Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Red Star Chinese Restaurant - Dearborn, MI

On our way home from the health food store on Saturday, Brian and I drove by some hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant that had certainly seen better days.  The kind that probably has a reputation for questionable meat and reusing their vegetable garnishes. Not the type of place that makes you crave Chinese food . . . yet at the same time totally makes you crave Chinese food.  Just not from there.  

Suddenly we both wanted Chinese food for dinner.

We realized that it's been years since either of us has eaten Chinese food (unless you count P.F. Chang's - which I don't know if I do), since we generally tend toward Thai food.  That's when I remembered Red Star in East Dearborn, which is a place I've been wanting to go to for years and for one reason or another we've never gone.  

First off, let me say that the ambiance of this place is weird and unlike any Chinese restaurant I've ever been in before.  The walls and carpeting are kind of drab and gray and there aren't many decorations, paintings, or wall hangings.  It has mirrors and chandeliers and seems more like a small banquet room than a Chinese restaurant.  

What's great about Red Star is that, although there are only a handful of vegan menu items, they will replace any meat on their menu with vegan chicken or beef.  This really opens up a whole world of possibilities and doesn't limit vegan diners to the usual mixed vegetable plate with tofu.  Granted, I'm not necessarily all about the vegan meats but every once in a while it's a nice treat.  (When I first heard about the place I was mistrustful but VegMichigan vouches for them.) 

So there are a couple of options there.  Basically, you can either choose an entree, which is one dish or you can choose a combo, which is smaller portions of two dishes.  The entree comes with veggie soup and the combo comes with a veggie spring roll or veggie egg roll.  Both come with white instead of shrimp fried rice.  (No brown, bummer.)

I ordered the combo with sweet and sour chicken and mixed vegetables.  I told our server I was vegan so she asked if I wanted the veggie spring roll or veggie egg roll (wasn't sure how the egg roll was vegan so I went spring) and said it would come with the vegan meat and white rice.  Although I like spring rolls, I'm really not a fan of fried food.  The smell is nauseating and the food usually doesn't sit well with me.  Plus I know it's not good for my body and the fat content scares me.  However, I don't eat it often so I threw caution to the wind with both the spring roll and the sweet and sour chicken.  (And in all honesty, I didn't know sweet and sour chicken is deep fried.  Damn.)

Veggie spring roll

Sweet and sour vegan chicken, mixed vegetables w/ white rice

Overall, the food was pretty good.  The chicken was definitely vegan, so that was good.  I liked the vegetables, even if the sauce was a little gelatinous.  I'm assuming it was some agar or cornstarch-thickened broth mixture.  Brian ordered the sesame chicken (real chicken) and liked it a lot.  I might try that next time with vegan chicken and the veggie soup.  There is definitely a lot on the menu so we'll be making a return trip to Red Star.

My combo with vegan meat and veggie spring roll cost $11.95.

They don't have a website but you can view their menu online here.

Red Star Chinese Restaurant is located at 13944 Michigan Avenue in Dearborn
Open Sunday 2 p.m.-10 p.m.; Monday - Thursday 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Saturday 12 p.m.-11 p.m.

What's your favorite Chinese dish?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Meatless Mondays from 2 Edgy Veggies to Go

Last Monday was my last Meatless Monday Meal from 2 Edgy Veggies to Go for November.  The meal had an Asian theme and consisted of fresh rolls with peanut dipping sauce, soup, and rice pudding for dessert.  It was a nice lite, fresh meal. 

Vietnamese Fresh Rolls w/ sprouted tofu and orange-scented peanut dipping sauce

Thai Curried Potato Soup w/ fresh cilantro garnish

Coconut Jasmine Rice Pudding w/ toasted coconut and cashew topping

Go to the Exploits of a Vegan Wannabe blog for recipes:

Thai Curried Potato Soup
Vietnamese Fresh Rolls
Coconut Jasmine Rice Pudding

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Healthy Homemade Chips and Guacamole

Brian and I like to take extra time on Sundays to make dinner together.  It's the only night of the week that we really feel we have the time and energy to do so.  During the week it's always too late to spend much time so we usually turn to or one-pot meals like pastas, stir-fries, or tofu scrambles (or leftovers from said one-pot meals).  By Friday we're too tired to cook so we pick up sushi or sandwiches and then on Saturday we like to go out.

On Sundays we like to get more creative, try out new recipes, or make things that require more prep time.  Last Sunday we decided to have burritos (Brian) and taco salad (me), Admittedly, this is one of the easiest meals to make.  Since it was Sunday we had to kick it up a notch so we made chips and guacamole to go with it. 

