While on a brief trip to our cabin a couple weeks ago, I finally got further into ultra-marathoner Scott Jurek‘s recent book, Eat And Run, in which he touts his vegan diet as the key to his success in winning and setting records in countless ultra-marathons- and we’re talking 50 and 100 milers here! Having grown up in the mid-west and raised on the typical meat-fish-eggs-based type of diet, Jurek explains his hesitation and then steady transition to a no-meat-no-dairy lifestyle while accomplishing amazing running feats.
Given that I of course want to improve my (albeit novice) running as well as overcome the digestive issues that seem to almost always arise for me during races, I figured I would give it a try and incorporate a few of Jurek’s recipes into my everyday diet. While I can’t really imagine going vegan 100% of the time, I can tell that my body certainly functions better eating this way- I feel lighter, I sleep better, and my digestion issues have vanished.
Scott Jurek’s Long Run Pizza Bread
8 ounces firm tofu (although I would use 4 ounces next time- 8 ounces made way more “feta” than I was able to use)
2 tablespoons light miso (white or yellow)
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast (I had no idea where to find this either but have learned that it can be found in any health food store as well as any place that sells beer brewing supplies! Hunh!)
1 teaspoon lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
Drain and lightly squeeze the water from the tofu. In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients and mash until they are thoroughly mixed and form a feta-like consistency. Set aside.
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 teaspoon onion powder (which I did not have so I used minced onion- worked just fine)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional and I opted out- I’m not too keen on spicy!)
In a small bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well. Add the crushed red pepper if you prefer a spicier sauce. Set aside.
Use any fresh or day-old bread of your choice. Jurek writes that his favorite is olive bread, so that is exactly what I got, 1 loaf, and sliced it into 1/2 to 1 inch thick slices.
Of course, you can substitute for any veggies you wish to, I took Jurek’s suggestion and added:
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh spinach
3/4 cup chopped sundried tomatoes
3/4 cup chopped kalamata olives
Preheat oven to 425F, spread a thin layer of sauce on each piece of sliced bread. Next, add a small amount of spinach, followed by the tomoates and olives. Last, crumble the tofu “feta” on top. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, until the bottom of the bread and toppings are lightly browned. Leftovers can be cooled to room temp and refrigerated. (Makes 4-6 servings.)
Great vegan pizza, I had 3 pieces for lunch and wasn’t hungry again until dinner- which is rare, usually I require a 3pm snack!
With that 3pm snack in mind, I got started making Jurek’s Apple-Cinnamon Granola but did not read ahead in the recipe- you gotta soak the oat groats over night and then it takes 2-4 hours for the granola to cook. Thanks goodness the pizza was so filling, I didn’t get to eat the granola for a snack as it finally done cooking well after dinner time the next day, so I have been happily munching on it ever since! Really worth the wait and is a perfect snack with some almond/hemp/coconut milk and sliced fresh fruit.
1-2 teaspoons coconut oil
4 cups raw oat groats, soaked in water for 6 to 8 hours or overnight (that’s an important step!), then drained
1 apple, cored and sliced
1/2 cup dried coconut flakes
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons maple syrup or 1 tablespoon agave nectar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup raw almonds, chopped
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, chopped
2/3 cup raisins
Preheat oven to 250F. Grease 2 baking sheets with the oil. Process the oats, apple, coconut, cinnamon, sweetener, vanilla and salt in a food processor for 30 seconds. Scrape sides, process for another 30 seconds, and repeat one more time.
Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and combine with the almonds, pumpkin seeds, and raisins. Mix thoroughly with a spoon. (In the book, this recipe says to add the raisins at this point but also says to add the raisins at the end, after the granola has finished cooking and has cooled. I opted to try both ways and prefer adding the raisins at the very end as their softness is a good contrast to the crunch of the oat groats and nuts.)
Spread the mixture in a thin layer on the baking sheets and bake for 2 to 4 hours– also an important step!- turning the granola over a few times with a spatula, until dry and crisp. Keeps for 3 to 4 weeks in an airtight container- so very yummy!
A lot of Jurek’s anecdotes early in the book relate to his hesitation in eating a completely meat-free diet and most of the recipes included were life changing, in this way, for Jurek. He writes: “The night I tasted this chili is the night I decided I could be a happy, athletic vegetarian. One mouthful made me realize that vegetarian food could taste just as good, and have just as hearty a texture, as meat-based foods.”
So, of course I had to try it! And, of course, he was right!
Minnesota Winter Chili
2 tablespoons coconut oil or olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup finely chopped onion
8–10 medium mushrooms, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped carrots
1 jalapeño pepper or other hot pepper, seeded and minced (optional)
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
2 tablespoons chili powder, or to taste
2 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 15-ounce can tomato purée
1 15-ounce can kidney beans, drained
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained
1 15-ounce can red beans, drained
2 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup dry bulgur wheat
Hot sauce or cayenne pepper (optional)
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro, for garnish
Add the oil to a large pot. Sauté the vegetables and spices in the oil over medium to medium-low heat for 10 minutes or until tender. Add a few tablespoons of water if the veggies begin sticking to the pot. Add the remaining ingredients except the cilantro and simmer over medium-low heat, covered, for 30 minutes. Stir and simmer for an additional 20 to 30 minutes until the veggies are cooked through. Season with salt and, if more spice is desired, hot sauce or cayenne pepper to taste. Serve sprinked with the cilantro. Makes 8-10 servings.
Usually, I make one dinner for 2 nights but we ate this chili 4 nights IN A ROW it was just that good! Extremely filling- one bowl and my tummy was completely satiated- and I could see myself making this chili several more times in the future- absolutely delish! It was so satisfying, in fact, that I felt completely guilty ever serving my family a ground turkey, beans and corn based chili in the past- where are the veggies and health benefits in that compared to THIS???
I can’t say, yet, if this has improved my running or not, I would really and truly have to commit to veganism as a complete and total lifestyle change in order to asses that. Will I do it? Well, the idea is certainly appealing… but so is a bacon cheeseburger every now and then.
I think that the best way to transition to a vegetarian or vegan diet is to find recipes that you like so much, you would be willing to make them over and over again. These 3 are just that. And if you want more… well, you’ll have to buy the book!
Have you ever tried Jurek’s or any other vegan recipes? Any great vegan recipes/books/blogs to recommend?
- Eat and Run: Vegan Style (therunnersmuse.wordpress.com)
- Ultrarunner Scott Jurek to discuss plant-based diet, performance in Missoula (missoulian.com)