Mother of Invention: Red Bean & Jamaican Collard Green Burgers

Jamaican Red Bean & Collard Greens Burger

“Necessity is the mother of invention.” When it comes to plant-based meals, necessity has become the mother of recipes. One of my biggest frustrations with following a plant-based diet is eating out. When we find a new restaurant that has even just one vegan offering we make it a point to try it out and hopefully become regular patrons. This is the case with a restaurant in our downtown area. When they first opened up, I was delighted to see that they serve black bean burgers. The appearance of a black bean burger on a menu isn’t anything special because it’s been my experience that most vegan options are either a grilled vegetable sandwich, a hummus wrap or . . .  a black bean burger. In any case, we’re happy that there’s something for us. On a recent visit to our go-to place for black bean burgers I was somewhat disappointed. The beans were barely smashed, the flavor was flat and the burger fell apart and out of the bun. Even a healthy pour of barbeque sauce couldn’t rescue my lunch. As so often happens, Bruce was subjected to my usual frustrating and somewhat rant-like questions. “How hard is it to have a bean burger on the menu?” or  “You would think they could come up with something other than a black bean burger. After all there are so many types of beans.” Sheesh! And then I start to rattle off all the different burgers I make. Gumbo Burger. Mushroom Burger. Frank n’ Burger. Jamaican Red Bean Burger. Corned Beet Reuben Burger. Chic Filet Burger. Hoppin’ John Burger. Mushroom Barley Burger. Sounds like a scene from the movie Forest Gump. On the way home I thought about my next burger recipe. I knew I had some leftover Jamaican collard greens and baked sweet potatoes in the fridge and a few cans of red beans in the pantry. I pulsed these ingredients in my food processor and added oatmeal to absorb any excess liquid and keep the burgers together. I kicked it up a notch by adding more Jamaican curry powder. I let them “firm up” in the fridge, then cooked them on a non-stick electric griddle. Since I still had more of the collard greens left, I used them to top off the burgers. (I recommend making the collard greens ahead of time and using the leftovers to make the burgers.) These burgers are so flavorful (and stay inside the bun) that they just might be my favorite burger recipe so far. Or it might be a close second to my Frank n’ Burger. Oh, but what about that Chic-filet Burger? One thing I know for sure — there will be more bean burger recipes being invented in my kitchen. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Red Bean & Jamaican Collard Green Burgers

2 cans red kidney beans, drained
1 cup Jamaican collard greens, drained of any liquid (see below)
1 cup cooked sweet potato
½ cup old-fashioned oats, processed into a coarse flour
1 teaspoon Jamaican curry powder

additional Jamaican collard greens for topping

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place all ingredients in food processor and pulse until beans are smashed and all ingredients are mixed together. Form into patties and place on parchment paper. (A one-half cup measure makes a large burger to fit a Kaiser bun. One-third cup will fit a standard hamburger bun. Refrigerate a few hours to firm up.

When ready to cook, preheat oven to 350F. Place baking sheet in oven and bake about 20 minutes, flipping once halfway through baking. Alternately, you can use a non-stick electric griddle to grill the burgers.

Jamaican Collard Greens

1 lb. collard greens, thinly sliced or chopped
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tomato, chopped
½ to 1 Scotch Bonnet or Habanero pepper, seeds intact (see note)
1 teaspoon Jamaican curry powder
2 cups water (see notes for cooking in instant pot)
½ cup coconut milk (canned)

Note: depending on your tolerance for hot peppers, use your judgement as to how much of the pepper you want to use and whether or not to scrape the seeds out before cooking.

Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic and saute until lightly browned. Add tomatoes, collard greens, Scotch Bonnet, curry powder and water. Reduce to simmer, cover and cook until very tender (about 1 hour). Add coconut milk, uncover and continue cooking until most of liquid has evaporated.

Instant Pot:

Turn setting to saute. Cook onions until lightly browned. Add garlic and cook one minute, then add ¾ cup water, chopped tomato, curry powder and whole pepper. Place collards on top. Cover and pressure cook on low for 10 minutes. Quick release pressure. Set control to saute setting, then add coconut milk. Continue cooking until coconut milk gets absorbed and any excess liquid is evaporated. Remove pepper.

