The Plan. (& bbl until after Thanksgiving.)

There’s no way I’ll be blogging during or immediately after Thanksgiving. So I bid several days adieu as I embark on the reintroduction process, beginning on Thanksgiving day.

I’m going with soy. It was a tough decision – could’ve done corn and made cornbread stuffing, or nuts on everything, or alcohol for some good old fashioned boozy-cider-and-wine-time. But I choose soy.

My plan is to make some soy-banana nog, a vegan pumpkin pie cheesecake, a baked orange-ginger tempeh dish, and to throw some soy milk into mashed parsnips. I’ll let you know how all of that goes in a week or so when I catch my breath.

Thanksgiving seems like a huge deal to me, being a foodie – and a veg foodie at that – because the challenge of making delicious dishes (of all my favorite foods, btw) is like… too great a thrill. Especially finding savory ways to circumnavigate meat-heads. It is the perfect veg holiday. BRING IT.

Here is the (possible, and arbitrary) order for reintroduction plan:

1. Soy

2. Peanuts

3. Wheat/gluten

4. Oats

5. Dairy

6. Eggs

7. Coffee/caffeine

8. Alcohol

Those are the big ones – the more common allergens/”distressors” (<- not a word apparently?), and things I eat more frequently.

If I need to continue to dig, I will also explore: beans/legumes, corn, nuts, chocolate, and potatoes. I have already “tested” (thanks to eating out and being shy regarding my “can’t-haves”) tomatoes and seeds (sesame) without negative side-effects, so I will rule those out.

As I reintroduce things, I spend the next 48 hours monitoring possible symptoms. So each food will take 3 days total. And as soon as the reintroduction day is over, I go back to my elimination diet until the next food is up. Yes, we are talking another month, easily, of this diet.

Technically, I’m not supposed to be eating “desserts” but I don’t have a clear idea of what qualifies as dessert if I am eating, say, coconut milk ice cream (2 pints down already). I’m a big believer in total emotional satisfaction with food, and yes that means eating sweet treats on occasion when I have fulfilled my nutritional needs for the day and need to fulfill my emotional ones too. Also to keep myself sane during a process like this, a little indulgence goes a long way.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, of course I couldn’t resist pumpkin bread so I pored over gluten-free, vegan recipes like it was my job and found a great one.

Check out the Fork and Beans blog – for one thing, it’s beautiful and full of tempting vegan, allergen-free treats (even candy bars!)

Her recipe is awesome as is, but of course I can’t help myself with modifications (and not because I’m snobby; more just based on what I already have on hand!). I was daunted by my first-ever gluten-free (but not first vegan) baking experience, especially when attempting it at 7200 ft, no less. Whew.

Check out this link (one more time) for her recipe, also copied below.

Gluten-free, Vegan, Nut-free Pumpkin Bread

Dry ingredients

  1. 2/3 c. brown rice flour
  2. 2/3 c. sorghum flour
  3. 1/3 c. potato starch
  4. 1/3 c. arrowroot powder
  5. 3/4 c. brown sugar
  6. 1/2 c. sugar
  7. 2 tsp. baking soda
  8. 1 tsp. baking powder
  9. 3/4 tsp. xanthan gum
  10. 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  11. 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  12. 1/4 tsp. ground cloves (optional)
  13. 1/2 tsp. salt
Wet ingredients
  1. 1 c. canned pumpkin puree (not the pie mix)
  2. 1/2 c. oil
  3. 1/2 c. boiling water
  4. 1 Tbsp. EnerG egg replacer + 4 Tbsp. warm water, beaten with electric mixer for 30 seconds
  5. 1/2 c. walnuts, chopped (optional) *obviously not used in a nut-free version
  6. Raw pepitas for garnishing the top

What did I modify? First, I used my pre-made, homemade gluten-free all-purpose flour (found here) cup-for-cup where she has brown rice flour, potato starch, and arrowroot powder. I used her recommended measurement for sorghum flour. (No particular reason, but my pre-mixed flour is a blend of starches and buckwheat/brown rice flour, and I did also happen to have an unopened bag of sorghum.)

I subbed almost all of the dry sugar for liquid substitutes. According to her recipe, the bread requires 1 1/4 cups sugar total. After some research, I opted to sub 1/2 c of sugar with 1/4 c honey, and another 1/2 c sugar with 1/4+ c molasses. I used just 1/4 c brown sugar. Do your own sugar subs research to determine what will work for you and your particular recipe.

Baking at altitude required its own adjustments, and you can research those easily as well. Modifying liquids and leavenings is a big part of it. For that reason, I used about 1/4 tsp. less of the baking powder called for, and about 2 Tbs. more water.

I also used my Trader Joe’s pumpkin pie spice, about a teaspoon, but adjust spices according to your preferences.

Okay… wet ingredients. I have never used EnerG egg replacers, nor do I really want to. Applesauce and banana work particularly well in breads like these that can be a little moist. I mashed a whole banana with my liquid sugars, added the boiling water and oil, and dumped it all + pumpkin into my dry ingredients bowl.

And lastly, I added all the remaining dried cranberries I had (maybe 1/2 cup) instead of using nuts.

I baked at 375-degrees F (a 25-degree increase in temp at this altitude is a good adjustment) for 60-70 minutes.

The aroma becomes present less than ten minutes into baking time (omggggg). After allowing the bread to cool for several minutes, I wrapped the whole thing in Saran wrap. SELF CONTROL. Pumpkin breads are always better the next day, or after they sit a while.

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Boyf and I sliced it open after dinner last night and slathered melted coconut oil on top mmmmm *insert Homer Simpson drooling over a donut*

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Perfection. Yes, my first gluten-free, vegan, high-altitude baking project was perfect. It’s not fair. I’m sorry to anyone who is pissed off by the ease with which I pulled that off. Very sorry. Because this bread is outstanding.

All ready for the Fort Collins Turkey Trot tomorrow!!! (minus the registration part, which I see is now going to cost me $50 DOH!) I did my final tune-up today in some freakish wind but thankfully warm temps. Ready to fly.

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Week 4: eagerly anticipated reintroductions (!!!!!)

Yep. We have arrived at the pivotal point in this journey. Countdown to reintroduction.

I will slowly start phasing things back in one-by-one this week to test the food waters. Beginning on Thanksgiving…. Yes, it has been very hard choosing which food to bring back first so as to make Thanksgiving more enjoyable (and to be honest, I still haven’t decided 100%). At the moment, I am opting for soy – vegan Thanksgiving complete with silken tofu pumpkin cheesecake (I hope!) and soy nog. Don’t say “gross.” Don’t even. I am beyond excited. You can’t take that away from me.

