Archive for September 2011

Cream of Broccoli Soup

September 30, 2011

The sun is warm, the temperature outside today is in the mid-seventies, yet there is a change in the air.  I can smell it, sense it, feel it on my skin as I step out the door with my early morning client today to walk.  I think about all the yummy summer foods we have feasted on—sweet corn, garden tomatoes, tender Sicilian eggplants.  Crisp cucumbers, summer squash, fresh basil chopped into creamy pesto and stirred into pasta, served at room temperature on warm summer nights.  I sigh for the loss of those only for a moment, as I think ahead to thick, rich fall soups and stews.  Winter squash, cabbages and Brussels sprouts, onions, kale, chard—oh! the possibilities!  The last of the broccoli lurks among the tall flowering stalks I have let go; I remember the days of this soup.  After work and a good workout, I hit the garden, then the kitchen to dig out my old favorite recipe.  Days of cheddar and cream are over, but with a year’s worth of experience in veganizing so many favorite recipes, I whip out my chef knife and fling open the spice cupboard with confidence, measuring and counting, for you mostly, so we can share this recipe as accurately as possible.

Because there is no cheese but I want that tangy flavor, the nutritional yeast, spices, and souring agents lend a taste that is reminiscent of cheddar, but without any of the cholesterol, fat, or dairy.  Cashew cream has proven itself over and over, even better than dairy cream, to thicken sauces, soups and salad dressings.  Practice, practice, practice and now on the stove is a pot of cream of broccoli soup that will feed us all for lunch today.  Welcome, Autumn!

Ingredients:

1 large sweet onion

1 lb. broccoli

2 cloves crushed garlic

2 sprigs fresh thyme

4 cups vegetable stock (I use low sodium—we prefer to salt at the table to taste)

1/2 c cashew cream

1/2 c nutritional yeast

1/2 tsp. each dill weed, dried marjoram, dry mustard

1/4 tsp. each paprika and freshly ground black pepper

generous pinch cayenne pepper

2 tsp. each fresh lemon juice and unfiltered cider vinegar

generous pinch freshly grated nutmeg

1/2-1 tsp. salt

Garnish:

1 c fresh chopped tomatoes, 1/2 c minced scallions, green ends only, 1/2 c chopped pistachio nuts

Method:

Coarsely chop the onion and broccoli.  (Don’t get all particular about the chopping, as you will be pureeing them midway through the preparation.)

In a medium stock pot, combine the onion, broccoli, garlic, thyme sprigs, and vegetable stock.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.

While the broccoli mixture is cooking, in a small bowl combine the nutritional yeast, the dill weed, dried marjoram, dry mustard, paprika, ground black pepper, and cayenne pepper.  Stir to combine.

When the vegetables are tender, remove the thyme sprigs from the pot and puree the soup with an immersion blender.  Alternatively, allow the soup to cool and puree in small batches in either a blender or food processor until smooth.  Return to soup pot.

Stir in the cashew cream, the nutritional yeast mixture, the lemon juice, the cider vinegar, the nutmeg, and the salt.  Reheat the soup over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the soup is steaming hot and thickened a bit.

Serve in bowls, sprinkling some chopped tomato, scallion, and pistachio on top for garnish.

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Vegan Freak

September 29, 2011

I sit at the table in my parents’ dining room, surrounded by my family.  My sister has prepared a beautiful salad to begin our meal.  Looking at the big bowl of crisp, fresh mixed greens, sweet and spicy toasted pecans, dried cranberries and a bottle of balsamic dressing makes my mouth water.

“You really don’t know what you’re missing.  This goat cheese makes the salad.”

As she passes the bowl of cheese on the side, I keep my mouth shut, but inside, I am thinking Are you kidding me?  Do you think I’ve never eaten goat cheese before?  That I couldn’t possibly imagine the tangy, creamy texture, the way it almost melts on the tongue, a perfect foil for the bitter greens, sweet berries and crisp nuts?  I was not raised vegan.  I have chosen it.  Could you not consider the possibility that someone might replace one pleasure for another?

She doesn’t need to say anything, though.  An occasional look, a roll of the eyes, a smile that leaks pity for my choice say it all.

I roam an agricultural fair with friends, strolling by one food vendor after another, looking to see if there is even one booth that offers a choice for me–a choice that means no meat, no dairy, no eggs.  There is always a salad.  A plain, green salad, with some lame hothouse tomatoes, a few shriveled cucumber slices, maybe some thick slices of red onion.  Oil and vinegar.  No nuts, no berries, no thick, rich cashew cream dressing with freshly minced herbs.  There are lots of pizza booths, Italian sausages with fried onions and peppers, chicken wings, turkey drumsticks.  Sometimes, if I’m lucky, there will be a felafel stand with sesame tahini dressing and hot sauce.  I always ask to make sure there are no eggs or yogurt.  Sometimes I get bold and force a vendor to get creative.