 

18 Apr 2017

Flexibility: Eggplant Puttanesca

Eggplant Puttanesca & CameBOSH

I like recipes that are flexible. They can be flexible from the standpoint of not needing exact measurements with ingredients that can be easily substituted. Flexible also means that the dish can be served either hot or cold, as an entree or appetizer, and can be served at the table or easily transported to work or a family gathering. One of my favorite eggplant recipes is for Baingan Bhartha, an Indian dish made with grilled eggplant, tomatoes, onions, garlic and ginger. Some time ago I changed it up and made an Italian-influenced Giambotta. Another one of my favorite meals is Pasta Puttanescaa spicy dish made with tomatoes, olives and capers. I took bits and pieces of these dishes and came up with this recipe for Eggplant Puttanesca. I grilled eggplant slices then simmered them with tomatoes, Kalamata olives, capers, garlic and crushed red pepper. It’s a versatile dish that can be enjoyed on its own, with a side of pesto-scented orzo or Italian bread for dunking. It reheats nicely and can be eaten at room temperature which makes for a tasty, make-ahead appetizer. Toss it with a small cut pasta to pack for a workday lunch or to share at an outdoor gathering. I had the leftovers for lunch today with CameBOSH, a warm cheese-like spread from Bosh TV. I still have a little leftover and I’m already dreaming up my next meal. Add a little flexibility to your meal plan with this Eggplant Puttanesca. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

EggplantPuttanesca

Eggplant Puttanesca

8 plum tomatoes (or 1 can Italian plum tomatoes)
1 large eggplant (about 2 pounds)
4 large garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
¼ cup Kalamata olives, sliced in half
2 teaspoons dried marjoram or oregano
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Salt and pepper to taste

Cooked pasta (a small cut like orzo)

If you’re using canned tomatoes, skip this step. Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Using a knife, score an “x” into the blossom end of the tomatoes. Place tomatoes in water long enough for skin to soften and peel away from the flesh of the tomatoes. Place in a colander and when cool enough to handle, remove skins. Place tomatoes in food processor and process until chunky.

Slice eggplants crosswise into 1” thick slices. Preheat outdoor grill on medium heat. (It’s not necessary to coat the grates with oil, but you may do so if you like.) Place eggplants on grill and cook until grill marks appear on both sides. Remove to cutting board and cut slices into quarters or sixths. Set aside.

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. (You can use a small amount of olive oil to coat the skillet if desired.) Add garlic and saute until it starts to brown, adding water 2 tablespoons at a time to prevent sticking. Add tomatoes, capers, olives, marjoram and red pepper. Cook until the sauce starts to thicken. Add eggplant and continue to cook until desired tenderness (about 10 minutes). Season with salt and pepper. Serve with cooked pasta or crusty Italian bread.

12 Apr 2017

Madness to My Method: Mint-Chocolate Smoothie

Mint Chocolate Smoothie

Mint Chocolate Smoothie

There’s a saying that goes “there’s a method to my madness” which means that there is purpose in what one is doing, even though it seems to be crazy. Today’s post is a peek into how my mind works, which I like to think of as the “madness to my method.” A recipe for a mint chocolate chip smoothie popped up on one of my Facebook groups a few weeks ago and it stirred up memories from when I was making my own dairy ice cream. Mint chocolate chip was one of my favorite flavors. Boy, could I go for some right now. So, the recipe that inspired my latest obsession contained fresh mint for flavor and a handful of spinach for color. I don’t know about you, but milk and spinach doesn’t do it for me. One of the first things I discovered about home-made mint ice cream, unlike most commercial ones, is that it’s not green. My approach was to create a smoothie that had a hint of mint and an ice cream-like feeling. I tried a version using frozen peas for what I thought would add a creamy thickness. (Yuk!) I tried using sweet rice as a thickener. I had to soak the rice overnight and steam it the next day, which proved to be too much advance planning for a smoothie. This also resulted in a more “gooey” and less creamy consistency. The chocolate chips were another problem. If I blended them with the other ingredients, they disappeared. When I added them in during the last few seconds they sunk to the bottom of the glass.The flavor of the fresh mint fell flat, so I sent away for a bottle of pure mint extract and put the testing on hold for a few days. While waiting for my shipment to arrive I couldn’t stop thinking about this recipe. What if . . . I just added the mint extract to my go-to cinnamon bun smoothie? What if . . .  I used brown rice instead of sweet rice? What if . . .  I just start from scratch? And the chocolate . . . what if I shave it and stir it in when ready to serve? By the time the extract arrived, I had it sorted out: almond milk, banana, dates, brown rice, oatmeal, mint extract and chocolate shavings. I tend to over-blend my smoothies to get them extra creamy, but that also makes them warm. I find that refrigerating them for a few hours allows the milk to absorb the starch from the oats and rice making for a thicker smoothie. A thicker smoothie helps the chocolate shavings maintain their buoyancy. All of this obsessing paid off with a Mad Good Mint Chocolate Smoothie that’s smooth, creamy, slightly sweet with a tinge of mint and specked with chocolate. Mix up your own batch of blissful madness today. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Mint Chocolate Smoothie

