Liars, all of them: anyone who tells you interesting vegan meals (or making any meals for that matter) is simple is spinning the yarn

1 Nov

asparagus cover

Hello readers! A great panic has been afflicting me for the past few weeks. As I sit at my desk at work, grooming fancy vegan and vegetarian friendly blogs and websites during my downtime, a wave of panic courses through my veins.  As I skim the list of ingredients necessary to accomplish something so simple as chana masala or stewed beets, I think, sometimes aloud holy f**k, I will never find a Whole Foods, farmer’s market or Fairway on this side of the ocean that sells these products. Surrounded in a swarm of despair that not only will I NOT be able to find all these ingredients before 10PM, but also by the fear that there is little chance that I will execute any of these recipes before midnight.

After having attempted several meals (for which I DID have,  or COULD have procured, ingredients) I came to a stark revelation. Add half an hour to an hour onto the times provided for prep and cooking.  The dirty truth of the matter is this: they are all liars, all bearers of published recipes who claim their dinners can be whipped up easily.  Everyone from Rachel Ray and her damn thirty minute meals to vegan bloggers lying through their teeth about how long it takes to put dinner together.  When they say chives, those chives don’t just materialize from thin air, first you have to buy them, and then you have to slice them and separate those little rings…did they think of that? How about the thirty minutes alone it might take you to wash, peel and chop two large sweet potatoes into 1/2″ thick cubes?!?!? Probably 40 minutes.

The truth my friends, is that once you finish mincing, dicing, slicing and pureeing the myriad ingredients in a given recipe, you still have to go through the various phases of cooking them up.  In this post, I offer several snappy(ier) alternatives to the long winded ten step versions offered online for, what should be, simple foods. While making no claim to quick meals, I offer these simple, whole food, vegan dinners as “quicker” options:

1.) Brussels Sprouts

Not too salty, just the right amount of pepper. Totally perfect.

Not too salty, just the right amount of pepper. Totally perfect.

Do you know how yummy Brussels sprouts can be when you buy them fresh and cook them up just right? Soooo good. Forget your childhood hatred of these golf ball sized greens, doing it up just right in the oven will overwhelm your senses in an instant.  Simply rinse between fifteen and twenty sprouts under cold water, peeling away any overtly loose ends and cut off the harder part of the base. Use extra virgin olive oil or organic oil alternative to coat lightly. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Oven should be at 400 degrees. Roast for anywhere between 15 to 30 minutes depending on how brown you’d like them to get. I like darker, more burnt flavors, the middle stays soft and green no matter what.

2.)  Steamed Broccoli and Roasted Asparagus in Whole Grain Pasta

sometimes it's easy being green.

sometimes it’s easy being green.

Asparagus can be roasted without trouble. Set oven to 400 degrees, check periodically after 15 minutes have passed. Ovens vary, so your asparagus could be fully cooked after 15 minutes or it could need more like 20.  General tip, is that the bottom of the stem should no longer be white and tissue-like. It should start looking a little less “crunchy” so-to-speak.

While your asparagus is cooking, boil some water and cook a half a box of whole grain linguine to taste.  As that cooks, you can steam some fresh broccoli on the second burner.

When pasta is ready, toss with fresh tomatoes, vegan or regular shredded parmesan cheese and fresh ground pepper.  Slice asparagus into quarters and toss in the pasta as well. For extra protein, I would saute some chickpeas in extra virgin olive oil and red pepper flakes and mix those in the pasta as well.

Serve steamed broccoli on the side.

3.)  Baked Zucchini Topped with Tomato and Veggie Cheese

Baked tomato totally floats my boat.

Baked tomato totally floats my boat.

This is so simple and so delicious it shouldn’t be so easy.  Set the oven to 400 degrees. Get together about four small organic zucchini cut them in half and place them on a large oven safe dish or cookie sheet.  Cover with cooking spray or lightly coat in olive oil.  If you’ve got it on hand season liberally with fresh ground pepper and mediterranean herb mix or provence type mix (available at most Whole Foods). Next cover with your cheese of choice. I used GO Veggie, cheese alternative in mozzarella flavor.  After this, slice any tomato you’ve got on hand into medium-small cubes and place on top of the cheese. Bake for about 20-25 mins, again depending on the strength of your oven. When finished prepared to be amazed and to wow your friends…if you plan on sharing.

