Tarahumara Barbecued ‘Mice’

Post by Christine Frazier

barbeque nuggets photo 300x225Thank you for the overwhelmingly receptive response to the announcement of the first No Meat Athlete cookbook!  Creating the recipes for Fuel Your Run the Tarahumara Way was by the far the biggest culinary project I’ve ever taken on, and it’s so exciting to finally share our work with you all.

Behind the scenes, there was plenty of trial and error and a lot of discussion on what pinole and chia recipes would make the final cut to be included in the book.  I had to giggle yesterday when K from Weight in Vain tweeted “What about the beer and the mice they also consume?”

She’s got a point; though the Tarahumara diet consists mainly of pinole, chia, pinto beans, squash and leafy greens, Born to Run did mention crazy all-night corn-beer ragers and the occasional barbecued mouse.

Of course, neither of these are described as miracle foods for endurance running.  (Unless you count running away from plate full of mice.)

Tarahu-Mar-B-Cue, Anyone?Pinole Chia Cookbook Cover Photo

Still, after working on a project so intensely for a long time, I have to admit that I started to get a little brain-fried and silly.  As a joke for Matt, I decided to recreate the Tarahumara party experience with my own vegetarian barbecued “mice,” complete with beer and all.

Well, my joke backfired because these little nuggets, now affectionately referred to in the NMA household as Tarahu-Mar-B-Cue, turned out so freakin’ delicious.  What a shame, since there’s no place in a running-fuel cookbook for a faux-bbq-mice-and-beer-nugget, even if they are made with good stuff like pinole and pinto beans.

I couldn’t stand to see something this yummy hit the cutting room floor, so even though it’s not technically running-fuel I’m sharing the recipe with you all now as a way of celebrating the release of our cookbook.

Barbecued Pinole Nuggets

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1 1/2 cups pinole
  • 1 cup beer or vegetable broth
  • 1 can pinto beans, drained,rinsed, and lightly mashed
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and fry the onion for about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook another 3 minutes.  Stir in the chili powder, smoked paprika, and salt and fry a minute until fragrant.  Stir in the tomato paste, dijon mustard, and maple syrup.

    Add one cup of the pinole (reserving half a cup) to the pan and stir to coat.  Slowly pour in the beer.  Add beans and chia seeds.  Keep stirring for about 5 to 10 minutes, until the alcohol cooks off and the mixture thickens.  The mixture should be thick enough that when you fold it over itself, you can easily see the bottom of the pan.

    Allow the mixture to come to room temperature, then form with your hands into nugget shapes or oblong patties.  Coat nuggets in remaining 1/2 cup of pinole.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

    Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and fry the nuggets for about 3-4 minutes each, turning to brown on all sides.  Remove from pan and place on a plate lined with a paper towel.  Makes 2 dozen nuggets.

Try stuffing a few of these in a big pita with coleslaw and smothered in tangy barbecue sauce.  Or these are really great served croquette-style with a few dipping sauces like sweet mustard, garlic nayonaise, and hot wing sauce…just don’t let on to your guests what inspired these nuggets!

Thanks again for all the support for our new book.  I can’t tell you how proud I am of what we created.  Don’t forget, if you’d like to download a copy of Fuel Your Run The Tarahumara Way, do it this weekend before the price goes up on Monday.  I promise, no more mice.  I can’t wait to hear your feedback about the recipes!

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Breakfast Salad with a Side of Controversy

Post by Christine Frazier.

I love agave nectar.  Its sweetness isn’t bitter like stevia, overwhelming like honey, or immediately identifiable like maple syrup.  Its thin consistency makes it easier to use and measure than my other fav, brown rice syrup.

xagave photo 200x300But mainly, I feel better using just a touch of agave nectar in my baked goods for the low glycemic index, instead of loading up with white sugar.

So when Xagave sent us a bottle of their agave nectar to try, I should have been psyched right?  Actually, I was pretty nervous that finally researching the subject would burst the “feel good” bubble around my sweetener of choice.

The controversy around agave is no secret; after all, it’s what Brendan Brazier gets questioned about most often these days, right after “Where do you get your protein?”

The Xagave brand breaks the agave mold a little bit because it is a blend of both blue and white agave—it benefits from the extra inulin in blue and extra calcium in white.

Inulin is a dietary fiber that promotes good bacteria in your intestines to improve bowel function, and getting 8 grams a day (the amount in 3 tablespoons of Xagave) can increase calcium retention and bone density.  Inulin also helps lower triglycerides.

