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 23 of vegan recipe challenge: Houston, we lost a day

After spending one-and-a-half days steeped deep in a workshop on white privilege, race, and equity, it didn’t seem that important to me to post a recipe last night in the grand scheme of things.

Renewing my commitment this morning, I want to return to the coveted protein-filled grain that is quinoa. It’s such a versatile cooking ingredient, and it is JUST so good for you. I won’t dive into the economic and environmental repercussions that Americans have created (as we tend to do) on quinoa-producing countries by hyping up this superfood in our mainstream diet.

From the good folks at Cooking Quinoa, please enjoy this tangy, simple salad for any meal of the week. I did make the mustard from scratch – it is worth it.

Honey Mustard Quinoa Salad
Serves four

mustardSo, so, so good

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups cooked quinoa
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and julienned
  • ½ cup almonds, chopped
  • 1/3 cup Honey Mustard Dressing (bottled or see below)

Instructions
In a medium bowl combine quinoa, cranberries, celery, carrots and almonds. Toss with dressing and serve at room temperature or chilled. Drizzle with additional dressing as desired.

Honey Mustard Dressing

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup honey or agave nectar
  • ¼ cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder OR 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt

Instructions
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until well combined.

Booya. That’s it. Happy Friday, all!

Day 21 of vegan recipe challenge: only 18 more days to go

Admission: taking on this self-imposed challenge to post a vegan recipe through the end of January is not easy for me.

The difficulty doesn’t stem from having access to excllent recipes. It all boils down to time. How I want to spend my time, how I actually spend my time, how I “should” spend my time. As I’ve mused before, I also feel much more burned out sitting in front of a computer these days. I essentially spend my working day basking in the glow of the online realm (the irony of working for the environment – not being in it enough!)

Still, it’s nice to be uncomfortable with meeting deadlines. I still feel that way, at times, with running. This past Sunday’s 14-miler didn’t feel bad physically, but it managed to suck my mental energy out completely. Perhaps it was my overwhelming tiredness of cold weather. Perhaps it was because I managed to get a little lost on the trail. I still completed the run, in my goal pace time. And next weekend’s runs will be better. Challenge is healthy.

In the ode to my lust for all things crunchy, I’m sharing another Oh She Glows recipe that I made with friend Samara for a double date night a few months ago. Cooking with friends is FUN and certainly not done enough. Not only does it make the meal taste even more satisfying, but you have dedicated time to catch-up over chopping onions and making quinoa. I already have additional cooking with friends dates scheduled for this month and hope to add more over the year.

Crispy Quinoa Cakes
Makes 12 cakes
Prep time: 25 minutes; Cook time: 25 minutes
Gluten free; vegan

quinoa cakesPhoto: Angela Liddon, Oh She Glows

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax + 6 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup destemmed and finely chopped kale
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats, ground into a flour (use certified gluten-free if necessary)
  • 1/2 cup finely grated sweet potato
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons finely diced onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon runny tahini paste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons red or white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt, or to taste
  • 3 tablespoons gluten-free all-purpose flour (I used King Arthur) or regular all-purpose flour
  • red pepper flakes, to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Mix the ground flax and water in a small bowl and set aside for 5 minutes or so to thicken.
  3. Combine all ingredients together in a large bowl, including the flax mixture and the 1.5 cups cooked quinoa. Stir well until the mixture comes together. Don’t forget the flour because it helps bind the patties.
  4. Shape mixture into 1/4-cup patties with wet hands. Pack tightly so they hold together better. Place on baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes, then carefully flip cakes, and bake for another 8-10 minutes until golden and firm.
  6. Cool for 5 minutes on the sheet and then enjoy!
  7. Store leftovers in a container in the fridge for up to 5-6 days. To reheat, preheat a skillet over medium heat, add a bit of oil, and cook patties for about 3 minutes per side, or until heated through.

Tips: 1) To cook quinoa, rinse 1 cup uncooked quinoa in a fine mesh strainer. Place quinoa in a medium pot and cover with 1 1/2 cups water. Bring to a low boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and then cover with a tight fitting lid. Simmer covered for 14-17 minutes until most of the water is absorbed and the quinoa is light and fluffy. Remove from heat, fluff with a fork, and then place lid back on to steam for another 4-5 minutes. Note that this makes almost 3 cups of cooked quinoa and you only need 1 1/2 cups for this recipe, so you will have leftover quinoa (which is never a bad thing if you ask me!).

2) To make oat flour, add the oats into a high speed blender and blend on the highest speed until a fine flour forms. You can also use store-bought oat flour if desired.

We paired these cakes with a salad (if my memory recalls correctly), which provided a nice balance. Have you ever “cooked with friends”? Would you?

Day 17 of vegan recipe challenge: time to warm up

For those of you not in the States or who live somewhere where “cold” equates to below 60F, send the majority of this country your temperatures. At this exact moment, I don’t actually now how cold it is outside. I would like to live in this veil of ignorance for a bit longer before the biting, bitter reality hits.

