Monthly Archives: April 2012

Ultramarathons and my Wienerschnüzzelstrassen Recipe

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I opened the junk drawer and found THIS:

And because no one in this house is turning 93 any time soon, it can only mean one thing:

We forgot two of our children’s birthdays.

Actually, turning 39 DOES scare me, but not in the way you might think.

Because I didn’t begin running until about three years ago, and because I was still not in good shape after my first marathon, and because my eating habits have been continually atrocious, all I could do was improve. Basically, when you start as a couch potato, mediocre marathoner (for example, one who likes to wash down entire bags of Salt & Vinegar chips with Cokes) looks pretty good. 

*See www.aufdiedauer.com for the painful details of my first marathon

In all fairness, running a marathon was a high goal for me–and meeting it changed the course of my life.

So now, my future seems bright. As an ‘older’ runner, I have a few years yet where I can become faster, leaner and stronger.

The reason those waxy cake toppers scare me is because it means I have little over a year to meet the entirely irrational and self-imposed deadline for two of my big dreams: to begin training for an ultra-marathon and to have my fiction published.

Sometime between the ages of 40 and 49 11/12, I would like to run an ultra marathon; specifically a mountain marathon; even more specifically, the Swiss Alpine Marathon K78; which takes you 79.4k through “high alpine terrain” (up to 2600 meters); which is terrifying  because it means my time for being lazy is running out.

Don’t ask me why I long to run nearly 50 miles through the Swiss Alps, because I have no idea.

I think I’m addicted to challenges the same way I’m addicted to horseradish. It’s for that zinging, biting, sweating thrill that makes you shake your head and say, “Yeah, I’m crazy,” while eagerly reaching for more.

It makes me thankful I’ve never tried Crack.

Training for marathon #3 begins ‘officially’ on Saturday; and I am hopeful, optimistic, and judging by my recent runs, faster this year.

But I’m just wondering how my newly veganized, minimalist-shoed body is going to perform?

I wonder if I can ditch my knee straps?

I wonder if I can sustain forefront running for 26.2 miles?

I wonder if I can find someone to bring me a warm double-espresso at mile 18?

I wonder if I could actually drink a double-espresso at mile 18, or if I would just spill it all over myself?

Marathon running combined with this plant-based diet is like a science experiment, and rather fun for me because I am that kind of nerd.

I know it sounds weird, but I get a thrill from making a gluten-free vegan dinner that ALSO tastes good–probably because, just like in my dreams 1 & 2, it seems impossible.

And the so-called Impossible makes me clench my jaw and think, “We’ll see about that!”

So, whatever your Big Goal is, work hard to achieve it. And don’t give up! Even if you feel you’re not progressing as quickly as your Dream Deadline dictates.

If I had abandoned Veganism after the Tofu-Garlic ‘Mashed Potatoes’ (which were, in fact, as disgusting as they sound), I never would have stumbled across the gloriously delicious Wienerschnüzzelstrassen (see recipe below!)

Recipe of the Week: 

Wienerschnüzzelstrassen AKA Cauliflower-Spinach ‘Mashed Potatoes’

I should have known that Dr. Joel Fuhrman, in his book Eat for Health, would ONLY share recipes that taste good. So, after sampling the delicious cauliflower-spinach ‘mashed potatoes,’ I served them to the family.

The only problem, as was debated by my cherubs around the dinner table, was that the name of the meal was rather unimaginative, so, they came up with some alternatives.

Yes, I am well aware that Wienerschnüzzelstrassen, in German, literally translates into ‘Viennese Schnüzzel Roads.’ And though I am a hopeless Amerikanerin, I am also well aware that Schnüzzel are not found in Germany, but rather, the word ‘Schnüzzel’ is derived from an obscure language only found in the uttermost regions of my teenage son’s head.

I selected the name because it A) had nothing to do with Optimus Prime, and B) sounded more appetizing than Spinach Sludge.

I love cookbooks, though I rarely follow them. So if you want the ‘real’ recipe with the dull-sounding name, you’ll have to buy Dr. Fuhrman’s book.

The Wienerschnüzzelstrassen recipe is my adaptation.


The Raw Materials

1 huge head fresh cauliflower, steamed (this is enough for a skeptical family of 6)

3 cloves of garlic, pressed and steamed with the cauliflower

2-4 cups baby spinach (depending on your taste buds)

1/2 cup raw cashew butter (see instructions for making your own)

Almond milk (or Soy or Rice milk, as needed)

1/4 tsp nutmeg (optional, as I just at this moment realized the recipe called for it–tastes fine if you forget it too!)

