So I’m not really a fan of gyms. Translation: a large grey box where humans donning synthetic, dry wick clothing bounce around in place on Star Wars-ish looking machines covered in sanitary spray and old sweat. I’ve signed up at many gyms over the years, each time with a renewed sense of determination that I can and will be like the rest of the world, and find joy at the prospect of running in place inside an overheated, noisy petri dish of human sweat. But I never do. Perhaps it’s the germs, or the potential for crowds, or the sanitary spray that goes on everything, or the big guy who sweats like a beast and then doesn’t clean his machine, and it’s the only one open.
Don’t get me wrong, I like to sweat; I love the burning feeling you get in your chest that simultaneously hurts and satisfies when you reach the height of your endurance. But I can’t do that inside on a lifeless manmade object that tells me how many calories I’ve burned. I feel like a hamster on a wheel, like Sisyphus on his hill, forever compelled to roll that stupid boulder to the top only to watch it fall back down again. There’s no sense of accomplishment, no rush of excitement when the red glowing numbers on my machine flash meaningless data at me or the miniature television plays E! News, and insults women across the globe by its fascination with Kim Kardashian. In a world where we already do almost everything indoors, short of walking from our homes to our cars, how can I stuff myself into another sunless grey box?
And since it’s nearly spring, and the first green shoots of crocus have sprung from the damp, cold earth, I feel even more compelled to run outside and breathe the fresh air. I also feel like eating something crisp and refreshing. Solution? A high protein blast of Greek bean salad with tofu feta! This salad is a cinch to make and will satiate your belly long after that gloriously muddy hike with your pup. This dish would also be perfect as crudite on whole wheat toast, or as a topping for pasta. Here I’ve served the salad over a giant collard leaf, but I recommend trying it tossed with baby arugula or some crisp romaine. Warning, this recipe makes a lot of feta. I suggest only using half of it for the salad, then storing the rest in your fridge for later use as a delicious protein-rich topping or snack!
Greek Bean Salad with Tofu Feta
For the salad:
1 can navy or cannellini beans, rinsed
1 tomato, chopped
1 handful kalamata olives, chopped in half
2 T red onion, diced
1/2 cucumber, diced
2 handfuls romaine or arugula lettuce *optional
For the feta:
1 block extra firm tofu, crumbled by hand (I highly recommend The Bridge, a local CT company!)
Splash of fresh water
2 T chickpea miso (I recommend South River Miso Company)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp sea salt
1 T dried italian herbs
2 T nutritional yeast
In a mixing bowl, whisk together all feta ingredients except for the tofu. Now gently fold in crumbled tofu and coat with mixture. In a salad bowl, add all salad ingredients and 1/2 of the tofu feta. Season with extra red wine vinegar if needed. Makes enough for 2-4 mud-covered unicorns experiencing post-hike bliss.
Whenever I have to do something that involves a visit to a government run agency, I realize that those cocktail parties aren’t so bad after all.
I needed to renew my passport. I’m an american citizen and I already have a passport, shouldn’t be too complicated, right? Wrong. I brought my passport to the post office along with my marriage license, driver’s license, american flag, soul, and cross. This didn’t change anything. The woman at the desk looked at me as if I was a criminal, handed me a form, and told me that I had to go somewhere else to have my photo taken. “Why can’t I do it here?” I asked. “Cannot do it here,” was her reply. Fine. I went to AAA and got my photo taken, and you know what? They’re really nice there and didn’t charge me anything for my photos. I started to feel better about the whole process, and brought my filled out form and photos back to the evil post office woman. No good. She said that because I had gotten married, I needed to make a notarized copy of my marriage license. “I have it right here…can’t you just make a copy or sign off that I showed it to you?” She shook her head, and I felt the distinct urge to scream. I gave her a fake smile and said “thanks for your help,” sarcasm heavy on my tongue, and went to town hall.
The office was in the basement, at the end of a long corridor. I was feeling sorry for myself until I saw how bad the town hall people had it. Their bodies were slowly expanding over the sides of their chairs, and desks were littered with glass jars of jelly beans and hershey’s kisses. A plaque bearing the words “Live, Love, Laugh” brought on a feeling of sudden nausea, not to mention the seasonal decorations; an attempt to evoke the feeling of celebrating the season, but instead only managing to look cheap. The windows, which overlooked a slope of dirt and a few gangly bushes, was littered with scarecrows and dried corn stalks. Black spiders and cats hung above the windows. I felt as though I had been transported to a scarier version of The Wizard of Oz. $25 dollars later, I was given a copy of my marriage license from a woman wearing earrings that said “Boo!”, and drove back to the post office. I wrote a check for $110, then paid a few more dollars to mail everything out to the passport processing center, and then, I was done. Hooray! It only took me three hours, four stops, four different people, and $140 dollars to renew my passport! What an efficient system!
In light of the time I wasted for passport renewal, I will share a lovely pasta recipe of mine that takes 30 minutes or less to make, and tastes so delicious that you’ll feel like you’re dining in an Italian countryside, with or without your passport. I use tempeh for an added boost of protein and to give the dish a meatier texture. If you don’t like capers and olives, then I don’t know what to say except: I’m sorry. Capers and olives make pasta extraordinary so if you’ve never tried this combination out before, now is the perfect time!
Penne Perfection with Tempeh, Capers, and Olives
1/2 bag or 3 cups whole wheat penne (I use Bionaturae brand) or brown rice pasta (I use Jovial brand)
1 jar marinara sauce (if you’re not using homemade, splurge a little on the good stuff…Rao’s marinara sauce = amazing)
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, sliced
1 package tempeh, crumbled (I use SoyBoy soy or five grain tempeh)
generous splash of white wine or stock to deglaze the pan
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 container or 2 cups button mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch kale, stems removed and roughly chopped
1/2 jar capers + brine (I use Mediterranean Organics capers)
generous handful of kalamata olives, pitted (buy them pitted, otherwise make a unicorn work on pitting them while you do the rest of the cooking)
sea salt & black pepper to taste
Fill a large pot halfway with water, add a small handful of salt (yup, handful. Water for pasta should almost taste like teardrops), and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, heat oil on medium flame and add onions, cooking for a few minutes until soft and starting to brown. Add crumbled tempeh and stir occasionally, until cooked through, about five minutes (the tempeh will stick, and that’s okay!). Deglaze the pan with wine or stock, using a wooden spoon to loosen the crispy bits from the bottom of the pan. Now add garlic and mushrooms. Once the water is boiling in your pot, use a colander, chinois, or strainer to briefly submerge kale in water. Press out excess water with spoon, then add to saute pan. Turn down flame to low and add capers, olives and marinara sauce. allow to simmer for a few minutes while you cook the pasta according to package instructions (usually about 10 minutes for whole wheat). Once the pasta is al dente, drain in colander and place back in pot with a little olive oil. Now add the entire mixture in your saute pan to the pot and mix everything together with a little salt and pepper. Serve to four italian-wannabe unicorns.