Sunday, May 29, 2011

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I opened a Twitter account in February but never used it. I've decided it will be a great way to share small nuggets and keep myself accountable!

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Bikini By30

Saturday, May 28, 2011

RecipeTest Drive: Cornmeal-Crusted Tempeh with Smoked Tomato Sauce, Green Chile Relish, Black Bean Puree and Braised Kale

In today’s economy more and more people I know seem to be opting to cook date-night and special meals at home. They’re always on the look out for elegant meals they can make themselves. Recently I tried out a recipe that is perfect for creating a fancy meal at home (or to woo your vegetarian or vegan significant other.) This is a meal I would serve to someone who thinks vegan food is weird and can't possibly taste good. 

Cornmeal-Crusted Tempeh with Smoked Tomato Sauce, Green Chile Relish, Black Bean Puree and Braised Kale
The Conscious Cook by Tal Ronnen (page 190)

Ingredients for the tempeh:
8 tablespoons shoyu
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick
2 cloves of garlic
2 medium dried ancho chiles
2 medium dried chipotle chiles
1 large bay leaf
10 whole peppercorns

Shoyu is basically soy sauce. If you have soy sauce on hand, just use that. I couldn’t find dried chipotle peppers so I used a small can of chipotle in adobe sauce and just rinsed off the peppers I used for the tempeh broth and the sauce below. 

Tempeh is made up of whole soy beans fermented into a patty. It isn’t “fake meat”. It is a soy cake. It has a mild flavor and takes on whatever seasoning you add to it. It has a nice nutty-rice consistency. It is very high in protein!

In a large pot combine these ingredients and add 6 cups of water. 
Bring to a boil and add 2 8oz packages of tempeh cut into 1/4 inch slices.
Reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes. 
Remove the tempeh with a slotted spoon to a plate and let cool.

The tempeh broth is so flavorful and fragrant with all of the chile goodness! I kept it and made soup out of it later in the week by adding tofu, veggies and a little brown rice. Yum (and resourceful)!

Ingredients for the tomato sauce:
4 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, diced
1 celery stalk, dice
2 medium dried ancho chiles, stemmed
2 medium dried chipotle chiles, stemmed
2 (12oz) cans fire-roasted tomatoes, including juice
1/2 cup vegetable stock
3 Tbs Earth Balance butter

Earth Balance Buttery Spread is amazing, tastes just like butter and is nothing to fear. It is made with an oil blend of palm fruit, safflower, canola, and olive. See? Not creepy. It’s a great way to start slowly weaning off of animal products. Do you absolutely need to go buy it for this sauce if you don't have it? Nah.

Place a large saute pan over medium heat.  Sprinkle the bottom with a pinch of sea salt and heat for one minute.  Add the oil and heat for 30 seconds, being careful not to let smoke.  This will create a nonstick effect. 

I have non-stick pans so I simply did a spritz of olive oil from my trusty sprayer (found at your friendly neighborhood Bed Bath and Beyond).It saved me some calories/fat.

Add the onion and saute for three minutes.  Add the garlic, carrots, celery and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned.  Add the chiles, tomatoes, and the stock.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes.

Ingredients for the black bean puree:

2 TBS olive oil
1/2 onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (15 oz) can black beans, including liquid
sea salt and pepper

In a small pot over medium heat, heat oil for 30 seconds.
Again, I used a non-stick pot so I did a spritz of oil instead. 

Add the onion and garlic and saute, stirring frequently, until the onion is soft and translucent.  Add the beans and their liquid, season with salt and pepper to taste, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.  Place the beans in a food processor and pulse until pureed. I went simpler than using my food processor. I used my trusty handheld immersion blender. It’s such a wonderful tool for blending sauces and soups and makes for easy clean up!

Ingredients for the green chile relish:
1 Anaheim chile
1 garlic clove, minced
1 shallot, minced
salt and pepper

Holding the chile with tongs, char over a gas burner until blackened then peel, seed and finely dice it. (Alternatively, put the chile on a baking sheet under a broiler and cook, turning, until blackened on all sides.)  In a small bowl, combine the chile with the rest of the relish ingredients. 
I couldn’t find a fresh Anaheim chile so I used a small can of green chiles instead (and it was so much less of a hassle than playing with tongs and fire!). If canned green chiles are wrong I don’t wanna be right, because this relish was so incredibly zesty and flavorful!!! So simple, so impressive, so appearing in my dinners for years to come! A winner!!!!!!

