Friday, December 14, 2012

Black Bean Enchiladas

I've had these on the brain for a while and finally got around to making them.  I made it a couple of times during my hiatus from the blog and based it on a recipe somewhere on the Interwebs that I veganized by using vegan cheese.  Follow Your Heart brand cheeses don't melt as easily in the oven as Daiya (which I don't think tastes as good), but I got a good result this time by covering the baking dish in foil for the first twenty minutes and then removing the foil for the remaining 10 minutes in the oven.  Easy and yummy - it was two-thirds gone before the dishes were washed!

Black Bean Enchiladas:
2 tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup thawed frozen green bell peppers
3/4 cup thawed frozen onions
1.5 cups thawed frozen corn (can also used canned)
2 chipotle peppers with sauce
1 16 oz can of black beans, drained
6 10-inch tortillas
1 16 oz can enchilada sauce (or a package of La Frontera sauce)
1 10 oz package of Follow Your Heart Vegan Monterey Jack

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium heat.  Add bell peppers and onions and cook until softened, about 3-5 minutes.  Add corn and chipotles and cook another 3 minutes.  Add black beans and cook until beans have heated through and liquid from vegetables has reduced by at least half, another 5-7 minutes.

(Here's what the filling looked like:)

Grease a 10" x 13" baking dish.  Set one of the tortillas on a plate or cutting board.  Spoon 1/6 of the black beans mixture (approx. 1/3 cup) along the left third of the tortilla, then roll the tortilla and place seam side down in the baking dish.  Repeat with the remaining tortillas and filling.  Pour enchilada sauce evenly over the top of the enchiladas, then grate vegan Monterey Jack over the sauce.

Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes, then remove foil and bake for another 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and serve (or let it cool for a few minutes; up to you).


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Stuffed Sweet Dumpling Goldie Squash

I was going to state in the title what the squash was stuffed with, but then it would have been too long. 

I'd had these two squash, which were similar to acorn or kabocha squash, in the kitchen almost since the day in late October that Whole Foods Market opened here in Columbia.  I'd had the idea to stuff it with a mushroom and quinoa pilaf for weeks, and tonight (inspired by last night's fridge cleaning extravaganza?) I finally did it.  Easy and delicious!

Btw, the quinoa was twice what I needed, but no worries - if I decide to make some kind of veggie thing tomorrow, I won't have to wait half an hour for any brown rice to cook up!

Sweet Dumpling Goldie Squash Stuffed with Mushroom Quinoa Pilaf:
2 sweet dumpling goldie squash (can also use acorn, kabocha or a very small pumpkin)
2 cups water
1 cup quinoa
2 tbsp Earth Balance
8 oz. package baby bella mushrooms, diced
salt, pepper and ground sage to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut the hats off the squash and scoop out the seeds; do not cut in half.  Place squash cut-side down on a baking sheet lined with foil.  Bake for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook quinoa according to package instructions.  (If you got it from the bulk aisle: 2 cups water, 1 cup quinoa, 15 minutes with a tight-fitting lid.)  Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat Earth Balance in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat.  Add mushrooms and seasoning, stir well and cook for 5 minutes.  Stir cooked quinoa and mushrooms until thoroughly blended. 

Remove squash from oven, turn right-side up and fill cavity with mushroom-quinoa pilaf, pressing down with spoon in order to fit more.  Heap the filling on top and put back in the 400 degree oven for another 15 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tuesday Night Clean-Out-the-Fridge Spectacular

So we had entire bag of spinach that was barely hanging on, plus some carrots and celery that had been in the fridge for well over a week.  Once Steve opened a package of tofu for one bowl of soup and then put back almost the entire block, I realized it was time to get rid of...I mean, transform a few things.  Soup seemed like too obvious a choice, and since there was tofu to use up, I figured I'd make some sort of casserole with a vegan cheese sauce.  Here's the approximate recipe:

Random white bean veggie pasta bake:
2 tbsp canola oil
1.5 cups celery, sliced
1.5 cups carrots, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup broccoli, chopped
1 cup cauliflower, chopped
10 oz. bag spinach, rinsed and chopped
1 15 oz. can of cannellini beans, drained
1 lb. tricolor rotini, uncooked
1 package extra-firm tofu, drained and rinsed
1 package silken mori-nu tofu
1/3 cup tahini
1/4 cup yellow miso
1 tbsp dried Italian herbs
salt and pepper to taste
2/3 cup water

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add celery and cook for 2-3 minutes until slightly softened.  Add carrots, onions, garlic, salt and pepper and saute another 5 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Add broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, beans and uncooked pasta and stir well.

In a blender or food processor, combine remaining ingredients until smooth.  Pour mixture over vegetables in saucepan and stir well.

Grease a large (10 x 14 x 4) baking dish, pour casserole mixture into pan, cover well with lid or aluminum foil and bake until pasta is cooked and sauce has thickened, approximately 45-50 minutes.  Remove from oven, let cool for 15 minutes and serve.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Banana curry with cashews

I saw an episode of Next Iron Chef: The Redemption recently where one of the contestants had to make a main dish using banana as the challenge ingredient.  The chef, to everyone's surprise, made a banana curry dish that turned out really well and kept him on the show for at least one more episode.  I've been inspired to make one ever since, but I decided to wait until after Thanksgiving to make something completely different once I'd had enough of Thanksgiving food.  Today, with all the Thanksgiving leftovers gone, I decided to see if I could figure it out without consulting any recipes online.  (Actually, I already had but didn't like how any of them sounded.)  I managed to pleasantly surprise myself!

