Foodie Firsts: Trying To Catch a Curveball

wooden spoons-001Foodie Firsts is a Move Eat Create weekly feature focusing on my adventures in the world of food.  Over the course of a few short years, I have transformed from a picky, fearful eater to a curious and open-minded foodie.  In a commitment to continue to expand my culinary experiences, I have started Foodie Firsts.  Each week I will commit to trying something new and sharing that experience with you.  My endeavors may include experimenting with cooking techniques I’ve never tried before, testing a single new ingredient, or drawing upon my creativity to combine foods in ways I never imagined.  Whatever it is, I will eat (or maybe drink) it and share it all with you.  You can decide for yourself whether you, too, would like to try.  Let’s be bold and eat good food!

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I had a whole Foodie First column planned for today.  I also had a post about creativity and confidence planned for earlier this week.  Neither has happened as planned and I want to explain why.

Life threw me a curveball this week.  A super curvy-curveball that I’ve been fumbling around trying to manage (yes, I did just mix those sports metaphors).  For the past couple of years, I have experienced a variety of health problems that, while not dire or life-threatening, have been persistent, problematic, and caused quite a bit of pain and discomfort.  I’ve gone through a series of frustrating tests and medical consultations without any answers or much concern given by the professionals I’ve seen.  I sought out a new doctor recently (a doctor of Naturopathic medicine) and am starting to get some answers.  They just weren’t the ones I was expecting.

I thought I had a pretty good idea of what might be the culprit and she agreed it was very possible.  In this vain, we decided to do some more tests and she also offered up another possibility that no one else had suggested in my medical visits: a food reactivity test.  I agreed, thinking it would be interesting and potentially helpful, but I didn’t really think it would be quite the game changer that it was.

The results came back on Saturday and they were pretty startling.  In a nutshell, I have been eating foods that my particular body is unable to handle properly, likely resulting in significant inflammation and a wide variety of painful and uncomfortable symptoms.  There are basically two categories that popped up that I have classified as:  The Super Big Bads that I will likely have to remove from my diet pretty much forever, and the Maybe-Possibly Big Bads that are causing reactions for sure (so they are off the table for a month or so) but may be able to be eaten occasionally once I’ve had a chance to get the current inflammatory damage under control.

So I have started an elimination diet.  All the Super Big Bads are gone for good, and the Possibly Big Bads are gone for the time being.  What are these foods?  Why did they completely derail my week and send me into a bit of a tailspin?  Here you go:

Category 1: The Super Big Bads

  • Kamut
  • Rye
  • Spelt
  • Wheat, Gliadin
  • Wheat, Gluten
  • Wheat, Whole
  • Yeast, Baker’s
  • Yeast, Brewer’s

(I’m still waiting for further tests to determine whether my gluten issue is in the category of gluten-sensitivity or Celiac’s Disease.  Either way, no more gluten for me.)

Category 2:  The Maybe-Possibly Big Bads

  • Almonds
  • Bananas
  • Chickpeas
  • Coffee Beans
  • Cranberries
  • Eggs
  • Green Peas
  • Milk (Dairy Variety)
  • Pecans
  • Pineapple
  • Sesame Seed
  • Sugar Cane
  • Whey
  • Yogurt (Dairy Variety)

It’s a grim list.  It’s very, very grim.

An example of how grim?

Most mornings this is my breakfast:

  • Two slices Dave’s 21 Grain Killer Bread
  • 1 tablespoon or so almond butter
  • 1 cup organic Greek yogurt
  • Coffee
  • Followed later by a mid-morning snack of a banana.

The rest of my day follows suit.

Since getting this information, I’ve been a bit of a mess.  I’ve had lots of emotions and am basically going through the stages of grief.  To some, this may sound over the top, but to me, it’s not.  As I’ve talked about on this blog, my love of healthy eating, cooking, and baking was only discovered in the last couple of years.  I’ve fallen in love with whole, real foods and finding new ways to prepare them.  I’ve discovered things I had never eaten before and was looking forward to eating lots more of.  Things like spelt muffins and scones (my absolute favorite flour to bake with these days), whole wheat grainy breads and cookies, almonds in just about every way you can imagine (almond butter, almond/fruit snack bars in the afternoons, almond flour, almonds in desserts, almond milk, almond yogurt), hummingbird cake with pineapples, and bananas eaten raw, used as sweetener in baked goods, and combined with dark chocolate.

