Monday, April 29, 2013

Atomic Man Duathlon Race Report

Race season kicked off yesterday with the local Atomic Man Duathlon in White Rock, just down the hill from Los Alamos. So, that also means that I get to write my first race report of the season! This race is organized by my triathlon group, the Triatomics, and is always a great early season race. There are two racing options - the "Little Boy", a 4k run/15k bike/4k run, and the "Fat Man", a 10k run/40k bike/5k run ('atomic' theme going on here...). The Little Boy was actually my very first multisport race back in 2008!

The Fat Man is a tough course - a 2 loop run which involves a long downhill followed by an equally long uphill, a bike course that starts with a few rollers before hitting a LONG climb out past Bandelier National Monument and parts of Los Alamos National Laboratory, and then a 1 loop run on the same run course as the first run. 

Fat Man Run Course

Fat Man Bike course

Scott was busy with race organizing duties on Saturday, but I was able to relax at home except for a few small things that I needed to get done around the house. Packet pick up was from 5:00-7:00 at our wonderful Los Alamos Cooperative Market, so I headed out to packet pick up around 6:00 and then stopped over to say goodbye to some friends who are moving to Florida this week. I was home with more than enough time to eat dinner, get my gear together, and get to bed a little early. 

I woke up Sunday morning feeling great and ready to race. I got to the race venue around 7:00, and even though all of the prime transition spots were taken, I still squeezed into a pretty good spot right near the bike in/bike out part of the transition. I quickly set up my gear (the amount of gear for just running and biking always seems significantly less than what is required for swim-bike-run!). The last thing I needed to do was make sure that my ponytail was low enough that I could easily get my aero helmet on during transition. I pulled my aero helmet down onto my head and seconds later heard (and felt) and loud SNAP. I took off my helmet and saw that the plastic "spider lock" that tightens the helmet had completely snapped, rendering it totally useless. 

Taken post-race - there is supposed to be another plastic piece coming out of the top! 

That little plastic piece is SUPPOSED to bridge across the red strap ...
Needless to say, it threw me for quite the loop on race morning - less than 90 minutes til go time and I didn't have a helmet. I asked a few other Triatomics members that weren't racing and couldn't find a helmet anywhere. Thankfully a fellow racer (and Triatomics member) said that his parents were going to be coming down for the race soon, and they could bring an extra helmet. Steve saved the day! Unfortunately it wasn't my aero helmet, but a helmet is a helmet. I ran into the transition area (while getting yelled at to get out!) so I could put the helmet next to my bike and I was good to go. 

The start went off without a hitch - the Little Boy racers go off a half hour before the Fat Man racers, so that most of them are off of the run course and out on the bike course before the Fat Man racers begin. I took the first 2 miles of the first run a little easy - despite warming up my legs still needed to get moving, and the hassle of dealing with the helmet left me a little frazzled. The first part of the run course is good for warming up since it's downhill, and once I hit the uphill I was able to hold about the same pace and pass a fair number of people. Near the end of the first run, I caught up to two other women and we ran about the last mile together - we definitely helped push each other to the transition! I ended up entering transition in 5th, with the 2nd place woman leaving transition as I was entering, and the 3rd and 4th place women entering right in front of me. First run time: 47:20, 7:38 pace. A little slower than I wanted, but overall not too bad. 

Once I got out on the bike course, I started into my nutrition and settled in. The rollers at the beginning of the course help you keep your speed up, but after making the bombing descent down into Ancho Canyon, there's a 6+ mile climb up to the turnaround point. It's a long, slow slog that really takes a toll on your legs. 

This was my first race with my power meter,  and the goal was to stay in my 'Olympic' wattage range, which is about 156-163 watts. Biking with power is all about steady pressure on the pedals, which is tough to learn when you're used to mashing up all the hills around here! I tried not to obsess over power, but I also made sure to check on my power numbers every so often during the climb. On really long climbs, I tend to get kind of complacent and bored, so I don't work very hard. And on the flattish uphill sections, I noticed that my power would drop significantly - by shifting gears and pushing a little harder, I was able to maintain a higher power output and get a little further with each pedal stroke. Flats aren't for recovering, they're for pushing the same amount of watts but going faster!

