Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Creamy Breakfast Oatmeal

Not all oatmeal is created equal. The rule of thumb is that the longer it takes to cook, the better the oatmeal.

For me, the best (and longest cooking) oatmeal is steel-cut oats. You can see in the picture here that it's more like little nuggets than the rolled out and flattened flakes you're most used to seeing.

Cook it through and it creams up like any other oatmeal, but with a better flavor and more interesting texture. Unfortunately, steel cut oats generally take about 30 minutes in a pot on a stove to get it to the soft consistency you want in oatmeal.

My favorite way to make the cooking easier is to put it in a slow cooker or a rice cooker with a porridge or slow cook cycle.

"Creamy Breakfast Oatmeal" from The Ultimate Rice Cooker Book is my favorite recipe for steel-cut oats.

There's not much simpler than loading a cooker with ingredients and pressing a button, but that's about it for this one. Here's what I put in:

2/3 c steel-cut oats
1 3/4 c vanilla soymilk (or regular soymilk plus 1 t vanilla extract)
1 1/4 t cinnamon
pinch of sea salt
2 T maple syrup
1/4 c golden raisins

And here's what it produces...

The consistency is still creamy, but the little nuggets of oats remain somewhat chewy. It's absolutely a fun and delicious way to eat hot cereal.

Upon refrigeration, the oats harden up a bit so re-heating with a little added liquid is necessary.

Another way to speed up the cooking of steel-cut oats is to soak the oats overnight. Abbie from Foods That Fit very cleverly adds an herbal tea bag or two to soak with the oats for added infused flavor.

Following the overnight soak, normal pot cooking drops to seven or eight minutes. For this soymilk based recipe, just soak it in the refrigerator.


Abbie also has a new blog post about another breakfast item she came across on the web - granola custom made to your specifications. Check it out here.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Running Injured

I have to vent.

You may have noticed in my profile that I'm a long-distance runner. I run the New Orleans Mardi Gras Marathon or Half-Marathon every year. I have also run the 26.2-mile distance in other states as well. Here's a picture around Mile 7 from this year's race in February.

But the biggest race (in terms of number of runners and the excitement generated) I run each year is the Crescent City Classic, a 10K race in New Orleans. At its peak it had nearly 30,000 runners, but post-Katrina it's about 17,500.

The only race I have run with more runners was the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC, which had about 29,000 entrants.

I've never made the top 500 finishers in the CCC, which would get my name in the newspaper and win a free race poster. My best finish was last year when I came in 628th.

But since I went vegan in May 2008, all of my race times have improved. I don't think that's coincidental at all.

I very nearly set a PR (personal record) in a 5K race in November while qualifying for a forward spot in the CCC. It would have been a PR if I hadn't run into a truck - yes, a parked truck. Don't ask.

The Half-Marathon in the picture above was the second fastest Half-Marathon I ever ran, second only to the first half of my fastest full Marathon ever, which was a decade earlier. In short, I've been cooking since going vegan.

With the Crescent City Classic just three weeks away, I reinjured both strained calves today that had semi-healed, but lingered for awhile now.

It all started about six weeks ago with my attempt to refine my running form biomechanically. Without knowing what I was doing I strained my calves. Since I realized what I did wrong, I have corrected my form and taken it easy with more rest days, massages, etc. The soreness never went away completely, but I was managing.

Unfortunately, I should have just shut it down and let it totally heal. I have had to cut my last two runs short because of extremely sharp pains - first in my left calf three days ago (followed by a couple of off days to let it rest), and then in my right calf today.

I'm hoping that if I have to give it two weeks rest, I can heal enough to let me get a couple of training runs in before the race. Even then I certainly won't be at my best.

I know - if I can't do it there's always next year. But it's so frustrating.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Product Review - Nate's Meatless Meatballs

I haven't often tried to imitate omni food with vegan faux-meats, but I have one major exception. I have yet to find a recipe for the perfect meatless meatball.

I know a great vegan meatless meatball exists. It's called Nate's Zesty Italian Meatless Meatballs. It looks and tastes like the omni version and has a gentle texture when heated in spaghetti sauce as I did the photo above.

That one used whole wheat spaghetti with sliced zucchini also cooked into the sauce and topped with vegan parmesan.

