Monday, July 12, 2010

Bountiful Beets

It's been a while since I have enjoyed a meal this simple and this delicious. All thanks to a beautiful bunch of beets from my trip to the farmer's market this past weekend! Beets are in season right now, and I hadn't used them in a while, so I decided to pick up a bunch yesterday. These beets were on the small size, all smaller than a baseball, and the greens on the bunch were plentiful and vibrant. You have to love a vegetable that gives you two totally different things to eat.

So after my initial beet excitement, I sort of got stuck on what to do with them. I really didn't want to heat up the whole house with the oven to roast them, and I didn't wait to boil them and watch all the color and vitamins (especially folate) leach out into the water. Luckily for me, the New York Times ran a section that was more than appropriate - Recipes for Health: Beets. Lo and behold, there I found a raw beet recipe. So tonight, I went ahead and tried out the Grated Raw Beet Salad. Let me just say this first. I had never eaten beets raw before, so I was a little nervous about how they would taste. I am nervous no more. After eating these beets, I'm not sure I ever want to cook them again. The one thing I changed in the recipe was the lettuce; instead, I put the beets over spinach. Other than that, this was beet perfection. The citrus complimented the fresh beet flavor without overpowering it. The fresh herbs (I used parsley) added more color and bite. So simple, but so perfect. Here's the bowl of beets and citrus juice (notice the stained cutting board; wear your apron!). I could have just eaten this for dinner, but I figured I ought to control myself and finish the recipe.

I couldn't let the beet greens go to waste, and I needed a little protein in this meal. To make that happen, I cooked up some quinoa. When it was about half done, I added the washed and chopped beet greens with some orange and lemon juice, and let the greens wilt. After finishing with some salt and pepper, I served this alongside the beet salad. What a plate! Cooked and raw, red and green. This was delicious and satisfying. I'm really looking forward to returning to the farmer's market this coming weekend to tell the farmer how great the beets were and to buy another bunch!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Thanks Twitter, for Pointing Me Towards a Sustainable Dinner

The whole eastern seaboard is currently in the midst of a pretty epic heatwave, and as a result, I simply do NOT feel like cooking, let alone eating. So, salads it has been, for both lunch and dinner. But today I jazzed up my salad with just a teeny bit cooking! After yet another plain salad for lunch, I checked my Twitter account. I follow my local Whole Foods on Twitter, and one of their recent tweets advertised Alaskan sockeye salmon on sale for $12.99, $4.00 off. That piqued my interest, and since I needed to hit the grocery store after work, I figured I would check it out. By the time I got there, there wasn't too much of the salmon left, so I presume I'm not the only one following Whole Foods on Twitter. I ordered a nice sized fillet, about 5 ounces. Besides looking beautiful and being on sale, I was excited to see that this particular salmon was certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council. On top of that, the fish was not previously frozen, ensuring great texture. Before I left the store I picked up some New Jersey produce to add to my salad. I grabbed a few cucumbers from Maugeri Farms and a bunch of radishes from Twin Pond Farm. It's so great that a big store like Whole Foods has these kinds of relationships with local farms. I'm happy to be able to feel good about the produce I buy, even when I can't get to the farmer's market and buy it directly.

I decided to use orange to tie the whole salad together by using orange segments on top and orange juice in the salmon marinade and dressing. Now keep in mind, you can really use any vegetables you like in a salad like this. I used the cucumbers and radishes I mentioned above over romaine lettuce, but you could just as easily substitute carrots, red onions, spinach, or whatever else you like with orange flavor. While I prepped the veggies, I let the salmon sit with olive oil, orange juice (about half the juice from the orange I segmented), lemon juice, and salt and pepper. It was just about 10 minutes or so of marinating. Once the veggies and orange segments were ready to go, I heated up a nonstick pan to medium and added the salmon, skin side down, along with some of the extra marinade. I let it cook for about 4 minutes, then I added the rest of the leftover marinade, lowered the heat to medium low, and put a lid on the pan. After about 8 minutes, the salmon was done to flaky perfection. I removed the meat from the skin and used a fork to break the fillet into chunks. After topping the salad with the cooked salmon, I mixed up a quick vinaigrette. I used the rest of the juice from the orange, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil, garlic, parsley, mustard, and salt and pepper. It had a nice citrus flavor and added a bit of needed acidity to the salad.
Overall, this salad was a great success. The salmon was just great simply prepared and added substance and protein to the salad. The radish gave a nice spicy kick and the cucumbers and romaine were cooling on this hot day. The vinaigrette brought everything together with more citrus and acid. I could feel good about the fish and produce I bought today. This salad is definitely a must try, and to think I have Twitter to thank for it!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

One of My Favorite Healthy Fats and Races!

I have never done more than one race in a single week, until now. Last Thursday I attended the first of six 5k races in the Jersey Shore Running Club Summer Series, and the Saturday after that I ran the George Sheehan Classic 5 mile race. Summer Series was really fun. About 100 people came out. I finished a few seconds under 25 minutes, which was not a PR or anything, but I did come in first in my (minimally represented) age group. I'm looking forward to the next race tomorrow, even though it's supposed to be 94 degrees out. The Sheehan Classic is one of my favorite races. It's right in my town, so I don't even need to worry about leaving early or parking or anything. I had a bit of an upset stomach that morning, but I was able to get over it in time to race, and ran a PR! I finished in 42:31, which I was thrilled about since this course is pretty hilly compared to the course I ran my previous best time on. I don't have any more big races scheduled for a few weeks, so it will be nice to use the weekends to get some longer runs in.