More on the reintroduction phase to come. It will consume another 4-5 weeks if I do a complete job of it, but at least every 3 days will be filled with foods that I have started to yearn for. Yes, yearn.

First I have some catching up to do, but I wanna start with running.

Last week was a down week (glorious sleeping-in, gratuitous couch-sitting, gluttonous pasta-consuming) but culminated in a lousy long run (HA – 7 miles) that left me feeling blue.

I shouldn’t have complained. With rejuvenation comes a certain fatigue during down weeks, and not to mention FYI TMI warning I’m always a little off on Period Day 1. Bloated and aching joints. I had also worked from 9-2 with no breaks and no food, and then come straight home, thrown on my windbreaker, thick tights, and winter gloves, and thrust myself into the wind to just get the damn thing over with before I could talk myself out of it. I was drained.

It was snowing and slick for most of the run, so my gait was off as I shuffled over slowly accumulating snow. On the way home, I was directly into the wind and my quads were numb… all the muscles in my body were resisting to contract, and my arms were losing circulation. It was awful. Of course I was sluggish, creaky, strain-y, and flailing.

But it got me down. My compression socks were bringing out the twinge in my shins (not to worry, I discovered via self-massage later that my shins are hardly tender), so I was battling mid-run freak-outs over shin splints. I was fatigued, but not quite bonking. I was dehydrated.

Some days, that’s just how it fuckin’ goes.

Today, I got right back at it (at 6:00 pm hahah), and KILLED IT during my tune-up workout. I went to the gym with the boyf to avoid 20-degree temps and 30 mph winds, and ran tight circles around the indoor track.

I am running a 4 mile race on Thanksgiving day. It was going to be “My 5k” of the season back when I thought it was a 5k. My workout today was a mixed speeds gumbo – progressively faster paces. I started with 4 x 800m at lactate threshold pace, and I hit all of them in 3:10 or under (my goal was 3:10-3:15). They felt easy… floaty…. Such a change in turnover from one day to the next.

Then I tucked in 320m at VO2max (if outdoors, this would’ve been a 400). I hit it in 68. My goal was 72.

I finished with 3 x 160m (to mimic 2 x 200) at rep pace. I hit them in 32, 31, 31. My goal was 33.

You are stronger than you think.

Remember that motto?

It was a powerful confidence booster. And not that I even needed that. I needed motivation. I almost skipped the workout in favor of moping over an unproductive, sort-of-bad day. Workouts like that one have a magical way of turning the day around.

I want to show this 4-miler who is boss, and finish my “season” with a bang. I can’t wait to see what kind of effort I can put forth, and I am looking forward to the easy weeks that follow. Well-deserved.

To put the runner’s icing on the running cake, this beauty arrived today:

On a different note. Food!

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Sauce:

  • 2 Tbs. garlic-flavored olive oil
  • 1 cup jarred roasted red bell peppers, rinsed, drained, and chopped
  • ½ medium onion, finely chopped (½ cup)
  • 1 large carrot, finely diced (½ cup)

I admit, I’m not a huge fan of roasted red peppers (so slimy on sandwiches). This sauce, from Vegetarian Times, was tasty – like a light tomato sauce. The ingredients ^ are from their recipe, but I made some modifications, as always. First, I used plain olive oil and a clove of garlic. Second, I used bagged shredded carrots. Third, I roasted my own red pepper!!!

I bought two, and I roasted them on a baking sheet with tin foil at 450-degrees F, turning occasionally, until the skins blistered (maybe 30 minutes). After letting them cool for several minutes, I peeled the skins – the more blistered, the easier. I stored them in some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, water, and salt for the day.

VT directions:

  1. Heat oil in saucepan over medium-high heat. Add roasted peppers, onion, and carrot; sauté 5 minutes, or until onion begins to brown. Add 3/4 cup water, cover, and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, cook pasta in pot of boiling salted water according to package directions.
  3. Remove roasted pepper mixture from heat, and purée in blender until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.
  4. Drain pasta, and return to pot. Stir in red pepper sauce.

I cooked and blended the sauce in advance, adding a little dried basil and oregano as I went. When it came time to make dinner, the boyf wanted to use some mushrooms he had, so I sautéed them with a little balsamic before reheating the sauce with the cooked mushrooms. We also added red pepper flakes, a touch of nutritional yeast, and some cayenne powder to the mix. As a side, we roasted some Brussels sprouts (lyke errryday), and topped off the dish with fresh parsley and a fruity kale salad.

Beautiful sauce, even in the blender.

Beautiful sauce, even in the blender.

Not kidding about our love for roasted Brussels. The pasta is hidden underneath the pile.

Not kidding about our love for roasted Brussels. The pasta is hidden underneath the pile.

That was the last recipe I made for a few days. I had plenty of leftover sauces to last for a few days, and over the weekend Boyf made a really scrumptious Thai yellow curry in the slow cooker! No, I don’t have his “recipe” (buy Thai curry paste, dump it in slow cooker with canned coconut milk and a pile of veggies). The coconut milk lends a pretty sweet taste, but we included some good veggies – Napa cabbage, carrot, onion, garlic, ginger, bell pepper, and even Thai chiles – and I’ve been enjoying leftovers on top of brown rice ever since! Boyf says he ate it plain as a hot soup one day.

Again, pile of veggies buries whole grains

Again, pile of veggies buries whole grains

I am not meal-planning this week. THANKSGIVING is my meal-planning, and I am for some reason very close to freaking out about what to make even though it’s just me and the boyf. This week, I am eating pasta leftovers, curry leftovers, and some carrot-ginger soup that I made today while emptying out my refrigerator bins in preparation for Thanksgiving.

Curried Carrot-Ginger Soup:

  • 1/4 medium red onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
  • 2 cups shredded carrot (approx.)
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • cumin seeds, to preference
  • cumin powder, to preference
  • coriander, to preference
  • salt and pepper

I heated canola oil in a sauce pan over medium-low heat, and sautéed the onion, carrot, ginger, and garlic until tender. I added the broth and spices, and covered the pot until the liquid was nearly boiling. Then, I transferred the contents to my blender and pureed until creamy (or as creamy as possible with my blender – still a little bisque-y).

Homemade carrot-ginger soup - simple, flavorful, light. An easy solution for leftover vegetables.

Homemade carrot-ginger soup – simple, flavorful, light. An easy solution for leftover vegetables.

