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Archive for June, 2006

food for thought

Sunday, June 25th, 2006

Competitive chess can be extremely grueling, not only mentally, but physically as well. The amount of energy required to maintain concentration for hours on end, to handle the emotional ups and downs and the concomitant adrenaline surges and exhaustion, is amazing. There are tales of World Championship combatants losing tens of pounds during their one to two month battles over the board.

To a lesser extent, I have noticed I can consume more in a weekend of chess, with little or no exercise, than in my typical days programming computers and working out, with no resulting weight change. So, although a practitioner of CRON (Calorie Restriction with Optimal Nutrition), I often allow myself a few hundred additional calories a day while playing in a tournament. Of course, we’re still talking high-quality nutrition here. The extras come in the form of snacks for each game to keep the brain fueled and a celebratory (or consolatory, as the case may be) beer for the evening.

I pack all my food for such events in order to avoid the junk in restaurants and to allow for the odd and sometimes rushed meal windows in between games. Here is what it looked like this weekend as I prepared for the NH Open Chess Championship.

chessfood (130k image)

This provides for a breakfast of homemade soy yogurt (the little container) with dry cereal (not shown), blueberries and strawberries, and lunches and dinners of chili. The bags, one for each day, contain raw broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collards, and romaine lettuce for dunking in the chili (eaten cold at lunch and heated up at my friend’s in the evening). The beers (here Harpoon Oatmeal Stout) are one for me and one for my friend, who so kindly let’s me crash at his place, to end each day. Then there’s a banana (or apple) and homemade seitan jerky for each game (2 per day). I usually include a little dark chocolate as well, but left it out this time for no particular reason.

Semi-Curried Cantaloupe

Friday, June 23rd, 2006

Challenged by the turmeric contest over at vegan_cookoff, I experimented with my afternoon snack.

The name of this little treat actually contains a couple misnomers. One is that most of the cantaloupe consumed in the United States is really muskmelon. And secondly, curry is not so much a spice blend as it is the resulting dish. Technicalities aside, I think it’s a cute way of spotlighting the fact that the turmeric is used without its usual accompanying “partners in spice.” :)

I hope you enjoy this non-recipe. (Let’s just call it an “unusual pairing.”) The picture tells the whole story: Chunks of juicy cantaloupe sprinkled with a dash of cinnamon and more liberal shakes of turmeric. The sweetness of the melon takes the edge off the turmeric. A healthy, delicious, and quick snack.

Mexican Paratha

Sunday, June 18th, 2006

As a devout chile-head, hot and spicy ethnic cuisines are where it’s at for me. Much of my cooking ends up morphing into Mexican, Indian, or Thai style dishes by default, even if my intent may have been to do something different. For example, a mild marinara often becomes Fra Diablo by the time I’m done with it.

So when the vegan_cookoff this week called for savory breads, I knew what I had to do. Some time back, I had killed off my sourdough starter after a year of faithful service. Therefore, my sourdough rye hearth loaf was out of the question. And as no little packaged yeasties can compare (and it may have felt like betrayal anyway), I opted for a yeast-free, unleavened flatbread.

Paratha is a fried Indian flatbread often stuffed with veggies and made with healthy whole-wheat flour. One of the more popular incarnations is “aloo paratha” where it is filled with potatoes. My take on the bread challenge is this Mexican Paratha stuffed with black beans.

The dough is merely:

3/4 whole wheat flour
1/4 cup of yellow corn meal
1/2 cup water

Combine these ingredients in a mixing bowl and work into a dough. Lay down a good additional 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour on a work surface and kneed (incorporating the extra flour) until you have a soft, pliable dough. Round into a ball and let rest while preparing the bean stuffing.

Here the recipe leaves the realm of exact measurement. The goal is a spicy black bean mash prepared with a Mexican flair to your tastebuds’ heat sensitivity. Mine went together like this. I soaked a full package of dried black beans overnight, then drained, resubmerged in water, and cooked for 1-1.5 hours. Canned beans would work as well. To 1 cup of the cooked beans, I added finely minced onion, garlic, serrano pepper, cumin, and oregano. Mash together with a fork.

Returning to the rested dough, cut it into fourths and work into smaller balls. Taking one at a time, flatten and roll out until you have an even circle about 10″ in diameter. Use 1-2 tablespoons of the black bean filling for each serving. You will have plenty of beans left over.

Fold the edges of the dough back up to the middle, enclosing the filling, and seal well. Carefully flatten and roll out to reacquire the 10″ circle. The trick here is to keep the beans contained as much as possible. I actually used my hands for both rolling out steps as though I were working with a pizza.

Heat a nonstick pan (12″) to medium. Oil well and fry the bread on the first side until golden brown. Peek every once in a while to see. I believe it was about 3-4 minutes. Spray the top of the bread with oil and flip. Fry until golden brown with black spots similar to a tortilla. You may want to flip again until it’s just right.

Serve with a curry or chutney to highlight the Indian theme or a salsa for the Mexican. As I was having mine for breakfast, I topped with a little sliced banana and soy yogurt dusted with cinnamon. (OK, the other half soon saw some hot sauce. LOL.)

mparantha4 (132k image)

qalming quinoa

Saturday, June 17th, 2006

My entry for the quinoa contest at The Vegan Club:

Quinoa, pronounced “keen-wa,” is a cute curly-Q of a grain with a slightly nutty taste and a soft, yet chewy texture. It is often touted as the only grain with a complete protein profile. Of course, this is now merely trivia as the importance of food combining (say, rice and beans) has become an artifact of vegetarian nutrition. Not to mention that botanically it’s not even really a grain, but rather the fruit of an herb! :)

This quick breakfast spotlights the contrasting colors of the traditional cream-colored quinoa with the vibrant Inca Red variety. It is intentionally left light and simple so the subtle flavors of the quinoa can be appreciated. A great, mellow way to start the day.

1/8 cup dry traditional quinoa
1/8 cup dry Inca Red quinoa
1/2 banana [other half optional]
1 cup soy yogurt [optional]
2 teaspoons flax seed oil [optional]

Prepare the quinoa in separate vessels as instructed on the package. This takes about 15 minutes. Mash half the banana into the traditional quinoa. Plate as shown above.

Alternatively, enjoy in my usual one-bowl way, all mixed together. Drizzle with a little flax seed oil. Top with soy yogurt, dusted with cinnamon, and the remaining banana, sliced.

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