All Hail The Newbies

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POSTED BY THE VEGAN HUSBAND

January is a time of renewal.  It marks the end of one year and the beginning of the next.  And, at health clubs, gyms, and YMCA’s all over the world, it marks the return of The Newbies.

The Newbies, a nickname for those who make New Year’s resolutions to get in shape, arrive in droves, hoping to make regular exercise a habit.  If you are a gym regular, you’ll notice a Newbie as a stranger in the locker room. They’re using the locker you have taken five days a week for ten years.  They are walking on your favorite treadmill, doing reps on your abduction machine.  Or is it the adduction machine?

Most of the regulars treat the Newbies with disdain.  A majority of Newbies will be just a memory in four to six weeks.  A snowy morning or a few days with temperatures in the teens will send them back to their warm beds.

But, hold up a second.  Weren’t we all Newbies once?  I know I was.

My introduction to my YMCA was a few days a week after work, running on a track. I can’t remember exactly why I started going, but I’m pretty sure it had something to do with weight and high cholesterol. I actually went to a small facility across the street but also owned by the YMCA.  We had a few nautilus and cardio machines, a basketball court, and a running track.  And, though I only went a few days a week, I was elitist. I would not cross the street to go to the main building which was much more crowded.

After a few years of sporadic workouts, the YMCA decided to sell our building to a neighboring private school.  To accommodate the extra people, they renovated the main building.  They pulled the primary workout area out of the basement and put it into a splashy new building.  Reluctantly, I crossed the street.

The track in the new building was smaller than the old track, and more crowded with walkers.  I didn’t like running on a treadmill, so it wasn’t long before I became frustrated.  The sheer number of people working out made it difficult getting on other cardio machines.  When I had to skip workouts because I couldn’t find a parking spot, I was faced with a dilemma: exercise somewhere else or at a different time.

Enter the vegan spouse.  She had started working out in the morning at the same YMCA.  If I exercised before work, I could get on any machine at any time.  I wouldn’t have to worry about crowds.  I could not only find parking, but get a better spot than I had ever had.

Still, it would mean getting my work clothes prepared the night before to bring with me.  What if I forgot my belt or my tie or my towel (all things I’ve forgotten)?  I would have to get up a lot earlier. I was used to exercising after working a full day, not ten minutes after getting out of bed.  Exercising at 6 AM sounded like something prisoners might be made to do.

I wanted to exercise in peace, so I tried it.  The first day felt like I was getting up in the middle of the night.  Working out in the morning was an acquired taste, but I drank it up thirstily.  I started going my usual few days a week. After a few months, I couldn’t figure out why I was taking days off.

Flash forward ten years and I’ve become a five and often six days a week warrior. Well, maybe warrior is too strong a word.  But now I’m that guy who doesn’t want to miss a day of exercise. I go so early, I wait in my car for the doors to open.  It took me a while to get there, but I made it.

So, welcome Newbies!  Check out the great parking.  Let me move my stuff out of your way so you can get to a locker.  And I hope I see you back here tomorrow.

January 17th has been dubbed “Ditch New Years Resolutions Day”.  Stay strong, stay committed, and dictate your own path.  Please leave a message…

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Getting My Verve On, a Tuscan Recipe and the Benefits of Farro

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Happy New Year my fellow resolute-rs!

Normally I kick off every New Year with a slew of exercise posts. Be sure to check out my Gym Equipment Guide posts (under the Exercise Categories to the right) if you are new to working out.  This year my focus is on nutrition.  I had been feeling a bit sluggish towards the end of last year. If truth be told, my level of energy had slowly dwindled throughout 2017.  In late November, I realized that I had to make changes. I needed to make more of an effort to get the nutrients my body required so that it could work at optimal levels. Eating plant-based can be a challenge.  It takes knowledge, consistency, time and organization to get it right. The propensity to let things slip is easy if you are not on your game.

There will be more on the changes that I have made in the weeks to come.
In the meantime, the post below is one that I was working on in December but didn’t have the time to complete.

 

Three months ago I entered a recipe competition exclusively for home chefs and the response from the sponsors has been…

 

 

 

 

deafening silence.

The contest was co-sponsored by a well-known professional Italian chef.  Many of the showcased entries were heavy in meat, dairy and or sugar.  I opted to submit a plant-based creamy artichoke and spinach soup recipe because that’s what I do.

Chirp.

On the bright side, one of the submitted entrees intrigued me and inspired me to research recipes similar to it.  It was a Tuscan soup dish (love my zuppa!) which was weighted with sausage, bacon, heavy cream and surprisingly table sugar. My first thought, upon perusing the ingredients, was that I was going to make a dish similar to this but adapt it to fit a plant-based lifestyle. The results were delicious and exceeded my expectations.

