Archive for July 2010

White Bean Hummus

July 25, 2010

“Let’s go to the beach!”

“Okay, great!  Should we pack a picnic?”

This is our regular summer conversation every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday morning after my run.  It’s too hot to cook and I’m always hungry, especially so at the beach.  We scramble to find red bell peppers, cucumbers, broccoli, and carrots in the fridge.  I cut everything into sticks, and blanch the broccoli until it is a brilliant green.  We take turns tripping over the cooler and suddenly I realize there’s nothing to dip the veggies into.

“Uh oh.  You finish packing the cooler and grab the towels.  I’m gonna make us some of that hummus!”

Out comes the food processor and while the hubby scurries around to find seltzer, fruit, crackers, and tiny containers for cashews and peanuts, I whip up a batch of my new favorite bean dip.  Sometimes, if I’m thinking clearly, I double or even triple the recipe so we can have enough for the entire weekend and lunches the following week.  The whole family is crazy about this recipe.  It’s creamier than chick pea hummus, and the cilantro gives it an extra summery flavor.  Canned small white beans are available at the regular grocery store.  If you plan ahead, you can buy a large bag of dry small white beans and soak them the night before, boil them while you drink your morning coffee, then triple the batch without ever touching the can opener.  The beans are loaded with protein and fiber, and are low in fat, which make them a great choice to dip into all afternoon without guilt!

White Bean Hummus

Ingredients:

1 can (15 oz.) small white beans, drained and rinsed

2 cloves peeled garlic

1 generous tbsp sesame tahini

½ tsp sea salt

juice of 2 limes

large handful of rinsed cilantro leaves

¼ c pinenuts

¼ cup water at the ready

Method:

Process garlic in food processor (or blender) until minced.  Add beans, sesame tahini, salt, lime juice, and pinenuts.  Process until smooth, adding water, 1 Tbsp at a time, until desired consistency is reached.  The hummus should be thick but spreadable.  Transfer to container and refrigerate.  Keeps about 4-5 days, I think, but it never lasts that long in our house.

Also wonderful on crisp crackers or toast for breakfast… in a veggie roll-up for lunch… with carrot sticks for 3 o’clock snack… with pretzels while watching an after-supper movie…

Vegan Chocolate and Fruit Power Bars

July 24, 2010

This recipe comes from experimenting to make my own home-made power bars.  I love the sweet, chewy-crispy texture of the store bought ones, but I find the ingredient lists and prices of those unbearable.  I decided to make my own, based on a bar I used to love called Bodhi.

The Bodhi bar was fruit-based, organic, boldly expensive, and severely lacking in chocolate.  I have not seen one in a store for several years, and although I have tried various other bars, most of them list sugar within the first three ingredients.  The manufacturers’ lame attempts to disguise sugar by calling it organic cane syrup, brown rice syrup, honey, and evaporated cane juice don’t fool me at all.  I eat enough sugar.  If I’m going to consume it, let it be by way of fiber and nutrient- rich dried fruit.

Most of the ingredients in my vegan power bars are there because they not only taste good, but have strong nutritional value.  There’s peanut butter for protein, chia seeds for healthy omega 3 oils, rolled oats for cholesterol-lowering whole grain, cocoa nibs and cocoa powder for their high antioxidant values, and a mixture of dried fruits and nuts for vitamins, minerals, fiber, and more antioxidants.  And, of course chocolate chips because what good is a healthful snack without chocolate?

I try to use organic ingredients whenever I can.  I rely strongly on my local health food store, The Common Crow in Gloucester, for bulk organic items, and otherwise do the best I can in my regular grocery store.  Anything in these bars can be replaced with a similar substitute.  Chocolate can be omitted (although I can’t imagine wanting to do that).  Try different nuts, cereals, dried fruit, seeds, etc to customize these bars.  Make sure the ratio of wet to dry stays the same so the bars maintain their form when cut.

My vegan power bars are easy to make and keep very well in the refrigerator for a month or so, as long as they are wrapped well.  I use wax paper and wrap the bars in groups of four, securing each little treasure packet with an elastic band.  You could use foil or plastic if you prefer.  It’s not likely they will last long anyway— they taste great and are perfect for a quick breakfast, after-work out boost, or beach picnic dessert after a yummy, veggie-packed salad.  Even picky eaters like them, and it’s a great way to show off  a bit of deliciously decadent vegan cooking.

Thanks to Savannah, my mathematically-minded daughter who was kind enough to type the recipe for me and make it easy to follow!   Thanks also to my hubby for photographing these power bars and helping me post them.

