Memories of tuna melts reborn

Confession: I loved me some tuna sandwiches growing up. Cracking open the can of Albacore, smashing in mayo (shifting to yogurt as I grew older), garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and pickles. Piling up this goodness in between two slices of freshly toasted bread.

homer
And then, I took it up one notch: the tuna melt. A slice of Muenster or Provolone, swaddling that tuna surprise for a successful plate to mouth interaction. Crunch.

In the pursuit of veganism, I had not yet come across a recipe that evoked the same flavors (and nostalgia) of those original tuna sammys.Chickpeas were part of the equation, and I had enjoyed several varieties of chickpea salad sandwiches on wraps and over greens. Flipping through my Isa Does It cookbook, I came across the Chicky “Tuna” Salad recipe, and lo and behold, this was exactly what I was desiring:

tunarecipe
Dulse flakes? This was new territory for me. As I scoured the international shelf at Whole Foods, I stumbled across several “vegetables of the sea” – all of which had odors reminding me of the aquarium section at a pet store. I did pick up a back of Dulse flakes because I really wanted that fishy quality for this particular dish. How else could I capture the tuna-esque aroma?

chicky saladMmmmm…flaky Dulse goodness.

Chicky ‘Tuna’ Salad Sandwiches
Makes 6 sandwiches

Ingredients:
1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained (1 ½ cups)
1 large carrot, peeled
1 rib celery, leaves removed
¼ medium white onion
½ cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup vegan mayo
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon kelp or dulse flakes (optional)
¼ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
12 slices whole-wheat bread, toasted
Lettuce, sliced tomato and/or sprouts for topping (optional)

Preparation:
You have a couple of options. You can make this up in a food processor or by hand. I opted for the food processor:

Cut the carrot and celery into a few large chunks (5 or so). Add them to the food processor, along with the onion. Pulse until everything is chopped, but be careful not to puree. The veggies should range from pea-size to chickpea-size, more or less. Transfer to a large bowl, scraping the work bowl with a rubber spatula to get as much out as you can, but it doesn’t have to get totally clean.

Pulse the chickpeas and sunflower seeds in the food processor to mash them. They should remain somewhat chunky, with bits of whole chickpea left, not pureed like hummus. Transfer to the bowl and combine with veggies.

Add the mayo, vinegar, seaweed flakes (if desired), salt, and pepper, and mix well.

By hand preparation:
Use a mini potato masher or a strong fork to mash the chickpeas in a large bowl. They should retain some of their texture and not appear pureed. On a cutting board, finely chop the carrot, celery and onion into just about pea-size pieces. Add the veggies to the mashed chickpeas and mix until combined.

Spread the sunflower seeds in a single layer on the cutting board and chop roughly. Add them to the bowl.

Add the mayo, vinegar, seaweed flakes (if desired), salt and pepper, and mix well. Taste for seasoning. Use to make sandwiches with the bread, including optional toppings as desired.

Enjoy!

The next running adventure in the works?

With just over two weeks left until tackling my second marathon, this happened:

Chi marathon_application
After an initial burst of interest in entering the Chicago Marathon lottery, I began to have second thoughts. If I was selected to register, did I want to undertake another 3+ months of marathon training in the summer? With a mid-October race date, this means some high mileage runs in August and September. In North Carolina. August in North Carolina is not pleasant. You can make a case for pleasant training in September, but not August. It’s one of those months where if I could sit in a pool surrounded by fans and drinking agua frescas delivered to me, I would be ok with that. It’s the month of stache sweat and the unyielding sensation of wanting to shower.

As I was mulling over my decision with my friend Jen during our lunch date last week, she said: “Look, enter the lottery. If you get picked, then you’ll know you were meant to run it.” Jen’s reliance on fate argument won be over.

Back in current pursuits, I completed by LAST long run one week ago:

longrun
Today is only a 12 miler (only!) and the mileage continues to spiral down. I’m actually REALLY excited about this race. Not only does it involve visiting and experiencing two incredible cities (Asheville and Knoxville) but I genuinely want to tackle these 26.2 miles with abandon. I want to re-engineer the memories of have after the 2012 marathon. Bad thoughts of a rainy race day have begun to creep into my mind – but since I have on control over the weather (this is a huge admission here, folks), as we like to say:

“It is what it is.”

I really dislike that phrase. OF COURSE IT IS.

What will I do with my Sundays back, for at least a few months? The possibilities are endless!

Likely one of these things:

computerLet’s be real: this is likely taking the lead.

booksSo many books to read. So little time,

thewireSo close to finishing Season 4!

Question for you: When you have free time, what do you find yourself doing? Is it what you want to be doing?

A twist on a classic Irish dish

Move over corned beef and cabbage, there’s a new addition to the March 17 menu. And this one hails from South of the Border.

PPKpiePhoto courtesy of Post-Punk Kitchen

Because by now you should know that my photos do not look anywhere near as mouth-watering as those. It is on my list to take a photography class, and now I see one of our local kitchen supply stores (Whisk) is offering a food photography class. This might need to be on my to-do list.

Back to the meal: this particular recipe falls under the Sunday Supper section in Isa Does It as it is a little more labor intensive than the weeknight stir-fry/salad/sandwich/broiled tofu concoction. With that said, it was worth every minute. And, it made 8 servings, so I was finishing this up five days later. And: it was still as good.

Tamale InnardsFiesta!

I have always had a soft spot for Shepherd’s Pie. My roots do trace back to an Irish clan (the O’Connells), and the women in our family seem to resemble Irish potatoes as we age, so it seems appropriate to prepare one of my homeland’s classics. Although, as I learned doing three minutes of research on Wikipedia, this dish was initially called Cottage Pie (1791) when the potato was first introduced as the crop to eat…if you were poor. Essentially, the “recipe” called for whatever meat you had left over, and then throwing potatoes on it. It evolve into Shepherd’s Pie in 1877 when the main meat used was lamb – not beef.

The “meat” used in this dish requires no shepherd – except your arm holding a fork and bringing this food to your mouth. The combination of beans, poblano chili, onion, tomato, mushrooms, corn, and tortilla chips (plus all those amazing spices) has such a complex and rich flavor. And thne, it’s topped with LIME-infused red potatoes. The lime flavor is subtle but noticeable and draws this entire dish together. Oh! I can’t wait to make this again. Add it to your Sunday meal planning! St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner. Time for Katie’s terrible photography skills:

sp1Always know – it tastes better than I could ever capture on my cell phone

From my ancestors to you, Éirinn go Brách! [Ireland forever]

Tamale Shepherd’s Pie
Post-Punk Kitchen (Isa)

Serves 8
Time: 1 hour || Active time: 30 minutes

For the mashed potato layer:
2 1/2 lbs unpeeled red potatoes, cut into big chunks (1 1/2 inches or so)
1/2 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk, at room temperature
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 scant teaspoon grated lime zest
3/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

For the stew:
2 tablespoons olive oil (plus extra)
1 onion, diced medium
1 poblano pepper, seeded, diced medium
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz mushrooms, cut in half and sliced 1/4 inch thick or so
1 cup lightly packed cilantro, chopped
1 1/4 lbs plum tomatoes (about 6), chopped
1/2 cup corn (fresh or frozen)
1/4 cup dry red wine
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 ounces tortilla chips (about 4 good-sized handfuls)
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons Frank’s red hot hot sauce (plus extra for serving)
3 cups cooked black beans (2 15 oz cans rinsed and drained)

Place potatoes in a pot and submerge in salted water. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat to simmer and cook for about 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.

Drain potatoes and immediately transfer them back into the pot. It’s important to do this while everything is still hot. Give them a quick preliminary mash, then add the milk, olive oil, lime zest and salt. Mash until creamy, taste for salt, then cover and set aside. (Note: I usually add black pepper, but decided not to here so that the lime really shines through. If you feel naked without it, though, go ahead and add some.)

To prepare the stew:
Preheat a large, heavy bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Saute onion and pepper in olive oil and a pinch of salt, until peppers are softened, about 10 minutes. In the meantime prep all your other ingredients.

Add garlic and saute until fragrant, 30 seconds or so. Add mushrooms and cilantro and cook until the mushrooms have released a lot of moisture, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, corn, wine, salt, cumin and red pepper flakes. Turn heat up and cover the pan, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes. The tomatoes should break down and become saucy (if corn was frozen it may take a bit longer.)

Now take the tortilla chips and crush them into fine crumbs with your hands. It’s ok if there are a few bigger pieces, but aim for crumbs. Add them to the stew and mix well. Since tortillas can be salty, wait until they’re added to taste for salt. Mix in the lime juice and hot sauce, then fold in the black beans and heat through. Now taste for salt and seasonings.

To assemble:
Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a deep 11×13 casserole (cooking spray works just fine). Transfer the stew to the casserole and even it out with a spatula. Add the potatoes in dollops, and spread it into an even layer.

Place in oven and bake for about 25 minutes, until potatoes are lightly browned. Stick under the broiler for a minute or two just in case the browning isn’t happening. Serve hot garnished with cilantro, chili peppers and lime.

Photo from Post-Punk Kitchen

#BeCrueltyFree Week: 10 Under $10 for Your Beauty Bag

Need ideas for how to shift your personal care products? Here are some fabulous ideas!

The Friendly Fig

By now, you all know that the three of us are big supporters of the #BeCrueltyFree campaign. So… you can imagine how excited we were when we were asked to participate in this year’s #BlogForBunnies for #BeCrueltyFree Week!

#BeCrueltyFree Week is a global awareness raising week where everyone joins in to make some noise about cosmetics cruelty, promote fab cruelty-free brands, and tell people about how they can support the campaign to end cosmetics cruelty in our country or globally. I thought now would be a great time to go over some affordable cruelty-free options. It’s NOT hard to #BuyTheBunny!

What’s in your vegan beauty bag? For me, I carry the essentials: lip balm, lip color, blush, liner, concealer, and mascara. If I wanted to go all crazy-Mary-Poppins-style, I would carry nail color, powder, hand lotion, face wipes… the works!! But I like to keep it simple.

We’ve found…

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Airport etiquette (an oxymoron?)

In pursuit of professional development (and crossing off another city from Aaron’s travel bucket list), we ventured to Austin, TX so I could attend the 2015 Nonprofit Technology Conference (#15NTC) – I will geek out on this experience in a future post.

While we didn’t fly out together on this particular trip, Aaron and I often watch (and lament) our fellow passengers throughout the entire air travel process. I admire (but don’t envy) people who spend a great deal of their time traveling through the friendly skies. Because, from my experience, these skies are not so friendly. And, they certainly do not offer the opportunities to see humanity act in its finest form.

Why is that? What about boarding a metal cage with wings and some inflatable sides causes people to turn from this:

niceairplane

to this:

angryairplane

Is it the confined space? The narrow aisles? The layovers? Hangovers? Or, is it simply because this type of activity fully reveals that most of us are selfish creatures who lack empathy and awareness? Aaron opined about our travels last year during a particularly time-crunched deplaning opportunity. One of the flight attendants kindly asked folks who didn’t have a connection to “stay seated, allowing those passengers with connections the opportunity to exit the plane quickly.” Take a wild guess how many people stayed seated on that flight?

Maybe I’m being unfair. I don’t travel by air that often – about five to six times a year, on average. I acknowledge that my experiences wouldn’t qualify as valid data for a research project. But, there’s just something that seems to emerge from even the arguably most practical people upon entering an airport.

Airport travel can be stressful, especially for those of us who like to control situations. You essentially surrender your control in order to fly. This may explain why people are so unwilling to give up even more when asked. For example, because most flights are booked to the gills, overhead bin space becomes a premium. And, if you are not in the first or second boarding group, your bag may not find a home. To counter having to check bags during the board process, airlines have moved towards offering checking your bag at the gate – a great way to circumvent baggage fees (unless you fly Southwest because they still rock the “bags fly free” motto).

Each time I have witnessed this plea from the gate attendants, I see so few people take advantage. Yes, if you check a bag, you will have the additional step of retrieving it at your final destination, which may add another 7 to 10 minutes to your journey. But, how much time will you delay the boarding process if you’re that person who just can’t find a spot to put your bag? Or, the person who starts manipulating items already in the overhead bin in order to make space for theirs? “Oh, I’m sorry sir – can you actually put your bag under your seat? My enormous duffle needs to fit up here.”

I realize this post may be verging on the petty, but I think I just feel an overwhelming sense of disappointment, as I often do when I see a chance for people to put others ahead of them. It’s more than just not checking a bag or staying seated when others are trying to make flights. It’s the avoiding eye contact with people boarding, internally begging them not to sit in that open seat next to you. It’s the carrying on loud conversations in confined spaces on topics not needing to be shared by the public. It’s allowing your children to watch movies with no headphones. If I have to hear that Dora the Explorer song again, I’m pulling that chute.

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What have your air travel experiences been like?

Six things I am crushing on this week

To start with a bit of cruel irony: after noting in my post yesterday that I had yet to succumb to slipping on ice during any training runs, I was four-tenths of a mile into my 8 mile run and…you guessed it:

polarbear

I ate it. Luckily, I performed the classic Hollywood fall of my legs flying up in the air and landing on my butt.

After a quick curse word and a double-check of all limbs, I proceeded on to knock out the remaining 7.6 miles amid much more ice. It was a very jilted run in regards to my route – a lot of U-turns. And, sadly, this morning’s freezing rain will be pushing my run today to…this afternoon? To the “wish I could” history books? It’s March. It’s time for spring.

I feel compelled to touch on a variety of topics this morning, so I have opted for the infamous list post in order to fulfill my own whims. From literature to legumes, here are six things I am crushing on this week:

#1: Chickpea cutlets from Post Punk Kitchen

chickpea cutletsLike mini-chickpea burgers of love

In need of something meaty, crunchy, and delicious? These cutlets – with their hint of lemon – will rock your world. They are easy to make and require few ingredients: chickpeas (duh), wheat gluten, bread crumbs (I use Panko), some thyme/paprika/garlic/sage, a little lemon zest, soy sauce, olive oil – BOOM! You have a chewy plant-based steak. I have fried them both times (it’s all about that crunchy, baby), but baking the cutlets in the oven is an option as well. You can find the recipe here.

#2: Hot jams: Ibeyi, “Ibeyi”

ibeyiPhoto via NPR’s All Songs Considered blog

Twin sisters Lisa-Kaindé Diaz and Naomi Diaz first blew my musical mind on NPR’s First Listen with then soon-to-be-released album Ibeyi. Their playful, sensual, and haunting French-Cuban ballads are enhancing and evocative. I immediately pre-ordered the album, which is NOW available for your listening pleasure! Right now, I have “Ghosts” on repeat, which is the third track.

#3: Sold – Patricia McCormicksoldPublished back in 2006, this novel explores the horrific world of child trafficking, in particular from Nepal to India. Through the eyes of Lakshmi, a 13-year old Nepalese girl, we journey with her as she is sold into the sex industry by her stepfather as his gambling habits have netted the family a debt they can no longer pay with their crops. It’s written in almost a verse format – short bursts of text tracing Lakshmi’s experience, her naivete, and her realization of her new reality. The novel is raw and unapologetic in telling her story – as is the story of thousands of young women in this part of the world. I highly recommend reading it, as it will educate and anger the reader (well, it did me). This was in my 2015 reading stack, and it was one I had difficulty putting down.

#4: Another glorious Costco find – red lentil pasta!

RotiniOh Costco – you did it again! Chocked full of protein and fiber, this red lentil pasta proved to be an excellent substitute to the standard durum flour variety. It doesn’t boast any overpowering flavor. We topped the noodles with a marinara sauce one night and a peanut/ginger curry a few nights later. Great texture and very filling.

#5:  Dreaming of house decorating

After abandoning Pinterest for the last month or two, I jumped back in headfirst on a quest to find barn doors. When Aaron first mentioned these as an idea to close off our dining room, I was a little on the fence. Barn doors? This coming from the woman who had burlap a plenty at her wedding, I know. But, I am now 150% on the hunt for a barn door-esque look for our dining room. Here are some that I have just fallen in love with:

barndoor4I also love the fact La Croix is in this photo

barndoor3Likely no animal head behind our future door…

barndoor2Does the dog come with the door?

barndoor1It just screams GREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEN

#6: The powerful medium that is Twitter

10997993_10153130210988249_4152386152041585327_n
Yes, tweeting road conditions in the Triangle may earn you five seconds of fame too. Twitter – from questioning dress colors (which I honestly did not follow nor care to follow) to breaking international news to chronicling a llama escape – this social media platform continues to amaze and bewilder me.

Alright, those are six things that I am sharing with you. Would you be kind enough to share something YOU are crushing on with me?