24 Tasty, Healthy Vegetarian Snack Ideas

If you still haven't tried roasted chickpeas, do it now and thank us later.

Post written by Susan Lacke.

When I was a kid, I always swore that when I grew up my days would be filled with snack time and recess.

Twenty years later, though I still won’t admit to being a grown-up, I will say I’ve managed to make my childhood dream come true: life as a triathlete provides me with plenty of time playing in the water, riding my bike, or running around.

And the best part? The active lifestyle is one which definitely favors lots of snacking.

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The Super Vegan Protein Source You’re Probably Missing Out On

If I’d have put the name of this food in the title of the post, you probably wouldn’t have kept reading.

But I wanted to first be able to tell you that just a quarter cup of the mystery ingredient has 11 grams of protein in it.  (And that a single serving of soup made from it has 22 grams!)

And that it’s totally soy free, and it’s a whole, unprocessed food.  And that it’s used in a lot of vegan protein powders because it’s such a good source.  Alright, ready?

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My First Vegan Grocery List (and a Must-Make Recipe)

I can’t believe I’m actually going to post a  list of what I bought at the grocery store.

When my wife, Erin, suggested that we save the receipt in case people wanted to know what we bought, given that it was our first full-on vegan trip to the store, I told her no way.

“Are you serious?  Who gives a rat’s ass what we buy to eat?” I responded.  (Actually, I was nicer than that.  I may have even offered a foot massage in return for the suggestion.  Not really.)

I mean, I posted my grocery list and all sorts of other boring things about myself when my blog was new and nobody read it, but surely we’re past that now, right?

Nope.  As soon as I wrote something about my first vegan food-shopping trip on Twitter (my current repository for all things personal, petty and childish; follow me there if you want), people asked for the list.

You win, Erin.

So, with the hope that maybe it will help somebody realize that being vegan doesn’t mean just eating lettuce all day, here goes nothin’.

My first vegan shopping list

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The World’s Most Perfect Vegetarian Meal: A Grain, a Green, and a Bean

In my last post, I wrote about saving money on healthy vegetarian food.  You guys responded with perhaps the best batch of comments this site has seen, adding enough useful tips that, in theory, none of us should ever have to pay more than about thirty-eight cents for a week’s worth of groceries again.

One of the most important tips on my list was a simple, one-pot meal that happens to be cheap, filling, and nutritionally outstanding — what I like to call “a grain, a green, and a bean.” (AGAGAB?)

You really don’t need a recipe for the most basic version, but as I mentioned, it can stand to be jazzed up with other ingredients.  So that’s what today’s post is: A simple, just slightly fancied-up version of an AGAGAB that you can use with different combinations of ingredients, to eat for dirt cheap as often as you like.

Clean Start

The recipe is from CLEAN START, which is Terry Walters’ follow up to the simply amazing (in my opinion) CLEAN FOOD.  Terry happens to be a marathoner and cyclist as well, and in addition to letting me share a few recipes here, she was one of several authors, bloggers, and athletes who contributed a few tips to my new vegetarian first-marathon guide (which I *think* should be available next Wednesday, February 9!).

The recipe here is a good example of what you’ll find in CLEAN START, which follows the same basic blueprint of CLEAN FOOD: seasonal recipes that combine simple, fresh ingredients, turning them in just a few steps into something healthy, filling, and wonderful (and vegan).

This is not one of those vegan cookbooks that has you molding strange mixtures of beans and breadcrumbs into something that vaguely resembles a piece of meat in the way it looks but feels and tastes nothing like it.  Instead, CLEAN START is about appreciating ingredients for what they are and preparing them in the way that best showcases them without doing too much to change them.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but I have a feeling NMA readers can dig that.

Here’s the recipe from CLEAN START, by Terry Walters, Sterling, 2010.  (By the way, “aduki” is not a typo; it’s an alternate spelling of adzuki or azuki.)  When I made this recipe, I added quite a bit of sea salt (since I’m a salt fiend and that’s what salt fiends do) and used hot sauce in place of the ume plum vinegar.  Partly because I don’t know what an ume plum is.

