Punchy Dill Flavored Stuffed Peppers (Vegan, Gluten-Free)

Spring is coming.

Right?

I have a feeling that I’m not the only one yearning for some sunshine, mild temperatures, and sing –songy birds flying by our open windows.  I am truly a person who genuinely enjoys each and every season for what it brings.  Growing up in the desert, I didn’t have much exposure to real, honest to goodness season changes like I do here in the Pacific Northwest.   After nearly 5 years here, I still get excited for all the firsts of the seasons: each fresh burst of summer sun, each time I notice that the skyline has been taken over by the earthy, fiery colors of fall, every first winter morning when I realize I underestimated the cold and need to better bundle up against the frigid air, and for those first blossoms of spring.

with top on 2 - edited

I’ve loved the madness of this year’s winter, but am ready to shed some layers and see some color peeking out from the earth.  My fingers are crossed I’ll be able to enjoy this soon.

in pan close up 2 - edited

In the meantime, I’ll eat this dish.  Well, I already did eat this dish, but perhaps I shall do so again.  Something about dill (one of my favorite herbs) reminds me of spring.  It’s that punchy taste that sort of coats your palette and infiltrates all the senses that I love.  It tastes fresh and new and full of possibilities, just like spring does for me.

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Punchy Dill Flavored Stuffed Peppers (Vegan, Gluten-Free)

Serves 4 with sauce and top - edited

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dry brown rice
  • 4 large green bell peppers
  • ½ tblspn olive oil
  • ½ yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 small-medium carrots, diced
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 1 cup packed spinach, chopped
  • 2 tblspns tomato paste
  • 1 tblspn red wine vinegar
  • 3 tblspns Italian parsley, minced
  • 3 tblspns fresh dill, minced
  • ½ tspn salt
  • ¼ tspn pepper
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes

Directions:

  1. Cook rice according to package directions.  Set aside when finished.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a baking dish by coating with cooking spray or a light coating of oil.  Set aside.
  3. Slice the tops of the peppers off and clean out the insides, removing veins and seeds.  Place into a baking dish, cut side up and tops removed, and bake for 20 minutes.  If the peppers are uneven on the bottom and will not stand up in your baking dish, you can even them out, by trimming the bottom edges (though be careful not to cut holes in the bottom, as the filling will leak out).  After 20 minutes, remove from oven and set aside until filling is prepared.
  4. Meanwhile, warm a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Add olive oil.  When hot, add onion, garlic, and carrot to the pan.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5-6 minutes or until the onions turn translucent.
  5. Add zucchini and spinach to the pan and stir to combine.  Cook for 2-3 minutes more.
  6. Finally, add the cooked rice, tomato paste, red wine vinegar, parsley, dill, salt, and pepper to the vegetable mixture.  Stir well to incorporate all ingredients.  Taste and adjust for seasonings.
  7. Spoon filling into the each partially cooked pepper base until full.  Feel free to pack it in well – there should be plenty of filling!  Carefully sit the removed tops back on to the peppers, place back into the oven (still at 350 degrees) and bake for 20-25 more minutes.
  8. Serve alone, or if you prefer, drizzle an easy sauce over the top.  I served mine with a simple can of tomato sauce, sprinkled with oregano and pepper, warmed up on the stove top.

2013: A Look Back At Some of My Highlights

New Year’s Eve & Day are my favorite holidays.  I get a little sappy and a lot introspective around this time.  While I believe in regular reflection and goal setting throughout the year, I can’t help but find this to be an appropriate time to take stock of where I am, how I am doing, what I’ve done, and what is next.

santa ornament - editedThere was a time when this process was primarily a negative one for me.  I would stop to reflect on what I didn’t accomplish or what goals and dreams were out of my reach.  In recent years, however, I’ve taken to heart just how important it is to give equal billing to what I have done.  Rather then quickly glossing over accomplishments or milestones in order to continue moving upward and onward, I now recognize the value in celebrating the victories (large and small) that are behind me.  And, while some believe that you gain wisdom mostly by rehashing your mistakes and failures, I also see the learning that presents itself in evaluating what has gone well.