Makes one or two servings

1-½ cups almond milk
1 large frozen banana, sliced
¼ cup old fashioned oats
¼ cup cooked brown rice
4 pitted dates
1/8 teaspoon mint extract
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
Shaved chocolate

Combine all of the ingredients, except the shaved chocolate, in a high-speed blender and process until smooth. Pour into a glass and stir in shaved chocolate. If you would like a thicker smoothie you can place in the refrigerator for a few hours.

05 Apr 2017

The Real Thing? Red Velvet Cupcakes

Red Velvet Cupcake

This is a leftover from February’s Chocolate Challenge. Someone had asked that I come up with plant-based recipe for Red Velvet Cake. Quite honestly, I’ve only had this southern treat about twice and I’ve never made one myself. I thought it might be fun to give it a whirl and here’s what I came up with. However, it comes with one caveat; I’m not well-versed in the making or eating of Red Velvet Cake. I thought it interesting that at first glance, Red Velvet looks like a chocolate cake, but the traditional recipes I looked at did not have much chocolate in them at all. I think what is unique about the cake is the light and fluffy Ermine icing. The icing is made by cooking milk and flour, then whipping it with butter and sugar. Since the icing contains more fat that I care to use in a recipe, I wanted the cake to be virtually fat free. I usually use pumpkin puree to impart a tenderness that is attributed to butter in conventional cake recipes. I decided to replace some of the pumpkin with pureed beets to give the cake a reddish hue. (I was going for a subtler color, so I might change the ratio of beets to pumpkin the next time I make it.) Anyway, the cake came out with a nice texture and unless you’re a super-taster I doubt that you’d detect the presence of beets. Considering that there’s a cup of non-dairy butter in the icing, it came out surprisingly light, fluffy and not greasy. For me, it was an overall success. I got to do some culinary research and kitchen experimentation that resulted in a tasty treat for me and my family. Does it taste like the real thing? Since I’m no expert in the nuances of Red Velvet I can’t say for sure, so I’ll let you be the judge. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Red Velvet Cake

2 cups cashew, almond or soy milk
1 tablespoon vinegar
1-1/4 cups sugar
1/3 cup cooked beets
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 to 4 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour
½ teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda

Ermine icing (see recipe), or other fluffy white icing

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare two8-inch cake pans by coating lightly with non-stick spray or coconut oil. Line bottoms with parchment paper.

Place cashew milk and vinegar in blender container and let sit about 5 minutes. Add sugar, beets, pumpkin and vanilla and process until no pieces of beets remain.

Sift together remaining dry ingredients. Add liquid ingredients and mix until well blended. Divide batter evenly between pans and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes. Cool on a rack completely.

To assemble, place one layer with flat side up on cake platter. Spread some icing on top, then position second layer on top of the first. Use remaining icing on the top and sides of the cake. (The icing will be thin, so you might want to ice just the tops of the layers and allow the icing to drip down the sides of the cake.)

If making cupcakes, line muffin tins with liners and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Makes about 18 cupcakes.

Ermine Icing

5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup cashew milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 cup non-dairy butter (ex. Earth Balance)
1 cup granulated sugar

Over medium heat, whisk flour and milk in a small saucepan and heat to a simmer, stirring frequently until it thickens into a pudding. Remove from heat, whisk in vanilla and salt. Pour into a bowl to allow it to cool completely. Put plastic wrap on the surface to keep a skin from forming.

Use a mixer to cream together non-dairy butter and sugar until light and fluffy, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add the cooled pudding and continue to beat until the mixture until well blended. Refrigerate until to use.