Interestingly enough, one of the criticisms of agave syrup in general is that it actually creates more triglycerides.  That’s the other side of that attractively low glycemic index; instead of turning into blood sugar, the fructose is processed into the bad kind of fats.

As for calcium, a WebMD.com article called “The Truth about Agave Nectar” claims that “Nutritionally and functionally, agave syrup is similar to high-fructose corn syrup and sucrose (Karo) syrup. It does contain small amounts of calcium, potassium, and magnesium, but not enough to matter nutritionally.”

However, one tablespoon of the Xagave brand has 17% of your daily calcium—more than half a glass of milk!  Good for me to know since the dairy section of my food pyramid was lacking.

Is Agave Nectar Any Better Than High Fructose Corn Syrup?

Well, check out the sweetener comparison chart up on another post titled “The Truth About Agave Nectar.”  (What’d I tell ya?  There’s controversy!)  Xagave has less fructose and less total sugars than HFCS, not to mention the lowest glycemic index.

But, it’s still sugar.  The bottom line is moderation, which was the only consistent opinion or fact I could find about the darn stuff.  I believe it still makes an excellent staple food in the vegetarian diet for athletes as a workout fuel, but not as an all-purpose sweetener. And I pity the man who tries to stop me from shaking up this pineapple mojito from Vital Juice, made with agave.

As Brendan Brazier said,  “If you’re a sedentary person sitting around, I wouldn’t be using it as a sweetener.  I think stevia is a great sweetener for tea and things like that, but as a fuel, I think agave is excellent.”

So, while agave nectar will stay in my “treat” diet by means of the occasional dessert, I think it’s time to remove it from my daily smoothie.  Agave’s real home is in the pre-workout meals where its sustained-release (but not starchy!) carbs contribute the most.

Salad…for Breakfast?

I’ve been dying to try a salad for breakfast after reading about the one recommended by Dr. Ruth Heindrich in Born to Run. She’s one hot 75-year-old-cancer-surviving-Ironman-running-vegan-raw-eating mama, so anything she eats for breakfast is fine with me.  And why not start the day with leafy greens?

Xagave was nice enough to include a cookbook full of agave recipes in the package they sent us, so I decided to use their Strawberry Vinaigrette recipe in my very own breakfast salad to eat before workouts.  Like other agave nectars, Xagave has a light and versatile flavor that works across the board.

My salad still has its foot in the breakfast world with cantaloupe and blueberries, but the chickpeas, celery, and spinach are all business.breakfast salad photo 1024x768

Xagave Strawberry Vinaigrette

Reproduced with permission.


Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup Xagave
  • 1/3 cup white rice vinegar (unsweetened)
  • 6-10 medium strawberries

Blend dressing ingredients in a blender until smooth.  Pour dressing over salad and toss.

NMA Pre-Workout Breakfast Salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups (1 can) cooked chickpeas
  • 2 cups cantaloupe, cubed
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup (about 4 stalks) celery, diced
  • 1 cup Xagave Strawberry Vinaigrette
  • 4 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • extra strawberries for garnish

Combine the chickpeas, cantaloupe, blueberries, and celery in a large bowl.  Gently toss with Strawberry dressing.  Place one cup of spinach on each of four plates, then divide salad mixture onto each bed of spinach.  Sprinkle with almonds, salt, and pepper.  Garnish with sliced strawberries.  Serves 4.

This salad is a remarkably refreshing and clean way to start your morning workout.  It’s so delicious, why not sneak it into your barbeques this summer instead of that same ol’ 7 layer taco dip?

I’d love to hear your opinion on the conflicting information out there about agave nectar.  Has clever marketing duped the natural foods community?  What’s your all-purpose sweetener of choice?

22 Comments

 

What the New Food Pyramid Means for Vegetarians

Post by Christine Frazier.

This month the USDA released the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and it’s out with the rigid 1992 food pyramid and in with a snazzy new vegetarian-friendly version.  Yep, vegetarian-friendly, and ready to hit America with what’s been called a Michael Pollan-approach to eating better.

food pyramid 1992 photo 300x233

Remember this? The Food Pyramid, circa 1992

The new guidelines call for Americans to be conscious eaters.  After all, the top five sources of energy for Americans are yeast breads, mixed chicken dishes, soda/energy/sports drinks, and pizza.  Any of those sound like leafy greens?