Yogi Guacamole from Peas and Thank You w/ low-fat baked tortilla chips

That's right.  We made chips.  Well . . . okay, not like from scratch.  We took a major shortcut.  We actually just cut up some leftover corn tortillas and baked them in the oven.  But it was way more homemade than opening up a bag of Tostidos.  They were simple, crispy, and still much healthier than most chips we'd buy at the store.  

The guacamole recipe we made was also lighter than traditional guacamole because it had white beans along with the avocado.  It's "Yogi Guacamole" from the Peas and Thank You cookbook.  The same recipe is also on the Peas and Thank You blog, although it's titled "White Bean Guacamole."  It's a snap to make (I used my Vitamix but a food processor would work), plus it's healthy and super delicious.  Ole!

Low-Fat Baked Tortilla Chips
(printable recipe)


Corn tortillas (however many you want to make!)
Olive oil spray
Sea salt 


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Cut corn tortillas into 6-8 triangles.

3. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Spray evenly with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.  Flip and repeat with other side.

4. Bake for 5 minutes.  Flip and bake for another 5 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes to crisp even more.

I never used to like guacamole.  Now I love it!  (Perhaps little too much...)  Do you like guacamole?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

What's in Your Meat Drawer?

This weekend when Brian was putting away the groceries, he said, "I'm putting the cilantro in the meat drawer."  He was being totally serious but I burst out laughing because I suddenly thought about how ridiculous the contents of our "meat" drawer would seem to most people.  Granted, produce doesn't usually go in there but everything else in there makes perfect sense to us.  I thought I'd give you a peek inside.

Flax seeds
Smart Ground meatless ground beef

Sometimes there are other meatless meat products or Daiya cheese in there.  Brian definitely has a block of some actual cheese hiding in the back of the drawer but for the most part, this is it! 

Why do we still call it the meat drawer then?  Old habits die hard, I guess.  And "Prune Drawer" just hasn't quite caught on...yet.

So, what's in your meat drawer?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Harvest Burgers and Homemade Fries

The Detroit Free Press had a recipe in the paper a few weeks ago for these burgers and Brian and I made them last week.  Although a little time-consuming, they were not hard to put together.  We modified the recipe just slightly, using a sweet onion instead of a yellow onion and baking them instead of frying them in a pan.  

They are certainly some of the more flavorful burgers we've made, thanks in large part to the pepper and onion.  We topped them with lettuce and tomato and they were pretty good that way, though we felt they could have used some kind of sauce.  We just weren't sure what and they were really good on their own.  We didn't want to ruin them by adding the wrong flavor.  Maybe some mashed avocado?

Brian made some awesome fries to go with the burgers.  We adjusted the baking time and temperature so that the burgers and fries could bake together.  It worked out perfectly!

Harvest Burgers with Homemade Fries


1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 sweet onion (such as Vidalia), diced
1 red pepper, cored and diced
1/2 cup corn kernals, fresh or frozen
1 cup cooked brown rice (I used brown basmati)
1 cup quick oats, lightly toasted
15-oz. can pumpkin or squash puree
2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

6 burger buns or large rolls
Condiments of choice


1.  Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the cumin and onion and saute until the onion softens and begins to brown, about 5 minutes.  Add the pepper and corn and saute until just tender, about 3-4 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

3. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and cool for 5 minutes.  Add the rice, oats, pumpkin, cilantro, balsamic, cayenne, salt, and pepper.  Stir to combine.  Form the mixture into 6 patties.

4. When the oven is preheated, place patties on a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Flip burgers and bake for another 15 minutes. 

Makes 6 burgers.

Homemade Fries

2 medium baking potatoes
Olive oil spray
Salt and pepper


1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Spray a baking sheet with olive oil spray.

2. Scrub potatoes and dry.  Cut into fries as evenly as possible.  Lay in single layer on prepared baking sheet.  Season with salt and pepper.

3. Bake for 20 minutes.  Flip and bake for another 10 or until browned and crisp.

Makes 2-3 servings.

We also had a side of sauteed collard greens.

What's your favorite veg burger recipe?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Traffic Jam and Snug Restaurant - Detroit, MI


On Saturday we celebrated Jaime's (my sis-in-law) birthday at Traffic Jam & Snug, which is in Detroit, just across the street from Motor City Brewing Works (another favorite of mine).  It was busy when we got there at 6:00 so we ended up waiting about 40 minutes for a table.  At least there's a big waiting area so it wasn't too bad.

