Chickpea and quinoa Thai-style vegeburgers

Before you start thinking that I’m here to replace all of your actual meat burgers with quinoa, know that I am not.  I grew up eating various iterations of vegeburgers, some excellent and most not so excellent.  As for the idea that a Boca burger is a reasonable substitute for actual meat, I firmly disagree.  Unless you’re a vegetarian, if you want a burger, you want a real burger and no matter how delicious, a vegeburger isn’t going to cut it.

To that end, I’m selling you on this the same way I sold my husband on vegeburgers: an alternative sandwich option.  Sort of like a snowcone and a chocolate brownie are both delicious desserts, but if you want chocolate a snowcone won’t do.

We had ours on a bun with the slaw and peanut sauce, but if you’re vegan  (or just not a fan of carbs, whatever), they really aren’t necessary.  And know that they don’t resemble the sad little pre-formed quinoa/boca/TVP you’re picturing in your head.  There are 3 components: the patty, the slaw, and the sauce.  You can easily make the slaw while the quinoa is cooking and then mix up the sauce while the patties are cooking.

Chickpea and Quinoa Thai Burgers

makes about 8 patties

for the patties:

1/2 cup uncooked quinoa

1 cup water

15 oz can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans)

3/4 cup oatmeal

1/2 cup cornmeal (I substituted grits since it’s what I had)

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. paprika

2 cloves garlic

1 tsp. sesame oil (or olive)

1 egg

1 bell pepper

1/2 of a small red onion

olive oil

 

for the slaw:

1/2 head  of purple cabbage

3 carrots

handful of cilantro

 

for the sauce:

1/2 cup peanut butter

2T honey

2T soy sauce

2″ piece of fresh ginger

1/2 tsp red pepper

1 lime

2 T water

 

1. Toast the uncooked quinoa in a tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat for about 3 minutes.  Add in the cup of water, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, pulse the chickpeas, cornmeal, oatmeal, salt, paprika, garlic and sesame oil together in a food processor until well combined (it should look a bit like wet sand).

2. Transfer to a bowl and add stir in the egg.  Finely dice the bell pepper and onion (I put them in the food processor) and stir them into the mixture.  Then fold in the cooked quinoa to create a thick, cement-like mixture.  If it needs a bit more moisture to hold it together, add in a tiny bit of olive oil.

3. Shred the cabbage and carrots, and chop the cilantro.  Toss together to make the slaw.

4. Form the quinoa mixture into 8 patties and fry in a tiny bit of oil over medium high heat.  Alternatively, you could use an electric skillet with no oil at 350.  Fry them for a few minutes on each side until they start to turn golden brown and crispy.

5. Whisk all of the sauce ingredients together to make the sauce.  To serve, top each patty with a heap of slaw and drizzle the sauce over the top.  Serve with or without a bun.

 

 

Lamb Rolls with Tzatziki Sauce

I am the first to admit that as a person who grew up not eating lamb, I had a hard time warming up to the idea as an adult.  I always kind of thought I had plenty of proteins in my lineup so there was no real reason to add another, but then I made this dish.  It’s the first lamb dish I ever made and I use it as a litmus test for those who are skeptical about lamb (read: my mom).  In the years that I’ve been making it, I’ve never had someone determine that they truly disliked lamb after eating it, so if you aren’t sure, give it a try.

The recipe originally came from a Rachael Ray cookbook we received as a wedding present nearly 7 years ago.  I generally am not a huge Rachael Ray fan – I find that in her “30 Minute Meal” gimmick it generally translates to 30 hours of dishes, which I’m so not down with, but in an effort to actually try something out of each cookbook, I gave it a try and was pleasantly surprised at the lack of dishes.  I usually serve mine with a big Greek salad, and estimate that each diner will eat half of one roll (it makes 2 big rolls or 3 moderately sized ones).

Lamb Feta Rolls with Tzatziki sauce

1lb. ground lamb

1 cup feta cheese

2 green onions

1 jalepeno (only use half if you’re heat sensitive)

2 cloves garlic

10-12 sheets phyllo dough (I just buy a package – inevitably some will rip) – defrosted

6T butter

for the sauce:

2 cups Greek yogurt

1/2 of a cucumber

1/4 of an onion

1 clove garlic

1 small handful of mint leaves

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Finely chop the green onion, mince the garlic and jalepeno, and melt the butter.  Mix the lamb, feta cheese, garlic, green onions, and jalepeno together in a mixing bowl.

