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.

13 Comments

 

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.

22 Comments

 

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. 🙂

18 Comments

 

Easy Vegan Chipotle Mole Sauce

I love a good challenge in the kitchen, but nothing has intimidated me like homemade mole sauce—the epitome of Mexican cuisine with layers of flavor from sweet peppers to spicy chocolate.  Mole is so popular that Wikipedia mentions three times in one article that ninety-nine percent of Mexicans have tasted it, so how hard could a homemade version be?

Well, every recipe starts off explaining how it takes three generations of women to grind the spices, weeks to order the zillions of specialty dried peppers from Mexico, and to be truly delicioso, hours and hours simmering on the stove.

Finally, I had enough.  Must I be the only gringa who doesn’t get to eat chocolate for dinner? I was already taking the chicken out of the dish, so I decided to take out the fuss too.

Easy Mole Sauce Fit for the Atleta sin Carne (That’s You, No Meat Athletes!)

With sweetness from raisins and thickness from nuts, mole sauce has “athlete” written all over it.  Plus, whether you prepare it with some browned seitan or a can of beans, this meal also packs a nice protein punch, especially when served over its amigo rice.

Instead of taking the time to rehydrate dried peppers, I used a can of chipotles in adobo.  You should be able to find this at your regular grocery store now.  A whole can is pretty spicy, but I keep it in a tupperware in the fridge for up to a month, adding a teaspoon here and there to all sorts of dishes.

To seal the no-fuss deal, I whittled the spice list down to the four essentials, and cut the simmer time down to only about twenty minutes—just enough to give the sauce some depth.  If you don’t feel like pureeing the sauce, make sure to chop or grind the almonds and raisins very fine and you should be good to go.

Enjoy, my no-carne amigos!

Vegan Chicken Mole

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons chipotle in adobo (1 teaspoon sauce, 1 teaspoons chopped, deseeded pepper)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 oz unsweetened vegan baking chocolate

Heat the oil in a pot over medium high heat.  Fry the onion for about 5 minutes.  Add garlic, almonds, and raisins, and fry for another 5 minutes.  Add the salt, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, and oregano; fry for 2 more minutes or until fragrant.

Add the chipotle in adobo, tomatoes with their juices, and vegetable broth.  Heat to boil, then add chocolate and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring often.

Remove from heat and puree mixture with immersion blender.  Heat the pureed sauce for 5 minutes more.

To serve, add 1 package of browned seitan or can of beans and heat through.  Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve over rice.

14 Comments

 

How to Make Superfood Juice (Like Odwalla and Naked) at Home

Convenience food, by its very nature, is usually junk food.

If it’s conveniently sitting on a shelf, chances are it’s brimming with preservatives, sodium, and even artificial colors, all to give the appearance and taste of freshness.

There is the rare exception—convenience food that really is fresh. But get ready to pay through the nose for it:  If you’ve ever plunked down a dollar for a banana at Starbucks, knowing full well they’re 70 cents a pound at the grocery store, then you’re familiar with the feeling.

Odwalla and Naked Juice: Healthy and delicious, but pricey

Yet in that moment between errands, a dash in for essentials when you’re already late, or that 20-minute lunch break, suddenly the lure of convenience food becomes irresistible.  The glow of the Odwalla or Naked juice cold case fills your vision, that fancy juice with real ingredients and not even enough preservatives to be stored at room temperature starts singing its siren song, and soon that five dollar bill is inching its way out of your pocket and into Coke and Pepsi’s (you know that’s who owns them, right?).

Before you know it, you’re happily chugging that delicious green superjuice—twelve ounces of liquid afternoon pick-me-up.

When the moment’s over and all that fruit sugar has burned away, I always feel like a sucker as I read over the ingredient list (not to mention my bank statement, littered with juice charges).  You see, the ingredients are so real, I wonder why I just didn’t make this at home.

Right.  Because in the mad rush of my weekday morning routine, I have plenty of time to leisurely peel a quarter of a kiwi, a third of a mango, and an eighth of a peach to throw in my juice.  (As if I even have all that on hand.)  Don’t you?