To this end, here are some of the highlights, milestones, and victories that took place for me in 2013:

  • 26.2 miles = Done! – The experience of running my first marathon have been shared in depth here and here, so I won’t say Me with medal 3 - editedmuch more other than that it stands as one of the single best days of my life.  I can’t wait for many more!
  • Goodbye, Gluten – Going gluten-free was not something that I ever intended to do.  It was (and still is) extraordinarily difficult for me, but 7 months later, my vastly improved health stands as evidence that it was what I absolutely needed to do.
  • 1500 miles – It took me nearly right up until the end of the year to do so, but as of last weekend, I have run over 1500 miles for the year.  So cool.
  • 71 books – I love to read and always have.  For me, books are a never-ending source of education, escapism, and inspiration all in one.  I track my literary adventures over at Goodreads.  If you’re interested in seeing what I’ve been reading, please head over and say hello (username: srrose).
  • Facing down an old fear . . .  The dentist! – I’ll admit that, prior to 2013, it had been quite some time since I’d dragged myself to the dreaded chair.  It is an experience that long struck fear in my heart.  Having little or poor dental insurance for a long time had supported me in running away from this fear, but I finally did it.  After several trips to get all caught up, my teeth are happy and healthy!
  • Cultivating creative confidence – This year saw me take some big strides in levels of self-confidence related to creativity and pasta with italian peppers - editedcooking.  I can’t say that I produced the largest quantity of creatively driven output this year, but I found myself trusting my instincts more, feeling stronger in my skills, and being open to experimentation.
  • Keeping THIS going – I know that I’ve had periods recently of reduced posting, but I’m thrilled that I’ve been able to keep this site going.  I love it.  I love the process of it and that I get to connect with so many incredible people around the world because of it.

I’m certain that I could go on a bit longer, but I will end my list on that note.  So, thank you to every person out there who has been a part of all of this with me in 2013.  I’m looking forward to seeing what next year will bring.

Happy New Year!

Recipe: Savory Stuffed Acorn Squash

I can’t believe that it’s the middle of November and I haven’t waxed poetic about fall yet.  I haven’t even extolled the beauty of Portland this time of year or praised the glorious weather we’ve been having, because we absolutely have been having the most glorious season.

Filled Squash Half on plate with broccolini

We’re known for our rain and gray skies, of course, but they’ve been few and far between the last couple of months.  It’s been perfect.  Perfect for running and strolling.  Perfect for sightseeing and adventuring.  Perfect for autumnal baking and for hard apple ciders enjoyed while firing up the oven for a good meal.

As cheesy as it may sound, I frequently find myself being struck by the beauty of the nature that lies right outside my door.  Very often these last few weeks, I have been out on a seemingly ordinary run only to turn a street corner or look up from making sure I don’t trip over fallen branches and I have felt taken aback by just how gorgeous it all is.  And, let me tell you, there’s nothing like a breathtaking view to rejuvenate tired legs.

Whole Squash

I know that it’s common for many people to think of spring as a season of rejuvenation and hope, but I think differently.  For me, it’s that magical time between mid-September and December, when cooler temperatures refresh me and warm foods nourish me.  It is this time of year when I feel the most in touch with my own sense of optimism, accomplishment, hope, and gratitude.  I hope this dish conveys even a bit of that to you.

Stuffed squash recipes abound, but what makes this one a bit different for me is its straightforward savory nature.  Rather than playing up the sweetness of the squash with fruit or similar ingredients, I’ve countered it with a bit of spice and bundles of warm, comforting flavors.  It is a meal best enjoyed with a view of the leaves and the laughter of others.  A crackling fire and a bottle of wine wouldn’t hurt, either.

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Savory Stuffed Acorn Squash Filled Squash Halves