To fry the tempeh and serve:
 1/2 cup cornmeal
salt and pepper
1/4 cup canola oil

In a mixing bowl, combine the cornmeal with salt and pepper to taste.  Dredge each piece of tempeh in the mixture, coating well.  Place a large saute pan over medium heat.  Sprinkle the bottom with a pinch of salt and heat for 1 minute.  Add the oil and heat for 30 seconds, being careful not to let it smoke.  Add the tempeh, in batches if necessary, and cook until well browned, 2 to 3 minutes on each side.  Remove from the pan. 

Ingredients for the braised kale:
- 1 1/2 pounds kale (remove the stems and chop)
- 2 TB olive oil
- 1/2 cup vegetable stock
- 1 TB Earth Balance
- salt and pepper

1.  Put a dash of salt into your pan and heat for about a minute (over medium heat).  Then add 2 TB canola oil.  After this has warmed up for about 30 seconds, you will see that nothing will stick to your pan
2.  Cook the kale for 3-4 minutes.  The kale will begin to wilt.
3.  Pour in the 1/2 cup of vegetable stock, salt and pepper.  Continue cooking over medium heat for 5 more minutes.
4.  Drain the kale and mix in the tablespoon of Earth Balance.
You could always just wash, chop and steam your kale with a microwave steamer and season later.

Serve tempeh with Braised Kale, black bean puree, tomato sauce, and green chile relish.

This meal was so savory, posh and chic! It also took me 2 hours and 15 minutes to make which is pretty timing consuming in my book. BUT, each component of this meal is useful by itself. For example, blend in an added cup of veggie broth to the black bean puree and you have a fabulous black bean soup! The tomato sauce is killer and would be great on top of veggies and/or whole wheat pasta! (I recently ate some over black beans and rice for lunch!) The relish would be delish on tacos, scrambled tofu, steamed veggies and soups.  The kale is just great to know how to make to expand your veggie world! So even if you don’t want to try this entire meal right away, pick one thing to make as a starting point….I suggest the sauce!!!

Also note, next time I make this I am cutting down my simmer time for the sauce and tempeh. I really think it could be just as flavorful in half the time.

The verdict:
BB30: “I feel like a real chef! The sauce and relish are so amazing, I want to put them on everything!”
Mr. BB30: (shocked) “Woah. This is really good. I don’t miss the meat!”

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Well That's That

Another day of packing up and carefully preparing ensued to get to my exciting call back yesterday. I gave it my all and am pleased to be one of just 15 called back after two days of auditions. Alas, I was released with a few other people after a couple of hours (it was a four hour call back) which 99.364% of the time means you are out. With last month's major big time show loss followed by two minor show losses, another disappointment earlier this month, and now this, I am just down. Ne'er was there a girl who has more passion for performance than I, but as Patty Smyth says, "Sometimes love just ain't enough."

Something very interesting happened though. I walked out of the place and went into auto-pilot old-self  mode and asked myself what multitude of terrible things I would eat in anger and sadness. I couldn't come up with anything. When I got home I had a couple of cocktails, but really, I didn't have the desire to eat over my pain. BREAKTHROUGH! I'm trying to focus on that today.

This week my workouts are scheduled as follows:

Monday: Tabata Boxing and Cardio Barre Sculpt
Tuesday: Strength Boxing (Try kickboxing with weights-it ain't easy!)
Wednesday: off-pity party
Thursday: off-Attending a theatre benefit
Friday: Kwando Kickboxing
Monday at Tabata the instructor had 20% discount cards for Lucy Active Wear. She said she would give them to the people who gave it their all in class. I always give it my all but I tried to push harder (even doing full out push ups during warm ups instead of modified girl ones). Alas, no reward. I was bummed. I have chosen to believe that the incentive was there for people who don't work hard each time and needed extra motivation. Yes, that's it, but still my feelings were hurt after all of my months of hard work. I wouldn't have used it anyway. These would have still cost me over $60.
Well, that was nice and dreary, but hey, dreary patches are an honest part of the journey. I think I should start keeping a gratitude journal again so I can pull myself out of this slump and focus on good the fact that I haven't had multiple surgeries on my eyeballs! Visit

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Day In the Life

Yesterday I had an audition during lunch. Many times this isn't a problem. Yesterday however was different.