In case you were wondering if I feel guilty eating fat, well, I can assure you that I do not. Fat gets such a bad name, when in reality, it's a really important part of everyone's diet. Of course, some fats are better than others, and coconut is one of my go-to healthy fats. I find that coconut is great in both sweet and savory dishes. Last night, I used coconut milk to make a hearty curry dish. This is a great meal to make on a weeknight when time is an issue. My favorite part of this meal was the delicious snow peas that I picked up at the farmer's market this past weekend. They were so crunchy and sweet, so much more delicious than what you get at the grocery store. I served the curry over brown rice, which soaked up the coconut milk. Yum. This makes about 4 servings, and the leftovers are great. In fact, Mark took them to work for dinner tonight.

Tofu and Veggie Curry over Rice
-1 cup brown rice
-2 tbsp canola oil
-1 lb. package extra firm tofu, diced
-4 cloves garlic, minced
-1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
-4 red skinned potatoes, diced
-1 red bell pepper, diced
-1 cup snow peas, ends trimmed
-2 tbsp curry paste (I used green, but you could use red)
-1 15 oz. can coconut milk (don't buy light!)

-Get going on preparing the rice first, whether on the stove or in the microwave.
-Heat a nonstick pan over medium high heat. Add the canola oil, then add the tofu. Cook for 6-8 minutes, until golden, then flip and cook another side until golden. Remove the tofu and drain on a paper towel.
-Add the potatoes, peppers, and peas to the pan. Cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring often.
-Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute. Then add the curry paste, and stir to incorporate.
-Add the coconut milk to the pan. Bring everything to a simmer, then cover. Cook for 10-15 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender. Add the tofu and toss to coat with the curry sauce.
-Serve the curry over the cooked brown rice immediately, or refrigerate for a few days.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Taking a Little Help for a Quick Dinner

Before I get into last night's tasty dinner, let me quickly recap my race this past Saturday, the Pre-Father's Day 5k. It was another really nice morning for a race; fairly cool and a little overcast. I was planning on running the race with just my dad, but at the last minute, my husband Mark decided to run too. My not-so-secret goal is to one day have my whole family participate in a race, whether doing the run or the walk that often happens concurrently. Anyway, the course was nice and flat with lots of shade, but regardless of that, I still felt pretty rough the whole time. I guess it was because I was running at a fast pace for me. I finished in 23:16, a new PR! Mark and my dad both finished in under 27 minutes for their first ever 5k, which is better than I can say about my first race. I have heard rumors that the course is about .1 miles short, but I really don't know. I guess I will get a gauge of that when I run my next 5k. Another bonus about this race was the abundance of raffle prizes that were given away. There must have been at least 30 gift cards. Now I never win anything, but somehow I won a gift card to Spellbinders, a local surf shop. Mark and my dad won too, a Dunkin Donuts gift card and a free oil change. Speaking of running, the Jersey Shore Running Club Summer Series begins tomorrow. It's a series of six 5k races on Thursday evenings throughout June and July. The cost is minimal, and it will be a great way to meet club members, since I finally went ahead and joined JSRC. And last but not least, I am running the George Sheehan Classic 5 mile race on Saturday. I have a bone to pick with this hilly course since I ran it so slow last year.

On to the food! Now normally, I am not one to buy pre-made stuff. In fact, the only things typically in my freezer are frozen fruits, out of season frozen veggies, coconut milk ice cream, and ice packs. But, on my last shopping trip to Whole Foods, the prepared raviolis caught my eye. There were multiple varieties, all of which sounded tasty, and each box had 2 servings, which was perfect. Best of all, there were no funky ingredients that I couldn't pronounce. I settled on a package of broccoli rabe mozzarella raviolis. They were a tad pricey, but certainly not prohibitively, and I figured they would come in handy on a night where I was short on ideas but still wanted a filling meal. Last night turned out to be that night. While the pasta water came to a boil and the raviolis cooked, I put together a quick, rustic marinara sauce. Just some olive oil, onion, garlic, red pepper flake, and canned crushed tomatoes brought to a boil and simmered for a few minutes. I added seasoning and some of the oregano that is growing like crazy in my garden for extra fresh flavor. I also threw together a salad of romaine, carrot, and radish with a simple shallot vinaigrette. When the raviolis were done, I divided them between two plates and topped them generously with the marinara sauce. The verdict? Good and convenient. Not the best ravioli I've ever had, but for being frozen, they were pretty tasty. I wish there was more pronounced broccoli rabe flavor; perhaps the sauce was a little too much for it to come through. Would I buy these raviolis again? Probably. I'd like to try another flavor. Like I said, these are good in a pinch, and you can get creative with sauces to top them. Marinara, something red pepper based, maybe a creamy garlic sauce. I wouldn't call myself a frozen food convert, but it is nice to know there are products out there that I can feel good about keeping around for convenience's sake.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Grilled Portobello Sliders

On a balmy early summer evening, you have almost no excuse to get outside and use the grill. When my mom called me yesterday and told me she had picked up a package of slider-sized portobello mushrooms, I said I would be over the next night to grill them up. The catch? My mother had convinced herself that she didn't like mushrooms. Now, I get that mushrooms are kind of weird. They have a unique texture that you don't find anywhere else, they taste really earthy, and are more or less freaky looking. But they are so great in terms of versatility of use and how well they take flavor. Regardless, I had a tall order ahead of me - make my mom a mushroom convert.