Serves 4

A Move Eat Create Original Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 acorn squash, halved lengthwise, seeds removed
  • 1 cup uncooked brown wild rice mix
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ tblspn olive oil + extra for brushing squash
  • ½ white onion, diced
  • 1 medium leek, white part only, sliced thin
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bell peppers, diced
  • ½ cup diced parsnips (or other root vegetable)
  • ½ tspn each salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes
  • 1 tspn each dried oregano and basil
  • Cayenne pepper (optional for those that like a little bit of heat)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place squash (cut side down) on a baking sheet lightly coated with cooking spray or oil and bake for 30 minutes.
  2. Place rice in a small pot with the water.  Cover and bring to a boil over high heat.  Once boiling, reduce to a low simmer and continue cooking, covered and undisturbed, for approximately 30 minutes or until all water is absorbed.  When water is absorbed, turn off heat and let rice sit for 10-15 minutes before uncovering and fluffing with a fork.
  3. Warm ½ tblspn olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat.  Add onion and leek.  Saute for 5-7 minutes, until they are translucent.
  4. Add garlic, bell peppers, parsnips, herbs, and spices to the pan.  Stir well and continue to cook for 5-7 minutes, until all vegetables have softened.
  5. Turn off heat.  Stir cooked rice into the vegetable mixture and toss to combine well.  Taste for seasoning.
  6. After the squash halves have cooked for 30 minutes, flip them over on the baking sheet.  Brush the flesh lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with cayenne pepper, if using.  Spoon prepared rice and vegetable filling into the squash generously.  Return filled squash to the oven and bake for an additional 15 minutes.

Recipe: Vegan Shepherd’s Pie (and a confession)

I have something very important to own up to here today.

Are you ready for it?

I don’t understand the full-on pumpkin obsession that is happening right now.

I just don’t.

in skillet with handle - edited

As a foodie, a blogger, and a huge fan of fall, I feel a little bad about this.  I mean, anyone who has browsed through a blogroll lately, walked past a bakery or coffee shop, or even taken a trip to the grocery store has surely seen the pumpkin explosion that is taking over the food world.

Pumpkin is a big deal, y’all.  And, I just don’t get it.

It’s fine, I guess.  It’s alright. It’s O.K.   But, honestly, it’s not a flavor that I get excited about.  I think my pumpkin gene never fully developed.  I get excited about other fall flavors, namely apple, ginger, nutmeg, vanilla, and cinnamon.  I go nuts for steaming bowls of soup, rich broths, and earthy aromas.  I’m crazy about casseroles, root vegetables, and pots of warm chili.  But, pumpkin?

Eh.

I could take it or leave it.

cooking - edited

I realize I probably just lost a lot of cred with you all, but in the spirit of full disclosure, I felt it needed to be said.

In that vain, I hope you enjoy this dish.  It is perfect for a chilly autumn evening, eaten in a setting where you feel comfortable and cozy, in the company of those you’re most at home with.  And with nary a pumpkin in sight.

For those who are disappointed with me and think I’m missing out, don’t worry . . . I’ll probably cave in and bake some pumpkin bread soon.

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Vegan Shepherd’s Pie bowl - edited

Tweaked just a smidge from the wonderful Fat Free Vegan Kitchen

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

  •  2 lbs potatoes (I used red), cubed (peeled or unpeeled – it’s up to you)
  • ½ cup soy milk creamer
  • 1 tblspn Earth Balance (or oil or butter)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • 8 oz cremini mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 cups green beans, chopped into ½ inch pieces (I used frozen)
  • 2 cups packed spinach, chopped
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1-2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tblspn Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (could sub soy sauce or tamari)
  • 1 tblspn red miso
  • 1 tblspn fresh thyme (or 1 tspn dried)
  • 1 tblspn fresh rosemary, minced (or 1 tspn dried)
  • 1 tspn fresh oregano (or ½ tspn dried)
  • ¼ tspn dried, ground sage
  • 1 1/2 tblspns corn starch
  • 2 tblspns water
  • Salt & pepper

Directions:

  1. Prepare the potatoes by boiling them in a large pot of salted water until tender, about 15 minutes.  When tender, drain and toss into a large bowl (if using a hand mixer/masher) or the bowl of a stand mixer.  Add soy milk and Earth Balance and sprinkle with a generous amount of salt and pepper.  Mix/mash until soft and creamy.  Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, spray a large cast iron skillet or large sauté pan with cooking spray and warm over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and cook until they are soft and begin to brown.  Add the garlic, carrots, celery, and mushrooms to the skillet and cook, stirring regularly, about 5 minutes longer.
  3. Next, add the vegetable broth, Bragg’s, miso, kidney beans, green beans, and herbs.  Bring the broth up to a low boil and then reduce heat.  Simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until all vegetables are tender and cooked through.
  4. Add the spinach to the skillet and mix well.  Let the spinach wilt over the heat for 2-3 minutes.  Finally, mix together the corn starch with the 2 tablespoons water until smooth and stir into the skillet.  Cook for a few minutes longer, until the sauce has thickened up a bit.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Remove from heat and turn on your broiler to high.  If you used a cast iron skillet, leave the vegetables in the skillet at this point and spoon the mashed potatoes evenly onto the top.  If you used another sauté pan, transfer the vegetables into an oven-safe baking dish and then continue on by spooning the mashed potatoes onto the top.    Place skillet or dish under the broiler for approximately 5 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Recipe: My Victory Loaf