After reaching the bike turnaround, it's a 6+ mile downhill bomb back to the bottom of Ancho Canyon. There was a slightly headwind, so the descent was a little slower than usual, but I was able to stay down in my aero bars for almost the whole descent, despite rough road conditions. The wind kept me pedaling most of the time, which was a good thing - keeping your legs stationary for 6+ miles after all that climbing is just asking for cramping. 

I came into T2 in 3rd place - I managed to get out of T1 faster than one woman, which put me in 4th, and I passed two women on the bike, but was passed by another woman which put me in 3rd. Unfortunately there are no T2 times - I was curious, since I had the fastest T1 time out of the women, and was hoping to make T2 just as fast. Bike time: 1:32:12. 4th fastest time for the women.  

The second run was brutal. It starts with a slight downhill, which makes you THINK that your legs feel good, until you hit the flat and realize just how hard it's going to be. The second run was all about staying strong mentally - I just kept thinking that the winner is the person who is willing to accept the pain, and I wasn't scared of it! I managed to pass two people on the run (I even got a "Whoa!" out of one guy), which wasn't too bad, considering all of the racers were pretty spread out at that point. Second run time: 28:02, 9:03 pace. REALLY slow for me, but it was still the 3rd fastest run time for women, so that's a good testament to how hot (and miserable) it was on the course by that time. 

Accepting my award - $50 and a wine glass filled with Gin-Gins!
I ended up 3rd overall with a final time of 2:48:14. A little slower than I was going for, but overall a good race!

Top 3 - Amy Regan (on the right) is a TriSports Champion Team Member, so we were both rocking the TriSports gear!
All of the racing women - only 8 of us!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Florida Vacation

Last week I took an impromptu trip to Florida to visit my sister and nieces, who are 6 and 8. My brother in law was on work travel, so it was a good excuse for a girls' weekend! Right before I left, I found out that there was a Babycakes Bakery in Downtown Disney...imagine my excitement when I found out that there was a dedicated gluten-free AND vegan bakery, in Disney!! 

(For those of you that have never heard of Babycakes, check them out here: And, if you are ever in NYC, LA, or Downtown Disney, GO THERE!!)

After some running, and a pool visit for the nieces, we finally made it to Babycakes. I was overwhelmed by all the donut and cupcake choices, but finally decided on a vanilla donut with vanilla frosting. I think I was done eating it before I had even paid for it, so needless to say, there's no picture. BUT, I am hoping to get some donuts made this weekend or next (since I of course have the two Babycakes cookbooks), so be on the lookout for a blog post about that :)

I had already done some research about eating vegan at Disney, and I actually managed to find some good options at Magic Kingdom on Thursday night. We ate at the Starlight Cafe, which is a bit cafeteria-like, but when I said I was vegan, they cashier pulled out a binder with the ingredients of all the items on their menu, and the veggie burger was indeed vegan! The bun was vegan too (although can't win them all), and they even made my fries in a fryer that was dedicated to just fries (instead of fries AND chicken nuggets). Bonus: because they were only doing one batch of fries in the meat-free fryer, I got a HUGE order. Considering I never eat fries, it was definitely a treat. 

And another bonus: the ice cream place had both Tofutti AND Rice Dream ice creams! Holy moly. I was pretty amazed by that. So, for dessert (and for a sugar rush in order to keep up with the nieces til Magic Kingdom closed at 1:00 AM), I had two scoops of chocolate Tofutti. Big bonus points for Magic Kingdom!

Friday we had to check out and then we headed over to Epcot for the day. Epcot is where all the characters usually are, although unfortunately we didn't see many. Here's the only character picture I got:  

My nieces with Chip and Dale

 We didn't get to Epcot until about noon, and after an hour or so, we were starving! So, we headed to the Seasons Cafe, which is also a cafeteria-style food spot, with burgers, sandwiches, and a noodle bar. Imagine my surprise when I saw that I could get stir-fry veggies with rice noodles and vegan chick'n. Seriously?!? I placed my order, and then expressed my sincerest thanks to the ladies working behind the counter for offering obvious vegan options. 

My sister and the shark from Finding Nemo

The rest of the afternoon was spent walking Epcot, drinking beer and margaritas (obligatory in any good vacation, even if they were a little overpriced in Disney). 

