Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Vegan Running Update

As you may or may not know, my daughter and I are running a half marathon in September. Since I'm doing the whole thing vegan style, I want to talk about it here, as well as on my other blog, TakingTheLongWayHome. This week, as Lauren and I blogged together, I decided to add the following intro to all our posts, so those just finding us will know what's going on. We generally post each Wednesday, and from here on, I'll pop a link on this page too. As I go along, I'll also get more into my "training diet," in case it might be of use to anyone out there. This is quite an adventure for me! Post #7 is ready to read!

Kim and Lauren are a mother/daughter team, training to run the Disneyland Half Marathon in September of 2012. Kim, the the 50-something mom is vegan, and is training at the literally breathtaking altitude of 7,000 feet in Taos, NM. She has never been any kind of athlete before. Lauren, the 20-something daughter, is mostly vegetarian, and is doing her training in Seattle, WA. Running isn't new to her, but distance running is. This weekly blog, written by both of them, documents the journey, and hopefully, will inspire a few others to follow a dream, do something that's harder than they ever imagined they'd do on purpose, and enjoy the entire journey. Find all the entries by visiting TakingTheLongWayHome, and entering "Kim and Lauren" in the "search this blog" box to the left.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Red Curry Lentil Soup

Happy Spring! Dang, it's cold outside! Here in the high desert/southern Rockies of Taos, NM, it looks and feels like winter all over again, with snow and wind and cold, cold air. But the prairie dogs have surfaced, and although they look a little perplexed by the snow, they're still a sure sign that warmer weather will be here soon. Meanwhile, we still need good warming, comforting meals to take the chill off. This Red Lentil Curry Soup is thick and rich and beautiful to look at. My recipe calls for red lentils and red curry paste, but you can also make it with those cute little greenish French lentils and green curry paste.
Red Curry Lentil Soup
1 small yellow onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup frozen corn
2-3 T coconut oil
2 cups uncooked red lentils, sorted and rinsed well
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed well
2 cans coconut milk (the "lite" kind is good, and the regular kind is decadent)
2 cups vegetable broth
1 tsp dry basil
1 tsp red pepper flakes (or more)
1 T tamari
1 jar red curry paste

In a soup pot, heat the coconut oil and saute the onion, celery, and carrots for about 3 minutes. Add the red bell pepper and corn, and saute for another 2-3 minutes. There are two options at this point. One is to remove the vegetables from the pot, and set aside to add back into the soup later. This will give you nice crunchy veggies, which is my personal preference. The other option is to leave the veggies in the pot to cook along with the lentils. I did this last night because we had a baby dining with us, and he can't chew crunchy things yet. Either way is good!

Add the coconut milk, broth, lentils, and quinoa to the pot, along with the basil, red pepper flakes, and tamari. Bring it all to a gentle boil, and then reduce the heat to simmer until the lentils are soft. It should only take about 40 minutes or so. That's why I love these little red lentils. They're quick.

When the lentils are almost done, mix the whole jar of red curry paste with enough water to thin it down a bit, and stir it into the soup. If you set the veggies aside, add them back to the pot now to heat them up. Add salt to taste, and dinner's ready. I wonder if the prairie dogs would like some of this...

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Tofu Chilaquiles

Most mornings around here, it's all about the smoothie, but Sunday is the perfect day for a special breakfast. I had some Easy Mexican Mole Sauce in the fridge from the other day, as well as a few corn tortillas, a block of tofu, and some bits of vegetables that needed to be used up. The obvious thing to make? Tofu Chilaquiles, of course.

This is easy to make, especially if you already have some mole, Cheesy Chile Sauce, or other favorite spicy sauce on hand. If not, a few extra minutes to blend up your own sauce will be well worth the effort. Have your sauce warming gently in a pan while you put the rest of it together. (If you just don't want to deal with the sauce, store bought salsa, Cholula, or Tabasco can fill in.)