25 Mar 2017

For the Love of Scones: Sweet Potato Scones

Sweet Potato Scones

How do I love scones, let me count the ways. For breakfast, warm out of the oven, with a mug of home-brewed Dunkin Donuts coffee. Re-warmed in the microwave with a cup of hot tea in the afternoon. Right out of a paper bag during the first ten minutes of a two hour road trip, a soy latte riding shot-gun. Even when I was making scones with butter, eggs and buttermilk, they always seemed to be choking-ly dry. (Nothing that a smear of butter wouldn’t fix.) But things are different now. I still love scones, except now I really have to get creative with plant-based ingredients. I use pumpkin in a lot of my baked goods because it seems to make the texture, especially in cakes, moist and tender but not dense. Since scones tend to be on the “hefty” side, I decided to try baked sweet potato in this recipe. (Bake ’em til the syrupy juice oozes out.) For my first attempt, I used almond butter, two-thirds cup of sugar and a combination of almond milk and soy yogurt. I over-mixed the dough so they didn’t have the coarse texture that’s characteristic of scones. Not one to give up so easily, I started on my second batch. I used tahini instead of almond butter, reduced the sugar to one-half cup and opted for just almond milk since plain non-dairy yogurt may be hard to come by and is expensive. I used a more delicate hand when mixing up this batch which resulted in the coarse texture I was hoping for. The scones came out slightly sweet, moist and tender on the inside, a nice crust on the outside and speckled with plump raisins throughout. It was love at first bite . . .  and second, and third. No matter how, when or where you have them, you too can fall in love with these Sweet Potato Scones. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Tea and Scones

Sweet Potato Scones

½ cup cooked sweet potato (I prefer baked)
¼ cup tahini or almond butter
¾ cup non-dairy milk
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon golden flax meal

2 cups all-purpose flour or whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup raisins
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt (optional)

Preheat oven to 375F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Sprinkle some flour on top of the parchment paper.

Place sweet potato, almond butter, non-dairy milk, lemon juice and flax meal in blender and process until smooth.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, raisins, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add wet ingredients and stir to combine. The dough should be very stiff and slightly sticky.

Using floured hands, place the dough on the parchment paper and form into a circle about 8” in diameter and about 1-1/2” thick. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and cut into 8 wedges, separating slightly. The interior will be slightly uncooked. Return to oven and bake another 5 to 10 minutes.

Remove and place on cooling rack.

17 Mar 2017

Irish & Italians: Corned Beets & Cabbage Dinner

Corned Beets & Cabbage with Chive Potatoes

St. Patrick’s Day was never one of my favorite holidays, but I did enjoy the corned beef and cabbage dinner my parents would make for the occasion. (Actually, I’d take a St. Joseph’s zeppole over corned beef and cabbage any day, but that’s another story.) I don’t remember them having it any other time of the year, so it was a really special treat for us. I remember one St. Patrick’s Day when Dad had a seizure and spent the day in the emergency room and Mom had to leave the dinner partially cooked on the stove. I think Dad, the trooper that he was, was more upset about the ruined dinner than about being in the hospital. Or the time, shortly after she moved in with us, when Mom passed out and hit her head on the kitchen floor for yet another St. Patrick’s Day emergency room visit. I guess the luck of the Irish doesn’t cover the Italians. So I wanted to pay homage to St. Patrick Day (and my parents), and came up with this Corned Beets & Cabbage Dinner. The cabbage, beets, carrots, onions and garlic are braised with vegetable stock, vinegar and pickling spices. I used red cabbage since I new everything would turn purple from the beets. Even the carrots take on a different color. The potatoes are made in an instant pot, but you can use baked potatoes or your favorite steamed or roasted potato recipe. I struggle to find cabbage recipes that we both really enjoy, but I have to say that this recipe came out very tasty. The aroma of the corning spices bring back memories of the corned beef and cabbage simmering for hours in my parents’ kitchen. Remembering all of the happy St. Patrick’s Days spent with my parents, here’s an Irish toast from an Italian girl:

“To all the days here and after
May they be filled with fond memories, happiness, and laughter.”

Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Corned Beets and Cabbage

Braising Ingredients:

3 Tbsp. brown sugar
½ tsp. mustard seeds
8 whole allspice berries
4 whole cloves
2 small bay leaves
½ tsp. black peppercorns
12 whole juniper berries
½ tsp. onion powder
½ tsp. ground celery seeds
2 whole garlic cloves
¼ cup vinegar
2 cups hearty vegetable broth

1 lb. beets, sliced into ¼” thick x ½” wide strips
8 oz. carrots, sliced into strips ¼” thick x ½” wide strips
1 small head of red cabbage

Place all braising ingredients in a deep saute pan. Bring to a boil. Add beets to liquid and place remaining vegetables on top. Lower heat to a simmer, cover and and cook until vegetables are soft and liquid has evaporated. This could take 30 minutes or longer depending on how soft you like your vegetables.

Herbed Potatoes in an Instant Pot

2 lbs. “creamer” potatoes, cut in half (about 1-1/2” chunks)
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons nutritional yeast
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon dry mustard
Salt to taste (optional)

Place all ingredients in Instant Pot insert. Add ½ cup water. Pressure cook on high for 6 minutes, then quick release pressure.

Variation: omit rosemary and thyme and add 1 tablespoon dried chives

14 Mar 2017

Spinach-topia: Greek Spinach Pockets

Greek Spinach Pocket

Spanakopita is a popular Greek pie made with a spinach, onions and feta cheese filling and typically layered with sheets of phyllo. Even before I adopted a plant-based diet, I would eat Spanakopita on the rare occasion if someone else made it. A traditional recipe calls for cooking the spinach with olive oil then stirring in feta and eggs. Then the filling gets layered between sheets of phyllo that are brushed with butter. I really enjoyed it, but I certainly wouldn’t want a whole pan of it within easy reach. Lately, I’ve been on a Mediterranean food kick. I thought it would be nice to have a healthy, plant-based version of this tempting Greek specialty that doesn’t call for the use of phyllo. I made the filling by cooking spinach with onion, black salt (for an “eggy” taste), nutmeg and dill. I had some home-made almond milk ricotta on hand and mixed it with Kalamata olives to mimic the tang that’s characteristic of feta cheese. I opted to make individual servings by using frozen Roti. (Roti are Indian flat breads that can be found in the freezer section of an ethnic market. I’ve used Roti to make Jamaican Mushroom Patties , Broccoli Calzones and Samosadillas. They also make a nice accompaniment to Indian curry and dal recipes.) The end result? Well, let’s say I’m in “Spinach-topia.”  They came out nice and crisp on the outside and creamy and savory on the inside. We had them with a Greek-style tossed salad of Romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, Kalamata olives, oregano and red wine vinegar. You could also make smaller versions to serve as an appetizer or for a cocktail party. You can make and bake them ahead of time and re-crisp in the oven the next day. Grab a Greek Spinach Pocket and grab a little piece of heaven. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Greek Spinach Pockets

Makes about 8 to 10 pockets

Olive oil (optional)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
20 oz. frozen chopped or cut spinach (do not defrost)
¼ tsp. black or regular salt
¼ tsp. nutmeg
1 Tablespoon dried dill

1 cup almond milk ricotta (or tofu-cashew ricotta)
¼ cup chopped Kalamata olives

Frozen Roti as needed

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. (You may lightly coat the skillet with olive oil before heating.) Add onions and saute until they start to brown, adding water if needed to prevent sticking. Add frozen spinach and cook, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The goal is to not allow the spinach to get watery. Add salt, nutmeg and dill and remove from heat. Let cool.

Add ricotta and olives to skillet and gently fold the ingredients together. Adjust seasonings as desired.

To assemble:

Preheat oven to 500F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment.

Heat a non-stick electric griddle on high.* Place Roti on griddle and cook on one side. (The aim is to cook, but not brown the one side so the sufrace of the roti doesn’t get soggy when filled.) Place cooked side up onto baking sheet.** Spoon filling onto one half and fold the other side over, pressing edges together. Bake until crust has browned, flipping half way through baking. Remove and let cook about 5 minutes before serving.

*If you don’t have an electric griddle, you could heat a non-stick skillet on medium-high heat.

**For appetizer-sized pockets, cut the roti in half after cooking one side, fill and fold over to form a triangular-shaped pocket.

