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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

WIAW: Running for My Oats + a PB&J Milkshake in a Jar!

Happy WIAW, everyone!  And, as always, a giant thank you to Jenn at Peas & Crayons for organizing this wonderful weekly tradition!

Today was a rather eventful day of food.  The story of my breakfast will only make sense if you understand my deep love for oatmeal.  Throughout the toughest times in my life, oatmeal has always been there to warm my belly and soul.  It greets me every single morning like the rising of the sun.  We were made for each other.  So you can imagine how distraught I was when I woke up at 6am to go running before work and realized I had allowed the unthinkable to happen: I was out of oats!  

Nothing gets between this girl and her oats!  

Thank goodness for 24 hour convenience stores!  Since I was going for a run anyway, I stuffed some money in my sock and headed out in the cold rain, before dawn.  Unfortunately I didn't quite think things through and bought a giant container of oats over a mile from my house. 

Be jealous of my spotted socks

Nothing like running through the city in the early morning rain carrying oatmeal!  

When I got home I knew exactly what would make the perfect companion to my oats: a PB&J milkshake!  The other day at work, a customer requested that we make him a shake with strawberries and peanut butter, so we did!  Luck for me, they gave me the leftovers and I spent several minutes practically floating above the ground and becoming one with all the world's joy.  It was great, but I want something healthy that will make my taste buds and my body feel wonderful.  So, I came up with my own version!  Here's the delicious, healthy, and simple how-to:

All you need are some frozen strawberries, peanut butter, almond milk, and a blender!  

Take a cup (or an empty peanut butter jar!) and fill it about halfway with strawberries and add a scoop of peanut butter.  

Now fill the jar to the top with almond milk, dump the whole thing in a blender, blend, pour it back into the jar, and drink the frosty goodness!  

This, along with blueberry, banana, and flax oats, may just have been the best breakfast ever!

I worked a super-busy shift today, but it was all ok because I got to take home some amazing food!  

Such a beautiful salad: a bed of greens with beets and crushed walnuts that I topped with a mixed bean salad I brought home the other day!  I enjoyed my salad with some beet, carrot, pineapple, and apple juice, also from work: 

I just love the beautiful colors that are found in nature!  Food can be so beautiful.  :)

I had some spare time after lunch, so I decided to experiment with soaked grains.  My goal was to make flourless blueberry muffins.  

The results looked good, but unfortunately they were a huge disappointment taste-wise.  I was thinking maybe they'd be good with some almond butter (slather anything in almond butter and I'll say it's delicious), but sadly not even nut butter can save me here.  Come to think of it, I've really been into almond butter recently.  I used to think nothing could take the place of peanut butter, but recently I've been craving almond butter more and more!  It's funny how tastes evolve.  

I spent the majority of the evening looking for new shows.  I was hoping to get some Tom's shoes, and I was so upset when I found out they're not vegan!  Apparently they do have a line without leather, but I couldn't find them in stores.  That got me thinking about running shoes: I'm sure my sneakers have at least some leather.  Proper running shoes are so important for preventing injury, so I'm not sure what I'm going to do when it's time to get new ones.  I know I can't be perfect and I do the best I can, but I still don't feel comfortable buying something fully knowing that it contains leather.  

When I arrived home sans new shows, I was super hungry so I threw together dinner with remarkable speed.  

Sweet potato with almond butter and roasted edamame, steamed broccoli, and the remainder of the blueberries that survived the muffin incident

Now, I know this picture doesn't capture it, but I was so infatuated with the beautiful colors of this meal! I kept thinking, "blueberries are SO BLUE!" They look like little gems.  And the sweet potato was a bright orange that contrasted with the saturated green of the broccoli.  Maybe it's the spring air beginning to get to my head, but I just can't get over how beautiful food can be!  

Notice anything strangely absent from this day's eats?  Chocolate!  I think this might be the first day in weeks that I didn't eat any chocolate.  I just didn't crave it at any point today.  I must be getting sick!  

Now I want to hear from you!  

My fellow vegan/vegetarian runners: Where do you stand on the issue of running shoes?  I have to research brands that don't use leather.  I'd love to avoid it but, in this case, that just might not be possible. :(

Edit: I just found this: - a vegan shoe store on the Lower East Side!  I'm going there tomorrow... I love living in NYC! 

Have you ever done something slightly crazy to satisfy your food cravings? My morning oat adventure is just the beginning!  Wait until you hear what I did for brownies!  