There are a few vegetarian items on the menu but nothing specifically vegan so I just asked the server.  She excitedly told me that the Ethiopian platter is vegan (she would double check on the bread) and it's her favorite thing on the menu.  She also said that the Tex-Mex Lentil Burger, minus the guacamole and cheese, is vegan.  If I wanted a salad I could choose the Dijon vinaigrette or the balsamic vinaigrette.  Not too many choices but for a menu loaded with chicken, fish, and meatloaf, I wasn't about to complain!

Jaime ordered the lentil burger and liked it a lot.  I ended up ordering the Ethiopian platter, which came with a side salad with Dijon vinaigrette and traditional Tef injera bread (which was, indeed, vegan.)  Everything was absolutely delicious and quite filling.  I would definitely go back and have this again!  (And I'd like to try the lentil burger sometime so that means multiple return visits.)

Yekik We't Ethiopian platter (spicy baby red peas, yellow lentils, sauteed collard greens) - $10.25

 Tef injera bread - it was sort of like a pancake!

Traffic Jam & Snug is located at 511 West Canfield Street in Detroit
Open Sunday 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Monday - Thursday 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-12:00 a.m.

Traffic Jam is going to be featured on the Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives with Guy Fieri tonight at 10:00 p.m.  Check it out and leave a comment below to let me know what you think (I don't have cable to watch it).

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Fall Menu and Pizza Night at Woodbridge Pub

I've been to Woodbridge a bunch of times since the fall menu started and every time I think, "I have to do a post about the new menu."  Now here we are, almost to December, and I still haven't told you about the delicious items on their current seasonal menu.  Before I know it the winter menu is going to be out so I better let you know about the fall one in case you need some motivation to get down to Woodbridge!

Here are my favorite fall menu items:

Appetizer: White Bean Dip (northern white beans, parsley, oregano, lemon, garlic) with tortilla chips - $6.00

Sides: Brussels Sprouts - $3.00

Sides: Barley and Brown Rice Pilaf - $3.00

Soup: Harvest Lentil - $3.50 (cup), $4.50 (bowl)

If you only try one of these items it must be the lentil soup.  It is amazing!  It is so hearty and has a delicious fall flavor.  You WILL order it and you WILL love it!  I've thought about ordering a cup for an appetizer and two bowls for dinner.  I don't think it would be too much, do you?

I tried the Roasted Sweet Potato Mash and the Wilted Kale sides (each $3) but wasn't all that impressed with either one.  I still want to try the Vegan Pumpkin Sausage entree but every time we've gone in I haven't been in the mood for it for one reason or another.   

We also went to Woodbridge one Sunday for pizza.  On Sundays from 4:30-10:00 they have the Pie-Sci Guys there doing pizzas.  Here was their selection for the evening we went:

I went with the Vegan Italian Sausage with roasted red pepper and spinach.  It was really tasty.  The pizza was small enough and the crust was thin enough (and I was hungry enough!) that I could eat the whole thing myself.  The combo of the peppers and sausage was perfect and it had just the right amount of cheese, which I'm pretty sure was Daiya.

Vegan Italian Sausage with roasted red pepper and spinach

Woodbridge Pub is located at 5169 Trumbull in Detroit
Open Monday-Wednesday 11:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m.; Thursday 11:00 a.m. - 11:00 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 11:00 a.m. - midnight; Sunday 11:00 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.

Have you been to Woodbridge lately?

Saturday, November 26, 2011


This Thanksgiving we celebrated in the usual way - lunch with Brian's family and dinner with my family.  (This year at my grandparent's house.)  It always works out well.  Brian is more than happy to eat two meals and I just eat salad for lunch so I don't end up eating too much.

We took a big garden salad to both places.  The salads were perhaps a little, uh, too big but what's Thanksgiving without leftovers, right?

I also took Dijon-Herb Green Beans from The Happy Herbivore Cookbook to my grandma's.  For dinner I had a plate of side dishes - stuffing, sweet potatoes, and green beans.  Everything turned out delicious.  (For dessert there was a non-vegan pumpkin pie so I had some PB2 Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Balls when I got home.  Hmmm...should have tried them with pumpkin...)

My favorite part of the meal was the sweet potatoes that my mom made.  She used coconut milk and ginger - that's it!  No sugar or margarine.  They were the smoothest and creamiest sweet potatoes I've ever tasted!  She was kind enough to let me share her recipe with you. 

