Vegetarian, but bored with options? Check out the new ‘Engine 2 Cookbook’

Rip Esselsty pitches in to cook dinner at an Austin fire station in this file photo by Ricardo B. Brazziell AMERICAN-STATESMAN.

If you’ve ever shied away from a vegetarian diet because you worried that you’d be eating the same scoop of black beans and side of spinach every night, you should check out the latest from Rip Esselstyn.

“The Engine 2 Cookbook” (Grand Central Life and Style, $28), a companion to Esselstyn’s 2009 book, “The Engine 2 Diet,” includes creative dishes like chili made with tart cherries (!) and sweet potatoes, baked “tater tots” made with red potatoes enrobed with hummus (they look like armadillos), brats made with garbanzo beans, brown rice and oats, deep purple butter made with beets, and bright green muffins made with kale and blueberries.

RELATED: Want to eat better? Try “The Engine 2 Rescue Diet”

Esselstyn, a former firefighter and pro triathlete, teamed with his sister Jane Esselstyn, a nurse, researcher and recipe developer, on this latest project. The book, which is subtitled “More than 130 Lip-Smacking, Rib-Sticking, Body-Slimming Recipes to Live Plant-Strong,” hits store shelves on Dec. 26, just before New Year’s resolution season.

I tested “The Engine 2 Diet” for a month back when it first came out, then wrote about the experience. The book espouses an eating plan that focuses on plants, eliminates meat, fish, dairy and added oils, and limits sugar, salt and fat. For 28 days, I became a bean-, tofu- and vegetable-eating machine, and blood tests showed that my cholesterol dropped an impressive 40 milligrams.

I felt great, but struggled when it came to sticking to the program. I still eat plant strong and saute stuff in vegetable broth instead of oil, but some old habits have slipped back into my lifestyle. I eat meat a few times a week, and I love ice cream and cheese.

Esselstyn, self-proclaimed Head Lettuce of the Engine 2 program, swims on the same U.S. Masters Swimming team that I do, at Western Hills Athletic Club here in Austin. I  hold him responsible for getting me hooked on a 15-minute medicine ball tossing session to strengthen my core after every practice. He also taught me a pretty fun way to warm up my arms before swim practice.

RELATED: How to warm up for swimming? Do “the Egyptian” with Rip

The cookbook, I hope, will help me reboot. The food looks and sounds amazing, with healthy versions of things I love, like lasagna, burgers, scones, burritos and curry.

Esselstyn’s got more exciting news, too. He’s working on a documentary that he says debunks the widespread belief that animal protein is necessary for strength and performance. He joins James Cameron as executive proeducer of the film, which will debut in 2018 and feature interviews with world-class athletes and researchers.

For more information go here.


Just when you thought they were all closing, new running store opens in Austin

Some of the biggest running stores in Austin – RunTex, Luke’s Locker and Hill Country Running Company – have shuttered in the past five years, blaming competition from online sales and an oversaturated market.

But this week, a new running store is opening in downtown Austin.

Ryan and Pam Hess, both fixtures in the local running scene (Pam just won the BCS Marathon in Bryan-College Station last weekend), will officially swing open the doors of The Loop Running Supply Co. at 115 Sandra Muraida Way, Suite 105 B, on Friday.

Pam and Ryan Hess will open the doors of The Loop Running Supply Co. on Friday. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

I dropped by recently to get a peek before opening day.

It’s hard not to notice that the store is just a few doors up from the now-defunct location of Luke’s Locker. It’s a smaller space, but includes some nice amenities – a wall of lockers, for one, that customers can rent. (Hess says customers can even arrange to have their lockers stocked with whatever they need, like energy bars or hydration products.) People who rent lockers can use the store’s showers or pay for a towel service, too.

There’s a wall of colorful running shoes, including Brooks, Asics, New Balance, Saucony, Altra, Mizuno and, coming soon, Nike, and some nice clothing options featuring The Loop’s logo. That logo represents all the growth that happens between the lines of a running track, and sacrifice that happens elseswhere, too.

“At the end of the day (we) were weary of the same old running store,” Pam Hess says. “As the product and culture have evolved, run shops have typically remained the same – but nobody is leaning in on this new wave of running. In fact, we all agree that about a handful of stores worldwide are doing it right. The old school way of thinking is about being a brick and mortar, but to survive in retail there has to be so much more.”

Ryan Hess had worked at the downtown location of RunTex downtown for seven years before that store closed in April 2013. He opened Ready to Run in northwest Austin with partners Scott and Karla Hippensteel that October, in the same space that once housed a RunTex store.