The Raw Cashew Butter

I had purchased an overpriced little jar at the organic store, only to realize it had a bunch of oil added. Thus, I got brave and made my own. I don’t have a fancy, schmancy nut-butter-maker (though I admit being a teensy bit jealous of those who own such contraptions), so I made mine the old-fashioned way–in the food processor.

Seriously Raw Materials

2 cups cashews (NOT salted or roasted…CHECK the ingredients: if they contain anything other than cashews, like salt or oil, put them back on the shelf!)

1 cup water, as needed

1/4 cup dates, pitted

1 1/2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (or to taste). I simply squeezed half a lemon into mine.

Making the ‘Butter’

Toss cashews & dates into the food processor, and then listen to jokes by your 13 year-old daughter about having too many dates.

Using the ‘S’ blade, pulse and add half the water and the lemon juice. Keep pulsing, stopping to scrape down the sides (and to taste & adjust ingredients) as necessary.

The butter should begin to roll up into a ball. You can add more liquid to make it creamier, if necessary. Eventually it will look like a grainy sort of peanut butter. Continue to process until the cashews have all been de-chunkified.

Then, try not to eat it all before using in your Wienerschnüzzelstrassen recipe.

The Grand Design

Steam the cauliflower WITH the garlic, and if you are a multi-tasker, let it steam while you make the nut butter. When the cauliflower is steamed (about 8-10 minutes), drain, and press out as much moisture as possible. I put mine in a strainer, and mashed it down with a big spoon.

Place spinach in the steamer until it is just barely wilted, and set aside.

Process cauliflower/garlic and cashew butter in food processor with ‘S’ blade, until you have reached creamy, smooth perfection. If the mixture is too thick, add a small amount of almond milk (or other milk substitute).

Add nutmeg, if you happen to remember it exists.

Fold in the wilted spinach.

For best results, serve hot, without telling your family what it actually contains. They will like it better that way and may even ask for seconds!

Guten Appetit!

Sometimes You Win. Sometimes You Don’t.

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I’ve been juicing baby bok choy thinking it was an exotic, German variation of kale.

[Insert nervous laugh here]

Though it’s an incredibly embarrassing blow to my ego (not only did I TELL others about my discovery, but I also BLOGGED about it), at least I was giving it a try. And that’s got to be worth something. 

I’d like to blame my mother for raising me on the typical Midwest diet of ground beef and mac & cheese, with the rare roasteneer in summer; but when you approach 40, you really can’t blame your parents for stuff anymore. If I had spent less time during my young adulthood in the Buy-It-In-Frozen-Bulk-Store and more time learning about living, green things, I would have known the difference.

I do, however, have just cause to complain about babelfish, the online language translator. I’ve learned through embarrassing hands-on experience that kale is not baby bok choy–no matter what language you use.

I’ve also been buying something called ‘Wirsing’ thinking it was collards–and that issue remains unclear. Babelfish insists the plants are the same, but the pictures I found online bear little resemblance to each other.

So, until I can find a German who is fluent in American Southern cooking, I’ll have to keep juicing the dark, leafy greens, whether they are properly named or not.

I could just make up my own names, but that’s not helpful in the supermarket.

Despite the setbacks due to language barriers and my own organic ignorance, I do enjoy creating vegan menus for the family.

I used to think veggies came in three colors: white being the yummiest, especially when mashed with margarine and hormone-laden milk; yellow, a close second, also with butter-flavored plastic and heaps of salt; and green, which came from a can, had a grayish tint and were quietly scraped into the garbage after Mom left the table.

Salads in the Midwest would gloriously appear for holidays, picnics and family reunions. No matter which so-called fruit or vegetable was used as a base, salads always arrived encased in some type of alien substance, such as jello, marshmallows or ranch dressing.

With this rich heritage, you will now pardon my current nutritional ignorance.

This week, I was inspired to make artichokes for the first time.

Eschewing any help from my husband (who HAD been a cook in a previous life) and piecing together bits of information from a variety of questionable sources, I carved up the plants, drizzled them with lemon, and tossed them in a hot oven.

They came out looking like pinecones.

We painfully tried them–even forcing my poor children to take bites.

*Disclaimer: no children were harmed in the artichoke sampling

Before you rat me out to Child Protective Services, let me assure you, a kind Italian friend has promised to provide artichoke counseling and special education for my remedial cooking skills.

I will conquer artichokes eventually.

And that is this week’s lesson.