Creamy Sweet Potatoes
(printable recipe)


9 small-medium sweet potatoes
2/3 cup regular coconut milk [*See NOTE]
2 tsp. ground ginger


1. Boil yams until soft.  Cool and peel.

2. Place in bowl with coconut milk and ginger; whip until smooth (a stand mixer works best).

3. Pour into a casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees F for 35 minutes or until heated through.

Makes 8 servings.

[*NOTE]: The amount of coconut milk will vary depending on how creamy you want the potatoes.  She used regular but you could probably use lite.  I'm not sure how that would affect the overall creaminess, though.  Leave a comment if you try it.

What was on your Thanksgiving plate?

Friday, November 25, 2011

On the run: A Tale of 2 Halloween Runs

On Halloween weekend I ran two 10K's - Run of the Dead: A Run Through Southwest Detroit on Saturday and Plymouth's Wicked Halloween Run on Sunday.  The two races couldn't have been any more different.  For those of you familiar with both Southwest Detroit and Plymouth, I need not explain.  For those of you unfamiliar with the areas, they're quite a bit different.  

While Downtown Plymouth is home to Panera, Starbucks, The Cupcake Station, and countless other restaurants, shops, salons, and spas, Southwest Detroit includes the older and most historic neighborhoods of Corktown and Mexicantown.  From the starting line you can see the sprawling Ford Rouge Plant, which spreads out over much of the area.  In general, properties are better maintained in Plymouth than in Southwest Detroit but I was pleasantly surprised by some nicer neighborhoods and a well-kept tot lot that I ran past.  

Don't get me wrong - both Southwest Detroit and Plymouth are both very cool and totally worth checking out and exploring.  I honestly loved running through them both.  I'm just highlighting how very different they are to show how very different my two runs were this weekend.

This race was really cool and one that I would definitely do again.  The theme was more Day of the Dead than Halloween so instead of costumes per se, people were done up with painted faces, dyed hair, and ripped clothing.  There were quite a few Mexican wrestling masks, which were pretty sweet.

The race started at Patton Park, went through some good and not-so-good-looking neighborhoods, and wound through two cemeteries - Holy Cross and Woodmere.  Holy Cross seemed older and creepier with ghostly dancing children and a dead mime troupe.  We covered more ground in the well-kept Woodmere cemetery and it was very serene and peaceful.  The weather couldn't have been more beautiful and I was loving every minute of being outside and soaking up the late October sunshine.

Although I rushed to make it the morning of the race, I ended up putting together a pretty solid playlist.  I tried to go for morbid and creepy as opposed to Halloween-y.  I already have new ideas for next year that will include more Detroit bands (why oh why didn't I think to put Blanche on this one??). 

To see some pictures and and even an action shot, be sure to check out the video that Brian put together from the race.  




strawberry soy yogurt with raw oats, banana


Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground/ The White Stripes
Shallow Grave / The Von Bondies
(Don't Fear) The Reaper / Blue Oyster Cult
Little Ghost / The White Stripes
Monsters / Hurricane Bells
The Living Dead / Phantom Planet
Walking With a Ghost / The White Stripes
Ghost Town/ Shiny Toy Guns
I Cut Like a Buffalo / The Dead Weather
Under Cover of Darkness / The Strokes
Chop and Change / The Black Keys
Mary Jane's Last Dance / Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
The Violet Hour / Sea Wolf 
The Ghost of Tom Joad / Rage Against the Machine
Not Afraid / Eminem

Short-sleeved cotton tee shirt by Pure Detroit.

By the time Sunday rolled around I was tired.  It wasn't so much that I was too tired to run 6 miles (but sort of).  It was more that I wasn't in the mood to leave my warm house at 7 a.m., drive half an hour to Plymouth by myself, and deal with everything that a race entails.  I just wasn't up for it so I was feeling crabby to begin with.  Add to that a mile long bathroom line (that took me way too long to even find - seriously, they shouldn't have to ANNOUNCE where the bathrooms are!) and I'm about ready to go home before the race even starts.  But, I persevere.  

The run itself was decent.  It wasn't as flat as the Run of the Dead, so the added challenge was nice.  The neighborhoods weren't as cookie-cutter as I thought they'd be so there was more variety to look at as I ran.  Although most of the costumes I saw were store-bought, at least a lot of people were dressed up so again, there were interesting things to look at.  

I was not pleased with the post-race organization, however.  If you ask me, when you finish a race the first thing you should see is water followed by the post-race snacks.  I saw neither.  I wandered around for a while, lost and thankfully found my glove, and then finally asked someone where the snacks were located.  By that time the line was so long and I had somewhere to be that I said forget it and left.  I still never even got a water.  I stopped at Einstein on the way home for a coffee.  I know it was the first year of the race so hopefully next year they'll figure things out a little better (though I doubt I'll be participating).

