Racquet to me + an amazeballs Vixen in the Kitchen

When the fella and I discovered Riverbank State Park and its paddle ball courts a few weeks back, we immediately went out and bought ourselves some racquets and balls.

I'll have you know that's a racquet made by Maria Sharapova. NBD.

I’ll have you know that’s a racquet made by Maria Sharapova. NBD.

After we finally got to break them (and ourselves) in yesterday, I walked there this morning to play on my own. It is gorgeous here in New York today — if the weather could stay exactly like this, I would be such a happy Nikki. Like yesterday, I spent pretty much most of the time chasing the ball around as opposed to actually hitting it, but by the end of my 45-minute set (can I even call it a set if I couldn’t even beat myself??), I managed to keep the ball in play a bit longer than when I started.
And even if I stink or almost take out a kid playing on a nearby playground as I did yesterday or have to run to the farthest court to retrieve that stupid blue ball, at least I’m moving, right??

Afterward, I came back and made some energy balls I had sampled when I took a vegetarian cooking class a few months back. I had raved about these balls to the fella and the Girl Child when I got back from the class, and the GC has been haunting me to make them for months.

I took the class at Bhagavat Life,  and I honestly thought I wrote about how much I enjoyed it, but alas I didn’t. If you’re in New York, you should definitely check out the website and take one of the classes. Divya, the host, is so friendly and her food was so very good.

Here’s how I made the energy balls. They are so so easy, so so good, so so filling and vegan. Plus, look at that perfect dusting of coconut!
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1 cup dates
1/4 cup raisins (you can use figs instead if you prefer)
1/4 cup dried cranberries (but you can also use any other tart dried fruit like cherries or blueberries)
1 cup almonds or almond flour
1 cup walnuts (or whatever nuts you prefer)
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup dried coconut

Pour boiling water over the dried fruits, let sit for about 10 minutes (no longer or else they’ll get too watery). While they’re soaking, grind the nuts in a food processor into a fine meal. Divya suggests to bring them separately, but I did them together and it seemed OK.

Wash and drain the fruit the best you can, put them and the vanilla in the processor and blend until it’s a smooth paste. Put in a large bowl, pour the nut mixture on top, and blend with your hands. Roll into 1-inch balls, roll in the coconut, and voila!

The recipe makes about 15 balls.

Let me know if you make them — I promise you they’re … ahem … amazeballs!


Country walking

I went off the grid a bit this past week (and, let’s face it, my vegetarian diet) when I went home to Northeastern Pennsylvania to celebrate my parents’ 30th anniversary. The big 3-0 also let me see my beloved brother for the first time in a year, so the week definitely featured copious amounts of family time, booze and food (we’re Italian after all!), and it was everything this gal needed.

Even though I’m a total night owl, I am also an early riser (which is both a blessing and a curse because I like to get up and putz around in the quiet of the morning, but I’d also really like to sleep in once in a while, arrgh). So while everyone else was sleeping a few days this past week, I took myself for a few walks.

The area surrounding my childhood home is truly beautiful. My parents live on a dusty road next to a big pond and amid lots of green fields and quiet woods. While I loved going to stay with friends growing up, friends who lived on paved roads in developments with other friends and close to fun places we used to walk to from their houses, I wouldn’t trade growing up “on the country side of town” for anything. I think growing up with not a lot of neighbors have helped me enjoy the quiet (such as all these mornings I love to take advantage of) and entertain myself. I don’t need the TV on constantly, I love to just cuddle up and read or write (obvs!) and can be just as content in solitude as I am with my loved ones.

Growing up surrounded by woods also makes for beautiful pictures, especially this time of year, so here’s a few of my favorite photos I took on my walks “around the block” — which happens to be about a 2.5 mile jaunt. Autumn in New York is, for sure, my favorite season, but autumn back home is truly majestic.


Stairway to huffing

The fella and I were displaced from our apartment most of yesterday because it was finally getting painted, so we walked pretty much all over upper Manhattan.

Throughout the day, we hit Riverbank State Park again, walked up Riverside Drive to Columbia University Hospital and even had time to see a movie at our favorite theater on 84th Street.
We saw “The Family,” it was meh, but DeNiro is always DeNiro, so at least there was that. 

One of the worst — but best, I guess, for our get-fit goals — was having to trek up the steps to get atop the 155th Street Bridge. We had walked along Jackie Robinson Park, thinking that we could just cut up 155th Street to get home, but imagine our surprise to find a dead-end and a high set of steps menacingly taunting us.
This was worse then when we had to walk up the steps in Jackie Robinson Park with a week’s worth of groceries the other day because we didn’t realize the park ran for 10 blocks.

