Moroccan Tagine with Sweet Potatoes + Beets, food for runners (or this runner)

Moroccan Tagine with Sweet Potatoes + Beets, food for runners (or this runner)

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There is nothing like a few days spent living with others to put into perspective how truly personal is our choice in food. While I will happily eat roasted broccoli or leftover kale salad for 9am snack (and frequently do), even the idea of kale salad at a seemingly more appropriate time of day might leave others running for the door.

 

 

This point is driven home in my frequent conversations about food with others. My work at the university has often left me chatting about the differences between foods here in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world–how everything is just sooo sweet–and how diets inherently change even without the individual really attempting to when taking up residence here.

 

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In sharing this recipe, I’ll make a point in saying first that I question the title and definitely the authenticity as I’ve never been to Morocco and have only eaten at one semi-Moroccan restaurant. And yet I love the flavors of “Moroccan” foods, particularly the tagines with sweet, savory, and spicy notes. So I’ll take liberty and call this my own version of a Moroccan tagine.

Second, I can see some camps loving this and others, again, running for the door because whoa, there are tooo many vegetables and don’t get me started on Rebecca’s fondness for spices.

 

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But basically I call this the type of food that I like to eat to fuel my running life. Or more adequately, it is the food I tend to crave before a big run or race. So when William and others were packing sandwiches for our relay race a few weeks back, I found myself making and then eating Moroccan sweet potato + beet tagine with quinoa to fuel my runs and turning to it again a few more times throughout the ensuing weeks.

It is also a recipe I know I will adapt and make further into the fall season and the months (and miles) to come.

 

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Moroccan Sweet Potato + Beet Tagine, serves 6-8
Inspired by Vegetarian Everyday

Though I tend to use a heavy hand with the harissa, I haven’t yet purchased or made one that has been nearly as spicy as the kind I’ve had in a restaurant–and its flavor tends to get muted by all the sweet notes of the apricots and currants. Use more or less, or even leave out, as you see fit.

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 inches fresh raw ginger, finely grated
1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
1  1/2 teaspoons cumin
sea salt, to taste
2 tablespoons harissa
4-5 large tomatoes, diced
zest and juice of one lemon
3-4 beets, sliced into 2 inch pieces
1 medium eggplant, sliced into large pieces
1 medium zucchini, sliced into 2-inch pieces
2 medium sweet potatoes, sliced into 2-inch pieces
10 dried apricots, each sliced into about six pieces
2 cups cooked garbanzo beans
1/4 cup currants
thinly sliced fresh mint, to serve
cooked millet, quinoa, brown rice or other, to serve

Directions:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and sauté the onion for a few minutes until it becomes soft and translucent. Add the garlic and ginger and the spices and allow to cook for about 30 seconds more.
  2. Stir in the harissa, diced tomatoes, lemon zest and juice. Bring the sauce to a boil and then lower the heat to simmer.
  3. Add the beets, eggplant, zucchini, sweet potatoes, and apricots. Stir well so everything is nice and mixed, then cover and simmer for about an hour. Keep it covered as much as possible, but stir a couple times throughout the hour.
  4. Once the vegetables are tender all the way through, add in the cooked beans and currants, cook for about 5 minutes more to heat through, and then season with additional salt and pepper, if needed.
  5. Serve over cooked millet or other grain with a garnish of sliced mint on top.
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zucchini noodles, crookneck squash, garlic + pesto

zucchini noodles, crookneck squash, garlic + pesto

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I finished my second trimester of classes this past weekend and I am sooo happy for a three week break. Every weekend since January save a couple has been taken up with assignments, projects and reading research papers. While I’ve loved the topics I’ve been learning these past few months, they have been more in line with the integrative health and herbal medicine component of the program rather than the nutrition side of things. My knowledge of the multi-facets of health and wellness has vastly improved even as this understanding has helped me personally as well. I’m already relishing this break, finally doing a little much-needed garden maintenance like gleefully wiping out pesky bugs with my bare hands, catching up on some lighthearted reading, and looking forward to delving into the rehab on my grandma’s old china cabinet (so I can finally finish unpacking, maybe?) I am also already thinking about next trimester and very much looking forward to a turn towards what I’ve been told is an extremely difficult class and a little more nutritional science. I think mostly I’m excited for the idea of a challenge–because grad school, working, commuting, and maintaining my running lifestyle hasn’t been challenge enough (insert Rebecca kind of enjoys pushing her limits comment).