Do you know what victory looks like?  If you’re not sure, I’ll show you.

Meet my Victory Loaf.

with end cut off

Besides finishing my first marathon, I can’t think of another victory I’ve had anytime recently that has felt this sweet.

Prior to finding out that I’m gluten-sensitive/intolerant, I ate a lot of bread and bread products.  Granted, I was almost exclusively eating whole grain, healthier bread varieties, but bread was a staple in my dietary routine.  Since having to give up gluten that has obviously changed.  For those of you are about to say, “Wait!  There are several gluten-free options available these days – eat those!”, please allow me to remind you that I am also supposed to be avoiding yeast, eggs, and dairy.

That eliminates most all the prepared bread and bread dough products I have been able to find in stores or online.

This has been one of the most discouraging parts of my gluten-sensitive diagnosis.  And, just to be clear, it’s not just about bread.  It’s really about having things that have traditionally brought me pleasure and comfort all of a sudden turn into things that harm me.  It’s about being excluded from social situations because I can no longer join in with the group in quite the same way.  It’s about feeling tense and afraid that I’m going to sick anytime I’m eating something I haven’t prepared with my own hands.  It’s about activities (baking/cooking) that I grew so used to turning to for relaxation and joy all of a sudden being fraught with stress and unease.  It’s about loss and grief and life changes that are at times complex, sad, empowering, challenging, freeing, and frustrating all at once.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that there’s a bigger picture here, People.  And all of this is why this bread, this Victory Loaf, left me standing over my kitchen counter shedding a few little tears of joy.

collage

I have tried gluten free, yeast free baking a few times since my diagnosis (most of what I baked before was vegan, so that part wasn’t so tricky to adapt to), and it never turned out very well.  Some items went straight into the garbage.  Others got nibbled at with desperate hopefulness and then found their way to the trash, too.  While a couple of items got eaten entirely, it was with some sense of disappointment because they still weren’t quite up to my standards.  All of this was done by strictly following recipes.  I had lost trust in myself.  Not yet feeling any level of confidence with the new flours and gums and grains that have taken over my pantry, I was hesitant to stray at all from recipes and followed them all to sub-par results.  I don’t know if I was just selecting bad recipes or if I was executing them poorly (maybe a combination of the two), but I was more than a little discouraged.

Until I decided to give myself a chance.

Drawing upon what I had learned about the new ingredients available to me and the kitchen skills I have gained over the last few years, I put together my own recipe.  I knew that it could fail miserably, but at least I was prepared to do so on my own terms.

But, it didn’t.

It didn’t!

with bowl of soup

In fact, it went better in so many ways than any gluten free baking I had done.  It was incredible.

I made bread that looked like bread, tasted like bread, and exuded nothing less than absolute delight when I took my first bite.

It was pure victory.

I ate my Victory Loaf dry, with Earth Balance*, with jam, with sunflower seed butter, with peanut butter, dipped into soup, and with edamame hummus.  I ate it every way that I could.  I ate it with joy, with pleasure, with feelings of empowerment, with smiles, with fervor, with delight, and with relief.

And every time it felt like a little victory all over again.

*This was my favorite pairing.