For tonight's meal, we decided to marinate and grill the portobellos. Mushrooms are like little sponges, so marinating them is always a good idea. After a trip through my parents' cabinets, I found plenty of ingredients to use. In a bowl, I combined olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a bit of herbed basting oil, lemon juice and zest, a touch of mustard to bring it all together, and salt and pepper. Then I laid the mushrooms gill/stem side up, and poured the marinade in each one. I let them sit while I went for a quick 4 mile run, then we popped them on the grill. They cooked maybe 4 minutes on each side, until they had nice grill marks and were hot all the way through. I also brushed some of the basting oil on the top of the mushrooms while they were grilling. Right before they were done, I put slices of maple smoked cheddar from Grafton Village Cheese Company on top and let it melt. This cheese is out of control delicious. I served the cheesy portobellos open faced style on a slider bun, and topped them with sliced avocado and pickled red peppers. On the side, my mom made a quick potato hash with sweet potatoes, waxy yellow potatoes, and onions. This meal was so hearty and delicious, and guess what? My mom liked the mushroom! She even said it could stand in for a burger - exactly! Tonight's meal was a big success in terms of both flavor and finding new foods to enjoy.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Spring Lake 5 and Stir Fry

In my last post I talked about my most recent race, The Spring Lake 5. I am happy to report that I set a new PR! It was a perfect day for racing, despite the heat that had plagued us during the week or so leading up to it. It was overcast, a little sprinkly, and not hot at all. This race was huge; about 7,500 people finished it. This also provided me with a good lesson learned - I am faster than I give myself credit for, and I should not start THAT far back in the pack. I got pretty stuck during the first mile due to crowds, and ended up running it in 9:20. Luckily the pack started to spread out, and I was able to pick up the pace for the rest of the race. I finished in 42:55, which was 492nd out of 3512 women racers. I am psyched! I felt really good and strong the whole time, and was really happy to come in under 43 minutes. Now onto the next race. This Saturday I am running the Pre-Father's Day 5k with my Dad. I am excited that we get to do the race together, even though I intend to beat him handily! Ha. I set a new 5k PR back in April, so we will see what I can do this time around.

Last night, after a hard workout at the track (400m repeats, ouch), I made a huge pan of stir fry. I eat stir fry a lot, probably once a week, since it is so versatile and never gets old to me. You can find my base recipe for the stir fry sauce here. I used tofu as my protein and for vegetables I used onion, red bell pepper, shiitake mushrooms, and boy choy stems and leaves. The boy choy was so delicious. It almost takes on a little sweetness as it cooks, and it's nice to have two totally different textural elements (crunchy stems, wilted leaves) in one vegetable. For my sauce, I left out the ginger and garlic that the base recipe calls for and instead added some fermented black bean garlic paste. YUM. This stuff is super flavorful and gave the sauce a whole new spin. I served all this over brown rice. If you still haven't experimented with stir fry, now is the time! With all the tasty spring and early summer vegetables we have available now, you will have all kinds of creative options to make it yours.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Salad and Another Race

Summer is definitely knocking on the door here! Today it topped out in the low nineties, although it felt hotter in the sun. On days like these, I typically want a salad (surprise, surprise!). Tonight, I made my salad a hearty meal by adding half a roasted sweet potato and about half a can of pan-fried chickpeas. For the potatoes, I simply cubed them, tossed them in a couple teaspoons of olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roasted them for about 20 minutes at 400 degrees. For the chickpeas, I heated about a teaspoon of olive oil over medium-high heat in a skillet, then added the chickpeas and cooked them for about 5 minutes, until they were popping. I topped this colorful creation with some freshly made Tomato Tahini Dressing, care of Gena at Choosing Raw. She has lots of great salad dressing ideas on her blog, so check it out. Anyway, this dressing called for one ingredient that isn't usually in my pantry (but should be): nutritional yeast. So, yesterday I bit the bullet and bought some from the bulk bin at my local Whole Foods. I was happy to find out that besides adding good flavor and a creamy texture to food, it is also a really good source of B vitamins and is a complete protein. Bonus. The only thing I changed in the dressing recipe was the nama shoyu; I subbed in soy sauce and it was no problem. This dressing added a lot of body to the salad without being heavy. The flavor was tomato-y, with a hint of tahini, but a little mild. Next time I might throw a clove or two of garlic in. But overall, it was a nice change of pace from the vinaigrettes I usually make. I have plenty leftover, and I think it would also serve well as a sandwich spread.

This Saturday I have my first race since the half marathon - The Spring Lake 5. This is a 5 mile race on a nice, flat course. It really serves as the kickoff to the summer racing season. This is one of the largest 5 mile races in the country, and is run by almost ten thousand people each year. It's also notoriously hard to get an entry into this race, but thanks to a very early morning wake up I managed to secure a bib. My Achilles is feeling pretty decent these days, thanks to Kinesio tape and heel lifts. I'm just happy to be healthy enough to be running! Ideally, I'd like to beat my 5 mile PR, which is 47:05. We'll see how it goes!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Green Symphony NYC

Yesterday my mom, my sister, and I ventured into New York City to see the traveling King Tut exhibit. For as close as I am to the city, and with a train station just a few blocks from my house, I really don't go too often. That being said, I am not super familiar with quick, healthy places to grab a bite to eat in New York. Cue my iPhone and the free Yelp! application. The three of us oriented ourselves to the exhibit, and then I went ahead and searched the surrounding two blocks for an inexpensive restaurant. Just a few items down on my list was Green Symphony, listed as a vegetarian eatery with hot and cold food bars and smoothies. And it was only one block away. So, we headed over. What a great find this place turned out to be! A quick once-over yielded a huge juice menu, a fridge full of freshly prepared sandwiches and wraps, a well stocked hot and cold food bar, and loads of homemade goodies for dessert. I was craving a green juice, so I ordered the Green Monster - green apples, spinach, ginger, and spirulina. This did not disappoint! It was super ginger-y and tart, and was priced low, in my opinion. My sister got a smoothie with fresh apple juice and three kinds of berries. I had a sip of that, and it too was very tasty. My mom and I split an avocado sandwich on a flatbread, complete with hummus, sprouts, and mixed greens. This was really fresh and clean tasting, and it hit the spot; just enough to feel satisfied but not stuffed. I rounded out the meal with a homemade chocolate tangerine cookie. If you like the combination of orange and chocolate, you will love this cookie! I gobbled it up, but controlled myself enough to share with my mom.

