Bringing Down the Zebra

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Bringing Down the Zebra

Sometimes life is really hectic. My most hectic time is during the first few months back to school. From mid-August through mid-November I coach cross-country, teach, and have a very active child. It turns out that children and grown-ups still like to eat, regardless of how busy you are! To make things a little easier, my friend (who is also a teacher and has TWO kids) and I decided to “bring down the zebra.” What do I mean by “bringing down the zebra”? When lionesses in Africa hunt, they band together and bring down the kill (such as a zebra). They can’t eat it all at once, so the rest of the pride, including the cubs, can feed off of it for a series of days. For humans, that would be disgusting. However, you can metaphorically bring down the zebra by making a bunch of meals before the really crazy time.

In the summer before Ben I had made and froze all kinds of meals. It was a really genius plan, but for some reason (probably named Ben), I never did it again. This summer was different. This summer, we went hunting and brought down the zebra making five meals in three hours. It was an accomplishment. Many sites on Pinterest give you recipes of what to make and I’ve listed mine below. But, here are a couple of key tips that we discovered from yesterday:

  1. Find a fellow lioness (or lionesses) to help you bring down the zebra. Cooking/chopping for several hours is much more fun with company.
  2. Preparation, preparation, preparation. I cannot stress this enough. Pin things on Pinterest, discuss it with your fellow lioness, and make a plan. Figure out what you are cooking and in which order.
  3. Look through your recipes over and over again until you have figured out your exact grocery list. On your grocery list, make sure you list the sizes of the items (e.g. 15 ounce can of diced tomatoes) and the quantity. Always check your pantry, too. We were going to make a chickpea dish and I accidentally ate the chickpeas the night before. Whoops!
  4. Multiple cutting boards are a god sent. Many lionesses chopping make light work.
  5. Buy tons of freezer bags and make sure that you label them with permanent marker BEFORE you put anything into the containers. Label the containers with what the dish is, when you made it, and cooking instructions. I like to also label the dishes with how many servings it is so we can judge on how hungry we are!
  6. Let all cooked items (such as soups) cool completely before putting them into the bags or storage containers.
  7. Air is the enemy. Try to get as much air out of the bags/containers as possible. The water in the air will crystallize and cause horrible freezer burn.
  8. Allow enough room for the liquids to expand. You don’t want any explosions in your freezer.
  9. If in doubt, double bag it. Again, freezer explosions are bad.
  10. Constantly discuss how awesome you are and how amazing having all the meals will be in two months. Remembering what the pay-out will be makes it all worth it!
  11. Helen’s thoughts: For people with chest freezers, I will be implementing this helpful idea: as you stash meals away, write down what’s going in, as well as the date, on a little dry erase board on the freezer itself. As stuff comes out, erase it. That way you always know what’s in there and if you should get on eating something if it’s been in there for months already!

Here are the recipes that we made yesterday:

*For this recipe, my friend substituted almond butter for the peanut butter. We both wanted to make this dish immediately.
Also currently living in my freezer are a vat of Eggplant Soup, Dhal Makhni, and marinara sauce. This weekend and/or next weekend, I may add to the little freezer army. Regardless, there will be a couple of days this fall when I won’t have to worry about dinner!

Vegan Indian Spiced Eggplant Soup

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Today my friend and I ran into each other at our local farmer’s market. As we were chatting, she mentioned how much she wanted eggplant now that it was eggplant season. At the time, I was at a loss for what to make for dinner. I had some left over cheese from my Bastille Day celebration, so I wanted a little something to go with it that wasn’t too heavy. The eggplants at the market DID look beautiful and I already had some eggplant at home, so I decided to make my favorite eggplant soup.

Delicious cheese and fruit plate with the eggplant soup.

Delicious cheese and fruit plate with the eggplant soup. Another thing Ben really likes: Brie. Something Ben really doesn’t like: Macaroni and Cheese. He’s weird.