I am excited to embark on the next step of my food journey. It will be wonderful to enjoy some much-loved foods, although with that comes to bittersweet task of discovering which one causes GI distress. Stay tuned for a race update, Thanksgiving recipes, and the knowledge that lies ahead.

Week 3 Eats: down week

I can tell it’s a running down week because my appetite is an animal. An animal for carbs and treats (wahhhhh not the time). Something about resting the body that makes it go ape-shit for carbo-reloading and undeserved laziness. “Rebuilding.”

So, I went 100% pasta this week – rice pasta. Shit’s not bad, either.

On Monday, I went for a twist on pesto. I found a recipe from Vegetarian Times (WARNING: THEY ALL ARE) that called for broccoli and parsley. It was a little spring-time-y, very light and lemony, but satisfying.

Broccoli and Parsley Pesto:

  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 ½ cups loosely packed parsley leaves
  • ¼ cup plus 2 Tbs. olive oil, plus more for drizzling, optional
  • ½ cup mint leaves
  • 4 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 ½ tsp. grated lemon zest
  • 5 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 12 oz. farfalle pasta – I used rice shells

Here are their directions:

  1. Bring large pot of water to a boil. Cook broccoli in boiling water 2 to 3 minutes, or until tender. Remove with slotted spoon. Drain, and rinse under cold water. Drain again.
  2. Pulse broccoli, parsley, oil, mint, lemon juice, lemon zest, and garlic in food processor until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.
  3. Cook pasta according to package directions in broccoli cooking water. Reserve 1/4 cup cooking water before draining. Toss pasta with pesto and pasta cooking water. Garnish, and drizzle with olive oil, if desired.
Light and lemony pesto

Light and lemony pesto

They call for hazelnuts, both in the pesto and as a garnish, and I had to omit them for now. VT also suggested adding capers. I made roughly half the recipe, and it was plenty for the boyf and me, no leftovers. I added nutritional yeast, of course! Need that cheesy flavor in pesto.

We paired the pasta dish with a – almost too similar, actually – roasted radish salad. I still had half a bunch of radishes that I didn’t know what to do with, but I found another VT recipe that intrigued me:

Roasted Radish Salad with Lemon-Ginger Vinaigrette:

  • 2 bunches radishes with greens (1 lb.)
  • 1 large or 2 medium lemons
  • 3 Tbs. vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 tsp. agave nectar
  • 2 Tbs. minced crystallized ginger
  • Kosher salt, for sprinkling, optional
  • 2 Tbs. torn or snipped mint, parsley, or chive leaves

Their directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Line small baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Separate greens from radish roots. Quarter radishes.
  3. Remove 1 tsp. zest from lemon, and set aside. Cut lemon in half lengthwise. Cut 1 lemon half into 8 slices. Squeeze juice from remaining lemon half.
  4. Toss lemon slices with radish wedges, 1 Tbs. oil, and agave nectar; season with salt, if desired. Spread on prepared baking sheet, and roast 20 to 25 minutes, or until radishes are shriveled and lemon slices are darkened. (Discard any burned lemon slices.)
  5. Whisk together remaining 2 Tbs. oil, crystallized ginger, 1 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. lemon juice, and reserved lemon zest in small bowl; sprinkle with kosher salt, if using.
  6. Toss roasted radishes and lemon slices. Toss greens with dressing. Arrange radishes and lemon slices over bed of greens, and drizzle remaining dressing over top. Garnish with herbs.

I modified these directions slightly, because they suggested to roast half the radishes and leave the remaining half raw, which I really didn’t want to do. I went ahead and roasted all the radishes I had. I think it was better that way, because the roasted radishes were surprisingly delicious! An entirely new flavor.

Citrus-y and caramelized, with great crunch

Citrus-y and caramelized, with great crunch

Between the lemon, parsley, and mint in both dishes, it was a little overkill, Boyf and I agreed. But very complimentary dishes, and overall a light, fun meal.

On Tuesday, I took the day off (from everything). I waited around to hear from work about training, so it took me a while to formulate a plan for the day. By the start of the evening, I was absolutely starving, and I made a delicious pasta sauce that was, in fact, remarkably pesto-like again. This recipe called for roasted cauliflower, instead of broccoli, and also parsley and lemon, and for some reason I didn’t piece together that it would end up like it did. I was expecting a creamy, white sauce – maybe like an alfredo. Dead wrong.

Roasted Cauliflower and Parsley Pasta:

  • 4 Tbs. olive oil, divided, plus more for greasing baking sheet
  • 1 small cauliflower (1 lb.), cut into ¼-inch slices
  • 1 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 Tbs. grated lemon zest
  • 1 lb. penne rigate – I used rice penne
  • ½ tsp. red pepper flakes

The VT recipe directed to roast the cauliflower at 475-degrees. I tossed mine with olive oil, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and nutritional yeast. I roasted them until browned.

Meanwhile, I blended the parsley, some lemon juice (I don’t have a zester), and even some dried basil and oregano. VT wanted the parsley alone to be the sauce, but I thought it made more sense to blend the cauliflower with the parsley as well. Like I said, I was imagining creamy and cheesy. What I got was another green pesto, a very fluffy one. And lots of it. Just me for dinner, so I have a nice leftover batch of pesto sauce.

So fluffy and a little cheesy!

So fluffy and a little cheesy!

Even the red pepper flakes and generous nutritional yeast didn’t help this recipe taste much different than Monday’s.

Well, after dinner I was still starving. Blame the Down Week. Like I said. It’s incredible – the drive for carbs. The boyf texted me to join some friends for Mexican food, though we both knew I would unlikely be able to eat anything there at the moment. Which is why I pre-gamed dinner. But being still hungry…

… I got to the restaurant and veggie fajitas caught my eye (veggies! rice! guac!) and I caved. Second dinner. They also had a guilt-free (perhaps?) slushy, non-alcoholic, made with tropical fruit juices that I couldn’t resist. I ordered my entree without beans, and offered my tortillas to the boyf for leftovers.

The fajitas were good, although they came topped with tomatoes, which the menu conveniently forgot to mention, and which I am not supposed to eat (I also *conveniently* forgot guacamole contains tomatoes). I am vaguely suspicious that the dish was sautéed in animal grease… that’s what you get ordering “vegetarian” at a Mexican restaurant in Wyoming. I guess, technically, I can consume meat during this project, but as a lifelong vegetarian, no. Just no. So I will be re-evaluating the menu next time I go there.