Tofu Chilaquiles
(This makes enough for 2-3 people. You can stretch the amount without adding more tofu by adding beans, more tortillas, and other veggies.)

1 block extra firm tofu - pressed
The pressing is optional, but removing some of the water from the tofu makes it easier to brown, and much less splattery when you throw it in the hot oil. You can buy a fancy tofu press (which I intend to do very soon), or you can wrap your tofu in a clean dish towel and put something heavy on top of it for about 15 minutes or so.

While the tofu is pressing, chop up:
1/2 onion
1 jalapeño (optional)
2 cloves garlic
1/2 red bell pepper
2 large handfuls baby spinach
6 corn tortillas

You'll also need:
1/2-1 cup frozen or fresh corn
avocado slices
salt and pepper

In a large skillet, heat a fairly generous amount of oil over slightly hotter than medium heat. I use aroma-free coconut oil. Cube or crumble the pressed tofu into the hot oil, and cook, stirring gently, for a few minutes, until it starts to brown. Throw in the onion and jalapeño. When the onion is softened a little, add the garlic, red bell pepper, and chopped tortillas. Stir gently for a minute or two. Wilt the spinach into the mix, and then add the corn. (If using frozen corn, push everything to the edges of the skillet, and place the corn in the center to thaw before stirring it in. Add salt and pepper to taste, or let everyone season their own at the table.

Serve topped with your choice of sauce (the mole was awesome) and some avocado slices. I can't wait for next Sunday. I think we'll have this again.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Easy Mexican Mole Sauce

I've been eating a lot of salads lately. It's part of my "training" for the half marathon I'm signed up to run in September. I used to be a big grain eater, but I've shifted over to mostly vegetables, with some fruit, some "pseudo grains", like quinoa and wild rice, and very little actual grain at all. I sort of miss my rice english muffins in the mornings, but I can live without them. It's very early in the training, but I'm acting "as if" until I actually look and feel and move more like an athlete.

I almost always have a smoothie for breakfast, and a big salad for lunch, so dinner can be kind of small. I ran across this Mexican Salad with Mole Dressing in a cookbook the other day, and thought it sounded sort of weird, and really good. It was definitely more good than weird, and I'll be adding this to my list of favorite salads. I changed it a bit, using vegetables I had, and added avocado and quinoa to the mix. It would be good with some nice organic tortilla chips crumbled on top like croutons. Find the original recipe in The 30 Minute Vegan by Mark Reinfeld and Jennifer Murray, page 146. If you don't already have this book, I really recommend it. (And, as always, I don't get anything from the author or Amazon if you buy it.)

My husband loved this salad too. He's actually sort of a "mole fiend," and goes a little wild eyed with happiness whenever he can have his favorite sauce on just about anything, including salad. But the salad only got him started, and soon he was hinting about the possibility of some nice mole enchiladas for dinner. I resisted, but eventually caved in. Too much work, I thought, but what the heck. And as it turned out, it wasn't a lot of work at all.

I made the sauce early in the day, combining the salad dressing recipe with another recipe I found on No Meat Athlete for Vegan Chicken Mole. I used bits and pieces from both recipes, took out some oil, added more spice, and came up with a really delightful little mole, all the while keeping in mind that I wanted it to be simple to make, so I can whip some up whenever my sweetie has has a mole craving, and so you won't be too intimidated to try it! Sure, traditional moles are hugely labor intensive, and probably better in a lot of cases. But who wants to spend hours grinding spices by hand? Um, not me. Sometimes it's okay to make life easy. This mole looks like chocolate pudding, and tastes like I want to go off in a corner and be all alone with it... I don't think I'd use this one as a salad dressing, but it's great on enchiladas.

Easy Mole Sauce

In your blender, place, but don't blend:
1/2 cup raw cashews
1 cup vegetable broth
The broth will soak the cashews for a few minutes while you add everything else.

Next add all of the following to the blender:
3/4 cup carob powder (carob is a legume, and contains protein)
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
3 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp chipotle powder
2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
3 T agave syrup or nectar
1/4 cup olive oil
 juice of 1 lime
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes (the tomatoes go on top to keep all the powders from "poofing" out the top of the blender)

Blend until very smooth. Pour as much as possible into a saucepan or bowl.
Add 1/2 cup water to the blender, put the lid on, and shake it up to loosen all the last bits of sauce. Stir the water/sauce into the rest of the sauce, and you won't waste a bit.

Use this mole on enchiladas, over tofu or tempeh, on steamed or stir fried vegetables, or on just about anything else you can think of. I made a pan full of layered enchiladas, with corn tortillas (organic, non-GMO, of course), baby spinach, grated zucchini, chopped walnuts, avocado slices, and Daiya pepperjack. Next time I think I'll go to the little bit of extra effort to roll the enchiladas, for a better ratio of tortilla to filling, and a prettier presentation. Everyone was happy with these though. What a tasty, exotic dish, that we've only had in restaurants before. This mole is a real breakthrough!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Crispy Kale Snacks

I've been seeing recipes for Crispy Kale, or Kale Chips, all over the internet, and in several of my cookbooks. I thought they might be a good substitute for my favorite vegan junk food, those wonderful-awful sea salt and black pepper potato chips. I call them "crack chips." Needless to say, I try to stay away from them.

Yesterday the stars aligned, I had a fridge fill of kale, a little bit of time on my hands, and cookbook that practically opened itself to the Crispy Kale page while I was looking for something else. I really prefer to eat most of my vegetables raw, but these make a great snack, and might be a good way to get something green into some of your picky eaters. This recipe comes from The 30 Minute Vegan, by Mark Reinfeld and Jennifer Murray, on page 86. I changed it only a little bit, to make it easier to mix the seasonings in with the kale.

Crispy Kale Snacks
one bunch curly kale
olive oil
sea salt
nutritional yeast
1 or 2 large baking pans
oven - preheat to 350º
large mixing bowl

Start with a nice big bunch of washed and dried curly kale. My trick for drying greens after a good soak in the sink is to place them in a small mesh laundry bag, and go outside and spin them around and around, about ten swings with each arm. It works like a giant salad spinner, but takes up zero storage space, and also loosens up my shoulders nicely. I just hang the empty bag on a hook on the side of the fridge to dry. We came up with this when we had the pizza shop in Seattle. We'd have pounds of fresh basil to dry at a time, and kept breaking regular salad spinners. The bag worked great, and we entertained passersby with our arm swinging and water flinging in the parking lot.

Back to the Crispy Kale. Preheat the oven to 350º. Tear the cleaned kale off the stems, into smallish pieces (think large potato chips, because they shrink a lot), and place them on a baking sheet in a single layer. You can pack it pretty tight, but will probably need two baking sheets. The first time through, I recommend doing two batches, so you can get the timing right. I cooked my first batch for 15 minutes, and it was overdone. 14 minutes the second time through was perfect.

Slide the pan into the oven, and bake for 12-15 minutes. The kale should be lightly crispy, like perfect fall leaves on the sidewalk, but not too dry or they just turn to dust when you touch them. You want them crispy and green, not grey.

These are a bit overdone.
When they're done, while still on the pan, drizzle them with about 2 T of olive oil, and sprinkle on some nutritional yeast and sea salt. If you have a Misto, it works great for spraying on just enough oil to make the salt and yeast stick. I absolutely adore my Misto. You can get it for ten bucks on Amazon, and I get nothing for sending you there. Get one!

Now place the kale in a large mixing bowl and gently toss with your hands, to mix in the seasonings. That's it. Start snacking. These are tastier than you might think, and while they're not "crack chips," they're certainly better for us than greasy potato chips. I ate a whole bowl full while I decided if I liked them. I guess I do!