The soup is really easy and a good consistency for all but the hottest summer days. I served it with the above platter to un-vegan it. Husband had some farmer’s market salami as well to un-vegetarian-ify it. At dinner, Ben said, “This is delicious!” Granted, he is a sucker for anything with garam masala!

It's delicious!

It’s delicious!

Vegan Indian Spiced Eggplant Soup

4-6 Servings

45 minutes

1 large eggplant, peeled, 1” dice

1 large onion, roughly chopped

1 15oz can of tomatoes, drained

1 15oz can of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

4 cups of vegetable stock

½ cup unsweetened almond milk

2 Tb of olive oil, divided

1 ½ Tb curry

1 Tb garam masala

1 tsp ground ginger

½ tsp ground corriander

pinch of cayenne

salt and pepper to taste

  1. Place eggplant on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and bake until tender in a 400-degree oven (approximately 25-30 minutes).
  2. When the eggplant has about 10 minutes to go, heat a large pot (I used an enameled-lined cast iron pot) over medium heat. Add about a tablespoon of olive oil and sautée the onions for about 3 minutes until tender.
  3. Once the eggplant is done in the oven (it should begin to darken and be very tender to the touch, toss the eggplant in with the onions. Sautée for another 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Add in the tomatoes, stir to combine, and season with the curry and cayenne. Pour in the vegetable stock.
  5. Allow the soup to simmer for about 10 minutes. Add in the cannellini beans and remove from the heat. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until it is smooth. Stir in the remaining spices and the almond milk. Adjust the seasoning as you want. Serve!
So easy, so delicious, so nutritious!

So easy, so delicious, so nutritious!

Saving Dinner

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Saving Dinner

Last night I had a dream. Not in the Martin Luther King, Jr. way, but in a cooking dinner way. Yes, I dream of cooking dinner. In that dream, I made a delicious, perfectly golden brown, intact tortilla española. This was a dream because I have never yet been able to make this dish. Why do I keep trying? I’ll tell you.

About nine years ago, my cousins and I went to Spain just for a fun backpacking trip. On the way from Zaragoza to Madrid, our bus stopped at a random rest area and we got “tortilla”. I had never been to Spain and had no idea what to expect. What I got was a delicious egg and potato frittata-type thing. From then on, whenever we got tapas (which was pretty much every meal because we were poor and you get tapas with beer at restaurants), we got the tortilla.

When I got back to the States, I tried to make the tortilla and failed miserably. It looked like a sad breakfast scramble. Later attempts have improved. I have not tried to make a tortilla in a couple of years. Since then, I have talked with several friends who studied in Spain and thought that I had the tips down. “Thought” is the key word. This evening, based upon my dream, I tried again to make a tortilla. It was a failure, but I saved dinner! And I’ll tell you how.

Both of these recipes are from my La cuisine Méditerranéenne that I got while I studied abroad. The Eggplant “Caviar” is like a baba ghanoush-bruschetta hybrid. I added a few things to the tortilla, which may or may not have been my downfall.

Tortilla Española Bake

4 servings

Tortilla

5 medium-ish waxy potatoes (I used Yukon gold)

5 eggs

1 medium yellow onion

More olive oil than you ever dreamed of using

Salt

Pepper

1 cup Manchego cheese

Sauce

2 Tb olive oil

1 Tb flour

2 cloves of garlic

½ tsp paprika

¼ tsp cumin

½ tsp salt

1 Tb parsley, finely chopped

1 cup of water

  • Chop the potatoes into roughly half-inch cubes and chop the onions into a medium dice. Meanwhile, heat about two tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat.
Lots of potatoes and onions

Lots of potatoes and onions

  • Once the olive oil is heated, toss in about a third of the potatoes, and stir to coat them with the olive oil. Add in a third of the onions, then some salt, then some more olive oil and stir. Repeat the process of potatoes, onions, salt, olive oil until all of the veggies are in the pan. Cook the potatoes until they are tender, but not brown.
More olive oil than you think you'll ever need. Well, not this much.