Now these things are off limits and I don’t really know what to do.  Yes, it’s an opportunity to try more new things and yes, it’s a chance to get even more creative with my cooking, but right now I just want a slice of healthy, grainy toast with almond butter and a good, strong cup of coffee.

I don’t really think that’s too much to ask.

So my last few days have been spent purging my pantry and kitchen, carefully reading ingredient labels, spending hours (and lots of money) at the markets, and just figuring out what is safe and what is not.  Hence, the lack of blogging this week.  Do you have any idea how many foods contain gluten, yeast, and/or almonds?  Forget about the fact that cane sugar is on the list – it’s in nearly everything.

I realize that was a long explanation for my absence and I could have just said ‘sorry’ for dropping the ball this week, but I wanted to share some information about what’s going in.  I’ll be back next week with regular posts and I’ve no doubt that this new part of my life will be included, as it will surely impact those topics that near and dear to me here on this blog: healthy living, running, cooking, and overall brain and body wellness.

Also, in my absence this week, I failed to post that Monday marked my one-year anniversary with this blog.  I was sorry to have missed honoring that day and saying thank you to everyone who has stopped by, tried a recipe, took a running tip, left their own advice and input, and generally joined me in my little space on the Internet.  You all are fantastic and I have loved putting Move Eat Create together over this past year.  I have a lot more planned for year two!

 

Interested in Natural Ways to Fight Off Inflammation?

Happy Saturday!  I hope the rest of you are having the kind of beautiful day we are having in Portland!

I wanted to drop in to share a link to a fantastic blog and a guest post that I wrote about natural remedies for inflammation (for both acute city road - editedinflammation, such as from an injury or exercise, and chronic inflammation, as in the case of persistent tendonitis or other conditions).

The post is up over at the EcoGrrl blog here.  I invite you to check it out and while you’re there poke around.  EcoGrrl’s header will tell you that she values simplicity, discovery, sustainability, equity, and creativity – all great things, right?  It’s a virtual treasure trove of useful information about food, wellness, and whole living, plus there’s great photography, and a variety of other interesting reads, as well!

Race Recap: Portland’s Inaugural Hop Hop Half Marathon

Sunday marked my third (yes, third) half-marathon race.  Just typing that makes me a bit excited.  To think that I ran my first half just last October and now have three under my (race) belt is pretty satisfying to say the least.  As I mentioned in a previous post, my marathon training plan (for Newport in June), called for a half as part of the preparation and the timing of this one was just about perfect.

This was the first year for the Hop Hop Half (I’ve got to admit, I’m not a huge fan of the name – a bit cutesy for my preferences – but I do understand the desire to tie it in with the holiday) and going in to it I felt like it may have been a bit of a risky move for the race sponsors.  Coming on the heels of the Shamrock Run, which is a very popular and large event, I wasn’t sure how the turnout would be.  It turned out to a moderate-sized, but lovely race.

Starting line

I had a strange set of feelings and expectations heading in to this event.  For the first time, this was not the event I’d been training for, but was part of a bigger picture.  Because of that, I didn’t want to place too much pressure on myself, but did want to give it a good effort and see how my racing ability was progressing.

Race day started out well enough.  It was a bit chilly at the start, but dry and sunny –  perfectly good racing conditions.  The event started off with a 5k that was winding down by the time the half-marathoners got going at 8:20am.  I think it’s worth noting that the race started pretty close to the scheduled time (only a minute or so late).  An on-time start always pleases me.

The race started off well and was fairly uneventful (in a good kind of way).  The first couple of miles weren’t the most interesting to run, but after about mile 3, we made our way onto a path that travels right alongside the Columbia River.  It was beautiful!  On such a lovely Spring morning, the sky was relatively clear, providing a beautiful view ahead (to the East) of some of the gorgeous mountains in the Pacific Northwest, to the left of the Columbia, complete with seagulls stretching, soaring, and basking in the sun, and the Portland Airport to the right (which may not seem like much, but is actually kind of lovely to see from that vantage point).

