Pack it Up! : Food prep, the Feed Bag, and Mastering the 10 + Hour Day

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I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while now! It’s been cooking up in my brain as I’ve gradually collected ideas and photos for it. My weekly food prep days (Sundays) have become one of my favorites. I listen to podcasts or music and cook up amazing goodies to eat throughout the week. I’ve also bumped up my workouts over the past couple of months, adding a stable cardio regimen twice per week plus pushing myself to THE EDGE! during my weight training. My metabolism has been bumped up and I’ve recognized that I need to eat often to sustain my physical and brain activity.

So. In case you didn’t know, I’m in graduate school. I have class 3 days per week (in 2 hour 45 minute blocks), and work 10 hours at my research assistantship, plus 10 hours at my administrative job elsewhere on campus. While I enjoy my “on campus” days and relish how busy I am for 3 days out of the week, those days are at least 8 hours each. More like 9-12 hours, really it just depends. Pair that with my financial and health-based needs to bring my own “lunch” and you’ve got a food prep wonderland.

Since I am gone for such large chunks of time, (that often encompass funky hours, my classes are 12-2:45 in the afternoons) taking my own food is a necessity to sustain myself and  keep my brain going. The entire first semester was trial and error: brining too little and getting hangry, having something come up and staying late and not having snacks, getting dehydrated because I didn’t bring a water bottle, bringing too much food only to not know what to do with it. After those initial months of learning, I can confidently say that I’ve finally gotten the art of the feed bag down pat. That’s what I call it: the feed bag. It’s more than just a lunch it’s a sustainable sack filled with vegan, organic, gluten free goodness that fuels and satisfies my body and often offers brief respite from the craziness of the day. Above, you see said feed bag. Vegan made out of recycled materials emblazoned with a happy little message, its black background goes with the rest of my wardrobe. Now how about what’s on the inside?

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Fairly typical contents: a complete meal encased in tupperware/pyrex, 1-2 sides, 2-3 snacks (Lara Bar not pictured!).  Here you have a nice rice bowl (contents below) and veggies for hummus, yogurt with fruit and chia, a banana. Gold fish cat toy not included. And that’s the formula:

Bowl

Snacks

Sides

WATER!

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In the bowl: brown rice cooked in homemade veggie stock; salad of mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, and sprouts; roasted tomatoes and zucchini (hidden in the upper right hand corner); baked tempeh; topped with tahini sauce, pepper, and diced fermented jalepenos.

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Another bowl: gluten free mac; steamed kale; molé chili making a comeback after a couple of months in the freezer; buffalo Beyond Meat grilled strips. The above is my pyrex, aka the microwaveable bowl. I threw that kale in raw and it steamed up as the rest of the goodies heated.

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Tri colored quinoa; roasted chick peas; collards; roasted cauliflower; miso ginger glazed tofu; topped with sprouts; served with a blood orange and Lara bar.

So, what’s my bowl breakdown? Pretty basic, really.

Carbohydrates, from a whole grain/gluten free source: brown rice, quinoa, or some form of pasta made from either one (or both!).

Greens! Raw or cooked, I try and mix it up. Often I’ll bring a little salad with whatever I’m eating for the day. For instance today I’m bringing a small pyrex of casserole and a salad. I can eat these separately for smaller mini meals or together for one larger one, depending on how the day goes.

Protein. Legume, tofu, or tempeh.

Additional veggie. Some sort of roasted or raw veggie tossed into the mix for added color, nutrition, and flavor.

Sauce/dressing. Tahini, miso, your favorite salad dressing, you name it. Bowls and salads are so much tastier with some sort of healthy sauce to go with them.

I often take lunch salads too, at least 1-2 times per week. That formula is pretty much the same for the salad. (Also see this GREAT post about the salad here, and mine here.)

Snacks

I usually try and keep a balance of fruits and veggies with my snacks. I love, love, LOVE, Lara bars and take them just about everywhere. They’re packed with all sorts of goodies and make a filling snack on their own or a slightly bigger one with a piece of fruit.