What beautiful foods have you been enjoying recently?  It feels so gratifying to really appreciate the visual aspects of food, in addition to the taste!

I hope you're having a wonderful week!  :)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Diary of a (Vegan) Working Girl

Hi, friends!  I'm sorry I've been absent from the blogging world recently.  I've been really busy, because...

I got a job!!!!

Not just any job, but counter position working in a busy restaurant in the city that is completely 100% vegan!!   I'm SUPER EXCITED because I couldn't have thought up a job more in line with my interests!  And since it's just short of a miracle to get a job in NYC (especially as a college student with no experience), the fact that anyone would pay me to do anything is still quite foreign to me.  I feel so lucky!  Here's how this came to be:

I've been in need of a job for a long time.  A very long time.  But I've never been motivated to get one because I hate the idea of doing something just to make money.  I've always believed that if you work hard and follow your passions, money will follow.  But since I need money desperately (apparently, student loans don't go away if you close your eyes and pretend they don't exist), I typed the word "vegan" into craigslist and was shocked by the results: some places were actually looking for help!

I sent my resume to two places: a new branch of a popular restaurant opening on the Upper West Side, and a sandwich shop in Chelsea.  The restaurant was a complete failure.  The ad said they were holding an open call.  Despite the fact that I literally had NO sleep the night before, I was really positive and seized the opportunity to dress up in some new clothes:

Despite my optimism, NOTHING went as planned.  I showed up to a construction site instead of a restaurant, and was told the owner wasn't in.  I waited for an hour, and finally one of the workers there made some calls for me (he was so helpful and nice!) and told me they were holding interviews at their other location.  Ok.  So I jogged across town in flats (I do not recommend this) and made it just in time, only to be told the open call was last week.  I had checked the ad a million times and I know I had the right date, but I wasn't going to argue.  I left and spent the rest of the afternoon searching the Upper West Side for vegan junk food to soothe my soul.  

After that, I didn't feel very hopeful about the other job, even after they emailed me about coming in for an interview.  And even after I had a great interview with the managers and realized what a great place it would be for me to work, I didn't want to get my hopes up.  That's why I was so surprised when they asked me to come in for training the next day!  


I've only worked two shifts so far, but I've been having a great time!  I love the mission of the restaurant, which is to make veganism more mainstream and show people that we're not all "sprout eating vegans" but people who eat delicious food!  Although I do love my sprouts, I've enjoyed everything on the menu that I've tried so far!  My favorites?  I love the bean salad, which is a sweet and spicy dressing over mixed beans.  And I'm completely addicted to the Green Power, their version of a green monster: kale, banana, pear juice, almond butter, and non-dairy milk.  I could (and do!) drink them all day!  And then, of course, there are these: 

So good!  

My favorite part of the job is making the smoothies!  I get to work their three Vita Mixes that are constantly running to mix up the smoothie goodness.  I also love talking to customers.  The highlight of my second day was when a woman came in to buy juice, which she said she felt like she needed because her body felt terrible and she felt like she needed to start eating better.  I talked to her for a long time about nutrients in different plant-based foods and how eating the way I eat has helped me repair some of the damage I've done to my body.  I couldn't believe how genuinely interested she was in everything I had to say.  I was so touched by the fact that she wanted to learn from me and was open to making changes in order to make herself feel better.  

I'm so excited about getting more confident at work and getting to know my co-workers better.  Everyone there is so nice and put up with answering my questions and correcting my mistakes.  I still can't believe that I'm getting paid for something, and that the free food is just a bonus.  ;) 

What have you been up to recently?  Tell me about your weekend!

What's your opinion on vegan meat substitutes?  Maybe it's because I've been vegetarian my whole life and have never tasted meat, but I just can't seem to get into them.  

Have you ever worked in a vegan/vegetarian restaurant?  

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lessons from the Practice Room: Don't Chase Perfection because it's a Moving Target

This is the first of a series of posts I plan to write about how the lessons I've learned as a classical musician translate into other aspects of life.  Being a musician is like living in a microcosm of life's greatest challenges and joys.  It teaches you how to learn, love, pursue something with undying devotion, and accept your limits.  I think you'll find these topics easy to relate to even if you've never picked up an instrument.

The first concept I want to tackle?  Perfection.  Because I disagree with a common belief held by musicians and non-musicians alike.

Practice does NOT make perfect.  

What now?  Hold on a second!  Haven't we all been led to believe the opposite?  

Let's get one thing straight: I am NOT knocking practice.  If you want to get good at something - anything - you have to work at it.  Hard.  You have to practice, because practicing makes you better.  

