Orzo with Everything

Orzo with Everything

Orzo with Everything

A big thank you to Sarah for sharing this with us.  We made this for a potluck and it went over really well.  We have made it several times since then, since we all love orzo so much.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups orzo
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil- chopped
5 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (maybe a bit more to taste)
1/4 cup kalamata olives- chopped

The rest.
1 cup radicchio- finely chopped
1/2 cup pine nuts- toasted on stovetop over medium heat, stirring constantly
1/2 cup fresh basil- chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste
lightly garnish with grated parmesan

Method

Cook and drain orzo and put in a large bowl.  Add tomatoes, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and olives.  Toss and let stand till cool.

When cool, add the rest.

Notes

We have also tried things like dried cranberries, feta, etc. for variety.

Seitan and Broccolini with Clementine Teriyaki

Seitan and Broccolini with Clementine Teriyaki

This is from one of my favorite blogs, Vegan Yum Yum.  This was not, however, a favorite recipe.  Actually, we thought it was terrible.  Maybe we just aren’t that keen on seitan?  We have had several seitan strike-outs lately, so maybe we could blame it on our palette.  Sadly, the broccolini wasn’t that great either.  The teriyaki was too sweet, too sticky.  Nope, nope, and nope.

Acorn Squash, Pear and Adzuki Soup with Sauteed Shiitakes

Acorn Squash, Pear and Adzuki Soup with Sauteed Shiitakes from page 136 of Veganomicon

Acorn Squash, Pear and Adzuki Soup with Sauteed Shiitakes

This soup was so excellent. The pears and squash gave it an excellent flavor.  The Shiitake mushrooms were the best part.  There weren’t enough- even though I got the kid’s share.  The kids barely tried the soup either.  It wasn’t a hit with them, but it was an amazing hit with the adults.  It was pretty simple to make as well.  If you don’t have Veganomicon, get it.

sauteing the Shiitake Mushrooms

Spinach-Noodle Kugel and Sweet Potato-Pear Tzimmes

Spinach-Noodle Kugel and Sweet Potato-Pear Tzimmes

We had a really nice family friendly meal with these two recipes together.  The baby ate his weight in sweet potatoes and kugel.

Spinach-Noodle Kugel page 151 Veganomicon is a little bland.  It had a very creamy firm texture from the firm tofu and nice dill flavor, but needed something to zing it up for the adults.

Sweet Potato-Pear Tzimmes with Pecans and Raisins page 156 Veganomicon was a really hit with all of us.  I loved the crunchy pecans and the sweet potatoes.  Instead of baking it we fried it in a cast iron pan and it worked really well- since the oven was occupied with the kugel.

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Pecan Streusel

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Pecan Streusel

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Pecan Streusel from Veganomicon turned our really well.  I think I could have crushed the pecans instead of lightly chopping them as the directions suggest.  The cake was nice and moist.  Our oldest took a bite, then proceeded to pick off all the pecans and then finished the cake.  Our middle son followed his sister and picked off all the pecans, but never ate any of the cake.  Our little one was perfectly happy to eat his brothers cake.

Leek and Bean Cassoulet with Biscuits

Leek and Bean Cassoulet with Biscuits

I was really thinking that a cassoulet sounded so fancy… I guess it is just a french for hotdish. You bettcha. That said, Leek and Bean Cassoulet with Biscuits from page 173 of Veganomicon was a really family friendly meal.  The oldest picked out all the beans and carrots and ate the biscuits off the top, obviously.  This was especially good the next day as leftovers.   It is really quite like a pot pie with the biscuits on the top, so really great winter comfort food.  It also has supermarket friendly ingredients.  Very simple and tasty.

French Lentil Soup with Tarragon and Thyme

French Lentil Soup with Tarragon and Thyme

French Lentil Soup with Tarragon and Thyme from page 141 Veganomicon was really tasty and different.  We don’t do a lot of cooking with tarragon.  It was a nice change and has a peppery taste.  This is the first thing that we have ever made with the little green speckled french lentils.  They have a distinct taste as well, so this was a nice to change it up a bit.  It is soy free, gluten free, low fat and supermarket friendly… and oh so delicious.

We made a loaf of bread to eat with it, so the kids ate a lot of that.  They do love fresh bread.  Who doesn’t?

Creamy Broccoli Mushroom Bake

Creamy Broccoli Mushroom Bake

Creamy Broccoli Mushroom Bake

We absolutely loved this meal from Vegan Yum Yum’s new book, page 49.  Creamy Broccoli Mushroom Bake has become a family favorite.  This is the second time that this has been a huge hit with the whole family.