1 ripe banana, cut into chunks
1/2 large bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped
8 oz. coconut milk
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp sriracha
2 tbsp canola oil
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced into matchsticks
1 tbsp yellow curry paste (I like the Sun Luck brand)
2 green bell peppers, sliced lengthwise
1/2 large yellow onion, sliced
2 lemongrass stalks
4 Thai bird chiles, crushed
1/2 cup raw cashews

Place first five ingredients in a food processor and blend until thoroughly combined and no banana chunks remain.  Set aside.

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat.  Add carrots and curry paste and saute for 3 minutes.  Add 1/4 to 1/3 cup water as needed to keep curry paste from sticking to the bottom of the pan.  Add peppers and onion and saute until vegetables are tender, another 3-5 minutes.  Pour banana mixture into saucepan.  Add cashews, stir well and continue stirring until sauce begins to thicken, another 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and serve over rice or rice noodles.  (I served it over black heirloom rice, available at Rosewood Market and Whole Foods.)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Vegan Shepherd's Pie, Take Two

I was supposed to work at the hospital on Saturday, but with it being a holiday week, the patient census was low on the surgical unit and the charge nurse called early in the morning to say I could stay home.  Yay for not having to work on Saturday! 

With nine hours of time on hand that I did not expect to have, I shopped for lights and ornaments, decorated the Christmas (er, non-denominational holiday) tree, chopped veggies for a shepherd's pie and then cozied up with Steve to continue the Twin Peaks marathon that's been happening here since Steve brought home the complete series on DVD from the library on Monday or Tuesday.  After three episodes from season two, I was finally able to break away from the TV and start putting together the layers of the shepherd's pie. 

We had an unopened package of mushrooms, about a third of a pound of haricots verts that I didn't throw in the oven on Thursday and a cup or so of chopped carrots that I ended up leaving out of the stuffing, plus about four cups of leftover mashed potatoes.  With everything chopped ahead of time (I had some time on my hands earlier this afternoon when Steve made a trip to the store), putting this together was as simple as:

Vegan Shepherd's Pie with Mushrooms
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 cup diced haricots verts
1 cup diced carrots
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
2 tsp fresh thyme
salt and pepper
8 oz package of mushrooms, diced
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I used panko)
1-2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1-2 tsp sage
4 cups mashed potatoes
1 tbsp Earth Balance, shaved

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Heat vegetable broth in a wide saucepan over medium heat.  Add green beans, carrots, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper to taste and cook until vegetables have softened, about 5-7 minutes.

Meanwhile, grease an 8x8" or 9x9" casserole dish and set aside.  Add salt, pepper and sage to mushrooms and stir well to combine.  Add breadcrumbs and stir well. 

Pour mushroom mixture into the bottom of the casserole dish and smooth out into an even layer.  Add green bean and carrot mixture and smooth out into another even layer.  Top with an even layer of mashed potatoes.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, remove from oven.  Smooth shaved Earth Balance over the top until it melts.  Place back in the oven and bake 10 more minutes or until a crust has begun to form on top of the mashed potatoes.
Delicious.  Like with the stuffing, the sage made all the difference in the layer of mushrooms.  To my surprise, Steve ate more of this than I did!  No words of praise say as much as him eating more than me of anything!

Enjoy (or endure) your first day back to work if you had a nice, long weekend.  Spend judiciously online if you must.  Maybe I'll see some of you this evening at 701 Whaley?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving Day Part 2: My First-Ever Vegan Thanksgiving!

Well, it was a busy 2 or 3 hours of chopping plus actual cooking, but another Thanksgiving dinner is now in the books.  I have to say, the absence of a bird made this thing a whole lot easier - even easier than last year, when I made that giant pot pie with seitan, which I kinda thought afterwards was a lot of trouble for what I ended up with.  On the other hand, the pot pie might be a good idea for some of the leftovers.  Anyway...

Seitan with Herbes de Provence and Citrus

This year I decided that, rather than making one of those awkward vegetarian "roasts" or "bakes" like Whole Foods sells pre-made in the frozen section, I would consider what flavors Steve and I like and what has worked well in the past. That meant veganizing the turkey I made four years in a row before going vegetarian. I pretty much went by intuition with this and most of the other dishes, but here are the ingredients and approximate measurements:

2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp Earth Balance
Half of one large yellow onion, sliced lengthwise
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
2 tsp freshly grated orange zest
2 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
2 tsp fresh thyme
2 one-pound packages of chicken-flavored seitan, drained
(broth reserved)
1/2 cup reserved seitan broth
juice of 1/2 orange
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil and Earth Balance over medium heat.  Add onion, bay leaves and garlic and saute until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add zests and herbs, stir well and cook for one minute.  Add seitan, broth and juices.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and continue cooking until liquid has reduced by half, about 10 more minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

While that was cooking, I made a similarly-flavored gravy by melting 2-3 tbsp Earth Balance, stirring in the same amount of flour, browning it a little and then adding in 1/2 cup of the seitan broth and the juice of the remaining orange half and lemon half.  It came out a little tangier than I'd planned, but it was still yummy over the potatoes and especially the seitan.