Land of the Free, Home of the Couch Potato

The pyramid works on three important assumptions: the food categories must be filled with a variety of foods, those foods should be nutrient dense (without added sugars, saturated fats, and salt), and the caloric intake should not exceed energy needs.

Sedentary individuals, and thus most Americans, should lower their intakes of refined carbohydrates, greatly reducing intakes of sugar and sugar-sweetened beverages and refined grains that are high in calories, but relatively low in certain nutrients.”

Ouch— obesity is obviously a problem, but is the country really that definitely inactive?  It’s a scary thought to grasp.

Can a New Food Pyramid Really Make a Difference?

food pyramid 2010 photo 300x232The USDA admits that the American diet in no way resembles the last set of recommendations from 2005.  So what changes this time around?  Well, for one, the pyramid is a little more relatable.  Instead of listing vague servings, the food amounts are specified with cups and ounces.  They also ask for half the grains you eat to be whole grains, and even lowered the daily allowance of sodium by a third— from 2300mg per day to 1500mg.

There are new vegetable sub-categories now too, so you can’t just count  your MickeyD’s hashbrown and tomato ketchup as a day’s worth of veggies.  Nope, you need to check off the dark green and orange veggie categories to meet the goal.

And see that little guy walking up the stairs?  The new pyramid has exercise right on it!  Not that this will make marathoners out of segway-riders, but still it drives the point home that diet and activity are directly related.

Is Low-Fat Where It’s At?

One of the biggest criticisms of the food pyramid is that it is based on a low fat diet.  Food Renegade argues that the obesity problem and diabetes crisis came on as people switched from whole foods like eggs and full-fat dairy to refined carbs and vegetable oils.

When I do eat dairy, I actually do prefer the full fat product because I feel that it is less processed, and less likely to be amped up with sugars for flavor.  However, I understand in a society that deep-fries everything, switching people over to low-fat dairy and lean meats can be a logical first step in “conscious” eating.

Who Can You Trust?

The other criticism of the guidelines is the idea that the government has a financial interest in “promoting the products of commodity agriculture“, which goes hand in hand with promoting processed foods.  I feel the focus on nutrient-dense foods and call against added sugars and salt show otherwise.

Another side of the government’s financial interest involves the pharmaceutical companies.  Healthy Eating Politics argues that cholesterol-lowering drugs are such big business that drug companies are able to influence the government into keeping the public focused on lowering their cholesterol levels, whether or not it’s the healthiest choice.

It comes down to listening to your body and trusting your gut.  I know I feel sluggish and bloated after eating dairy, and I know I feel good eating carbs after a work-out.  For me, recognizing these kinds of needs will never be trumped by somebody else’s guidelines.

Veggies at Work

The food pyramid has two large chunks devoted to animal-based foods, but the guidelines recognize many benefits of the vegetarian diet, including a lower body-mass index, lower levels of obesity, lower blood pressure. and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

There is a section devoted to seeing how the daily recommendations work for vegans, lacto-ovo vegetarians, and people with plant based diets (basically flexitarians).  And guess what?  The vegetarian patterns meet almost all goals for nutrient adequacy, including protein and essential amino acids!

However, they mention that the requirements are only met by including fortified foods like cereals and soy products in order to get enough vitamin B12, vitamin D, and calcium.   Vegetarians also need to make an effort to get enough iron and the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA.

Our Own Slice of The Pyramid

The guidelines promise to provide some sample menus for vegetarian options at some mysterious future date…get on it USDA!  Still, it seems a lot of thought was put into balancing the veggie substitutions suggested; for example, tofu and fake meats were moved out of the veggie section and into the meat category, since the processing leaves them with less fiber than a straight up vegetable.

And to compensate for the extra calories to get the recommended amount of protein from beans, nuts, and seeds, the guidelines reduce the amount of oils in other areas.  (They are still stuck on the .8 grams of protein per pound of body weight though, and getting a quarter of protein from soy sources as they suggest is a little much for me.)

Vegetarian diets that include complementary mixtures of plant proteins can provide the same quality of protein as that from animal protein. Education is needed for those designing diets containing complementary proteins for consumers switching to a more plant-based diet. Additionally, individuals consuming vegetarian, particularly vegan, diets should ensure adequate intake of all nutrients.

The idea of education before switching to a plant based diet is carefully stressed. The most exciting part for new vegetarians is the interactive menu planner at MyPyramid.gov. There you can list the foods you eat, and it plops them into the correct sections of the pyramid.  Then it analyzes results by day or by week based on your personal stats and activity level and offers tips on where to improve.