My playlist was pretty good.  As morbid as I tried to make yesterday's, my goal for today's was to be as cheesy and Halloween-y as I could get.  Unfortunately, I realized that Brian and I don't have an extensive collection of Halloween songs in our iTunes library so I had to fill in with a few non-Halloween songs.  I thought Lady Gaga, Meat Loaf, and Trent Reznor seemed appropriate enough, though.  




peach soy yogurt with raw oats, banana


Monster Mash / Bobby "Boris" Pickett
Howlin' for You / The Black Keys
Werewolves of London /Warren Zevon
(Don't Fear) The Reaper / Blue Oyster Cult
Shut Up and Drive / Rihanna
Werewolf Bar Mitzvah (RAC Mix) / Tracy Morgan and Donald Glover
This is Halloween / Danny Elfman
Monsters / Hurricane Bells
Bad Romance / Lady Gaga
Nightmare on My Street / DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince
The Hand That Feeds / Nine Inch Nails
Thriller / Michael Jackson
I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That) / Meat Loaf

At least the shirts and the finisher's medals were cool.  I wore my shirt to school for Halloween the next day and my 1st graders were pretty impressed with the medal.  Despite my explaining that everyone who finished the race got a medal, they still seem to think that I came in second because I got a silver medal.  I stopped trying to correct them!
Long-sleeve tech shirt

Did you run any Halloween races this year? 


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Meatless Mondays from 2 Edgy Veggies to Go

This is way delayed but after everything with Murray, posting about my Meatless Monday meal was the last thing on my mind.  But I promised so here's a quick recap of LAST week's meal.  

The 2 Edgy Veggies are in Florida this week for a half marathon they've been training hard for so there wasn't a meal pick-up this week.  Because of that, they did their Thanksgiving meal last week.  The menu included all the traditional Thanksgiving items - vegan style.  They were all delicious.  My favorite part of the meal was the roasted vegetables.  I love roasted root vegetables!

Roasted Tofurkey with Wild Rice Stuffing, Sage Gravy, and Roasted Root Vegetables
Orange-Cranberry Sauce
Delicate Pumpkin Pecan Tartelettes

If you're interested in the making the pumpkin pecan tartelettes for yourself, you can get the recipe here.  The orange-cranberry sauce recipe can be found here.  Both are courtesy of Exploits of a Vegan Wannabe.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Last Sunday I told you about my kitten Murray and his battle against FIP.  He was doing so well this past week.  I picked up some medications for him - steroids and anti-nausea pills - and he was taking them and eating his kitten food like a champ.  Sure, I had to feed him with a fork but I was prepared to do whatever it took to help him get his strength back!  (Brian thought I was crazy but I thought it was pretty awesome that I had a cat eating from a fork!)  

Murray was much less confused, more social, and was moving around easier.  His fur was shinier and his eyes were brighter.  Although I wasn't hopeful he was going to beat the disease, I was still optimistic that he was going to be with us for a while.  On Wednesday he ate 3 cans of food and was better than ever.  The whole situation was nothing short of a miracle.

Then on Thursday Murray suddenly started to lose interest in food.   He only picked at his breakfast, eating a little more with the fork but not much.  My mom made a special trip to feed him later in the morning and had a little more luck but she could tell he wasn't on the up and up.  I skipped the gym Thursday night because I was worried about him.  He barely touched his food and instead crawled into my lap and immediately fell asleep.  I knew it wasn't good.  

We sat together on the kitchen floor until we were both asleep.  I cuddled with him - still in my coat and scarf - for 2 hours until Brian came home.  Murray was just so tired and seemed to be getting more and more tired by the minute.  He could barely lift his head and needed us to carry him.  I was afraid to leave him when I went to bed, worried he wouldn't make it through the night.  We gave him a special cushion to sleep on by the vent where he could stay comfortable and warm.

He was waiting there for me in the morning.  I tried to give him some food but I knew it was useless.  He was so uncomfortable even just sitting.  I knew I couldn't leave him even for the morning so I got a substitute for the day, ran in to work to leave plans, and got back home as soon as I could to be with Murray until the vet opened.  

My mom came over and drove me there so I could hold Murray instead of put him in the carrier.  It's never easy to have to put a pet to sleep but I knew it was the right decision to make.  Murray let me know it was time and the vet we saw reaffirmed my decision.  It wasn't Murray's usual vet, Dr. Walker, but it was the doctor who saw Murray on the day I got him (and she'd been kept up-to-date on his progress by Dr. Walker).  She knew this wasn't the same lively, talkative cat she met that day.  Nor was it the same cat who was doing somersaults in his cage just hours after having surgery!  It wouldn't have been fair to let Murray continue to suffer as he had been. 

