Sunday, February 19, 2012


I love hummus, and I also love babaganoush. The last time I made them, when there was just a little bit of each left at the end of the evening, I mixed them together, and hey! - I liked the blend of the two even better than either one on its own. I decided on the spot that this was something worth doing regularly, but what to call it? I came up with two names - Hummaganoush, and Babaganummus. I use them both, but if pressed to make a choice, I'd go with Hummaganoush, because how often do you get to say "ganoush" in this life? Not often enough, says me, and saying it just makes me happy.

I'm reading one of Brendan Brazier's books, "Thrive - The Vegan Nutrition guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life," to help me adjust my diet to better train for the half marathon in September. We already eat better than just about anybody I know, but now I'm paying even more attention to super-nutrition. So when it came to making a fresh batch of Hummaganoush, I paused a few minutes, and did a little research before hitting the kitchen.

I love garbanzo beans - or chickpeas, as they're also called - but when comparing them to lentils, which I also love, there was no question as to which one would make the cut. Lentils by a mile! Not only are lentils much faster and easier to cook than garbanzos, requiring no soak time, they're also lower in calories, fat, and sodium, and higher in fiber, protein, and potassium. And if I took the time to sprout them, they'd be even better. I know that garbanzo beans are traditional for this sort of thing, but I really don't care. The lentils taste just great.

The other key ingredient is eggplant. I didn't really want to deal with baking, cooling, and peeling an eggplant, and besides, I'm also trying to fit as many raw vegetables into my diet as possible, because they keep all their lovely enzymes, making them easier to digest, and nutrients easier to assimilate. This is big when you're "in training" because the less work your body has to do to digest food, the more energy it has to excel during workouts, and to recover and repair in between. Suddenly I'm thinking about this stuff...

But raw eggplant? It sounded sort of... icky. Then again, a quick online search told me it's possible to freeze and thaw eggplant for use in "raw" babaganoush. Hallelujah! Between the lentils and the eggplant-freezing trick, a rather labor intensive dish was suddenly a whole lot easier.

So here's the recipe. Make some, eat it up, and see how super you feel.

1 cup dry lentils (any kind you like) cooked with 3-4 cloves fresh garlic - Stay close to the lentils toward the end of cooking, and add hot water a little at a time, just to keep them covered. When they're soft, cook a little longer to evaporate any excess water, so you don't have to drain off any of the nutrient-filled cooking water.

1 small-medium eggplant, peeled, diced, frozen for 2 hours or more, and thawed.

1 more large clove garlic
1/4 large onion
3/4 cup tahini
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
1 T cumin
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1/4 to 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

Once the lentils are cooked, and the eggplant is frozen and thawed, this whips together really quickly in the food processor. You might want to do the lentils and eggplant the night before, taking the eggplant out of the freezer in the morning, so it has time to thaw.

First chop the onion and garlic in the food processor. Then add the lentils, eggplant, and all other ingredients except the vinegar. Add vinegar gradually as you blend, checking for flavor and consistency. Blend until fairly smooth, and adjust seasonings to your liking. Serving possibilities are endless. Use Hummaganoush in wraps and sandwiches, with falafel in a nice soft pita, or as a dip for raw veggies and chips. This is now a staple in our house. It's not just a snack... it's fuel!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Burrito Night

It seems like I'm busier than ever these days. Aren't we all? I used to have more time to invent and experiment in the kitchen every day, but now... well not so much. But rather than beat myself up over coming up with something new for dinner every night, I've let it be okay to have a few favorites that we go back to often. The Big Three, I call them, and we always have the makings for one or more of them in the house. I can change them up with different vegetables, spices, or sauces, and they're all quick to make.

My Big Three? Vegetable Fried Rice, Miso Happy Soup, and Burritos. The veggie fried rice is great "plain," and can be zipped up with a nice peanut or teriyaki sauce. The miso soup is such a wonderful comfort food. It's the perfect thing for someone who has a cold, and makes a quick, easy lunch or dinner any day of the week. It can be brothy and soothing, or heartier with the addition of extra veggies and rice or quinoa. And burritos... well, I think they're a near perfect food.

The first time Rick made dinner for me, he made burritos, so I have kind of a romantic, sentimental view of this simple beans-and-tortillas feast. He is the Burrito Master around here, but now he lets me make them too. I think burritos are a great thing to eat when you're wishing for something gooey and cheesy. Refried beans and avocados are my favorite cheese substitutes, and then of course you can add your favorite vegan cheese if you want, like Daiya, which I think is the absolute best of the bunch.

Tonight I wanted something extra though, so I came up with a terrific Cheesy Chile Sauce to add to our basic burritos. This is by far the easiest cheese sauce I've made yet, and I love the spicy red chile kick. I think it would also be great on macaroni, and on any number of vegetable dishes. I'll be doing more with this zippy little sauce soon.