“Well, can you just give me the greens and then throw some of the fried peppers and onions on it, please?”

Sometimes, a smile from the cook and, voila! a taste of fair food like it should be—mustard, sauerkraut, peppers, onions, rolled into a whole-wheat wrap that I can stroll around with and enjoy.  Other times, a frown from the guy taking the cash, a puzzled look, and a shake of the head.  No.  We cannot do that special thing, lady.  Just order what’s on the sandwich board menu or move on.  I can see the irritation in the eyes of some of my friends, wondering why, at least just for today, I can’t just eat a damn cheeseburger and get over it.

I have other friends, though, who have been truly supportive.  Complete vegan dinners have been cooked for us; if a friend has a question about how to “veganize” a favorite recipe because we will be their guests, they ask and I answer.  A new friend went so far as to make homemade vegan squash-stuffed ravioli and we made a cream sauce together in her kitchen.  We made cashew cream, then added vegetable broth, blood orange oil, fried fresh sage leaves, freshly ground black pepper.  She was worried the pasta would be lacking without the eggs, but as it turned out, it was the most silky, rich delicious pasta I had ever eaten, and she thought the sauce was the perfect compliment.  We dined at a candlelit table outdoors beneath the stars that night.  The meal was superb.

At home, I keep a vegan kitchen.  When we have dinner guests, I cook.  They eat what I make and even if they are skeptical about the vegan lifestyle, their plates are clean at the end of the meal, there are no leftovers, and I often wind up having to write out the recipe for whatever I served for dinner and dessert before they leave.  I find myself scribbling down email addresses so I can send our guests more recipes.  We eat healthfully, we eat well.  We get our protein, our iron, our desserts, including cake and cookies.  My husband praises every meal, requesting leftovers, if there are any, for lunch the following day.  My son drops by to pick up homemade seitan, lentil soup, curried rice, chocolate cookies, and hides them in the fridge at his apartment so his roommates don’t gobble them up.

A year and a half ago, when my daughter and I decided becoming vegan was the right choice for us, I looked for support.  There really wasn’t any in our community, although I did (and still do) have one friend in town who is vegan, and we commiserate on both the lack of restaurants in our area and the weird looks we get from family and friends.  I read some articles on the internet—some about nutrition, some about animal rights, lots and lots about factory farming and the inhumane and often unsanitary processing of animals and animal products in our country.  I still felt alone.  I continued to educate myself by reading books.  Lots of books.  I borrowed and/or purchased cookbooks and some literature on being vegan. My daughter and I both read The Omnivore’s Dilemma.  I bought and read Eating Animals.   I bought Vegan Freak:  Being Vegan in a Non-Vegan World and read it in a day.

Vegan freak.  When I read that book, I thought it was a little over the top.  Animals as slaves?  Really?  But then I visited a local dairy farm with my daughter’s environmental club.  The calves, separated from their mothers and held in small pens across the yard, bleated mournfully, on and on.  A kid in the group asked why they were crying.

“Well, they’re hungry.”

“Don’t you feed them?  Why aren’t they allowed to be with their mothers and have their milk?”

“Oh, they just want to drink milk all the time.  They might get too fat.   You know, some animals don’t know when to stop eating.  Plus, most of the milk goes into the dairy.  The calves get a certain amount every day, by bottle.  See?  It’s right there in the pen!”

The guide smiles and points to one calf’s pen.  The milk bottle is empty.  The calf is screaming, over and over, non-stop.  “Bleat!  Bleat!  Bleat bleat bleat bleat!”

My eyes fill and I turn to look at the group of students and teachers around me.  No one else seems upset.  Like this is a normal thing.  I catch my daughter’s teacher’s eye.  She meets my gaze, then looks away.

I dig out a tissue and try to get a grip on myself.  I think Probably most of the people here have pets, maybe dogs or cats or both.   How would they feel if their pets were in those pens? Would they allow their pets to live in that miserable sadness, hungry and alone, trapped in a pen where there is no room to walk around, let alone run?  No room to be free?

And I got it.  I really got it.  There’s plenty out in the world to eat, choices that satisfy both nutritional needs and wacky cravings without hurting or killing animals.  So, freak or not, I’m vegan.

