Before I ran, I walked

I’ve been sick for a few days–not well enough to run–and I’m restless.  As much as I sometimes hate to have to drag myself outside of the confines of my warm, cozy house, when I can’t run, I feel awful.  I feel lazy and guilty and restless.  I begin to imagine the feeling of running as being better than it actually is. I begin to believe that I could actually achieve my imagined running utopia. It looks like this:  perfect temperature of about 60 degrees, a light breeze that keeps me from sweating, legs that fly and always feel like I’m just at my first mile, perfect music showing up on my shuffle, breathing easy and rhythmic.

Sigh.

I’ve only been a “religious” runner for about 2 1/2 years.  Before that, I was a summer runner, spending my winters just doing indoor kinds of exercise.

But the path to running began about 8 years ago with one, then two neighbors, who would become two of my best friends.

It all started with a conversation.  My neighbor Sharon and her family had my family over one evening for a visit.  She commented that she needed to start doing “something.”  She felt like she was really out of shape.  I piped up that we should start walking together in the mornings.  To get ready for work and get kids off to school, that meant that we would have to walk at 5:30am.  When I realized this, I almost wished I had just kept my mouth shut, but not knowing Sharon very well, I felt bad to say, “Uh… I changed my mind.”

So there we were, bright and early the next morning, ready for our walk.  We moved quickly down the path that runs up to our neighborhood and then through the neighborhood down the big hill and all the way back–about 2 1/2 miles. And so it began that over our months of walking day after day, we would come to know all we could know about one another.  We also shared our first uncontrollable laugh when, in the dark of pre-dawn, Sharon stepped off the path and rolled down the hill into the trees. (Flashlights are for wimps.)

Later, our new neighbor Laurie would join us.  Thus, we two grew to three, sharing laughs, getting and giving advice, and walking our way to great friendships and better health. As a matter of fact, Sharon lost 17 lbs from our walking.

The key was our commitment.  That I knew my friends would be outside waiting for me forced me to pull myself out of bed every morning.  That I knew I could be left out of an important discussion, or miss out on getting something off of my chest or giving one of them my opinion (a favorite thing for me) was great motivation.  I rarely missed a morning (once the alarm was a problem).

As time went on, I started feeling like I needed more of a challenge.  Walking was getting too easy.  Sometimes, in addition to walking in the morning, I would go for a run after work.  Eventually, as we all found our own favorite ways to be fit, our morning walk club came to an end. Sharon still likes to walk, but also rides her stationary bike.  Laurie joined a gym.  I still do all the indoor exercise stuff, but mostly I run.

Walking gave us a path to feeling better than I ever remember feeling.  And now that the three of us are such good friends, we find other time to laugh, give and get advice, and every now and then, go for a walk.

Bean and Veg Burrito

Another night with lots of good stuff in the fridge.

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

1 medium red bell pepper, chopped

1 1/2 cup fresh, canned or frozen corn

1 medium zucchini, chopped

8 oz. shitake mushrooms, chopped

2 tomatoes, chopped

1 can great northern, black, or pinto beans

1 can refried beans (vegetarian)

a couple good handfuls of spinach

1 tsp cumin

8 – 10 inch spinach tortillas

Fun things to top – black bean dip, salsa, sour cream (for non-vegans), cheese

How to:

Saute onion and red pepper in large frying pan.  Add corn and zucchini until softened.  Add mushrooms, tomatoes, and beans.  Stir until mixed well and hot.  Add cumin.  When close to ready to eat, add spinach and stir until just wilted.

Put in a big bowl in the middle of the table with the rest of the burrito “decorations” and let people fill and roll their own.  Great with a side of spanish rice and watermelon.

Yellow Split Pea Soup

It was cool this morning and so my mind went to soup…  This is what I came up with.  With sides of good bread, some sauteed broccoli, and a bowl of cherries, I was sooooo happy.

Ingredients

2 tbsp Olive Oil

2 cups chopped celery

1 cup chopped leeks

2 cups chopped carrots

1 1/2 cups dried yellow split peas

1/4 cup chopped celery leaves

4 cups vegetable broth

3 cups water

1/4 cup white wine

1/4 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp ground coriander

3/4 tsp kosher salt

1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper

How to:

In soup pot, saute celery, carrots, and leeks in olive oil until just soft.  Add vegetable broth and water, bring to a boil. Add split peas and celery leaves.  Bring to boil again.  Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes, until peas and carrots are soft.  Add wine, cumin, coriander, salt, and pepper and cook for another 10-15 minutes.  With immersion blender, blend soup to just smooth/a bit chunky consistency.  Serves 8.

Butternut Squash and Other Stuff Gnocchi

This came to be when my family was being boring about what they wanted for dinner so I pulled out leftovers for them and dug around to see what I could come up with…  What I found in my bowl when I was done was like a treasure.