This place was so chock-full of stuff I couldn't possibly sample everything in one trip. Both the hot and cold food bars looked amazing (there were samosas the size of softballs calling my name), and I could have chosen any of the juices and smoothies and enjoyed them. Also, the store was very clean and bright, and smelled like fresh juice and vegetables. Finally, the prices were so good I that forgot I was in Manhattan. I will definitely come here again next time I am in the midtown/theater district area. I highly recommend Green Symphony (255 West 43rd Street, between 7th and 8th Aves).

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Ah, Cinco de Mayo. A celebration that typically ends with a bad hangover and a bloated gut. Mark and I celebrated a little differently today (not that I'm even totally sure why we celebrated this holiday, but it's fun, so I guess that's reason enough). After a run at a local cross country course in this gorgeous weather, Mark and I picked up a few items at the grocery store for a Mexican-inspired dinner. I was really craving yet another salad. I know, I know, you don't make friends with salad. Oh well, I love them, and this warm weather makes me want cool, light food. A single serving of a little homemade margarita (thank you limeade concentrate, what a time saving trick!) was the perfect accompaniment to this salad. The recipe below serves two really hungry people.

Mexican Chopped Salad with Lime Dressing
-2 servings of mixed greens (I used romaine and mesclun mix)
-1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
-1 8 oz can whole corn kernels, rinsed and drained
-1 large tomato, seeded and diced
-half a cucumber, seeded and diced
-1 avocado, diced
-juice of 3 limes
-juice of 1 lemon
-3 tbsp olive oil
-1 clove garlic, grated
-1 tbsp agave syrup
-1 tbsp chili powder
-salt and pepper

-Divide the greens between two dinner plates and set aside.
-Combine the beans, corn, tomato, and cucumber in a bowl. Toss to combine, and then divide the mixture evenly over the two plates of greens.
-Sprinkle the diced avocado evenly over the two salads.
-In a small bowl, combine the citrus juice, oil, garlic, agave, chili powder, and salt and pepper. Whisk to combine. Divide in two and drizzle evenly over the salads. Serve immediately.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Changes, a Race Recap, and a Salad

I am writing while sitting down and resting a pair of tired, but recovering legs, thanks to Sunday's Long Branch Half Marathon! But we'll get to that in a minute. First, this may come as a surprise to some, but I am changing my eating habits once again. After a lot of thought and rather stressful consideration, I am not going to call myself vegan any longer. Lately I have been finding the label to be very restrictive, and I've been uncomfortable with it. I'm sure I could ramble on about my reasoning for paragraph after paragraph, but I will save it, and just say that I feel that this decision is the best thing for me personally right now. Going forward, I don't plan on hitting up a burger joint 5 nights a week, don't worry. I will thoughtfully consider any animal based products I put in my body, and make my decisions in a fluid, day-to-day way rather than by a strict set of rules (which works great for some people, I'm just finding it doesn't for me). My house, however, will most likely remain vegan (at this point I can't think of any meat or dairy products I need to have at home) and I will of course continue to focus on eating a healthy diet, so rest assured that many of the recipes I post will be vegan-friendly (and of course, delicious). I hope you all, regardless of your dietary choices, will continue to follow Runs on (Mostly) Plants.

On to the half marathon! My mom and I arrived to the start and finish area hour well ahead of the start time, at which point the weather was still reasonable. By the time the race started at 9am, it was HOT. The lovely ocean breeze faded as we headed inland on the loop course right around mile 3 and it didn't make an appearance again until almost mile 12. In between it was hot and humid, but everything else about the race was great. Through every street there was great crowd support. People with signs, bells, hoses and sprinklers, and even some with homemade water stops and snacks were out. There were even a few bands playing along the course! Before I hit a few road blocks in my training, I was shooting to finish in under 2 hours. But after my fall on my knee and some Achilles tendon trouble just a week and a half before the race, I eased up on that and decided to just enjoy the race and see what happens. I'm happy to say I finished in 2 hours 6 minutes 18 seconds (from the unofficial results posted today), and ended up in the top fifth of both my gender and age group. Not bad at all considering the unseasonably hot weather and a couple setbacks during training. And most importantly, I had a really good time doing the race. My friend John (who did the marathon) and his parents hosted a party after the race, and it was nice to kick back with friends old and new and a few beers and snacks. Overall, this was a great race! Mom was awesome taking pictures and cheering me on, a number of my friends completed the race, and everything was really organized, from pre-race packet pick up to the post-race massage. I hope to be back next year.
Last night I was craving a salad for dinner, but a salad with a bit of substance. A few months ago I made this Avocado Wasabi Salad from VeganYumYum. It was amazingly delicious. It's a bit of a process to put this whole thing together, so for a fast meal I decided to just make the chickpea part of the recipe and work it into a simple salad. The chickpeas are super easy to do, all you need are canned chickpeas, soy sauce, and wasabi in some form. The recipe called for powder, but I used paste and it worked great. Anyway, I made these chickpeas and tossed them with some mixed greens, carrots, cucumbers, scallions, and a orange sesame dressing that I whipped up (this is obviously my favorite dressing of the moment, I can't get enough of it). Easy, quick, and light, but still substantial.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Asparagus Season

Unless you haven't been to the grocery store in the past few weeks or you live under a rock, you must have noticed the abundance of fresh and inexpensive asparagus available lately. It's just in season now, being an early spring crop. I used to really hate asparagus. Maybe I didn't like the distinctive flavor, maybe I was weirded out by the way it made my pee smell. I don't know. But I am happy to report in the past few years I have come around to asparagus, weird pee smell and all. It's worth it when you get a bunch of really tender shoots and cook them simply. This dish served as a vehicle for basic roasted asparagus. The vehicle itself, polenta and mushrooms, wasn't too shabby either. This is a fast and easy meal if you use quick cooking polenta. It will work fine with regular, though, it will just take a little longer.