I had run out of nutritional yeast, so I used flax seed meal. Last time I used the nutritional yeast and the cashew “alfredo” sauce was certainly a lot creamier and smoother, obviously… the flax seed meal did help as a suitable replacement and since it has lots of omega-3 fats and fiber, I thought it was a healthy addition and something to add some more substance to the “alfredo.”

The kids ate is all up.  Our six year old girl loved it and so did our 10 month old did as well.  Anything with ketchup is a hit, frankly.  Our 3 year old boy typically only picks at supper, but he did eat some of it.  Mostly just ate the ketchup part off of the top.  I “sold” it as just like mac and cheese… but the macaroni looks like rice (the orzo).  Also, I had help from both of them in the kitchen prepping things- so they always like things more when they help prepare things that you can’t tell what the original ingredients look like.

For the first time we put the peppers on the top, which really helped make this look more attractive and added a nice fresh crunch.

Black Bean Mole Burgers

Black Bean Mole Burger

Black Bean Mole Burger

Black Bean Veggie Burgers + Mole

There are a lot of black bean burgers that seem like they are pretending to be meat and ends up not having many veggies and an overly homogeneous texture. I prefer burgers that are chock-a-block full of veggies.  That is the first goal of this burger.

I love Mexican mole.  Love it. I first had it in high school at La Cucaracha in St. Paul and was utterly amazed at the savory chocolate taste.  I was impressed and forever changed.  I have tried to analyze the mole at dozens of restaurants since then, and the ones that I like the most tend to have a spicy and smooth traditional chocolaty taste.  There are lots of different black bean mole recipes that got me thinking about combining mole into a black bean burger.  As far as I know, there is no other recipe like this out there.  This black bean mole burger recipe is the best of what I love about black bean veggie burgers and mole- I hope you try it!

Black Bean Mole Burgers

Recipe by Bunnies Love Carrots

Ingredients

1 dry end slice of wheat bread (or 1/4 cup plain dry wheat bread crumbs)
1 1/2 cups cooked black beans (or 1 15 ounces can rinsed and drained)
1/4 cup lentils (washed, cooked and pureed)*
1 cup cooked brown rice*
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon chipotle powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (use bold cassia cinnamon, or 1/2 tsp mild ceylon cinnamon)
1 teaspoon dried epazote**
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon agave nectar (or honey)
1 small lime- juiced (about 2 1/2 tablespoons lime juice)
1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

For toasting:
2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons sesame seeds

1 small yellow onion- chopped
1 clove garlic- minced
1 roasted red pepper- chopped
1 portobello mushroom- finely chopped
1/2 cup carrots- finely chopped
1/4 cup corn- frozen

Spray olive oil or nonstick cooking spray
6 whole wheat hamburger buns, thin buns, or corn/flour tortillas- whatever your preference
avocado slices (optional)
salsa (optional)

Method

Roast the red pepper.  I typically do this right on the gas burner or under the broiler with a drop of olive oil rubbed over the skin.  Roast until the skin is charred black all over, then put it directly in small paper bag or a bowl covered with plastic wrap to steam while you chop veggies.  This whole pepper roasting process takes about 15 minutes.

In a medium mixing bowl, gently crush the black beans with a fork just until there are no whole beans left.  Add the lentils* and rice*.
Add the spices (save the cumin, oregano, and sesame seeds).  Lightly fold the ingredients.

Prepping the beans and flavoring the base ingredients

Prepping the beans and flavoring the base ingredients

Chop the bread finely and transfer to the top of the ingredients, but don’t mix.

Chop the onion into small pieces and mince the garlic.  Prep the mushroom by removing and discarding the brown gills and stem.  Chop the cap into small pieces.  Chop the carrots- we typically have julienne carrots that I chop into a fine dice- or you can shred them.  Measure the corn so that all these last ingredients are all ready.  Save the red pepper until the last minute so that it has the additional time to steam.

In a well-seasoned medium-sized cast-iron skillet on medium-low, toast the cumin, oregano and sesame seeds, stir constantly for 2 minutes until the cumin is fragrant and the sesame seeds are lightly toasted.  Transfer to the mixing bowl and sprinkle over the top of the bread.

In the same skillet add a tiny bit of olive oil, cook the onion for 2 minutes until they barely start to turn transparent then add the garlic for 1 minute.

Cooking the onion, garlic, pepper and mushroom.