Millet in the Pot with Aduki Beans and Collards

  • 1 cup millet
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 yellow onion, cut into 1/4-inch wedges
  • 2 carrots, sliced into 1/8-inch rounds
  • 1 cup cooked aduki beans
  • 1 bunch collard greens, chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 5-6 dashes ume plum vinegar
  • 1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds

Place millet in fine-mesh strainer, rinse and drain.  Heat Dutch oven to medium, add millet to dry pot and stir 3-4 minutes to toast.  Add vegetable stock and bring to boil.  Cover, reduce heat and simmer carrots, beans, and collard greens on top of millet (do not stir).  Cover, increase heat to medium and continue cooking 20 minutes longer or until liquid is absorbed.  Remove from heat, drizzle with olive oil and ume plum vinegar and fold to combine all ingredients.  Serve topped with pumpkin seeds.

SERVES 4.

Variation

Another favorite combination for this recipe is brown basmati rice, kidney beans, and a combination of kale and mustard greens.

Foodily launch!

One more quick thing today — there’s a new recipe site that just launched yesterday called Foodily.com.  It’s an innovative “recipe search engine” with tons of other features, including sharing and a community aspect.  I’ve fooled around on the site and it can do some really neat things.

Also, I’ve been working with Foodily and WebMD to include some NMA recipes in WebMD’s Daily Bite newsletter.  I even have my own biography on WebMD, which tells me that my devious plan to fool the world into thinking I am awesome is working.

That’s all for today.  Check out Foodily, try Terry’s recipe, and sign up to be notified as soon as the Marathon Roadmap is available next week!  And tomorrow Susan has a fun announcement, so make sure you check back then!

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What’s All the Fuss About Gluten-Free and Grain-Free?

Happy not-so-New Year!  Was my last post really in 2010?  Yes it was.  And 4-Hour Body author Tim Ferriss put it on his Facebook page and tweeted it, which was awesome.

If that’s how you found the site, great.  Maybe you can chime in and help me with something.

The unsexy gluten-free rage

Gluten-free and grain-free strike me as just about the most boring diet premises one could dream up.  Especially for vegetarians, for whom grain is one of the last bastions of comforting, cooked food, nixing it sounds terribly unappealing.

So the fact that everyone (including top endurance athletes) is talking about getting the grain out of their diets has left has me thinking that maybe there’s something to it.  Drastic improvements in endurance and recovery, perhaps?

Grain-free is a central premise of the Paleo diet, and one that requires no modification in my vegetarian version of Paleo.  Among the other credible sources in my universe who advocate low-gluten or low-grain: Brendan Brazier, Rich Roll, Tim Ferriss, and Brian MacKenzie of CrossFit Endurance.

In the case of gluten, a protein composite primarily found in wheat, the main rationale for avoiding it is that it’s difficult for our bodies to process it.  Wheat allergies and Celiac’s disease are the extreme cases, but proponents of a low-gluten diet say that wheat is an inflammatory in everyone, and it can slow us down and cause weight gain.

Why I’m not yet a No-Wheat Athlete

Only in the past few months have I really started listening to any of them.  I’ve reduced my wheat intake to the point where it’s a cheat food, something I’ll eat only on binge days.  (Spelt pasta is a nearly indiscernible alternative to whole wheat, spaghetti freaks. [UPDATE: Spelt is actually a form of wheat — so not gluten free, but I still think it’s healthier than most whole-wheat products.)

But I’m hesitant to give up other grains.  I mean, brown rice?  That’s an absolute staple for me.  (My latest snack/meal obsession: brown rice, avocado, Bragg’s amino acids, and lime juice.)  Even quinoa, not technically a grain but a seed, is banished under the strictest plans.

