Crowd-Pleasing Vegan Caesar

Friends, it’s recipe time! At a barbecue last weekend—to which I had brought one amazing, reliable salad—I was reminded how much I love cooking and sharing recipes. Several non-vegan people have asked me for this one, so I’m taking the opportunity to create a post!

I adapted this salad from the original recipe, which I found in America’s Test Kitchen’s Vegan for Everybody cookbook. If you have not gotten your hands on this book yet, I highly recommend it—absolutely everything is spot-on and delicious! That said, I’m not much of a recipe follower, so once I had the gist of the ingredients for the dressing, I made this sucker my own. You should feel free to experiment with ratios until you find your favorite version.

There are a couple of ingredients you might not yet have in your fridge, but once you make this recipe, you’ll have them handy for next time. What follows is one of our family’s go-to weeknight dinners. It’s not low-fat, but it’s full of veggies!

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Crowd-Pleasing Caesar Salad

Serves 4 as an entree.

1 14-oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

1/3 cup (or so) olive oil

1 lb. kale, shredded (do this yourself with a knife or food processor, or buy it already shredded)

1/3 cup vegan mayo (the best kind is Just Mayo, but Trader Joe’s vegan mayo works too)

1 Tbsp capers, drained

Juice of 1 lemon

2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (or more if you like it really tangy)

1 Tbsp minced garlic

1 Tbsp vegan worcestershire

2-3 Tbsp nutritional yeast (depending on how much you like the nootch)

1 tsp black pepper

salt, garlic powder

1 8-oz package tempeh, cut into strips or chunks

2-3 Tbsp of your favorite BBQ sauce

  1. Start your garbanzo bean croutons. Heat 2-3 T of olive oil in a cast-iron pan and add the drained beans. Make sure they’re all touching the surface of the pan (a 10” pan should be plenty). Turn heat down to medium and gently balance a lid over 2/3 of the pan—that’s enough coverage to keep popping beans from flying at your face, while not accidentally steaming the beans (which would turn them to mush). If you have one of those neat mesh pan covers, that would be ideal. Throughout the rest of the prep, occasionally toss the beans around with a spatula, and add a drizzle of oil here and there.

  2. Soak your kale in a bowl of hot tap water. This will take the raw bite out of it without cooking it. I do my soaking in a salad spinner so I can go right to drying it off when the soaking is done. Leave the kale in the water while you make your dressing.

  3. In a blender, add all of the rest of the ingredients, mayo through pepper. Blend until just smooth, then drizzle 1/4 cup olive oil into the blender while it is running, blending for just another 30 seconds or so. Blend in a few tablespoons of water if your dressing seems too thick.

  4. Rinse your kale under cold water to stop the wilting, then dry your kale in your salad spinner or by laying it between layers of clean towels. Once it’s mostly dry, combine with your dressing in a very large bowl. Put this large bowl in the fridge and let it sit while you finish off your beans.

  5. Add a generous amount of salt and garlic powder to your beans and continue cooking and tossing until they start to get golden brown and crispy. Taste a couple of times and add more salt if needed. Do not cover the beans or attempt to store them until they are completely cool or they’ll lose their crunch.

  6. While the beans finish cooking, start your tempeh. Brown both sides of the tempeh pieces in a dry or lightly oiled pan—this should only take about one minute per side. Toss with BBQ sauce and set aside.

  7. Time to put it all together! Grab your giant bowl of salad from the fridge, serve in large individual salad bowls, then have each person add the crispy garbanzos and BBQ tempeh.


Options:

  • If you prefer romaine lettuce over kale, you can sub chopped romaine and skip the soaking bit—you want your romaine crispy! A combo of the two greens works well, too.

  • A soy-free option: Skip the tempeh and toss some quinoa on top instead during Step 7—super delicious with a lighter feel.

  • A lower-fat version: Skip the olive oil in the dressing and replace it with water. The dressing will be a bit lighter and less viscous, but still very tasty!

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It's official!

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It's official!

I'm registered for the Stumptown Trail Runs 50k!  Yikes.  

Well, I guess it's really happening!  As I stare down the barrel of the next four months, I have a bunch of plans in place to keep myself injury-free and keep my family happy--starting with doing a bunch of my runs as morning or evening commutes to and from work in order to protect weekend family time. So far, so good--but I'm only in the pre-training plan training plan right now, so I haven't had to run for longer than an hour at a time. 

Stay tuned for March, when I'll be creating MapMyRun routes home from work designed to take me 4 or 5 hours.  Zoinks.