I did it myself, and though the master list of foods lacks choices like arugula and quinoa, I still found listings for staples like flaxseed and bulgur.  Try it out and see how your diet stacks up!

So what do you think?  Will a “conscious” food pyramid make a difference on America’s health?  Is it worth trusting a possibly-influenced USDA for diet advice?  Is the pyramid an adequate resource for vegetarian nutrition?

The information about the guidelines and food pyramid is from the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which includes Part B. Section 2: The Total Diet: Combining Nutrients, Consuming Food, Appendix E-3.3
Vegetarian Food Patterns: Food Pattern Modeling Analysis
, and Part D. Section 4: Protein.

16 Comments

 

Two New (Sweet!) Ways to Enjoy Summer Corn and Cucumbers

Hi everybody!  This is Christine here with not one but two vegan recipes to get your summer started right!  Fresh corn in ice cream?  Savory herbs in a cocktail?  You betcha!  These unusual flavor combinations breathe new life into classic summer veggies.

The Sweetness of Corn, Minus the Corn Syrup

vegan sweet corn ice cream photo 300x254Ever eaten at a eco-friendly restaurant?  I was lucky enough to dine at Square 1682 in Philadelphia last weekend, and was really impressed by their environmental policies.  But what I really couldn’t stop gushing about was the Sweet Corn Ice Cream.  Imagine your childhood excitement surrounding a big bowl of frosted flakes or corn pops.  Now take that processed corn taste and transform it into fresh, buttery ice cream.  Amazing.

Most sweet corn ice cream recipes I discovered are fairly simple combinations of fresh-corn infused cream, egg yolks, and sugar.   I used coconut milk for the fattiness of the cream and cashew butter for the richness of egg yolks.  A touch of maple syrup, salt and vanilla lent a buttery taste to the animal-free substitutions.

Vegan Sweet Corn Ice Cream

Ingredients:

  • 1 can (about 2 cups) coconut milk
  • 1 cup unsweetened soy, almond, or rice milk
  • 2 cups fresh sweet corn, shucked from about 3 ears
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup cashew butter
  • 2 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • pinch of salt

In a saucepan, combine the coconut milk, soy milk, sugar, and corn.  Gently heat to boiling.  Turn off heat and let for about an hour to let the flavors combine.  Puree the corn into the mixture until smooth, and strain out any chunks.
In a small bowl, mix together the flaxseed and water and let sit until thickened slightly.
In a large bowl, whisk together the cashew butter, vanilla, maple syrup, and flax mixture.  Slowly pour in the warm corn mixture and whisk to combine.
Return to saucepan, and heat on medium-low heat for about 15 minutes or until thickened.  Add a pinch of salt to taste.  Let the mixture come to room temperature, then chill for 2 hours.  I am usually pretty loose with chill times, but here it is important that it is as cold as possible before putting into the ice cream maker.  Follow the directions in your ice cream maker, then freeze again before serving.  If you don’t have an ice cream maker, try following the directions here.

Move Over, Bloody Mary

cucumber thyme cocktail 300x225There’s a new veggie cocktail in town.  I was inspired by the delicious “Hendricks and Honeydew” I had at James on 8th in Philadelphia, not to be confused with Jim’s Cheesesteaks, where our cab driver first took us!

At James, the drink was made with candied thyme as a garnish.  Since Hendrick’s gin is traditionally served with cucumber, my version includes a whole fresh cucumber pureed with honeydew, lime and thyme-infused simple syrup.  With a shot of liquor and a splash of soda water, you’ve got yourself a spa-worthy summer cocktail.

Cucumber-Thyme Cocktail

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 6-8 fresh thyme sprigs, plus more for garnish
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup honeydew melon
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 12 oz liquor of your choice, preferably gin or rum
  • 24 oz club soda or seltzer

In a saucepan on medium heat, combine water and sugar until dissolved, about 3 minutes.  Add the sprigs of thyme and simmer for 7 more minutes, or until the syrup reduces to about 1/4 cup.  Remove the thyme sprigs.
In a blender, combine the thyme-syrup, cucumber, melon, and lime.  Puree until smooth.
For each glass, add 1.5 oz (1 shot) of liquor, 1.5 oz puree, and 3 oz soda.  Top with ice and fresh thyme sprigs to garnish. Makes 8 cocktails.  I only actually served 4 drinks, so I froze the remaining puree in an ice cube tray to use for smoothies.