But that’s the not biggest problem.  When I get to the point where I’m convinced that my long-term health or performance as an ultrarunner can be improved with a diet change, I’m usually pretty good at exacting that change.  (Coffee being a notable blemish on my record.)  That’s why I went vegetarian, and why I’m tending recently towards vegan.

No, the problem isn’t that it’s too hard.  The problem is that I’m just not convinced.  I can’t truthfully say that I’ve noticed a single benefit since cutting out the wheat.  In fact, I’ve just found it harder to fill the plate with enough calories.

I’m hoping a few success stories will inspire me and others to stick with it, or that enough stories of failure will convince me that it’s not for everyone.  So that’s what I’d like to hear from you about.

Have you experienced significant changes in your energy levels, your endurance or strength, or y0ur recovery time since going gluten-free or grain-free?  And while I understand the idea that gluten is an inflammatory agent in our bodies, what’s the deal with gluten-free grains?  What’s the rationale for avoiding them?

Grain-free cannellini bean curry

While we’re talking grain-free, here’s a recipe for a fantastic dish I made for the second time last night.  It’s grain-free, not on purpose really, it just happens to be that way.  It can accompany rice or naan if you like, but I’ve served it alongside broccoli or spinach.

I’d classify it as non-spicy Indian, which is one reason it’s one of my wife’s favorite dishes we’ve had recently.  It’s from Anjum’s New Indian, and (sadly) it will be the last recipe I can post from that book.  But up next is Vegetarian Times’ Everything Vegan, so have no fear.

This curry uses cannellini beans, which is slightly odd-seeming since “cannellini” doesn’t exactly sound Indian.  But it works, and that’s sort of what makes Anjum’s book unique; for example, you might remember the black-eyed pea curry recipe I posted a while back.

A few other notes: If you don’t have asafoetida, Anjum says you can skip it.  It’s mainly a digestive aid.  And if you don’t have curry leaves, she often recommends substituting basil leaves, so that’s what I did here.  I also added a little bit of lemon juice before serving.

Give this one a try.  It has a very subtle, coconuty and lightly sweet flavor.  Which of course I had to lay waste to with a big pinch of cayenne pepper.  Just how I roll, I suppose.

From Anjum’s New Indian, Anjum Anand, John Wiley and Sons, 2008

Serves 4-6

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • good pinch of asafoetida (I skipped this)
  • 1 tsp brown mustard seeds
  • 14 fresh curry leaves
  • 1 small-medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 5 large cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • salt, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp pure red chile powder
  • 1 rounded tsp ground coriander
  • 2/3 cup coconut milk
  • 2 cups cannellini (white kidney) beans, drained and rinsed
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, halved if large or left whole if small
  • 1 tsp brown sugar or jaggery
  • 3/4-1 tsp tamarind paste, or to taste (some brands are really strong)
  • handful of fresh or frozen grated coconut, to garnish
  • handful of fresh cilantro, chopped

Heat the oil in a large nonstick saucepan.  Add the asafoetida and, once it sizzles, add the mustard seeds.  Once they start to pop, add the curry leaves, then the onion and cook until these are soft and golden, around 8-10 minutes.  Add the ginger and garlic and cook for 1 minute over medium heat.  Add the salt and powdered spices and stir for 30 seconds.  Add the coconut milk and 3/4 cup water and bring to the boil, then simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the beans and tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes, allowing the flavors to marry.  Stir in the sugar and tamarind paste, then mash some beans against the side of the pan to thicken the curry a little.  Taste and adjust the tartness, sweetness and seasoning to taste.  Garnish with the grated coconut and fresh cilantro and serve.

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Have 1 Minute to Spend on Dinner? Try this Authentic Indian Lentil Curry

If you have young kids, you know not to plan to get much else done on the days when you’re watching them.  Once they’re mobile, as my 7-month old now is, they require your full attention, save for a few minutes, if you’re lucky, when they’re napping.