In the meantime, while I slowly build mileage in an effort to avoid injury, I've been experimenting with becoming fat-adapted--essentially eating and running in such a way that my body starts burning fat instead of sugar when I'm running.  (I won't bore you with the details here.)  Important for me is that in order to become fat-adapted, one has to spend the majority of running time at a low heart rate--for me, under 140 bpm--which can be surprisingly hard to do.  I started out having to run 13+ minute miles to keep my heart rate that low, which is just plain boring.  Now I'm down to the 12-minute range, and I'm hoping I can get to a comfortable 11-minute mile before the race.  The bonus of all this slow running is that my runs are EASY, and easy usually means injury-free.  (I really hope I didn't just jinx myself!)

Folks love to debate this fat-adaptation concept on the internet, and the jury is definitely still out on its benefits, but you know how much I love to treat my body like a science experiment.  In this case, I'm hoping that learning to burn fat on my runs will allow me to run longer distances, however slowly, without bonking and without needing much fuel.  That's the magic of fat adaptation, and I figure it's totally made for someone like me, who loves running for hours on end, but who will never be the fastest.   We'll see!


PS: I took a fun, terrible-quality video of a segment of my run home the other night!  I have been collecting little chunks of video from runs to practice using my new YouTube channel (which, I hope, will someday be populated with actually useful videos in which I talk about things, rather than just doing that awesome mid-run heavy breathing.).  Check it out here: 

Guess Who!

Hi friends!  Well, it's been a while.  Let's move on, shall we?  

It's 2018, and I've got two exciting things on the horizon. 1) I'm turning 40!  Woohoo!  2) I'm celebrating turning 40 by finally running an ultramarathon!  You may remember that my previous ultra plan was thwarted by lack of time management and a nasty stress fracture, but I've got plans to tackle both issues this time--I'm sure we'll get to all that over the next 5 months.

Yes, I realize I could celebrate 40 by going on a dream vacation or something, but you know me.  I'll be documenting my journey here on the blog, and I'm hoping to experiment with some video blogs (the kids call them "vlogs," but that's really hard to say).  Anyway, Meg is training for an Ironman, so little sis has to keep up!

So here we go. I kicked off 2018 with a lovely run on Portland's Powell Butte, and I even took a little video so you can see how freaking gorgeous it was.  Let's test things out!

 

 

Don't Call it a Comeback

Ugh. 2017 (and late 2016) has been pretty sucky on many levels, for many people.  Today I'm wallowing in the total suckage that has sucked my fitness from Pretty-Solid-for-My-Age to Basically-A-Couch-Potato.  I think I've been less motivated to write for the blog because there's not a lot of fun stuff to blog about. Unfortunately, while there's a comeback lurking somewhere around a corner, you loyal readers might forget who I am if I wait for the comeback before writing again. Let's start at the beginning of the suckage.

August 2016: Officially bailed on my plans to do the McKenzie Trail Ultra I had registered for and lotteried into.  Training was taking way too much time away from family on the weekends, and I wanted to have some fun with the rest of my summer!  Proceeded to slack off even from my normal 20-ish miles per week, took two separate week-long trips, and generally enjoyed myself.

September 2016: Had a blast doing the Gorgeous Relay, which ended up being a 23-mile day for me (over the course of four relay legs).  It was fun but kicked my ass, and I definitely spiked my mileage too aggressively in the two weeks leading up to it.

October 2016: My left foot hurt every time I ran, which was only 3 or 4 times before realizing something was definitely wrong.  Visited a clinic on a lunch break, and they said not to run for a couple of weeks and it would probably go away.

November 2016: It didn't go away.  After two more excruciating weeks of hobbling around, an x-ray showed a stress fracture in the third metatarsal in my left foot.  Classic overuse/running injury, likely caused by that super-fun 23-mile day in September.  Got to give all my left shoes a break and rock a walking boot for 6-8 weeks.

 The view under my desk.  I also had to give up my standing desk for 2 months, which was torture.  Sitting all day hurts!

The view under my desk.  I also had to give up my standing desk for 2 months, which was torture.  Sitting all day hurts!

December 2016: Started physical therapy, which was also a bit of non-physical therapy, given that my poor PT had to put up with my nagging about when I could start running, alternating with my worrying aloud that I had a little pain and maybe we were pushing too hard and oh my god what if I never run again?!

January - February 2017: Kept up the physical therapy while performing in a show and digging out from under mountains of snow, and I even got to run on the Alter-G, this amazing machine that encapsulates your lower half into a bubble of air that somehow allows you to run with just a percentage of your body weight.  We started at 70% and worked our way up to 95%.  I was ready to run again!