No matter how you were raised, it’s never too late to learn (usually the hard way for me) how to cook and enjoy food that will nourish you, rather than kill you.

While the artichokes bombed in a big way, the quinoa stuffed peppers were fantastic. Even the youngest of my household skeptics cleaned their plates, as the saying goes, and not into the bio bin (I didn’t leave the table until they finished).

Though I may have inadvertently ruined their concepts of ‘artichoke’ forever, my hope is that my children will have broader views of cuisine and more nutritional knowledge than I ever did.

Sometimes you do actually win.

Recipe of the Week: Quinoa-Chickpea Stuffed Peppers

Being an English major, recovering grad assistant, and homeschooling mom, I have that geeky flaw of loving BOOKS. And now that I am learning to cook, I have a particular fondness for cookbooks.

So when an anonymous donor gave me Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook, I held it lovingly in my arms, kissed it, and put it to work right away. This cookbook is great because it walks you through basics (like putting veggies in an oven) which seem obvious to most people, but are scary for novices like me.

Becoming emboldened, I combined two recipes, took out some ingredients that my husband and I are currently avoiding, such as salt and oil, and added some things of my own.

The best cookbook (like the best pair of running shoes) is the one that gets messy; and I’m pleased to say that page 33 now has a red pepper thumbprint on the corner.

Enjoy!

The Raw Materials

Red Peppers, as many as you need, (I used 4 for our family of 6) halved and seeded

1 sweet yellow onion, finely chopped (apx 1 cup)

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 or 2 stalks of green onion, sliced into edible green O’s

1/4 cup (or more) fresh baby spinach, finely chopped

1 can chopped tomatoes or 1 cup fresh tomatoes, chopped

1/2 cup (or more) fresh mushrooms, chopped

1/2 tsp ground cumin (more if you want it spicier)

1 tbsp coriander seeds, crushed

Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 cup quinoa

2 cups cooked or 1 can (15 oz) chickpeas, drained & rinsed

2 cups low salt vegetable broth or water

water, as needed during cooking

The Method

Send your oven on its way to 425 degrees.

In your enamel-coated, cast iron dutch oven (which I know you have by now), water sauté the yellow onion about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté 2 more minutes, adding a little water as necessary, to keep from sticking to the pot.

Add chopped tomatoes and mushrooms, sautéing 2-3 minutes.

Add tomato paste, coriander, cumin, and black pepper; sautéing for another minute.

Add the uncooked quinoa and sauté for 2 more minutes, adding a little water to keep from sticking.

Add chickpeas and broth, cover and bring to a boil. Once the mixture is boiling, put on very low heat, cover and cook for about 18 minutes, or until the quinoa has absorbed all the liquid. Add baby spinach and chopped green onion for the last 3 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Fluff the quinoa-chickpea mixture with a fork.

Place the halved red peppers on a baking sheet and fill peppers with the quinoa mixture, being careful to NOT overstuff them.

Bake in your 425 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the edges begin to blacken.

Serve while steaming hot and enjoy the melt-in-your-mouth, zero cholesterol goodness of your quinoa-stuffed sweet red peppers.

Travels of a Gluten-Free, Vegan(ish) Gypsy Mama

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It is possible to be gluten-free, and it is possible to be vegan; but it is nearly impossible to be both in certain situations, for example, on an 8 hour flight.

And yes, I brought my own food with me. And no, the tepid, ten-hour old slices of cucumber in the baggie in my purse did not seem savory when presented a steaming plate of chicken and polenta (the BEST gf meal ever), courtesy of the kind chefs at Lufthansa.

As for me, the vegan thing is by choice, not politically or morally motivated, and therefore it can be neatly packed in my carry-on at will.

While I am beyond craving meat, I would eat that particular airline meal again and again, until it gave me coronary artery disease, in which case I would have to limit myself to dreaming about it post-op.

I admit it: I ate meat during my travels. But a lot of people who love me bent over backwards to make me gluten-free meals, vegan meals, or  both, and I don’t want to be that annoyingly neurotic sort of person who disdains food presented–especially when I’m lodging (free) with very generous people.

My husband and I have a saying, “Fifi only drinks champagne.”

I’m not sure where it came from, but at some point, we started saying it whenever one of the kids vocalized a food aversion, and then we would laugh.

Thus, not to be a Fifi, the only neurosis I allow myself is the gluten paranoia, only because I don’t want people to feel bad for inadvertently poisoning me.

*Editor’s note: if the author is glutened, it is ENTIRELY her own responsibility! The host is NEVER at fault. NEVER.