More olive oil than you think you’ll ever need. Well, not this much.

  • As the potatoes and onions are cooking, in a large bowl, whisk together the eggs with a little milk, salt and pepper. Let them hang out while the potatoes are cooking.
  • When the potatoes are finished, let them cool for about 10 minutes. When they are cool, remove them with a slotted spoon and combine with the eggs. The slotted spoon will allow the olive oil to drain off. Once the potatoes and onions are mixed with the eggs, let them sit for about 10 minutes. A tip I learned from my friend who lived in Spain is to keep the oil for future tortillas. This sucker uses up so much oil that reusing it is key. After you have drained the oil, clean the pan and put it back on the heat.
  • Turn the burner up to a relatively high heat and pour in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Immediately pour in the eggs and potatoes and spread around the pan.
  • When everything is in the pan, turn the heat to medium. Use a thin spatula to loosen the mixture from the sides and bottom of the pan. Loosening the eggs and potatoes from the bottom is clutch for the next step.
  • After about 6-8 minutes and the eggs are beginning to look like they’re setting, take a plate that is larger than your pan. This is the part where I screwed up. Put the plate on top of the pan, then flip the tortilla onto the plate. If you’re like me and screw up this part, no worries! A screw-up can be defined as the tortilla sticking to the pan or falling apart upon the flip. Carry on to the next step. If you didn’t screw up (take some time to gloat), add more olive oil to the pan and slide the tortilla back into the pan so that the bottom is now the top. Cook for about 2-3 more minutes. You’ll have a delicious tortilla. Then, move on to the second to last step.
  • Preheat the oven to 350. Pour your sad mess of eggs, potatoes, and onions into a glass baking dish.
  • Grate about a ½-1 cup of Manchego cheese and throw it on top. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.
He looks like he is some sort of indentured servant, but I assure you, he was super excited about grating cheese. He was just against getting his picture taken.

He looks like he is some sort of indentured servant, but I assure you, he was super excited about grating cheese. He was just against getting his picture taken.

  • While the “tortilla” is cooking (or if you succeeded in making your tortilla, gloat), you can deglaze the pan and make a sauce/gravy in the process by adding (you guessed it!) more olive oil to the pan. Whisk in the flour and cook for about 30 seconds then add the garlic and the herbs. Pour in the water while whisking the sauce. Allow it to reduce for about 5 minutes over medium heat.
  • When the tortilla is finished, spoon some sauce over top and enjoy!

Eggplant “Caviar”

4-6 servings

1 medium-large eggplant

1 Tb sesame seeds

juice from one lemon

2 Tb olive oil

1 clove of garlic

6-8 slices of rustic bread, grilled or toasted

1 Tb of parsley

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the eggplant in half length-wise and place on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 30-40 minutes until the flesh begins to char.
  2. As the eggplant is cooking, toast the sesame seeds for about 3 minutes in a non-stick pan.
  3. After the eggplant has begun to char, remove from the oven and allow to cool enough to handle. Once it is cool, remove the flesh and squeeze out the juice.
  4. Place the eggplant in a food processor with the olive oil, sesame seeds, lemon, and garlic. Pulse until it is still slightly chunky.
  5. Put the “caviar” in a bowl, and stir in the parsley.
  6. Serve on the bread.
Tortilla espanola bake and eggplant caviar

Tortilla espanola bake and eggplant caviar

What do I do with myself?

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It’s been awhile! As a competitive runner, one of the oddest, yet most freeing feelings is not being in the middle of training for something. I have pretty much been training for some race or another since January and with the completion of Cross-Country season I’m not quite sure what to do with myself. In the height of the training season, I was coaching about 6 hours during the week, had 5-6 hours for meets on Saturday, and 2-3 hours worth of running on Sundays. Now I have about 12-15 hours extra per week. It is so odd to not *have* to run.

funny gifs

I do what I want.