March 2017: I was all ready to do my first run on the roads (10 minutes!) when I came down with strep throat. Like a 10-year-old.  So I waited. A week of antibiotics later, and I headed out for a .75 mile slow run around the neighborhood.  It felt great!  Except that an hour later, my back had completely seized up--turns out that being in a walking boot for 2 months messes with your alignment--and I was out of commission for several more days.  I waited AGAIN. The triumphant return to running would have to wait until the last week of March, when I would finally have the time and the health to try again. I even mapped out an optimistic little training plan to make sure I would be ready for the annual Mt. St. Helens climb on Mother's Day weekend.

BUT THEN.

The little cold I developed over the weekend turned into pneumonia.  PNEUMONIA, people.  I'm really an optimist most of the time but JEEZ. Can a lady get a break? I'm really getting tired of the couch potato life.

 Yes, that's a hot toddy.  It's therapeutic!  I need something to take the edge off while I daydream about trail running and read horror stories of runners who tried to do marathons with pneumonia.

Yes, that's a hot toddy.  It's therapeutic!  I need something to take the edge off while I daydream about trail running and read horror stories of runners who tried to do marathons with pneumonia.

So that's what's going on with me.  The pneumonia diagnosis came through just two days ago.  The comeback has to wait until I'm done with this round of antibiotics and I can breathe deeply without hacking up a lung.  In the meantime, I'm going to start blogging some recipes I've managed to cook up in the last few months, and I'm keeping fingers crossed that I'll still be able to climb St. Helens in May.  

I promise I'll try to spend less time perusing race websites and dreaming about what might have been.  And maybe I'll have a race report for you sometime later this year.

 

PS: I can't end this post with all that negativity, so here's a list of great things that have happened over the last few months:

  • My adorable kids turned 4 and 1 and we had wonderful holidays.
  • My wife started a volunteer gig teaching coding to women and got a much-deserved promotion at work.
  • I got to do a show I've wanted to do for decades, with an amazing cast of awesome people.
  • I am successfully getting my Spanish back in shape as I prepare to take on some pro bono immigration cases. 
  • I finally learned how to drive in the snow.
  • I continue to love my day job.

Apparently I'm still an optimist, albeit a slower and lazier one.

 

 

 

 

Easing in with an Easy Recipe (and an Injury Update)

I've been away for a while!  As it turns out, having a stress fracture--and therefore not being allowed to run for months--did not result in me spending all that extra free time writing for the blog.  Instead, I've worked a bunch, enjoyed a busy holiday with the family, and performed in a musical (which is something I do sometimes!).  My stupid metatarsal is taking its sweet time getting back to normal. I blame the kids, of course (shhh, don't tell them).  Not being able to truly stay off my feet has taken its toll, even with the walking boot that I was rocking for 2 months.

As spring approaches and I ease my way back into running, I'm also easing/barreling my way back into the wellness-focused life I'd been living.  Yes, I know it's "wellness-focused" to take necessary time off for physical therapy, but in the moment it just feels like one big couch-bound Netflix marathon.  In the vein of easing, I tried an amazingly easy recipe yesterday that turned out to be AMAZING.

 This beautiful image--not mine--clicks through to the source site--OhMyVeggies.com

This beautiful image--not mine--clicks through to the source site--OhMyVeggies.com

As it turns out, I made a couple of tweaks to the original recipe, but they were minor:

  • I pureed 2 cups of canned corn kernels into the soup, and added 2 cups of frozen corn kernels at the end for texture.
  • I slow cooked on low (in my new Instant Pot!) for 10 hours, but the potatoes were still not tender enough for my immersion blender, so I pressure cooked the soup for 15 minutes before pureeing,  If you're using a regular slow cooker, just give it more time or cook it on high instead.
  • The only toppings I needed were some toasted and crushed corn tortillas and a ridiculous amount of avocado, but Wife stirred a load of sour cream into hers and loved it.
  • Bonus: turns out toddlers love this soup.

Next up:

  • I'm hoping to be cleared to try running on the ground soon.  I've only run in the Alter-G treadmill (which is this amazing anti-gravity thing), and I'm starting to work out on an elliptical and stair climber, but I'm itching to get back on the trails.
  • As my show closes and I have more time for cooking actual meals--much to my family's delight--I'll be messing around with (and sharing) more recipes!
  • I'll be sharing my 2017 race plan as soon as I have more info on my foot.  2017 is supposed to be Year of the Triathlon!