I meticulously avoided the dairy sides, and was delighted just to join the fun at the restaurant with veggies and rice. Sometimes, you will be surprised by what you find that does work for you when eating out. (And BTW I decided to just “monitor” the tomatoes, and so far, no negative reactions.)

On Wednesday, I invented several of my own recipes and forewent pre-written recipes altogether! I will simply list each one here, and you can click the link to the page for the recipe.

Pumpkin Spice Hot Cereal

Coconut, a little spice, and dried cranberries complete this hot cereal with a dollop of pumpkin!

Coconut, a little spice, and dried cranberries complete this hot cereal with a dollop of pumpkin!

I bought a large can of pumpkin puree at the grocery, and I have been adding it to dishes frequently. I even made a pumpkin pie smoothie (from Whole Foods), and you can find my version here.

Zingy Kale and Berries Smoothie

Zingy kale and berry smoothie, accompanied by pumpkin hot cereal.

Zingy kale and berry smoothie, accompanied by pumpkin hot cereal.

I have so much ginger and mint to get through, and they have been making their ways into smoothies left and right. Adds a little snap to green or kale smoothies.

Simple Pumpkin and Quinoa Soup

Like I said, plenty of pumpkin to get through too, and I was dying to make some sort of soup. I had to play around a lot – it’s harder to make a well-balanced soup than you would think! First the coconut milk was overpowering, then the vegetable broth was too salty, then I added too much apple cider vinegar and needed to sweeten things up. The key was adding the quinoa and letting the soup just sit on low heat for a while. All the flavors needed time to meld, and the quinoa added a textural and nutty quality that was winning. Recipe found here. Paired with…

Brussels Sprouts, Cranberries, and Shallots

I actually made this one with my dad several years ago, and then another time after that. The original was, of fuckin’ course, from Vegetarian Times, but I have made it so many times by now that I know the basics. Here is their recipe, and here is the link to what I created. It’s simple and flavorful, and a nice break from roasted Brussels sprouts, which Boyf and I could eat every day.

Photo cred to Boyf for this one, which he took on his phone. So there's only one.

Photo cred to Boyf for this one, which he took on his phone. So there’s only one pic.

This week, I am running a whopping 23 miles, and it’s awesome. I’m also skipping the gym for cross-training because I can’t afford $6.50 a pop unless it’s absolutely necessary. I completed back-to-back workouts this week to cram in the nice weather (and dry track), and they were both SOLID! They’re on Strava, but since I don’t Garmin my track circles, there isn’t much to show.

I ran lactate threshold 2000’s yesterday, one at 8:03 and the second at 7:58. Can’t complain. I was shooting to go out at 50s/200m (4:10/km), but I started fast even with an eyeball on the watch – turns out I CAN cruise 4:01/km juuusssttt fiiiiineee. I even hit one in 3:58. wut. At 7200t?? shit. Felt really kickass, anyway. I’m not quite ready for a full-blown tempo (ever), so this was a good confidence boost.

Today I ran 200’s at repetition pace – about 40s/200m – faster than VO2max. Double recovery between each. I just received all of my Oiselle birthday packages (yippeee!!) so I hit the track decked out. Burgen burgen burgen. I nailed every rep, despite the fact that I was feelin’ it after yesterday. And it was windy.

Always embarrassing, hardly necessary.

Always embarrassing, hardly necessary.

That’s all. Today’s dinner to come… later. Time to rest up for work training tomorrow (hooray for better things to do than track selfies!)

 

Half-way through the Food Journey

Sort of long-time-no around here… Last week got mildly busy and eventually I wasn’t cooking much new – I had leftovers for days.

So I am on to Week 3 (of 3.5) of elimination diet reintroduction experiment/food journey. Whew. The weeks have gone faster than expected, actually, and I have really enjoyed this project and overall don’t feel like I am missing out on anything*. Hurrah for solid, balanced meal-planning!

A task like this would be a total headache and stress-machine if it weren’t for meal-planning, so my advice for anyone wanting to try something like this (or create your own food project – heck even just a week of nightly meals!), I cannot emphasize enough: make a plan.

Grocery trips will be more focused, and you will not be stuck at 8pm wondering what the hell to eat and resorting to rice cakes. I actually enjoyed searching for a variety of meals, and I stumbled upon a lot of good-lookin’ eats along the way – reintroduction or not!

So, here are the recipes I conquered last week:

Bun-less quinoa and sweet potato burgers with fixins

Bun-less quinoa and sweet potato burgers with fixins

I get a hankering for a good veggie burger every so often (who doesn’t crave burgers and fries?), so I went on the lookout for a recipe that suits my current needs. It is really difficult to find anything that doesn’t require beans (veg burgers need “glue” or they crumble). The one below, from Vegetarian Times, included chickpeas, which I omitted. It would be great with chickpeas, BTW. Instead, I subbed cooked rice – in addition to the quinoa – for a little extra stickiness. They also called for flaxseeds, which I’m sure were included to aid in the binding. I had to omit them, but I’d say use them. I considered subbing them with mushrooms, which you might try too.

Quinoa Zucchini Burgers:

  • 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth (which I forgot – big mistake!)
  • 1 medium sweet potato, diced (1 ½ cups)
  • 1 cup uncooked red quinoa
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas (I subbed cooked rice)
  • 1 small zucchini, grated (1 cup)
  • 1 cup shredded carrots (my addition)
  • 3 ½ tsp. finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp. chili powder
  • ½ tsp. finely chopped fresh thyme
  • Nutritional yeast, if desired
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  1. Bring broth, sweet potato, and quinoa to a boil in saucepan over medium heat. Cover, reduce heat to medium low, and simmer 20 minutes, or until quinoa is tender. Transfer to bowl to cool.
  2. Stir chickpeas, zucchini, pumpkin seeds, ground flaxseeds, basil, salt, pepper, chili powder, and thyme into quinoa mixture, mashing chickpeas and sweet potato but leaving some chunks. Shape mixture into 8 patties.
  3. Preheat oven to 400°F, or preheat grill to medium-high.
  4. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Cook patties 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until lightly golden brown. Remove from heat, and either place on baking sheet, and bake 15 minutes, or cook on grill 8 to 10 minutes, turning once.

I’ll include their directions since they aren’t bad. I cooked the quinoa with all the seasonings, and like I indicated I totally forgot to use the vegetable broth! I microwaved my potato for about 5 minutes then added it to the quinoa. I used a blender instead of mashing, so I dumped the zucchini and carrots in the blender, and then added about half the quinoa and sweet potatoes when they had finished cooking.