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Victory Loaf

A Move Eat Create original recipe

Makes 1 standard loaf

** Note:  You should note that this bread does taste of buckwheat and dark grains.  If you’re looking for a soft, white bread, this is nowhere near that.  But, if you like whole grains, dark breads, and buckwheat, then this just might work for you.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups buckwheat flour torn slice
  • 1 cup white rice flour
  • 1 cup millet flour
  • 2 ¼ cups room temperature water
  • 1 tblspn molasses
  • 2 tspns salt
  • 1 tspn baking soda
  • 1 tspn fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tblspns shelled sunflower seeds
  • 1 tblspn millet

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a loaf pan by coating with cooking spray.
  2. Combine flours and salt in large mixing bowl and set aside.
  3. Add water and molasses to the flour mixture and stir until just combined
  4. In a small bowl, combine baking soda with lemon juice and whisk together.  It will bubble/foam (this is the yeast replacement and will help create a similar rise effect).  Quickly pour into the rest of the batter and stir all ingredients until well incorporated.  There is no need to mix aggressively or to knead this dough.
  5. Pour batter into loaf pan and gently pick up the pan an inch or two and drop it on the counter in order to settle the dough and get it to level out.
  6. Lastly, combine the sunflower seeds and millet together and sprinkle on top of the batter for a seeded crust.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
  8. Savor every bite.

Recipe: Iron Boosting Spinach Pesto Rice with Navy Beans

I have an iron deficiency.  Have I mentioned that?

One of those pesky side effects of the gluten-damaged system that I am still healing is a lack of nutrient absorption.  Combine that with all the running I do and it adds up to a significant lack of iron in my body.

mixed up in pan

Iron deficiency is no joke, as it results in poor oxygen delivery throughout your system and can leave you feeling weak, tired, and cranky.  And, really, who wants that?

While taking iron supplements is great for getting that very low level up initially, I don’t want to have to rely on supplements forever.  I’d prefer to get as many of my nutrients from food as possible, and as such, I offer this dish here – brimming with iron boosting ingredients.

Spinach is a favorite of mine, anyway, and I don’t need any extra excuse to eat it.  But it certainly is a bonus that is so iron rich.  One cup of spinach has just as much iron as 3 ounces of chicken.  So, for all my fellow vegetarians and vegans out there, feel free to fire that fact back at those who think iron has to come from animal products.  It’s just not so.

Continuing to up the iron ante in this dish, I’ve included navy beans (which, seriously, are just like overflowing with the stuff), the bell pepper (one standard green pepper has the same amount of iron as the aforementioned cup of spinach), and pine nuts.  To top it all off, I’ve included lemon juice.

Why is the lemon juice important, you may ask?

plated

Well, besides the fact that it’s delicious, consuming vitamin C (as is found in citrus) with iron increases your body’s absorption rate.

How ‘bout that?!

So if you’re looking to address an iron deficiency of your own, I highly recommend this meal.  It will have you covered, nutritionally speaking, and will certainly be more satisfying than popping a supplement.

If your iron levels are just fine and where they’re supposed to be, I still highly recommend this meal.

It’s delicious.  And nourishing.  And simple to prepare.  And, did I say delicious?

Iron or not, that’s a winning combination.

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Iron Boosting Spinach Pesto Rice with Navy Beans

Serves 6

Ingredients:  Vegetables cooking

** For the pesto (makes about 1 cup):

  • 3 cups packed baby spinach leaves
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • ¼ cup packed basil leaves
  • 1 tblspn fresh oregano
  • 1 tblspn fresh thyme
  •  ½ tspn black pepper
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 3 tblspns vegetable broth
  • 2 tblspns lemon juice
  • ½ tspn salt
  • 2 tblspns olive oil

The rest:

  • 2 tblspns vegetable broth
  • ¼ of a large white onion, minced
  • 3 small carrots, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 bell pepper, cut into strips about ½ inch long
  • 2 cups cooked navy beans
  • 2 medium zucchini, cut into half moons
  • 1 cup of spinach pesto (recipe above), divided in two
  • 3 cups cooked brown rice (about 1 ½ cups dry)

Directions:

  1. First, prepare the pesto.  Place all pesto ingredients, except olive oil, into a food processor and pulse a few times to chop ingredients.  Then, let food processor run while you slowly pour in the olive oil.  Continue to process until ingredients are well chopped and combined.  Set aside.
  2. Warm large sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Add vegetable broth first, then add onion, pepper, and carrots.  Saute vegetables in the broth for 5-7 minutes, until vegetables have softened.
  3. Add beans and zucchini to the pan and continue to cook all ingredients, stirring often, for 5 minutes.
  4. Add cooked rice and ½ cup of spinach pesto.  Stir all ingredients together and mix well over heat.  Let all ingredients cook for 3-4 minutes, to warm everything through and combine.  Serve immediately with the remaining ½ cup pesto to be drizzled onto individual servings as desired.