I suggested that we go back down to 145th Street and walk up that to get around, but the fella gave me a look that clearly said, “That is not an option,” so up we went. I took off and lost momentum at step No. 75.
Yes, I counted. I count all steps I walk up, actually; it’s part of my OCD charm thankyouverymuch. 

2013-09-13 11.28.10There must’ve been 100 steps in total, which really isn’t all that bad considering we go up about 70 to get out of the subway at 145th Street, but there at least are landings and flat areas between the stairs, it’s not just one straight shot.

As I paused to catch my breath on No. 75, a guy peered down from above and asked me where the subway was. All I could do was point because I was too busy breathing like a pug dog who’d been playing too long. We made it the rest of the way up, both of us pretty red-faced and huffy … and maybe a little bit shaky in the legs.

A super-buff guy walked past us and joked around saying that “It’s not so bad” as our faces and profuse sweating made it out to be, and that “it’ll get easier, just keep going,” that we did a good thing. Maybe not our finest hour, but now that that moment is behind us (and never to be repeated again, I hope), I’m glad we did it because I do feel amazing from all our walking yesterday.

We still have a long way to go, but the fact that we’re doing something about it — like all our walking plus eating a hell of a lot healthier than we have pretty much ever — is half the battle.

I’m glad we took those baby steps that were nothing like baby steps at all.


Winner winner chik’n dinner

The fella and I have been doing swimmingly with our vegetarian eating the past few days.

Well, I cannot tell a lie: I had a tiny slip up at Dunkin Donuts yesterday morning following our ginormous walk. I, on complete autopilot, ordered my usual egg white flatbread with turkey sausage. In my defense, it’s healthier than the other breaky sandwiches I really wanted and not a sugar-laden donut, which is too much sweet for breakfast for me. But still. I own up to my flub and vow to not let it happen again.

As for dinner, the fella made chicken parm using MorningStar’s Italian Herb Chik Patties and, as you can see in the pic below, IT. WAS. SO. GOOD.

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Today, I’m off for a walk with a friend then popping into Whole Foods to hunt down some vital wheat gluten to make the seitan the fella and Girl Child are kind of sick of hearing me talk about. It’s damn hard to find VWG at a regular store, which is super annoying.

Have a tremendous day!


‘Let’s go vegetarian,’ he said to me

The past few weeks have been madcap to say the least.
The Girl Child officially moved in with us, and we moved to a two-bedroom in the historic (and gorgeous) Sugar Hill section of Harlem, and there’s been some … let’s just call it “life changes” … that have occurred. Though they may cause things to be a bit dodgy here and there, a huge negative force has been lifted from our lives, and I finally feel like myself again.
The “more fun, laid-back and spontaneous” me, to quote the GC.  

Between all these factors, plus the constant motion of moving and unpacking, I’ve lost 10 pounds the past week and a half, which really helped me kickstart my mindset. I’m eating better and taking daily walks again, which I love, especially with a whole new neighborhood to explore.

We have a huge kitchen in the new crib, and I plan to get back into cooking some of the dishes I’ve written about on this blog in the past. I’m looking forward to it, and so is the fella, I think, because that will relieve some of the feeding duties from him. I don’t know if my excitement about doing more cooking is what spawned what I’m about to write, but I’ll take it either way.

Before I say what I am going to say, are you sitting down?
What about now?

sb10062327o-001The fella looked at me yesterday, ever so pensive (and maybe a little bit sad), and said, “Do you … think we should go vegetarian during the week?”

I almost shat on a turtle and immediately said a resounding yes.
If you’ve been a longtime reader of RNR, you know that I’ve written plenty about going veg during the week, especially when the fella and I were doing the long-distance thing a few years back. 

Since we moved, our family dinners have mostly consisted of making vegetarian versions of our meals for the GC, who has been vegetarian for almost a year, save for a sausage meal we all ate with Tofurky sausage. Well, the fella said that it “just makes more sense” since we it would save us money from not buying two versions of our meals, time from not making two meals and help us (he and I) finally eat healthier — all magic words if you ask me.

Tonight, we’re having stuffed peppers with meatless crumbles, and I’m going to pick up the ingredients to make seitan this week, and we’re going to fill up our new, bigger fridge with lots and lots and lots of veggies and fruit. The fella and I are going to start walking during the day while the GC’s in school, and I started using my yoga mat yesterday to stretch out before my hour-long walk and do some abs for the first time in a year.

I’ve — err, we’ve — got a long way to go, and I know my guy is going to need a steak every now and again, but the fact that he’s ready and willing to take this step now means the world to me.

Today is the first day of the rest of our lives — and it’s going to be a healthy one. And I love that I’ll be living a lifestyle that I’ll be proud to actually talk about here on RNR.