Basic Breadcube Stuffing

I had scanned the Interwebs a few weeks in advance to find vegan recipes for stuffing and other side dishes and vaguely remember finding a breadcube stuffing that I liked that called for mushrooms, celery and carrots, so I made my shopping list accordingly.  But lo and behold, when I went to my list of bookmarked recipes, the only one I could find for Thanksgiving was for dessert (below).  So I pretty much threw this stuffing together from memory of how my veganized spicy andouille cornbread stuffing came together.

2 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1 cup diced carrots
1.5 cups chopped celery
1 cup diced onion
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sliced mushrooms
6 cups toasted bread cubes
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tsp fresh thyme
2 tsp ground sage
2.5 cups veggie broth
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.  Add garlic, carrots, celery and onion and cook until carrots and celery have begun to soften, about 5 minutes, adding salt to help veggies release more liquid.  Add mushrooms and cook another 3-5 minutes.

Place bread cubes in a large mixing bowl and add hot vegetable mixture plus parsley, thyme and sage and stir well.  Add broth, one cup at a time, then half a cup at a time, stirring very well to ensure that bread cubes are all moistened (they don't take up the liquid as readily as fresh cornbread) without making them soggy.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Grease a 9x13" baking dish, then pour in stuffing mixture and smooth down the top with a spatula or a big spoon.  Bake for 30 minutes or until cubes on top have browned slightly.

Steve's review: this stuffing has "more complexity and depth" than the cornbread and sausage stuffing from last weekend (probably owing to the sage).  And he liked it, yay!

Mashed pertaters!

The first fresh vegetable I ever learned to cook and still easy peasy: 4 Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-1.5" chunks, boiled in salted water until fork tender, then hand-mashed and seasoned with about 1/2 teaspoon each of garlic powder, onion powder and ground white pepper, 1/4 cup of Earth Balance, about a tablespoon of dried Italian herbs and 1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg.  Done.  They were tasty fresh, but for the leftovers I might work in a little bit of soymilk so they don't seem too dry.

Haricots verts with walnuts and rosemary

"Haricots verts" is French for green beans, but when you see the French term, they're referring to French green beans, which are the same as regular long green beans only thinner.  (I'm sure this recipe would be just as good with the regular kind.)  I came across a similarly-titled recipe somewhere that literally called for these three ingredients plus olive oil - just mix it all together, spread the beans with walnuts out on a baking sheet and roast for about 20 minutes at 400 degrees.  (These went in the oven a few minutes after the stuffing.)  It sounded good except that I knew that we'd enjoy them more with a little salt and pepper, so that's how I made them.  Yum!

Garlicky Kale
(Not pictured; all the photos came out too blurry.)  I had planned on making these with radishes again like I did a couple of years ago, but for some reason Whole Foods didn't have any radishes on the day I made my big Thanksgiving shopping trip and I never got around to buying them elsewhere.  No matter - this was another equally easy and delicious veggie side like the green beans with walnuts and rosemary.  Just melt 2 tbsp Earth Balance over medium heat, add a bunch of chopped kale (I think I had 6-7 big leaves' worth) and stir occasionally until they're slightly more than wilted.  Add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.  Yum yum yum yum yum!

Crustless pumpkin pie

For dessert, I relied completely on this recipe by the Happy Herbivore.  I made this the day before so it would be completely chilled by the time it was ready to be served.  After blending all the ingredients per the recipe instructions, I tasted the mix and...holy crap, that was good!  Just like a pumpkin spice latte!  I'll have to figure out how to tweak this recipe so that it will work as a smoothie.  (Maybe just leave out the flour or substitute wheat germ or flax?  Hmm...)  Anyway, the end result turned out well, although perhaps not as firm underneath as the recipe suggested.  Next time I may make it with a crust - and there will most definitely be a next time!  I was especially glad that this turned out well because, after a lifetime of not being able to eat regular pumpkin pie due to my egg allergy, being able to eat a Thanksgiving sweet that was not apple pie made me feel like I was finally getting my just desserts.  Get it?  (Rimshot)  Thank you, I'll be here all week...

I hope everyone out there had a wonderful Thanksgiving and will enjoy the rest of the weekend!  If you're Black Friday shopping, try not to get trampled underfoot!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Day Part One: Brunch

Good afternoon, and happy Thanksgiving to one and all!

I wasn't hungry when I got up this morning, so Steve and I just lounged over tea and coffee as we often do on weekends and holidays.  However, after an hour or so of housecleaning, I couldn't help but notice that lunchtime was approaching and I still hadn't eaten.

We're not big breakfast people, and things like brunch and Breakfast for Dinner never, ever happen here.  Breakfast beyond hot or cold cereal doesn't even happen for breakfast.  The inspiration for the brunch we ended up having this morning was the "Brunch Village" episode of Portlandia.  In the opening scene, Fred and Carrie are reading in the paper about a new pancake place that serves, among other things, Marionberry pancakes.  (Those of you who are too young to remember can click here to learn more about why that's funny.)  Apparently, soon after the episode first aired, Bobby Flay even got in on the fun.  Anyway, while watching it I found myself thinking, "hey - my name's Marian, I have berries in the freezer and everything else we need to make pancakes.  One of these days I have to make this!"