Running with Eric

September 28, 2011

I am running late this morning.  An early client with a pretty intense session focused on the Wellness Coaching aspect of what I do as a trainer finishes with a good core workout and a long low-body stretch sequence. Wellness Coaching requires quite a lot of focus, listening, and thoughtful questioning.  I am eager to hit the street and shake out my mind and my muscles.  I call my mom first, because I know she waits for my call and I don’t like lugging that feeling with me on a run.  I listen to her morning stories, missing her, but also itching to get outside.  I don’t hurry her, though.  I pace around my kitchen, thinking about how hard it is for her to take care of my dad, and wish they lived closer so I could be more helpful to them.  She lets me go after a little while, knowing I am waiting to run.   I fill a water bottle, double-knot my Nike Free sneakers (still the same pair!) and turn on my iPod.  I ease down Atlantic Ave., letting my body settle into motion and try to stop thinking.

I run along Beach Road, not really hearing my music so much as using it as a tool to zone out.  I reach Granite Street and press up the hill.  I look up to see a man in a bright green tee shirt barreling toward me and as I open my mouth to say good morning, I realize that it’s my friend Eric. I stop and reach out to him and he just about jumps out of his skin.  He regroups,  smiles and puts his arm around my shoulder, trying to cover the fact that I have just startled him, then, giving up, he confesses that he is already so in the zone that he did not even recognize me.  We chat for a few seconds, then I ask him if he wants to run together.

“Sure.  Yeah, sure.”

I cannot decide if I have overstepped a boundary by cornering him into running with me, but to be honest, he is a good friend, a fairly new runner, and I have been itching to run with him.  We are both the kind of people who are good at pushing ourselves; he’s also a bit competitive.  I am not very competitive with anyone except for myself, but I know he’s fast and I am interested to see if I am able to keep up with him.  He lets me choose the route, different than his, and we trot off together up the hill.

Eric is slender and quite strong.  The muscles and tendons in his legs visibly flex with each step and he tells me he has read the book Chi Running and is really trying to focus on his form.  I, too, have read this book and have been working to incorporate the postures and techniques recommended to prevent running injuries and make the running experience even better that it is.  (There have been days when I have chanted “needle in cotton” to myself, mile after mile after mile, attempting to lean forward just a little and keep my spine straight yet arms and legs soft.  It’s work.)  We both remove our ear buds and fall into a rhythm, his stride long and relaxed, mine easily matching his.  After a couple of miles, it becomes clear that his pace is faster than mine, but also that I can keep up if I push.  I am able to sprint ahead on the return of the loop as we take turns fartleking the telephone poles that are planted in the sidewalk.  By the time we finish the last big hill we are running together, I know I am at my limit and curl around the internal gratitude I feel, knowing he is headed off to his own house and my last mile will be leisurely.

When we part, he thanks me for bringing him out of his comfort zone—taking an unexpected and unplanned route was good for him.  I thank him, too, for his good company and for the chance to finally get to run with him.

I stop running when I reach my front walk, but take a stroll down my street to cool down and let my heart rate ease back to normal.  I am exhilarated from today’s run.  I am happy my early client went over time, that I called my mom before I ran.  The timing turned out to be perfect for me.  Running into and then with Eric cleared my mind better than anything else could have today, and keeping up with him reminded me that it’s good to push a little harder once in a while.

Sprouted Sunflower Seed Pate

September 27, 2011

Early this summer, my husband and I took a weekend trip to Portland, ME.  We scoured the internet for vegan-friendly restaurants along the way and decided on Blue Moon Evolution, a little health food store with a cafe that served lots of vegan choices in Exeter, NH.  Although we had a wonderful weekend, I could not stop thinking about my lunch that first day!  I had sprouted sunflower seed pate spread on what would have otherwise been a rather ordinary sandwich.  It was so delicious (and the nutritional benefits of sprouted seeds and grains are tremendous!) that I bought a small container to take with us.  We buried the treat in the bottom of our cooler and when we returned home, I immediately (well, after eating some of it on crackers) studied the label to see how to make it.  I looked online at several recipes, but none of them seemed quite right, except for the sprouting lessons.  The ingredient list on the package we brought home was pretty vague about the seasonings.  Undaunted, I bought some sunflower seeds and began soaking and sprouting.  The following day, I measured, tasted, added, blended, tasted, and measured some more until I got my very own sprouted sunflower seed pate—even better than the one from Blue Moon Evolution!  The only thing I have yet to figure out is how to get the accent mark to appear over the e at the end of the word pate…
Sprouted Sunflower Seed Pate

Ingredients:

3 cups organic raw sunflower seeds
juice from 2 lemons, or more to taste
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1/4 cup raw sesame tahini
3 Tbsp Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
1 tsp salt
generous handful fresh parsley
2-3 medium cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp dried dill
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
2 tsp dried cumin
3 Tbsp organic apple cider vinegar
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp lemon pepper if you have it, otherwise 1/2 tsp ground black pepper and 1 Tbsp lemon zest

Method:

Sprout the sunflower seeds:  Pour the seeds into a large bowl.  Cover with water and rinse.  Cover with water again and soak 8-12 hours.  Drain well.  Allow to sprout right in the bowl for 3-4 hours.

