Friday, May 8, 2009

Practically Perfect in Every Way & Sloppy James

Somedays just come together in a way that you can't even imagine being more perfect, where you go to bed with a smile on your face because you know you accomplished everything you wanted to do and more. While I live my life in a way that means that hopefully I experience that sense of satisfaction and bliss on a daily basis, somedays you have to experience that in spite of the circumstances that arise, instead of the day itself insisting it. Yesterday, it would have been hard not to have a great day.

My day started really early with a 4:20am wake up to go on a 10 mile run with my sister before she headed off to work. She is a teacher and often has to get up incredibly early in order to accomplish her training. That is dedication and I admire and support that commitment. I know it is easier to pull yourself out of bed at that hour when there is someone else also getting up, it makes you feel counted on and so I volunteered to get up and run with her. I am running twice a day, per my coaches instructions and though my second runs on occasion end up longer than prescribed because I am running my sister's schedule with her, my body is handling and enjoying the mileage and the second runs are accomplishing what they should. We ran a nice out and back into creepy folds of fog and darkness. By the time we returned, the sun as starting to make its way up and the fog was burning off. It looked like it would be a beautiful day. We both felt extremely refreshed and not a bit tired after the run, but nonetheless I headed to Poggio to grab us each a nice Americano.

The day unfolded naturally and pleasantly from there. I worked a bit, ate a delicious breakfast of berries, bananas, prunes and goat's milk yogurt. I blogged a bit and then headed out for my own run in the Marin Headlands. It was absolutely glorious.



Frankly, I had a hard time stopping myself from just running around for the entire day. As I ran, I dreamed about what I wanted to cook for dinner. I knew after the mileage I had done for the day and the addition of a tough tough CrossFit workout at CrossFit Marin that I would need a filling, healthy meal but given that the temperatures were pressing into the mid to upper 70s, I didn't want something too heavy. As I ran, I started drooling over the idea of  garlic-y spinach and green beans and I got it in my head that I would really like something like sloppy joes and fries. But not exactly. Sloppy Joes and fries don't exactly fit the "healthy" part of what I was looking for in their traditional forms, so I decided to make them so.

Over the next 5-6 miles, I worked through the ingredients and flavor profile and came up with what, in theory, sounded like a perfect balance of familiar flavor, health and heartiness without heaviness. First for the fries, I decided to cook up some carrots and parsnips instead of potatoes and bake them in a hot hot oven to crisp them up without any oil. Then onto the Sloppy Joes. I thought about things that are included in Sloppy Joes and things that are included in their vegan counter-part Sloppy Janes and fused a bit into both. I decided to use vegetarian Worcestershire sauce (gluten free!) and kick up the vegetables. I also decided that I was going to use super lean and flavorful ground buffalo. I would have considered using ostrich, but that is not widely available at your whole foods counter. Would have been interesting though. Any super lean ground meat will work, but I liked the buffalo. I also decided that I would wrap mine up in a gluten free tortilla and top with bread and butter pickles and I would call it "Sloppy James". I really like the name James, it reminds me a soldier I once met on an airplane flying back from Seattle to Pittsburgh at a very important juncture in my life. Our "single serving" interaction profoundly moved and changed me and I will always look back on that interaction as formative in the turn my life took from there.

Really, with the kicked up vegetables and the various twists, it just didn't seem right to call them Sloppy Joes. The meal ended up perfect and I was able to enjoy it sitting on the deck, looking out over a clear night to Angel Island (see picture at top). The Sloppy James could easily be made into a twisted up Sloppy Jane by substituting steamed and crumbled up bits of tempeh. I decided to not make this for myself as currently (and potentially forever more where possible) I am staying away from gluten, soy and milk as these are my trigger foods for serious digestive problems. That said, I know from experience that this technique and the flavor of tempeh would lend itself nicely.

By the time I collapsed into bed exhausted at 10pm, I was ready for a blissful night of sleep. My muscles ached from the good hard work, my belly was satisfied with good food, my skin tingled from a bit too much sun (ok, way too much- I got a sunburn) and all I could do was sigh and fall asleep absolutely satisfied.

Garlic Green Beans and Spinach


Ingredients:


1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup green beans, trimmed
2 tablespoons water
3 cups fresh spinach
salt
pepper

Directions:


In a medium skillet over medium high heat, heat olive oil. Add garlic and saute until it begins to get golden. Add in green beans and saute and additional minute. Add 2 tablespoons of water to the pan (carefully as it will spit!) and cover with a lid. Steam for 4-5 minutes until the green beans are tender. Add in spinach and let wilt, tossing garlic and green beans and spinach together. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve! Makes 1 serving.

Carrot and Parsnip "Fries"


Ingredients:


2 medium carrots
1 large parsnip
chili powder
salt

Directions:


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the carrots and parsnip (peeled) into thick matchsticks. Spread the matchsticks into a single layer on the baking sheet and sprinkle with chili powder. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the bottoms are golden and crispy. There is no need to flip. Sprinkle with salt and serve. Makes 1 serving.

Sloppy James


Ingredients:


1 medium onion , diced
1 pound ground buffalo
½ bell pepper, diced
½ cup mushrooms, sliced
1 can tomato sauce (15oz)
2 tbsp. tomato paste
3 tbsp. vegetarian, gluten free Worcestershire sauce
4 tbsp. yellow mustard
3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tbsp. brown sugar
salt
pepper

Directions:


In a large skillet, over medium high heat brown the onion and buffalo, about 4-5 minutes. Add bell pepper, mushrooms and cook another 5 minutes. If there is any fat in the pan after that, drain off fat (though not likely as buffalo is incredibly lean). Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, yellow mustard, red wine vinegar, and brown sugar. Simmer together for 8-10 minutes over medium low heat until sauce thickens slightly. Salt and Pepper to taste. Serve in a gluten free rice tortilla or bun. Makes 4 large helpings.

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