Marianberry Pancakes

For the pancakes themselves, I used this recipe, ignoring the glaring typo about the baking powder.  For the berry topping, I just thawed a cup and a half of frozen berries (raspberries, blueberries and blackberries), heated them on the stove over medium heat and then added between 1/4 and 1/3 cup of sugar (I eyeballed it) and then let them cook for another 10-15 minutes before reducing the heat until everything else was done.  Once I was ready to start dropping pancake batter into the nonstick pan, I sliced a Tofurky vegan kielbasa and browned it in another pan.  Everything was done at about the same time, and it wasn't as much trouble as I'd expected.  Plus, since we're not big breakfast eaters, Steve and I got to enjoy a smaller "special" meal before the big one to come!

I hope everyone's having a nice Thanksgiving, wherever you are.  Stay tuned to find out what meat- and dairy-free goodness I turn out for Thanksgiving dinner this evening!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

And she's time for Thanksgiving!

Well, after several months of cooking and not blogging, I've finally come back to my blog.  Why was I away so long?'s been a busy and stressful time for a variety of reasons that aren't really worth going into.  Thankfully, none of those reasons has stopped me from cooking.  Not cooking's not an option, since Steve still brings home all the produce he sees and likes. 

I guess I'd also been in a funk as far as the "Clock-Racing" part of my blog title goes, since injuries seem to be my lot in life.  Two of them this calendar year, and the first one (a recurring case of metatarsalgia) actually forced me to break down and join a gym.  The second one was a case of IT band syndrome with which I came away from the Columbia, SC Marathon in March.  I really didn't lose that much fitness (since I could still work out at the gym) or time away from running, but I still wasn't sure, two years into the blog, if I'd ever get back in the shape I was in before all the injuries started.  Well, in early October I ran the Habitat for Humanity 15K, on a wicked hilly course, and finished in 1:09:14...first overall female!  Two weeks ago I ran the Governor's Cup Half Marathon and finished in 1:38:29 (second in my age group), just four and a half minutes off my PR!  And just yesterday I ran the Runway 5K at Columbia Metro Airport in 21:39, which is about how fast I ran 5Ks in years past without having trained for one.  (Windiest.  Race.  Ever.)  They say it's not nice to brag, but I'm so happy to feel like I'm finally getting back to where I want to be as someone who races the clock for fun!

Here's a picture of the snazzy wicking socks that all of us age group winners got at the Runway Run.

Once the race was over, Steve and I enjoyed the rest of the day by having lunch at the Good Life Cafe and then going to a vegan Thanksgiving potluck that was put on by the Columbia Veg Meetup group.  We've belonged to the group since last summer, and if you live in the Columbia area you should check them out on their Meetup site and/or Facebook page!  They're a diverse and generally great group of people of all ages.  Last night was Steve's and my first vegan Thanksgiving experience (I was still lacto this time last year), and it did not disappoint!  Rosemary, the hostess, made a wonderful seitan dish as well as a nice chunky mushroom gravy for mashed potatoes, and someone else made a vegan macaroni and cheese that was absolutely divine.  If you brought the vegan mac and are reading this now, *please* email me the recipe!

My contribution to the affair was a vegan do-over of Emeril's cornbread and andouille sausage dressing.  This was pretty easy to veganize, since I've been making vegan cornbread for a while now using soy flour paste in place of the eggs, soy milk in place of dairy milk and an extra pinch of salt to help balance the flavors and keep it from being too soy-ey.  The only other substitutions I needed to make were to replace the andouille with vegan kielbasa and the chicken broth with veggie broth.  The dressing itself didn't need the eggs for binding; for that, all I did was moisten the mixture with a little extra veggie broth before putting it in the oven. 

How did it go over?  Well, despite arriving nearly an hour late and after most guests had already filled their plates, about two-thirds of it was gone by the time we left!  I'm also happy to report that the leftovers made a nice meal all by themselves for lunch today, after Steve and I spent nearly two hours raking pine straw.  It's amazing how much can accumulate in two weeks' time...

It was nice seeing a few of you yesterday, whether at the race or the potluck.  I've already planned Thanksgiving at home and bought everything I need, so expect to see another post come Thursday or Friday.  Until then...vegan, vegetarian or traditional omnivore, I hope all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and remember to count your blessings - not the least of which is every day you get on this Earth!

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Before I go into tonight's dinner, I should go back about a month in time and provide an accounting of my fast.  In a nutshell, I broke down on day 3.  It was just too hard, even with a 3-day weekend, to do stuff around the house on a juice-only diet after five days of eating fruits and vegetables only.  I just felt too deprived, so on days 3 and 4 of the juice fast, I broke the fast in the evening by eating cashews, chips and salsa and the like, and on day 5 I finished up whatever premade juice was on hand and then called it quits.  I wouldn't categorically say that it was a bad idea or that I wouldn't try something like it again.  However, I will say that it probably would have been more prudent to start out small - say, with a 3-day juice fast with no pre- or post-fast dietary restrictions - and then worked my way up to the 15-day deal over time.