Before my trip to the US, I specifically requested my Grandma O. create a gluten-free version of her famous ham balls.

If you are vegetarian, I apologize for the image that may be in your mind at the moment, and I can only say, if you commit vegetarian impropriety just once in your long, untainted life, it should be with Grandma O’s ham balls.

While the kids and I did eat out a few times, we purposely boycotted fast-food (though Tasty Tacos, Chilie’s & Applebee’s blur the distinction).

And the rumor is true: with my consent, Grandpa took the children to IHOP–a place that could now kill me.

*Editor’s note: after the author returned home, she found a ‘Frequent Customer’ card from IHOP in an old purse. The author wants to make it clear that her life has changed drastically from six years ago!

But if the kids eat IHOP once every six years, I think they will survive (with large doses of veggies in the middle).

I also had lattes & cappuccino while I was traveling. Because seriously, if I’m going to have milk with my espresso, I’m going for whole milk. Milk gleaned from rice, soy or almonds just isn’t the same.

Before my vegan and/or vegetarian readers begin posting angry and/or disparaging comments to my blog, let me change the subject by asking: Is true veganism something you can turn off and on by choice?

Was I a convert to begin with? Am I just a backslider? Maybe I’m not a vegan at all. I already find myself fantasizing about the steak I’m going to consume after my marathon this summer.

I’m most likely someone Dr. Joel Fuhrman, in his book Eat to Live, calls a Nutritarian, which simply means someone who, for the most part, eats a veggie-based diet.

While not recommended, the occasional fling with meat & dairy is permissible.

And occasionally really means ‘on occasion,’ as in ‘special’ occasion; not as in It’s three o’clock again–bacon cheeseburger time! 

You might be wondering how I felt with all this fat and cholesterol floating around in my bloodstream, trying to attach itself to places it shouldn’t.

By the end of my binge, I felt bloated, fat, tired, and quite ready for my lean green.

The surprising thing is that I didn’t gain any weight. However, I’m quite sure daily bingeing would put me back into elastic-waisted jeans in no time–an endeavor I do NOT wish to put to the test.

After getting through the jet-lag, my husband and I began a detox. He had lost nearly 20 pounds while I was gone (making a total of 80 pounds since this year began), and I think he joined the Reboot simply to humor me.

But regardless, this week’s juice fast has been tough. I even cheated by eating a fresh fig, a strawberry, and a handful (okay, an entire can) of garbanzo beans. Oh, and there was the mushroom soup I had to sample, since I was cooking for the kids; but that was purely a quality control issue.

But my husband was supportive of my deviation by remarking, “At least you weren’t sucking down hunks of chicken!”

He meant it as a compliment.

And he’s right. In just four days, my cravings for sweets and dairy went away.  Now I fantasize about fruits, veggies, and legumes.

A juice fast will do that to a person.

I don’t want to sound like I don’t enjoy my juice–because I do. I have missed the tangy flavor of my Lean Green.

And knowing that my body is receiving an entire bag of spinach’s worth of nutrients in one drink is satisfying on both mental and molecular levels. If someone were to see my cells under a microscope, I’m sure they would be cheering.

With no trips in my immediate future, I can better control my eating environment; and my cells can slap on their shades, sit back, and take in the liquid sunlight.

Home sweet home.

Recipe of the Week: Don’t Make Fun of Me Cashew “Cheese”

Friday night is pizza night around the Wellman ranch, and since becoming vegan (or mostly vegan), I’ve struggled to find something to replace cheese on my pizza. Well, I found this recipe in the Forks Over Knives cookbook–and it does the trick.

Not only is it scrumptious on pizza, but it’s awesome on gluten-free crackers too. It bears little (if any) resemblance to real cheese, but the flavor is delicious! Don’t make fun of me! Try it!

The Raw Materials

1 cup organic cashews

1/2 lemon (I used one whole lemon, but it was small)

1 tsp fresh basil, chopped

1 clove garlic, pressed

1/4 cup water

The Method 

Toss ‘cheese’ ingredients in the food processor. Puree, adding water slowly until it reaches a thick, cream-cheese-like consistency. You should be able to form little ‘cheese’ balls, so don’t add too much water. Add seasonings (salt if you want it) to taste.

You can form this into ‘cheese’ patties (similar to mozzarella, Italian style) and place it on your pizza. Or, you can crumble it over the top. Or, you can spread it on crackers. Or, you can lick the spatula.

Whatever your method of delivery, it will be good (and filling).