4.)  Steamed Purple Kale

A perfect fall treat, dark and leafy, so mysterious.

A perfect fall treat, dark and leafy, so mysterious.

I suppose I don’t really need to explain this. I steamed my kale in a medium deep pan, filled with 1/2″ of water and covered partially. I allowed the kale to steam for about 10-15 mins (clearly I can’t recall all that well) on medium heat, testing frequently to check for doneness.

Another fun tip is to use steamed leftovers for kale chips. Turn oven up to the ever popular 400 degrees, season with mesquite flavoring and roast for about 20 minutes. Lowering temp if the chips are roasting too fast on the ends but staying soft in the center.

5.)  Make it fun.

Color everywhere.

Color everywhere.

I don’t pretend to believe it’s easy to come upon good quality colored pasta but I happened to be in a specialty store the other day and came upon some naturally dyed pasta.  I don’t know if I can actually recommend this one, but I had fun making it. I cooked up the pasta and tossed with some olive oil, garlic and basil that I’d sauteed slowly. I added some shiitake mushrooms and sliced cherry tomatoes.

Just for the record, just because it’s a week night doesn’t mean you can’t start throwing what you’ve got on hand together. Sometimes it works.

Belated 5k Update

31 Oct

Having forgotten to update you after my 5k run on Saturday, I now provide this new and exciting information (because I know you were just waiting for it…last I left you I was about to down a plate of gray pasta and purple beets, I report now that they went over well the following morning).

First off, the race in which I “competed” was to benefit a fantastic and really sweet international charity called Zimele. I am so glad I had the opportunity to spend this perfect sunny Saturday with great people who are doing some really good work in this world! You can read more about their efforts to reduce poverty in South Africa here: http://goo.gl/jznE9u

At any rate, despite my protestations to family and friends that this run would be an epic FAIL perhaps in the 30 minutes plus category, I was pleasantly surprised when I clocked in at 24 minutes and 13 seconds! Apart from the fact that this run was small and seemed to attract some really good runners, I still managed to come in around 6th for women and 3rd in my age group. Not too awesome of a 5k time but also…Not too shabby! I still got it, or so I hope.

My attempt at a selfie. No one came to witness my 5k greatness! Therefore I had to document the glory all alone : (

My attempt at a selfie. No one came to witness my 5k greatness! Therefore I had to document the glory all alone : (

Work It Out Wednesday

30 Oct

Today, I start something new. A friend of mine from work does these great and very useful workout itineraries that she’s agreed to let me share with all of you. From this Wednesday on, look forward to a fun and challenging sequence from my favorite online drill sergeant!

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Purple Power Food for Fall 5k

26 Oct

Purple Power Food for Fall 5k

Fall 5K in the a.m. for a great charity supporting poverty relief in South Africa. Tonight’s dinner consisted of one kombucha, a heaping serving of what I call purple pasta and meatballs…aka Black Bean Pasta (so easy to cook) and white vinegar soaked beets (Love Beets are amazing and now available at almost every grocery store). I added a tablespoon of sesame seed oil and some crushed salt and pepper. Amazing, despite the fact it looked like something from a Japanese futuristic sci-fi novel. Wish me luck in the morning, it’s my first competitive run since August!

Vegan Dreams

22 Oct

As a newly married person and as the new adoptive mother of a cat, I’ve been contemplating (and, yes, perhaps obsessing) over what our new little family eats. Not that the cat eats with us, but still having an animal I love in the house causes me to think twice about why people consume animals at all. It’s pretty perplexing and heady stuff.  But I won’t bore you with that brand of thinking in too much detail (I am sure you can log onto the PETA website if you want to get into the whole gory, graphic picture).

In the coming months, I’ll do my best to share some healthy meat-and-dairy free recipes with you.  As I operate on some major time constraints, and run like a madwoman from bed to work and from work to work out and from workout to kitchen and kitchen to bed, I’ll try to keep my suggestions simple.