So you certainly don’t plan on making curry for lunch when you’re watching your little guy for 12 hours and he’s obsessed with yanking on anything that’s plugged into a wall.  But yesterday that’s what I did, thanks to this authentic recipe that takes literally one minute of active cooking time.

It was so good, I ate it for dinner too.  And I’ll eat the leftovers for lunch today.  That’s about 20 seconds per meal.  And you wonder how I have time to do so much stuff!

Curry isn’t what you might think

Until recently, most curries I’ve made have been of the one-size-fits-all variety.  You know, the ones where you throw in a tablespoon or two of whatever’s in the nondescript jar marked “curry powder,” and you create something that falls well short of the great food you get at an Indian restaurant.

But as it turns out, “curry powder” isn’t any particular spice.  It’s a blend of spices, and of course the mix varies from place to place.  Recently I’ve been cooking from Anjum’s New Indian, which Wiley Publishing kindly sent me to review and share a few recipes from, like the black-eyed pea curry I posted a while back.  And as far as I can tell, “curry powder” isn’t once called for in the book—in each recipe, an appropriate blend of spices is used, never simply “curry.”

Bengali Red Lentil Curry

If you’ve never cooked with red lentils before, you’re probably wondering what the yellow stuff is in the above image.  I swear my son was nowhere near the plate.

Red lentils are in fact red, but when cooked, they turn yellow.  They also lose their form pretty quickly to produce a sort of “stew” texture, which is why regular brown lentils won’t really work here unless you cook them for much, much longer.

While some curries take hours of slow cooking, this Bengali one is quick.  The lentils take 20 minutes to cook while you can do whatever else you want.  Once they’re done, you saute the spices for 20 seconds, stir them in, and eat like you just won the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire after growing up in the slums.  Dog.

What’s this ‘Panch Phoran’?

You’ll see that in the ingredient list is panch phoran.  Don’t let that keep you from making this.

If you have an Indian market nearby, you can probably find panch phoran premixed there.  Otherwise, just make it yourself—it consists of equal parts mustard seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, and nigella seeds.  The only one I didn’t have was nigella, but it supposedly tastes like pepper and smells like oregano, so I just mixed the two together as a substitution.

Another note on the recipe: It calls for ghee or vegetable oil.  To keep it vegan, I went with oil, but I used coconut oil since that has been my obsession recently.

Here’s the recipe, courtesy of Anjum Anand in Anjum’s New Indian, Wiley and Sons, 2008.  Really, get out of your box and make this one; it’s worth it.

Bengali Red Lentils

Serves 4-5

  • 1 and 1/4  cups red lentils, rinsed until the water runs clear
  • salt, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp pure red chile powder
  • 1 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil
  • 2 dried red chiles
  • 1 rounded tsp panch phoran (see above)

Bring 1 quart of water to the boil in a large saucepan  Stir in the lentils, salt, turmeric and chile powder.  Bring back to a boil, then simmer over a  moderate heat until the lentils are tender, around 20 minutes.  Some will start to break up while others remain whole and the lentils will become indistinct from the water.

Heat the ghee/oil in a small saucepan.  Add the red chiles and panch phoran.  Fry for 20 seconds and pour in to the lentils.  Stir well, taste and adjust the seasoning, then loosen with a little water from a recently boiled kettle, if necessary— it should be a thickish curry.

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New Vegetarian Running E-Course (And It’s Free!)

Two posts in one today!  In a minute, I’ve got a great new Indian curry recipe to share with you.  It’s made with black-eyed peas instead of the more-standard lentils or chickpeas, so it’s kind of fun.  But first…

A New Course for Runners Interested in Going Vegetarian

Allow me to gloat, for just a second.  :)

No Meat Athlete has grown up quite a bit recently in terms of traffic.  We’re at almost 3,000 subscribers, but the bigger deal is that over 60,000 unique readers visit the site every month!