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Blooming 4 dragon flower tea, over night oats in a cashew butter jar with chia and pomegranate arils, soaked in coconut milk.

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An apple (eaten with a handful of raw walnuts) and my 620-something milliliter water bottle.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to take a big ole water bottle with you EVERYWHERE. I have 2: this one for when I’m out and about, and a smaller glass one that I use at home as I can refill it more frequently. This one is just over half a liter — my goal each day is to refill it as much as possible. During class, I fill it up before and refill it at the break. So I drink a liter of water during class alone. This has really helped me feel healthy and just plain GREAT as I move about my day. Occasionally, I’ll slip a bottle of homebrewed kombucha into my feedbag, and often I’ll take a mug and several assorted bags of tea. When you’re gone for large amounts of the day, the best thing you can do for yourself is make things as comfortable as possible. When I’m at home, I drink a lot of tea. I try and do this when I’m away too. First of all, because the buildings I’m in are FREEZING! And secondly, because it does make me relaxed and feel at ease when I know I won’t be home for a while.

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Now, this is where my prepping practices come into play. Each week, on Friday, I go grocery shopping. Beforehand, I set out a meal plan for the week ahead. This includes what I’ll be making and when, 1 meal at a restaurant/carry out, and what I’m packing in the feed bag each day, at least generally. I also make a list of what I’ll be prepping on Sunday. All of this listing (first of all, I’m a lister I do it daily.) helps me not only plan accordingly and make sure that I’ve got everything I need but it also helps me budget for the week. This past Sunday, I prepped brown rice cooked in my homemade veggie broth, garlicky collards (I had half a bundle leftover from a recipe last week), and a black bean/corn dish, and a cashew based garlicky avocado dip. (Recipe soon!) You can see all of the above, plus a few cherry tomatoes in the pyrex at work on Monday evening.

I make everything I need to have for a complete bowl, just as you see in the photo above. Then depending on the day and my mood I can make some sort of variation of said bowl using leftovers and fresh fruits and veggies I have rolling around in the crisper or on the counter in my kitchen. On Tuesday nights (after a 7-9 hour day away from the cat and my little apartment) I usually make dinner, and these leftovers often get consumed over the next few days in bowl/small meal format. I love leftovers for this reason: they allow you to really mix things up and create all sorts of different combinations that keep you and your taste buds from getting bored.

I’m also a big proponent of freezing leftovers for quick meals, or for those days when cooking just isn’t in the cards. My Tuesday meals are often some sort of pre-prepared casserole that I slide into the oven when I get home or a simple dish like tofu scramble or pudla. I’m really enjoying the opportunity to get creative with casseroles on Tuesday nights, and I’m excited to explore this way of eating further, along with soups and stews that I can also make in advance. Cooking in this way, even if it means that you get all of your prep done for EVERY meal on your prep day, helps you stay full, happy, and healthy. It’s also allowed me to stick to my goals and just feel GREAT over all about my body as I feel that it’s reaching its full potential and serving me well throughout the day. Don’t crash and burn, make sure you fill up that feed bag and take care of yourself when you’re out of your own kitchen!

So, to sum it all up: bowl/snacks/sides. In your bowl: carb/greens/veggies/protein. WATER, WATER, WATER! Lots of variation, a few casseroles, and a food prep day each week. And more water. Also, I’m hoping to do a few Through the Looking Glass posts to show you more of what my funky days look like. Especially Wednesdays. Wednesdays are my weird timing days. Keep your well-fed eye peeled!

Horchata Chia Pudding

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Oh, chia. It’s been too long! I love those weird, tiny, speckly, silvery seeds. Toss them in juice, a smoothie, kombucha, or even water and slurp ‘em down. According to the USDA, “According to the USDA, a one ounce (28 gram) serving of chia seeds contains 9 grams of fat, 5 milligrams of sodium, 11 grams of dietary fiber, 4 grams ofprotein, 18% of the recommended daily intake of calcium, 27% phosphorus and 30% manganese.[8] These nutrient values are similar to other edible seeds, such as flax or sesame.” So really there’s not a reason to eat these little boogers.