07 Mar 2017

Don’t Fast. Feast: Gumbo Burgers with Roasted Pepper Sauce

Gumbo Burger with Roasted Pepper Sauce

I’ve been trying to incorporate more vegetables into my bean burger recipes and came up with this recipe the last time I made a pot of Vegetable Gumbo. Gumbo has its roots in Louisiana’s Creole cuisine and I usually make it right around Mardi Gras time. The highlight of Mardi Gras happens on Fat Tuesday, reflecting the practice of the last chance to eat rich, fattening foods before the ritual of the Lenten fast begins. Well, if you eat healthy, low-fat plant food all year round there’s no need to fast in the first place. I still enjoy learning about and celebrating holidays and traditions, so I wanted to share this recipe for Gumbo Burgers just in time for Fat Tuesday.

To make the burgers, I start by cooking the the “holy trinity” of onions, celery and bell peppers, adding tomatoes and aromatics, then cooking out most of the liquid. The mashed beans act to hold the vegetables together and the oats help to absorb any extra liquid. The Roasted Pepper Sauce is made with a small amount of cashew cream, roasted red peppers and hot sauce. These burgers have so much going into them that you don’t need anything else going on top of them, but feel free to serve with your favorite burger toppings. We had our burgers with a side of steamed spinach with a honey-mustard-cider vinegar dressing. The recipe makes a lot of burgers, so you can wrap them individually and place in the freezer to enjoy in the weeks ahead. Why fast when you can feast all year long on these healthy, hearty Gumbo Burgers? Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Gumbo Burgers with Roasted Pepper Sauce

Makes 8 to 12 patties

2 cans red kidney, pink or pinto beans, drained
½ cup whole oats, processed into course flour
1 extra large onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 large tomato, diced
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
8 oz. okra, chopped
2 teaspoons liquid smoke
2 Tablespoons dried thyme
Cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste

Roasted Pepper Sauce (recipe follows)
Hamburger buns
Burger toppings as desired (tomato, onions, lettuce, etc.)

Place beans in a large mixing bowl and smash with a potato masher or fork. Place oat flour into bowl and set aside.

Heat a non-stick skillet on high heat. Add onions, celery, bell pepper and garlic and saute until lightly browned. Add tomato, tomato paste, okra, liquid smoke, thyme and cayenne pepper and continue cooking until all of the liquid has dried up. Add to mixing bowl and stir to combine. Season with salt and black pepper, adding more of the other seasonings as desired.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide mixture into even portions using either a one-third or one-half measuring cup and form into patties. Place on parchment paper and refrigerate for several hours.

When ready, heat a non-stick electric griddle on 350F. Place patties on griddle and cook until browned and burgers become firm, turning once during cooking. Serve on buns with roasted pepper sauce and your favorite toppings.

Roasted Pepper Sauce

½ cup raw cashews (soaked)
½ cup roasted red peppers
2 to 4 teaspoons hot sauce

Rinse and drain the soaked cashews. Place in container of high-speed blender and add enough water to cover about half of the cashews. Process on high until super smooth. Remove from container. This should yield about ½ cup, but you will only use ¼ cup to make the sauce.

Return ¼ cup of the cashew cream in the blender container along with the roasted peppers and hot sauce. Process on high until smooth. Place in a covered container and refrigerate before using.

Note: if you do not wish to use cashews, you can try substituting silken tofu.

28 Feb 2017

Think Big: Chocolate Challenge Cake

Chocolate Challenge Cake

This is the story of my big cake.