This particular audition needed an up tempo pop song. We were notified about landing an audition slot with little turnaround time, and I couldn't get a hold of anyone to confirm if they wanted a background track accompaniment or standard sheet music. (Typically you are told and typically it is in fact sheet music, but with the pop twist, and the style of the show I could not be certain). So I had to be prepared for anything. Gulp. I sing, but I am not what you would call a musical theatre person.I'm just not. Thus, I get nervous about musical auditions.

 In order to be prepared I had to:

  • Download the track
  • Discover my blank CDs were missing and wait for MR. BB30 to find them and burn one.
Monday AM (at home)
  • Wash hair. I have been very stressed out with my career going no where and my day job being so frustrating that my on going scalp issues reared their ugly heads!
  • Style fresh hair (difficult task with my wavy hair and the weather)
  • Pack CD
  • iPod Player (in case there isn't a CD player and background tracks are preferred)
  • Pack Music Book (in case I needed sheet music)
  • Pack Audition clothes (I wanted to have a specific look I couldn't wear to work)
  • Pack straightening iron (muggy weather+fresh hair=poof city)
  • Pack Gym clothes
  • Pack Lunch
  • Pack Extra make up
  • Pack Hs/resume (safely so it won't bend)
  • Did I mention it had to be packed for public transportation-meaning I need to take up as little room as possible. Oy vey.)
Monday AM (at work)
  • Get everything in order at work to be away for an hour. You would be surprised how devastating it can be for the people I work with to have me take an actual lunch break. Something will always go wrong if I leave.
  • Use a break to quickly change and retouch hair (thank goodness my straightener heats up fast!)
  • Catch cab $$
  • Audition
  • Cab back $$
Monday PM
  • Survive rest of work day
  • Work out
  • Take an uncomfortable shower at home since someone is doing repairs in our apartment until unknown hours.
Monday was long, but I prevailed.

The good news is that as for the audition, I was called back on the spot! This can be unusual, and I never expected it to happen today. I was really just auditioning so I could say I was trying and doing everything I could to succeed. My expectations are appropriately managed, but I am really excited. I feel like I am very suited for this kind of show. There will be some day job bridges to cross if I book it, this is what I want to do with my life! Think positive thoughts for me tomorrow! I hope I was as good as the citizens of Blaine! (Oh, and until you've seen Waiting for Guffman, we're not friends.)

This week for lunch I am dining on some nice hearty veggie soup (zucchini, Mexican zucchini, onions, tomatoes and whole wheat rotini in veggie broth. Yum!) My produce store is a soup maker’s dream. They bundle veggies that are good, but need to be used up in the next few days and sell them for super cheap (Or shall I say souper cheap? Bazinga!) That just sounded like I buy old wilty veggies. Trust me, I don’t. However, on Saturday I scored seven perfect zucchinis and two giant carrots for $1.49. Yes!!!!! So far I’ve used it for soup and even incorporated it into an Ellen Roast.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

You're Gonna Wanna Swim In This Sauce

What's that sound? Oh, it's me tooting my own horn for a ridiculously easy and majorly delicious, figure friendly sauce to put on pasta (or frankly anything you want to be extra mouth watering). PESTO CREAM SAUCE!

This sauce was birthed recently when I was preparing for a Recipe Throwdown. Some gals I know have been making efforts to have monthly recipe challenges/parties and this month was a Six Course Italian Small Plate Dinner. Each contestant was assigned a course and I got pasta! I love the opportunity to share vegan dishes with friends and show people how deliciously you can live as a vegan! I decided to make a ravioli. Ambitious indeed.

I poked around the web for recipes for vegan pasta dough and there seemed to be a general consensus that equal parts regular flour and semolina (pasta makin') flour with some water or broth would do the trick. I chose to use half semolina flour and half whole wheat flour.