For example, this morning I woke up early to go for a run before Husband had to go in for overtime work. It was SUPER foggy outside and I really liked my book so I said, “I don’t want to go run and I don’t have to.” It was liberating. However, because I can run or not run, one of the things I have been doing is making huge vats of soup to eat for lunch during the week. This week’s soup is a Red Lentil and Turnip soup that is incredibly delicious and healthy. Here’s the recipe.

Red Lentil and Turnip Soup

(serves 12; about 15 minutes of prep and 30 minutes of cook time)

3 cups dry red lentils, rinsed

5 small-ish turnips peeled and cubed

2 cups of carrots, roughly chopped

2 cups of celery, roughly chopped

1 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes NOT DRAINED

2 onions, diced

6 cloves of garlic, minced

2 Tb butter (add olive oil to make vegan)

2 Tb olive oil

4 cups vegetable stock

4 cups of water

1/4 cup chopped parsely

3 Tb red wine vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. In a large soup pot, melt butter and olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Sauté the onions, garlic, celery and carrots until tender (approximately 7 minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes and sauté for about a minute and then stir in the lentils.
  4. Once the lentils are coated in the butter/veggie mixture, add in the turnips, stock and water. Stir and let simmer for 20-25 or until the lentils are tender.
  5. After the lentils are tender, remove from the heat and add the parsley, salt, pepper, and vinegar. I like mine tart, so I added quite a bit of vinegar, but adjust to your enjoyment.
Lentil and Turnip Soup. I had never had a turnip before this day. It worked out well!

Lentil and Turnip Soup. It may not be pretty, but it’s tasty!

Return to Cross-Country: The Good, the Great, and the Ugly

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As the school year comes perilously closer, the cross-country season is upon us. The return to cross-country season has brought me out of the running funk I’ve been in for the past two weeks. It has been a struggle to tie my shoes and go out and run. Part of that could be the “horrible” work-outs I’ve had recently, but part of it has been the monotony and loneliness of the solo-run. There is nothing like a group of teenagers and your BRFs (Best Running Friends) to get you out of a rut!

The Good

At the end of the last school year I half-joked that I was going to run to the first day of practice. I knew I would be in the midst of marathon training and that a good, long (12 miles) midweek run would allow me to not have to run long on the weekend. As the summer progressed, I got more serious about it. There would be some logistical issues, namely, how I would get home, but I thought that I would figure them out. When my fellow coach said that he would drive me home after practice, I was sold. When I told my mother of this plan (I talk to my mom abnormally frequently), she was appalled and was certain that I would end up dead in a ditch somewhere. Other people thought I was pretty crazy, but it was a goal. I am SO glad that I did it. It was the exact run that really helped shake me from my bad attitude. The weather was beautiful, I had great splits (thanks to the mostly downhill course), and just had a pleasant time running TO something as opposed to running in a loop or an out-and-back. I followed that up with my favorite trail run with the kids and my BRF and it was a great first day of practice.

The Great

Many times when dealing with high school runners, I find myself frustrated. I either feel that I don’t know enough to help or that they don’t ask questions or behave in ways that indicate that they want to get faster and win. Today was a good day. Kids asked questions and many of them showed a lot of heart. They may not have been the fastest, but they tried and pushed themselves to a point where they were uncomfortable. Kids really, really, really don’t like to be uncomfortable. But, they kept going and that made me incredibly proud.

The Ugly

Not everything about running during the daylight is gold. Namely, poor Ben. We had an amazing summer, Ben and I. Except for when Husband and I went to Italy, Ben spent all but one day with me. This was a mistake. He has been having a tough time adjusting to being back at daycare. I expected some issues, but he has adjusted quickly in the past. Tonight, as I was putting him to bed, which normally goes quite smoothly, he couldn’t settle down. I ended up sitting next to his crib holding his hand through the slats and resting my head against his until he fell asleep. Under other circumstances, it would have been sweet, but I found it incredibly heartbreaking. Not only has he missed me, but I’ve missed him. He’s pretty adorable and getting to be a good conversationalist, especially if you like to talk about stuffed monkeys and Clifford the Big Red Dog. Hopefully, this period of shorter days will help prepare him for when things get real… But, what’s going to prepare me? Hmmm…