Recreating Naked Green Machine at home

Today’s recipe is a convenient and cheaper solution.  Gather the exotic fruits only once, do all the prep work once, and enjoy green superjuice for a month.

The secret to convenience here is the frozen supercubes—like ice cubes, but made from pureed fruit and greens.  So all you need to keep stocked are apple juice and bananas; just pop them in the blender with the green supercubes when you want to make the juice.

Sure, 7-11 may start to miss you during the week, but your wallet will thank you.

This is also a nice way to incorporate greens or greens powder into your daily routine.  I used Amazing Grass Green Superfood Energy Powder here, which provides a boost of caffeine with yerba mate and green tea, though I could do without its artificial tasting lemon-lime flavor.  I recommend greens powder that includes lots of nutritious things like wheatgrass and chlorella, but if you don’t have it,  you can use a half cup of frozen spinach along with a tablespoon or two of spirulina.

One warning: Just like in the real thing, all these fruits add up to a decent amount of sugar.  If you want to cut down, use unsweetened almond milk or water in place of the apple juice.

Homemade Green Superfood Juice

Super Cube Ingredients:

  • 3 kiwi, peeled
  • 1 mango, about 1 1/2 cups peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup pineapple chunks
  • 1/2 cup sliced peaches
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 8 scoops of greens powder, or about 1/2 cup

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse to combine.  Divide greens puree into ice cube trays and freeze.  Once frozen, empty cubes into a freezer bag and use within 3 months.

Makes about 2 cups of greens puree, or about 27 ice cubes to use in 9 smoothies.

Smoothie Ingredients:

  • 3 green supercubes
  • 1 cup apple juice
  • 1 ripe banana

In a blender, combine all ingredients and blend until smooth.  Makes a 1 1/2 cups of thick juice.

49 Comments

 

Say ‘Aloha’ to Hawaiian Beans and Rice Tonight

When I published Tasty Twists on the Classic Complete-Protein Meal: Rice and Beans 5 Ways earlier this summer, I let you in on my biggest weekday-dinner secret.

With just one core 5-ingredient recipe and a couple of spices, you get to parade around your kitchen like an international epicurean, all the while eating like an athlete.

The response to those five quick, easy, and cheap meals was wonderful—you loved that they were quick, easy and cheap.  And I was totally touched when months later, lots of you wrote in after the Vegan Starbucks Petite Lentil Scones post to tell me that the beans and rice variations are still part of your regular meal rotation.

So today I’m back (dare I say by popular demand?) with another flavorful complete protein recipe, this one perhaps the most exciting of all: Hawaiian beans and rice.

Everyday Flavors To Make You Say Mahalo

Luckily for me, beans and rice is not a static concept—the meal is constantly changing, based on where in the world you are, what season is here, and even what’s leftover in the fridge.

The idea for the 5-ingredient Hawaiian variation starts with island-drenched color: magenta cabbage, golden pineapple, lush-green spinach, and shiny black beans.  Okay, so maybe I’ve never been to Hawaii, but I’ve definitely had Hawaiian pizza before.  And just like it does in my Homemade Vegan Bacon, the smoked paprika in this recipe does a nice job of evoking the flavors of smoked ham.

A quick pan-fry with the pineapple rings gets all that luau flavor without the fuss of firing up the grill.  And if you want the whole tropical experience, be sure to try the variation with toasted coconut folded into the rice.  It’s divine!

I hope that just as many of you who tried the other beans and rice recipes give this one a whirl too.  When you do, be sure to let me know what you think!

Basic Beans and Rice Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 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.

Hawaiian Beans and Rice

You’ll need one batch of the basic recipe above, as well as:

  • 2 cups chopped red cabbage (about quarter of a head)
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 can sliced pineapple, juice reserved

Stir the red cabbage, 1/2 cup pineapple juice, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, and smoked paprika into the bean and onion mixture.  Cook for 5 minutes, until cabbage is cooked but still crunchy.  Stir in spinach and cook for 2 more minutes, until slightly wilted.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, spray a frying pan with nonstick cooking spray and heat on medium high.  Lay pineapple rings in pan, and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of soy sauce.  Fry for 2 minutes per side, until nice and charred.  Serve on top of beans and rice.