A Move Eat Create Medley: Looking Back At Some Favorite Posts

It occurred to me the other day that I’ve been at this blogging thing for a bit over a year now.  I decided to take a few minutes to look through the content I’ve been putting up and to see which posts have been the most popular.  Like any good blog-mom, all my posts are special to me, and it was interesting to see which ones seem to have most resonated with others.

Here, in no particular order, are the top contenders.  Missed any of them?  Click through the links to get caught up and see what they are all about.

Salad - edited

burrito sliced - edited

Me nearing finish 4 - edited

Recipe: Vegetable Marinara Pasta Bake with Popped Amaranth Top Crust

I don’t know that I’ve ever really declared this here on my blog, but I’m pretty much a geek in a lot of ways.

Ready to go in the oven

I’m a running geek who eagerly awaits her issues of Runner’s World and Running Times each month – then immersing myself in training methods, splits, and gear.

I’m a pop culture geek who can spend days philosophizing about the socially important messages and critiques in a single episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and who counts the regeneration of The Doctor as a significant stressor in her life.

I’m a HUGE literary geek.  Tired of being around me?  Just shove me in a bookstore or library and I’ll be entirely happy on my own until I realize I haven’t eaten in days.

And, of course, I’m a kitchen geek.  I get excited about kitchen gadgets and culinary ephemera.  An orderly mise en place sets my world on fire and learning a new cooking technique is an exciting adventure.

Noodles and Veggies

So when I learned about how amaranth (a nutritious, tasty, and gluten free grain that I can safely eat!) can be popped like popcorn on the stovetop, I KNEW it was something I had to try.  I got excited about this.  Like REALLY excited.

My excitement only grew throughout the process of popping the amaranth and making this dish.  I ended up with amaranth all over my kitchen because I got a little over excited and didn’t cover it well at first, but it was worth it.  This was fun and totally delighted my inner-culinary geek who marveled at watching this mighty little grain go!

If you’re hesitant to try this technique or just don’t have access to amaranth, you can certainly make this dish with a traditional breadcrumb topping or no topping at all.  But, if you’re feeling adventurous – find some amaranth and get ready to have some fun in your kitchen – just keep a broom handy for the errant traveling seeds you’ll find later!

Plated

**Note: As is the case with so many meals, feel free to customize this dish with your favorite vegetables or what you have on hand.  I like this combination of mushrooms, onion, pepper, and spinach for the complimentary mix of tastes, colors, and nutritional benefits, but you could certainly swap other veggies to suit your needs.

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Vegetable Marinara Bake with Popped Amaranth Top Crust

A Move Eat Create Original Recipe  Olive oil

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz gluten free penne (or pasta of choice)
  • ¼ cup amaranth
  • 3 tblspns vegan Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tblspn chopped fresh basil
  • 1 ½ tblspn olive oil, divided
  • ½ yellow onion, diced
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 ½ cup chopped cremini mushrooms
  • ¼ tspn ground fennel
  • ½ tspn crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tblspn nutritional yeast
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves, chopped
  • 25-26 oz jar of marinara sauce (or equivalent of homemade)
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare an 11 x 7 baking pan by coating with cooking spray.
  2. Cook pasta noodles to just al dente, according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.
  3. Prepare the ingredients that will be the topping for the pasta bake.  To pop the amaranth, warm a dry pan over medium-high heat on the stovetop.  When heated, add 1 tablespoon of amaranth at a time to the pan.  If you have one, cover with a splatter screen.  The amaranth will begin to pop like popcorn.  Agitate the amaranth in the pan until most has popped.  Transfer popped amaranth to a bowl and repeat until all amaranth has been popped.  Be especially careful, as the amaranth can burn if it is not kept almost constantly agitated by shaking the pan or stirring.  The amaranth will pop quickly.  Once all amaranth has been popped, add vegan Parmesan, chopped basil, and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to it and mix well to combine and coat ingredients with the olive oil.  Set aside.
  4. Heat remaining ½ tablespoon oil in a sauté pan over medium heat.  Add onion, garlic, and pepper, along with a pinch of salt, and sauté for about 5 minutes, until vegetables are softened.
  5. Add chopped mushrooms and cook another 3-4 minutes.
  6. Add fennel, red pepper flakes, nutritional yeast, and chopped spinach to pan.  Mix well and cook just 1-2 minutes until spinach starts to wilt.  Turn off heat and add cooked pasta noodles to the pan, stirring well to combine all ingredients.
  7. Line bottom of prepared baking pan with a light layer of the marinara sauce.  Pour noodles and vegetables on top of sauce and spread evenly.  Pour remaining marinara sauce onto top of noodle/vegetable mixture evenly.  Finally, sprinkle prepared topping across the entire casserole.
  8. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes at 350 degree.  Uncover and continue to bake for 10 more minutes.  Serve with additional salt, pepper, and vegan Parmesan to taste.