But it will not make you perfect.  

That may seem fairly obvious.  There is no such thing as perfection in art.  Everything is subjective and, no matter how accomplished you are, there will always be something that can be improved.  There is also no such thing as the perfect runner, student, friend, parent, lawyer, secretary, teacher... you get it. There is no such thing as the perfect anything.

So I don't think I need to further convince you that practice will not make you perfect; that in itself is quite clear.  There is a bigger issue here that I want to address:

Practice will not make you feel perfect.  

In fact, many times practicing makes you feel horrible about yourself.  Not only that, but the more you practice and the better you get, the worse you feel.  Let me explain.  

A few months ago, when I was at a extremely low point in my life, a musician friend of my shared with me this: 

Furthermore, I believe that the "gap" between your ambitions and and your abilities never fully closes.  Think about it: we work hard at the things we love because, well... we love them.  We put so much of ourselves into the things we are passionate about.  And for that reason, we further develop our good taste.  We know how much is possible, and yet we just can't do it.  

So, we practice.  We get better.  And with each accomplishment, we set the bar higher.  We prove to ourselves that we are capable of more and more.  We see so many more opportunities for improvement.  So we practice more.  The bar moves even higher.  And so the cycle continues.  

This is the process by which we get good at any skill but, while it is effective, it takes a harsh toll on us psychologically.  Our ambitions become a moving target so we can never catch up with them.  

"How do you get Bach in tune?!" 

That's a picture I took of a wall in a New England Conservatory practice room.  While I don't know who wrote this, I can assure you that, based on the exceptionally high level of students at this school, to the untrained ear this (clearly frustrated) musician was at least fairly close to playing Bach in tune.  But the musician himself heard only imperfection.    

In fact, my musician friends and I would frequently talk about this phenomenon.  The better your intonation, the more out of tune you think you sound.  

If you're not a musician and you don't know what I'm talking about, I am sure you have experienced this at some point in your life.  For example: The better a runner you become, the faster and further you expect yourself to run.  Ran 4 miles for the first time a year ago?  You felt great.  Run only 4 miles now?  You feel like a failure.  

This topic is so important to me because I have experienced firsthand how chasing the moving target of perfection can literally be deadly.  When I first started loosing weight, I felt great about myself.  But the feeling did not last.  As my jean size got smaller, I experienced a high that could only be sustained by loosing more weight.  With each smaller pair of jeans, I became less satisfied.  I thought a certain size would be "perfect," but when I got there my idea of the "perfect size" became even smaller.  No amount of weight loss could satisfy me.  Though I thought that fitting into a smaller pair of pants would make me feel better about myself, it actually made me feel worse.  In fact, when my smallest pair of jeans was loose and people were telling me I was too thin, I still felt fat and my self-esteem was at an all-time low.

If I had continued to chase perfection, I would have died.  

My hope is that others can see this as a lesson.  You can't chase perfection because it's a moving target.  Even if your quest to achieve perfection doesn't lead to a life-or-death situation, it has the potential to make you miserable.  So stop!  Stop focusing so much on improving and celebrate what you have already accomplished!  It's great - necessary - to keep pushing yourself in order to achieve your goals.  But once you're pushing so hard that you can't recognize your own value, you defeat the purpose of pursuing your dreams in the first place.

And that's just no fun at all!

I'd love to hear your feedback on this topic.

Have you ever lost your love for something because you pushed yourself too hard?  

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

WIAW: Seasonally Confused

Hooray for celebrating the simple joy of our Wednesday Tuesday eats!  Sending out a huge "Thank you" to Jenn at Peas and Crayons!  As I've mentioned in the past, blogging has been a huge help in my journey towards conquering my fear of food.  This weekly tradition is certainly a big part of that!  

**A quick note: In my WIAW posts and in general, what I post is NOT everything I eat in a day.  While I would love to share every delicious morsel with you, documenting every single thing I put in my mouth would cause me to fixate on how much I'm eating and obsess over it - definitely not what I'm trying to accomplish!  So I'll just stick to the highlights of my meals and snacks!**

The theme of this week's meals?  Seasonal confusion!  This is perhaps the strangest winter I have ever experienced!  I can only recount two days of (very light) snow, one of which was back in October.  While there were some "If I go outside all my limbs will freeze off even if I wear my entire coat closet" days back in January, most of the time it's been unseasonably warm.  On many occasions I've worn two or three layers under my coat, only to take them off after spending just minutes outside.  And word has it that this Thursday it's going to be almost 70 degrees!  