 

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Since the last six weeks caught up to me with multiple big projects and a couple long weekends out of town all happening together, I’ve basically been eating this meal on repeat this month and last. William really gobbled it down the first couple times until he realized it was one of only a few meals I’d be craving/making all summer. Now he’s a little less than thrilled when I tell him we’re having zucchini noodles and summer squash again.

I have four heavy producing summer squash plants and between the two types, the making of this dish has kept the harvests in check. If you aren’t sure what to do with an abundance of zucchini, I recommend investing in a spiralizer (I have a cheapo $10 one and it works great!) and making noodles.

The day after I completed my classes, I cleared my schedule, took a nap, watched the Olympics women’s marathon, caught up on all the blogs I’ve let queue in my inbox, pottered around the kitchen and generally felt my cooking creativity come back to life. It is safe to say it’s back in force.

 

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Zucchini Noodles, Crookneck Squash, Garlic + Pesto, serves 2

This is a nice, quick, simple weeknight meal and if you’ve already got canned or cooked beans and pesto on hand, it comes together quick. I’ve been using my pesto recipe with basil and pumpkin seeds as my greens and seeds of choice. Each serving makes a really big plate but basically you’re eating really tasty summer squash for dinner, so there’s that. 

3-4 medium zucchini

1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

3-6 small crookneck squash, medium dice

4 cloves garlic, minced

salt and pepper to taste

crushed red pepper flakes, optional

1 cup cooked black eyed peas, chickpeas, or white beans

1/4 cup pesto

extra basil to garnish

  1. Use a spiralizer or a vegetable peeler to turn the zucchini into noodles. Set in a colander over the sink and sprinkle with a good few dashes of salt. The salt will allow some water to escape while the crookneck are cooking.
  2. In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the crookneck and garlic and allow to cook for several minutes, until it becomes a bit golden and soft. Season with a few dashes salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.
  3. Turn in the beans, the zucchini noodles and the pesto. Give it all a good stir and heat just until it all comes together, 4-5 minutes.
  4. Plate up and add a little basil on top to serve.

 

 

 

to go on

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I can’t go on. I’ll go on. – Samuel Beckett

We were headed back from the coast last weekend and I had been admiring the views and the changing season when I looked out and realized it is September(!) and I suddenly saw not the slow slide of summer into fall but the trajectory of my life these last few months. I realized that I have been so busy feeling my way through this year that I haven’t been able to truly see the world around me, much like that summer I was in Ireland for the second round and one of my co-interns spent so much of her time capturing the experience on her camera that she never stopped to appreciate the views beyond her lens. When I look up and out, it is so easy to feel and see the change in season right now, and as we drove back into town last weekend, there was a bittersweet sadness hanging in the air. This and the last few posts have reflected that bittersweet vibe, as I’ve been sharing bigger matters that have sat heavy with me this year.

 

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One of these is whether I’m even writing a food blog anymore. I have always had more of an interest in talking about life in this space than in hyper-focusing on the food. Over the course of the last few months, I’d like to think I’ve been doing more of that and through the process become more honest in sharing the bigger things that matter. As I’ve done so, I have contemplated moving away from sharing food at all because it often doesn’t seem to go with the message I’m conveying. I think about my readers too. What do you want from this space? Why do you come here? How much is too much information? And I think about why I began the site, to share life and food.

Food is important to me. I love learning about it. I love talking about it. I really like helping others with it. And if you are newer here, if you read back to this post, you’ll see the making and partaking in food is so much more to me than finding peace through this year’s challenges or in fueling life on the run. All my interests, joys, and even problems circulate and intersect in and around food. And though I’ll chatter your ear off in actual conversation until you politely ask me to shut up about it, I don’t particularly enjoy writing about food in this space anymore.