I especially love chia pudding. It feels like a decadent treat and it’s tasty and it’s packed with all sorts of nutritional goodness. What’s not to love?!

So, a simple recipe for you today.

Horchata Chia Pudding (makes 1 serving)

2 Tablespoons chia seeds

1/2 cup almond or coconut milk

sprinkle cinnamon

dash of vanilla

 1 teaspoon agave/maple/date/brown rice syrup (Optional)

1 sliced banana (also optional)

Stir ingredients (sans banana if you’re using one) together and allow to rest for at least an hour, overnight if possible. Slice banana on top or add other fruit and serve! Tastes just like a horchata pudding! I make mine sans sweetener but with banana and that’s plenty sweet for me, but if you’d like a little extra horchata-y oomf, stir the sweetener right in with your other ingredients.

This makes a great, filling snack or even breakfast though I’d likely augment it with something else (granola, oats, smoothie etc.) as it is a lighter dish. I love this as a late/mid morning snack, and also make a version of it using unsweetened coconut yogurt to take with me for my on campus days.

Setting and Practicing Intention

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How I love the sound of falling rain. I told my mom on the phone this morning that I’d love to live some place like Seattle or Portland where clouds and rain are par for the course. Someday perhaps. But for now, it’s palm trees.

I’ve been ruminating on the idea of intention these past few days. On setting, practicing, and proceeding with intention in my daily life. In my mind, intention and goal setting are nearly one in the same; I’m always making lists and lists of lists of goals I hope or need to accomplish during a week, day, month, weekend, year. A set of hopes, a set of ideas, in some ways a small set of dreams some unattainable and some so easily touchable. Why set intention in this sort of world? Why set goals for yourself if sometimes there’s pointlessness to the point you’re trying to reach? I think in a lot of ways it helps us make sense of our lives, of our little daily struggles by breaking them down into smaller chunks that are better suited for us to chew and swallow. IMG_5303

Over the past several weeks, during my beautiful and languid lapse of time during my December respite from reality I did a lot of reading. SO MUCH reading. Books, news articles, blogs soooooo many blogs, recipes, Facebook posts, online magazines. I got to absorb all of the information I wanted to inhale, not merely what time would allow. I’ve loved this new found intention: absorb what I want to, not just absorb what I can. I’ve been seeing goal setting and intentionality popping up all over the blogosphere, ’tis the season after all. I’ve read a lot of these posts, seen others’ goals and ideas for the new year, seen them reflect on 2014, read a few articles about simplifying and adding meaning to the everyday. I guess what I’ve gleaned from it all is this: those little intentions that I set for myself regularly help keep in line. They give me something to hold to, a little promise made to me and me alone by none other than myself.

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It’s easy to let the logistical intentions over take the personal ones, at least it is for me: email so and so, go ahead and read for next week’s class, email again, make a preliminary bibliography, think up paper topics, you name it. But on the flip side, there are goals like: make a new recipe every week, do cardio regularly in addition to weights, go for a walk in the woods, watch a movie, take a bubble bath. I think above all, that’s my goal for this new year, to honor those seemingly smaller, personal intentions or at least be more mindful of their presence in my life. I often find myself doing without realizing, acting almost mechanically without thinking. The forced sabbatical from work and academia that winter break has forced upon me has made me much more mindful of these little things. A lot more thought has gone into them. I like the idea and practice of waking up early each day and deciding what to do with it. Making those intentions, setting a few small goals. I’d like to intend to intend: my biggest intention for this new semester and new year is to make and practice intention.

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Photos of Life Lately

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Washing and soaking quinoa. Does anyone else do this?
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Falafel at a local vegan eatery, in a brown rice wrap with a side of hummus and veggies. SO GOOD.

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Want. So badly.

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I’ve cut down to about 2 cups of coffee a day! Quite the feat considering that not too long ago I was going through an entire French press a morning.

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Kombucha brewing is fermenting right along!

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ERMERGERD. Best. Flavor. EVER. EVAR!

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Stoked to play around with some different veggies from the Indian grocery up the road. Not sure where these little veggie buying adventures might take me, but thrilled to find out.