Perez Hilton I’m not.  (Although if that’s what you want, I suppose I could try.)  But for this stupid little site I run out of my mom’s basement (not really), it’s pretty cool to know that I’m reaching that many people with the message that “vegetarian” doesn’t mean “weakling.”

But here’s the thing: Of those 60,000 people every month, a lot of them are visitors from Google.  They hang out for a little while, view 2.09 pages each, and if nothing hooks them, they leave.  That’s a lot of potential runners-on-plants who are slipping through the cracks.

I don’t really care about losing the ones who end up here accidentally in their searches for meat porn or “no meat at lent” (yes, No Meat Athlete now slightly outranks Jesus).  But for runners with even the slightest interest in seeing what going vegetarian could do for their energy levels, endurance, and durability, I wanted to have something to help nourish that idea and keep them coming back.

Introducing ‘The Vegetarian Endurance Advantage’

So that’s why I created a new free email course on the essentials of vegetarian training, called The Vegetarian Endurance Advantage.  You know, the potential benefits, a shopping list and diet plan for vegetarian endurance athletes, pre- and post-workout foods, protein and other nutrition concerns, and some stuff that’s a little more fun.  Totally non-preachy, and all based on improving performance.

So why might you, someone who has been reading for a while, be interested?  Well, two reasons:

  1. It’s designed to be a standalone resource, rather than making people click all around the site.  So while the content is stuff I write about on the site, its more organized and targeted, and probably more useful.
  2. I’ll keep adding to the course for a long time, so the material will become more in-depth as time goes on.  I’ll also send regular email updates with additional content to anyone who is signed up; it’ll be the start of an email newsletter.

So that’s it.  If you’d like to get the course in your inbox, enter your email address in the form in the RIGHT sidebar (the one on the left is for subscribing to posts).  After you confirm your subscription, you’ll get the first email right away.

And of course, I’d really appreciate it if you share this with anyone who might be interested in going vegetarian to improve their running.  As always, THANK YOU!

On to the Curry…

Remember how during the infamous 7 Things that Suck About Being Vegetarian post, I wrote that I didn’t enjoy cooking quite as much as I used to?  That was probably the most-disagreed-with point of the entire post, but several people were nice enough to offer suggestions.

More than one person suggested getting into Indian cooking, and that really sounded like something I could do.  On the recommendation of about 12 people on Twitter, I got Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian (my Amazon affiliate link) from the library.  And—BAM!—I was back, baby.

So I was really excited when my friends at Wiley sent me a copy of their new cookbook, Anjum’s New Indian, by Anjum Anand.  It’s not a vegetarian cookbook, but I’d estimate that about half the pages in the book are dedicated to meatless recipes.  It’s real, authentic Indian cooking, something I’ve never done at home and always figured was strictly the domain of restaurants.

But this black-eyed pea curry, the first recipe I tried, was fantastic.  It reminded me of the chickpea dish I always order, chana masala, with the obvious and welcome difference of black-eyed peas instead of chickpeas (much as I love them, I eat them all the damn time).

So it was great.  I reduced the chile powder amount by little bit and served this one along with some whole-wheat naan (roti) that I bought, and it was perfect.  Just enough heat and great flavor.  Anjum says it works just as well with rice too, if that’s your thing.

I hope you give this one a try to shake up your routine a little bit.  I’ll post a few more recipes from this book as I make them, so look for those soon.  Enjoy!

Black-eyed Pea Curry Recipe

(From Anjum’s New Indian, Anjum Anand, John Wiley and Sons, 2008.)  Serves 4-6.

  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 green chiles, left whole or slit
  • 1 small-medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1-and-1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled
  • 5 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp pure red chile powder
  • 1 tbsp ground corander
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • salt, to taste
  • 3 large tomatoes, peeled
  • 2 cups of black eyes peas, drained and rinsed
  • handful of fresh cilantro leaves and stalks, chopped

Heat the oil in a medium-sized nonstick saucepan.  Add the bay leaves and fry for 20 seconds, then add the cumin seeds and fry until they sizzle.  Add the green chilies and onion and cook until well browned.