Soft Polenta with Mushroom Sauce and Roasted Asparagus
-1 1/3 cups quick cooking polenta
-olive oil
-1 small onion, diced
-4 cloves garlic, minced
-10 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
-1 heaping tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
-1/2 cup white wine
-1/2 cup vegetable stock
-1 tbsp Earth Balance
-1 tsp cornstarch
-1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
-salt and pepper
-3 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

-Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
-In a large pan, heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook 4-5 minutes until softened.
-Add the garlic and cook another 2 minutes.
-Add the mushrooms and thyme and cook, stirring often, for 7-8 minutes until the mushrooms are softened.
-Add the wine and vegetable stock and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for about 10 minutes until the liquid reduces a bit.
-Meanwhile, arrange the asparagus on a baking sheet. Drizzle with a couple tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes, until fork tender.
-Once the asparagus goes in, prepare the quick cooking polenta according to package directions. It should only take 5-10 minutes. Keep warm until you're ready to eat.
-Add the Earth Balance and cornstarch to the mushroom sauce and stir to thicken. Test the seasoning and adjust as needed.
-On your plate, scoop a serving of polenta. Top with the mushroom sauce, and arrange the roasted asparagus on top. Top with fresh parsley and serve.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Waffles and (One of) My Favorite Recovery Smoothies

First of all, I apologize for my silence this week! It has been a little crazy with lots going on. But here I am, and I promise to try to not neglect Runs on Plants going forward! Anyway, things finally slowed down this weekend. I took the opportunity to make a tasty Saturday morning breakfast for Mark and I. Since I'm still cooking out of Veganomicon like crazy, I decided to make the Banana-Nut Waffles. Bananas and walnuts are delicious paired in muffins and breads, so why not waffles? As you could probably guess, these did not disappoint. They were so tasty, it was like eating crispy, fluffy banana nut bread. If you don't have a Belgian waffle iron, I suggest getting married so you can put it on your registry. I would never have bought one for myself, but I can't tell you how nice it is to have one. I don't use it all that often, maybe every month or two, but it is so great to be able to enjoy a restaurant quality waffle at home in sweats. I served these delicious waffles with some sliced strawberries and real Vermont maple syrup. I also had two leftover waffles, so I halved them and froze them. These are perfect for throwing in the toaster for a quick weekday breakfast. If this waffle recipe was this good, I can only imagine how awesome the Chocolate Chip Brownie Waffle recipe in the book is...
This morning I went to the gym to get in a strength workout. After any kind of workout, it's really important to recover with the right kinds of foods and nutrients. To put it really simply, you need carbohydrates to replenish your energy stores, and you need protein to help your muscles heal. In all my recovery smoothies, these two elements are the stars. This morning, I made one of my favorites, a green protein smoothie.

Green Protein Smoothie
-8 oz almond milk
-1 serving vanilla protein powder of your choice (today I used Spiru-Tein, which is a rice, pea, and soy protein blend)
-1 tsp maca powder
-1 tsp spirulina
-1/2 ripe banana
-1/4 cup frozen blueberries
-5-6 frozen strawberries

-Combine all ingredients in a blender.
-Blend until all ingredients are smooth. If needed for easier blending, add additional almond milk by the tablespoon.
-Serve immediately.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Veganomicon Mania

I hope everyone has had an enjoyable and relaxing weekend. I was definitely happy to have some good stuff going on and good food to eat after this past Thursday. When I was out for a run, just half a mile from my house, I tripped on I don't know what and fell flat on the ground. I managed to get a pretty nasty series of cuts on my knee and my hand. So needless to say, thanks to the bruising/stiffness/healing cuts, my half marathon training has been kind of disrupted. The good news is, the bulk of my training is done, and I got myself on the bike, elliptical, and treadmill this morning at the gym. I think I will be back in action early next week, and I don't think this little setback will have much negative effect on the half marathon in 2 weeks.

On to the food! Since my mom got me a copy of Veganomicon, I have been busy picking out which dishes to make first. This weekend, I made two. My parents hosted visitors from out of state yesterday, my dad's best friend from college and his wife. My mom made a chicken stew for dinner, so I brought along a dish to eat and share - BBQ Black-Eyed Pea Collard Rolls. This was a simple recipe that was easy to put together and that looked really pretty on the plate. They also tasted great! Everyone who tried them enjoyed them. I can tell I will be making the BBQ sauce recipe many times this summer, so yummy. Another great thing about this recipe is that I got to eat it twice. There were a couple rolls and a bit of sauce leftover, so I repurposed them tonight for dinner. I cooked up a serving of brown rice, and added the filling from the leftover rolls (the collard leaves had gotten a little slimy so I tossed them) to a skillet with the extra sauce. The filling was chopped collards, mushrooms, black-eyed peas, and BBQ sauce. Once heated through, I served it with the rice for a delicious meal the second time around.
I tried another recipe from the book today, the Carrot Pineapple Sunshine Muffins. I figured these would make a great snack for Mark and I to take along to work this week. The muffins are chock full of delicious ingredients - pineapple, raisins, orange zest, carrots. It smelled like a tropical paradise in my kitchen while these baked. These came out wonderfully. They are nice and moist, thanks to soy yogurt and the fruit in the recipe, and they are fluffy like a classic muffin. I can't wait to enjoy these at work this week, it will certainly be a bright spot in the day! I think I will store them in the refrigerator though, even though they are so tasty fresh. I don't want them to get soggy. Any advice on storing muffins?
Anyway, have a great week everyone! Hopefully I will have a few new recipes for you this week.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Enchiladas Even a Carnivore Can Love

