my muffin mixes in order, gathering my spices into one spot, and stacking my canned soup so I can wash the counter, do a sinkful of dishes, and wipe out the microwave. That’s nine whole things I can accomplish tonight!

Cooking with my Roommate

Becca and I became roommates when, after a year in our respective pit-of-doom rooms we called living situations at the time, we both got fed up and decided we would work well living together. Obviously, I had some reservations about living with a friend. They say that nothing ruins a friendship like living together, or road trips. Well. We haven’t gone on a road trip, but living together hasn’t seemed that bad so far, and it’s been almost three months, and while we’ve had days where we can’t talk to one another for fear of blowing something up, we haven’t killed each other yet.

Mostly because, if I killed her, I’d lose my own personal chef.

I truly mean this, too. So far, in the two-months-and-some-change we have shared a kitchen, refrigerator, and and sink, she has made: a fantastic ratatouille (twice!), Eggplant Parmesan, a magnificent dinner with curried chicken and apple-vinegar kale, numerous decadent salads, omelets, cinnamon rolls from scratch, fresh bread from scratch, oodles of delicious sandwiches, smoothies, and more. She says her specialty is baking, though, and admittedly her cheesecake is utterly to DIE for. Whenever Becca cooks, I know I’m gonna get something healthy, and I know she’s going to spend half her time plating the dish, then describing it to me. Eating dinner with her makes me feel like I’m a judge on Iron Chef, it’s amazing! :D

A Picture of Becca's Cheesecake

Finished and plated cheesecake, photographed for a project Becca had at school.

Almond Milk, Cookies, and Birdwalks

I come about my ideas in the strangest ways, sometimes.

Two days ago, I was at work, browsing for a good Chai concentrate recipe (don’t freak out, I wasn’t neglecting anything in the process!). I found one on a beautiful website called Tasty-Yummies.com. The Chai recipe had a suggestion to mix the concentrate with Almond Milk, and linked to a recipe elsewhere on the website. I quickly scribbled it down, and then noted that it had another link to a cookie recipe that used the pulp leftover after straining the milk. So I wrote that down as well, and once my shift was over, I hopped on a bus to Whole Foods to pick up Medjool dates and almond flour for the cookies, plus sunflower seeds for my own favorite ramen-cabbage salad (the recipe for which I will post very soon–it’s delicious and quite healthy!). I spent a few hours walking around downtown before my roommate came and picked me up so we could go to Meijer (a chain store similar to Wal-Mart Super-center) for a few extra items.

You see, while sitting in a Starbucks downtown, I got back on Tasty-Yummies to make sure I had everything, and somehow I stumbled across a pickle recipe. Well, I had nothing that I needed for those, so I had to pick up all of the ingredients for the brine, plus cucumbers, and mason jars. I got home exhausted, but I had everything for my culinary escapades for the next few days, which involved making almond milk (an excellent addition to Kashi GoLean Crunch), almond cookies (which turned out no-horrible, but not amazing. I need to work on getting the texture right–vegan cookies aren’t as forgiving as regular ones with eggs and so forth), and pickles!

I haven’t tried the pickles yet. I’m so excited, though. I can’t wait to bite into one and see how it turned out!

The pickles I made

Four jars of my fresh pickles, cooling off on the balcony before I refrigerate them. I can eat them in five days! (I’ll post again when I do!)