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November 2, 2004

Small-Time Cooks

Maria and I were busy in the kitchen, and the weather wasn't helping much either. Besides that, I knew this guy who had a date with destiny, and I was afraid he wasn't going to make it. He had to face down this nut who was crazy enough to make sense to a lot of people. I'd heard his act for years now and wasn't convinced.

Since Maria and I were so busy, we whipped up some snacks to take on the go. Maria had a great recipe for quick vegetable sandwiches and granola, and we could go all night if we had to.

Stewed Vegetable and Black Bean Sandwiches

1 zucchini, cut into sticks

2 portobello mushroom caps, diced

1 bell pepper, diced

2 tomatoes, seeded and diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

2 Tablespoons cooking wine

fresh ground black pepper

1 cucumber, sliced

black bean hummus, dip, or salsa

toasted sandwich rolls or buns

When dicing the vegetables, cut them into nicely sized pieces. If they're too small, you'll end up with a mush of mixed flavors. Put a little olive oil in a pot over medium high heat, and add in the garlic and bell pepper. Let simmer for a couple minutes, and then add in the mushrooms and zucchini. Once they soften, add the balsamic vinegar and cooking wine, and lower the heat to medium low. Add the tomatoes and plenty of fresh black pepper, and cover the pot. Stew the vegetables for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain the liquid off (keep it as a dipping sauce if you want). Spread some of the black bean hummus or dip on the bread (it's also good on pita), and top with the stewed vegetables and freshly sliced cucumber. Cheese and hot mustard are also good on the sandwich. Black bean hummus can be hard to find, but salsa or black bean dip works well too. You can make your own by rinsing off canned black beans and mashing them lightly with a fork, then mixing them with some corn and diced peppers or cilantro.

Granola

3 cups quick-cooking oats

1 cup sliced almonds

1 cup roasted sunflower seeds

3/4 cup dried raisins

3/4 cup dried cranberries

1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk

Heat an oven to 350 degrees. Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix in the sweetened condensed milk with your hands. Mix everything together evenly, and spread out onto a baking sheet that is greased or covered with nonstick aluminum foil. Bake 15 to 25 minutes, depending on how crispy you want the granola. Once cool, turn the pan over and cut into bars, or just break apart.

Really, the fruit and nuts are just one combination you could do. You only need about 3 1/2 cups of stuff to add in with the oats. Another tasty combo is 1 cup of chocolate chips, 1 cup of sliced almonds, 1 cup of dried fruit (like cherries, raisins, or cranberries), 1/2 cup of macadamia nut chunks, and a Tablespoon of orange zest.

The sandwiches are completely vegan. If you want to make the granola vegan, you can try using peanut butter, as recommended by one of our friends. You probably won't need as much, since it is much stickier.