2. On a large cutting board or cookie sheet, lay out your first two sheets of phyllo dough, brush it with some of the melted butter, season with salt and pepper, then add another 2 sheets, butter, salt and pepper again.  Continue until you have 6 sheets of phyllo dough.  Spoon the mixture in a log shape in the center of the dough and fold it up like a burrito.  Repeat for the second and, if you want smaller portions, a third roll.  Use a little butter to seal the edge and brush the tops with a bit before you place them in the oven.  Bake for 15 minutes, until the phyllo is a golden brown.

3. While the rolls are baking, grate the cucumber and onion, mince the garlic, and finely chop the mint leaves.  Stir together with the Greek yogurt to make a sauce.  Serve the lamb rolls with the sauce.

 

 

Spicy Pasta with Prosciutto

For some reason or another, I’m not really a huge spaghetti fan.  I love pasta, marinara sauce is definitely my jam, but there’s something about plain old spaghetti and marinara that really doesn’t do it for me.  Not long ago, I realized that it was actually just the shape of the noodle (for the record, I’m not big on fettucine either).  Since I had this revelation, I’ve made a bunch of new pasta dishes with various pasta shapes and my interest in pasta and sauce meals has gone up tenfold.  This is a perfect example of that.  The sauce is pretty chunky, so it needs a substantial noodle, but you could definitely use spaghetti if that’s what you like or what you have in your pantry.  We used a curly rotini (my personal favorite).

All told, this meal is really easy and fast – and while I think it would be great to take for lunch the next day, we’ve never had any leftovers to save. Oh, and it has wine in it, which is awesome because you have a great excuse to drink the rest of the bottle of wine on a random weekday!

Spicy Pasta with Prosciutto

1lb. dry rotini noodles

4 oz. proscuitto

1 onion

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

2 cloves garlic

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 cup red wine

28oz diced tomatoes

1 cup grated parmesan cheese

small handful of fresh basil

Olive oil

1. Chop the prosciutto, mince the garlic, and dice the onion.  Start the water for the pasta.  Heat about a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and fry the prosciutto until browned (about 10 minutes).  Transfer the prosciutto to a paper-towel lined plate and add the onion, cooking until softened and translucent.

2. Add the red pepper flakes, garlic, and salt, stirring everything together for about a minute.  Pour in the wine and cook for a few minutes while the wine reduces.  Then add the tomatoes and simmer the mixture for about 10 minutes.  Cook the pasta according to package directions.  Chop the basil.

3. Add the prosciutto and the 75% of the cheese into the sauce and stir to combine.  Add the cooked pasta and stir everything together to coat the noodles.  Serve with the reserved cheese and basil.

Thai beef stir fry

In our efforts to add more Asian dishes to our repertoire, stir fry has become a mainstay.  My favorite thing about stir fry is that virtually all of the work is done in prep, so once you’re there it’s just a few minutes of cooking and then you’re ready to serve!  This particular stir fry is loaded with veggies and really is a complete meal in one dish.  We served ours with quinoa instead of rice (due to not having any rice), and honestly I think I prefer the quinoa in this case – it really soaks up the sauce and is a little fluffier.

You can substitute, add, or omit any of the vegetables involved if you don’t like them, don’t have them, or whatever.  That’s my favorite thing about stir fry – it’s great for a “clean out the fridge night” (Friday, in our case, as our trash pickup is Saturday).

Thai Beef Stir Fry

1 cup dry quinoa or rice

1 lb beef, cut into small strips – I used some thin-cut steaks that were on sale.  The cut isn’t really important

2 garlic cloves

a small piece of ginger

1 red chile (half if you don’t like spicy dishes)

8 oz mushrooms

1 large carrot

1 bell pepper

6 oz sugar snap peas

2 green onions

a few sprigs of basil

olive oil

For the sauce:

3T soy sauce

2T oyster sauce

2T fish sauce

2T rice vinegar

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp cornstarch

3T water

1. Rinse and cook the quinoa according to package directions.  Cut the beef into small strips.  Peel and mince the garlic, ginger, and red chile.  Chop the mushrooms, the carrot, the bell pepper, and the green onions.  Chop up the basil and set aside.  Whisk all of the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl.  Congrats!  You’re almost done.

2. Heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a wok (or big frying pan) until hot and sear the beef until the outside is brown, but the beef isn’t completely cooked (it will cook more later).  Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate.

3. Add a little more oil and stir fry the garlic, ginger, and red chile until fragrant (a minute or so).  Then add the mushrooms, carrots, and about 1/4 cup of water.  After another minute or so add the bell pepper, snow peas, and green onions.  Stir fry another few minutes until the vegetables are a little tender (check the carrot).

4. Add the meat back into the stir fry and pour the sauce over the top, stirring to coat everything.  Once the sauce has soaked up into the stir fry, turn off the heat.  Serve the stir fry over quinoa and top with a little basil.

Source: Adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s Healthy Appetite

Tandoori chicken with mango and pineapple salsa

There are certain friends you have in life who become more of kindred spirits than friends.  The friends who really get you and, regardless of how long it’s been since you’ve seen them you’re always able to pick up where you left off.  One of our friends like that often comes over bearing a makeshift tupperware full of marinated meat and, upon his arrival, makes plans to grill it for us (a true friend brings dinner that they cook for you!).  Tandoori chicken is his specialty and this recipe is inspired by his many visits bearing delicious food.  He loves garam masala and, actually introduced me to it.  It’s totally worth buying – it’s a unique taste that can’t really be replicated by any other combination.  I like it mixed with greek yogurt as a dip.

This meal is great for a Friday, especially if you’re having company because you can make it all ahead of time.  In the afternoon (or night before), you make the mango salsa and marinate the chicken.  I made a quinoa salad to go with it last time, and it’s best made ahead, too.  Then you can clean the kitchen, and come dinnertime all you have to do is grill the meat and serve.  It’s also very flavorful and tastes very fresh.  I cut the chicken breasts in half width-wise before marinating them to increase the surface area and to avoid the unfortunate mass of dry chicken you sometimes get when grilling a whole chicken breast.  Alternatively, you could pound them out flat.

Tandoori Chicken with Mango and Pineapple Salsa

4 chicken breasts, butterflied or pounded flat

1 tsp turmeric

2 tsp garam masala

1 tsp coriander

1 tsp cumin

2 garlic cloves

a small piece of ginger

half of a lemon

1/2 cup greek yogurt

For the relish:

1 can diced pineapple (or fresh)

1 ripe mango

1/2 red onion

1 red chile

1 lime

1. Several hours or the night before you intend to serve, mince the garlic and finely peel and chop the ginger.  Mix the spices, ginger, garlic, and the juice of the lemon together with the greek yogurt to create a marinade.

2. Butterfly the chicken and place it into your “marinating tupperware” (or a big ziploc bag), pour the marinade over the chicken and move the pieces around, coating all of the sides.  Place in the refrigerator until you’re ready to finish your dinner.

3. Dice the mango into a size similar to the pineapple.  Finely dice the onion and mix the pineapple, mango, and onion together.  Start by mincing half of the red chile and adding into the relish with the juice of the lime.  Taste and add the rest of the chile if you need a little more heat.  This can also be made ahead of time and left in the fridge until ready to serve.

4. When you’re ready, grill the chicken until cooked through.  Serve with the relish.

Chili Macaroni

I’m borderline embarrassed to share this recipe with you.  I mean, it’s probably the easiest thing ever to make, there’s nary a vegetable to be found, and yeah, processed cheese food is not real food.  However, sometimes you just want to make something comforting, and although it’s good, quinoa and grilled fish isn’t comforting.  The marriage of chili and macaroni and cheese is the epitome of comfort and perfect for a cold Monday night when you just want to carb up and hibernate.

In my family, Velveeta Shells & Cheese stands head and shoulders above Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, so that’s what I use.  The powdered cheese makes me a little twitchy.  Enjoy and, if it makes you feel better, serve a nice salad with it.

Butter is my Jam

Chili Macaroni

1 family sized box of Velveeta Shells & Cheese

1lb ground beef

half of an onion

2 garlic cloves

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp salt

1 can rotel

1 can kidney beans

grated cheddar and sour cream for serving

1. Prepare the shells and cheese according to package directions.  Dice the onion and mince the garlic.  Brown the meat in a large skillet over high heat and add the onions, garlic, chili powder, cumin, and salt.  Stir to make sure the spices are well-distributed.  Continue to cook until the meat is cooked through.