With all of this strangely variable weather, it's no wonder I've been craving the most random foods from across the seasons!  And since I've been working on listening to and honoring my cravings, I decided to just roll with it and break the seasonal stereotypes!  

Last night I decided the last thing I wanted for breakfast was hot oatmeal, so I prepared a batch of cold overnight oats instead: 

I combined oats and chia seeds and almond milk, and this morning I added a banana and some almond butter.  And if that wasn't cool and refreshing enough for a mid-winter morning, I made a smoothie out of frozen berries and ice (I tragically ran out of spinach so no green monster today!).  

For a snack, I had a creamsicle muffin from a batch that I made last weekend, with some peanut butter.

 An almost empty PB jar... I'm sensing some OIAJ in the near future!  

These muffins are great as part of breakfast or as a snack, and the taste is perfect with some nut butter (especially almond)!  I'm also proud that I played around with a recipe the result was not only edible, but also delicious!  Plus they're fat-free, sugar-free, and contain a secret vegetable!  I now present to you the healthiest muffins ever:  

(Adapted from this recipe from Oh She Glows)

1 cup whole grain spelt flour
1 cup oat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 flax egg (1 tbsp. ground flax seeds plus 3 tbsp. warm water)
1 1/4 cup packed, finely shredded carrot
3 tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice
1 1/4 cups unsweetened almond milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
Stevia to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Whisk up the flax egg and set aside.  Then mix the dry ingredients (flours, baking soda, and salt) and in a separate bowl combine the wet ingredients (carrot, flax egg, orange juice, almond milk, extracts).  Making these muffins is an excellent upper body workout!  You'll see what I mean when you discover just how long it takes to shred 1 1/4 cups of carrot!  Add the wet ingredients to the dry, add stevia as desired, and pour into muffin tins.  Baking for 30-40 minutes.  A word of warning: This batter isn't "lick the bowl and spoon and then eat half of it before anything gets into the oven" worthy the way cake batter is.  But don't judge them until they're all done - they taste much better cooked!  

For lunch I further added to the seasonal confusion with this unintentionally fall and summer-themed meal: 

Everything is so orange!  

That's leftover Bread free Thanksgiving stuffing, baked kobocha squash, a slice of bready (my home-baked bread that I treat like a beloved child, minus the whole eating it part), and a Valencia (aka "summer") orange.  Seasonally confused?  Yes.  Tasty?  Indeed!  

My dinner was not only seasonally confused; it was confused in general!  In my efforts to spend less on food (my goal is to come in under $50 a week!), I threw together some leftovers. 

A hearty black bean soup (you know, to warm you on a cold winter night), more kobacha squash (those things are HUGE!  I've had some with three meals already and there's still over half left!), and some cool cucumber.  To add further to the randomness of this meal, I ate the veggies with chopsticks!  

That soup was even better today than when I made it yesterday, and it was so inexpensive to make.  I cooked some dry black beans and threw in a can of diced tomatoes, a can of corn, and lemon juice.  I roasted chopped red pepper and onion along with some garlic that I later crushed, and added them all to the soup.  Then I flavored it with chili powder and cumin, thinned it out with water, and it was done!  

Since I've been dying to play with the ice cream maker that's been sleeping in my kitchen for years, I thought, "What better why to end a winter night than with ice cream?"  So I threw in some almond milk, vanilla and almond extracts, and a bit of stevia and 20 minutes later I had created this: 

It was so frothy and refreshing!  

Listening to my cravings instead of eating what I'm "supposed" to eat is so freeing!  Yes, allowing myself to eat unseasonal foods has nothing to do with my eating disorder, but the fact that I was able to have the confidence to enjoy what I wanted, even if it's not what everyone else was eating, is a huge step forward!

Do you ever crave cold food in winter?  Usually all I'm focused on is staying warm, so this was strange for me!  

What's the most random meal you've eaten recently?

Do you ever use an ice cream maker?  I'm definitely going to be experimenting with different flavors of iced almond milk now that I discovered how much fun it can be! 

Happy Wednesday!  :)

Monday, March 5, 2012

NYC Vegetarian Food Festival!

Six weeks ago, this would have been a nightmare.  

Tables of free food without calorie counts posted?  Huge crowds?  Chocolate around every corner?  I would have laughed at the mere suggestion of attending such an event.  