So let’s think warm thoughts.

And to me, warm thoughts start in a bowl. A soup bowl, that is. Today’s recipe comes from Kellie Anderson’s blog Food To Glow, and it is super (and not solely because it was indicated as an ideal accompaniment to a Super Bowl celebration, and in her case, introducing this epic-Americana event to a foreign crowd).

Black Bean Quinoa Chili
Serves 4 to 6

blackeanPhoto credit: it’s ALL Miss Kellie Anderson

1 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 medium sweet potato, scrubbed and small dice
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 red or green pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
2 bay leaves or 2 kaffir lime leaves (I use 2 whizzed up lime leaves)
1 ½ tbsp mild chili powder (the kind that is a blend)
1 heaped tbsp dried oregano
2 tsp ground cumin
3  400g (14.5 oz) tins of black beans, drained but not rinsed
1 400g (14.5 oz) tin of good quality tomatoes, or 4 tomatoes, chopped
2 heaped tbsp sundried tomato paste OR ketchup
Light vegetable stock, about 1 litre (4 ¾ cups)
85g (1/2 cup) quinoa, rinsed (or 1 cup cooked quinoa)
Handful of thinly sliced cabbage or kale – optional

1. In a large saucepan sauté the onion in the oil for about five minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened.

2. Add the garlic, sweet potato, celery and red or green pepper and sauté, stirring as needed, for a further five minutes (to cook down the harder vegetables).

3. Stir in the bay/lime leaves, chili powder, oregano and cumin. Let this cook for a minute before adding two-thirds (eg two tins) of the beans, the tomatoes, tomato paste or ketchup, quinoa and three-quarters of the stock. Bring it to the boil and then turn down to simmer for 15 minutes. If you are using the cabbage/kale, add this towards the end unless you want it well-cooked.

4. While the chili is cooking, blend the remaining cooked beans to a puree with a hand blender, or similar. Add into the chili and carry on simmering for a further five minutes. If you want it a bit thinner – more like a soup – add the rest of the stock.

5. Let the chili sit for a few minutes then taste for seasoning and heat – adjusting as you prefer. Remove the bay leaves or lime leaves before serving warm but not hot, with guacamole, Greek yogurt/soured cream, chopped cilantro/coriander and or lime wedges.

This chili reheats very, very well although if allowed to sit overnight you may wish to add a dash more vegetable stock or water to make up for the absorbency of the quinoa.

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Enjoy, Americans and non-Americans alike! I used canned black beans because she calls for a no-rinse, but that should not preclude you from punching in your dried bean ticket.

Warming Up From the Inside Out

In case you were hibernating in an underground lair last week, the majority of our country experienced the still trending Polar Vortex. I experienced the coldest temperatures ever as an adult: a high of 27F. How to counter the chill of Jack Frost outside of continual transitions between hot baths and nestling up to the space heater? Make warm, delicious comfort food. Last week had two new gems for dinner entrees:

1) Spicy Vegan Black Bean Soup via Cookie + Kate

IMAG1172Mmmmm…

This was an easy, relatively quick dinner to make during the week. My soup isn’t quite as dark in color as the one pictured in the blog due to using homemade black beans instead of canned. This did affect the overall seasoning profile; I will be sure to add more if I use homemade beans in the future. I would also puree less of the soup than I did in the first batch – I love the chunks of carrots, beans, onions, and celery. We paired it with a slice of crusty Italian loaf from Guglhupf Bakery here in Durham.

2) Chipotle Quinoa Sweet Potato Tacos via Half Baked Harvest

IMG_20140108_190430Didn’t I just see those toppings…?

After having some overwhelming, tear-induced experiences with chipotles in adobo, I was a bit gun shy at first with the recipe. TWO minced peppers? And one tablespoon sauce? AND cayenne? Well, I opted to leave the cayenne out, which was great because this recipe did  boast a nice, robust heat (but no tears – only when I was done with my plate because I wanted to inhale more). This recipe is SUPER filling and made more than we anticipated. I did not make her Roasted Cranberry Pomegranate Salsa, but I will. Oh yes, I will.

In other fun cooking exploration in the last few days, I attempted making homemade Lara bars via 100 Days of Real Food. Since I absolutely adore anything cashew, I opted to make the bars with 1 cup cashews, 1 cup dates, 1/4 cup peanut butter, and 1 – 2 tablespoons water (i used 2). Now, this recipe SAYS it makes 12 bars. Square bars. After whipping this up in the food processor, I was shocked to feel how oily the mash had become – much more difficult to form into squares than anticipated. So, I made bars more similar to the packaged Lara bars and cut them in half. I think they are delicious, and it is great to have just a small pick me up to grab before working out. Currently, I open a Lara bar and break it into two, saving the other half for the next day.

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Jump into the pool!

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It’s getting there…

IMAG1178Awww..hey little bar (and penguin blanket – I swear, it’s my cats….right)

IMAG1180Or…not….

What are your comfort dishes on those blustery winter days?