2. Add the beans and rotel to the skillet, continuing to cook and stir for about 3 more minutes.  Pour in the macaroni and cheese, stirring the entire mixture together (this can be done in a large bowl if it won’t fit in your skillet).  Stir until all ingredients are incorporated.  Serve with sour cream and grated cheddar on top.

Mahi Tacos with Pineapple and Mango Salsa

Today in Texas the weather is absolutely gorgeous – it’s warm, sunny, and a welcome change from the last two weeks of cold rain.  That kind of weather makes me want really fresh-tasting food, like pineapple.  Truthfully, I love pineapple all times of the year, but it just doesn’t speak to me on a freezing rain kind of day.  These tacos will definitely brighten up your weekend.  There are basically 3 components: the fish, the sour cream sauce, and the pineapple salsa.  I had planned to serve it with some chips and guacamole, but of the three avocados I purchases this week, two of them were absolutely hard as rocks.  Robin and I ended up sharing the good one and we skipped the sides.

As a side note, avocados are one of my absolute favorite foods of all time, but they are perpetually disappointing to me.  They are so expensive and so often they are terrible inside (and I am a fairly good judge of their ripeness).  A quality avocado is such a gift – so sharing it with my avocado-loving toddler is a true treat.

Mahi Fish Tacos

for the fish:

1 lb mahimahi fillets

1/2 T cumin

1/2 T chili powder

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

Swig of olive oil

For the sauce:

1 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt

1 lime

For the salsa:

1/4 of a fresh pineapple or 1 can of pineapple chunks

1 mango

1 jalepeno pepper

1/2 small red onion

2T red wine vinegar

Flour tortillas

1. Stir the cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.  Rub the spices onto the fish fillets, coating each side.  Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and pan fry the fish for a few minutes on each side.  Transfer to a paper-towel on a plate and flake.

2. Zest and juice the lime and add the zest and the juice to the sour cream to make a sauce.  It’s the easiest sauce ever.

3. Dice the mango and pineapple, mince the jalepeno pepper and finely dice the red onion.  Put the mango, pineapple, and onion in a small bowl, and stir in half of the jalepeno.  Sprinkle the vinegar on top and taste – of it needs more heat, add the rest of the jalepeno.

4. Warm the tortillas and top with the flaked fish, the salsa, and drizzle with sour cream sauce.

Source: adapted from Keepers by Kathy Brennan and Caroline Campion

Baked Potato Soup

As expected, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow a few weeks ago,  predicting six more weeks of winter, so we have a little more than a month to go.  A North Texas winter is really not much to complain about when I see temperatures that are actually BELOW zero across the country, but we are truly ill-equipped to deal with it.  We don’t own coats, our homes are lacking insulation, and gosh darnit, our blood is thinner!  So, when I say it’s 29 degrees here today, know that I’m truly suffering.

On a cold afternoon when I don’t want to emerge from my blanket cocoon by the fire to make dinner, a warm crock pot full of potato soup is really ideal.  This soup is minimal prep, maximum warm and delicious.  The lack of meat makes it pretty variable as far as when you want to prep it – it could probably go 8-10 hours on low, or 4-6 on high.  I put mine on high for an hour, then 3 on low.  You could top it with some crispy bacon if you wanted, but it was vegetarian night at my house (minus chicken broth, obviously).  I like mashing half of the potatoes to give the soup some texture, but if you want it all smooth you could mash all of them.

Baked Potato Soup

1 onion

1T butter

2 garlic cloves

1 tsp dried thyme

2 T flour

4 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)

6 russet potatoes

10 oz. cheddar cheese

1/2 cup heavy cream

3 scallions

1. Dice the onion, mince or press the garlic, and peel and cube the potatoes.  Melt the butter in a medium skillet over high heat and cook the onion, garlic, and thyme until the onion is browned.  Add the flour and stir together for a minute, then add 1 cup of the chicken broth and whisk.  Pour into the slow cooker.

2. Add the potatoes and the remainder of the chicken broth to the slow cooker and cook for 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low, until the potatoes are soft.

3. 20 minutes before serving, scoop out about half of the potatoes and mash (or rice) them.  Stir the cream into the mashed potatoes and return to the soup.  Grate the cheddar cheese and add 80% of it to the soup.  Stir while the cheese melts.  Season with salt and pepper.  Chop the scallions.