Saturday was another big score of awesome vegan food, but only after getting my 3 hour workout in. Since my nieces were on spring break, they had mastered the art of sleeping until at least 11:00 AM, so I was up early and on the trainer on my sister's road bike. A little bit of knee discomfort due to the poor bike fit, but at least I got my workout in! Once my nieces woke up, I was subjected to an hour and a half of My Little Pony and The Littlest Pet Shop. That sure did make the time on the trainer fly.... (eye roll) 

Saturday afternoon we drove to downtown Tampa to take part in the St. Patrick's Day festivities, which included an Irish band, food trucks, a green river, and criteriums in the streets of downtown. After a stop at the O'Macalicious food truck for some mac and cheese for everyone but me, we found a great Mediterranean restaurant where I stuffed my face with a falafel wrap and vegan greek salad. The handcycle crits were going on, and the younger niece kept cheering for 'Bellybutton Man' since the jersey of one of the participants kept riding up. It was hard to keep a straight face. 

Pro crit in downtown - after another couple of laps there was a pretty serious  wreck right here. 
Dinner on Saturday night was at a place called Pizza Fusion in downtown Tampa. Good beer, AMAZING pizza.

They had vegan and GF crust options, soy cheese, lots of great veggie toppings. Yum! 

Sunday involved a long run and an afternoon at the beach. My travel day on Monday ended up taking a bit longer than expected since I got bumped from my first flight, but I only got home a few hours later than originally planned, and I got a $400 travel voucher on American! Not gonna complain about that... 

It was back to work this week, and I am quite ready for the weekend. I sometimes like I need a vacation to recover from my vacations! 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Dinner Recipe Rut

This post is inspired by a friend who posted on Facebook last night that she was in a dinner rut and needed some recipe ideas. Well, the Tempeh Shepherdess Pie that I made for dinner last night is a GREAT recipe rut buster, not to mention a healthy and hearty vegan and gluten-free meal that tastes like the wonderful home-cooked meals that a lot of us had as children. 

Here is my adapted version of the recipe, original recipe can be found in the Veganomicon cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. Their recipe is a little more time-intensive, my version is the shortcut (although still not a quick meal by any means!). 

2 packages of tempeh, crumbled or cubed (make sure it's the 'normal' kind, not the 5-grain, which has gluten)
Veggies!! - I used a red onion, white onion, 5 carrots, 2 zucchini, and about a half pound of spinach. I was also going to add peas, but I forgot. Edamame would be pretty tasty too
A few tablespoons of coconut oil 
4-5 cloves of roasted garlic 
One 15 oz. can of white beans (cannellini or navy beans are ideal) - optional

2-3 lbs of potatoes and/or squash 

2 cups of vegetable stock
1/4 cup cornstarch

~1/4 cup of tamari or Bragg's Liquid Aminos (I prefer Bragg's - it imparts a GREAT smokiness to any dish)

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Chop up the potatoes and/or squash and throw those all in a pot. Fill with enough water to cover everything, add a few pinches of salt, and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, turn the heat down to a medium-high and boil for about 20 minutes. 

Next, chop up all of your veggies and tempeh and throw them together in a large saute pot or pan with the coconut oil. I put the tempeh, onions, and carrots in the pot at the same time, but reserved the zucchini until later so that it didn't get too mushy. 

Also at this time, whisk ~1/4 cup of cornstarch into 2 cups of vegetable stock and set aside. It's okay if it's a little lumpy. 

As your veggies are cooking, be sure to break up the tempeh into smaller pieces so that it cooks thoroughly. I LOVE the taste of tempeh, but it can taste slightly bitter to some people, so you don't want your tempeh chunks to be too large. Once your carrots and onions start to soften, add whatever spices you want - I like basil, thyme (a little heavy on the thyme for that really "country cooking" feel!), and a bit of coriander. You can also add any other softer veggies at this time, like the zucchinis. 

Once the zucchinis start to soften, add about 1/4 cup of tamari or Bragg's Liquid Aminos. Bragg's imparts a wonderful smokiness to dishes, but can be a bit overwhelming if you don't like too much smokiness. A tamari/Bragg's combo might be the way to go the first time you make the dish, and then you can adjust the next time. Give the veggies a few stirs, and then add your vegetable stock/cornstarch mixture and turn the heat up to high. Once boiling, turn the heat down to medium-high and let boil for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Once the liquid starts to thicken, remove from heat. At this time, gently stir in your white beans, if using. 