 

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In a recent conversation with a friend, the topic of my eating disorder and food came up and I shared, It’s not about the food. Just like every person has his or her tools or mediums with which to create a life (or destroy it), my strengths–and also weaknesses–are both food and words. Like my eating disorder, this space seems to be about food but is also not about food.

Inevitably, I have opted to continue with the recipe sharing because when I talk about the highs and lows of life here, I share the meals that feed my soul through the process, recipes that hold meaning not because they have this or that ingredient in or out, not because of any label or food trend but because they are simply feeding me through this life. I’ve considered deleting posts which I think are silly now or old recipes that I no longer partake in, but those too are all part of my experience. Those meals, like the more recent ones, fed me through those ventures into becoming the better person I am today. For that alone, I want to have them recorded.

 

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In this transition of seasons, I too feel as if I’m wading through a big life transition. As I take a deeper and bigger-picture look at my trajectory, as I sort through my life and organize my thoughts around the point of this space, I want to share with both the readers who have held on for the long haul and those that are just jumping in, the basic reason for this blog hasn’t particularly changed. It is a space where I can use my creative tools to share real life more honestly; to go on, when a part of me is actually afraid to share what I really feel, is afraid to move into life’s changing seasons, is often frustrated and saying simply, I cannot go on.

 

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When I am standing fearfully on one of life’s cliffs, not ready to jump yet somehow poised for whatever the next adventure brings, when I am at the point where I begin to question everything, when my mind wants to give up and fight like hell simultaneously, that is when I know I am right where I need to be. I will get through this changing season and I’ll be better for the challenge with which it came. I will be glad too that I was willing to share the experience here, rather than waffling on about some random ingredient.

After all, isn’t this life little more than the accumulation of these daily lessons and joys, of conversations and meals good and bad, of being vulnerable, of putting plans into action and seeing hard work pay off, or spinning wheels in useless worrying which we can’t seem to move on from, until, for whatever reason, we do?

 

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Two-Tone Fennel + Pistachio Zucchini Bread 

This zucchini bread has been a work in progress for many years and I’ve held off on publishing because every recipe, like the most vulnerable blog posts, is not quite ready to share. Originally adapted from a Cook’s Illustrated recipe, it has taken on a life of its own with the switch to quinoa, brown rice, and almond flours, two types of summer squash, fennel seeds, and pistachios. It is the type of recipe that feels right in this (nearly there) return to cooler days and comforting foods season, and it’s likely my last bout with zucchini this summer. My plants have been producing steadily since mid-June and they’re telling me their time has nearly come. Onwards!

1 lb. zucchini and yellow summer squash, (about 2 medium or 3 small)
2 Tbs. ground flax seeds
6 Tbs. hot water
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup quinoa flour
3/4 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. fennel seeds
1/4 cup plain non-dairy yogurt (I used unsweetened coconut)
1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
3 Tbs. coconut oil
1/4 cup toasted pistachios, chopped

  • Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Oil and flour the bottom and sides of a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.
  • Shred the mixture of zucchini and yellow squash on the large holes of a box grater and then transfer to a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl. Allow to drain for 20-30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, mix the ground flax seeds with the hot water in a small dish and set aside to form a thick slurry.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk the flours, baking powder and soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice, fennel seeds, half the pistachios, and 1/2 cup sugar together. Set aside.
  • After the zucchini has drained, squeeze it dry between several layers of paper towels. Mix the dried zucchini with the yogurt and apple cider vinegar in a small bowl. Set aside.
  • Beat the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and coconut oil with a whisk in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add the flax slurry and incorporate well. Add half the flour mixture and half the zucchini mixture and mix until just incorporated. Add the remaining flour and zucchini and mix once more until the mixture just comes together.
  • Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan and sprinkle the top with the remaining pistachios. Bake until the loaf is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached, about 55 minutes. Cool the bread in the pan for 10-15 minutes, then tranfer the loaf to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature, or once cool, slide into the fridge for a day or two, as the flavors really develop overnight.