One cool thing about the reboot is that I had a reason to save a bunch of veggie juice pulp and make my own veggie broth.  The latest batch was made with pulp from butternut squash and a couple of green veggies I could no longer identify after a month of them being pulped and stored in the freezer, and it saved me having to heat water for veggie base.'s one of the many things I've eaten over the past month!  My main objective here was to hurry up and use the broth I made a few days ago, but it worked out especially well with today's cooler weather and clouds.

1 lb. dried red kidney beans, soaked
5 cups veggie broth plus 3 cups water
2 tbsp olive oil
1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced 1/4" thick
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic
1 can organic fire-roasted chopped tomatoes with their juice
1 cup frozen green beans, thawed
1/2 cup orzo pasta
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp ground sage
50 leaves fresh oregano, whole

Quick soak: in a 2-quart pot, cover dry beans in water by one inch.  Bring to a boil, boil one minute, then remove from heat, cover and soak one hour.

In a 6-8 quart pot, bring broth and water to a boil, add kidney beans and simmer until they're nearly done, stirring occasionally (lest the beans start sticking to the bottom of the pot), about 30-45 minutes. 

In a separate saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add zucchini, onion and garlic, stir well and saute until softened, about 3-5 minutes.  Add mixture to kidney beans and broth along with tomatoes, green beans, salt, pepper, oregano and sage.  Cook until green beans have heated through, about another 5 minutes.  Add orzo, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally (to keep pasta from sticking to the bottom), until soup is bubbling.
I've actually made this a bunch of times over the years - usually with canned kidney beans and maybe also some chickpeas - and it never gets old.  Normally I don't like to dredge the pot (as Steve does) when I serve myself a bowl of soup, but I do with soups containing pasta because the pasta will keep plumping up in the fridge and it can be annoying to run out of broth because the pasta has absorbed it all and then have to add water and salt to the leftovers to restore the soup consistency.  (Run-on?  Oh, well.)  Speaking of which...this coming weekend I'm off, and I now have leftovers to get me through one more workday!

Have a good weekend, and maybe I'll see a few of you at the Moe's Burrito Dash 5K on Saturday!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

My 15-Day Reboot, Part 2

Six days down, nine to go.

The salad pictured here was the last thing I ate last night, besides a banana and an entire grapefruit.  It was big, and it was good.  Spinach, asparagus, avocado, tomato, olive oil and lime dressing. 

So, day one of the juice fast: not as horrible as I expected, but it is only day one.  One of the reasons it hasn't been so hard, I suspect, is that I'm actually taking in more calories by juicing than when I was trying to fill up on regular portions of fruits and veggies.  It's not like anyone ever makes a meal out of an apple, three large carrots, 6-8 leaves of kale, 2 packed cups of spinach and a thumb-sized piece of ginger, but such was my breakfast this morning in juice form. 

Another reason it hasn't been so bad is that I got a call from work saying that I wouldn't be needed this evening due to a low patient census on my unit.  Oh, well - less stress during the fast is better, even though I'd kinda rather have the money.  I made double batches of 2 or 3 different juices this morning so that I'd have at least enough to get through tonight, assuming neverending hunger for something that tastes like food.  After getting the invitation not to work, I bought some more juice fodder and continued juicing.  At this point, I can probably wait until Saturday before I juice again. 

Lunch was a freestyle mix of tomato, asparagus, zucchini and celery.  Surprisingly, it tasted a lot like a V8 and all it seemed to be missing was a shot or two of vodka. 

Mid-afternoon I indulged in a smoothie: not exactly juice, but I wasn't sure if the banana would "juice" well, so I juiced an entire pineapple and then put it in a blender along with two bananas in pieces and about four tablespoons of unsweetened shredded coconut.  Again - ssssoooooooooooooooooooo freakin' good, and all that was missing was a shot or two of rum.  I will most certainly be making a grown-up version of this when the reboot is over.  April 1, I have you in my sights.

For dinner, I sucked down a gazpacho juice I made this afternoon with a couple of cucumbers, four beefsteak tomatoes, a few celery stalks, a red bell pepper, a quarter of a red onion, a bunch of parsley from the backyard and a few tablespoons of lime juice (cheating again, but only because I forgot to buy limes).  My juicer doesn't juice herbs very well, so instead I put the parsley in the food processor, got it down to about a pesto consistency and added it to the juice.  It's really just like having regular gazpacho!

Later on, I plan on enjoying a juice made of kale, pears, strawberries and coconut water.  Probably the weirdest of all the combinations I've tried, but I sampled some after I made it this afternoon and it's pretty fruity and sweet in spite of the kale.

Another thing I'll say before signing off is that I kept half of the smoothie mix in the fridge for Steve in case he'd like to have some tonight, but if he wants it, he needs to claim it soon...

Monday, March 19, 2012

My 15-Day Reboot, Part 1

I'm on a 15-day "reboot" right now, and day 3 is drawing to a close.  The decision to do this was inspired by my recent viewing of Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.  For those of you who haven't already seen it (and if you haven't, you should!  Find it on Netflix or check it out of the library!), the film follows a guy named Joe, who suffers from obesity and an autoimmune disorder and embarks upon a 60-day juice fast in an attempt to cure himself of both conditions.  The fast is a success, you see him lose weight as the film is being made, and about halfway through he inspires a random stranger, who is also obese and suffering from the same autoimmune disease, to do the 60-day juice fast. 

