One of the wonderful things about my New Year’s goal to eat vegan, is that it’s forced me think ahead and be more creative with my meals.
Eating a plant-based diet means that you have to be a bit more choosy about where your food comes from — and that exactly the kind of motivation I needed to start this year off.
As a result, each weekend I now visit a local produce stand (Hi Iovine Brothers!) to pick up as many fresh fruits and vegetables as possible, at just a tiny fraction of what a comparable basket would cost at Whole Foods. By buying dried beans and grains in bulk, and getting fresh items from a local source, I was able to save a TON of money.
In addition to making a ton of soups, my crockpot and rice cooker have also seen plenty of use. Why? When it’s 10 degrees, I have no patience to wait around trying to cook a hot meal when I get home; by taking just 5-10 minutes to prep before work, I can just come home and a healthy dinner is already done.
This hearty vegetable-packed chili was one of those meals.
It seems like I’ve been eating nothing but soup for weeks. That’s what you do when it’s below freezing, everything is covered in snow, and you’re trying to eat a vegan diet. THANKS, POLAR VORTEX.
Thankfully, the soups I’ve made have been hearty, filling and jammed full of vegetables. This potato leek soup is creamy without cream, each spoonful a comforting bite of garlic and greens and onion-y leek flavor. The recipe also made a huge batch, so I had enough to feed me at lunch for a week. Enjoy!
Vegan Potato Leek Soup
Adapted from Simply Recipes
- 2 large leeks
- 2 stalks of celery, chopped
- 2 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 2 cups water
- 3 large potatoes, scrubbed and diced (I used Yukon gold)
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1/2 tbsp hot sauce (optional)
- Salt and pepper
Slice the leeks lengthwise and separate; wash thoroughly to remove all the sand in between stalks. Shake dry and chop into thin pieces.
In a large soup pot, add olive oil, leeks, celery, salt and pepper, and cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Stir often. Add garlic after about 7 minutes, to avoid burning. Be careful not to brown the leeks, just soften them!
Once the celery and leeks begin to soften, add water, broth and potatoes. Bring to a simmer and cook for 20-25 minutes until potatoes are soft. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup — I like mine just partially smooth, with some chunks of potato, but you can also puree until completely smooth.
Add fresh and dried herbs, and season to taste with hot sauce and more salt and pepper. Serve with a light drizzle of flavored olive oil, or topped with fresh kale chips. Makes 4-6 big servings.
A quick little post so you don’t think I’ve dropped off the earth again! I’ve been busy working lots, teaching my running class, training for the Steamtown marathon, playing a ton of Animal Crossing: New Leaf, looking into the idea of buying a house, and dealing with a whole bunch of family worries all wrapped up in one. It’s a busy month! I’m very happy overall, despite what my vague social media updates may imply — just busy, that’s all.
On a recent trip to Virginia to visit one set of grandparents, I discovered the joys of a store called World Market. They’re really only in the South (the closest to us is in Rockville, Maryland!) and like Pier One meets West Elm meets Wegman’s meets the Home Decorator’s catalog. It’s a mix of eclectic home goods and urban-rustic furniture, quirky food products and pretty kitchen ware. I snagged a $4 popsicle mold (in addition to four faux vintage drink tumblers, paper lantern string lights, watermelon mint tea, a brushed metal jewelry tree, two bottles of blood orange soda…) with the intention of making some healthy, summery pops for snacking or even breakfast.
The photo above was my first attempt. Organic coconut milk (my new ingredient obsession) met three kinds of fresh raw fruit and a bit of agave nectar. That’s all.
This made a great treat for Father’s Day afternoon, but I’d also be tempted to eat them for breakfast if the day was hot enough. What are your favorite ways to make popsicles? Any suggestions on how to make them more nutritionally sound?
Chia seeds are the biggest thing since quinoa, if my trips to Whole Foods are any indication. This ancient superfood is popping up everywhere from bottled drinks to best-selling books like Born to Run, which sparked my interest in them.
Why? Chia seeds are high in protein, antioxidants and omega-3s and an easy way to add nutritional value to every meal. Seriously, just two tablespoons packs 11 grams of fiber, 4 grams protein, 177 mgs calcium, and nearly 5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids!
Most people use them as a topping to other foods, or added to things like smoothies, drinks, oatmeal or yogurt. Because they don’t have have much of a taste it’s easy to incorporate these little gray and brown seeds into everything. When you soak them in water for 30-60 minutes, it becomes gummy/gelatinous, which you can then use to add bulk foods like oatmeal or smoothies or just as a drink.
I tend to mix a few spoonfuls into a glass of water with lemon juice before I go exercise or when it’s hot outside. I’ve also sprinkled some on the oatmeal that I pack for work.
Where to buy? Right now, your best bet is to look in the bulk bin section of stores like Wegman’s. It’s almost always cheaper to purchase that way than in a pre-bagged version. I would recommend bringing your own glass container if possible, because these little suckers stick to everything and I always spill some.
If your local store doesn’t stock them, look to retailers like Amazon or Navitas.
Here are a few ways to try for yourself:
- Professional triathlete Brendan Brazier suggests this Blueberry Chia Pudding
- Chia fresca or iskiate, a refreshing and energizing drink featured prominently in Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run
- Blueberry lime smoothie with chia and cashews, from the New York Times Recipes for Health column
- Energy gels for distance runners, from WalkJogRun.net
- Pomegranate cherry chia fresca, for light summer dinners
- Baby kale salad with strawberries and chia seed dressing from Audrey’s Apron
(Smoothie image from The New York Times.)
I had an inexplicable craving for chocolate chip muffins this week. You know the ones. Enormous, filled with chocolate, beckoning from every coffee shop, two meals worth of calories in one paper lining. That’s what I wanted.
So I made it better.
Chocolate Chip Cranberry Muffins with Greek Yogurt
- 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup sugar (you can use baking Truvia, but I hate the taste)
- 1/2 tablespoon ground flax seeds
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup plain, nonfat Greek yogurt
- 1/4 cup skim milk
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 1 egg
- 1 cup chocolate chips (I used dark chocolate)
- 1/4 cup dried unsweetened cranberries
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a muffin pan with paper linings and very very lightly grease with cooking spray. In a large bowl, slowly mix all ingredients except chocolate and cranberries until just combined. Stir enough to break up the lumps, then stop. Gently fold in the rest. You may need to add a splash of water or milk if the batter is too thick.
Spoon into muffin pans and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown on top. Let cool. Makes 12.
Healthier than the original version, with added protein, but still moist and delicious enough to be a real treat. You could definitely add your own favorite toppings to this like fresh blueberries, nuts or other dried fruit.
Today’s lunch: crispy black bean tacos! This week I bought half a dozen cans of various beans, with the intention of cooking protein-rich dinners, including some vegetarian ones. A post by The Kitchn inspired this idea and now my Pinterest boards are chock full of new recipes.
The first day of spring inspires that “let’s get back on track feeling” so why not start with a good meal? I used to make similar tacos back in college after reading it in Bon Appetit.
Today’s version went like this: mix half a cup of black beans, one chopped green onion, and a good couple shakes of Cholula hot sauce (garlicky, spicy goodness). Mash the beans slightly and season with a bit of salt and pepper. Spoon the bean mixture onto two whole wheat tortillas (mine were about 4-5” in size). Spray a pan with a bit of vegetable oil and fry the tortillas carefully for about a minute, then fold in half and brown each side. Just don’t burn like I tend to do. Serve with half a mashed avocado and fresh cilantro.
I could have just had one, but I was pretty hungry. The good news is, this makes a great dinner and filled me up for about six or seven hours.