Rounding the turn

I’m the one in the center of this photo – in all black!

The course was pretty darn flat, so I chugged along steadily most of the way.  I did encounter an uncomfortable situation right after the turnaround point (around mile 7, I think it was).  I wanted to share it because it was so unusual and am curious if others have encountered this.  I was coming up behind another runner ahead and was running at a slightly faster pace than he was, so I was nearing him.  I was clearly going to pass him, so I maneuvered to the left, where there was space to move around him.  He glanced over his left shoulder, saw me coming, and moved directly in front of me to block my path and cut me off from passing!  It was very apparent that it was no accident.  I had indicated my intent to pass by when he looked back at me and he made a very deliberate shift in his position on the pathway.  I was shocked.  Seriously, seriously shocked.  Neither of us are elite runners, we weren’t racing to win.  Furthermore, even if we were, that is not how runners behave in my experience.  I am so used to friendly runners.  Runners who respect each other and share a certain camaraderie, even in competition, that I was totally taken aback by what happened.  Has anyone else had this happen?

I will say that I eventually still maneuvered around him and never saw him again.  Plus, my faith in the goodness of runners was restored later in the race, with less than a mile to go.  I was right at pace with another male runner and eventually started to pull ahead.  Instead of another weird encounter, this runner nodded and encouragingly shouted “Looking strong!”  It warmed my sappy runner’s heart.

When all was said and done, I finished with a new half-marathon PR – 1:49:17 – and placed 91 out of 618 total finishers!  I’m totally happy with my performance and finish, though it didn’t take long for me to realize that in just about 10 weeks I would be doing it again – twice.

Heading under the bridge

Me in black again – heading towards the final mile!

A couple of other notes on the event and race.  First, runners were treated to complimentary mimosas after the event.  Nice.  I much prefer this to the beer that is often present after a race!  While I certainly know that taking in alcohol is not the best recovery plan, I did enjoy my free brunch-y cocktail after having a couple cups of water.  I definitely approve of this beverage choice!

Second, along the way, I noticed a very young runner participating with an adult by her side.  Curious, I looked at the age group results after they were posted and saw that an 8-year old girl finished the half-marathon in just a bit over 2 hours! I am so impressed by that.  She looked like she was having the time of her life when I saw her on the course and I am so inspired by someone of that age having the focus and dedication (not to mention the skill) to do that run.  I can only wish I had had some of that when I was so young.  Amazing.

Hats off to Foot Traffic (one of my local running stores) who organized the event.  It was a smooth race and delightful event to kick off the spring running season!  I would absolutely consider running it again next year.

Product Review: Chunks of Energy (Raw, Organic, Nutritious, and Definitely Delicious!)

What’s a Chunk of Energy, you ask?  Excellent question.  Until recently, I wasn’t sure either.  Fortunately, I have been educated on the matter.

When I was contacted by the kind folks behind Chunks of Energy, I was intrigued and flattered.  It turns out that the matriarch of this family business came across my blog and thought I sounded like someone who would enjoy these little bites.  They offered to send me some samples to try and invited me to check out their website.

Chunk with card 2 - edited

What I found there was pretty exciting (for someone like me who gets excited over new, healthy eats).  Chunks of Energy is a delightful company that produces tasty, raw, nutrient-packed bite sized snacks that are pretty darn fantastic for people on the go.  They have a number of varieties, all of which are full of natural sweeteners designed to deliver a healthy energy boost.

Personally, as a runner, I was so pleased to see ingredients that I know are great for providing me the fuel I need to log my mileage without sacrificing health.  Dates.  Chia.  Goji Berries.  Apricots.  Seeds.  I could go on, but I’ll let you look for yourself.  Also making me happy is the fact that there are several options for people with specific dietary preferences.  There are dairy-free, soy-free, vegan, gluten-free , and salt-free options.