Cooking the onion, garlic, pepper and mushroom.

While this cooks, prep the red pepper by pulling out the center with all the seeds and discard. Scrape off and discard all (or most of) the charred black skin.  Chop the red flesh and add to pan along with the mushrooms. Cook for 2 minutes to remove a little of the moisture. Add the carrots and corn for one last minute and then shut of flame.

All the veggies makes a colorful burger.

All the veggies makes a colorful burger.

Add the vegetables to the mixing bowl and fold together being careful not to completely demolish the black beans.

Chill the mixture for at least 20 minutes. (I typically use this time to make some margaritas and guacamole… instant fiesta!)  The longer you can chill the mixture the better, so this is an easy meal to prep ahead.

The final product, ready to chill in the refrigerator.

The final product, ready to chill in the refrigerator.

Shape the chilled mixture into 6 patties about 3/4 inch thick. Fry them in a cast-iron skillet with a little spray of olive oil, pressing down firmly as they fry for 5 minutes on each side.  Coat the skillet with olive oil when you turn them to ensure even browning.  When they are done they should feel fairly firm.  Top with avocado slices and your favorite salsa.  I like a chunky pineapple chipotle salsa- or anything spicy with some tropical fruit.

The final burger in all it's glory.

The final burger in all it's glory.

*Time saving tips

Lentils: I used my pre-cooked, pureed and frozen lentils that I keep on hand.  They are great to add to macaroni and cheese or anything that you want a creamier or cheesier consistency.  Lentils are a super food and you barely notice the taste as long as you don’t overdo it.
Brown Rice: I like to use the extra rice from takeout or typically make extra rice when we make rice- specifically for this type of purpose. The burgers really need the rice- preferably brown for the firmness, but any other firm rice would work.

Notes

These burgers have a little kick.  If you prefer it to be milder, you can cut back on the chili powder and chipotle powder.  When the kids are eating, I typically exclude these two ingredients until the very end- make a burger for each of the kids and then add the spice.  This makes the remaining burgers extra spicy!  Good stuff.  The kids like these with ketchup.  Gross… but whatever floats their boat.  This is what I did in the above photos, so the bean get a little more crushed with the extra mixing.  It isn’t the end of the world.

I find that lots of veggie burger recipes tend to have patties that fall apart. At a certain point, I don’t care.  Lots of recipes call for gluten flour or an egg as a binder.  Here I opted to use a smaller amount, but a little more substantial bread crumb which works really well as a binder without an egg or adding extra gluten flour. Refrigeration really helps these stay together nicely. If you are in a hurry, you can certainly fry them right away. I have had very consistent results of firm patties that stay together fairly nicely with this small about of gluten.  If you prefer gluten-free, you can exclude the bread.  In this case you really need more refrigeration so that the rice soaks up more moisture- though they will never stay together as nice without this binder. They are still tasty either way!

**Epazote is traditional Mexican spice that is a little hard to find.  Mexican grocery stores may have it fresh.  I used dried from Penzeys.  It is supposed to reduce intestinal gas with beans- and has a sweet and spicy flavor unlike anything.  If you don’t have it- just leave it out.  It is just as delicious without.

Fresh Food Fast: Delicious, Seasonal Vegetarian Meals in Under an Hour

Fresh Food Fast

Fresh Food Fast

We got this book Fresh Food Fast: Delicious, Seasonal Vegetarian Meals in Under an Hour about a year ago, maybe?  There are lots of excellent meals in this book- all sorted by seasonal availability.

I really like the fact that they are meals, so he tells you when to start what piece for the different elements- so that the meal is all done at the same time.  As someone without a ton of natural cooking skills, this is really nice training that has improved my meal prep skills and planning all around.

We have tried several recipes from Peter Berley online who also wrote a book called The Flexitarian Table: Inspired, Flexible Meals for Vegetarians, Meat Lovers, and Everyone inBetween. I’m not sure that this cookbook sounds up our alley, since I think we aren’t cooking meat anymore, but flexitarian was a new word for me- when I discovered Peter’s Berley’s recipes and by extension this book. It really sums up how we end up eating- as someone who has occasional meat consumption.

Here is the link to buy the book, but his recipes tend to show up all over the web.

The only con that I have is some of the ingredients are a little hard to find.  Obviously we can find them in Minneapolis, but not at our neighborhood grocery store or even a Whole Foods… which makes this a little difficult.  Peter’s mastery of flavor combinations makes up for this, and a majority of the recipes do not have this problem.