1.5 c flour
1.5 c semolina flour
3/4 c veggie broth

Create a dough ball and let it rest while you make your filling of choice. I went with a mushroom and onion blend.

1.5 c finely chopped mushroom (I used white buttons.)
1 c finely chopped onion (I used vadalia.)
Several large cloves of garlic
Sea salt to taste
Mists of olive oil and a little Earth Balance

Add all ingredients to a pan and cook filling enough just to get it tender. It will cook a bit more when the ravioli boils.

Roll out your dough as thin as possibly (general web consensus is about 1/8 of an inch)-Or be smarter than me and just get a pasta maker or the attachment you always meant to get for your Kitchen Aid.

Use a cookie cutter, glass tumbler (be careful), or lid to make circles or squares. I used the plastic lid of a jar.

To assemble, place a dollop of filling in the middle of a circle/square an cover with another circle/square. Seal the edges by pinching with your fingers and/or using a fork like a pie crust.

Fill a pot with water or veggie broth and let it come to a boil. Carefully drop in your ravioli. You can put several in the pot at the same time, but don't overload it. Boil approximately seven minutes (the raviolis will float). Pull out finished raviolis with a slotted spoon or a spider and put them on a plate. Spray them with olive oil so they don't stick together.

Now for THE SAUCE.

15 basil leaves
1 TBSP of olive oil
Sea Salt to taste
1/4 TBSP lemon zest
3/4 c plain soy yogurt
Grated Garlic

Make a little bit of pesto (don't cheat and use store bought-it's fresher and you are controlling the oil and additives).

In a small bowl (cereal bowl size) finely chiffonade several basil leaves (I'd say at least 15) and mix with a tablespoon of olive oil and an obscene amount of grated garlic (I use about 5 giant cloves).

Add salt to taste.

Add lemon zest.

Now that you have simple homemade delicious pesto, add it to plain soy yogurt.

Mix well. Add salt or garlic powder if needed to taste.

Warm it on the stove (or in the microwave if you must).

Drizzle over your fresh ravioli.

Take a bite.

Dance with joy.

You're welcome.

Seriously, dairy lover Mr. BB30 loves this sauce so much he has asked me to make it for him twice already. He has a weakness for creamy pasta sauce and has been sad without it (he's been buckling down lately). He says this sauce fills the void left by Alfredo. I think that's a pretty big compliment. While I did not take top honors at the friendly Throwndown, I was so get people's reactions and marvel at how the sauce could possibly be vegan. Yay!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Trip Home and Such

My quick trip south went pretty well. I felt like I ate way too much cereal, but it was such a simple and easy go-to. The night I got in my folks and my dear pal Hilde went to a Chinese buffet. Luckily this place had a make-your-own stir fry set up so I was able to feast on some yummy (yet overly soy sauced) veggies and steamed rice. Saturday was the day of my professor's retirement party and between running around doing errands, getting lost on the way to rehearsal and starting my period (read: I was so tired and weak I couldn't think straight) I was glad to survive. Somewhere along the way we ended up at a mom and pop Chipotle type place so I was able to make a little burrito bowl with rice, black beans and mushrooms and peppers they sauteed in oil only just for me. I am so thankful for that burrito bowl because I was left with only salad to eat at the event (cut to BB30 eating peanut butter crackers in the car at 10pm in a dress and heels). On Sunday night I had the opportunity to cook and served up my version of the PPK's Chickpea Picatta. It was weird not to cook in my own kitchen, but it was a hit (Although would Mom and Dad BB30 actually tell me if they hated it? Doubtful).
Returning to work last week without a day of rest made for a tough week, but I knew I needed to make the most of my week with workouts:

Tuesday 5/10: Strength Boxing and Abs/Butt Blast
Wednesday 5/11: Yoga Sculpt and Turbo Kick
Thursday: Off (I had several errands to run after day jobbin')
Friday 5/13: Kwando Kickboxing

Stay tuned for some great recipes I've tested lately and how I am bringin' the vegan to some recipe smack downs!!

Also, be sure to Dish for Dana!

Friday, May 6, 2011

First Week of a New Year

Wow. I began the THIRD year of this journey this week. Hard to believe. Bring on the sleek bod! It's gonna hurt, but it's gonna be s'good!