I left the blended ingredients pretty chunky, and like I said only used about half the quinoa/potato. So I mixed the blended ingredients with the remaining quinoa and sweet potato, and then threw some cooked rice in there as well.

I had to adjust the seasonings A LOT since I didn’t use broth, and I still felt like the mixture had no “kick.” I even overloaded on chili powder and nutritional yeast.

I shaped 7-8 patties and placed them on a prepared tray to bake. I usually just bake my veggie burgers until the up-sides feel crispy, then I flip them. We also let them sizzle on a skillet for several minutes after baking, too.

I couldn’t find gluten-free buns TO SAVE MY FRICKEN LIFE that didn’t contain eggs, or potato, or other allergen bullshit, so we went bun-less. Topped with pickles, mustard, raw red onion, and avocado. We made sweet potato fries, but I really need to find a REAL sweet potato fry recipe, because every time I make them they come out oily and flaccid. Not crispy. Help??!?

At some point last week when it was snowing and zero-degrees, I made myself a tropical smoothie to pretend I was on a beach somewhere (that’s not a major fantasy of mine, but I’ll take it – I’m not truthfully that beachy, sorry if that upsets anyone).

Kale-Tropical Smoothie:

  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • ½ avocado
  • 1 cup fresh pineapple, cubed
  • 2 – 3 cups stemmed and chopped kale, packed (about 2-3 ounces)
  • 1 frozen banana, cut into several pieces
  • 1 yellow mango
  • 1 kiwi

This comes from the Fat-free Vegan blog. I modified it slightly – she suggested almond milk, but coconut is more fitting (and I can drink it at the moment). She also included ¼ cup great northern beans, which sounds weird to me, so I subbed half an avocado for that. I added mango and kiwi, too, because they just seemed to fit. I like those little yellow mangoes, because they have a softer skin, are usually ripe in the store already, and they are single-serve-sized.

Tropi-cool smoothie oh yeah

Tropi-cool smoothie oh yeah

Since the banana was the only frozen ingredient, the smoothie wasn’t “frozen,” more like slightly chilled. Even better would be frozen mango.

Last Friday was my birthday (!) and I had been craving pancakes all week. I conquered being really stressed looking for a gluten-free flour mix that I can handle right now (so many have almond flour, chickpea flour, potato starch, etc.) and just made my own! Good, because I am really in the mood for baking ‘tis the season.

I will include my gluten-free mix recipe below. I bought buckwheat flour at the Laramie food co-op, which is ideal for GF pancakes anyway (and maybe pancakes in general…) I Googled a pretty generic recipe for buckwheat pancakes, so I will write down my own ingredients. (Original recipe is found here, because I will always give credit where credit is due.)

Gluten-free Vegan Buckwheat Pancakes:

  • 1 cup buckwheat flour
  • ½ tsp. xanthan gum
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • 1 Tbs. molasses
  • 1 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • pumpkin pie spice, to preference
  • water, as needed
  • Coconut oil, as needed

First, I mixed my dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. In a smaller bowl, I mashed the banana and let it sit with the molasses for several minutes until creamy. I added the coconut milk to the dry ingredients, and then incorporated the banana mixture.

I added some water once the batter was mixed because it seemed a little thick. Adjust as you think is necessary and add water if the batter thickens while it sits.

I heated a non-stick skillet over medium heat with some coconut oil – more for taste, since I didn’t really need it to coat the pan. I was able to make 8 or 9 smaller pancakes. We enjoyed them with coconut oil (so much better than butter – I’M ADDICTED) and raspberries and strawberries that I simmered in agave nectar.

Vegan and G-F pancakes are so simple that they're worth a try just to mix things up!

Vegan and G-F pancakes are so simple that they’re worth a try just to mix things up!

Craving satisfied.

For my birthday, I found some ways to enjoy eating out according to my current profile. The boyf and I went out for sushi! I had to stick to the basics, of course – simple salmon, tuna, and avocado rolls. No fancy sauces, and no soy sauce (bummer… half the reason I love sushi). They were accommodating to food allergies, so when one of the rolls was presented with an aioli (which it didn’t mention on the menu), they sent us another complimentary one, sauce-free. Never be afraid to mention your dietary restrictions when dining. It creates fewer headaches for everyone, and usually the restaurant can adjust.

We joined a friend for “drinks” – well, they both had beers – and I searched the cocktail menu for something I could order virgin. I went for two rounds of spiced apple cider sans-alcohol. My friend ordered it for me, declaring, “it’s her birthday!” which really feels awesome when you’re turning 21-plus-a-few and ordering a virgin cocktail… nice.

I picked a really awful time of year to cut out alcohol and baked goods, huh?

For the footnote: running has just been trucking along! I finished another 3-week cycle at 29-30 MPW. Feeling good. I got a little lazy with my tissue motility so my shins are tender (I swear I’m right about tight calves pulling my shins apart). Running has been difficult since we had so much snow and cold weather, so I’ve logged a majority of my miles in trail shoes and Yaktrax lately, which isn’t ideal for biomechanics and foot-strike, but on the plus side, I figure it’s an extra stability workout (on the not-plus side, it is beating up my lower legs).

Winter weather running in Laramie is going to be a whole new monster, for sure. Even if the sun is shining warmly, the wind is whipping about. For now it is sort of fun to face the elements, and I feel like a fuckin’ badass running in these conditions sometimes. I’m sure the novelty of layering up will wear off by Thanksgiving**.

In other news, I got a job today! Future bartender! (once I pay my dues in the restaurant). One step at a time. I think it will be fun – it’s a kind of dive-y pub setting, and the boyf loves to go there for their $2 pints at happy hour. They have a pretty good tap rotation, too. Never had their food – and I am willing to bet I won’t for another few weeks still. Mmm pub food….

Gluten-free Allergen-free All-purpose Flour:

  • 35% Buckwheat flour
  • 35% Brown rice flour
  • 15% Tapioca starch
  • 15% Arrowroot powder

I list in percents here, because I used grams to measure my ingredients. These percentages are based on 1000g of flour mix, and I made 700g total. As long as your ratio of flours to starches is about 7:3, you should come up with something usable. Use any kind of gluten-free flours and starches you wish with that ratio. I mixed both the flour and starch ingredients about 50-50. I chose the ones I did simply because I cannot currently have bean flours, nut flours, or soy. I also bought a package of sorghum flour and a few single-serve xanthan gum packs.

*Except peanut butter.

**It already wore off.

Kicking off Week 2 with an Arctic Freeze

This is what negative temperatures looks like.

This is what negative temperatures looks like.