Vegan Chocolate and Fruit Power Bars

Yield: 24 bars

15 figs, stems removed
15 pitted whole dates

15 dried apple rings

1. Cover with water in a large pot

2. Bring the water to a boil; turn it off, and let the fruits sit in the hot water for 10 minutes.

3. Drain the pot and process the fruits until they are a paste

1 cup peanut butter 4. Add peanut butter to the mixture and process until it is well-incorporated.
4 tbs cocoa powder

½ cup almonds, chopped (dry roasted, no salt)

½ cup dried tart cherries

3 tbs toasted sesame seeds

¼ cup unsweetened coconut, shredded or flaked

½ cup cocoa nibs

1-1/2 cups rolled oats*

1-1/2 cups crispy high fiber cereal*

3 tbs chia seeds

5. Add all ingredients listed in the adjacent box in a large mixing bowl.

6. Mix well with a large spoon.

7. With clean hands, add the wet to the dry, kneading in the bowl until completed merged.

8. Add the mixture to a greased 9 x 13 pan and spread evenly.

1 c Vegan chocolate chips 9. Press chocolate chips into the top of the bar block.

10. Chill for 2 hours, and cut into 24 bars (4 x 6)

*Oats and crispy high fiber cereal: together, the amount of these grains should be 3 cups total. Even amounts are fine, but they may also be varying quantities

(think x + y = 3 cups; x > 0; y > 0)

Food, Glorious Food: Vegan Recipes

July 24, 2010

Summer eating can be a challenge for cooks.  It’s hot, humid, and no one is interested in spending time in the kitchen slaving over the stove or teetering in front of the oven for long.  Eating out can be expensive, and can add a crazy amount of calories and fat to undermine fitness and weight loss goals.  I have been spending time in my kitchen, though, because I love to cook and I love to eat.  I willingly and happily sacrifice time each day to prepare lunches and dinners that meet my own tough standards:  lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fiber, and also my family’s standards:  tasty meals that beat the heat.

The next few blogs will be devoted to easy summer recipes.  All the recipes are vegan, meaning without animals or animal products.  Don’t be scared!  Eating vegan does not mean only eating salad and a bunch of weird vegetables.  My family and dinner guests have never mentioned missing burgers, ribs, or chicken salad, nor have they left the table hungry.  As long as the food tastes good, everyone is happily full.  So get ready for a few days of recipes that beat the heat and are good to eat!

Sweet Sixteen

July 23, 2010

I promised myself a long run this week, and have kept an eye on the weather forecasts to find the most perfect day.  Thursday wins with a hand that holds low humidity, bright sunshine, and a light breeze.    I have no morning clients scheduled, so I fold and head out with an open mind.  There is no specific number of miles on my agenda, really, I just think, I‘ll go until I’ve had enough.

I wear thin, thin shorts and a white sleeveless tank top, my favorite socks, and my Nike Free shoes, the same pair I have been wearing for the last 600 miles.  (They are really the best running shoe I have ever worn.  Still comfortable and no nagging running pains anywhere!)  I have my Nike+iPod tucked into an armband and press the start button, selecting a shuffle mix and start off easy.  I take the time to look out at the ocean as I round the corner by Old Garden Beach.  The water is sparkling blue and I can smell the salty-sweet seaweed washed up on the rocks and drying in the sun.

I meet my running friend Michelle part way down the first hill on Marmion Way and invite myself to run with her.  I reverse direction and we chat all the way back past my house, then downtown and by Front Beach, Back Beach, around the bend, then down her street.  She waves me off and I head back into town, retracing my steps and listening to some obscure Mexican brass band Nortec Collective the hubby added to my iTunes for me.  I love it, especially the bossy tuba punctuating every other measure of this song.

I head back down Marmion Way the long way once more, then turn onto Eden Road.  I look up at my friends’ house and see their bright red geranium pots hanging from their front porch.  I turn and look out at the Twin Lights, then speed up and onto Penzance Road.  I race past the marshes, hearing the red-winged blackbirds chirping their morning tune right through Belle and Sebastian’s “If She Wants Me“.  I meet up with my friend Dave and take a short walk break, then we run together down to Pebble Beach where he has left his little red pick up truck.  He hops in his truck, anxious to head off for his morning donut and coffee, and I press up the steep hill, then onto the low slow hill of South Street.  The hill is easy this morning and I run hard until I am panting.  I see the turkeys out, strutting along the side of the street and decide that today I will just run right by them.  I shove my fear into my stride and sprint.  They don’t even look up from their dirt-pecking activity and I am so happy not to have been chased that I decide to take Marmion the long way back.  I take the long downhill like a break, letting my quads slide easy.

As I head up the start of the next long hill, I see another runner ahead and tell myself to catch up with her before she reaches the top.  She’s not running fast, so it’s easy to do.

“Beautiful morning!”

“It is!  I haven’t seen you out before.”