Meanwhile, using a blender, make a paste of the ginger and garlic with a splash of water.  Stir into the pan and cook for about 1-2 minutes or until you can smell the cooked garlic.  Add the powdered spices and salt and stir for another 30 seconds or so before pouring in the tomatoes.  Cook over medium heat until the oil leaves the masala, around 12-15 minutes.

Add the drained beans and mix well in the masala.  Cook for a couple of minutes before pouring in 1 cup water.  Bring to the boil and simmer for 8-10 minutes.  Take 2 tablespoons of the beans out of the gravy, mash well and stir back in.  Stir in the fresh cilantro and serve.

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The Best Thing You Can Do with Eggplants

As recently as college, I thought eggplants were poisonous.  I can’t be the only one.  I blame Hudson’s Adventure Island and my parents.

But even after discovering that eggplant wouldn’t drain my energy bars in real life, I still considered it to rank among the world’s worst vegetables.  It’s spongy, the skin is thick, and it doesn’t really taste like anything. (And why the f is it called an eggplant?)

In Hudson's Adventure Island, eggplant = death.

But here’s the thing.  They’re all over the farmers’ markets, and you can get one the size of your head for a dollar.  And there’s an Indian eggplant dish called baingan bharta that I’m in love with.

I’m not going to post a baingan bharta recipe, because that would be stealing.  I’ve been using the recipe in Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian (Amazon affiliate link), a fantastic book I got from the library that tons of people recommended to me for my vegan September.  I’m going to buy it once the library takes it away from me. (Here’s a link to a different baingan bharta recipe if you want to try it yourself.)

What I am going to post is the first step, the roasting or smoking of the eggplants, because to my knowledge that’s the only known way to make eggplant good.  And once you do that, it’s easy to make the best baba ganouj I’ve ever tasted.

How to Roast an Eggplant

Ideally, you should smoke eggplants by burying them in the ashes of a fire.  Since most of us don’t regularly have fires with ashes, many make-at-home recipes will have you roast them in the oven instead.

But I found a better way: Smoke them in a gas grill. You don’t even need woodchips; the skins on the eggplant give off their own smoke, and it’s perfect.

Here’s how I do it:

  1. Crank your grill up as high as it goes.  Mine gets up to 600 degrees and that seems totally fine.
  2. Pierce two large eggplants all over with a fork and put them on the grill (you can do more than this, but maybe just stick to two the first time).
  3. Close the grill.  Use tongs to rotate the eggplants every 10 to 15 minutes, for as little as half an hour and up to a full hour.  The longer you leave them on there, the smokier the eggplant will get.  You want the middle to be nice and soft but the skins to get charred and crisp.
  4. Remove the eggplants from the grill and allow them to cool.
  5. Carefully cut the eggplants in half lengthwise.  Scoop out the flesh with a spoon, leaving the brittle skins behind. (Others will tell you to peel the skins off, but that leaves lots of char behind.)
  6. Use your smoky eggplant flesh for whatever you want!

Baba Ghannouj Recipe

You can use this soft, smoked eggplant flesh for a lot of things.  As I mentioned, baingan barta and baba ghannouj both start out this way, but so do other things.  Like this eggplant caviar recipe, for example.

Anyway, here’s how to make baba ghannouj with the eggplant you just smoked.  It’s similar to the recipe in World Vegetarian. If you can’t do this, you’re terrible at cooking.

Ready?  Put the smoked flesh of two small eggplants in a food processor with 6 tablespoons of olive oil, the juice of a lemon, and two teaspoons of salt.  Puree until it’s creamy, and then add more lemon and salt to taste.  Use as a dip for whole wheat pitas.

Told you it was easy.  Try it and thank me later. :)

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