20 Vegan Recipes for Your Memorial Day Barbecue or Plant-Powered Get Together

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Appetizers

Salads

Burgers/Sandwich/Sides

Desserts

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Quick and Easy Vegan African Peanut Stew

Vegan-African-Chickpea-Stew

Peanut butter and warming spices make this Vegan African Peanut Stew with Chickpeas a cozy and delicious treat.

Generally speaking, I like to eat light, cool food during warmer months and heavier, hot food during the colder ones. So, even though it’s spring, when yesterday the weather turned a bit chilly, I realized I was craving something heartier than the things I’ve been eating lately (for example, Socca with nut cheeses and vegetables). In addition, for weeks now, I’ve had this really strong craving for peanut butter, but it’s generally not something I like to have around since it’s a definite weakness of mine. But when I had a lightbulb moment that crashed those two cravings together, I remembered the convenient excuse for peanut butter in a bowl, err, I mean, my love for African Peanut Stew, and realized I would just have to indulge myself. (It’s all about balance, right?)

My introduction to African Peanut Stew/Soup was at a Christmas celebration a few years ago. The idea of both peanut butter and coconut milk as star ingredients of a dish was truly scary (read: calories, fat), but I couldn’t exactly say no since the hostess had made a special batch vegan just for me by replacing the chicken with chickpeas. The first taste and the ones that followed were so sumptuous, I couldn’t help but relax and savor every bite. So, not surprisingly I associate that dish with happy times and cozy gatherings, not to mention special occasions. The warming aromas of ginger, cinnamon, and curry, not to mention peanut butter, makes for a decadent and soothing homey feel that is all about the pleasure food was meant to be.

Last night was just a Wednesday, but with the aromas of all that in the air, it felt like a special occasion, and the actual eating of the stew was a definite treat. And as my boyfriend eats very little of the kinds of food I eat (though he has become more adventurous and healthy over the years), I got it all to myself. Again. Even cold it’s awesome. (I checked before I had some for lunch today!)  The best part is it’s actually really easy to make. You could also do in the crock pot if you wanted to go the longer and slower cooking route.

Many versions call for coconut milk and most have chicken, but I don’t eat the latter and since the soup is not the lowest-calorie soup a person could have, I figured I would leave the coconut milk out as well. In addition, just about every recipe you will see is slightly different and may include, for example, celery, red bell pepper, and other ingredients not in this one. But the stew is like a chili in the sense that you can customize it for your taste. Regardless of the way you choose to customize it for your taste, I hope you enjoy it!

(Note: You know how sometimes you meet a person in real life after seeing their photo, and you’re like, ‘holy heck, this person is beautiful and photos don’t do him/her any justice!’ Well, that stew photo up there is like that. Partly because the beauty is in the flavors and the aroma, and partly because, clearly, I need to do some food photography study. It’s on the list, I promise! But all that’s to say, don’t hold that photo against my poor little stew.)

Ingredients

  • Olive oil for cooking
  • One onion (I used Vidalia to add more sweetness)
  • One sweet potato
  • 3 or 4 cups vegetable broth or water (more or less depending on the thickness you want)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Approximately ¼ cup chopped ginger root (or if eyeballing amount, it’s about three thumb-sized roots, or equivalent)
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 1T curry powder
  • Kosher, sea, or pink salt to taste
  • Fresh pepper to taste
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 1tsp cumin
  • 1T tumeric
  • A few shakes of cayenne (about a teaspoon or so)
  • 4T chunky natural peanut butter
  • One small bunch of kale (lacinto, if possible)
  • One bunch of cilantro (it might look like a lot, but it cooks way down, but if you’re not a cilantro lover, do use less)
  • 2 15-ounce cans of chickpeas, aka, garbanzo beans (or one large one)
  • Approximately ¼ small jalapeño or Serrano chili (optional, and to taste)

Top with:

  • Sriracha to taste (by which I mean lots and lots!!)
  • Crushed peanuts (optional)

Directions

  1. Wash all your veggies and drain and rinse your chickpeas. (Or work these steps in as you do other steps.)
  2. Coat soup pot with a little olive oil, then add finely chopped onion and sweet potato. Heat on low until softened. (It helps to add a splash of water after about five minutes. Also, watch closely and stir often to prevent burning.)
  3. Chop garlic and ginger. Add some of your water or broth to a blender, then add garlic and ginger, and blend on high until fully blended.
  4. Add tomatoes to blender and more of the water or broth and all spices except for the jalapeño or Serrano. Blend until smooth.
  5. Finely chop kale and cilantro in between other tasks.
  6. At this point, add to the blender the full amount of liquid you will be working with and to that add the sweet potatoes and onion. Blend until smooth and pour back into soup pan.
  7. Finely chop desired amount of jalapeño or Serrano. Be careful not to touch the chili—I used a knife and fork—and also be careful washing the utensils and cutting board. The juice can burn your skin, and the fumes can be hot.
  8. Add peanut butter, then taste and add more if desired. Add rinsed garbanzo beans, kale, and cilantro. Heat on very low for desired amount of time. This is a dish you can keep closer to raw or not, depending on how you like it. I heated mine just until veggies had softened.
  9. Serve hot (though it tastes delicious cold too), and top with a sprinkle of crushed peanuts if desired and lots of sriracha (which, on the other hand, is mandatory).