Even now, I struggled quite a bit with the idea of going.  I spent countless hours on the event website and, on multiple occasions, flirted with the ticket order form with credit card in hand.  But with my birthday last week, which led me to eat far more sweets and restaurant meals than usual, the fear of going to yet another place that would take me out of my comfort zone was overwhelming.  It took until Friday night to make the decision to go Saturday, and by that time the tickets were sold out.  I decided this was a sign that I was better off waiting until next year.  

But inspiration struck Sunday morning.  I had to go.  After all, the more I learn about cooking my own healthy and delicious food, the more comfortable I am with eating it.  And since this blog is still but a fledgeling, how could I miss an opportunity to attend an event that captured the very essence of what I want to celebrate on my blog?  So I pushed my fears aside and went.  

It was, indeed, VERY crowded. 

Did I make the right decision?  I'm not quite sure.  I was packed with anxiety as I tasted almost everything the fair had to offer.  Some guy yelled at me when I accidentally cut a line, which led to an near panic attack.  And being around so many other vegetarians/vegans made me feel that I'm not good enough.  I know this is ridiculous -  I've been vegetarian my entire life and so much of my time is spent preparing healthy meals.  But I don't grow my own grains and vegetables, I sometimes use the microwave, and I occasionally grab a vegan energy bar when I don't have time to prepare my own snacks.  Not to mention my anxiety over consuming an unknown amount of calories was so strong that I ran to the gym as soon as I got home - the first time in months that I exercised compulsively to compensate for eating.  

But, I will forgive myself.  Just because I fell back into an ED behavior does not mean I need to collapse completely into the vicious cycle.  Today is a new day.  

There were some positives to going to the fair!  I got a hug from this guy: 

My mom apologized about 80 times for the blurry picture

And I found out about some great vegan restaurants in my neighborhood that I didn't even know exists.  Plus, I ate a marshmallow for the first time in my life, thanks to Sweet and Sara!  Growing up, I frequently faced resistance when I had to explain and defend the reason why I couldn't eat marshmallows ("But how could they contain animal bones?  They're so soft and fluffy!")  While I enjoyed the treat, I don't think I was really missing out on much.  They're so sweet that just a few bites were enough.  Still I couldn't resist buying a sample pack... I can certainly see why they make the perfect companion to hot chocolate!  I also tried daiya cheese for the first time.  It tastes just like dairy cheese from what I remember.  Just like with the marshmallows, it was a nice treat, but I seem to have lost my taste for cheese since becoming vegan.  It might be nice to include it in meals occasionally, but I've always preferred to explore the different tastes the plant world has to offer than stick to dairy/meat substitutes. 

Some other highlights?  I watched a Vita-Mix demonstration with love and longing in my eyes.  Those things are amazing.  I wish I could give one a home.  Perhaps one day in the future, but right now paying that much for anything is out of the question.  I had a huge refreshing kombucha for only $2!  Surprisingly, one of my favorite vendors (and where I spent the most money) was Sheffa Foods.  This is shocking because their products (specifically their snack bars) are marketed as "sweet-free."  How could I possibly enjoy this so much in a stadium full of chocolate?!  I picked up a bar in each flavor (to me they taste like different types of bagels) as well as a spanish onion salad topper and a coconut/dried fruit mix that is the perfect mix-in for oatmeal.  

I now present to you, the loot!  

Quite a plentiful harvest, I must say!  

I must admit that it is slightly stressful to have such a large stash of novelty, previously "banned" foods in my house.  It's a true test to my recovery that I did not only buy marshmallows, cookies, chocolate, and even a chocolate peanut butter-covered smore, but I also plan to eat them.  I do feel some guilt, but this this a great way to exercise my acceptance that it is ok to enjoy these treats in addition to my healthy meals, and that doing so will not cause me to automatically gain weight.  

Despite the anxiety, I'm glad I went!  I'm already looking forward to next year, when I'll be more comfortable with trying different foods and enjoying them, and maybe even talk to some people who share my values!  Only 364 more days...

Did you try any new and exciting products recently?  

Have you ever been to a vegetarian food fair?  

How do you deal with anxiety around eating former fear foods?  

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Whole Truth (and Nothing But the Truth)

This blog has been a positive place.  So far I've enjoyed sharing my favorite foods and fitness pursuits in a light and upbeat manner.  Although everything I've been writing is honest and sincere, I can't help but feel like I'm hiding something.

Nothing I've written is a lie, but so far I have not been telling the whole truth.  While I do have some great moments, the truth is that I am also struggling.  Since I was 13, I have been dealing with anorexia and, at times, binge eating disorder.  While I have made great strides in stopping bingeing and restricting, I still struggle immensely with body image daily.  I also deal with other issues that continue to challenge me in day to day life.