New Harvest Omega-3 Supplement Giveaway Winner

The winner of last week’s New Harvest contest is Heather!  She is a new vegetarian herself, so hopefully a new vegetarian source of EPA omega-3’s will start her off on the right foot!  Don’t fret if you didn’t win, because you can still use this secret coupon for $2.00 off the supplement at GNC stores.

You know you had a great trip when two weeks later you’re still talking about the food!  Thanks again to New Harvest for the Omega-3 Supplement Giveaway and delicious weekend.

xoxo Christine

9 Comments

 

The Skinny on Fatty Acids for Vegetarians

Hello everybody!  This is Christine, and while Matt was busy running his 50-miler, I attended an event in Philadelphia hosted by New Harvest to educate health and food bloggers about their new Vegetarian Fatty Acid Supplement.  New Harvest took care of the expenses for my trip, but my opinions are my own.  I also double-checked the facts they provided in their presentation before passing any information on to you.

New Harvest Vegetarian Fatty Acid Supplement is a yeast-derived form of the long chain fatty acid EPA.  By now you probably have figured out that essential fatty acids are, well, essential.  But if you’re like me, the knowledge ends at the vague idea of omega-3’s being “good” and that’s about it.

Not Just Heart-HypeNew Harvest Supplement Bottle 198x300

Fatty acids are strongly associated with heart health; the higher the intake, the lower the number of coronary events.  In fact, a low omega-3 index in cells is now being considered a risk factor itself for cardiovascular disease.

Omega-3’s are associated with general life longevity too, but EPAs are the only omega-3 fatty acid that have been proven helpful to the heart.  DHA is great for brain health, but can actually raise bad cholesterol.

The American Heart Association recommends 500 mg of omega-3’s per day.  If you are counting on flaxseed and chia to provide you with the recommended amount of omega-3’s, you may be in for a surprise.

Does your vegetarian diet need an omega-3 supplement?

omega 3 ratio photo 300x160Plant sources contain the short chain fatty acid ALA, which the body can turn into EPA and DHA.  Unfortunately, only a sorry rate of 5-15% actually converts into the useful long chain kind.  Keep that in mind before splurging on ALA omega-3 fortified Doritos.

But where did those daily recommended amounts come from anyway?  Some say that the ratio of omega-6’s to omega-3’s is just as important as the absolute amount; therefore lowering the intake of omega-6’s could suffice in place of an omega-3 supplement.  Maybe this could work for the average American who consumes omega-6’s and omega-3’s in a 10:1 ratio when the ideal is 4:1, but there may not be enough to cut from a healthy vegetarian diet.

Why not just bite the bullet and take a fish oil pill?

I know more than a few vegans who in the past have been instructed by their doctors to take a fish oil supplement.  Even if you aren’t philosophically opposed to eating fish or deterred by the dreaded “fishy burp,” it’s important to realize that making fish oil supplements is big business.

With demand so high, environmental practices can take a backseat and leave oceans over-harvested and ecosystems in shambles.  The New Harvest supplement is made from yeast so it is sustainable, unlike those two servings of fatty fish per week for the rest of the population.

Environmental Give and Take

The New Harvest EPA oil is currently extracted from the yeast by a chemical solvent called hexane, but I am told that they are changing the process by next year.  Hexane is a cheap and efficient way of extracting oils, but is also classified as a hazardous air pollutant.  I am looking forward to hearing how they change the process since hexane is notorious for leaking into the atmosphere.  Unless you exclusively buy organic expeller-pressed oils, you probably already have many hexane-extracted oils in your kitchen.

Prick it to Prove it!

Scared of Prick Test Photo 225x300So where does that leave me and my daily flax and berry smoothie?  I’m not sure yet, but I’ll keep you updated.  New Harvest provided me with a prick test to analyze my omega-3 index both before and after taking their supplement for 6 weeks. I’m pretty excited to get started; it think it says a lot that a company is willing to hand a blogger something so quantifiable to back up their product.  So here I am being a big baby with the first round of the test.  At the end of six weeks we can compare how the supplement affected my omega-3 index.

New Harvest Giveaway!

New Harvest gave me an extra bottle of their Vegetarian EPA supplement to giveaway to you No Meat Athlete readers!  To enter, swing over to the New Harvest site and take the quick Omega-3 IQ test.  Then just leave me a comment about how you did, good or bad!  I’ll announce the winner next Friday. (18 and over, in the U.S. please.)

If you can’t wait til then, I have a secret coupon too!  It’s good for $2.00 off New Harvest at GNC stores.  Sweet!  I’m going to use it myself to keep my supply going for this 6 week test.

