Prep time: 90 minutes (for draining/marinating); Bake time: 20 minutes.
As the leaves start to change color and fall brings mercy on overheated skaters in every state except Texas, certain trends are inevitable, like the rise in #basic autumn accoutrements, such as Uggs and jeggings, and an abundance of pumpkin spice everything, from lattes to multi-vitamins.
For many, fall also inevitably mandates one or more viewings of Tim Burton’s masterpiece, The Nightmare Before Christmas (which I believe merits viewing in October more than December, title notwithstanding). If I had to guess, I’d say I’m not the only skateboarder that feels an almost inexplicable connection to this film; while the macabre and offbeat imagery are enough to entice anybody with a sweet-tooth for the abnormal, there’s something lurking under the surface that encapsulates the life of a skateboarder without there ever actually being a skateboard in the film. Though I typically analyze skate videos, pros, spots, etc., I want to divert for a second and wax philosophical on why this short, animated musical presents such a special connection to skateboarding.
If you haven’t seen the movie, watch it. It’s brief, beautifully crafted through years of stop-motion animation, and surprisingly emotional. At its core, the film chronicles a jaded Jack Skellington’s attempt to share his sudden infatuation with an audience that will never (not in a million years) understand it.
The protagonist, the “Pumpkin King” of Halloween Town, is (literally) sucked into a world he never imagined and instantly tantalized by its inventiveness, beauty and ambient joy. When he attempts to recreate this with his brethren, a festive collection of horror-inspired monsters with a marked inability to celebrate anything other than (Disney-level) fear and screams, he soon realizes that sharing his new-found passion will, at best, lead to a dilution and bastardization of his inspiration (and, at worst, complete destruction of the world of merriment he seeks to recreate).
As skateboarders, we all go through this on some level. Skateboarding’s grasp on our hearts is sudden and merciless. Like an opioid addiction, no amount of skateboarding is ever enough and once you step on a board, your view of the world is forever tinted (for the better, I’d argue). Additionally, as Jack’s attempt to recreate Christmas with those who can’t understand it is destined to fail, a litany of half-baked movies, books, ads and youth groups have shown that trying to inject skateboarding into the veins of a society that has largely never stepped on the board is equally futile. The film’s scene of Halloween Town characters preparing roadkill as stocking stuffers is reminiscent of Axe Body Spray’s attempt to embrace skateboarding with a “double-pits-to-chesty.”
There is a dichotomy, however, between the film’s ending and the resolution that each skateboarder finds in his or her soul. While the film concludes with the characters of Halloween Town singing in awe as they experience a fraction of Jack’s understanding and Jack more or less returning to his status quo with a revamped appreciation for the drudgery he once disdained, it doesn’t appear as though there’s any return to—for lack of a better word—normalcy for the smitten skateboarder. We look at the world through a beautiful, permanent filter: a cityscape is our playground, the tweak on a kickflip rivals the beauty of a radiant sunrise, and a freshly-painted curb is as masterful as the Mona Lisa. Just like Jack realized it was a fruitless endeavor to share Christmas with the citizens of Halloween Town, it would be foolish to expect the layperson to understand the allure of these intricacies. However, unlike Jack’s eventual embrace of the bored king he was before, once skateboarding burrows into your heart, there’s no going back; we are skateboarders until we die, and I can’t think of a more beautiful ending.
Anyway, in the spirit of the season and to appease the #basicskitch in all of us, this week’s recipe is an ode to pumpkin spice mania and the joy that comes with a cooler-than-90° skate session. I present to you, the #BasicSkitch: Pumpkin Spice Quinoa with Ginger Tofu.
While pumpkin spice lattes have been all but stigmatized by the beta-kappa-basic patrons that guzzle them unforgivingly, pumpkin is another great inflammation fighter that deserves a recurring role in the mindful skateboarder’s diet. Not only is pumpkin high in vitamins A and C, which fight inflammation and boost the body’s immune system, respectively, but it also is high in L-tryptophan, which has been shown to fight depression. (Bummed on that rolled ankle? Eat up!) I think we can all agree that pumpkin spice Cheerios (yes, it’s a thing) might be a little labored, but mixing pumpkin into quinoa—a great source of complete protein, iron and fiber—makes for a delicious and practical seasonal pairing. Throw in some toasted pecans and top it with a savory serving of sizzling ginger-marinated tofu for some extra protein and you have the perfect meal to come home to after a long day of skating in the crisp fall weather.
- 1 block (14 oz) extra firm tofu (drained and pressed)
- 1 cup red quinoa (dry)
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup kale (chopped)
- ½ cup pecans (chopped and toasted)
- 2 tbsp. soy sauce
- ½ tbsp. garlic (minced)
- 1 tsp. ginger (minced)
- 1 tsp. pumpkin spice
- ½ tsp. nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
- salt, to taste
- Cooking spray/olive oil (for tofu)
- First thing’s first, drain the block of tofu and then press it. If you’re unfamiliar with pressing tofu, check out my trick tip article on pressing/focusing tofu here. While the tofu is pressing, mince up the garlic and ginger. If you don’t have pre-minced garlic and ginger, you can mince these up by using a zester or the fine side of a cheese grater (see below). Once those are minced, throw them into a small bowl or glass with the soy sauce and mix them up.
- Once the tofu has been pressed, cut it into four equal blocks, place them into a shallow container, and then pour the soy sauce/garlic/ginger marinade over them (see below). Cover the container and place in the fridge for at least one hour, flipping the tofu after 30 minutes.
- While the tofu is marinating, preheat the oven to 250°F. On a foil-lined baking sheet, bake the pecan pieces for 10 minutes or until slightly toasted. Combine the quinoa and water in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Stir once and then bring the heat down to a low simmer, cover the pot, and leave for 15-20 minutes or until the water has evaporated.
- Once the pecans are toasted and the quinoa is boiled, fluff the quinoa with a fork, then add in the pumpkin, kale, pecans, pumpkin spice, nutmeg, cinnamon (optional) and salt and mix until evenly distributed.
- Once the tofu has marinated for at least an hour, heat up a skillet on medium heat and add the cooking spray or olive oil. Place the tofu on the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes per side (on all four sides) or until the tofu is slightly browned and crispy on the outside. Add the tofu to the quinoa, chow down, and relish in being #basic.
- Go watch The Nightmare Before Christmas and marvel at its unintentional allegory for skateboarding.
Yield: 4 servings. Per Serving: 415 calories, 16g fat, 42g carbs, 20g protein.