Cast Iron Okra, Vegan Jacksonville (or not) and Some Other Favorites

I made these vegan peanut butter cups the other night. I’m still working on the recipe so I will post about it soon, but suffice it to say, my husband ate three in one evening. Yikes.

I am soooo far behind on posting about running…that was supposed to be 1/2 of the blog. Oh well. I guess food is just more fun to write about, eh? Anyways, I’ve mostly just done short, 3-5 mile runs the past week. We were visiting family in Jacksonville this past weekend, and I didn’t want to take too much time away from them, so I stuck to shorter runs. Speaking of Jacksonville, it is a way cool city with lots to do and lots of kid-friendly stuff. We ate at a great Middle Eastern place called the Casbah; I’d recommend eating outside with kids because inside is a little bit hookah-bar-ish and not particularly kid friendly. It had all the standard vegan Middle Eastern fare; the falafel there is unlike any I’ve ever had. It is bright green (from the parsley?) and super garlicy. It is worth getting.

We also went to the Jacksonville River Art/Farmers Market, which is a seasonal outdoor market. It was fabulous! It is under a bridge, so it is outdoors but shady. In terms of prepared food, it was very meat-centric, but there was one booth that had a few vegan cupcake options. I had a peanut butter cupcake, which was pretty tasty, and something I’ve never tried making. It was a nice treat, and a surprise to find. I had searched online for vegan/vegetarian places before we went, and there were none at all that I could find. We managed to do okay, though, and had a great visit.

This morning I was welcomed by some cool (well, relatively speaking – 50 degrees) air; we’ve had a recent hot streak, so the colder, rainy weather today was a wonderful relief. I listened to more Brahms. I did have an exciting (well, to me) listening moment on my way to work. I was running late, so I was able to hear some classical music instead of solely Morning Edition (our NPR station switches to classical at 9 a.m……as I said, I was running late!). They played part of the 1st movement of the Mahler Resurrection symphony, which is one of my favorites. As I was listening to it, I started thinking about all the times I’ve run to that music, and started thinking about running in general, which lead me to thinking about what music to next download onto my IPod. I decided it would be nice to run to some of the Bach Brandenburg concertoes – and the very next thing they played, after a fundraising pitch, was Brandenburg 3! Weird, eh?

Anyways…A few days ago I picked up some okra. My oldest daughter, who is three, really likes okra. I try to ignore it as a vegetable, because I consider okra a very southern veggie, and I try hard to resist liking things that make me southern (yes, I’m still slightly bitter about living down here! That’s why they call us damn yankees). However, it’s hard not to provide a green veg to a 3-year old who is clamoring for it. Who can turn down a kid who is begging for more veggies? Not me! Anyways, I usually do a light pan-frying job on the okra, and I have to grudgingly admit that it’s pretty darn tasty. It’s hardly a recipe, but here it is:

about 2 cups sliced okra

about 1/4 cup whole wheat flour

salt or seasoning salt

about 1 tablespoon olive oil

Put the sliced okra in a bowl; cover with the flour and salt and stir until each piece is individually covered.

Heat up the oil in  a cast iron skillet (my favorite kind!). When the oil is hot, add the okra. Cook for 5-10 minutes or until lightly browned.

I’m pretty proud of myself with respect to dinner tonight. My husband had made some fresh salsa, but that was about all we had around. I had a clingy one-year old who wanted to keep nursing, a whiny greyhound who wanted attention, and a talkative three-year-old who was hungry. Somehow, after a long day at work and many demands on my attention, I managed to make some tofu, pasta and spinach pesto. The best part of dinner, hands down, was that the one-year-old actually ate. The three-year-old is a fabulous eater, but the younger child is just not as interested in food (maybe because she’s still nursing….hmmmm). Today she ate salsa, tofu, and pasta with spinach pesto. Score.  My oldest was clamoring for tofu and broccoli. Sadly, we did not have any broccoli, but I did make the girls some of my famous quick cast iron tofu. I’ve blogged about it before several times but I cannot figure out how to link back to my own posts. So here’s the recipe, with an old picture:

cube a pound of firm tofu – press it if you have time but don’t worry about it if you don’t

oil, about a tablespoon

soy sauce, about 1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons

nutritional yeast, about a tablespoon

optional: garlic, hot sauce

Heat oil in a cast iron skillet. Throw in tofu and cook for a minute or two. Add soy sauce and nutritional yeast; stir to coat. You can east this right away, but I prefer to let it cook for 10-15 minutes until all of the liquid is absorbed and the edges get all brown and crispy. If you press the tofu first, you can cook it less and get the same result.

Tonight I also made one of my favorites, spinach pesto (again, NO idea how to link back….). This time I used raw sunflower seeds, which was new. It was delish. Once again, I cannot figure out how to link back to my previous posts about it, so here’s a basic recipe and a picture of the pesto on pasta that I packed for the girls’ lunch tomorrow.

1/4-1/2 cup raw nuts – almonds, cashews, even sunflower seeds, or a combination thereof; today I used half raw almonds and half raw sunflower seeds

1 bag (6 oz.) baby spinach

1-2 cloves garlic

1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste

2-4 tablespoons oil

Put all ingredients in blender and blend, or put ’em in a bowl and use your trusty ol’ immersion blender. The more nuts and oil you use, the richer and creamier it is (duh). This is a fast, fast recipe – it comes together while the pasta is cooking. It is healthy and raw, and everyone to whom I’ve served it loves it, including kids.

I’m working on a few recipes right now: Vegan Peanut Butter Cups, Vegan Oreo-Stuffed Brownies, and Granola/Breakfast Bars. Wheeee!

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