Since the film was completed, Joe has started this whole "reboot" concept - learn more on the Reboot Your Life website - which encourages people to embrace healthy eating and lifestyle changes by committing to a "reboot" in which they consume nothing but fruits and vegetables (as in no beans, no nuts, no grains), often in juice form only, so that the body can benefit from daily megadoses of phytonutrients.  I've been intrigued by the idea since watching the film, and I decided before running the Columbia Marathon that the second half of March would be the best time to give it a try, since I'm taking the rest of the month off from running and I just might benefit in ways I don't expect.  Last week I loaded up on protein (soy milk, cashews, big spoonfuls of peanut butter) because my sore muscles needed it right after the race.  Friday night Steve and I went to a St. Pat's pub crawl in the Vista, and my reboot started Saturday morning.  The "Classic Reboot" that I'm doing consists of 5 days of juicing plus eating fresh fruits and vegetables, 5 days of juice only and 5 days of juice plus eating.  I'm making up my own meal plans as I go and consuming however much I want while staying within the parameters of the reboot.

Since I went vegan a couple of months ago, I don't feel like I'm suffering as much as if I ate a lot of meat (or a lot of processed junk), but here and there it's been hard to deal with the hunger pangs.  As a runner - and as one who recently trained for and ran a marathon - I'm not used to letting myself go hungry.  I eat healthy snacks, but as a rule, as soon as I notice that I'm hungry, I take care of it.  At work this past weekend (days 1 and 2), I found myself having to gulp down extra water between juices, fruit snacks and meals in order to trick myself into thinking I was full.  Today I was off from work, so it wasn't so hard to poke my head in the fridge and see what I could snack on (like carrots) and to move around at my own relaxed pace, which I don't always get to do at work.  I'm thankful that I'll be off at least two of the five days of the juice fast, because I have a feeling that it's going to be rough.

Anyway, the Vegetarian Times must have caught wind of the fact that I bought four kabocha squash (similar to acorn squash) at Rosewood Market this morning, because this recipe showed up in my Facebook feed after I got home.  As soon as I saw it, I knew what I'd be making for dinner.  I mostly followed the recipe  but substituted fresh ginger, Rasam powder (a type of curry powder available in Indian grocery stores) and cayenne for the sherry and left the skin on the squash because it's perfectly edible and a colossal pain in the ass to peel when it's raw.  I found that by bringing it to a boil and then reducing the heat, rather than just bringing it to a simmer, it cooked even faster and was ready to go in the blender even before I was done getting everything together for the salad. 

The salad was simple: a couple of handfuls of spinach (one for each of us), about two ears' worth of baked husk-on corn, cut from the cob after cooling, one big, ripe tomato and one avocado.  Just arranged everything on two plates and poured over a dressing made of one tablespoon of lime juice, two tablespoons of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.  Yumminess!  Plus I made a double batch of the soup, so there will be plenty more to enjoy during the next couple of days before the juice fast begins!

One nice thing about still being able to consume things like sweet potatoes and winter squash, the usual way or in juice form, is that they provide a little extra bulk and natural sugar, so you don't feel completely deprived.  I've felt pretty okay today, but my fingers are crossed that I'll make it through the juice fast without killing anyone...

Monday, March 12, 2012

Eggplant Tapenade Pasta

After nearly a month of cooking up a storm and forgetting to post about it, the Clock-Racing Gourmet is back!  This past Saturday I ran my first marathon in four years, the inaugural Columbia Marathon, and crossed the finish line after 3:46:26 of nonstop running.  Hells yeah!

My pre-race meal was at the Good Life Cafe, a place I never would have considered back when I still thought that you had to eat a giant mound of pasta - which they don't serve - on race night.  I had their Mediterranean wrap with a big kale salad on the side and their (sugar-free) strawberry shortcake smoothie for dessert.  The wrap - made of flaxseed? - included an eggplant tapenade spread that I really liked.  After the marathon, Steve and I went to Mezza, the new Lebanese place on Gervais (for those of you who live in Columbia).  Now that I'm vegan, the most obvious choice of lunch plate was their falafel wrap with tabouli and baba ghanouj on the side.  So, having had pureed eggplant two meals in a row, I found myself on a roll and wanting to try my hand at eggplant tapenade.  I'd seen recipes before but never gotten around to it.  I knew I had to for the same reason I would no longer consider buying pesto at the supermarket: it's easy to find, but I'd really rather make it myself so that it won't want for flavor.  I mentioned the idea to Steve, and a lovely eggplant and some Roma tomatoes showed up in the fridge shortly afterward.

After perusing a few recipes, I decided that this one was the most straightforward.  I skipped the balsamic vinegar and agave nectar and substituted half a yellow onion (since it really doesn't matter if it's going in the oven first).  I also spaced out and forgot to add the garlic.  Oh, well - next time.

The result?  Truth be told, it came out a lot like baba ghanouj.  Maybe it's because I just hit the Food Processor button and let it go until it was smooth, but I suppose I had looked forward to something a little chunkier.  Flavorwise, it came out well despite the omission of garlic.  I waited until the food processor step to add about three tablespoons of lemon juice, maybe a teaspoon of salt and about 15-20 turns of fresh ground black pepper.  I also threw most of the fresh parsley into the mix because I got a little carried away, snipping it in the backyard, so I had a lot more than a couple of tablespoons to work with.  The shreds that I used for a garnish are but a tiny fraction of what I used altogether.