This week I knew I needed to put in more effort at the gym because with Tuesday being devoted to birthday festivities and Friday through Monday being devoted to a quick trip home to the south.

Here is what I did this week:

Monday: Tabata Boxing, Cardio Barre Blast (toning), and Hustle (a dance based workout I hadn't tried yet. Less quirky than Zumba, still not as bad ass as WERQ)

Wednesday: Yoga Sculpt, Turbokick, Chizle Fo' Shizzle (dumbbell toning, and it's actual name)

Thursday: Barre Burn, Hustle

Other than some pieces of birthday cake this week, I really stayed on track. I've only made one trip to the south as a vegan and I managed due to some preparation. I think this trip may prove a bit more challenging since I am attending an actual event. My guess is that I'll eat something before hand, bring a baggie of almonds in case all I can have at the event is salad, and then have a snack later. Should be just fine. We shall see.

I will also drink one of these:

Cherry Vanilla Diet Coke from Sonic is the Drink of the Gods and there is one very close to the airport parking lot at my destination. Yeehaw!

Happy weekends y'all!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

(cue Oprah) IT'S MY BIRTHDAY!

It's my birthday y'all! Last year at this time I sported my new bikini friendly body, got a fabulous surprise visit by my NYC besties, and marveled at how far I'd come emotionally and physically over the past year. I knew I could relax a smidge but that my battle would never truly be over.

My focus was on incorporating exercise however I could, finding the motivation to get in gear and cutting back on calories. This past year has been more about a discovery of being active and what it does for me. When I lost On Demand Exercise TV in the summer (ComCast was awful and HAD to go to save my wallet!) I turned to Bikram Yoga (thank you Groupon). Because of some stellar discounts I was able to party with Bikram for about five months. Then I got bored with the monotony and busy and stressed with two huge projects at my day job. I found I missed exercise and felt myself longing for movement and actually run down and lethargic without it. At the end of January (thanks to another Groupon) I was able to start working out at a new fitness place. I was snobby about it at first which I now realize was my way of trying to get out of exercising. I love it so much now. I get such a wide variety of classes from yoga, to kick boxing to dance to traditional calisthenics. It's great. Not easy in any way, but great. I work out four times a week and am slowly adding more. It's become my routine to walk over after work and 'get my sweat on' (the place's motto). I love planning out my classes for the week. I feel so strong and have noticed some definition that I've never had before. It's so motivating.

I'm almost 17 months in to switching to a vegan diet and I still love it. I know it helped me through my recent Plague. Food is medicine people. I still feel so clean and energized and happy eating this way. I never feel weighed down after I eat. I always just feel nourished and content. I stay on top of getting all of nutrients, but it's so second hand at this point. With my more active lifestyle the past few months I think I need some guidance with the best way to eat while building muscle and trying to continue slimming down, so I am hoping to meet with a vegan nutritionist soon to make sure I am doing the right things.

Oh, would you like to see comparison shots? It never gets easier to put myself out thee, but here are the stats and pics:

May 3, 2010 Waist (at belly button): 29
May 3, 2011 Waist (at belly button): 28
An inch!

May 3rd, 2010 Hips: 35.5
May 3rd, 2011 Hips: 34.5
An inch!

May 3rd, 2010 Thigh: 21.5
May 3rd, 2011 Thigh: 20.5
An inch!

May 3rd, 2010 Arm: 10.50
May 3rd, 2011 Arm: 10.25
1/4 of an inch!

Again this year I think the back shots are the most telling.

While maintenance was the overall goal of the year I've realized that I have some strengthening work to do (especially if I am going to have kids one day). While I am sad that acting isn't working out for me, I am looking at the bright side that it's given me time to tend to my health. I love that I am starting to see some muscles and want to look fierce and athletic and healthy! I hope to kick some serious fitness arse over the next year!

Look, I have some little guns now!
Now for a fabulous birthday dinner, but first, thanks to all of you who have stuck with me. Knowing you're out there makes all the difference. Truly. We can do this!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

What A Week

The past couple of weeks week have been strange and fragile.