Make the pate:

Throw all the ingredients in the food processor and process until well combined and the consistency of pate.  You might need to stop the processor and scrap down the sides a couple of times.

This makes quite a bit, although we have not had any trouble finishing it.  Keeps a week in the fridge.  If you are anxious about the quantity, either cut the recipe in half, or share some with a friend!

Sooo good.  We like this sandwich:

2 slices toasted bread, whole wheat sourdough is really good. We love Iggy’s!
sprouts (we are loving pea shoots right now), shredded red cabbage, grated carrot, sliced tomato, spinach leaves, thinly sliced cukes.
Hummus of your choice.  (we really love the Trader Joe’s Tuscan hummus on this sandwich)
Spread one slice of the toast generously with the pate and the other slice generously with the hummus.
Stack the veggies on one slice, cover with the other slice. Cut in half.

Humble Return

September 26, 2011

This summer has been filled with milestones:  my daughter learned to drive. (!!!)  My mom turned 80.  (!!!)  My husband celebrated his 10 year anniversary at Berklee College of Music.  I ran 16 miles. I logged at least 40 miles each week running, and continued with boxing, kickboxing, and cycling.  I completed the P90X series.  Looking at this, I can see how focused I am on my fitness milestones and how important they are as I grow older.  48 doesn’t seem so old now that I am comfortably nestled into the number.

My husband and I cleaned our rental house faithfully and well after each guest checked out.  A short-term gardening assistant and I whipped the entire garden into shape (before he quit and I lost my gardening mojo, that goodness).  The days flew by, and I struggled to find the time to read the first book for my winter book group.  And, I struggled to write.

In between the busyness I had some downtime.  I  weighed the cost of  writing about running, fitness, nutrition and cooking.  People judge and I take it personally.   People make assumptions about me because so many stories focus on running, even though this blog is about running!  Sometimes I doubt who I am.  Yet here I sit at my computer, ready to start again, to share my experiences, ideas, and thoughts with whomever is out there searching for real answers or just entertainment and the occasional recipe.  For every time I have felt uncomfortable with judgements, assumptions, or comments, I realize there have been at least as many positive comments.  My friend Sarah wandered by one day and asked where I’ve been, that she missed my great recipes.  I realized that it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks or says, either way, although the positive comments sure feel good!

Elizabeth Runs feels like a long-lost friend. I decide I will write.  I will continue to put my feelings and experiences out into cyberspace, holding onto the hope that someone, somewhere, might be able to make a change in their life by feeling an internal shift after reading even one phrase or story that hits home for them.  And, selfishly, I will continue because when I look back at the stories, fitness rules and recipes I have written, I am able to trace my path more clearly, and continue to make choices that support both my short-term and long-term goals.  I have a few new writing goals, including shorter pieces and the addition of more recipes.  Oh—and some real honesty about living a vegan lifestyle in a world where not eating animals sometimes makes me feel like a freak.  We shall see how that goes…

For now, best moment of my running summer:  On the 16 mile run, my husband couldn’t find me for our second water stop.  He found me at the half-way mark and brought water and a LARABAR, but somehow did not connect again.  I really, really needed some water!  I could taste the strange iron flavor of blood on my lips.  I stopped by a friend’s house and knocked on the door.  I could hear Lynn in the living room.  She had company.  I kept knocking.

“Hey!  It’s Elizabeth Runs!”  (Yup, that’s what they call me.  :D)  “Come on in!”

“Oh, no, thanks, I can’t.  I stink.  I mean I REALLY stink.   But would you mind giving me a glass of water?”

Lynn brings me a tall clear, cold glass of water.  I take the glass and sip and sip and sip until it is empty.  I hand it back, almost in tears because I feel so much better.  I sense the energy return to my legs, the water coats my parched throat and soothes my cracked lips.

“Thank you.  Thank you so much!”

“Any time.  You know you can stop here any time.  Just come in and help yourself.”

I trot down the gravel driveway.  Such kindness!  I am filled with  gratitude and now really do start to cry.  I swallow and smile, my heart beat and legs  pick back up for the last few miles home.  Elizabeth Runs.