4. Serve the soup with a little grated cheese and scallion on top.

Chorizo and Mushroom Salad

In our house, dinner is the “big” meal of the day.  We usually do a quick breakfast, I make a really simple lunch, but I tend to focus most of my efforts (and appetite) on dinner because it’s the meal I eat with my whole family and my husband is usually starving when he gets home.  Typically our dinner is pretty filling, so with that in mind, this is NOT a recipe that would cut it in our house for dinner.  It is super easy, delicious,

Here are 3 situations where making this would be ideal:

1. You want a light, yet hearty lunch for a few friends.

2. You’re serving a light dinner, like quesadillas or sandwiches, and need a hefty side.

3. You spent your afternoon making a killer dessert and you don’t want to hear any nonsense about your diners being “too full for dessert”.

In my life, #3 is a real situation often – I hate when a great dessert is under appreciated.  Plus, these won’t leave you with a ton of dishes, either, so you can focus on the kitchen disaster at hand after making said dessert.

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Chorizo and Mushroom Salad

8 cups fresh spinach

8oz. chorizo

8oz. mushrooms (I used some shiitake and some button)

1 onion

3T olive oil

Juice of 2 limes

1/2 tsp dried oregano

2oz. goat cheese

salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 425.  Dice the onion and chop the mushrooms.  Break the chorizo up into blobs on a rimmed baking sheet.  Scattter the onion and mushrooms around the pan, too.  Bake for 20 minutes, stirring the mixture every 5 minutes (so the onions and mushrooms gain some fat and flavor from the chorizo).

2. Whisk the lime juice, olive oil, oregano, and 2T of water together to make a dressing, season with a bit of salt and pepper.  Put the spinach into bowls for serving, then scoop the now cooked mushroom mixture over the top.  Drizzle with dressing and crumble a little goat cheese on top.

Vegetable Lo Mein

One of my goals for 2014 was to incorporate more Asian cuisine into our menu.  Some dishes, I’m really excited about (hot & sour soup, eggrolls, thai shrimp), but vegetable lo mein wasn’t high on my list.  See, when I think of it, my mind immediately goes to the sad vat of colorless vegetables and greasy noodles at Panda Express, where, when given the choice, I always choose the fried rice.  However, I’m a sucker for a vegetable dish, so I decided to start my quest with this dish.  I’m so very glad I did because it was wonderful.  The vegetables were crisp, the noodles were flavorful, and the whole dish was really comforting.  Also, I typically associate Asian cuisine with spice, which I adore, but my dear toddler does not.  This dish isn’t spicy at all and my little girl really liked it, so that makes it a win for sure.

I was able to find all of the ingredients at my standard grocery store.  The chow mein noodles came in 6oz. packages, sort of a tray wrapped in cellophane.  I bought 3 of them, so I had a little more than a pound, which was fine.

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Vegetable Lo Mein

Serves 4-6

1 lb. chow mein noodles

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 T fish sauce

2T oyster sauce

2T sesame oil

1 onion

1 bell pepper

4T olive oil

1/2 lb. shiitake mushrooms

1 zucchini

1/2 lb. broccoli

1 inch of fresh ginger

2 garlic cloves

1. Boil the noodles according to package directions (about 4 minutes).  Strain and toss with about a tablespoon of oil (vegetable, olive, whatever) to keep the noodles from sticking together.  Chop the onion, bell pepper, zucchini, and mushrooms.   Peel and mince the garlic and ginger.  Cut the broccoli into small pieces, removing most of the stems.

2. Whisk the oyster sauce, fish sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, and 1/4 cup of water together in a small bowl and set aside.  Heat 2T of olive oil in a large skillet (or better yet, a wok or dutch oven) over high heat and cook the onion and bell peppers until softened, about 2 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and zucchini and stir fry until they start to brown, about 3 more minutes.  Scoop the vegetables onto a plate or bowl and set aside.

3. Add 1T of olive oil to the hot pan and cook the ginger and garlic for about 30 seconds until fragrant.  Then add the noodles and cook for about 4 minutes, turning occasionally.  Then, add the vegetables back in and toss in the broccoli.  Pour the sauce over the whole thing and use tongs to toss the mixture together until the liquid is absorbed and the broccoli is slightly tender.

Source: Adapted from Williams Sonoma.