Cheesy Chile Sauce
1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water for 20 minutes
2 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp sea salt
1 T olive oil
1-2 T red chile powder, to taste

Drain and rinse the soaked cashews, and place in a blender with the broth, nutritional yeast, and salt. Buzz it all up until smooth.

Heat olive oil to medium heat in a saucepan. Stir in chile powder and cook for 1-2 minutes. Pour in the blended cashew mixture, turn down the heat, stir well, and cook for 5 minutes or so.

flour tortillas (I like rice or Ezekiel)
canned refried beans - warmed and seasoned with cumin, chile powder, garlic powder, and onion powder.
chopped tomato
sliced avocado
salad mix of lettuce, carrots, and corn

To assemble:
Warm both sides of a tortilla in a large skillet over medium heat. Spoon some refried beans down the center of the tortilla. Top with salad mix, tomatoes, and avocado slices.

Fold the sides over each other and flip the burrito over. "Smother" the burrito in sauce, and serve extra salad along the sides.

These burritos are fast and easy, and so good you'll wish you had room for more than one.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Running Out Of Excuses

I have a big announcement to make. I'm going to run the Disneyland 1/2 Marathon in September! Yes really. And I'm going to run it vegan. Duh! I've never run farther than to the end of my driveway - which is a long driveway, but really doesn't count for much - so this is a very big deal for me. I'm doing it with my daughter, who encouraged, urged, and sort of double-dog-dared me to do it. I didn't have a good reason to say no, and to be honest, I've been well aware for a long, long time that a healthy vegan diet alone is not enough to keep me alive and well for the long haul. Regular exercise has never been one of my strong points, but I know I need to do it. So after very little consideration I said yes, and signed up right away, before I could rationalize myself out of it. That was several days ago, and I'm still feeling good about my snap decision, so here I go!

Lauren and I are going to blog about it as we train "together" from different parts of the country. She's in Seattle, and I'm in Taos. I've already posted one entry on TakingTheLongWayHome, talking about my reasons for deciding to do this crazy thing, and that's where you'll find all the mother/daughter updates as we go along. On this blog though, I'll be concentrating on the fuel that will help me train for and run (and finish!) my first 1/2 marathon.

With the help of No Meat Athlete, and at least one of Brendan Brazier's books, I'm off to a really good start in getting everything my body needs to be a super healthy vegan, uh... athlete. What a funny word for me, athlete, but it's what I'll have to be if I want to run that race, and I really really do. There's a lot of growing research telling us that a vegan or vegetarian diet is the best thing ever for athletes of all kinds. I know I'm going to bump into a lot resistance from people who still think protein means meat, but I can deal with them. 

And because good food is one of the main reasons for this blog, I'll share what I learn here, along with the new power-building recipes I try as I go. So if you want to read along on both blogs, I'd love that. This one will be about the food, and LongWayHome will be about the training and emotional impact all this has on me, and on Lauren. Our hope is that we'll inspire someone else to take on a big goal of their own. By sharing our experience, maybe we can make what you want to do seem more possible than you ever thought. No matter what, I want to keep us all well fed! I'll be back with something good to eat soon!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Everyday Kung Pao

Whenever I start chopping vegetables for a stir-fry, which is often, Rick looks at me hopefully, and asks, Kung Pao??? He's so sweet, I hate to say no, but the truth is, my recipe for Kung Powerful Tempeh is a bit labor intensive for a work night. What Rick is really asking for is the flavor of the spicy sauce, and the crunch of peanuts. By swapping out the tempeh for tofu, and skipping the marinating step, this can be a much simpler, faster dish to make. Just mix up the sauce ingredients, chop whatever veggies you have on hand, and make a batch of rice, or stir-fry some leftover rice in with the veggies. A quicker alternative to making rice is to throw on a pot of quinoa. Not only is it a complete protein, it cooks in about 15-20 minutes and tastes great wherever rice is normally used.

OK! So let's have some spicy Kung Pao for dinner tonight! And maybe tomorrow night too. It's that good, and that easy.

Everyday Kung Pao

3 T sesame oil (you can use part hot pepper sesame oil if you have it)
3 T tamari
3 T maple syrup (or agave)
1 T ume plum vinegar (or white or cider vinegar)
3 T grated fresh ginger (or the chopped kind that comes in a jar)
1 lg clove garlic, chopped fine (again, the kind in a jar is good too)
1 T arrowroot powder

Mix sauce ingredients, adding the arrowroot gradually and mixing in well to get the clumps out. Set aside.