“I usually run earlier, but I’m doing a long run today.  Which way are you headed?”

“To the bridge at Pigeon Cove.”

“Mind if I run with you?”

“No, but I’m slow.  I’m just coming back from a fall last week.”

“I don’t mind.”

“I’m Sigrid.”

“Elizabeth.”

“What mile are you on?”

I check my Nike+.

“12.”

“Well, if you come with me on my route the whole way, you’ll wind up doing 16.”

“Sweet!  Sure you don’t mind?”

“No.  It’s nice to have the company.”

We run by my house, then downtown, back by Front Beach and Back Beach, up the hill on Granite Street to the bridge, then turn around.  I’m not even tired.  I try not to think about the rest of the run, but rather to focus on the moment and enjoy the distance.  But the number 16 chimes again and again in my head.

Sigrid and I run comfortably together.  We talk a little bit, but mostly we just run.

The last couple of miles are a cool down, easy and light.   We part when we are close to Sigrid’s  street, and I thank her for keeping me company and helping me to make my long run goal.   I turn around and head home.  I can feel the salt dried on my skin and although I have stopped at the fountain by Old Garden Beach three times, I can’t stop thinking about water.  I walk through my front door and go directly to the kitchen, where  I stand at the sink and drink four glassfuls in a row.

I look to check my numbers for this long run.  16 miles.  2:08’27”.   Sweet indeed.

Maybe Even Ten

July 21, 2010

Dusk blankets the day in cool air filled with the light scent of privet and almond.  I pedal my bike behind my husband; the two of us fly past evening strollers dawdling their way along Old Garden Road and Marmion Way.

Daylight clings to the sky in stripes of blue brushed with rich rose and peach; the salty air fills my lungs with sweetness and exhilaration.  We pedal along South Street and turn left at the fork, stopping first at Cape Hedge Beach to watch the tide come in.  The waves roll in like wild horses on a lush blue, foaming prairie of sea.  We turn and struggle back up the hill, then glide our bikes down Penzance Road and onto the soft sandy pavement at Pebble Beach.  The colors of the sky grow richer as we pass Cambourne Pond.  We slow ourselves down to seek out the swan couple and their signet.  The little family, their long necks tucked into their wings, is nestled among the tall grass that borders the pond.  They are settled in for the night.

We pedal slowly along the marsh, listening to the frogs burbling deep in the reeds.  Red-winged black birds perch precariously atop the tall timothy grass, calling their night-trill, the sky indigo behind their bright flecked wings.  We speed up to take on the hill heading to Eden Road and then pause at the rise to gaze at the Twin Lights of Thatcher Island.

How quickly dusk  grows into dark.  We have no headlamps on our bikes, so take the rest of the ride at high speed.  We are birds, flying down the long, long hill on Marmion Way, then we are steam engines as we press up the last big hill before Old Garden Road.  I am eighteen again for a moment— a flash of memory takes me to pedaling along the bike path that runs beside State Beach in Oak Bluffs and Edgartown, rushing home before dark on my dad’s old ten speed bike, free and young and happy.

My muscles strain to fly again, my husband’s too, and we take the hill fast-fast, gaining momentum enough to make the final hill with breath to spare.  We both slam on our brakes as we reach the driveway, laughing together, hopping off of our bikes.  We stuff them back into the garage, tear off our helmets, and race up the back stairs.  I still feel eighteen, or maybe even ten.

A stolen bike ride can do that, you know.

Summer Surrender

July 20, 2010

“Sometimes we just can’t do everything, Mom!”

That’s a fairly direct quote from my friend Charlene’s youngest child.  She was three years old when she dropped that wisdom bomb on her mother.  They must have been having a pretty hectic day, but my friend took time to call me and share that sage advice.  I laughed.  What does a three year old know about life?  Apparently quite a bit more than I do.

A few weeks ago, I was out for an early morning run.  The air was cool, damp, fragrant with the smell of ocean and marsh grass.  A lavender tint washed the horizon as I sprinted down the hill toward Pebble Beach and I soared on the scent and the glow.  As I rounded the corner, I drew a sharp breath.  A fawn stood on the ocean side on the popple hedge of the beach.  She faced the wild rose bushes across the narrow road and her slender long legs trembled slightly when she saw me.  She turned her head and her narrow nose pointed in my direction.  Her wide brown eyes grew wider as I continued my approach.  I wanted to stop.  I should have stopped.  I ran.

She bolted for the roses, crossing so close to me I could have touched her soft flank if I had reached out my hand.  I ran.  For the rest of the route, I kept marveling at having had the opportunity to see the fawn.  Right there on Pebble Beach!  I couldn’t wait to rush home and tell my daughter.  I couldn’t wait to write about it, to share how I felt for those few seconds when she and I looked into each others’ eyes and shared the urge to run.  Me, because that’s what I do.   Her, because a crazy person was running right toward her— a panting, sweaty stranger who came out of nowhere.

