This was a favorite of mine before I even made the transition to a 100% plant-based diet. We usually toast some mustard seeds along with the cumin seeds at the beginning of the recipe and add several bunches of spinach into the simmering stew just before serving.
This has been a hit when we host larger dinner parties, or if we know we have a busy week ahead and need to heat something up quickly for lunch or dinner. I like this recipe more than most other lentil burger recipes because of its mustardy and complex flavor profile.
Doubling or tripling this recipe essentially takes just as much time as making a single batch, so we usually make a lot of these at a time as well. We usually keep the black beans on the side, as we like the way they taste with the brown rice. We also always make sure to have plenty of fresh cilantro for garnishing. We either leave out the cheesy component completely or substitute with a vegan cheese.
Nothing gets me more excited than a “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” (or BHAG). Seriously – I LOVE to think big and push myself to the next level. It excites me just as much when others take on monumental goals for themselves as well. I’m your biggest cheerleader if you’ve decided to run a marathon, or joined a fitness group, or decide to go back to school for that graduate degree. When people pause their lives and analyze their path and decide to do something about it I am inspired and on board. When people take control of their lives and feel empowered to extend past their comfort zone to learn more about themselves, I’m your biggest fan. I will encourage and support you because I fundamentally believe in the ever evolving human.
When Robbie approached me about running across the U.S., I was nothing short of ecstatic for him. What a big turn of events from managing a busy and booming pizzeria. His physical, mental, emotional, logistical and organizational demands would be monumental – but he would be pursuing a BHAG so it would sustain him! This transcon run would be big enough, daunting enough and exciting enough to keep his passion ignited and renew his motivation. I was stoked for his newfound excitement for really taking charge and creating his own life story. Robbie asked for my expertise in vegan nutrition planning as well as to act as crew chief for the epic journey of a lifetime and without hesitation I said “yes!”
A Little About Me
I’m from Austin, TX (yup! born and raised) and have been 21 years meatless. I more recently found veganism 5 years ago, and as my journey has evolved in the plant-based vegan world I only become more and more intrigued with the science, data, activist stances, and new recipes to try. When I gave up dairy in 2014 I suddenly stopped feeling sick after my meals! I remember having the realization that one could feel full AND feel satisfied – not sick. I never looked back. I discovered I was lactose intolerant and had been completely unconscious to how I was feeding my body. Once I started paying attention and becoming more aware, educated and conscious I could never include animal products in my life again.
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” —Maya Angelou.
That Maya Angelou quote really stuck with me and was a mantra for me. Since I knew better and had become much more conscious about the exploitation of animals and the health and environmental effects of using animal products for our consumption, I felt a fundamental obligation to do better. I had to walk the walk and embrace veganism fully. It was a solo journey for a while and at times was difficult without a like-minded community. My family was supportive, my co-workers intrigued, but largely I was forging my newfound vegan path on my own – spending a lot of my spare time researching and learning.
Once I became fully vegan I noticed my athletic recovery improved significantly. I found many new PRs and a Boston Qualifying marathon time all while sustaining a whole foods plant based diet.
More recently I took a break from endurance running to pursue cycling. I had always LOVED cycling in triathlons, but hadn’t taken the sport too seriously until fall of 2017. I joined a local women’s team and noticed how quickly I was able to recover during a single race or in between races or workouts. This proved very important in the sport of bike racing as I only needed to spend a small amount of time recovering in the draft and could push again without feeling completely fatigued from the previous attack or big push, earning me many podium finishes. This was exciting considering it was a brand new sport to me and I knew my fuel sources played a role in my athletic successes.
My Epic Journey
In the spring of 2018 my husband, Jamie, and I decided to push the pause button on our decade-long career of teaching and take a sabbatical year. We chose to thru hike the Appalachian Trail, a footpath that goes from Georgia to Maine through the Appalachian mountains to kick off the year. We hiked 2,190.9 miles on the trail with an elevation gain equivalent to summiting Mt. Everest 16.5 times while carrying all our own equipment and food to sustain us. It took us 5 months to complete the hike (which is considered to be on the quicker side) and we did the entire hike on a vegan diet. Our start date of June 16, 2018 was the first day Jamie decided to go 100% vegan. We plunged together into the wilderness and roamed the woods with lighter food weight than most and were lucky not to experience extreme weight loss issues.
I was so careful about planning our nutrition ahead of time. I knew that losing too much weight would be problematic and was a legitimate concern, so I spent a lot of time researching different foods and calculating their caloric density in my AT spreadsheet, aiming for high calorie foods. We needed to get between 2,500 calories and 5,000 daily calories (Jamie needed more calories than I did as men lose weight much more easily than women do on the AT). By the end of the hike, I weighed exactly the same as I did when I started, and Jamie lost about 12 lbs. Of note, he had intentionally gained 15 lbs before starting our hike in an effort to curb too much weight loss below baseline. We were able to stave off “hiker hunger” because of our incredible nutrition
Becoming a Plant-Based Nutritionist
My experience with hiking the Appalachian Trail gave me a sense of what Robbie’s undertaking would be like with a Transcon Run. Though there are some pretty stark differences, I actually think there are more similarities than differences in our undertakings. Food weight and caloric density would not be a concern for Robbie, but he will also need to consume significantly more calories than we did because running 40 miles a day is significantly more taxing on the body than backpacking 20 miles a day in the mountains. He will be moving at a much faster rate than we did and therefore burning more calories. I think there is a lot of overlap in the mental game when planning or executing something of such grandiose proportions, and I think my experiences on the AT will help me significantly to crew Robbie.