I mixed this into some orzo pasta because, expecting a chunkier result, I was afraid that if I used bigger or longer pasta, the tapenade would all find its way to the bottom of our plates without really adorning the pasta.  I needn't have worried, so next time I just might use some linguine instead.  I served this over a bed of fresh spinach because I was too lazy to make a salad.  Once it was all plated up, I drizzled a little more olive oil and lemon juice over the top (paying special attention to the visible spinach leaves) and added a little more fresh ground pepper.  Fabulous!

Now that winter's over in SC, I'm already at work on my spring/summer vegetable garden.  I look forward to blogging in the upcoming months about recipes made with the fruit and veggies of my backyard labor! 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Valentine's Day Plus One

I had to work last night, so Steve and I exchanged gifts while I was home in the morning and skipped the candlelit-dinner-for-two thing.  I think this way was nicer, especially since last year Al's Upstairs' limited Valentine's Day menu had no veg-friendly entrees and I had to talk them into making me a plate of pasta alfredo (or something similar).

Tonight I was off, so I had time to whip up a pasta dish similar to the one on p. 76 of the January-February issue of the Vegetarian Times.  (I'd post the link, but they haven't put it on their website yet.)  Their recipe called for baby spinach and asparagus, but I substituted kale because I had (actually still have) it in abundance.  What I made was basically this:

Black Pepper Linguine with Garlicky Kale and Chardonnay Sauce

Cook 4 ounces of pasta according to package instructions (this is enough for two and you can pretty much use whatever you've got; in VT they used fettuccine).  Drain and set aside.

For the sauce: Puree one cup raw cashews and one cup water in a food processor until smooth.  Simmer one cup of Chardonnay in a small saucepan until it has reduced down to 1/3 cup.  Mix in the cashew cream, one tablespoon of nutritional yeast, one tablespoon lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.  If the sauce comes together before the pasta or the kale, keep it on low heat and add water as needed to keep it from drying out.

For the kale: Heat one tablespoon olive oil in large saucepan or pot over medium heat.  Add about 4-5 cups of chopped kale plus two cloves garlic (chopped) and salt and pepper to taste.  Cook until wilted (or slightly more than wilted).

Once everything is ready, toss the pasta in about half of the sauce, put it on two plates and cover each bed of pasta with half the cooked kale.  Ladle 2-3 tablespoons more sauce over the kale and serve.
In a couple of days I'll do my first 20-mile training run since the foot injury resolved that forced me to take most of January off from running.  Here's hoping I'm still around to tell the tale, and later to tell the tale of when I ran the Columbia Marathon...

Monday, February 6, 2012

A Tale of Two Stir-Fries

Well, the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart ended two weeks ago and I've decided to stick with being vegan for the duration.  This wasn't really my plan, but then, neither was being vegetarian.  We'll see how it goes.

Saturday evening after work (I work every other weekend.  Always fun.  Not.) I chopped up about half of the veggies I recently bought with a stir-fry in mind.  Why only half, you ask?  Well, because half seemed like enough for one meal plus one or two meals worth of leftovers.  It also occurred to me when I put the other half back in the fridge that I could stir-fry the same veggies a different way later on.  So, I made a Chinesy (I make no claim as to authenticity) stir-fry for us on Saturday and an Indian stir-fry for dinner tonight.  If you ever find that you have an overabundance of several veggies that hold up well in a stir-fry, give something like this a try!
The Chinesy stir-fry came out well and was simple enough, now that the fine folks at MediterrAsian have given me the confidence to do Asian stir-fries with or without coconut milk or red curry paste:

2 tbsp canola oil
1.5 cups (approx.) baby carrots, quartered lengthwise
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced ginger
1.5 cups snap peas, ends trimmed
1 red bell pepper, sliced lengthwise
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp Chinese five spice powder
4 oz. baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 cup vegetable broth
salt and crushed red pepper to taste
2 tbsp corn starch mixed with 2 tbsp cold water

Heat oil over medium heat in work or wide saucepan.  Add carrots, garlic and ginger and saute for 3-5 minutes.  Add snap peas red bell pepper and cook another 3 minutes.  Add hoisin, soy sauce and Chinese five spice powder and stir well.  Add broth, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Check flavors and add salt and crushed red pepper as needed.  Add cornstarch mixture and stir often as sauce thickens to a glaze.  Remove from heat and serve over rice.
Then tonight I chopped up the snap peas, carrots and red bell pepper for an Indian-style stir fry.  The spices are all from a mixed vegetables recipe in my Indian cookbook, but the veggies that I used were different because hey - it's what I had.  Also a winner!