I miss Murray so much.  Friday was such a sad day.  Having to put him to sleep and then coming home to a house without him was really difficult.  Saturday was almost as hard but today was a little easier.  My other cat, Zoe, has been doing her best to comfort me.  She's a good girl.  And as much as she likes being an only-cat, I think she misses Murray, at least a little bit (but she'll never admit it!).


I've been so focused on taking care of Murray for the past few weeks - feeding him, giving him medicine, taking him to the vet, spending time with him because I didn't know how much I'd time he'd have left - that I've really neglected myself.  I haven't been eating right or working out nearly enough and I really feel crappy because of it.  So yesterday I went to boot camp and today I went out for a 3+ mile run.  Both felt really great.  I really poured all my time and energy into caring for Murray but now it's time to refocus some of my energy back into caring for myself.  

Thank you to everyone for the prayers and kind thoughts for Murray.  Although we only had him for a short time, I wouldn't have done anything differently had I known he had FIP from the get-go.  We gave him a happy home and he brought us such happiness in return.  

Squirrel Murray (the costume was a little big for him)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Meatless Mondays from 2 Edgy Veggies to Go

For my birthday, my sister-in-law Jennifer gave me a gift certificate for 3 Meatless Monday meals, courtesy of 2 Edgy Veggies to Go.  On November 7, 14, and 28 I can pick up my meal in the morning and then have it ready to warm up for dinner.  This is perfect because after a long day of work followed by a staff meeting and my cycle class, the last thing I want to think about when I get home after 6:30 is what to make for dinner.

Such a cute personalized bag!

Last week's meal was an orange, fennel, and beet salad; chik'n pot pie; and sweet potato pudding. I was a little ambivalent about the salad because I've never had fennel before. I looked it up on Wikipedia first to make sure it's not related to an onion. It was described as having an anise flavor, which I like, so I gave it a little nibble. It had a nice flavor that paired so well with the sweetness of the oranges and beets. I ate it all.  And drank the juice. If you want to try it yourself you can get the recipe here.

Orange Fennel Beet Salad

Next I moved on to the pot pie. Poor Brian - he loves pot pies - so I really felt bad eating this in front of him. (But not so bad that I offered him even a taste!). This was by far the most delicious pot pie I've ever tasted! The topping was a light and fluffy biscuit that was neither too dry nor too buttery. It was just the right thickness and was easy to cut through with a knife. Underneath the biscuit topping was a thick and hearty mix of fresh carrots, peas, potatoes, and little cubes of chik'n, all perfectly seasoned as a pot pie should be seasoned. I was sad to get to the last bite and practically licked the tin clean. (Truth be told, I DID lick the tin clean.)

It was 6:45 by the time I got this in the oven so I got a little impatient waiting for it to be ready.  After a while I took off the foil, hence the over-baked heart.  oops!  Otherwise it was perfect.

I waited a little while for my dinner to settle before having the sweet potato pie for dessert. It was thick and creamy with just the right mix of spices and sweet potato flavor. It almost had a hint of butterscotch to it, which I love. It would have been delish on its own but I topped it with a sprinkling of shredded coconut. Yum!

Sweet Potato Pudding

Wondering what was for dinner tonight?  I'll have to keep you in suspense for a little while...

Have you ever participated in a homemade meal service?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Prayers for Murray

I know it's been a long time since I've posted anything.  Even longer than usual.  (I do have a couple of posts almost ready to go and will get those up in the next few days - I promise!)  It's been a very difficult past 2 weeks and I'm going to take the time to sit down today and tell you why.  I'll let you know right up front that this is going to be an emotional post for me to write and while I'll try to keep from going on and on, I'm not making any promises.  Just don't say I didn't warn you.

Two months ago on a whim I decided to adopt a kitten from a friend at work.  She and some neighbors had been caring for a little stray who'd been turned out onto the streets by his owners because they couldn't be bothered to care for him.  He was nicknamed "Mew-Mew" because he meowed ALL THE TIME!  He was also the friendliest little guy they'd ever met, going up to strangers for food and attention and seemingly fearless, even of dogs.  

Mew-Mew settled into a routine over the summer of sleeping on different porches during the day, in a tree at night, and being fed and played with whenever the neighbors were around to do so.  He once followed my friend and her son on a 2-mile walk, meowing the whole way!  This was not your typical cat!