YIKES! So here we are buckling down for a long winter already (today was -13-degrees F). On Sunday I ran in a tank top and shorts and was quite comfortable, and yesterday I never even left my house. This feels a little like when I moved to Fort Collins and was immediately barraged with several feet of snow and single-digit temps for the first two weeks – a perfect obstacle to finding a job and/or happiness in a new town (especially because I am a reluctant terrified winter driver).

Well, several applications are submitted to some cool places, and they all informed me they expect to start interviewing near the beginning of December. Okay, I can manage until then. I kind of anticipated that, but I hope it works out in my favor that I am not currently a student battling finals and holiday travel in December and January.

Finding a collection of part-time jobs and gigs that suit your absolute interests and maybe-even-if-you’re-lucky make sense with your life goals is tough. HA! Understatement of the year. I’ve been fortunate (since emerging from undergrad with a flaccid degree) to piece together projects that have propelled me, both in Palo Alto and Fort Collins, and which never felt like “just a job,” but I will have to really dig for that kind of fulfilling stuff in Laramie. I realize Laramie will always be more about going back to school, and work will just serve to pay for groceries and rent, but that still doesn’t mean I can’t find something that satisfies my interests outside of class too. I don’t have to fill my non-academic time with just anything. If that were the case, I’d have a job at Q’doba already. Booyah!

For the meantime, running and cooking are keeping me occupied. Well, running not so much in this weather DAMN Ischeduledmyoff-seasonamonthtoolate. Time to get acquainted with the university gym’s indoor track for $6.50 a pop (until January when I pay the semester fee). Yep, that is how I will survive Laramie winter.

This is the second week of my reintroduction experiment, which is still in the elimination phase. No, I’m not getting sick of rice and quinoa, but I am getting antsy for nut butters and bagels. And oatmeal. AND EVERYTHING WARM AND GOOEY PUMPKIN. Rough time to play this game.

I feel fine. I wouldn’t say my energy is noticeably up or down, but my running hasn’t been affected. I have survived one week without symptoms of colitis, and in fact my digestive tract hasn’t been upset — except after we went out for Thai food (which I blame 100% on overeating). Sidenote: the Thai place was actually perfectly accommodating when I said I needed a soy-free, peanut-free, egg-free dish. They actually may have pitied me for apparently having such gruesome food allergies.

The recent weather seems to have inspired me to bake an absurd amount of root vegetable dishes. Comfort foods at their finest. Here is the lineup so far:

On Monday I made a sweet potato and leek gratin. Yeah, the idea of a cheese-less gratin exudes no excitement, but I bought several ounces of nutritional yeast to add some cheesy flavor.

Sweet Potato and Leek Gratin

  • 3 medium leeks, white and light green parts chopped (6 cups)
  • 1 ½ Tbs. olive oil, divided
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (1 Tbs.)
  • 3 Tbs. chopped fresh rosemary, divided
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes (2 lb.), peeled and cut into ⅛-inch-thick slices
  • ⅓ cup low-sodium vegetable broth

I made roughly half to two-thirds the recipe, and it fit in an 8-by-8 baking dish. It yielded about 4 servings. I bought two smaller sweet potatoes, and I really should’ve used a slightly bigger pair, because two leeks dwarfed the potatoes.

This recipe comes from Vegetarian Times (you guys will just have to accept my love-hate relationship with them – generally awesome recipes and ideas, but admittedly bad directions). For once, the directions worked as they should have, so here are theirs:

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Coat 10-inch round pan with cooking spray.
  2. Heat 1 Tbs. oil in nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add leeks, garlic, and 1 1/2 Tbs. rosemary; sauté 8 minutes, or until softened. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.
  3. Arrange one-third sweet potato slices over bottom of prepared pan, overlapping slightly. Spread half of leek mixture on top. Arrange another one-third sweet potato slices over leeks; top with remaining leeks, followed by remaining sweet potatoes. Drizzle broth over dish. Cover pan with foil, and bake 35 minutes. (I baked for 40 minutes at altitude).

Their recipe called for cheese and breadcrumbs to be added as a topping after 35 minutes of baking, at which point I sprinkled some nutritional yeast, drizzled some oil, and added some more rosemary. Then the whole thing went back in the oven, uncovered, for another 15 minutes.

Totally forgot to get a pre-devoured snap.

Totally forgot to get a pre-devoured snap.

I thought it was a little lacking in flavor, and as I said earlier, a little off in the sweet potato-to-leek ratio. The boyf liked it but said there was too much rosemary. Guilty as charged.

We paired with a simple kale and fruit salad. That’s kind of our go-to when we need more vegetables or a side. Typically, we add some combo of strawberries, mangoes, kiwi, apple, or berries and top with avocado (and goat cheese, if we’re in that mindset). Olive oil and any kind of vinegar to dress.

Yesterday, the only physical activity of any kind I accomplished was going to a yoga class (score!).

Dinner ended up being late since the class was in the evening. Admittedly, the dish I had in mind was almost the same as the previous night: sweet potatoes and leeks in a casserole. Although this one (from Vegetarian Times as well) added onions, zucchini, carrots, and red pepper, and boasted a “tahini and garam masala dressing” that sounded interesting.

Well, I’m off tahini at the mo’ (no seeds), so I first had to create a substitution. Creamy? Plain coconut yogurt. Tangy? Lemon juice. Okay then to roll with it…

Sweet Potato-Vegetable Casserole**

  • 1 to 2 Tbs. nutritional yeast (which I now realize I forgot)
  • 8 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, halved and sliced
  • 3 medium leeks (white and light green parts), thinly sliced
  • 3 medium carrots, halved crosswise then lengthwise and cut into thin strips
  • 2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
  • ¼ to ½ tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes (8 oz. each), peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 medium red bell peppers, roasted and cut into thin strips 

Tahini-Masala Sauce

  • 1 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbs. tahini
  • ¼ tsp. garam masala
  • ⅛ salt
  • ⅛ freshly ground pepper

I was only cooking for myself on this occasion (much to Boyf’s unknowing good fortune), so I cut the recipe down in random places. I only had one leek left, half a red pepper, and half an onion, but I had bought plenty of potato and zucchini, and I used bagged shredded carrots. I followed the sauce ingredients as listed anyway (yes, 3 Tbs. coconut yogurt).

It all barely fit in my casserole.

Now for my directions, because Vegetarian Times really outdid themselves with awfulness here.

I sautéed the onions, leeks, and some garlic together on med-low heat until tender. Then I removed the ingredients from the skillet and set them in a bowl. In the same skillet, I sautéed the zucchini, carrots, pepper, and oregano on med-low until tender.