Recipe: Broccoli and Mushroom Risotto

Risotto is an easy, cheap version of therapy for me.  Well, I should clarify that cooking risotto is an easy, cheap version of therapy for me.

risotto on plate 6 - edited

Eating it is good, too.  I’ll never forget my first taste of risotto (made by a professional chef – not by own hands).  The experience stunned me.  That creamy, rich and bright delicious first bite ranks high amongst my greatest food experiences.

But cooking risotto is even better.

People say it’s difficult.  They say it’s tricky or precarious or too easy to ruin.

I say: Bah!

risoto with vegetables 2 - edited

None of that is true in my own experience.  Risotto takes more attention than a casserole or a soup, maybe, but it is attention that I’m glad to give.  The slow, deliberate process behind a good risotto is better than meditation or a good sleep for calming any negative energy or frayed nerves that I my be harboring.  I’m drawn to the smell of the dry rice toasting up before any liquid is added.  Then I am soothed by swirling the small batches of broth into the pan, time and time again.

The gentle stirring is like a lullaby and the scents like the very best aromatherapy.

Plus, I am continually fascinated by the transformation of a small pile of dry rice into a heaping mound of creamy, rich risotto.

It’s pure culinary brilliance.

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Broccoli and Mushroom Risotto

A Move Eat Create Original Recipe, inspired by countless recipes viewed over time

Serves 4-6

Feel free to use this recipe as a guideline for quantities and method.  If broccoli isn’t your thing, you could easily sub asparagus, for instance.  No mushrooms on hand?  Try zucchini or yellow squash.  The vegetables, as well as the herbs, can easily be adapted to your preference and pantry staples.

Ingredients: risotto cooking 6 - edited

  • 2 cups mushrooms, diced (I used a mixture of portobello and white button)
  • 7 cups vegetable broth (consider making your own)
  • 1 tblspn olive oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium shallots, minced
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1 tspn salt
  • ½ tspn black pepper
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups (about 1 small head) broccoli, chopped finely
  • 1 tblspn Earth Balance (may sub butter or other butter substitute)
  • 1 tblspn nutritional yeast (can sub Parmesan if not vegan)
  • 1 tblspn fresh marjoram, chopped
  • 1 tblspn fresh basil, chopped

Directions:

  1. Pre-cook your mushrooms by tossing them into a large non-stick pan over medium heat.  Cook for 3-4 minutes, until they shrink in size a bit and start to brown.  Remove from pan and set aside.
  2. In the meantime, pour your vegetable broth into a large saucepan over medium-low heat.  You’ll want to keep the broth warm through the cooking process, as it should not be added to the rice cold.
  3. Add oil to the pan.  Once warmed, add shallot and garlic.  Cook 3-4 minutes, stirring often, until they are translucent and fragrant.
  4. Toss your rice, salt, and pepper into the pan with the shallot and garlic.  Toast the rice briefly, about 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently.  Increase heat slightly, then add wine.  Mix ingredients together and let the wine deglaze the pan and cook off for 1-2 minutes.  Once the wine has cooked down, lower heat again to just below medium.
  5. Begin to add your warm broth in ½ cup increments.  Between each addition, stir rice frequently, mixing the broth into the ingredients slowly and deliberately.  When most of the broth is absorbed, add the next ½ cup full.  Continue this process until all but 1 cup of the broth is used and rice has become soft and very plump.  This process should take somewhere around 30 minutes.
  6. When its time to add in the second to last ½ cup of broth, add broccoli to the pan.  Stir together broccoli, rice, and broth.
  7. With the last ½ cup of broth, add pre-cooked mushrooms.  Stir mushrooms and final batch of broth into the rice.  When all broth has been absorbed, turn off heat.
  8. Add Earth Balance, nutritional yeast, and fresh herbs to the pan and stir gently to incorporate all ingredients together.  The heat from the risotto will melt the Earth Balance and help blend all ingredients together.  Serve immediately.