A Food-Filled Weekend in Philly

I had such a fun time in Philadelphia for the weekend!  I want to express my sincere appreciation to New Harvest for all the wonderful food and events.  From hand-making vegetarian ravioli to running the “Rocky” stairs, it was very relaxed event; I felt they were very honest with the facts about their products and never trying to push a sale.

I feel so lucky to have been introduced to some very talented food bloggers.  It was super fun to be updating the group about Matt’s 50-mile progress and cheer him on together from afar.  I got to spend the weekend with Jenna from Eat Live Run, Tina from Carrots n’ Cake, Tanya from I Ate a Pie, Maridel from Vital Juice, Anne from fANNEtastic food, Monica from Run Eat Repeat, Anne-Marie from This Mama Cooks, and Jenna from Eat Right Around Chicago.

Here are a few pics from my trip, but be sure to check out these ladies’ blogs for some truly gorgeous food photography.

New Harvest Giant Heart Photo 1024x939

Giant Heart at the Franklin Institute

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Cooking up a Vegetarian Italian Meal at La Cucina

IMG 0578 899x1024

Rocky meets NMA

I was so enthralled with the delicious food I had on my trip that I have been figuring out some vegan versions to share with you! See you next week: Come for the giveaway winners, stay for the vegan ice cream!

xoxo Christine

46 Comments

 

Tasty Twists on the Classic Complete-Protein Meal: Rice and Beans 5 Ways

This is a post by Christine, Matt’s sister with a knack for vegan baking.  Today she’s bringing us something not-so-sweet but just as valuable: five twists on that old vegetarian runner’s standby, rice and beans.

Whether you’re new to vegetarian cooking or just in a beans-&-rice rut, I’ve got five quick and delicious variations to keep you fueled without breaking the bank.

A Nutritional Match Made In Heaven

The amino acids in rice and beans come together to form a complete protein, making a simple way to get both complex carbs and protein in a single vegetarian meal.  Throw in fantastic versatility at pennies per serving and you’ve got yourself not just the backbone of the vegetarian diet for runners, but also a universal staple food.

Learning to cook hearty vegetarian meals was a process for me.  It started with just a “Meatless Monday” night that felt so good in my belly and my wallet that it evolved into meat just twice a week.  Soon everyday was “Meatless Monday!”

At first I followed recipes to the letter, but soon I began to recognize patterns in regional flavor combinations.  So today I’m here to share the tricks I learned about escalating ho-hum healthy food into nutritious ethnic cuisine.

I’ve got a standard five-ingredient framework to use for basic beans and rice, and then a five-ingredient update to represent whichever fare you desire: Indian, Mediterranean, Mexican, Asian, and even our local Baltimorean food.

Basic Beans and Rice Recipe with Five Variations

  • 1 cup dry brown rice
  • 1 can drained and rinsed beans, or 2 cups cooked
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil

Cook the brown rice in a rice steamer or follow the directions here.  Heat up the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat and fry the onion for 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and fry for an additional 5 minutes.  Stir in the beans and heat through. Add salt and pepper to taste.   Serve with rice.

Indian Beans and Rice

indian beans and rice photo 300x225You’ll need chickpeas as the beans in the basic recipe, as well as:

  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies
  • a thumb-sized piece fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Stir the curry powder and cinnamon into the chickpea and onion mixture.  Fry for a minute, than add the ginger and tomatoes and their juices.  Cook on medium-high heat for 5 minutes, until the tomatoes no longer taste raw.  Stir the cilantro into the rice.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Feeling fancy?  Serve with warm naan and a side of sliced mangoes.

Mediterranean Beans and Rice

mediterranean beans and rice photo 300x225You’ll need Great Northern White Beans in the basic recipe, as well as:

  • 2 stalks chopped celery
  • 1 small can (2.25 oz) black olives
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/3 cup fresh chopped parsley
  • 2 tsp dry dill weed

Add the celery and olives to the bean and onion mixture and fry for a few minutes to soften.  Stir in the lemon juice and parsley and heat through.  Stir the dill into the rice.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
Feeling fancy?  Add a can of chopped artichoke hearts and serve with warm pita bread .