In that spirit, here’s what worked for me this week:

Pumpkin Red Lentil Soup! I found this recipe while waiting in a doctor’s office recently. I am somewhat ashamed to  admit that I discovered it in the pages of Better Homes and Gardens because I just feel like, you know, I’m not my mother… at least not yet. I mean, my mom is great, and really good looking mom at that, so don’t get me wrong. Nevertheless, I digress. The short of it is: while I think you have to at least be over the age of thirty to get into Better Homes and Gardens, us young folk who don’t yet have a real home or garden to speak of can still learn a thing or two. The soup is amazing, It was fast and easy to make and tasted like something that had been stewing for hours. MAKE IT ANIMAL FREE: Omit chicken stock for a carton of vegetable stock. It tasted just fine to me.

You can view the recipe and video here: http://goo.gl/y8bfKw

Macadamia Pesto:  OMG! This was just so yummy! As you’ll see the recipe calls for half and half and a little bit of parmigiano reggiano.  And, this my friends, is probably the one thing that will always keep me from being a true vegan…Italian cheese.  Perhaps it’s a bit of cognitive dissonance but when I think about European cheeses, especially our family and friends in Italy, I don’t quite get the same factory farm, antibiotic-filled, genetically modified feel as I do when opening a bag of processed dairy products here in the U.S.  Being a little euro-snob, I went for the gusto here and broke the rules. I used some very delicious and oh so rewarding parmigiano.  I did, however, replace the half and half requirement with almond milk. MAKE IT VEGAN: Replace both the milk component and the cheese with dairy substitutes (found here http://goo.gl/slpcNB), although something in me will always feel vegan parmigiano is just as wrong as the powdered crap they sell in the stores.  Also, using whole grain pasta can increase fiber and protein.

   The smell of fresh basil is SO intoxicating.

 Macadamia Nut-Pesto Fettuccine

           Photo from website. Find recipe here: http://goo.gl/nVf7sk

  Black Bean Pumpkin Burgers:  Okayyyyy, so apparently the young woman who curates the amazing alterna-food  website “Sprouted Kitchen” is a better human and cook than I. In my efforts to recreate her delectable black bean burgers, I ended up with a kitchen as messy as a mad scientist’s laboratory, mounds of the “burger” meat stuck to my fingers, in my hair and at one point my cat trampled through the madness of this mayhem…I found him later sitting in a corner meowing and furiously attempting to pluck a lacquered-on layer of pumpkin and bean guts off his pristine coat. Bottom line: THIS WAS A DISASTER for me.  I tried to fry the patties and this is what resulted:

A sizzling disaster underway!

A sizzling disaster underway!

The good news is that while the whole fry-in-coconut oil was an epic fail, I was able to fold this delicious heated paste into the remaining brown rice I’d cooked and it was pretty decently delicious. Nevertheless, I was still pretty sad that I’d failed miserably at bean burgers : (

In the case you feel more talented in the kitchen, you can find all the sprouted goddess’ words of wisdom here:  http://goo.gl/PTZ8qO

Acorn Squash:  We’ve talked about this before, I know, but if you weren’t paying attention, this is a great, hearty fall favorite of mine and it definitely won’t leave you wanting for more. Last I ate one of these I felt like I had swallowed an inflatable pool toy. Acorn squash is simple to cook. Just cut it, gut it, then place the halves in about a quarter to one half inch of water in a brownie pan or other oven suitable container. Let them steam in the oven for about 30 minutes at about 400 degrees. Everyone’s oven is different, so be sure to check. I like to cover my squash with a little foil so it traps in all the steamy water. You can stuff your squash with anything yummy and protein-packed. A good example would be quinoa and any bean of your choice. Sprinkle on some almond or rice-based cheese for extra flavor. Here’s my acorn squash photo, which I may have shared before. Makes me hungry every time I look at it:

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Roasted Tubers:   Here’s another one lifted from the pages of Better Homes and Gardens, but it’s also a good one and really simple.  All that’s required, however, is time and tubers!!! Haha, I crack myself up.  Cut an assortment of rooted  veggies such as red and yellow beets, yams, turnips, carrots and red potatoes plus a medium purple onion for extra  flavor.  Slice into cubes about 1/2 inch thick. Douse them in your favorite extra virgin olive oil and shake in herbs de Provence (dried rosemary, lavender, savory, tarragon, etc).  Heat the oven to about 400 degrees and cover the sheet or  pan.  You’ll need to keep an eye on these but in my experience it can take over an hour to get all the vegetables at the right consistency. This one takes time. I roasted this mix on a Friday night when time was less of an object and I  needed something else to do other than read a book.  The odors that emanate from the oven with this one are so delicious. It will make your neighbors think you’re a regular Martha Stewart, which, of course, we all know you are! At the end, you’ll also want to sprinkle some fresh cracked pepper and salt to enhance the already savory flavors.

Photo credit: saveur.com

Photo credit: saveur.com

Bon Appétit!

Housework infographic

22 Oct

Taken from Fit for 365, I felt I should share this posting…as a newly married person who also works full-time outside the home, I’ve been busting my you-know-what tidying, cooking, cleaning, dusting mopping, scrubbing and screaming. Good to know you can get some exercise doing these awfully banal and soul-sucking chores.

Don’t Throw Away the Oars

26 Sep

So, here’s a short post for you and one in which I’ll share a secret.  I’ve been out of running for at least three weeks now. I’ve been busy, of course. Planning a wedding, getting married, going on a honeymoon, moving, returning to work. It’s been terrible.  My whole rhythm is way out of whack. And, I felt it. Really badly today when I took to the pavement. I barely churned out a 5k which is unlike me. For the past two years running has been such a pleasure, but tonight, it was actually pain. I suppose the experience is a humbling one since, given my half marathon status, I’ve sort of poo poo’ed shorter runs. Why do a run at all if you’re barely going anywhere?

Tonight I realized, it’s the process that really matters.  Sometimes the road will be difficult, but you can’t give up.  Running is a time for introspection as well as fitness. It’s something you can do anywhere without props or an aerobics instructor yelling “just one more rep!” at you.  It’s your time and it won’t always be easy.

I came across this fantastic and telling quote while on the internet earlier today. It’s kind of great when something that happens to you in the morning ends up being a sign, or, at least something to which you feel a need to return later in the day.  It’s so karmic, kismet, whatever you want to call it.  All I know is that, it’s true. As they say on the street, running, like life, is about the journey and not the destination.

If today you were slow, tomorrow you will be faster. If you’re struggling to find shore, sometimes all you can do is keep paddling.

12

Pura Vida, Costa Rica

21 Sep

After celebrating our wedding earlier this month, my husband and I made the wonderful and life-affirming choice to spend our honeymoon in Costa Rica. For those of you who aspire to a healthy lifestyle, even while on vacation, Costa Rica is the perfect location. Although not without shortcomings, as no country on the planet is, the national ethos is one of genuine stewardship ofthe earth. Laws in this truly green nation strictly govern land use, water use and – unlike in the US – everywhere you go there is a place to recycle. We holed up for the most part in a eco-friendly hotel which was nestled on the shores of the Pacific.  With the forested hills behind us and the sea before us, we found time for some serious kayaking, snorkeling and hiking.  On our third day, we traveled out several hours to Bijagua de Upala for some some serious rainforest hiking.  From our base at Heliconias Lodge, we ventured out to several suspended bridges in the canopy where we were able to view a few two-toed sloths, howler monkeys, tropical birds, the tiniest frog I’ve ever seen as well as a collection of curious insects.

Here are a few of our favorite pics:

costa rica

I think we better pass through this one quickly, Indy!

volcano

Not only does Costa Rica have a wind power initiative, but they also use geo-thermal power from their many volcanoes.

crab

One but many. Tiny and adorable sand crabs abound!

frog

The smallest frog.

berries

The mysterious fruits consumed by the Costa Rican two-toed sloth.

landscape

El piasaje.

sloth

I spy a two-toed sloth!

tree

This old thing, just been hanging around for about 500 years or so – no big deal.

rainforest bug

Whoa, bug!

Until next time, pura vida, my friends!

Motivational image #64

26 Aug

Every day is a good day

26 Aug