1/2-1 cup each: onion, celery, carrot
1-2 cups each: broccoli, greens (kale, chard, spinach, cabbage, etc)

Other Ingredients
1/2-1 package extra firm tofu, crumbled or cut into cubes
1/2-1 cup peanuts
1-2 tsp red pepper flakes to taste
coconut oil for cooking

Heat the coconut oil in a heavy skillet or wok over medium to medium-high heat.
(I use a big cast iron skillet with a glass lid, and on my cheap electric stove, I set it on "6")
Don't let the oil smoke!
Throw in the tofu, peanuts, and red pepper flakes. Stir them around for 1-2 minutes.
Add onion, celery, and carrots, and stir for 1-2 minutes.
Add greens, and stir in till just wilted.
Add broccoli and stir for about 1 minute, until it's bright green.

Pour the sauce over the veggies, but don't stir it yet.
Cover, turn off the heat, and let it steam for 5-10 minutes.
Stir in the sauce to coat the veggies, and serve over rice.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Vegan in Cabo

Living vegan in New Mexico is not quite the same as staying vegan in Old Mexico. I thought it might be challenging to spend a week in Cabo San Lucas with a group of mostly meat-eaters, and although I was right to a certain extent, I actually did really well. We stayed at Solmar, a nice, small-ish all inclusive resort on the quiet side of Cabo, away from the "spring break" beach. This was my first time doing the all inclusive thing, and I really liked it because it made life so simple for us. The service, food, and drinks were great, but it took me a couple of days to figure out how to get what I actually wanted. The menu options for me were kind limited, so I just stuck with what worked, and was okay with it being a little repetitious at the hotel. Trips into town to restaurants were more adventurous.

Most mornings I had fresh fruit, guacamole and chips, and refried beans, no queso. I'll admit, it was kind of weird, but it worked for me. 

One morning I ventured deeper into the menu and tried the chilaquiles, careful to order them without the chicken and cheese. Chefs being decorative creatures by nature, my food came with a lovely squiggle of sour cream over the whole thing. I didn't want to make a big deal out of it. I figured if I sent it back it would probably go in the trash, and that just seemed wrong and wasteful. So I scraped the sour cream off as much as I could, and enjoyed my spicy chilaquiles with salsa verde

Part of our all inclusive deal was fresh sushi made right by the pool each day. They were happy to make veggie rolls for us, which we enjoyed for lunch, usually accompanied by more guacamole. To be honest, I ate buckets of guac on this trip. The best we had was made table-side, at a little place on the Marina called Solomon's Landing. The waiter scooped perfectly ripe avocados into a stone molcajete, and mashed it up with just the right amounts of finely chopped garlic, onion, jalapeño, and cilantro, finishing it off with some freshly ground black pepper, which I'd never thought to add before. It. Was. Amazing...

I had a short list of veg-friendly restaurants to try, but didn't make it to any of them. Rick and I just went wherever the rest of the group wanted to go, and took our chances. We had a really great meal at Mi Casa, which was a bit of a walk from the hotel, but well worth the trip. The place itself is beautiful and quite large, with several dining areas indoors, and a big outdoor patio where we were seated under the stars. Oh, and they made balloon hats for us, which is always a nice touch.

There was a small vegetarian section on the menu, which usually means a lot of cheese. It was easy for me to order the chile relleno without the queso though. What a feast! And see that little inconspicuous enchilada hiding behind the beans? That might have been even better than the relleno. It was a fresh corn tortilla filled with vegetables and nuts. I was feeling very lucky to be me that night, and it wasn't (just) the margaritas talking.

Even though we had the all inclusive meal deal back at the hotel, we still wanted to eat out most nights. Another walk on another evening took us over to the "spring break" side of town, which was actually pretty quiet when we were there. We'd heard good things about a restaurant called The Office, and wanted to check it out. I'm so glad we did. The tables were all out on the beach, and the whole place was lit up in a romantic twinkly way. There was a live band too, which was really nice. I have to warn you though to watch out for the guy called Rambo, who wanders around looking like Pancho Villa, and who's job it is to pour tequila down anyone's throat who is willing to tilt their head back and open wide. It is a spring breaky sort of place...

It was a little too dark for me to read the menu easily, so I got brave this time, and just asked the waiter what he could do for a vegetarian. He rattled off several options, and I picked the vegetable fajitas (no queso, of course), knowing there would be more hot, fresh corn tortillas involved... and guacamole, which I don't think I'll ever get tired of. Not only was this one of the best meals I had on the trip, it confirmed for me that it's a good idea to ask a few key questions in most restaurants, knowing that they have a kitchen full of food, and generally want to please their customers. This is a trick I'll be using more here at home too. Once I'm sure the beans are cooked without lard, and the veggies aren't swimming in butter, there really are a lot of things a vegan can eat in Mexico, or in stateside Mexican restaurants for that matter. 

I'm encouraged. I'm inspired. I'm ready to travel again as soon as I possibly can. Now I have to buy a tortilla press and see if I can get some organic corn flour, so I can learn to make those life changing tortillas. The other thing I want to learn to make is a good molé, which is Rick's favorite. Every time I return from a trip to Mexico, I really wonder why we don't live there. You never know... maybe someday. Maybe mañana.