By this time, your potatoes and squash should be done boiling, so drain those and then return to the pot for some mashing. I like to add some Earth Balance and soy milk during mashing, and for an extra special treat, if you're using butternut squash, add some maple syrup! It'll bring out an incredibly yummy sweetness in the butternut squash that is a great balance to the earthiness of the tempeh and veggie mixture. 

I typically prefer really smooth mashed potatoes, but because these will be the topping for your shepherd's pie, it's kind of nice to leave them a little lumpy. Otherwise, the whole dish can sometimes get a little too gooey and mushy and all have the same texture. 

Dump your tempeh/veggie mixture into a 9x13 inch casserole dish. Next, top with your mashed potato/mashed squash and spread it around so that it completely covers your tempeh and veggies. You can use a spatula, but I find that using your hands works the best! 

Bake at 375 for 20 minutes. If you want it to be a little extra crispy (and extra delicious!) on top, then put it under the broiler for 5-10 minutes. Just keep a close eye on it so it doesn't burn those yummy potatoes! 

Let sit for about 5 minutes before serving, or else it'll be way too runny and difficult to serve. 


I actually made my mashed potatoes and mashed butternut squash separately, and then just alternated between a dollop of potatoes and a dollop of squash for a cool, checkerboard-topped pie. That way, I could put some yummy maple syrup in the squash, but not make my potatoes weird and sweet. But, that all depends on how many dishes you want to have at the end.

I'm pretty convinced that any veggie would work in this dish. Have fun with it! 

You could also put ground beef in there instead of tempeh if your family isn't vegan. Or, leave out the tempeh and put an extra can of beans for a cheap family dinner. 

The possibilities are endless. I bet a sweet potato topping would be pretty tasty too! Let me know if you come up with any good variations - I'd love to hear about them!

Monday, February 18, 2013

My Go-To GF Flour Mix

Well, it's the end of a 4-day weekend (one of the perks of working for the government - you get every other Friday off, so Monday holidays sometimes result in 4 day weekends!), the kitchen is clean, there's bread rising in the oven, and I just opened up a bottle of wine. Seems like a good time to get caught up on the blog. 

I actually didn't do too much baking (or cooking) this weekend. Friday was a simple butternut squash and sweet potato soup - we were watching a friend's dog for the night, and trying to cook and patrol the cat/dog interaction can be a little overwhelming. Saturday night we grabbed a quick bite at the Coop before going to Beautiful Creatures (it was just okay - I wouldn't really recommend it), and then last night, we went to one of our most favorite places ever...Tesuque Village Market down in Tesuque, which is about 2/3 of the way to Santa Fe from Los Alamos. 

Scott and I love TVM - they are a very local, sustainable restaurant that serves only local stuff and returns all of its organic waste back to the farms. Very cool! It can be a bit of a challenge to eat out as a vegan, but TVM has a few viable options - a homemade black bean burger, veggie tamales, and then a wide variety of burrito/taco/enchilada options that can be made with beans and/or veggies. But most importantly, they have AMAZING margaritas! I have a mild obsession with their blood orange margaritas, but the prickly pear margs are quite tasty as well. Since we were sitting at the bar, we got to watch the margs being made, and I was surprised to see how many grapefruit margs the bartender was churning out. We've been making homemade margs with grapefruit for quite some time now, I guess we were ahead of the trend! 

So, back to the bread that's rising in the oven - this is a variation on my most recent favorite bread recipe called the 'Egg-free Bean Bread'. It doesn't sound very exciting, but this was the very first recipe that I made from The Gluten-Free Gourmet Bakes Bread cookbook, and it has turned out wonderfully every single time. I have been adding pepitas and walnuts to it for a little extra nutrition and crunch, and it really is delicious. Even non-GF friends love it! 