I developed this recipe in one day, but in reality, it’s been part of my evolution for several years. The Chocolate Challenge Cake was inspired in part by my enduring love of baking and my will to want to figure things out. It was also influenced by things that happened while making my way through life. Long before we adopted a plant-based diet and were living in New Jersey, there was Harold’s Deli. They served big New York-style deli sandwiches and even bigger desserts. When a restaurant encourages you to share your food and you still take home enough for three days, you know it’s big. Bruce described their cakes accurately when he said they were the size of a tom-tom drum. The memory of a Harold’s cake had been sequestered in the recesses of my brain until a new restaurant opened up in our Delaware hometown. Their signature dessert is the Chocolate Challenge Cake that has four layers of cake, chocolate syrup and fudge-like frosting. True confession time: yes, we did order a slice. Since a portion of the proceeds go to charity, I felt it was my moral obligation to order the cake. One towering slice of this cake is big and tasty, but way too rich for what my body is used to. I left the restaurant feeling full from the cake and energized by the prospect of developing a plant-based recipe for a Chocolate Challenge Cake of my own. When I adapt conventional recipes into plant-based versions, I try my best to minimize certain ingredients like fat and refined sugar without compromising on taste. This recipe is what I call “plant-based” or vegan and is meant for an occasional indulgence. For the layers I used my chocolate-pumpkin cake recipe because the only fat comes from the milk and cocoa powder and is dense enough to support a thick frosting. The frosting is made with silken tofu, non-dairy chocolate and dates; the only refined sugar is in the chocolate. I couldn’t believe my eyes after I stacked the layers and piled on the frosting. The result was BIG — a dense choclolate cake with a dreamy fudge frosting that’s not too sweet or laden with excess fat. While this cake might look and taste like one heavy-duty dish of decadence, you won’t leave the table feeling weighed down. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Note: To make the cake as pictured, you will need to double the cake recipe and triple the frosting recipe. If you want to make a smaller-scale cake, simply make one recipe of both the cake and the frosting. The cake can be frozen by wrapping the slices in waxed paper, then placing in freezer bags. 

 Vegicurious Chocolate Challenge Cake
Make two recipes of the following cake:

2 cups soy, coconut or almond milk
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar  (1-1/4 cups was good)
2/3 cup pureed pumpkin
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract, chocolate extract, or more vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour (or whole wheat pastry flour)
2/3 cup cocoa powder (sift out lumps)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two 8” baking pans and line bottoms with parchment.
2. Whisk together the soy milk and vinegar in a large bowl, and set aside for a few minutes to curdle. Add the sugar, applesauce or pumpkin, vanilla extract, and other extract, if using, to the soy milk mixture and beat until foamy. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add in two batches to wet ingredients and beat until no large lumps remain (a few tiny lumps are OK).
3. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool 10 minutes before inverting onto cooling racks.

Make three recipes of the frosting:

½ cup dates

12 oz. extra firm silken tofu
4 oz. non-dairy dark chocolate, melted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ cup cocoa powder (optional)

Pour boiling water over dates and let soak about one hour to soften. Place dates and remaining ingredients in container of a high-powered blender and process until smooth. Refrigerate until thoroughly cooled. If you don’t have a high-powered blender, you could omit the dates and add granulated sugar to taste.

Assemble cake:

Place cake layer on cake dish with flat side facing up. Spread a thick layer of frosting on top (I used 4 large ice cream scoops.) Repeat with the next three layers. Place remaining frosting on top layer and spread on sides and top of cake. To frost the sides, drag the icing from the top and spread along the sides. (An offset spatula works best for this.) Refrigerate for several hours or overnight before serving.

 

 

 

 

22 Feb 2017

Bowled Over: Fennel, Farro & Fagioli

Fennel, Farro & Fagioli

Have you ever been “bowled over”? The term is synonymous with amazed or astonished. When I uploaded this photo of my Fennel, Farro & Fagioli it struck me how a dish of full of beans, fennel, farro and greens could have the ability to bowl me over. This recipe hits on so many aspects of a complete whole food, plant-based meal. It’s made with beans, greens, vegetables, whole grains and uses very little/no oil and salt. Who could ask for anything more? Bowl someone (or yourself) over today with a bowl of Fennel, Farro & Fagioli. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Fennel Farro e Fagioli
Makes 4 servings
1 small onion
1 small fennel bulb
1 carrot
1 celery stalk
4 garlic cloves
Olive oil (optional)
½ tsp. fennel seeds, ground
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 cups white or red beans (or two 15 oz. can)
½ cup uncooked farro
3 to 4 cups water
1 teaspoon Better Than Boullion vegetable or “No Chicken” base (optional)
a few handful of arugula or other greens
Cut onion, fennel, carrot and celery into pieces. Process in food processor until finely chopped. Add garlic and pulse a few times.
Coat bottom of large saucepot with olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. (You could heat 2 tablespoons of water to omit the oil.) Add vegetables and cook until softened and lightly browned. Add ground fennel and red pepper and cook for 1 minute. Add tomato paste and stir to combine. Add farro, beans, water and bouillon. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Cover and cook for 25 minutes. Add arugula during the last few minutes of cooking.

16 Feb 2017

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