I taste-tested three varieties:

  • Cacao with Goji Berries – Like your energy with a bit of chocolate on the side?  The cacao in this one can satisfy those who like a chocolaty flavor, for sure, but the addition of the goji berries turns this into a rich little treat.   This one, in my opinion, could almost pass as a dessert-type bite.  Hmm.  Makes me want to crush some up over some non-dairy vanilla ice cream, actually.  I will have to give that a try.
  • Lemon Pomegranate – Wow; this one is refreshing!  The citrus is bright, flavorful, and really feels like a bite of sunshine.  It’s vegan, salt-free, and organic.  I kind of want to enjoy a bite of this flavor alongside my breakfast.  It makes a lovely way to brighten my morning and start the day!
  • Date Flax with Turmeric – This was my favorite of the three.  The sweetness of the date is countered with the earthiness of the turmeric, combining to make a nicely balanced and totally delectable snack.  Plus, for me specifically, these are nutritionally fantastic.  This combination is pretty much ideal for athletes, providing healthy natural fast-releasing energy (dates), healthy fats and oils to lubricate muscles and joints (flax), and inflammation fighting powers (turmeric).  Perfect.

Chunks in bowl edited

Ultimately, I am thrilled with all three flavors that I was able to sample and I can honestly say they have won me over as a customer.  I will be picking up more and trying other flavors out soon.  And, you can, too!  Chunks of Energy are available in the bulk food section of a store near you, and online from the Chunks of Energy website, and a few other online retailers. For more details, visit www.chunksofenergy.com and fill out the form to find Chunks of Energy “at a store near you.”

Curious to learn more about Chunk of Energy?  The kind folks behind the delicious products invite you to make contact at the Chunks of Energy site (www.chunksofenergy.com), and/or on facebook (www.facebook.com/chunksofenergy), twitter (www.twitter.com/ilovechunks), and pinterest (www.pinterest.com/chunksofenergy).

Disclaimer/Note:  While the Chunks of Energy that I taste-tested were provided to me by the company, I was not compensated for this review and the opinions I express here are totally and completely my own.  I was not obligated to write a review, but chose to do so because I was so legitimately impressed with the products.

My Hoarded Life + A Recipe: Vegetarian Lasagna Soup

I have a problem.  I hoard recipes.  Recipes in cookbooks, recipes online, recipes from magazines, recipes snapped with my camera phone – it doesn’t matter.  If I see it and it sounds remotely good, I’m getting it for myself.

This becomes a problem because: A) I do not, in any way, have even remotely enough time to make all of the recipes that I stash; B) I keep stashing more of them anyway; and C) I don’t have the time or energy to organize them into any meaningful system.

As a result I have folders of recipes that I once tried to organize on my computer, random bookmarked recipes that scroll on and on for days also on my computer, hundreds of emails from myself with links to recipes that I’ve found while reading blogs or articles on my iPhone, binders full of photo-copied recipes that I get from library-borrowed cookbooks, a basket stacked full of magazines with dog-eared pages where tasty recipes live, a bookshelf of my owned cookbooks in my dining area, and random scribbled notes and recipes that I’ve printed and written notes on tucked away into various corners of my life.

It’s mad.

It’s really, truly mad.

I need a system and a professional organizer, but it’s not likely to happen soon.  The funny thing is that many recipes are for the same or similar item, but I like to look at slightly different methods and then alter things from various sources to fit my needs and preferences.  So, instead of one cinnamon coffee cake recipe, I have like, oh, maybe 26.

Sometimes, I know I want to make something but I’m so overwhelmed with options, that I simply go with something I’ve just recently seen.  It’s easy to find because it’s at the top of the pile or the bottom of a list somewhere and that can make all the difference in the world when it comes to influencing my cooking decisions.  And sometimes when I do this, I strike recipe gold.

Lasagna Soup - Edited

Such is the case with this recipe here.  I’m not going to type it all out for you because this is one recipe that I followed exactly.  Okay, I added more garlic, but I always add more garlic.  Besides that, I changed nothing.  I’ve made this a couple of times now and just totally love it.  It is one of the single most delicious and satisfying meals I’ve eaten.  I will eat this all year, in any season, because it’s so wonderful, but I wanted to be sure to share the recipe before the last winter days slipped away.  There is something about a bowl of this soup on a cold, dark evening that is utterly magical.

By the way, if you haven’t ever checked out Joanne’s blog (where this recipe hails from), Eats Well With Others, I highly recommend spending some time poking around there.  It’s wonderful – one of my most trusted for quality recipes, for sure – but also just a consistently great read.