Mexican Beans and Rice

mexican beans and rice photo 300x225You’ll need Pinto Beans in the basic recipe, as well as:

  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies, drained
  • juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro

Stir the cumin and chili powder into the bean and onion mixture and fry for a minute to coat.   Add the can of tomatoes and lime juice.  Cook on medium-high heat for 5 minutes, until the tomatoes no longer taste raw.  Stir the cilantro into the rice.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
Feeling fancy?  Serve with a side of sliced avocado and warm corn tortillas.

Asian Beans and Rice

asian beans and rice photo 300x228You’ll need adzuki beans or black beans in the basic recipe, as well as:

  • 4 medium carrots, cut into thin strips
  • thumb size piece fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • small can (11 oz) mandarin oranges, juice reserved
  • 1/2 tsp Chinese Five Spice

Fry the carrots and ginger with the bean and onion mixture for a few minutes until the carrots are cooked but still crunchy.  Stir in the soy sauce and 2 tbsp of the reserved mandarin orange juice.  Remove from heat and gently stir in mandarin orange slices.  Mix the Chinese Five Spice with the Rice.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
Feeling fancy?  Throw in some chopped cabbage, thinly sliced green bell pepper, and mushrooms.  Drizzle with hoisin sauce.

Baltimorean Beans and Rice

baltimorean beans and rice photo 300x225You’ll need Black-Eyed Peas as the beans in the basic recipe, as well as:

  • 2 cups chopped kale
  • 2 tsp cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp vegan worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed
  • 1 tsp Old Bay, or any Chesapeake-style seafood seasoning

Fry the kale with the bean and onion mixture for a few minutes until wilted.  Add the cider vinegar, worcestershire sauce, and corn, heat through.  Sprinkle rice with the Old Bay seasoning.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
Feeling fancy?  Stir in some chopped yellow squash from the garden, and crack open an ice cold can of Natty Boh.

All these recipes work great for leftover lunches too— just stuff inside a big whole wheat tortilla and you’re good to go.  I included a Baltimore version because that’s the region I know best; hopefully it will inspire you to apply your local flavors to beans and rice too.  Please feel free to post your favorite 5-ingredient version and we can start to create a regional reference for this amazingly simple meal.

This post is part of a series on how to start eating a vegetarian diet, for new vegetarians or endurance athletes looking to take their performance to the next level.

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Pre-Race Pinole & Chia Waffles

Hello again!  This is Christine, and this week I have a batch of vegan waffles to satisfy your sweet tooth!  But these aren’t just any waffles: They’re based on the diet of the Tarahumara, a Mexican tribe of superathlete ultramarathoners.

pinole chia waffle close up photo 300x225Ok, I’ll admit it, long after Matt’s post on Tarahumara pinole and chia, I’m only half way through Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run. But I am already chomping at the bit to give pinole and chia a whirl.  While I’m sure some of the claims are exaggerated, these foods seem like the magic cure for any ailment!

Will Run For Waffles

Heading out for a 48-hour trail run?  Legend has it that a satchel of pinole on the hip is all the Tarahumara require.  Need to bound up this cliff like a mountain goat?  Have a sip of chia gel. Run yourself ragged? Drink a cup of corn gruel.

Of course, a lot of things take on mythical proportions out in the depths of the Sierra Madres.  Can pinole and chia work their magic in my world—not just for an afternoon run, but to fuel the 9-5 grind too?

I developed this recipe for waffles to give pinole and chia a chance in my modern world.  And by “modern,” I mean that anything with the word gruel in it is unacceptable.

Beyond the allure of tribal running hunks, secret villages, and mystery gruels and gels, it all comes down to foods crazy-dense with nutrients and foods lacking in junk.  That is, unless you consider blindingly-strong corn-beer to be junk.

Vegan Pinole-Chia Waffles

  • 3/4 cup medium to finely ground cornmeal or pinole
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup oats, ground
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1 cup hemp milk
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

If starting with cornmeal instead of pinole, toast it lightly in a pan over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until it is lightly browned and fragrant.  If you are using real pinole, grind in a coffee grinder to make a fine flour.

Preheat waffle iron.

Stir together the cornmeal, chia, ground oats, salt and baking powder.   In a separate bowl, mix together the applesauce, hemp milk, coconut oil, maple syrup, and vanilla.  (The coconut oil needs to be at warm temperature or warmer to mix, so you may need to microwave it to get it to a liquid state.)

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry to combine into a smooth batter.  Spray the waffle iron with baking spray even if it is nonstick, and pour batter into hot iron.  Follow the directions of your waffle iron, or wait until the iron stops steaming.

Carefully remove waffles from iron, respray with cooking spray, and repeat.  This was enough batter to fill my waffle iron 2 and a half times, making 5 small waffles.