I burst into my house, eager to tell whoever was awake what I had seen.  I told my husband, who was already settled in to to work at his computer.  I told my daughter, who had just tumbled out of bed and was fixing her coffee.  I told my son, who was on his way to work.

I hit the shower, dressed, and began the day.

Since my last blog, I have run 114 miles.  I have surrendered to my new boss— the garden— and spent hours and hours digging, weeding, and hefting truckloads of barrels to the dump.  I have cleared out my mother-in-law’s closet with my son’s help, (“I feel like the Grinch, Mom”), and helped him move into her house for the summer.  My husband and I have stolen as many beach days as possible, packing picnic lunches and books and boogie boards.  Friends have been to visit; there are more to come.  I found myself crying during the July 4th Fireman’s Parade in Rockport when the bagpipers marched by, missing the days when my husband’s parents took us to the parade after a quick supper.   That meal always ended with eating cold slices of watermelon from the back porch.  The children stood at the edge of the railing, competing to see who could spit the slick, black seeds the farthest into the driveway.

I return home from my run each morning soaked with sweat.  Once my husband asked me if I had been standing under someone’s sprinkler.  “Nope.  That water’s all mine.”  The humidity changes everything, making my steps sluggish, forcing me to carry a water bottle that sloshes and keeps me from working on my stealth running.  (That’s another story for another day.)  All this and I miss writing.

This morning I saw an egret.  Its small whiteness stood out in sharp contrast against the tall green reeds in Cambourne Pond.  I stopped running, turned off my iPod, and tip-toed along the tiny path leading to the pond.  The bird’s reflection mirrored flawlessly in the still water.  The swan family paddled along the opposite bank, their tranquil morning breakfast hour interrupted occasionally by the quacking of the dozen ducks flirting with the shoreline.  I stood and watched, my breath slowing, my heart rhythm returning to normal.

Balance.  Surrender.

Sometimes we just can’t do everything.  We do what we can.

Squirt Me (Morning Hero)

July 1, 2010

Today is perfect.  The sun is out, the air is cool and a little humid, the tide is medium-low and the sea smells delicious.  I’m having a great run— a little fast, legs behaving, breathing easy and slow.  The smells of summer fill me with each breath, and I take in the scent of sweet almond by Waring Field on South Street, wondering if it’s a weed or wild herb that reminds me so much of Christmas marzipan.

I’m early today, as I have been the past couple of weeks.  Setting my cell phone alarm to wake me at 5:30 in case the birds fail their summer job, each morning I pop out of the bed,  gulp a cup of coffee while I check my email, then wait to be as empty as possible before hitting the road.  It’s been so hot lately that even I, lover of summer and heat, need to run early if I’m going to run at all.

I turn at the fork leading to Cape Hedge Beach, and suddenly feel the sting of sweat in my eyes.  The cool air has gone; the sun heats the pavement and I realize just how humid the day is turning.  I reach to wipe my brow and my hand slips off my skin, skidding down my cheek and onto my chest.  I am soaked.  I need to cool off.

And then I see my hero, although he doesn’t know it yet.  He’s standing at the foot of his driveway in his ragged khaki shorts, rubbing his belly with one hand and yawning.  In his other hand he holds a hose with the nozzle set at a steady spray.  He’s watering grass seed— he looks like he just rolled out of bed and into his yard, thinking only that the seed must be watered immediately.  He is not even wearing a shirt, and looks like he could seriously use a big mugful of coffee.  He turns to me as I approach and smiles a slow, sleepy smile.

“G’morning.”

I rip my right ear bud out of my ear.

“Good morning.  Squirt me?”

“Huh?”

Would you mind just squirting me with that hose?”

He squints a little at me, thinking about it.  He rubs his head now, puzzled, and his unruly curls seem to hold his hand hostage for a moment.  He moves the hand to his hip, still thinking.

“Go ahead!  Just once.  I’m only three miles into my run and no one has a sprinkler on yet.  Please?”

He looks dubious, like I might not mean it, and a little nervous, like I might grab that hose right out of his hand.  I wave my hand across the front of my body, showing him the area to aim for and he takes a visible, deep, decisive breath.  He turns the hose in my direction and then the feeling of that fresh, cold water is heavenly.  It’s over all too quickly, but it’s enough.  I smile and take my hand to catch a little of the water running down my shirt.  I run the cool water onto my face and a tiny breeze touches my skin and the water and I am cool.

“Thank you!”

He waves and grins a much more awake smile than the one he gave me a minute ago.

“No problem!  Have a great run!”

I wave and take off, refreshed and ready to take on another seven miles.