Meanwhile, as directed, I simmered the dressing ingredients in a saucepan with 1 cup of water. Yeah… I don’t get it either.

I layered sweet potatoes, then leeks/onions, then sweet potatoes, remaining leeks/onions plus other veggies, then remaining sweet potatoes in a greased casserole. Then I obliged to dump (no, ladle) the dressing on top of the whole thing.

It went in the oven, covered with aluminum foil, at 400-degrees F for 40 minutes. It needed to bake at 450-degrees (by the way, VT suggested 375-degrees *pulls hair out*). After 40 minutes it wasn’t even bubbling, so I upped the temp and reset my timer.

I was already feeling unimpressed, but once I pulled out the finished product I was really skeptical. My instincts were right.

It even looks unappetizing, right?

It even looks unappetizing, right?

At first bite I hated it. Awful. Tasteless. Grey. Bland. Watery. My first thoughts were “omg they published this?!?” followed by “how the fuck will I eat through all the leftovers” It hardcore sucked.

But I have become a master blender-soup-maker. And that was my next thought.

Without hesitating I dumped it all into my blender, added a splash of coconut milk and a cup of water, and started pulling out the seasonings.

I went at it pretty pill-mill, so I didn’t keep track of my measurements. Like I said, the goal with cooking is to keep tasting, adjusting, and discovering your own preferences.

First, I added WAY more salt and pepper. Then I went for more garam masala. I heaped a generous teaspoon or so of coriander into it, and sprinkled cayenne and yes, even a little Trader Joe’s pumpkin pie spice. Oh, and at long last I added the nutritional yeast that I forgot (but which wouldn’t have made a lick of difference in the original).

Soup made a hearty lunch on a cold day!

Soup made a hearty lunch on a cold day!

Bah-BAM now I have CRAZY AWESOME sweet potato soup! Savory, creamy, and a little spicy. Just how I like it.

And that’s how you reverse any awful dish. Liquefy!!

Here is the salad I also made:

Burst of Spring (wha– spring??) Salad, or Radishes and Orange:

Dressing

  • ½ cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped (¼ cup)
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. sherry vinegar
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. agave nectar
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground black pepper

Salad

  • 3 navel oranges
  • 10 cups baby spinach (9 oz.)
  • 1 ½ cups sliced radishes (1 bunch)
  • 3 Hass avocados, peeled and sliced

This list would make a HUGE salad, so I made it personal-sized (roughly a third). The original calls for pepitas, which I admit would be a great addition, especially for fall.

Whisk all salad dressing ingredients together and throw everything else in a bowl, nicely chopped up or sliced or whatever.

Crunchy! Slimy.

Crunchy! Slimy.

I overdressed it, and the shallot was a little overpowering. Also I still can’t decide if I like radishes… I just wanted to pull my big girl pants on.

So there you have it. I had another VT root veggie dish on the sched for today but after yesterday’s fail I am done with root EVERYTHING. A little scarred at the moment. Trust may be compromised. So I will enjoy leftover soups (yeah, totally turning Monday’s sweet potato and leeks into soup too – with apples and warmer spices). I’m on a fuckin’ ROLL with the soups.

P.S. Since this is a running blog, I am obligated to mention that I nailed my lactate threshold 1000m repeats today (that doesn’t really link to much). On the 160m indoor track at the University of Wyoming gym. Yes, that was a lot of laps. But I got to run in a sports bra! Take that, outside!!!!! (don’t worry, my nose is still cold from walking three blocks to Boyf’s.)

 

**Casserole will be filed in my blog recipe box as soup. Find it here. You’re welcome.

Thursday & Friday fuel

I didn’t get around to my daily post (meh did I ever say they were going to be daily??) yesterday, because the boyf and I watched a movie with dinner. We had a free Redbox and rented A Million Ways to Die in the West. So that was pretty awful. I think Seth MacFarlane’s humor is best left to circumstances where he isn’t actually seen. I just picture Brian from Family Guy in his place whenever I watch him live.

For dinner we made rice and mushrooms topped with sautéed onion and apples. Sounds gross, but the sweetness of the apples complimented the otherwise savory dish very well. We also had a skillet salad, made with cooked red chard, carrots and red cabbage, and a few herbs.

Savory Apples and Red Onion:

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion (1½ cups), thinly sliced
  • 2 Fuji apples, peeled, cored, and sliced (2 cups)
  • 2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. thyme leaves

Again, this one was supplied by Vegetarian Times. They recommend pairing this with potato or mushroom dishes, so I opted to use the rice cooker and saute some mushrooms in balsamic vinegar. I probably could’ve done the mushrooms with the onion and apples or cooked the rice stovetop with the mushrooms, but it worked out just fine to do everything separately.

I let the onions saute on low heat for about 20 minutes before I added the apple. We roughly halved this recipe, so I only used one. To finish, I added the balsamic and thyme.

image

The skillet salad was delicious – if a little overcooked (and I could’ve used slightly less olive oil). I wasn’t sure how long chard takes to get tender.

Red Chard Skillet Salad:

  • 1/4 cup red onion, chopped
  • 3 ounces baby carrots, slivered (about 6)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup red cabbage, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 4 cups sliced red chard
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fat-free or low-fat balsamic dressing (or balsamic vinegar)

I found this one on the Fat-Free Vegan blog. She actually does her directions well, but I will just explain my own version since I omitted several steps. Her recipe called for bok choy and kale, but I have a whole bunch of red chard, so I decided to go with that instead (actually enhanced the color profile of this dish nicely). She also added great northern beans, which I omitted because of elimination diet restrictions. I estimated the amounts of each ingredient based on what looked good.

I started by sauteing the onions, carrots, garlic, and pepper flakes. Once they reached “tender” (15 minutes or so on med-low heat), I added the sliced chard and cabbage and covered the pan for a few minutes. To finish, I seasoned with basil and parsley (instead of oregano), and dressed it with balsamic vinegar and some mustard! Spicy mustard would’ve been excellent.

I’m really digging all the cooked fruits in savory dishes. Don’t knock it til you try it! If I was a food blogger, I could nerd out on a whole segment of festive fall foods with cooked fruits, I think.

20141106_133012

Took lil bikey for a spin since he hasn’t been out much recently

Yesterday, I did something I haven’t done in a while… TRACK WORKOUT!!

Most of the tracks around here allow public access, so I rode my bike over to the high school (less than 10 minutes away) for some repetition work.