Ingredients

1 8 oz. package prepared gnocchi (or, of course, make your own!!!)

Olive oil

1 lb butternut squash, cleaned and cut into small chunks

3 Tbsp pine nuts

2 cloves garlic

a good handful of shitake mushrooms

2 good handfuls spinach

1 packet Sazon Goya seasoning

Roast squash with 2 Tbsp olive oil at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes, until tender and turning brown.

Meanwhile, boil water for gnocchi and lightly toast pine nuts (in small frying pan, swirling them around so they don’t burn, which can happen really fast!)

When squash is finished, saute garlic in large pan in 2 tbsp olive oil, add mushrooms until soft and hot.  Add squash and Sazon Goya seasoning.

Boil gnocchi for 1-2 minutes, until floating on top.  Drain.

Add gnocchi to squash and mushrooms mixture and mix thoroughly.  Mix in spinach until just wilted. Toss in the pine nuts.

Beautiful!!!

My Tomato Soup

A couple of sickies in my house inspired my need for soup.  This was such a huge surprise.  I never thought it would taste so good.  I made some bread and we dunked and slurped….

Ingredients

1/2 sweet onion, chopped

1/4 cup olive oil

2 – 28 oz cans really good tomatoes  (I used Wegman’s imported San Marzano – pricey, I know, $3.49 a can)

2 1/2 cups vegetable broth

2 1/2 tsp kosher salt

a few good cranks of fresh ground pepper

1 Tbsp dried basil (I had no fresh available)

In a large pot, lightly saute onions in olive oil until soft, not brown.

Puree the tomatoes in a food processor until just smooth.  Add tomatoes and broth to pot and heat until just boiling, simmer 20 minutes.  Add salt, pepper, and basil.  Let simmer another 10-15 minutes.

I used my immersion blender to puree until smooth.

SLURP.

The Grooviest Vegan Gravy. Seriously.

I would make mashed potatoes just to have this gravy…

Ingredients

1/4 cup olive oil

6 shallots

4 garlic cloves

3 tbsp Earth Balance

1 small sweet onion, thinly sliced

8 oz. mixed wild mushrooms

1 Tbsp chopped, fresh rosemary (or 1 tsp dried)

1 Tbsp chopped, fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)

2 tsp chopped fresh sage or (or 3/4 tsp dried)

1 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper

1/4 cup all purpose flour

2 1/2 cups vegetable broth

1 Tbsp Brandy

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Combine oil with shallots and garlic in small glass oven-safe dish, cover with foil, and bake until shallots and garlic are very soft and pale golden–about an hour.

Meanwhile, melt Earth Balance in large saute pan, add onions and cook on medium-low for 12-15 minutes until onions are lightly browned.  This is an important step.  Take your time.

When shallots and garlic are finished, thinly slice and add them and the oil to the pan with the onions over medium heat.  Add mushrooms and herbs and saute until mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes.

Whisk in flour and salt and pepper.  Add vegetable broth and stir often until gravy just starts to boil and thicken, about 10 minutes.  Add brandy.  Heat through and stir well.  If desired, add 1 Tbsp soy creamer or milk.  Add additional salt and pepper to taste.

“Thumbs Up, Mom” Vegan Chili

Like most recipes that I experiment with, I let my kids offer the final verdict.  This vegan chili was enthusiastically eaten and there was a bit of a competition for the leftovers.  Enjoy!

Ingredients

3-4 Tbsp Olive oil, divided

1 medium chopped sweet onion

1 large celery stalk, chopped

2 carrots, peeled and sliced

3 small or 2 medium white or red skinned potatoes, scrubbed, not peeled; diced  (This would even be great with a sweet potato instead!)

1 small can tomato paste

1 28 oz. can of good plum tomatoes, given a whirl in a food processor; left slightly chunky (if you don’t have a food processor, use 14 oz of good crushed tomatoes and 14 oz of good diced tomatoes

2 Tbsp. chili powder

1 1/2 cup corn (frozen or fresh, or 1 can drained)

1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup hot water

2 tsp sea salt or kosher salt

fresh ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Roast potatoes and carrots tossed with about 1-2 Tbsp olive oil for about 35 minutes, until just soft.

Saute onion and celery  in remaining olive oil until onions and celery are tender and fragrant.  Add tomato paste and stir until just liquified and coating vegetables.  Add tomatoes, one teaspoon of salt, chili powder (adjusting amount for taste) and water.  Add roasted vegetables.

Let simmer, covered, about 20 minutes.

Add corn, beans, second teaspoon of salt, and pepper.  Continue to simmer, partially covered, until very hot and slightly thickened, another 20 minutes.

Serve with real or vegan sour cream, real or vegan cheddar cheese and good crusty bread.