Feeling fancy?  Add a chopped red bell pepper in with the cabbage, sprinkle beans with a minced jalapeño pepper, and fold 1/2 cup of toasted coconut into cooked rice.

37 Comments

 

Finally—Perfect Vegan Bacon You Can Make At Home

Bacon.

We live in a world that covers its wounds with bacon-strip bandages, provides children with plush bacon dolls, and challenges its artists to create the ultimate bacon sculpture.

Pig-free and homemade.

This obsession has earned the honor of a dedicated Wikipedia entry to bacon mania.  The country is so in love with its smoky, salty goodness that even the most gung-ho meat-eaters are willing to sprinkle bacon-flavored TVP bits all over their salads and baked potatoes.

But if you think bacon mania is only for meat-eaters, think again.  During college I waitressed at a vegetarian cafe, where the “fakon” routinely sold out during Sunday brunch.

Most fake bacon barely counts as food

At that same cafe, I remember serving one unsuspecting elderly diner who had not yet noticed that all the “meat” on the menu was written in quotes.

He took one bite of his tempeh “bacon,” threw down the strip, forced the plate back into my hands, and declared:

“This is the worst food I’ve had since the war!”

And really, who could blame him?  Besides being heavily processed and expensive, most veggie bacon, well, just plain sucks.

The surprising secret to great vegan bacon? Beans and buckwheat

Today, after a lot of tasty research, I finally have an inexpensive, gluten-free, whole-food and freaking delicious solution.  If you’ve ever woken in the middle of the night and found yourself drooling to the scent of unexplained bacon, this recipe is for you.

Yes, this bacon is not only ready to stand in for pancetta in your pasta carbonara and gourmet mac’n’cheese, but is even good enough on its own during breakfast or as the star of an avocado BLT!

This batch makes about 24 slices, or 1 cup total.  You’ll be surprised about how quickly that amount disappears, so do yourself a favor and triple the batch, store in the freezer, and enjoy the luxury of pigless-but-obsession-worthy bacon at a moment’s notice.

Homemade Vegan Bacon

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup dried adzuki beans or other small red beans
  • 1/3 cup hulled wholegrain buckwheat (not buckwheat flour)
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon hickory liquid smoke
  • 4 teaspoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon Braggs Liquid Aminos (May be substituted with soy sauce)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup

Rinse the beans and buckwheat,  place in large bowl covered with several inches of cold filtered water; let soak overnight.

[UPDATE: Several people have asked if it’s okay to bake the beans and buckwheat, as the recipe suggests, even without having boiled them, as boiling is the usual cooking method for beans and is known to remove most of the toxins in uncooked beans. While we’ve never had any problems with the soaking-and-baking (not boiling) method, and have seen the same method used for black-eyed peas in Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet, you can pre-cook the beans and buckwheat by boiling if you’d prefer to do so.]

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Strain the soaked beans and buckwheat and rinse.  Place in the bowl of a food processor.  Add the onion powder, liquid smoke, nutritional yeast, smoked paprika, aminos or soy sauce, salt, tomato paste, coconut oil, and maple syrup.  Pulse several times to combine, scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl and continue pulsing until uniform but not as pureed as hummus.

Line a 9×13 casserole dish with parchment paper and coat pan with baking spray.  Place bacon mixture in pan and spread as much as possible with a spatula.  To get the mixture very thin and evenly spread, spray another piece of parchment paper lightly with baking spray and press the paper on top of the mixture and flatten with your hands.  Remove and discard the top piece of parchment paper, then use a spatula to spread over and fill in any bare spots.

Bake for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes, then slice into 24 strips, about 1 inch by 4 inches (Do this by making one lengthwise cut down the center, and then twelve cuts across the shorter side).  Remove the strips with a small spatula.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan on medium-high heat.  Fry the bacon slices for 2-3 minutes, flipping once.  Alternatively, before frying, you can freeze the bacon, then fry when ready to serve (no need to thaw first).

148 Comments

 

Amazing Couscous Salad with an Even Better Story

Post by Christine Frazier.

So, you’ve made the choice to eat less meat.  You’ve done the research, examined the facts, and decided you’re ready to take your health into your own hands.

Hooray, right?