I tackled 12x200m at a pace slightly faster than VO2max — about 40 seconds per 200. I’m not as cool as all the people on Strava who use their GPS watches during track workouts (but why do you even need it?? you know exactly how fast you’re going based on where you are on the track…) I started hitting 41s, and by the last 5 reps was hitting 38s. I finished at 37-high. Not too shabby.

So Google has a pretty nifty photo editing feature... will be abusing for sure.

So Google has a pretty nifty photo editing feature… will be abusing for sure.

IMG_20141106_130711

And yes, I totally overdressed.

I definitely miss being out on the track. Finding reliable (read: long stretches with no traffic) places for road workouts can be challenging, too, and there’s nothing that can’t be done on the track, even if it gets a little boring. I also prefer keeping track of splits on a timer, rather than watching my pace on the road (which can be unreliable, too). I sink into a rhythm on the track, and I think track work makes it easier to identify and feel proper pace once you do venture out onto the road… thus reducing the need for constant GPS check-ins.

On the menu today is cross-training (my shins are feeling decent, even after track work, which usually beats them up the first time… maybe getting the hang of this “moving with your glutes” thing after all), plenty of leftovers, and a few batches of soup. Yes I’m totally making quinoa-butternut squash soup again. Nice to have a day off from exploring new recipes. There are still 3 weeks left for that.

For breakfast recently, I’ve been eating hot quinoa flakes/brown rice cereal. I was mildly turned off at first bite, because even with some sweetening it still tastes like a bowl of quinoa. A little savory for my breakfast preferences. But I made it with coconut milk one day, and the consistency turned out a little like cream-of-wheat. It’s growing on me.

Enjoyed with a delicious berry and avocado smoothie topped with coconut flakes

Enjoyed with a delicious berry and avocado smoothie topped with coconut flakes and herbal tea

Fall eats! (or what I think tastes like Thanksgiving)

Today I ate a lot of butternut squash. Not complaining. Tastes like fall!

Here are three recipes from today…

Curried Quinoa and Butternut Squash Soup:

  • olive oil
  • 1 yellow or white onion, chopped
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¾  teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 ½ tablespoons curry powder
  • ½ tablespoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon chili powder
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 ½ lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced

Another one from the Blender Girl! Her instructions can be found here on the recipe website. What I did was slightly different. For starters, I cut the recipe down to about a fifth, since I was only cooking for myself. I also seasoned the soup to my preference, rather than following the provided measurements.

I browned the onion and garlic in a saucepan, then added the broth and squash, and covered the pot for about 30 minutes. With about 15 minutes to go, I added the quinoa. The squash turned out perfectly tender, and the quinoa were cooked through. I transferred it all to a blender and pureed until it was creamy.

Delicious! I will make this again with my leftover squash. Easy, filling, and bursting with flavor.

IMG_20141105_134128

hahah I will say it again, I WISH I WAS A BETTER FOOD PHOTOGRAPHER.

Took supplies to make dinner at Boyf’s – more butternut squash! I started off with a spinach-artichoke dip so that we could snack before dinner was ready. Originally, I wanted to make an artichoke dip with kalamata olives and capers, until I went to the grocery store and realized how expensive that option was… I also failed at finding rice crackers that adhere to my current restrictions (they all had eggs, or corn, or soy). I have to admit… there is nothing better than cheesy artichoke dip with really awesome bread or crackers. But that’s for another week, and vegetables are good for dipping, so I went with carrots and broccoli.

I found a cheese-less artichoke dip that called for avocado to provide the creamy spreadability.

Dairy-free Spinach Artichoke Dip:

  • 10 oz. frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • 14 oz. can artichokes hearts, rinsed and drained
  • 1 roasted bell pepper, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 ripe avocado
  • 1 garlic clove, or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
20141105_172141

Mine looks much different than the photo in the original recipe, but still made a tasty, light snack! Can’t wait to try the leftovers, as they say artichoke dips get better after several hours.

The result was sort of like a guacamole. If I had a better blender, I could have left the dip a little chunkier, but to keep ingredients moving I had to add some water, so my dip turned out pretty fluffy. The boyf liked it, which is all that matters. I used fresh (bagged) spinach instead of frozen, and I omitted the basil, nutritional yeast, and honey that the original recipe called for. Nutritional yeast would have been good for a cheesy flavor, actually. I roasted a green bell pepper at 375-degrees F for about 25 minutes before adding it to the blender. Next time, I might add jalapeño instead of bell pepper; I like some kick to my dips.

Dinner was a fun production! Wild rice with roasted butternut squash (a personal favorite) and grapes! Yes, roasted grapes. It’s like hot pie in your dinner.

Butternut Squash and Wild Rice Salad:

Salad

  • 1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 cup wild rice
  • ½ cup finely diced butternut squash
  • 1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar, divided
  • 2 Tbs. whole-grain mustard
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • ¼ cup cranberries
  • 1 medium shallot, diced

Roasted Fruit and Vegetables

  • 2 ½ cups butternut squash chunks
  • 1 cup red seedless grapes
  • ½ red onion, sliced
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil

Another Vegetarian Times design, so I will share my directions instead of theirs, which can still be found here on their website.

I had about 1-½ cups of wild rice, which I cooked in my rice cooker with 3 cups of liquid (blend of vegetable broth and water).

Meanwhile, I tossed butternut squash and red onion with olive oil and balsamic vinegar on a lined baking sheet. I set the sheet in the oven to bake for about 35 minutes at 425-degrees F. Once my rice finished, I left it on the “warm” setting and heated some oil on a skillet. I sautéed diced shallots and butternut squash on low heat for about 20 minutes while the other vegetables were still roasting. With about 15 minutes to go, I added the grapes to the baking sheet and let them roast with the squash and onion. I finished by transferring the warm rice onto the skillet to mix it with the sautéed vegetables, and added vinegar, cranberries, and mustard.

The rice mixture was topped with the roasted vegetables and grapes.

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Beautiful fall colors and tastes!

Definitely a winner!! Fun fall flavors, and roasted grapes might be my new favorite thing (what other delicious fruits become more delicious when roasted I wonderrrr?!?!?) The roasted butternut squash was perfectly tender, and the sautéed squash still had a little crunch, which was what VT says they were going for in their questionable directions (feel free to try their method at your own risk, but I think it sounds like a recipe for undercooking). If I am any sort of food critic, I would say the textures and flavors went together seamlessly. ^If you need Thanksgiving ideas, try this!

Today was my rest day from running. Glory. I realized I didn’t take any days completely off last week. Much needed!