Here you are (click through for link to recipe):  Lasagna Soup as found on Eats Well With Others (plus some extra garlic).

Recipe: Cajun Kidney Bean Casserole with Jalapeno Cornbread Topping

For a long while, I associated Cajun food with the sea.  Fish, crustaceans, and other sea creatures always seemed to be involved in any Cajun meal.  Even before I was a vegetarian, I didn’t care for seafood, so Cajun cuisine was something I long avoided.  Something else I shyed away from was cornbread.  Despite my affinity for carbs and bread products in general, most cornbreads I had sampled were sweet – the kind with lots of added sugar or honey and that wasn’t for me.  For these reasons, when I came across a recipe for a Cajun casserole with a cornbread topping in my Everyday Happy Herbivore cookbook,  I was excited at the prospect of trying a Cajun dish and I figured I could tweak the cornbread topping to ensure it was a slightly spicy, not sweet, rendition that would suit my tastes.

cornbread casserole ind piece 4 - edited

I did make a few changes to the original recipe and was more than pleased with the results.  First, let’s take a look at the main part of this dish which is comprised of fairly traditional Cajun flavors.  You’ve got your feature players: beans, tomatoes, bell peppers, and carrots.  All good stuff.  All good stuff that is then brought together happily with a flavorful seasoning blend and  lots of garlic.  This on its own would make for a delicious meal, but it gets even better.

Because then, you see, comes the cornbread topping.

cornbread casserole 2 polaroid edit

As someone who dismissed cornbread for years, it’s funny now how I’ve come to crave it.  I will at times make or request a whole meal solely because it is something that would be served nicely alongside cornbread.  The thing that really excites me about this cornbread is that I wasn’t sure if a quality cornbread topping could be made that was tasty, satisfying, still relatively nutritious, and low in fat, but it was!  I’m sure that you can imagine how pleased I was to discover that this is indeed possible.

Here is the final product.  I present to you a truly hearty dish that oozes the flavors of the south and, served alongside a nice salad, provides a well-balanced, complete meal.

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Cajun Casserole with Jalapeno Cornbread Topping

Adapted from The Everyday Happy Herbivore Cookbook

Serves 6

 

Ingredients: cornbread casserole ind piece 3  - edited

For the Base

* ½ tblspn olive oil

* 1 small onion, diced

* 1 medium carrot, diced

* 2 celery stalks, diced

* 4 cloves of garlic, minced

* 1 bell pepper, diced (I used red)

* 15 oz can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, drained

* 1 ½ tblspn Cajun seasoning blend

* 15 oz can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

For the Cornbread Topping

  •  1 ½ cup cornmeal
  • 2 ¼ tspn baking powder
  • ¼ tspn salt
  • 1 tspn sugar (more if you like a sweet cornbread – I don’t)
  • 1 ½ tspn dried oregano
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
  • 1 cup + 2 tblspns unsweetened almond milk (or the type of milk of your choosing)
  • 6 tblspns unsweetened applesauce

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Coat a 3 quart casserole dish with cooking spray.
  2. Heat oil in a skilled over medium-high heat.  Add onion, celery, carrot, and bell pepper and sauté until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and sauté about 1-2 minutes longer.
  3. Mix in drained tomatoes, Cajun seasoning blend, and drained kidney beans.  Stir to combine well.  Pour base into the casserole dish.  Using a spatula or spoon, spread evenly and pat it down, so it is even and compact.  Set aside while you prepare the cornbread topping mixture.
  4. Whisk together cornmeal, baking powder, salt, oregano, and sugar.
  5. Add almond milk and applesauce.  Stir to combine.  Then, toss in the diced jalapeno pieces and gently stir to distribute throughout the batter.
  6. Pour cornbread batter on top of the base layer and spread evenly.  Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until the cornbread topping is golden and beginning to crack.  Remove from oven and let sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes before serving.  Serve with hot sauce, if desired.

 

 

Why Wednesdays? – Why the Workout ‘Buddy System’ Isn’t For Everyone (And That’s Ok!)

A Note About This Feature:  Why Wednesdays is a Move Eat Create weekly feature determined to turn the mid-week doldrums upside down and celebrate things I love to do and blog about.  I have completed series on the topics of running, creativity, and food.  Now, I’m being a bit random and discussing whatever strikes me at the time!