Nutritional note: Farro is a common ingredient in Italian recipes and is the grain I added to my dish to give it a nutritional boost. It is rich in protein, fiber, B vitamins, magnesium, zinc and iron.  There are three types of Farro: whole (bran has not been removed and is fiber dense), semi-pearled (part of the bran has been removed, some fiber remains), and pearled (all bran removed, little fiber and nutrition remain).  Whole farro should be soaked overnight. This will ensure that the grain will fully cook.

Cooking note: In the last month I have made this dish both as a soup and a stew.  The amount of farro you want in the dish will determine how much vegetable broth you need.  For a soup, use less farro (about 1/2 -3/4 c of farro to 8 cups of broth). For a dense dish, increase the amount of farro. Start with 8 cups of vegetable broth and add more as needed.

Tuscan Soup /Tuscan Stew

Serves 6-10

Ingredients:
8 oz dry white beans, soaked overnight
1/4 c dry black beans, soaked overnight
1 onion, sliced
4 carrots, julienne
4 celery stalks, julienne
3 leeks, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
28 oz fire roasted diced tomatoes
8-12 c veggie broth
1/2 c- 2 c farro , if whole, soak overnight
salt and pepper

Directions:
Soak beans overnight in a little salt water.  Drain beans the following day, add a little salt to the water, bring to a boil and simmer until tender. About an hour.

Heat a large soup pot on high. Add onion and a little water to keep onions from burning.  Cook for 2-3 minutes.
Add carrots, celery and leeks. Add water as needed. Cook for 5 minutes.
Add remaining ingredients.
Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until farro is tender, about 30 minutes to an hour (depends on the type of farro used, with the whole form taking the longest).
Serve in warm bowls

Please leave a comment…

* This label is a close proximity to the nutrient facts.  I could not find a label creator that recognized farro as an ingredient.  As a result, I substituted barley which is a close cousin to farro.

 

Getting There is Half the Fun

POSTED BY THE VEGAN HUSBAND

 

We cleaned out one of our vehicles recently and discovered some maps.  It was like stumbling across an elementary school report card or a lost photograph.

At one time, you could buy maps everywhere: gas stations, grocery stores, and convenience stores.  If you belonged to AAA and were going on a long car trip, they would not only give you all the required maps, but highlight the highways you needed to take. Today, maps are relegated to museums and antique shops.

Even fiftysomethings like the vegan spouse and myself are getting around without traditional maps.  Take, for example, our increasingly frequent trips to a place barely more than thirty miles away.

Boston.

Like a lot of people who live in central Massachusetts, we need a reason to go to Boston.  We don’t wake up in the morning, and say, “Let’s go to a museum in Boston and check out some maps!”  Our reasons for going were work, sporting events, theatre, friends, medical, and concerts.

And when we went to Boston, we went by car.  We went in light or heavy traffic, in all kinds of weather, paid tolls, and paid a lot to park.  Sometimes we got to our destination with ease, but took forever finding our way out of the city.  We rarely got to the same venue the same way twice.

And then the vegan daughter moved to Boston for a year.

When you live in Boston, you don’t travel by car.  You use the Massachusetts Bay Transport Authority, better known as The T.  When we visited, we continued to drive to her apartment (60 to 90 minutes), parked at meters for up to half a day, and then walked or took the subway.  We each got our own Charlie card, a necessary thing for taking the T.  A new world was revealing itself to us.

After our daughter moved out of Boston, we decided we still wanted to go. We looked for events and places that would draw us there.  For a while, we continued to drive to the parking meters near her old apartment building and then took the train from there.  After one outing where we fought an inordinate amount of traffic just to get to our familiar subway stop, we figured there must be a better way.

Not that it was a big secret, but we realized that there are two different train routes that will take us to Boston after a mere fifteen minute car ride.  It takes roughly the same amount of time by train as it does by car, and, at times, it seems like the train barely gets going before it’s time for another stop.  But that doesn’t bother me one bit.

You don’t have to wonder where the traffic is  going to slow down or bottleneck completely.  You don’t have to worry about missing an exit or getting a speeding ticket.  You can even read or close your eyes.  I personally enjoy areas where the train runs parallel to the highway and I can look over at people driving their cars.  I smile at them, but I doubt if they are smiling back.

Because we’re now beholden to the train schedules,we often stay overnight in Boston and return the next morning.  We’ve found that the more we walk around the city, the more comfortable we are being there.  If you get momentarily confused on the sidewalk, you just stop and get your bearings.  If you’re in a car, fellow motorists are not usually sympathetic to your confusion.

But even in these technological times, the old ways of doing things still apply. On our most recent trip to Boston, we needed to pick up tickets at the box office of a place we’d never been.  We were kind of heading in the right direction but we weren’t sure.  Moments earlier we discovered that we were going north when we should have been going south.

And then we saw it.  Right in the middle of the sidewalk was a giant map, just like they used to have in shopping malls to tell you where all the stores are. We laughed, but it showed us exactly where to go.  But, when we tell the story to our daughter, we used an app on the phone.

What apps do you use for getting around?  Please leave a comment …