Two weeks ago in the drizzling spring chill of Chicago, Mr. BB30 and his entire cast had been sniffling and one of my co-workers decided it would be brilliant to come to work with The Plague and breathe it all over me.  Despite preventative measures of EmergenC and positive thinking, it was no use. Two weeks ago today I starting feeling awful, and by the next evening I was shaking and crying in a hot shower like a baby. I am the worst sick person. Maybe it's because I am the baby of the family. Maybe it's just because I am a baby. Nonetheless I am a bad sick person. What was crazy is how furious I was. I was not furious so much because I was sick (sadly, I am still without show prospects), but I was furious that it meant I couldn't go to fitness class. Unreasonably furious. Perhaps I am obsessing? Perhaps I wasn't so off when I mentioned exchanging emotional eating for emotional exercise. Going to class after work has become my release, my meditation time, my endorphin rush. I was so achy and miserable and my throat was raw.
The days that followed were tough. Tuesday I stayed home sick from work and also accompanied Mr. BB30 to the wake for his sweet Grandpa. Seriously, I am so privileged to have known Grandpa Hohs and I cherish the wonderful speech he gave at our wedding and the beautiful picture of him we have of it. He was the mayor his town for 8 years and was loved by so many people. Wednesday was the funeral. I came home and starved for movement I did Jillian Michaels Shred level 1 then 2. Thursday I went back to work, still wrecked, but forced myself to go to Kicklates, a new class the fitness place created combining (you guessed it) Kick Boxing and Pilates. Friday was Good Friday and I was still a mess. I stayed home from my standard Friday night Kwando Kickboxing class. I felt like an uber failure (which is lame, I know, I was really under the weather!). I was getting tired of this. I was exhausted with being sick. I was so drained (and snotty) I couldn't do much over the weekend, but I got nice and (medicinally) drugged up and did get some time on Easter to canoodle with my insanely cute baby nephew. The next day I was still a coughing snotty nightmare and went to the doctor. EIGHT DAYS? This was some kind of mutant super cold. I couldn't lay down (which is all I wanted to do) without coughing. He assured me that I was only contagious the first couple of days (so I ran no risk of getting my nephew sick), and gave me some prescription strength cough suppressant and antibiotics. Today is day 14 and I am still a little clogged and drippy, but much better. I feel like I have been in a snotty haze for two weeks.

My best friend:
I know this was a mutant super cold because 1) I never get actual coughs 2) It lasted two weeks (obviously) 3) I lost my appetite. I simply don't do that. I would wake up hungry-ish and eat some cereal. For several days the only things I wanted were salty brothy soups and oatmeal.

Let this be your public service announcement to wash your hands and cover your mouths people!

This week I made it to my classes. Most exercises in the non dance based classes have levels for each move. The instructors had mercy when I had to dropped to a level one since it was clear that I was about to lose my lung. Nonetheless, I prevailed.

Monday-Tabata Boxing followed by Cardio Barre Sculpting
Wednesday- Cardio Barre Sculpting followed by Cardio Blast (old skool calisthenics)
Thursday-Kicklates followed by WERQ (my FAVE)
Friday-Kwando Kickboxing

Tabata Boxing is the same TaeBo style of boxing, but it moves in intervals (a fellow named Tabata came up with the theory of interval training it's based on). For example, one tabata might be jab-cross-jab-uppercut. So, for twenty seconds we do as many reps of that as we can (everyone at their own pace) - then rest 10 seconds. You do eight sets of each exercise and we do about twelve tabatas over one hour (including a few minutes at the top and bottom for warm up and cool down). Supposedly you increase your post workout calorie burn by about 14 percent. I'll take it. The instructor told us on Monday that the class was a bit tougher that night. No wonder I was coughing like mad.

Thursday was tough. I paired two very high energy classes together, but I think that in order to keep on sliding down the scale I need to up the ante and double up on classes.

I get to work from home tomorrow (bliss!) and then Tuesday is my birthday and I have the day off! Yay! Although it never gets easier to post pics, I will post some comparison shots and bust out the tape measure. Wednesday and Thursday it's back to work then Friday it's off to Texas for the retirement party of one of my dear professors.

I wish you all happy, healthy weeks!