The main flour mix that is used in this bread is a mix of garbanzo-fava bean flour, sorghum flour, cornstarch, and tapioca starch. I have been making up a double batch of this flour whenever I start to get low, as it has become my go-to flour mix for all things GF. So, here's the recipe (copied from The Gluten-Free Gourmet Bakes Bread by Bette Hagman): 

Garbanzo-fava bean flour: 2 cups
Sorghum flour: 1 cup
Tapioca starch: 3 cups
Cornstarch: 3 cups 

Makes 9 cups total. 

A word of caution - starches seem to go EVERYWHERE when you are mixing these up, so I would suggest mixing the garfava and sorghum flours together, and then slowly adding the starches, whisking gently as you go. If you dump all 6 cups of starches into the garfava/sorghum mix at one time, odds are you'll lose at least a cup of it! 

I would recommend buying these flours in bulk if you have the room to store them. They really should be stored in the fridge or freezer, which can be problematic if you already have a packed refrigerator! But, it is significantly cheaper to buy in bulk from Amazon or your local Coop market as opposed to buying each flour individually. So, our freezer currently has a whole shelf that is full of various GF flours.

This is what our freezer looks like - GF flours and Tofutti cuties!
I have had really good luck with substituting this blend in to any recipe that calls for all-purpose flour. The only trick is that you need to add the correct amount of xanthan gum as well, but beyond that, you can follow a recipe as-is with no other adjustments in order to make it gluten-free. The basic guidelines for xanthan gum use can be found on the back of the xanthan gum package from Bob's Red Mill. I have used this blend in brownies and muffins so far, and they have both turned out quite tasty! I also recently made a lava cake with this blend, which didn't turn out quite as well, but I think it was more a matter of undercooking and recipe adjustments (I was trying to only make half the recipe) as opposed to the use of the GF flour blend. 

I plan on experimenting around with some of the other flour blends, but this one seems to be the best so far, especially since it is a 1:1 substitution for all-purpose flour. A lot of GF mixes are not a 1:1 substitution for non-GF flours, which can be a pain. 

In the meantime, here's a picture of the bread the last time I made it. 

It actually turns out really nice and springy, and the pepitas and walnuts are a great addition for some added texture. I'll get the recipe printed up soon! 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Vegan Seafood?!

First, a quick plug for a sweet new cookbook that I just ordered from the Queer Vegan Food blog. It's only $15, with lots of recipes from well-known vegan and vegetarian chefs. And the best part is that 100% of the proceeds go to the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. Very cool! 

And, one other nice thing - it's digital! Pay your $15, get the cookbook almost instantly. Just be warned of drooling at your desk while looking through recipes. I'm already excited about the blueberry avocado salsa and the chocolate-covered potato chips. They also have recipes for corn, black bean, and cherry tomato cupcakes as well as peanut butter and tomato sauce. Plus the number of dessert recipes is almost equal to the number of appetizer, side, and entree recipes combined, so it's gotta be good!

So, on to the main reason for this blog post...

Last night, Scott and I tried the Sophie's Kitchen brand vegan crab cakes. You can check out their website here:

The basic gist of the company is that the owners' daughter (and namesake of the company) has a seafood allergy, and so they developed this company as a vegan substitute so that their little girl could still enjoy seafood.

The main ingredient in a lot of their products is the konjac root or elephant yam. The elephant yam has traditionally been used across Asia for a very long time, and is considered a health food because of its high fiber content and relatively low caloric count. After a quick scan of the Wikipedia page on konjac (, I was surprised to learn that konjac is commonly made into a popular Asian fruit jelly snack, but can pose a choking risk because it doesn’t readily melt in your mouth. Because of these ‘gelling’ properties, it can also be used as a vegan substitute for gelatin.

Before reading my review, know that I lived in Baltimore for a year and a half. Crab cakes are to Baltimore what burritos are to New Mexico – they are cheap, easy to eat, and every restaurant claims they make the best one. So obviously, you must try them all! But, my review might be a tad bit harsher than the ‘average’ seafood consumer-turned-vegan.

Upon removing the crab cakes from the packaging, they do look pretty real. They have the lumpy type of texture that is common in crab cakes, and the size and density is about right. You have two options for cooking – you can either pan-fry them for a few minutes on each side, or you can bake them. Since I already had the oven on for our cabbage/onion/pasta side dish, I just lightly oiled a cookie sheet and placed them on there for a 20 minute trip into the oven.