The Loop will put an emphasis on community. It will serve as headquarters for the Gilbert’s Gazelles running program. Other running groups are in talks to meet regularly at the shop.

Whether or not you’re part of one of those groups, Hess says all athletes are welcome to stop by during a run for a water break or boost of encouragement.

Store hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. For more information go here.

Looking for a mid-week, early morning dance party? Try Daybreaker

Daybreaker will host an early morning dance party at Spiderhouse on Wednesday. Photo courtesy Daybreaker

Heads up, morning people.

If you’d rather dance before work than when the sun goes down, check out the Daybreaker Austin party early Wednesday.

The party starts with a yoga session at 6 a.m. at Spiderhouse Ballroom, 2908 Fruth Street. The dance floor opens at 7 a.m., with DJ Chorizo, disco and live music Funk and Riders Against the Storm. Look for a hot chocolate station and snack bar, too.

As the invite says, where your red, your green and your tinsel.

Tickets to Wednesday’s event start at $20. Photo courtesy Daybreaker

RELATED: Popular Daybreaker morning dance party coming to Austin

Never heard of Daybreaker? Think of it as a late-night dance party, only it happens in the morning. On a school day. And it’s healthy and designed so you can get some real exercise.

Tickets are $25 for the yoga plus dance sessions, or $20 for dancing only. For more information go here.

Dancers Shape, Fitness Connection open new Austin locations

Jennifer McCamish leads a group of NFL football players in a barre class at Dancers Shape. The studio is opening a second location in Bee Cave. RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN


Because it’s almost January, when people around the globe, determined to make good on their New Year’s resolutions, join gyms, we must tell you about two new fitness centers opening in Austin…

Jennifer McCamish leads a barre class at Dancers Shape. AMERICAN-STATESMAN
  • Dancers Shape, which operates a studio on Burnet Road, will open a second studio at 13875 Bee Cave Parkway in Bee Cave in January. The 4,236-square-foot space will offer barre, Pilates and yoga classes, plus a dedicated spin room with a big video screen for music video-themed classes. Amenities include showers, steam rooms and private changing rooms. Jennifer McCamish, a former Radio City Rockette, started the gyms. For more information about the studio go here.

RELATED: NFL players raise the barre at Dancers Shape


Fitness Connection is opening a new Austin location at Tech Ridge. Photo courtesy Fitness Connection


  • Fitness Connection, which already operates a health club near Lakeline Mall, is opening a second location at the Shops at Tech Ridge, 12901 North Interstate 35. Monthly dues at the 55,000-square-foot facility start at $10. Amenities include locker rooms, a large strength-training area, a free kids’ club with a movie theater, a women’s only workout area, sauna, basketball courts and group fitness classes including Bodypump, Zumba, FC HIIT, kickboxing and yoga. For more information go here.

Free yoga – and a beer – at Hyatt Regency Austin tonight

Catch a free yoga class – and a beer – at tonight’s Pints & Poses event at the Hyatt Regency Austin. Photo courtesy Hyatt Regency


Your monthly free yoga and a beer fix happens tonight at the Hyatt Regency Austin.

The December “Pints & Poses” class, which is open to hotel guests as well as local residents, starts at 6:30 p.m.. The event includes free yoga led by Ferny Barcelo and Zuzu Perkal. Trey Tarwater, a local yoga DJ, will provide live, meditative music during the class. And afterward, participants get a coupon for a free draft beer at the hotel’s Marker 10 bar.

The class will take place in the hotel’s Texas Ballroom, on the second floor near the escalators. It will feature relaxing, smooth vinyasa flow yoga. Guests should bring thier own mats. Parking is free, too, in the hotel’s garage.

For more information call (512) 477-1234, or go here.

Check out these holiday activities at Texas State Parks

The Trail of Lights at Monument Hill and Kreische Brewery State Monument in LaGrange offers a less-crowded alternative to the Trial of Lights in Austin. Photo by Pam LeBlanc


Need a dose of holiday spirit? Quick, head to a Texas State Park.

From tree lightings to cookie decorating parties and a lantern light tour, parks around Central Texas are hosting fun, family-themed activities.

Here are some of the best:

  • The 48th annual tree lighting at Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site takes place from 6-9 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 17. The event, started by the president and first lady Johnson nearly 50 years ago, highlights German holiday traditions. Expect carolers, a live nativity, Santa Claus and refreshments. The Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm will be decorated the way families would have celebrated the holidays in the early 1900s. The park is located 2 miles east of Stonewall, 14 miles west of Johnson City, on U.S. Highway 290. For more information call (830) 644-2252.