My mood and self-esteem go through jarring ups and downs, sometimes lasting for weeks and sometimes for only moments.  I never know how I'll be feeling in a given situation, whether it is three weeks or 20 minutes away.  Finding the right kind of therapy has been difficult.  No matter how great I feel during the day, every night I stand in the mirror and cry because I'm afraid I've gained weight.  Things have not been easy.

But, no matter how bad things can be at times, I refuse to give in.  Blogging has been a positive outlet for me.  It makes me feel less alone and allows me to draw inspiration from people who have triumphed through similar hardships.  I am learning that food should be celebrated and not feared.  I am learning that there is more to life than suffering in isolation.

The part of me that writes this blog is the part that wants to get better and feels entitled to a full and happy life.  But there is another part, too.  In darker moments I feel hopeless, worthless, and disdainful of the sporadic sense of entitlement that periodically allows me to enjoy my life and share it on this blog.  I want to continue blogging, but to do so in a way that allows me to celebrate the good while acknowledging that the bad still exists.

I want to continue to be positive, but I want to tell the truth.  The whole truth.

My hope is that this blog will evolve into a place where I can share my fun vegan foodie and fitness adventures, but also address how the challenges I face effect me and sometimes hold me back.  I hope to gain more readers and use this blog as a forum where we can connect and grow together.  I want to hear from others who can relate and to offer support to those who are also on a quest to conquer their demons.

So far, blogging and running have been the only things that seem to make a positive difference in my life.  They make this journey seem a little less lonely and a little more stable.  So I think I should probably keep this up.

I hope you'll join me.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Big 2-0

I'm getting old.  

The ugliest cake ever, but also one of the most delicious! 

Ok, not really.  But, it certainly feels that way due to the fact that I mysteriously sprained my ankle (and it wasn't even running-related!) so it's much harder to get around than in my younger years.  And the lack of exercise these past few days has been making me sad.  Very sad.  I haven't been to the gym in a week and I couldn't even run half a mile without deciding it was better turn around and give my ankle a rest.  At least I'm listening to my body so that I'll hopefully be able to get back into my routine full-force in a few days!

Luckily, my birthday week was filled with tons of adventures to keep me busy!  Project #1 was to organize my pantry!  I've been cooking and baking non-stop and my completely unorganized kitchen was not making it easy.  So I threw out three huge bags worth of my mom's expired food (we found a bag of tootsie rolls from before I was born!) and I headed to the food-coop to stock up on all of my essentials!

Unfortunately, being in a store full of inexpensive bulk nuts and grains got to my head and I sort of forgot that it would have to all fit in my tiny cupboard.  The task of organizing it was a bit more daunting than I had hoped.  

I was exhausted just thinking about it.

Luckily, my incredibly organized friend, Ariel, helped fit it all into containers (we're now obsessed with the container store) and I now have the best vegan baking pantry a girl could hope for!  

I've also had some wonderful birthday week meals!  I'm quite sure that having a birthday is the perfect excuse to spend money on food all week.  ;)

Cucumber roll and green salad with ginger dressing

My aunt and I went to my favorite sushi restaurant, Kodama, which is nestled behind Times Square and is perhaps the best-kept secret of delicious places to eat in the city.  

Black pepper seitan

The night before my birthday, Ariel took me to Vegetarian Ginger, a vegan Thai restaurant in Williamsburg.  Ariel is the best gift-giver ever: in addition to this fabulous meal, she got me a book, a wallet, a gift card to the container store, a gift card to starbucks (for soy lattes!) and a giant apple container to store my apples!  I am so lucky to have such thoughtful friends!  

On the night of my birthday, we went to a hummus restaurant called Nanoosh for my favorite tomato soup and one of the best salads I've ever had!  

Tomato soup with whole wheat pita

Salad with sweet carrots, raisins, and walnuts with walnut-grapefruit dressing

And those were the food highlights of my week!  This post unfortunately turned into a boring collection of food pics, but I felt this was necessary to make up for my lack of posting over the past week!  I also had some other adventures (including an outing to get Ariel some green eggs and ham on Dr. Seuss' birthday, which also happens to be my birthday!) and a trip to Chinatown.  I think a post about my favorite places in NYC is in order, as well! 

Do you have a system for organizing your baking/cooking staples?  

Did you eat out somewhere exciting this week?  I sure did!  

What are your favorite things to do for your birthday?