 

Serve over couscous or rice, or with toasted scali bread topped with Earth Balance.

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Whole Foods Now Carries 365 Everyday Value Non-BPA Cans

Whole-Foods-non-BPA-canned-beans

If you’re vegan or vegetarian, or are simply trying to eat a more plant-based diet, chances are you probably eat a lot of beans. I used to just pick up whatever brand appealed to me. But after learning how toxic BPA is, I pretty much stuck to Eden brand for my canned beans, which is widely available but kind of expensive. (Isn’t part of the point of beans that they’re supposed to be cheap?) I do cook mine from dry as much as possible, but the convenience of canned beans means that they are sometimes the go-to, especially during busy times.

Now, Whole Foods has their own brand of non-BPA beans, and they’re quite a bit cheaper than the Eden brand. Plus, I swear they taste fresher than most canned foods, which I attribute to the fact that they’re so new.

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Whew, It’s Finally Spring!

 

BostonSpringtime_1230x600

No, it doesn’t look anything like this yet, but it will! It will!

Happy Spring everyone!

This is just a quick post, but I realized that after the historically difficult winter we’ve had in the Boston area, I cannot let the first day of Spring pass without marking it.

Spring is not exactly evident around here. I just looked at my weather app, and this morning it was 20 degrees during my run (it’s a whopping 29 or so now). So no, Spring has not exactly sprung. Or at least not in a way that would be obvious to say, people in warmer climes than mine.

Say, like, the people on Lost. In addition to a ton of reading this insane winter, there might have been some binge-watching of Lost going on. Watching the sweaty and barely dressed Jack, Kate, Sawyer and company run around the sparkling, lush, and drop-dead gorgeous Oahu while in real life I wore about 20 layers even inside and outside white skies overlooked snowbanks so high they obscured any view at all was just a tad bit surreal. Escapism and juxtaposition at its finest.

In comparison to Hawaii or plenty of the rest of the country, Spring is not exactly evident. It reminds me of how when I lived in Southern California, people from other parts of the country would say there’s no Winter. There is, it’s just subtle.

The first day of Boston Spring 2015 has that same subtlety: Unseeable to outsiders, unmissable to those who live there. For starters, the six feet-plus piles of snow are gone; it’s down to six inches or less in most spots. You can even see sidewalks now! That means going for a walk or run outside no longer feels like taking your life in your hands because it’s impossible to see around corners. The hardened dirty snow covering most of the yards yields to a narrow strip of grass along the edges (yellow, but still!). Suddenly, the light has a different quality, thinner somehow and more golden. The air, cold as it is, carries the hint of wet earth and the tulips and daffodils to come. Was I layered up during my run? Yes. Yes, I was. But, still…now, with all of those aforementioned signs of Spring, promise is in the air.

Spring is my absolute favorite season. I love flowers, the very particular scent of new beginnings, and—this year especially—the more temperate weather. Somehow everything seems a little easier, and I can’t help but feel a huge amount of gratitude.

So here’s to Spring! I hope your first day of this season is fabulous and that your weekend is as well.

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20 Inspirational Quotes to Fire You Up for Running—or Life

Running along the snowy Charles River in Cambridge_2014-01-18_by Bill Damon

Has winter chilled your enthusiasm? These wise words from athletes, authors, thinkers, and leaders just might help you rekindle your commitment to your goals.

On motivation

‘Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny. This second, we can turn the tables on Resistance.” Steven Pressfield

“It’s very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not
to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is
against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit.” –George Sheehan

“Flatter me, and I may not believe you.  Criticize me, and I may not like you.  Ignore me, and I may not forgive you.  Encourage me, and I will not forget you.” William Arthur Ward

“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle; when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.” Unknown

“Feel the fear and do it anyway.” Susan Jeffers

On setbacks

“Pain is necessary, suffering is optional.” –Haruki Murakami

“The biggest mistake an athlete can make is to be afraid of making one.” L. Ron Hubbard

“So you’re taking a few blows. That’s the price for being in the arena and not on the sidelines. Stop complaining and be grateful.” Steven Pressfield

“Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure.” –Napoleon Hill

“Most of all, the ultra distance leaves you alone with your thoughts to an excruciating extent. Whatever song you have in your head had better be a good one. Whatever story you are telling yourself had better be a story about going on. There is no room for negativity. The reason most people quit has nothing to do with their body.” –Scott Jurek