Vegan “Thai” Noodles

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Sometimes Asian food really lends itself to vegetarian, and then vegan, dishes. I didn’t quite know what to make for dinner tonight and I had 1,000,000 green beans, so I came up with this Thai-inspired dish. It was really quick and easy for a Monday night. Not necessarily the most fat-free dish with the peanut butter and coconut oil, but INCREDIBLY delicious. Ben helped and he enjoyed it.

Vegan Thai Noodles

(20 minutes, serves 3-4)

8 oz. firm tofu, cut into cubes of about a ½ inch

2 Tb coconut oil, divided

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp ginger powder, divided

half onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic

1/2  lb green beans, cut in half and blanched

½ cup chopped carrots

½ cup fresh corn

½ lb rice noodles, softened according to package directions (mine said to

leave it in warm water for 5-8 minutes)

Sauce

2 Tb peanut butter

¼ soy sauce

1 Tb Sriracha (or less, depending on your spice liking)

juice of two limes

2 cloves garlic, diced

½ tsp dried ginger

  1. In a large wok, heat 1 Tb of coconut oil over medium-high heat. Add the tofu and season with the garlic powder and ginger. Stir-fry until golden brown, then set aside.
  2. When the tofu is out, add in the other Tb of coconut oil, the onions and garlic. Cook for about 30 seconds, then add the vegetables. Stir-fry until they become tender.
  3. While the veggies are cooking, mix all of the ingredients of the sauce together in a small bowl. Whisk them together until they become a thick-ish sauce. If it’s too thick to your liking, add in a little water from the rice noodles to thin it out.
  4. Once the vegetables are tender and the noodles are soft, add the noodles to the pan along with the tofu. Stir-fry for about 30 seconds before adding in the sauce. Add the sauce gradually and continue to stir-fry until everything is covered. You can add a little water from the noodles to ensure that the sauce is coating everything.
  5. After about 3 minutes of stir-frying the noodles, tofu, veggies and sauce, remove from heat and serve. You can serve with some crushed peanuts, cilantro, and/or limes. All would be delicious!
Gluten free and vegan? What?!

Gluten free and vegan? What?!

Kale and White Bean Stew

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It was a rainy, gloomy day here in Maryland. It was a soup kind of day, but summer doesn’t feel like soup weather. Also, I had a bunch of kale in my fridge, so what’s a girl to do? Make a summer soup with kale and some protein-filled white beans. It’s delicious and light enough for summer.

Kale and White Bean Stew

2 onions, roughly chopped

5 cloves of garlic

2 cans of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper

1 tsp rosemary

1 bay leaf

5 cups vegetable stock

about 2 cups water

1 bunch kale, deribbed, deveined and coarsely chopped

1/2 cup grated Romano cheese

juice of two lemons

salt and pepper

  1. In a large pot (I used my dutch oven), heat the oil over medium heat. Add in the onions and cook until tender (about 4 minutes).
  2. Add in the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Then add the beans, crushed red pepper, rosemary, and bay leaf. Stir in the vegetable stock and season with salt and pepper. Let simmer 50 minutes uncovered. The broth will reduce a little, which is ok.
  3. Remove the bay leaves and add in the kale. Add in about a cup of water to the pot to allow the kale to wilt. If the broth is too thick, add some more water up to 2 cups.
  4. Allow the kale to wilt entirely. This will take up to 10 minutes. When the kale has wilted, add in some more salt and pepper (to taste) and the juice of two lemons. Stir well to combine, then remove from the heat.
  5. After you remove the stew from the heat, add in the Romano cheese and stir well to combine.
  6. Enjoy with some crusty bread! For a non-vegetarian version, you can brown up some Italian sausage and add it in at the end with the cheese. Delicious!
Kale and white bean stew

Kale and white bean stew