To enjoy immediately, top with maple syrup and the fruits of your choice.  Alternatively, slice into bars, freeze and take on your next run.

pinole chia waffle photo 1024x768These pinole-chia waffles were surprisingly delicious!  I was nervous they would be too gritty, but the pinole provides an amazing crunchiness that transform them from “pastry” to “hearty breakfast.”  While I can’t promise that these will propel you up the side of a mountain, I will tell you that Matt is planning on making them for his 50 miler!

I  originally set out to develop a waffle recipe because Caleb and Rita left comments describing vegan waffle tragedies, but now I am on a total pinole and chia kick!  I want to put a Tarahumara spin on everything— any requests for what to try next?  I’d love a good challenge!

See you next Friday!

xoxo,
Christine

About the Author: Christine Frazier writes vegan recipes through lots of research, trial, and error … now she is applying the same theory to her other passion, writing stories. Follow along as she deconstructs bestsellers and learns how to write a novel.

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Cookout-Caliber Smoky Veggie Burgers

Hi guys!  This is Christine, and usually on Friday I check in with a healthy dessert recipe, but today I’ve got something special for you!  Maybe it’s the warm weather, but this week I’ve got burgers on the mind!

Frozen Hockey Pucks vs. Mushy Bean Patties

veggie burgers photo 300x225

Looks like the real thing, huh?

Have you noticed that veggie burgers only manage to fall into these two categories?  Don’t get me wrong—I’m always psyched to find Boca Burgers at a cookout, and I am just as happy to say ole! to a round of black bean burgers.

Still, we’re always forced to settle: either enjoy an expensive pattie of processed soy, or keep pretending that those smooshed beans are satisfying your carnivorous friends.  Lately, I’ve been yearning for something more.

Perfecting the Veggie Burger

Instead of filling this summer’s barbecues with sub-par burgers, I decided to take matters into my own hands.  I thought long and hard about all the burger recipes I’ve tried, and what exactly I liked about each one.

First, I had to address the texture of the burger.  Mushrooms were a necessity for me after I tasted the beefiness of these portabella burgers.  I also really like the way the lentils and flaxseed worked in structuring the Reluctant Vegetarian’s recipe for lentil burgers.  Next, I decided to include nuts after seeing how well the almonds worked in these raw burgers from Thrive.

I chose to include vital wheat gluten to get a real chewiness out of the burgers.  This is usually the second ingredient in those frozen boxed versions, after TVP of course.  Vital wheat gluten will bring the most realistic feel to the patties, but you could also use regular whole wheat flour, bread crumbs, or an alternative flour like buckwheat.

As for taste, I loved the way the red wine, tomatoes, and onions brought out the beef burgundy side of plain old lentils in the recipe aptly titled Hungy For Meat?  Eat this instead.  With a dash of liquid smoke, vegan worcestershire sauce, and thyme, I believe I am on my way to perfecting the veggie burger.

NMA Grill-Worthy Veggie Burgers

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb dried lentils
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 portabella mushroom caps, gills and stems removed, chopped
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt and black pepper
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp vegan worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 3/4 cup ground flaxseed
  • 3/4 cup vital wheat gluten

Rinse the lentils and cook in the water until they are tender and water is absorbed, about 30-35 minutes.

Fry the onion in the oil until soft.  Add the mushrooms and garlic; fry until fragrant.  Stir in the tomato paste, salt, thyme, and black pepper.  Let fry for a few minutes.  Stir in walnuts and let toast.  Slowly add wine, vinegar, worcestershire sauce, and liquid smoke.  Stir in the lentils.

Remove from heat and stir in flax seed and vital wheat gluten.  Keep stirring to strengthen the gluten and get the burgers chewy.  Form into ten patties and refrigerate for an hour.  You can freeze them now to cook later, or preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Sprinkle baking sheet with cornmeal and arrange patties on the pan.  Bake for 20 minutes, then fry in a pan on medium heat with a little oil for 2 minutes per side.  If you just want to fry them without baking, lower the heat and fry for 3-4 minutes per side.

veggie burgers close photo 1024x768

I was so pleased with these burgers that I made a double batch so I would have plenty to freeze!  The vegan worcestershire is really yummy as a topping too!  I hope you give these burgers a shot at your next cook0ut—I’d love to hear how they taste on the grill!

See you next week when I’ll put the sweet back in Sweet-Tooth Friday!

xoxo, Christine

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