I always dump my pasta into the sauce when it's finished cooking (the Italian way as in my photo) as opposed to spooning sauce over plain spaghetti (the American way as in the Nate's package photo). The flavor is much more saturated when going traditional.

Nate's Meatballs are a little too delicate to mix up with the spaghetti and sauce so they must be spooned on after. That's OK though because it allows other uses for the meatballs besides the pasta meal - like meatball sammiches, for instance.

Nate's is pretty healthy, too. Three meatballs have 90 calories, 9 grams of protein, and 2 grams of fiber.

The ingredients list textured soy protein, water, wheat gluten, pressed canola oil, bread crumbs, Italian spices, evaporated cane juice, garlic, celery, and parsley. That shouldn't be too difficult to duplicate, but I haven't seen a recipe doing it yet.

I admit it - I'm too lazy to figure out the right proportions. I'm hoping someone will read this and try it for themselves.

Then let us all know, OK?

Until then, we have...


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Tempeh Shepherdess Pie

And hey, speaking of comfort foods, which I was in my last post a couple of weeks ago...

Note - sorry about the delay in posting, but meals have been really routine lately - beans and rice, stir-fry with store-bought stir-fry sauce featuring a tofu attempt that didn't work out right, and baked potatoes with peas and carrots cooked in a ginger-sesame sauce (oops - I suppose I should have blogged and photo'd that last one).

here's a veganized old favorite that I found when looking up tempeh recipes in my favorite cookbook - Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero's Veganomicon.

Who doesn't like Shepherd's Pie - mashed potatoes with good fillings? And who doesn't like one-dish casseroles? I don't see any hands raised, so I must be right.

Put those two ideas together and you've got an oldie, but a goodie. Veganize it and the fillings include cremini mushrooms, tempeh simmered in a soy sauce, peas, corn and spices.

Being a casserole, the recipe makes its own mushroom gravy. I used yellow mashed taters - my favorite being Klondike Gold. Talk about a creamy tater - even when just baked plain - wow!

This one was another creative winner from Veganomicon. I'll definitely be making it again.


Sunday, March 1, 2009

Black Bean, Mushroom, and Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers

Every now and then I think about my pregan (pre-vegan) days, or more accurately in this case, my pre-vegetarian days and the foods I ate.

Not that I miss any of it, but that's been over 10 years now and a lot of foods I don't eat anymore are because I haven't thought to veganize them.

Skimming through Isa Chandra Moskowitz' Vegan With A Vengeance got me to thinking of Stuffed Bell Peppers when coming across this Black Bean, Mushroom, and Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers recipe (note: the picture they put on that website appears to be for a completely different rice-based stuffed pepper dish. Weird, huh?!).

I don't use a lot of faux-meats anymore, but it would be easy to veganize stuffed peppers by using faux-ground meat in the usual recipe. This one doesn't go that route.

Instead, Moskowitz created a truly different dish that uses chopped mushrooms instead of meat. Quinoa is the grain that substitutes for oatmeal or breadcrumbs, and black beans fills out the insides about as well could be done.

Vegans often get asked the where-do-you-get-your-protein-from question. Quinoa is a grain very high in protein, as are the black beans so there's no faux meat needed here.

I chopped the 'shrooms in a food processor to make it quick and easy. 5 minutes of sauteeing with onions and garlic released any moisture they had.

As you can see in the recipe, just add in some spices, the quinoa, some tomato sauce and black beans and you're ready to stuff.

Blanched red bell peppers are a nice mild touch instead of the spicier green ones. I've done this recipe with both, and the green ones are cheaper and just as fine. Topped off with tomato sauce and they're ready for baking.

I've made this recipe several times now. You have to be a mushroom fan to love it, but I think it's my favorite recipe I've tried so far from this book.


...and now a note for you healthy recipe creators!!!

One of my favorite blogs is Foods that Fit from a fellow marathon runner and almost-vegan named Abbie in Maryland (soon to be Utah). You can see it in my blog roll on the right.

Abbie is putting together a healthy, almost-vegan e-cookbook and will give a copy free to anyone who gives her five healthy recipes by March 15, 2009 and posts a link to it from their blog. I sent my five (Homemade Soy Milk, Mocha Ice Cream, Easy Spinach Enchiladas, Cajun Hummus and Okara/Bean Burgers) and here's the link with the details!