  • Santa and Mrs. Claus greet visitors during the Trail of Lights in La Grange. Photo by Chris LeBlanc


  • Help decorate the holiday tree at Colorado Bend State Park in Bend starting at 1 p.m. Dec. 16. Closer to Christmas, join a park ranger from 6-7:30 p.m. Dec. 23 to make some Dutch oven sweet treats and enjoy s’mores and a cup of hot cocoa around a campfire. For more information call (325) 628-3240.
  • McKinney Falls State Park, 5808 McKinney Falls Parkway, will host a Light Up the Night event from 6:30-8 p.m. Dec. 22. Bring your own lantern or borrow one from the park for a guided hike and Christmas carols along the Lower Falls and Upper Falls trails. A hay ride, hot chocolate and a visit from Santa are on also the agenda, and prizes will be awarded to the best decorated campsite. The park will also host a Winter Solstice Celebration from 1-3 p.m. Dec 23. Homemade craft projects, a campfire, face painting and a Yule log are planned. Bring a sack lunch, or cook your own over the fire. For more information call (512) 243-1643.
  • Walk through a quarter-mile trail of lights and explore the home of German immigrant H.L. Kreische, decorated in traditional 1850s style, at Monument Hill and Kreische Brewery, 414 State Loop 92 in LaGrange. Mr. and Mrs. Claus will visit with children, and refreshments will be served. The trail is open from 6-8 pm Friday Dec. 8, 15 and 16. For more information, call (979) 968-5658.

To see the complete list of holiday activities at Texas State Parks, go here.

REI, Patagonia protest Trump’s plan to shrink size of national monuments

The sun rises over Valley of The Gods inside Bears Ears National Monument, near Blanding Utah, Aug. 23, 2017. (Alex Goodlett/The New York Times)

If you’ve surfed the net for hiking boots or ski pants in the last 24 hours, you may have noticed a change in the websites of two of the country’s largest outdoor retailers.

Both REI and Patagonia posted full-page declarations against President Trump’s announcement Monday that he plans to drastically reduce the size of two national monuments in Utah. Trump said he will shrink the 1.3-million-acre Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent, and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by 50 percent.

“Some people think that the natural resources of Utah should be controlled by a small handful of very distant bureaucrats located in Washington,” Trump said Monday. “And guess what? They’re wrong.”

The setting sun illuminates Hoodoos, rock formations in the Devil’s Garden in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah, on Sept. 27, 2017. (Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

In response, Patagonia posted an all black homepage, with the words, “The president stole your land” in white letters. Beneath that it posted: “In an illegal move, the president just reduced the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. This is the largest elimination of protected land in American History.”

RELATED: Senator says Trump rolling back protections at Utah sites

REI displayed a photo of Bears Ears, with the headline, “We love our public lands.” Below that it said, “Despite the loss of millions of acres of protected land this week, REI will continue to advocate for the places we all love.”

In this May 9, 2017, file photo, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke rides a horse in the new Bears Ears National Monument near Blanding, Utah. (Scott G Winterton/The Deseret News via AP, File)

Both pages linked to more detailed explanations of the company’s positions.

RELATED: Trump’s cuts to Utah sites spur lawsuit

REI’s page said the move by Trump “undermines the integrity of the Antiquities Act, which 16 presidents from both parties have used to designate and protect national monuments over the last 111 years.”

It also noted that Trump’s decision follows a “hasty, four-month review (from April to August) of 27 national monuments designated during the last two decades. As part of the monuments review, more than 2.8 million Americans submitted comments, with over 99 percent in favor of protecting them. Those voices have fallen on deaf ears.”

In this undated file photo, the Upper Gulch section of the Escalante Canyons within Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument features sheer sandstone walls, broken occasionally by tributary canyons. (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac, File)

Patagonia noted that “public lands – from Maine to Hawai’i – provide enormous cultural, ecological and recreational value, and they are at risk. Removing protections for these wild places to open them up for development will not make us energy independent, and history shows that when states control these lands, they are sold to the highest bidder. This is not a chance we are willing to take.”

President Barack Obama, in a move lauded by Native Americans, designated Bears Ears a national monument while he was in office. President Bill Clinton designated Grand Staircase-Escalante a national monument in 1996.

Both retailers, which operate stores in Austin, say they will fight the reduction of protected lands.

Committee delays vote on update to Balcones Canyonlands Preserve access guidelines

Mountain bikers ride on the Barton Creek Greenbelt Trail in this 2012 file photo. Jay Janner/AMERICAN-STATESMAN –


A vote on updated public access guidelines at the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve has been postponed.

Dozens of mountain bikers, motorcyclists and other park users, concerned that a rewording of the guidelines might jeopardize future access to the preserve, spoke at a meeting Friday at which the Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan Coordinating Committee considered the update.