Today’s recipe is inspired by the surprises I’ve had since making that decision myself.  Anytime you start shifting the pieces of your life around with a goal of positive change, there’s bound to be some negative resistance.

Of course, I already knew this from quitting smoking.  As much as my friends wanted to be supportive, most were hoping I wouldn’t make it.  If I failed, it meant that addiction was too hard to get over, that willpower wasn’t enough, and in short, that they didn’t have to try.

My refusal to light-up even at parties or social settings was taken as an insult by my pals, as if my quitting was a direct critique on their lifestyle.

Sound familiar? If you’ve ever ordered a meatless dish when you’re out to eat with your friends, you probably know the feeling.

But really, at the health club?

While I expect this reaction occasionally from my family and friends, I never expected it at the gym.  I mean, a health club; a club of health.  As I was checking in at the front desk, I had a one-minute conversation that bugged me for an entire week.

The girl swiped my membership card, looked up at my No Meat Athlete top, and said “Hey, that’s a really cool shirt.”  Another lady behind the desk looked up, smiled, and said “Yeah, that’s cute!”

A third woman, also a staff member, walked over, smiled and casually chimed in:

That is a cute a shirt. But you do need meat, you know.

There were a lot of things I wanted to do right then. I wanted to ask her why the chick in the Cheerleading is life: the rest is just details shirt got to check-in without any life advice.  I wanted to whip out my resistance training journal and show her my improvements over the weeks since I joined her gym.  I wanted to tell her how I finally ran a 5k within a year of smoking a pack a day.  I wanted to tell her all about my brother, from starting this site to qualifying for Boston to running a 50 miler.

And mainly I wanted to tell her to mind her own ****ing business.

Instead, I chuckled, thanked the ladies, and just walked away.  I figured they’d see me all sweaty in an hour when I leave, and hopefully would note that I didn’t keel over from my workout, and no ambulance had to be called to pump ground beef into my veins to revive me.

Maybe enough workouts, and enough people proudly wearing the shirts…but really who knows, I think that lady already made her mind up awhile ago.

A pleasant surprise in the land of cheesesteaks

It’s so easy to get hung up on little negative exchanges like this one, which makes it even more valuable to recognize the positive surprises that come around.  Like one extra hot afternoon in Philadelphia, when I was tired and starving from exploring the city.  After passing cheesesteak joint after cheesesteak joint, I finally swung into a corner deli, hoping at best to get a side of mac and cheese or mashed potatoes.

To my amazement, the entire food case was stocked top to bottom with dream-vegetarian food.  Not half-hearted attempts with soy dogs and Boca burgers—no, I’m talking about avocado and sprout sandwiches, orange-beet salads, Italian bread salad, tabouleh, Morroccan couscous salad, quinoa pilafs, and Asian veggie wraps.

I stood, frozen with joy and overloaded with options.  The best part was, this deli wasn’t some weird crunchy health market; it was for everybody, and boy was it busy!  I finally left with a curried Isreali couscous salad, and it truly made my day.

The salad was so yummy, I had to make my own version to enjoy whenever I wanted (and without the $8.99/lb  price tag).  The recipe is below.

I know you’ll love this one.  For me this re-creation of that couscous salad is a good reminder that when you take control of your health, there really is a pleasant surprise around every corner.  It might be a faster race time, a couple pounds shed, a friend you’ve inspired, or perhaps just a really yummy deli.

Couscous Surprise Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup Israeli couscous (I like Marrakesh Express Couscous Grande)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups (1/2 lb)  frozen shelled edamame
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 a large red onion, minced
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, diced
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon

Heat the oil in a pot over medium heat.  Add the couscous and stir to coat.  Toast for a few minutes, stirring constantly.  Add the water and bring to a boil.  Cover and simmer for about 12 minutes, until the couscous is soft and most of the water is absorbed.

Meanwhile, steam the frozen edamame by microwaving in a bowl wrapped with plastic wrap for 2-4 minutes.  Be careful, the plastic wrap and steam will be hot.

In a large salad bowl, stir together the couscous, steamed edamame, red pepper, cilantro, onion, apricots, cranberries, curry powder, salt, and lemon juice.  Let chill for an hour to let the flavors combine.

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