“As I look back on my life, I realize that every time I thought I was being rejected from something good, I was actually being re-directed to something better.” –Steve Maraboli

On inspiration

“The woods are lovely dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.” Robert Frost

“Running! If there’s any activity happier, more exhilarating, more nourishing to the imagination, I can’t think what it might be.” Joyce Carol Oates

“The reward of running—of anything—lies within us. We focus on something external to motivate us, but we need to remember that it’s process of reaching for that prize, not the prize itself, that can bring us peace and joy.” Scott Jurek

“The most beautiful motion is that which accomplishes the greatest results with the least amount of effort.” Plato

“Happiness is not a state to arrive at, but a manner of traveling.” Margaret Lee Runbeck

“Don’t be pushed by your problems. Be led by your dreams.” Unknown

“One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.” –Andre Gide

“Having a true faith is the most difficult thing in the world. Many will try to take it from you.” –Steve Prefontaine

“Success means having the courage, the determination, and the will to become the person you believe you were meant to be.” –George Sheehan

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Have a great weekend everyone, and let me know your favorite quote if you have one! I’d love to hear.

Photo credit: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License. Some rights reserved by Bill Damon. (This photo originally posted at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/billdamon/12016479684/in/photolist-jiRALd-iHW8DU-jiRfeR/)

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Do I Look Pretentious Holding This Mason Jar?

If you live at Whole Foods, spend way too much time staring at blogs/Instagrammed/Pinterest food pics, love your mason jars, or wonder whether chard is the new kale—or tease your friends who do—“Hipsters Love Food” is for you. It’s perfect silliness for a Friday.

I’m surprised that spiralized zucchini topped with a craft beer-green smoothie sauce didn’t make an appearance, but I guess you can only cram so much into a short video.

Anything you identify with?

By the way, I got to this video in a circuitous way from Nina Badzin’s Friday Finds, where she had spotlighted another really funny video on Daylight Savings that you can also see on the Nacho Punch comedy channel.

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Diary of a Reluctant Run

rainy-day-walk

For the second day in a row, the sky is gray. I look up from my desk and out the window. There’s a sense of stillness to the air, even though I can see the raindrops hitting the ground. Maybe it’s just my own brain that’s still. Still like a stagnating pond.

As a runner who has battled multiple setbacks over the last few years, both external (e.g., injuries) and internal (e.g., resistance), I sometimes feel like I’m in perpetual start-over mode, and what was once habit can now sometimes require seismic energy. I know it would help to get up and get some fresh air and move my body. I know this, because it always does. But I can’t. I even have good “reasons”:

  • I don’t have time.
  • I’m busy with work, and even though my mind is not generating anything great as I sit here (or really anything) parked at my desk for what feels like the umpteenth hour in a row, I—see reason above—don’t have time.
  • It’s raining.
  • I feel sluggish, and I don’t want to warm up, and if I don’t warm up, I really shouldn’t run, since I’ve been trying to be much better about the warm-up thing.
  • I read we might be getting a thunderstorm. That doesn’t seem to be the case now. But hey, best to be on the safe side right?
  • I don’t really feel like it.
  • Besides, lunch sounds better than running.
  • It’s probably best just not to go.

I go anyway. I force myself out of my seat, put on my layers and my Garmin, don my shoes, and get myself out the door before I can change my mind.

Almost immediately, the rain soaks through my shoes and everything else not covered by water-resistant material—yep, it’s wet out here all right—but what is also instantaneous is that I feel more awake and alive, and I’m so glad I’ve come out. I look around and my eyes take in what’s left of the orange leaves, the stragglers. They are so beautiful, and we won’t have them for much longer. A short time later, I am running past the grade school near where I live. The playground looks abandoned, and I think about being a kid and that jump-out-of-my-skin feeling I had on rainy days when we were stuck inside. Ugh, all that sitting. I take a deep breath as I run past and revel in my big-girl freedom.

On my run, I’m nearly the only pedestrian, save for one man in a heavy rain slicker who’s walking his dog, and later a woman doing the same. She is shivering against the cold, as she has braved the rain without the right kind of jacket to repel the water.

As I run, the rain beats against my body, and my feet beat against the ground, and I am propelled forward in a way that changes the day’s trajectory. I no longer feel like a Walking Dead extra after doing yet another take of a single filler scene. Instead, my brain fires with creative thoughts about how to tackle the writing project I’d been working on, as well as other projects that I hadn’t even been thinking about just a little while ago. By the time I return home, I’m soaking wet, but I’m full of fresh air and fresh ideas. I’m excited to get back to my desk and put my thoughts on paper.

There are things I do that I think, “I probably shouldn’t have just done that.” Running though?

Never one of those things.

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