The Surprising Benefits of Running Unscripted

I’m a planner by nature, you see.  A scheduler.  A write everything down in lists and calendars and always arrive 10 minutes early kind of gal.

I don’t generally do well with unstructured time, parts of a day carved out to just ‘relax’ (whatever that means), or scheduled plans that are changed at the last minute.

A short bridge on one of my running routes

A short bridge on one of my running routes

This is true in pretty much all parts of my life and up until recently I thought it was absolutely true in regards to my running self, as well. I’d always pretty much been running with a plan.  There was, of course, the four months of marathon training that I planned out and followed without fail.  Even prior to that very specific training, I would plan out my runs pretty precisely.  Google Maps was a big help in this, allowing me to draw out where I would run to achieve just the right amount of distance.  I’d map it, commit it to memory and head out, not deviating from my route or schedule.

All of that planning was great.  It helped me become a strong runner and got me successfully through a marathon.  But in the two months since that achievement, I’ve been a little less structured in my training – and I’ve been amazed at how well it’s going.

Of course, I still have some structure (I AM still me, after all).  I still go long every Saturday, hit intense strength training on Sundays, and fill my evenings after work with a variety of runs and bits of cross training.  I still commit to 4-6 days per week of running, plus cross-training on at least 4 days, always with one full day off of training (generally Fridays).

I love rounding this curve.

I love rounding this curve.

But, all in all, it’s a bit more free form.  I’ve been running long enough in my neighborhood by now to know it intimately.  I know the streets and the turns, which sidewalks are smooth enough to go fast on, and which ones feel like a little obstacle course with their broken cement and tree roots taking over.  I know where the hills are and which stretches always seem to create some sort of wind tunnel that I can’t understand from a meteorological standpoint.  I know which streets to take on a hot day if I want more shade and I know where to find drinking fountains if needed.

I love that I have become more familiar with distance now, knowing it by experience and feel. I don’t need to map my routes, because I know where to go for 5 miles or 6 miles or 8 miles.  I know if I want to hit 10, I just turn and add on a 2 mile stretch at a specific point along my way and when I’m going long, I know how to create loops to get me to 15, 16, 17 and so on with enough diversity of environment and elevation changes to keep it interesting.  It’s all become so natural.

My base mileage is getting strong.

This pleases me.

Reed Field and Path

A path at Reed College in my ‘hood.

My long runs are consistently longer – but they don’t necessarily feel like it.  They just feel fun and good.  Hard when I decide to make them hard and refreshing when that’s what I need, too.  My shorter runs have inched their way along also, growing in subtle increments and making my consistent weekly mileage creep upwards.

My slow, easy pace has dropped and my recovery time is shortened.

It’s all just fantastic.

There’s something quite satisfying about just building that base to be a bit more than it used to be and in feeling the positive impacts of that in my body and mind.  It’s certainly increasing my confidence as a runner.  I find myself having a bit more insight into what I can do, should do, and shouldn’t do.  If I feel the tell-tale signs that a rest day is needed, I take it.  And then I get back out there the next day and see the benefits it provided.  Maybe before too long, I’ll get up the nerve to tackle some track workouts (still something I’ve never done).

I’ve honestly never felt more like a true runner then I do right now.  I see how much there is for me to do to improve, but I also accept how much I already have.  And this time for me, a little more relaxed and a little less rigid, has been remarkably valuable to all of that.  I can foresee my lessons being learned right now only benefiting me when I do lay out a new specific training plan for that next big race.  I wonder what race that will be?