2 tbsp canola oil
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1-2 bay leaves
1 tsp black mustard seeds
2 tsp urad dal
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 cup baby carrots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1.5 cups snap peas, cut in half and ends trimmed
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 tsp cayenne
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt

Heat oil in a wide saucepan over medium heat.  Add next four ingredients, cover and heat until mustard seeds start popping and urad dal is golden brown.  Add onion and tomatoes, stir and cook for one minute.  Add turmeric and stir.  Add remaining veggies, stir well and cook for 3-5 minutes.  Stir in tomato sauce and remaining spices.  Blend seasonings well and cook for another minute or two.  Add about half a cup of water to make it saucier and so that veggies don't burn.  Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for another 3-5 minutes or until sauce has thickened.  Serve over rice.
Well, it seems that winter's finally here.  Today I actually had to wear running tights and a knit cap for the first time since I started running again post-foot injury.  I don't know about groundhogs; for me, dark-eyed juncos are much more reliable in the meteorology department, and I saw a bunch in my backyard a couple of days ago - always a sign of cooler weather to come. 

Stay warm, eat and be healthy!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

My Sweet Sixteen Birthday Dinner Revisited

For those of you who don't already know, today's my birthday.  Over the weekend, when I was thinking about what I might like to do for dinner tonight (go out or dine in?), it occurred to me that the most memorable birthday dinner I've ever had was for my sweet sixteen, on this date 20 years ago.  (So guess how old I am now?)  I remember that, after a bad day at school, I came home crying about something or other, and when I settled down my dad asked me what I'd like for dinner.  I told him kielbasa, sauerkraut and black-eyed peas, so that's what he made. 

Das ist richtig, y'all.  And when I say my dad "made" it, I mean he heated everything.  The black-eyed peas and sauerkraut were from cans, and the kielbasa was sliced lengthwise and thrown on the skillet just like any other day.  That was how we ate back then, and until I learned to cook it was all good. 

As it happens, we've had frozen black-eyed peas and a package of Tofurky kielbasa in the fridge for a few weeks now, waiting to be used, and tonight seemed like a special opportunity to bring those unlikely flavors together once more and make the most of my vegan cleanse.

I "made" the vegan kielbasa the same as before - sliced and heated in the toaster oven until slightly browned.  Instead of popping open a can of black-eyed peas, I thawed some of the frozen ones and threw them in the pressure cooker along with some chopped bell pepper, onion and broth, adding a couple of teaspoons of chipotle Tabasco sauce at the very end.  In place of the sauerkraut, I picked up a head of cabbage and made the equally flavorful cabbage with coconut poriyal recipe from my Indian cookbook.  Delish! 

On a side note, Steve gave me a copy of Skinny Bitch which I can't wait to read!  But not tonight - after the dishes are washed (also his treat), we'll be settling in front of the TV, indulging our new addiction to Breaking Bad (we just ditched the cable and are Netflixing all the episodes in order) while munching on vegan cupcakes that he also picked up at Earth Fare today!

Hope everyone's having as lovely an evening as me!  Until next time...

Monday, January 9, 2012

Sweet Potato and Red Pepper Soup with Broccoli Risotto

Well, I'm back, and happy (belated) 2012.  Hopefully some of you are still sticking to your New Year's Resolutions.  One of mine is to participate officially in the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart, which means that, unlike back in September, I've actually signed up to do the full three weeks instead of noncommittally seeing how long I can stand it.  I hung in for three weeks and change a few months ago, so I figure I can do it again.  One of the neat things about participating in the Kickstart is the daily emails from vegan celebrities: until today I assumed that Alicia Silverstone and John Salley (of Bulls, Lakers and Pistons fame) were their best-known celebrity spokespeople, but today's message of encouragement was from none other than Steve-O!  Did anyone else out there know he's a vegan?  I thought that was very surprising and cool.  Anyhoo...

Day 8 is winding down after a thoroughly enjoyable meal of soup and risotto.  The inspiration for the soup was in the current issue of the Vegetarian Times, and the risotto was inspired by the availability of broccoli in the fridge and arborio rice in the cupboard.  After working all weekend and having today off, I was finally able to make this happen, which also means that I have leftovers for later in the week!

Sweet Potato and Red Pepper Soup:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium-large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
1 medium Russet potato, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
half of one large white onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper or to taste
2 red bell peppers, roughly chopped
6 cups vegetable broth
salt and cayenne pepper to taste
Spinach pesto for coulis (recipe follows)

Heat oil in soup pot over medium heat.  Add next three ingredients and stir well to coat with oil.  Saute for 7 minutes.  Add next three ingredients, stir and cook another 3-5 minutes.  Add bell pepper and broth, cover and simmer on medium-low until potatoes and peppers are tender, about 30 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool, then puree in batches and return to pot.  Add salt and cayenne if desired.  Serve hot with a dollop of spinach pesto in the center of the bowl.

Spinach pesto:
2.5-3 packed cups baby spinach
1/4 cup pine nuts
4 cloves garlic
3 tbsp lemon juice
4 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Place first four ingredients in food processor and puree until smooth, pouring in olive oil through chute.  (Alternatively, just throw everything in your food processor or blender and puree until smooth.)  Add salt and pepper to taste and store in refrigerator until ready to use.

Broccoli risotto:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/3 cups arborio rice
1 bay leaf
4 cups vegetable broth
3 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 cups broccoli florets, steamed in microwave with salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in saucepan.  Once heated, add rice and bay leaf and stir well.  Saute for 3-5 minutes.  Add broth one cup at the time, stirring often, until all broth is incorporated and rice is creamy.  Turn off heat and stir in nutritional yeast.  Fold in broccoli and serve.