The transition from completing the Appalachian Trail to becoming Robbie’s crew chief and nutritionist for the Transcon has been somewhat seamless. I have also decided to take classes online at The Center for Nutrition Studies to earn a certificate in plant-based nutrition and will complete the course right before the start of the Transcon. I aspire to use my experience as a vegan endurance athlete who thru hiked the AT as well as my experience with planning Robbie’s nutrition on the Transcon to help others who want to make the switch from eating animals to plants. For many people making that full switch can be daunting, but I know that the benefits are layered and can affect not only one’s individual health and well-being but that of the health of our planet.
Stay in touch! I wrote daily while on the Appalachian Trail and posted my thoughts and reflections on my blog: www.jackiejamie.com. Subscribe to my blog there to learn about my future endeavors as a plant-based nutritionist (coming soon!)
This morning I woke up in the back of my small travel van at a rest area somewhere in Texas about five hours north of Austin. I’m en route from my home in Denver to Austin to run the Austin Marathon, throw a post-race party with NadaMoo at Cheer Up Charlie’s, and retrieve the van that will end up towing my crew’s pull-behind camper for the Transcon. For the 2.5 months that it will take me to run from Los Angeles to New York City, this camper will act as our home away from home.
As I woke today, my first thought was that I was exactly one month away from starting this big run. The next thing that entered my mind was the song “Bad to the Bone” by George Thorogood. If this is a sign of what awaits me on the road, things are looking up. I very vividly remember listening to this song as a child in my mom’s white 1989 Transam Firebird, long before I was even able to see over the dashboard. I was sure that my mother and I were bad to the bone.
This memory sent me down a nostalgic path contemplating how I ever arrived at this juncture in my life in the first place. I thought about what it was that possessed me to even dream about running across the U.S. I wasn’t thinking about it in such a literal sense, though. In my last blog post, I already told a story about my development into becoming a runner. I was reflecting from a much more fundamental perspective. Who in my life instilled in me the confidence and/or insanity to think it was a good idea or even possible to set my sights on something so extreme?
For now, I’ll explore my early influences: the people who provided me with the foundation of how I became me.
When I was 2.5 years old, my father drowned in a boating accident on Lake Lanier outside of Atlanta, Georgia, leaving my mother to raise me alone. I can only imagine the pain and suffering that all those around me must have felt around this tragedy. I was so young. Young enough that I barely remember it except for the sadness felt by those around me. What I do remember is the family members that came forward to fill the void left by my father’s absence. The pillars of my childhood, the most impactful figures of my youth, were my mother and my two grandfathers.
My mom was always there and did everything she could to make sure I didn’t go without. I owe everything to her and can only imagine how scary and daunting it must have been to feel the weight of not only being my mother but also now having to fill the shoes of a father. I could go on for days about all the ways she put me first and taught me the ways of the world, but for sake of this story, I’ll just focus on one saying she used to recite to me often, “You can do anything you set your mind to.” She repeated this phrase all the time. It was empowering in its simplicity, and it has stuck with me always.
My dad’s dad (Papa) and my dad’s mom (we called her… Grandmother) owned a farm in the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains. Many times, Papa would pick me up from school on Fridays and take me up to their farm to stay for the weekend. As we departed on the 1.5-hour drive to the farm, we always stopped by the liquor store. He would run inside and come back with a bottle of Wild Turkey Whiskey in a brown paper bag. I remember asking, “Papa, what’s that for?” and he’d reply, “In case I get bit by a snake.” For years I was convinced that the pastures surrounding their house were full of snakes.
On these weekends he would often take me and my cousin fishing at the pond on their property. Sometimes he would just drive us around to help him check on the cattle, or maybe we’d help him tend the garden. I remember these times very fondly and knew without a doubt that we were loved. He would often cut up with us, pinching me on the stomach. I’d squirm, and he’d ask, “Are you tough as nails?” I’d do my best to stop squirming and take the light pinch, because I wanted to prove to him that I was. I was tough as nails.
My mother’s father (Pa) couldn’t have been more different from Papa, but I loved and respected him equally. My mom’s whole family (Pa, Nana, and her siblings) lived in Texas, outside of Dallas. Though they were geographically far away from where we lived in Georgia, we saw them often. Sometimes they came to visit us in Georgia, and every year, my mother and I traveled to Texas for major holidays and for a portion of the summer.
Pa was a business man. He was well-traveled, good looking, and dapper as hell. Nana and Pa’s home felt like a scene from the hit show of the time Dallas. It was a split level suburban mansion with a billiards room, bar, swimming pool, and massive chain link fenced yard with horses. They drove a Cadillac and a hunter green Jaguar. Pa would often take me along on his business trips to West Texas and Mexican border towns. I would accompany him in meetings and it wasn’t long before I’d intervene to remind him about a detail or point that he had missed.
He was a man of confidence, never short on humor, and was always the life of the party. He enjoyed Johnny Walker Red and was a big fan of old westerns, especially anything starring Clint Eastwood. From these movies of Texas gun slingers he derived a saying, “If you’re going to shoot, shoot.” He of course never meant this literally, but rather with the intention of teaching me that if I wanted to do something, I shouldn’t waste my time talking about it. Instead, do it. As with the other two sayings passed down to me I took this to heart.
You can do anything you set your mind to. You are tough as nails. If you’re going to shoot, shoot. These three sayings are at the core of who I try to be. They are the cornerstones of virtues I hold dear.
I can do anything I set my mind to. I am capable of anything. I am tough as nails. I am strong enough. If I’m going to shoot, shoot. I will follow through.