With Olympic fever set anew, I felt a tad guilty sitting on my latest find. Perhaps you have already heard about it? Matt’s book, No Meat Athlete: part nutrition advice for athletes, part vegan transition guide, and part cookbook. Matt freely admits he is your typical average guy. No Olympian-in-training, but through his quest to qualify and run the Boston Marathon, he picked up the vegan bug and pushed himself to the next level.
I am certainly no runner. Cycling is my sport of choice. However, his story echoes my own. While learning to best prepare my (formerly?) non-athletic self to cycle a double imperial century ride (361 km/224 mi), I discovered the benefits of vegan foods. I fell hard for the advantages of regular exercise (no pun intended on my knees). At the time, I cobbled together bits and pieces of my culinary and cycling journey through books mainly by Brendan Brazier with a shout-out for women’s cycling guides.
At the time, veganism was not mainstream (and is still not popular – only 2% call themselves vegan in the US) which makes this book perfect. This guide is perfect for the beginner: the beginner to vegan eats, the beginner to fuelling yourself as an athlete and the beginner to running (or any endurance sport). Pick any of the three and you will glean something from Matt’s quest to inform himself to conquer his athletic goals. This is not to say that if you have any experience in any of these areas you will not gain more information, you might, or it may remind you to try new things, inspire you to run a marathon, or simply eat good food.
His advice for athletes are pertinent for most cardio-intensive sports (like cycling), although he has specific advice for a beginner who wants to learn how to run. The best part is that Matt shares his favourite recipes to fuel you, too.
All of Matt’s recipes are catered to optimal nutrition. Fast, healthy and tasty. Approachable dinner meals like Variations on Beans and Rice (I really liked his Mexican version) and desserts like black bean brownies. He also offers blueprints for creating your own culinary masterpieces: The Perfect Smoothie Formula, Your Own Energy Bar Recipe, or The Incredible Veggie Burger Formula. For the athletes, there are sport-specific recipes like chia fresca, homemade energy gels and homemade sports drink.
Nutrition aside, it must taste good, too, and these do not disappoint.
I was not joking about eating tacos for breakfast, lunch and dinner. After the tacos were no longer fresh, no longer as soft as a baby’s bum, I resorted to Matt’s recipe: South of the Border Tortilla Soup. Not your typical tortilla soup topped with tortillas, rather the tortillas are blended INSIDE your soup. Before I found corn tortillas in Houston, I considered substituting masa harina/masa arepa, but now I had no excuse. Make thee some Mexican-inspired soup.
Black beans, corn, green chiles, tomatoes, cumin and corn tortillas. All in one soup. Topped with avocado and cilantro. It reminded me of a grown-up version of one of my favourite soups from university: stupid easy black bean and salsa soup. I tried to stay as true to Matt’s recipe for reviewing purposes but his suggestion to pan-fry the tortillas did not work so easily for me. Baking them might actually be easier which is what I shared in the following recipe. In any case, a big pot of delicious soup. For athletes and non-athletes alike.
Thankfully, the publisher is letting me give a cookbook to one reader living in the United States, Canada or the United Kingdom (YES!). To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me what kind of exercise you enjoy or your favourite recipe you have tried (or want to try) from Matt’s website No Meat Athlete. I will randomly select a winner on February 22, 2014. Good luck!
Other recipes from No Meat Athlete shared online:
South of the Border Tortilla Soup
Adapted, minimally, from No Meat Athlete
4 corn tortillas, chopped
1 tbsp coconut oil, or oil of choice
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup corn kernels, thawed if frozen
4 cloves garlic, chopped or pressed
1 tbsp ground cumin
28 oz can diced tomatoes with green chiles (or 2 x 14.5 oz cans), undrained
2 tbsp tomato paste
8 cups vegetable broth
3 cups cooked black beans (or 2 x 15 oz cans, rinsed and drained)
salt and pepper, to taste
juice of 1 lime
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and diced, for garnish
large handful cilantro, chopped, for garnish
1. (Full disclosure: I tried Matt’s method to pan-fry the corn tortillas but mine stuck to the pan, so I recommend baking them instead). Preheat oven to 350F. Place chopped corn tortillas on a baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes, until crisp, being careful not to let burn. Remove from oven and let cool.
2. Meanwhile, in a large soup pot over medium heat, heat oil. Once hot, add onion, sprinkle with some salt and saute until softened, around 5 minutes. Add corn and garlic and heat through, around 1 minute. Stir in cumin and toast for 30 seconds, until fragrant. Combine with the vegetables and add tomatoes, tomato paste and vegetable broth. Increase heat to high to bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.
3. Add a portion of the corn tortillas to the soup and carefully blend the soup (making sure you allow steam to escape if using a blender) until you obtain the consistency you desire. Using a high-speed blender, it only took me one second, but an immersion blender would work well here. Return the soup to the pot and add the black beans. Warm to your desired temperature.
4. Stir in lime juice and taste. Season with salt and pepper. Top with avocado, cilantro and any leftover baked corn tortillas.
(Matt says serves 8-10, we failed and ate it much faster!)