 

I see a lot and I mean A LOT of articles and blog posts written about workout buddies.  A general theme present in these writings is the idea that working out with someone will keep you motivated, accountable, and provide an overall more positive fitness (and weight loss) experience.  Some of these articles cite studies that seem to support their claims.  Others rely on personal experience.  Through and through, though, there seems to be a prevalent belief that having a workout buddy is the optimal way to go.  Rarely do you see an article that argues the opposite.  I’ve looked.  I haven’t seen anything that says “Do it alone!  You’ll get better results!  You’ll be happier and more motivated!  Go at it solo!”

So I’m writing one.Me at start - sharpened a bit

Here’s the deal.  I have no doubt that training partners work wonders for some people.  I’m sure they really do provide a sense of accountability, fun, and motivation for some people.  But, it’s not for everyone.  It’s not for me.

When I set out to drop some excess weight, develop my fitness level, and eventually become a runner, I knew that the only way I was going to be successful was to do it alone.  In the past, when I had made similar attempts, I told people about them.  I followed the advice given in articles that in order to be accountable, I needed to announce my intentions to others.  The idea is that others could encourage me and help me follow through.  But, what really happened, was that I became so conscious of the expectations that others then had of me that I failed completely.  My goals turned into their goals in my head.  Even if they weren’t applying pressure to me, I applied it for them.  If I ate a big piece of cake, I thought, “Oh god, [insert name here] would be so disappointed in me right now.”  If I skipped a workout, I would feel embarrassed and like I had let someone down.  Eventually, I would crack from the pressure and just give it all up, because the idea of continuing to break the commitments that I made to others, to publicly fail at my goals was too much for me.  Essentially, what should have been a personal journey and process turned into anything but personal.

I truly believe that a key factor in making sustainable, permanent changes in my life over the last two years has been to keep quiet about it.  Two years ago (this month marks two years since I began), I set out on some simple goals.  First, I would start to eat healthier.  I would learn more about nutrition and would incorporate changes into my daily diet.  I would cook more.  I would eat less junk.  Then, after a bit, I would start to be more active.  Some time dedicated to walking and short fitness videos has turned into me now training for my first marathon, strength training a few hours a week, and being in the best shape of my life.  And, I did it quietly.

I told only two people about what I was going to do.  I told my partner and our roommate.  They had to know, because quite frankly, there wasn’t any way around it.  I live with them, so they would see what I was doing.  But, other than them, I didn’t tell a soul.  I just started doing.  What this meant was that my goals were solely my own.  No one else was telling me what I should do, shouldn’t do, or what they did that worked/didn’t work.  My successes were solely were my own – allowing me to truly feel accomplished and own the progress I was making.  And, my failures were my own, too.  When I ‘messed up’, it was my choice and my mess to clean up.  I didn’t let anyone else down, other than myself.  That was liberating.

Me running 1 - cropped a bit

Of course, over time other people saw changes and asked about them.  And, I would answer.  I didn’t lie or cover things up, but I answered questions simply and didn’t engage in extended dialogue about it all.  Now, two years later, I can talk about it all more openly because my entire way of living has truly changed and the things I’m doing now are part of my daily life, as ingrained in my routine as sleep and going to work each day.  But, in the beginning, being able to keep it to myself was crucial in my success.

Maybe it’s because I’m an introvert by nature.  Maybe it’s because I’m always thinking about how to accommodate the needs of others over my own.  Maybe it’s because I’m sensitive to critiques after years of enduring them.  I don’t know exactly why it was so crucial for me to make lifestyle changes privately, but it was, and I’ve got to figure that if it was for me, it may be for others, too.  So, while the buddy system certainly has its benefits for many people, it’s not the answer for everyone.  I suppose that my underlying point here is that what works for one, doesn’t work for all, and to have the courage to do things your way (even if it’s not the popular way) can make all the difference in the world.

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Some Previous Why Wednesday Posts:

Why Libraries Are Worth Saving

Why I Run – Instant Gratification and Immediate Success

Why I Run – For My Health, Silly!

Why I Eat . . . Series Recap

Why Creativity Counts – It Connects Us

Why Creativity Counts – Self-Sufficieny