One of my favorite kinds of Mexican food, or any food for that matter, is a big plate of enchiladas. There is just something about warm, filling goodness wrapped in a chewy tortilla and smothered in a delicious sauce. What's not to love? In the past, I've always filled these up with rice, beans, and a mix of vegetables. But this past week, I had a coupon for any Lightlife product, so I picked up a package of veggie protein crumbles. I decided to use them in these enchiladas. It really gave the meal some filling "meatiness", and added great texture and flavor. Besides the sauce, I topped these with a simple guacamole to give them some creaminess. I fed these enchiladas to Mark and my dad, who both really enjoyed them. My dad was, however, pretty bummed that there were no leftovers!

-canola oil
-1 12 oz package veggie protein crumbles
-1 packet taco seasoning
-1 onion, diced
-5 cloves garlic, minced, with 1 cloves worth set aside
-1 red bell pepper, diced
-1 4 oz can diced green chilies
-1 15 oz can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
-1 15 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
-2 tbsp chili powder
-2 tbsp cumin
-hot sauce to taste
-3 tbsp prepared salsa
-1 bunch cilantro, chopped, with 1 tbsp set aside
-salt and pepper
-6 flour tortillas
-1 15 oz can enchilada sauce
-2 avocados
-juice of 1 lime

-Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
-Heat canola oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the veggie crumbles and break up with a spoon.
-Prepare about 3/4 of the taco seasoning packet as directed (usually you just add water). Add the seasoning mixture to the pan and cook for 5 minutes. Remove the crumbles from the pan and set aside.
-In the same pan, add the onion, 4 cloves worth of the garlic, and bell pepper. Cook for 7-8 minutes, until vegetables are tender and fragrant.
-Add the green chilies, beans, tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, hot sauce, and salsa. Season with salt and pepper. Stir to combine, and cook for another 7-8 minutes until everything is heated through and combined.
-Turn off the heat and add the cilantro, leaving 1 tbsp of it aside. Stir to combine.
-Grease one or two baking dishes, depending on their size. Heat the tortillas in the microwave for a few seconds to soften them up.
-Lay a tortilla flat on a cutting board. Spread veggie crumbles in a line in the middle of the tortilla. Spread some bean and veggie mixture on top of that. Roll the tortilla closed, and place in the baking dish. Repeat until you've filled all the tortillas.
-Pour the enchilada sauce evenly over all the enchiladas. Put them in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, until hot and bubbly. Let cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.
-While the enchiladas bake, prepare the guacamole. Remove the flesh from the avocados and mash with a fork. Add one clove of minced garlic, a tbsp of chopped cilantro, and the juice of one lime. Stir to combine.
-Serve the enchiladas topped with the guacamole.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Cupcakes, Tea, and a Gift

What an eventful weekend! I have lots of fun and delicious things to share with you all on this lazy Sunday evening. Earlier this past week, my good friend Greg told me about a new vegan bakery a few towns away from me. Needless to say, I got right to work figuring out the details on this place. Turns out it's called Papa Ganache (you can find them on Facebook here), and I took a trip there yesterday. Their treats are all vegan, mostly organic, and they have gluten-free items too. The goodies include cupcakes (regular and mini sized!), cookies, cinnamon buns, muffins, and breads. They have coffee and tea, too. The storefront is small but very cute, with a little seating area that looks out through huge windows to the nearby bay. I decided to get a few different items to try, mostly because everything looked so good I was having a hard time with decisions. For me, I brought home a mini strawberries n' cream cupcake, a mini chocolate peanut butter cupcake, and a regular size "Mostess", a twist on the classic cream filled Hostess cake (how cute is the play on the white curlicue icing?). I apologize for eating the mini chocolate peanut butter cupcake prior to the photo, I was so excited I just kind of inhaled it in the parking lot. I also got a chocolate chip cookie for Mark. Let me just say, all of the cupcakes were ridiculously good. Like, really, really delicious. It is a good thing this place is a bit of a ride from my house or I'd be in trouble. I had a nibble of Mark's cookie, and that was very tasty too. The texture was a bit of a surprise, kind of crispy on the outside and chewy inside, but overall it was very good. I give this place a big A+. Delicious treats, cute little storefront, friendly people working. I'll be back!

Another place I visited on Saturday was a new tea house in town. It's called NovelTeas. My mom had seen the place a few weeks ago and suggested we check it out. Upon walking in, it was like you were transported. Beautifully decorated, plenty of cozy seating, and a gorgeous backyard garden with more seating greeted us. Off to the side was the register and a wall of loose leaf teas available for purchase. Since we didn't have a lot of time, I just picked up some lemon herbal loose tea to bring home, but I can assure you I will be back to laze about for a few hours with some tea and a book. What a wonderful find in town!
Finally, my wonderful mom got a me gift today! She picked up a copy of Veganomicon for me. I was so excited; I've wanted this cookbook for a long time! I've used it at friends' houses and heard many a person rave about it, so I am really glad to finally have my own copy. I can't wait to get cooking!That's it for my busy weekend. The half marathon is 3 weeks from today! I'm getting really deep into my training, and I'm starting to get excited. Almost there.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Wild Rice Salad and Ice Cream!

