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Recipe Testing & Cardio Tuesday

Today ended up being a long one for me. It was a cold walk in again, but at least the wind didn't immediately undo my hairstyle. When I got to the office and saw my calendar for the day, I realized I pretty much had back-to-back meetings from 9 am until 2 pm. I opted to just stay through lunch and leave early (not really early as I put in my 8 of course).

Crappy Cardio Day
I was kind of excited about leaving at 3 and getting my workout done earlier. I thought I could put in a good cardio, some abs, then have time to experiment in the kitchen. Got a couple of ideas brewing that kept me up last night. Well, got home and started my workout - Cardio Fusion. It's usually a high calorie burner for me. I don't know what the deal was today though. I could not get my heart rate up and it'd drop the second I wasn't pushing all out. It was very frustrating. I've done that workout enough to know what my heart rate typically is throughout the workout. I was easily 5 and 6 below what I normally do. I don't know if it was my monitor or me. I felt like I had to be overly exaggerated with moves just to get my heart rate going and keep it from dropping. The highest I got was 162 and that's not normal for this workout. I was very frustrated and ended up getting downright ticked off with myself. I know that seems extreme, but I was just so frustrated. It felt like a waste of time and like I might hurt myself in the end.

This isn't the first time. I seriously don't know if I should blame the monitor or if it's an over training issue. Over the past three weeks, I have cut back by at least an hour. I was working out right at 8 hours a week. Two weeks in a row I did 6:45, and last week was 7:15. I thought that cutting back would help.

Have you ever had that happen? How much do you typically workout during a week (cardio and weights)?

Recipe Testing
By the time I got into the kitchen, I wasn't in such a chipper mood. But I had resolved myself into trying a few new things, one was more about getting a piece of the puzzle prepped to make assembly easier for another day.

I absolutely love lasagna, but not how bad it is for you. A few times I've made lasagna using Japanese eggplant in lieu of noodles. I wanted to try to make it even healthier, so I found a recipe for a cashew ricotta to try out. So I made that today. I'll post about it later.

My uber-healthy blogger buddy Alicia @ Vegan Epicurean is having a Healthy Cooking Challenge.  The goal is to take a childhood or family favorite dish and veganize it and make it healthy. I couldn't think of anything in particular that I just craved from my childhood. Until the middle of last night that is. My mom used to make a Broccoli, Rice, Cheese Casserole that I adored. It used white rice, Velveeta cheese, cream of mushroom soup, onions, and frozen broccoli. Oh it was creamy and good! How to make that vegan? Healthy? I thought of Alicia's Cheeseless Queso that I've been playing around with. Surely that could be made to resemble melted Velveeta and creamy enough to take the place of cream of mushroom soup. So here's the method to my madness:

Vegan Vegetable "Cheeze" Casserole
"Cheeze Sauce"
1/2 cup raw cashews soaked 2 hours, rinsed, drained
1/2 cup oatmeal, ground
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 tsp turmeric
3 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 small yellow onion minced
sea salt and pepper to taste

1 cup wheat berries
3 1/2 cups water
approximately 1/4 cup dried shiitake mushrooms chopped
1 tbsp minced garlic
sea salt & pepper to taste
1 bag frozen mixed vegetables (broccoli, carrots, cauliflower) or steamed fresh broccoli (I was out)
1/2 box soft silken tofu (puree in blender to make creamier)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook wheat berries in water approximately 1 hour until soft. After about 45 minutes, add in shiitake mushrooms, garlic, salt, and pepper.

Meanwhile, puree cashews, oatmeal, water, and nutritional yeast until completely smooth. Add to heavy sauce pot along with onions, salt & pepper. Let cook until thickens.

In round casserole dish, combine all ingredients. Top with additional nutritional yeast flakes (optional). Bake for approximately 30 minutes.

I served with Tuscan Breasts by Gardein. The product is vegan and is touted by Tal Ronnen in his book The Conscious Cook: Delicious Meatless Recipes That Will Change the Way You Eat

While the casserole didn't completely replicate mom's casserole, it was quite tasty. It did have a creamy, cheesy flavor. I do wish I'd had the fresh broccoli, but the frozen veggies worked. I think it'd also work well with pearled barley. I really enjoy the texture of the wheat berries and the grown-up flavors of the shiitake mushrooms. Maybe next time I will try to make a mushroom sauce rather than cook the mushrooms with the grain.