When she told me about him and how he desperately needed a forever home, I couldn't say no.  I didn't even consult Brian.  I picked up the kitten and was at the vet before calling him to say, "Remember when you said I could go to the shelter to look at kittens...?"  I knew at that point he couldn't say no.  And of course once he met this little guy he'd surely fall in love!  (He did.)

Amazingly enough, the kitten was given a clean bill of health from the vet.  He was 4 months old and had been a stray most of his life yet he wasn't feral, he didn't have fleas, ticks, or ear mites, and he ended up testing negative for intestinal parasites and feline leukemia.  The vet truly could hardly believe he had been a stray.  

His first night at home - so sleepy!

After much deliberation, Brian and I officially named our new little guy Murray.  Sort of a nod to "Flight of the Conchords."  (It's the orange fur.)  It turned out to be very fitting, too, since whenever Brian brings out his guitar Murray curls up with him to listen.

Murray has brought such joy to our house.  Well, to Brian and me at least.  Zoe needed some time to warm up to him but her hissing lessened with time and before long she was trying to play with him.  It was strange, though.  We assumed it was because he'd been a stray and hadn't been around other cats but he didn't seem to know how to play with her.  He also didn't know what to do with cat toys.  He sat around and slept a lot.  But he seemed content to just do his own thing and was happy.

After a little while we started to notice 
some other things that were a little odd about Murray.  Other than being super laid-back and being more sleepy than normal kittens, he almost never drank water.  Then he developed some really weird eating habits, which we let go on for a few days but when he started throwing up every time he ate, we knew it was time to call the vet. 

We knew he was a scrawny little guy but we were shocked that to learn that Murray had lost a whole pound in a month.  He was also severely dehydrated (not a surprise), nauseated, and constipated.  Poor little Buzzy!  He was miserable!  Dr. Walker kept him for a couple of hours to give him fluids and some medication to help get him cleaned out.  She also prescribed some anti-nausea medication for me to put into his food each morning to help him eat.  We started feeding him canned kitten food for the higher fat and water content.  He was eating well, keeping it down, using the litter box, and was relatively active.  I was pretty sure he'd gained some weight and we were on the right path.

When we took him back for a follow-up appointment, however, he'd lost a couple more ounces.  Dr. Walker was at a loss as to why he wasn't growing.  His blood work had come back normal and everything else was checking out okay so as long as he continued to maintain where he was at, she felt comfortable seeing him back in about 3 months.  If he was still showing poor growth at that point we could look at some other options.

Just a few days after that appointment Murray suddenly became extremely lethargic, stopped eating, and started having tremors.  I took him back to the vet.  He'd lost more weight and was dehydrated again.  Dr. Walker gave him fluids and drew blood.  His results came back normal so she suggested a bile acids test to check liver function.  She thought maybe toxins were getting out into his system, affecting his brain and causing the tremors, as well as leading to poor growth and digestion problems.  If so, my options would be to manage it medically or to have Murray undergo surgery.  Neither would be a great option but both would mean it was something we could treat.

Dr. Walker called me on Tuesday night.  His test results came back fine.  By this point she said it left one thing, which is what I had been worried about from that first time he was sick - Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP).  It's a viral disease that occurs in a small percent of cats - mostly kittens under 2 years of age - and it is almost always fatal.  Ozzie, our last cat, died from it shortly after his second birthday.

So our little Murray, only 6 months old, is dying.  I was heartbroken to get the news.  In a matter of days his condition seemed to worsen almost before our eyes.  His tremors got worse.  He would lose his balance easily and fall if he tried to jump up on something.  He cried if we touched him or picked him up.  Instead of sitting on our laps like he always did he only wanted to curl up by the vent or in his little tunnel.  Then he stopped eating entirely.  

I took him to the vet this past Friday prepared for the worst.  I knew cats don't recover from FIP and he was only going from bad to worse.  I just couldn't watch him like this and if he wasn't eating, how much longer could he last?  I was sure I would leave the vet without him.

Then Dr. Walker surprised me by saying that although rare, some cats do recover from FIP.  It depends on how far the disease has progressed and since Murray's kidneys and liver do not seem to be affected, there may be a chance.  She gave him a strong steroid injection to help suppress his immune system and stimulate his appetite.  I was to call in the morning with an update.  

I couldn't get Murray to eat that night or in the morning but he did at least seem interested in the food.  At this point it had been about 36 hours since he'd last eaten so I was really worried.  It seemed the steroid didn't work.  Again, I was prepared for the worst.  I called Dr. Walker and she said we could try one more thing.  Since he'd previously responded to anti-nausea medication, I could bring him in for an injection, which I felt would be a more sure-fire way to get it to him than trying to have him take a pill.  I brought him home and with some coaxing, Murray finally ate!  I was so happy I cried!  I called the vet and even the receptionist was genuinely excited to get the news.  She made sure I had the emergency vet information and I said I would see how he did through the weekend. 

Brian is out of town this weekend so Murray and I spent the weekend bonding.  I slept on the couch Saturday night to be near him.  He was on my chest, nuzzling up to my face every time I woke up.  He doesn't really purr much but I could tell he was a happy kitty. 

When I got up in the morning he came hobbling over to me meowing for food.  He was ravenous and gobbled up 3/4 of a can of kitten food!  He at another 3/4 of a can for dinner.  He's doing so much better than he was a few days ago and I'm sure the food has a lot to do with it.  Instead of huddling alone in his tunnel he's been sitting on my lap almost all day (and following me around the house when I wasn't sitting).  In fact, here he is on my lap right now!

I know that most cats don't survive FIP.  It would pretty much take a miracle for Murray to beat this but he's a fighter.  If any cat can pull through it would be Murray.  And if not all I ask is for him to be comfortable and happy for as long as possible.  I love this little guy and am thankful for every single day I get to spend with him.  

Right now I just want him to continue eating to keep up his strength and stay on the level.  I don't necessarily expect improvement but hope not to see further deterioration, at least for a while.  I'd appreciate if you would say a prayer and think good thoughts for my little Murray.  

I'll keep you updated.  Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

On the Run Again

Fortunately Mr. Mucus came for a single-man getaway and didn't bring the wife.  Pneumonia on one side was plenty exhausting for me!

Thanks to this guy deciding to drop by unannounced for an extended vacation, I spent the last three weeks (including my birthday weekend) coughing and blowing my nose, either curled up on the couch in my pj's or wishing I was.  I had to take several days off work and should have taken even more.

I was not very active.  Every day I thought maybe that would be the day I'd at least go for a walk.  Then my cat Murray would do something funny, I'd start laughing - which would lead to coughing - and next thing I knew I was collapsed on the floor, unable to stop, and scrambling for my inhaler.  So running and working out?  ha!  Not gonna happen.  

Murray's favorite Wii acvitity

I have to say, I was really good about taking care of myself.  I'm not always so good about that.  I tend to push myself too hard, not give myself the rest I need, not fuel myself properly for workouts, over-train, etc.  But with pneumonia, I didn't want to mess around.  I waited until my lungs were clear before easing back into indoor cardio workouts - elliptical, spinning, and boot camp.  Even then I was still coughing and tired out very easily.  So I kept my heart rate lower and took breaks when I needed.  They weren't my best workouts but they were way better than lying around on the couch.  And although they tired me out it was in a good way.  I slept better after and had a little more energy.  

Still, I wasn't running.  I skipped the Detroit Free Press 1/2 Marathon that I was signed up for.  I was bummed out to miss it but it was just last Sunday, only 6 days after finishing my antibiotics.  And I was still coughing and using my inhaler.  Perhaps not the best idea.  

Saturday in boot camp I ran one mile inside.  Despite being boring on the track, it went well and I only coughed a little bit from it.  That was encouraging.  

Sunday morning I decided to lace up my running shoes and get outside.  I have to say I was nervous.  After 3 weeks of being sick and sedentary (and perhaps not making the most healthy of eating choices), I didn't think it was going to go very well.  But what did I have to lose?  I could turn back, cut the run short at any time.  The temperature was mid-50's and the sun was shining bright, so it was perfect.  I set my new iPod Nano to shuffle, clipped it on my shorts (half the size of my 1st gen and finally hands-free - yay!), and off I went.

As soon as I got out there I knew it was going to be a good run.  I didn't pay much attention to my heart rate or pace during the run.  I just went.  By the time I got home I ended up doing 2.5 miles with a pace of right around 9 min/mile.  Not bad for my first time out.  The most important thing, however, was that I felt GREAT! 

I ran another 4 miles today at an 8 min/mile pace and felt even more comfortable.  I just registered for two 10K's this coming weekend - Run of the Dead on Saturday and the Wicked Halloween Run on Sunday.  I can't wait for both of them!

So, Mr. Mucus, you may have knocked me off the road for a while but in the words of George Castanza, "I'm back, baby!"

Good-bye, Mr. Mucus!

Have you had a setback/had to take time off from your running?