I have been craving rice for a few days now, but I didn't feel like making a risotto. I decided on making a wild rice salad. When I started looking for recipes online, I quickly became overwhelmed. So many variations, so many complicated recipes. After a little while of this, I said forget it! I decided to just kind of wing it, using orange as the main flavor since I saw so many recipes incorporating it. This recipe is nice and simple, and was really comforting without being heavy.

Orange Infused Wild Rice Salad
-2 cups wild rice or wild/brown rice blend
-4 cups cooking liquid (I used the juice of one orange and water; vegetable stock works too)
-zest of 2 oranges
-3 scallions, chopped
-1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
-3/4 cup dried cranberries
-juice of 1 orange
-1 shallot, minced
-1 tsp mustard
-1 tsp agave nectar
-2 tbsp red wine vinegar
-3 tbsp olive oil
-salt and pepper

-Cook the rice per the package directions. Add the zest of 1 orange to the cooking liquid. Mine took about 50 minutes on the stove. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before proceeding.
-Combine the scallions, pecans, and dried cranberries. Set aside.
-Combine the juice of the orange, zest of 1 orange, shallot, mustard, agave, vinegar, oil, and salt and pepper.
-In a large bowl, combine cooked rice, scallion mixture, and orange dressing. Stir to combine. Serve, or chill in the refrigerator for a few hours if you want a cold dish.
On a dessert-y note, I have been loving the So Delicious Banana Split Minis. They are made with coconut milk ice cream and they are just delicious. They're the perfect little sweet treat, and at only 100 calories, they are practically guilt-free. Nothing like an ice cream sandwich on these 80 degree days we've been having the past couple days!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Race Recap and a Delicious Dessert

Hi all! First off, I hope everyone had a happy Easter/Passover/spring weekend. I had a busy and fun weekend for sure. Saturday morning was my first race of the spring season, the Sgt. Pat's 5k in Long Branch. This is a great race that is run in remembrance of a Long Branch police officer that was killed in the line of duty. It also supports a scholarship fund and a non-profit that assists those with mental illness, both in Sgt. Pat King's name. It's nice to know your entry fee is going to such good causes. Anyway, it was a little foggy and chilly in the morning, but by 11:00am when the race started it had warmed up a little bit. It was a big field, over 600 people in total, and the race went out and back on the promenade along the beach. I'm happy to report that I set a new PR! I ran the 3.1 miles in 24 minutes and 26 seconds, good enough for 3rd place in my age group. I felt good the whole way through and was really pleasantly surprised at my time; I'm really psyched on acheiving a sub-8 minute mile pace. It was definitely a confidence booster for the half marathon, now less than 4 weeks away. Here's me (#338) just before the final turn around.
For a little Easter and post-run treat, I made a batch of Lemon Bars. The folks at No Meat Athlete posted the recipe, care of Veganomicon. This is a cookbook I really need to get myself next time I get a Borders coupon in my email. Anyway, these came out awesome. I love lemony desserts, and sadly, vegan lemon curd or custard is pretty much non-existant. Using a few alternative ingredients (agar flakes, arrowroot), these came together perfectly. A must try dessert recipe in my opinion, especially for lemon lovers!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Pizza Fusion

Just last week, a Pizza Fusion franchise opened in my town. When I saw the "coming soon" signs, I googled the place to see what it was all about. Happily, I learned that Pizza Fusion is vegan friendly and gluten-free friendly, which opens up pizza to a few pizza-challenged groups. They are also big on the eco-friendly thing; counters made of recycled soda bottles, tables made of reclaimed wood, lots of organic ingredients. All good stuff. To put the food to the test, Mark and I ate there tonight.

There is more than pizza at Pizza Fusion. They offer salads, sandwiches, and desserts too. For the purpose of my review, I'll stick to what I ate; pizza and dessert. In terms of vegan pizza options, you can do one of two things; go with the "Very Vegan" pizza (mushrooms, roasted garlic, tomato sauce, soy cheese) or do a "Build Your Own". You also get to choose your crust, either traditional white or multigrain. I went with the Very Vegan on multigrain, in the personal size (you can also do large and extra large if you have a few people eating the same thing). Overall, this was a tasty pizza. The crust was thinner than I expected, which is a good thing since I like crispy pizza. The sauce was very good and well seasoned and the soy cheese (they use Follow Your Heart) melted well and tasted good. My main gripe is that they were pretty skimpy on the toppings. I could have definitely used a little more roasted garlic, since I only tasted it in maybe 2 or 3 bites of the whole pizza. Another quibble is the price. My personal pizza was $9. That seemed a bit steep for a pizza this size. Overall though, the pizza was tasty and satisfying. When it comes to dessert, the menu is limited, and the only vegan option (which also happens to be gluten-free) is a brownie. I felt like having dessert, so I ordered one to go. I have to say I was pretty disappointed. The brownie looked and smelled really appetizing, but it just fell short in the flavor and texture departments. The brownie was too cakey and almost fluffy, which was weird. It also had a sort of chalky aftertaste/texture which wasn't too pleasant. Too round it out, it just didn't taste that good.