  1. I HATE when I don't quite get into a workout or sweat less than I normally do! It's happened to me before too and I get frustrated or mad at myself for feeling I "phoned in" a workout EVEN when I wasn't trying to! It happens, you try again the next day, right?! :)

  2. Jolene glad I'm not the only one to get mad about it. I was furious. It was so irrational I know. I mean, it's not a competition or race or anything. Ugh. You're right, just need to look to tomorrow.

  3. After reading this post, I feel super lazy! I think it's time for me to put the computer down and go do some sort of exercise. Thanks for motivating me! I hope your workout is better next time.

  4. This casserole looks really great!! I love nutritional yeast, so I will make this dish!

    You are such a motivator when it comes to working out! What kind of cardio do you do? Do you switch it up daily?


  5. So I tried making the cheeseless queso tonight.. and totally messed it up! First I forgot to add the oats until it was warming stovetop, then I completely over-seasoned. I am a complete wuss with hot spicy and totally overdid it :/

  6. Suzie glad I was able to do some sort of good at least and motivate you!! I got in my workout this AM and it was so much better.

    Kris | iheartwellness thanks for the compliment. I really do hope to motivate others. Let me know how the dish comes out for you or what changes you make. I'd love to hear about them.

  7. Alyson @ Oh no! At least you tried. Did you get enough of the cashews to try again? Don't give up!!

  8. Your casserole reminds me of one my mom used to make when I was growing up. I also love the idea of using barley in place of rice. Nice touch.

    As for exercise I tend to do 60-90 minutes of cardio and strength 5 or 6 days a week. On days when I feel good (translation slept well) I do 90 minutes. Days when I didn't sleep well I reduce the cardio.


  9. Hmm, now that I'm reading your blog, its a good many hours of cardio vs. weights I do a week. Let's see...I do 3 hours of weights a week (STS) and then probably 5-7 hours of cardio a week (depending how much Kick practice I have, really). So 8 hrs of JUST cardio does seem to be a little much Heather. Just thinking maybe if you pair it back even more you'll feel more centered again.

  10. Hey Jessica , 8 hours would be weights and cardio combined, not just cardio. My new weight rotation currently is about 2 1/2 hours of weights. Before this one, it was usually 3 hrs of weights, the rest cardio (so about 5 hours of cardio a week).

  11. Alicia the casserole seemed very grown-up in flavors. There were no leftovers! What types of cardio are you doing? I think I need to sub one cardio day for yoga or maybe pilates.

  12. Heather,

    I vary my cardio so I don't get bored. I do step aerobics (don't we all), bellydance, or bike mostly. One of my friends loves Zumba so I may try that soon too. Yoga is something I do everyday because I find it relaxing. Pilates, not so relaxing but it feels good. Probably not the way most people would describe it.

    I don't plan my cardio. Instead I just do what I want to that day. I find that by allowing myself to vary it I am more like to both do it and enjoy it. I used to be more rigid about my schedule but this works better for me now.


  13. I'm in love with this! So fun. I've been meaning to do some more experimenting with the queso dip recipe, and a "rice" dish is a perfect idea. Another good excuse for me to try wheat berries, but I do also like your barley idea.

  14. Sarah @ The Ordinary Vegetarian I really like wheat berries. I may not be cooking them enough, but I like the chewiness they add. Please let me know if you try this out.

  15. Thanks for the inspiration to use the queso dip in other ways. Last night I made the spicier version of the original, with salsa instead of canned tomatoes. I tossed it with some brown rice noodles and topped it off with chili beans and chopped green onions. Easy vegan chili mac was born! I was craving comfort food after just coming off the 10 day cleanse. With a portioned serving of this along with a big pile of steamed veggies it wasn't too heavy of a meal. Comforting, indeed!

    This was my first experience with brown rice noodles and I really enjoyed them. Next shopping trip I'll be picking up those wheat berries for sure though ;)

  16. Sarah @ The Ordinary Vegetarian that sounds so yummy. Glad I could inspire, now I have a new recipe to try too!!! Like I need one more LOL. Can't wait to hear your thoughts on wheat berries. I've found that I really like them. The only downfall is the cooking time.


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