Monday, November 18, 2013

Chunky Vegetarian Chili

This is an easy, one-pot dish that doesn't need meat to make it hearty. Amounts are flexible, depending on what you like in your chili. Don't forget to rinse and drain the beans well before using.

red kidney beans (1 can)
garbanzo beans (1 can)
(other possibilities: cannellini beans, black beans, pinto beans)

1 can diced tomatoes (I used organic, unsalted fire-roasted)
carrots, peeled and diced (3 small)
yellow onion, minced (1/4 of a large onion)
red pepper, small diced (1 small)
shiitake mushrooms, sliced/diced
kale, stemmed and cut into bite-sized pieces (1 handful)
garlic, diced (3-4 cloves)
(other possibilities: green peppers, jalapeno peppers, celery, other greens such as collards)

Spices (amounts are approximate):
chili powder (1 tbsp.)
paprika (1 tsp)
cayenne pepper (1 tsp)
cumin (1/2 tsp)
allspice (1/2 tsp)
nutmeg (1/2 tsp)
cinnamon (1/2 tsp)
(other possibilities: onion powder, garlic salt)

tomato paste (2 tbsp. or more)
maple syrup (or honey or brown sugar) (1 tbsp. or less)
vinegar (sherry, red wine, or other) (1/2 - 1 tbsp.)
salt & pepper

- Start by sautéing the veggies in extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. (I started with the shrooms, then added the onion, carrots, and pepper, after about five minutes.) Add salt & pepper.

- Add the can of diced tomatoes, garlic, and tomato paste, and stir well.

- Then add the beans, kale (or other greens), spices, maple syrup or honey, vinegar, and more salt & pepper (to taste). Stir well and simmer for 45 minutes or so.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Granola with Less Sugar

I've been reading Robert Ludig's Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease. It's all about the hideous amounts of sugar that's added to processed food. He says that practice began when our high-fat American diet was declared the cause of all the rampant metabolic disease. So the fat was taken out and sugar was added because they (the big food companies) had to add "something" to make it addictive ... I mean, make it taste good.

I'm still digesting the book, so to speak. And I plan to check out a couple of other books recently out on the subject, Grain Brain and Wheat Belly, to see what they have to say about it. I'm still not completely convinced that we need to eliminate ALL sugar and ALL carbs from our diet. Cut out processed food -- as much as possible, if not totally -- yes. But every bit of carb, such as fruits (fresh and dried), whole wheat breads and grains? I'm not so sure.

I'll continue to read and dwell. Meanwhile, it has caused me to think twice about the amount of sugar, and carbs, in everything we eat.

For instance. Granola. The four recipes that I consulted to make the granola for this entry each had a good amount of sugar -- brown sugar or maple syrup or agave (all considered equally bad by Mr. Ludig). Upwards of 1/2 - 3/4 cup. Sounds like a lot. So I first combined all the dry ingredients and then added the maple syrup, a little bit at a time to see how little I could get by with. I did the same thing with the oil (extra virgin olive oil). After all, I like granola that's crunchy, not sticky with extra oil and syrup. And I want to taste the oats, nuts, and seeds, not just pure sweetness.

It didn't take much -- just 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of maple syrup. It's plenty sweet enough, and it's nice and crunchy. I think you really can reduce the sugar in lots of recipes out there, and maybe even eliminate it.

Just-Sweet-Enough Granola 
2 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/4 cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1/4 cup raw almond slivers
1/4 cup pecan and walnut pieces
3 tbsp flaxseed meal
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil or extra virgin coconut oil (melted)
2 tbsp maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and mix well. Spread out in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.
(Watch the baking time carefully to make sure the smaller ingredients don't burn.)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Beet Chips & Kale Chips and Gun Control

These are so good ... better than potato chips. They really have to be sliced extra thin to get them crunchy, so a mandoline slicer is a must. Two beets will make enough chips for two people.

Beet Chips

2 medium-sized beets (golden beets are a good choice, but red is fine too)
extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper.

Chop off the greenery, leaving enough stem so you can use it as a handle while slicing on the mandoline, then peel the beets. Using the thinnest setting on the mandoline, slice the beets. Toss the beet slices in a bowl with the olive oil and salt & pepper (to taste). Place the slices in a single layer on the sheets. Bake until most of the slices have dark browning (see photo above). This will probably take 30 minutes or more.

Kale Chips

bunch of kale
extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper
garam masala or other spices (garlic powder, cumin, etc.)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cut the kale into bite-size pieces (keep in mind they will shrink a bit), leaving the stems on the chopping block. Toss in a bowl with the olive oil and salt & pepper (to taste) and garam masala (or other spice). Spread leaves onto the sheet and bake for about 10 minutes.

Sensible Gun Control

Everyone should read Henry Porter's opinion piece, "American gun use is out of control. Shouldn't the world intervene?", which appeared September 21 in The Guardian:

A piece written by David Byrne (of Talking Heads fame), "If the 1% stifles New York's creative talent, I'm out of here", is also very good:

Monday, September 30, 2013

Healthier Brownies

After finding a recipe (Dark Chocolate Whole-Wheat Brownies) on the 100 Days of Real Food blog, I wanted to try applying some of those ingredients into my Coconut Oil Brownies of the August 24, 2012, post. So I substituted maple syrup for the brown sugar and natural cane sugar, and whole wheat pastry flour for the all-purpose flour.

Although it looks cake-like in the photo above, the brownies actually are more fudge-like. They also turned out thinner; and they shrank a bit, pulling away from the sides of the pan, as they cooled. 

I liked the results though, flavor-wise. I think they're more subtlety sweet, if that makes sense. Less over-the-top, decadent sweetness, but dark chocolaty just the same.

A Healthier Coconut Oil Brownie

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup extra virgin coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup maple syrup (I used Grade B)
1 tsp espresso powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup bittersweet chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch square pan (I used coconut oil).

Sift the cocoa powder into a medium bowl, then add the coconut oil and stir until completely smooth. Add the maple syrup, espresso powder, vanilla, salt, and eggs. Add the flour and mix until just combined. Lastly, fold in the chips.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for about 14 minutes.

Optional: Sprinkle some fleur de sel on top before devouring.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Chickpea Burgers

There are veggie burgers made with black beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), kidney beans, pinto beans, ... OK, just about any kind of bean. Then there are burgs made with tofu, rice and other grains, quinoa (technically a seed, not a grain), lentils, and/or mushrooms and other veggies (beets, sweet potatoes, etc.).
Here's one I put together using whatever I could find in the pantry and frig. