Can someone turn up the A/C, please?

Mornings like these are hard.

I’m not sure of the exact temperature, but believe me: it’s a swamp out there. Even starting these weekend runs before the sun emerges doesn’t free me from the vice grip of humidity.

Observe:

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Post-run “glow” with AT photobomb

8 miles at 7:55/mile in the books. I have tempo runs sketched out on Saturdays, aiming for between 8 – 8:30/minute mile, and I save those big, juicy long runs for Sundays. Tomorrow is a 17-miler. Ugh. Even typing that hurts. Fortunately, two treats await me for tomorrow’s trek. First, it is supposed to be cooler. Second, AJT will be joining me on the trail, cruising alongside (and likely in front of) me on his bike.

As much as I enjoy the solo aspect of running, it can get lonely on those lengthier runs. I have tried to incorporate podcasts for entertainment and learning, but my propensity to sweat makes keeping headphones in my ears nearly impossible. I have yet to find a pair that sticks (if you have recommendations, I’m all ears — ha! No seriously, I am.)

It has been awhile since I’ve posted a recipe, and I have found a few gems as of late. Between my overextended life, many meals this summer have been born from frozen vegetables, pressed tofu, and some sort of stir-fry marinade. I’m not complaining – I could eat stir-fry nearly every day. But, cranking oven the stove and frying in the wok are not pleasant when it’s 5,000F. Really. I’m not exaggerating.

Enter this:

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Hello, darling.

Almost too pretty to eat, no? No. It’s so worth eating. Served cold, this quinoa-black bean salad can be tossed over greens, thrown in a wrap, topped with seitan or baked tofu or whatever floats your boat.

Black bean, quinoa, and red pepper salad with honey-lime vinaigrette

Serves 4 – 6 

1 cup quinoa

1 can black beans, drained, or 2 cups cooked black beans

1 red bell pepper (or 1/2 red pepper, 1/2 orange or yellow pepper), diced

1 tsp minced jalapeno (optional – and heck, I added the entire jalapeno! Seeded, of course)

1 scallion, finely chopped

2 tsp honey or agave nectar (I opted for the nectar)

1/2 lime

2 tsp rice vinegar

2 tsp canola/vegetable oil (I used grapeseed)

Pinch of salt, or as needed

Directions:

1) Rinse quinoa in a strainer. Add to saucepan with 2 cups of water. Bring to boil over high heat, reduce to simmer and cook, about 15-20 minute or until water is absorbed and quinoa is fluffy. (If you have a rice cooker, take advantage of using it to cook your quinoa!)

2) Add cooked quinoa to a mixing bowl with black beans, bell pepper, jalapeno, and chopped scallion.

3) In a small jar, combine honey/agave nectar, lime juice, rice vinegar, and vegetable oil. Add a pinch of salt. Put the lid on the jar and shake to emulsify the dressing. Taste, adjust seasoning as needed (should be a bit tart). Pour dressing on quinoa mixture. Toss to distribute dressing evenly.

4) If you are not serving right away, toss salad again before serving and adjust seasoning (dressing will absorb into the quinoa and the salad might need more moisture if it sits for awhile).

My moment of zen

In hindsight, I would not do this again. BUT, on Wednesday, I drove out and back to Asheville (7 hours in the car – what what!). During my brief stay in the beautiful mountain town, I had a chance to sit in one of my favorite places, Green Sage Cafe, enjoy a cup of coffee and a vegan peanut butter cookie while I cleaned data in a spreadsheet.

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If you have to clean data in a spreadsheet, it’s nice to have a cookie to go along with it.

 

 

Day fifteen of vegan recipe challenge: dip set

Dips: not just for killer triceps. Dips can make a meal. Let me rephrase: dips can BE a meal. And in our house, they have come through on those “I just can’t fathom cooking” nights. Last night was one of those for sure.

When I’m feeling fancy (or have extra green in my bank account), I splurge on the best hummus in the market. Yes, bold statement. But, I’m prepared to back it up with multiple primary sources (aka all the friends who have tasted this sweet nectar of the gods).

Let me introduce you to Roots, an Asheville-based company (eat local), who knows how to elevate hummus to new levels [they refer to themselves as the micro-brew of hummus – how much better could it get?!]

1921075_552270924904507_5034779069687916224_oBehold – the mecca of chickpea bliss

If I had to choose, I would select the Mango Srircha as my favorite with the Thai Coconut Curry as a close second. There are still several from the hummus family I have yet to try (2015 resolution!)

But, if you either don’t live in North Carolina or would rather make something up yourself, I’ve got two go-to dip recipes for those nights where some veggies, pita, crackers – whatever you want – serve as the main utensil for getting the goodness from your plate to your mouth:

First up, from Robin Robertson in Quick-Fix Vegan, welcome Moroccan Pumpkin Hummus:

Moroccan Pumpkin Hummus
Makes about 2 cups
Pumpkin-Hummus1Photo of her masterful creation by THE Robin Robertson!

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon sugar (which I often omit)
2 tablespoons tahini
1 cup home-cooked or canned chickpeas
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon chopped pistachios, for garnish (optional, but so nice!)

Directions: Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, ginger, coriander, cinnamon, allspice, turmeric, cayenne, and sugar and cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the tahini and chickpeas, then remove from the heat. Stir in the pumpkin, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and process until smooth. Transfer to a shallow serving bowl and sprinkle the pistachios on top. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until needed.

Ready for number two? I used the Simple Veganista’s Simple White Bean Hummus recipe as a base and threw in a couple of other ingredients to make an homage to one of my favorite dips growing up: the onion dip (pass me the Ruffles!)

White Bean “Onion” Dip
Makes about 2 cups
Adapted from The Simple Veganista’s Simple White Bean Hummus

Ingredients

  • 1 can cannellini beans (15 oz), drained and rinsed
  • 2 heaping tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of 1 or 2 lemons
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 -3 tablespoons of dried chopped onion
  • 2 -3 teaspoons of ground black pepper
  • a couple twists of himalayan salt grinder
  • a couple tablespoons of water as needed to thin

Directions: Put ingredients (except water) in food processor or blender and let ‘er go to town. Add water in if you want to thin the dip. Stop and taste along the way to see if you need more salt, pepper, onion. For best flavor, I would let this sit in the fridge as long as you can because the flavors marry so well overnight. Mmmmmm!

Until then, let me see you dipset:

“Of course!”

A lot has happened since my last post. On this path toward full “adulthood,” I’ve stepped on the accelerator more than I could have imagined.

Let’s start with our new relationship status: ENGAGED! It was inevitable (fortunately, as it’s all I had hoped for) yet I was still surprised last Friday, October 25 during our visit to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville when Aaron asked THE question here:

TheSpot

The (brief version) of the full story: We had this weekend getaway planned for several months – a relaxing three days of Asheville and Brevard, full of a tour at the Biltmore House, several hikes in Brevard, and of course, some of our favorite (and new) beer haunts. We left Durham early Friday morning and arrived at the Biltmore Estate by 10:30am. After touring the house with our audio guides, we had a wonderful lunch out at Cedric’s Pub in Antler Village (made the butternut squash and kale risotto vegan!), a nice walk around the farm, tasted wines from the Biltmore Winery, and wandering the shops, Aaron asked if we could go back to the house for a few more photos. It was true – we had not taken many photos of the house upon our arrival since we were hyper-focused on starting the tour before the crowds expanded. So, we drove around the Estate, parked, and walked up to said balcony. At first, there were other folks near us taking photos. And then, they all disappeared. Before I knew it, Aaron was down on one knee (here is where I blacked out), and when the infamous question tumbled out of his mouth, my response was: “Of course!” Ring

it was perfect. We were able to be together, just the two of us, and blissfully love on one another and the progression of our relationship over the last (almost) three years. Then, once we cried, laughed, and glowed, we were able to share the news with family and friends. And, without a doubt, take our celebration to the most logical of places:BurialBeer

Thank you, Burial Beer, for providing the backdrop for our first toast of our engagement. The rest of the weekend was full of a celebratory air, which made it even more special. We spent the remainder of Friday in Asheville, visiting White Duck Taco (yum!) and Wedge Brewery (the Community Porter was on point). Then, we traveled to our hotel in Brevard, where we awoke Saturday morning (when it was 26 degrees outside – WHAT?!) to hike Looking Glass Rock – a challenging hike but paid off in dividends upon reaching the top:LookingGlassRock2

Post hike, we wandered into downtown Brevard for the town’s Halloween festival, watching a pumpkin roll and grabbing lunch at local restaurant Mayberry’s. Not a surprise, but a trip to Oskar Blues was a definite post-lunch, and the Cinnamon Coffee Porter I started with about blew my socks off:

oskarblues

Post adult bevvies included watching some Tennessee football and napping (the essence of true vacation living) and then another adventure into downtown for our engagement dinner at The Square Root after trying out Brevard Brewing Company (pretty middle of the road).

The final day of the weekend brought an incredible hike in Dupont State Forest involving three waterfalls – Hooker Falls, Triple Falls, and High Falls. (shown below):

HighFalls

To cap off just a beautiful time together, we stopped for lunch at one our favorite Asheville eateries: Green Sage CafeGreenSage

Citrus Kale Bowl for the win.

Whew! So now, it’s wedding, wedding, wedding focus. Pinterest boards are exploding. Aaron and I are thrilled and excited to share our special day with all those who have brought such love, friendship, and support to our lives. More to come in other pursuits, including new home, another half-marathon, and new vegan recipes. For now, cheers!