I flipped them over after 10 minutes, and the bottom was starting to brown some. I like my crab cakes pretty crispy on the outside, so after an additional 10 minutes, when they weren’t completely browned on both sides, I put them under the broiler for a few minutes, which did the trick. While they were cooking, I made up a quick tartar sauce of sorts, which was just Vegenaise, roasted garlic, some dill, and a bit of zucchini relish that Scott’s mom makes each year.

Scott seemed a little hesitant about the crab cakes after the first bite, but the combination of our pasta side dish and the mock tartar sauce were enough to win him over.I was a little less excited about them, but I have seriously high standards for crab cakes, and with living inland, I really don’t miss seafood because I’ve gotten so used to not eating it.

I’d say that overall, the texture was actually pretty good. It was kind of mushy and a tad bit stringy, like crab cakes can be, and I think getting the extra crispness on the outside is key – it gives a little more added texture to the cake, which might tend to get sort of bland after a few bites otherwise. One of the other main ingredients in the crab cakes is seaweed powder, and so I think because of that, the crab cake is still somewhat fishy. Or at least the seaweed powder imparts a ‘from the ocean’ sort of taste.

These are definitely not going to fool anyone into thinking they are real, but I think the texture is reminiscent enough of real crab cakes to win over any vegan looking for that seafood fix without having to eat a fish. I’m not sure that I would purchase them again, mainly because I’m not really into the meat substitution thing. But, if you are going to a dinner party or get together and feel like you need something more ‘real’ for the non-vegans, the Sophie’s Kitchen items would probably be a decent happy medium for everyone.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Finding Recipes

I absolutely LOVE browsing through cookbooks for ideas. I am horrible at following recipes (just ask Scott how many times in the last month a story has started with "So, I didn't quite read the entire recipe, but...."), but my experiments usually turn out pretty good! Here are some of my current loves when it comes to vegan cookbooks: 

Veganomicon by Terry Hope Romero and Isa Chandra Moskowitz

If you get one vegan cookbook, it should be this one. The recipe descriptions are detailed, witty, and so much fun to read. And the number of recipes in just one book is incredible! Not many pretty pictures, but is that really necessary when you're just going to devour what you make anyways?? 

Vegan Eats World by Terry Hope Romero

This was a birthday present from Scott, and I LOVE it. The recipes are entirely unique, and you can easily travel the globe with just your taste buds when you make anything from this cookbook. There are some obscure ingredients (Berbere spice, anyone?), but it's worth seeking them out for the yummy results. I am still dreaming of the Flourless Mexican Chocolate Torte that I made last weekend. 

I also get a lot of my recipe ideas from Facebook and browsing around on blogs. Here are some of the blogs I'm loving right now: 

Fork and Beans

A great gluten, egg, and dairy-free blog. Not a vegan specific blog, but most of the recipes are vegan or can easily be made vegan. 

Manifest Vegan

Dedicated to both gluten-free and vegan recipes, this is a great blog. I also have Allyson Kramer's cookbook, which is incredible. Her recipe for macaroni and cheese is amazing! 

Forks over Knives

This is a great site during the holidays, when they typically suggest multiple recipes that pair well together. 

The plan is to post a recipe idea or review at least once a week. I am always trying new recipes, but they don't always quite turn out, especially with the added challenge of high altitude cooking and baking. So, check back for some delicious ideas soon!

Monday, February 4, 2013

2013 Race Season

Well, the blog has been revamped and I'm ready to rock and roll. For the time being, I'm just going to let you all in on my tentative 2013 race schedule. Hope to see some of you out there!

Race Name 
Race Distance
4/28/2013 Atomic Man Duathlon 10k run/40k bike/5k run
5/19/2012 Santa Fe Century  50 miles
5/25/2012 Iron Horse Bicycle Classic 50 miles 
5/26/2013 Narrow Gauge Road Race 10 miles
6/1/2013 Deuces Wild Triathlon Olympic
6/24/2013 Buffalo Springs Lake TriathlonHalf Ironman 
7/22/2013 Cochiti Lake Triathlon Olympic
8/26/2013 505 Triathlon 1 m swim/40 m bike/9.5 m run
12/1/2013 Ironman Cozumel Full Ironman

My fall races are still TBD, pending early race season results!