The verdict? Pretty good pizza, not so great dessert. This is a place I probably wouldn't have another sit down meal in, but I can see myself getting takeout once in a while for a treat. In any case, it's really nice to have a vegan option just a short walk from my house.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Spinach Salad with Blood Oranges

After getting home from the gym tonight and drinking a chocolate banana shake made with Sunwarrior protein, I decided I wanted a light, simple dinner. Luckily, I picked up salad ingredients when I grocery shopped at Whole Foods this past weekend. Blood oranges were on sale, so I bought a couple of them to segment into a salad. Blood oranges are sweeter than regular oranges, and have a great "blood" red colored flesh. This is thanks to the presence of anthocyanin, a type of antioxidant. Besides the antioxidants, blood oranges are full of vitamin C and fiber, just like regular oranges. I used spinach for my salad greens; perfect since the iron in the spinach is absorbed better when eaten with vitamin C rich foods. I also used avocado and sliced almonds to round out the salad, and I made a blood orange sesame vinaigrette to dress it. This was so good, I could have eaten a whole additional plate. The recipe below serves two; double as needed.

Spinach and Blood Orange Salad with Blood Orange Sesame Vinaigrette
-2 servings of fresh spinach
-2 blood oranges
-1 avocado, diced
-4 tbsp sliced almonds
-2 tsp red wine vinegar
-1 tbsp sesame oil
-1 tbsp canola oil
-1 tsp agave nectar
-1/2 tsp sriracha
-1 clove garlic, minced
-juice of half a lemon
-1 tbsp sesame seeds
-salt and pepper

-Divide the spinach between two dinner plates and set aside.
-Using a paring knife, slice the ends off of each blood orange. Then slice the rind and outer pith off the sides of the orange. Finally, slice out each segment of the orange between the membranes. Do this over a bowl and save the juice; you can also squeeze the remaining juice out of the membrane once you've removed your segments. Separate the juice and the segments.
-Make your salad dressing. You should have about 3 tbsp of blood orange juice. To this juice, add the vinegar, oils, agave, sriracha, garlic, lemon juice, sesame seeds, and salt and pepper. Whisk until combined.
-Top each plate of spinach with segments of one orange, half the diced avocado, and 2 tbsp of almonds. Divide the dressing between the plates and serve immediately.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Foam Rollers and Colorful Food

Happy Monday! Again, it is raining here. I'm really glad I managed to get in a 9 mile run on Sunday right before the rain (which will continue until Wednesday) started. On that note, today I ordered a foam roller. I had noticed a tiny twinge in my knee, and I think it might be a tight IT band. I have heard some bad stories about IT band trouble, so to nip this in the bud I ordered the foam roller. It works like a massage for your muscles and tendons, loosening tight spots and relaxing them. From what I hear, foam rolling hurts a bit, but in a good way, and the feeling in your muscles when you're done is supposed to be great. I also did a little research and found some stretches and strengthening exercises to do. So, here's to hoping nothing problematic is at hand. I have a 5k this Saturday and the half marathon in just over a month!

Onto the food. Tonight I made the recipe I posted in my first real post in this blog; Roasted Tomato Soup. I also toasted up a whole wheat dinner roll, sliced, with garlic and oregano on top. Of course, I made a salad to go alongside dinner with romaine, cucumber, carrot, dried cranberries, and pine nuts, with a walnut vinaigrette. For dessert I recreated one of my favorite smoothies from the local health food store. I blended up apple juice, ripe banana, maca, spirulina, and frozen blueberries. Great deep color on this one thanks to the berries and spirulina! I also treated myself to one of the cookies I made yesterday. I'm still making my way through Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, and have yet to make a bad recipe. Last night I made the almond pignoli nut cookies. These are divine. I am a HUGE almond fan; regular almonds, almond extract, almond paste. Needless to say, I love this recipe. It's a challenge to not eat more than one of two of these at a time!
I'm happy to say I actually planned a bunch of meals and snacks before I grocery shopped yesterday. Expect some new recipes this week!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Risotto and a Smoothie

As I've mentioned before, risotto is one of my favorite comfort foods. I really wanted to make something with mushrooms tonight, but was a little stuck when I started to try to figure out a recipe. Mark suggested risotto, and I am glad he did. After what seemed like a pretty long day, I just wanted to eat something savory and creamy. This mushroom risotto hit the spot. For something crunchy and fresh, I made a salad of romaine, carrots, celery, cucumber, toasted pecans, and dried cherries. I topped it with a lemony garlic vinaigrette. This meal was filling and tasty.
Mixed Mushroom Risotto with Peas
-olive oil
-1 onion, minced
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-1 lb. mixed mushrooms, chopped (I used button, cremini, and shiitake, but you can use whatever kinds you prefer)
-1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
-1 1/2 cups arborio rice
-3/4 cup white wine
-4 cups mushroom stock
-1 cup water
-1 cup frozen peas
-salt and pepper
-1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

-In a small saucepan, heat the mushroom stock and water over low heat.
-In a large pot, add a few tablespoons of olive oil and the onion. Cook over medium heat for 4-5 minutes until the onions start to look translucent.
-Add the garlic, mushrooms, and thyme. Cook for another 5 minutes or so, until the mushrooms are tender.
-Add the rice and cook for a minute, stirring, until it starts to crackle. Add the wine and stir until the wine is absorbed.
-Add a ladle of the mushroom stock and water combination and cook, stirring very often, until the stock is absorbed. Continue this process, one ladle at a time, for about 15 minutes, you are almost out of mushroom stock, and the rice is just shy of tender.
-Add the peas and your last ladle of stock to the pot. Test for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Ensure the rice is fully cooked; if it isn't, add a bit more liquid and cook for another few minutes. Add parsley to the risotto, stir, and serve.For an easy and healthy dessert, I made a green smoothie. I simply blended orange juice, vanilla soy milk, maca, spirulina, frozen peaches, and frozen mango in the blender until smooth. Yum! This was really satisfying. Even Nitro (one of our three cats) seemed interested!