“We obviously weren’t prepared to move forward with any action, especially since so many people who wanted to voice concern did that,” said Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty, one of two voting members of the committee. Austin city council member Leslie Pool is the other voting member.

RELATED: Climbers, cyclists worry updated rules could limit park access

“Staff will tell you to your face boldly that nothing is afoot with regard to changing any sort of access from the public for the parks. But if you ask the (park users), they feel there have been omissions and there is obviously something at play here where they fear there could be a change,” he said.

Staff members have also said they are simply consolidating information already contained in a series of land management plans and don’t intend to change access rules.

The Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan was created in the mid-1990s to ease rapid development in western Travis County amid concerns about harming the environment — particularly the habitat of endangered invertebrates, salamanders and songbirds. Federal and local officials struck a compromise. The city and county governments agreed to set aside land for preservation, creating the Balcones Canyonland Preserve, and development proceeded on a smaller scale.

RELATED: Austin riders challenge city closure of motorcycle trail at Emma Long

Today the public can visit most of the preserve, a 31,780-acre non-contiguous collection of properties, only through guided hikes led by volunteers. But under an agreement struck at the time of the creation of the preserve, certain uses, including rock climbing and mountain biking on the Barton Creek Greenbelt, climbing at Bull Creek District Park, and motorcycling in a small section of Emma Long Metropolitan Park, could continue.

Those users, worried that access grandfathered under the original agreement might be restricted or revoked, attended last Friday’s meeting. They point to closure several years ago of some of the grandfathered motorcycle trails at Emma Long Metropolitan Park. City of Austin officials said the motorcycles were causing erosion in a creek bed; the motorcyclists said they were not causing the problem. The park has been open to motorcycling for more than 40 years.

“I just let it be known that there needed to be a little work done to salve the mistrust that there obviously is between the user community and staff,” Daugherty said.

The coordinating committee will meet next during the first quarter of 2018, but the agenda has not yet been set.

On Jan. 1, Travis County Commissioner Brigid Shea will replace Daugherty as the representative for Travis County during 2018.

“Brigid will be lynch pin to what happens,” Daugherty said. “She and Leslie (Pool) will be ones to deal with it.”

Made-to-order running shoes and a whole lot more at The Running Event

Attendees of The Running Event trade show test out a new scanner and gait analysis pad that can be used to make custom-fit insoles and shoes. Photo by Ralph Barrera/American-Statesman staff


I think I got a glimpse of the future at The Running Event this week, and it involves foot scanning machines, kinetic profiling and made-to-order shoes.

It sounds a little futuristic, but Superfeet, which has been making insoles for 40 years, unveiled its new FitStation at the event, a trade show for businesses that sell running gear and stores that sell it. The show is taking place this week at the Austin Convention Center, and I dropped by Thursday, checking out new products, meeting elite runners like 2014 Boston Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi and 2004 Olympic bronze medalist in the marathon Deena Kastor, and talking about industry trends.

Pam LeBlanc meets Olympic bronze medalist Deena Kastor.


A crowd formed at the Superfeet booth, where attendees tested out a 3D scanner and gait analysis pad that collects data used to make custom-fit insoles, shoes and recovery sandals. Superfeet has placed 10 of these “FitStations” in stores around the country as part of a pilot program.

Superfeet calls the process “kinetic profiling,” and company representative Dave Kennedy told me it can also help runners predict what type of injuries they might be prone to – and hopefully prevent them through proper footwear choice.

Here’s how it works: A customers stands on the scanner, which measures his or her foot. Then he walks across the gait analysis mat two or three times. It takes just a few minutes. Based on the information collected, and data that Superfeet has gathered from numerous running shoe makers, it can then recommend several brands of shoes that might work for the person.

That’s not all.

Information gathered in the scanning can be sent to the company’s 3D printer in Washington, where a machine creates a custom insole, with different densities in different areas, to fit the customer’s individual foot. Superfeet is also partnering with Brooks, so starting in June 2018 customers will be able to order customized versions of the Levitate footwear. They can order custom-molded “recovery slides” made by Superfeet to wear after a run.

“It’s personalized for you. It’s shaped to match your foot,” Kennedy says.

No word yet on exactly how much the service will cost, but Superfeet is banking on the idea. It plans to install 150 of the FitStation machines in 2018, Kennedy says.

“We needed to future proof ourselves, and this super proofs us,” he says. “We don’t just sell insoles anymore, we sell shape.

There’s no more 9.5 – it’s your size, and there’s a huge market for individualization and customization.”

Check the Fit City column soon for more information about the show.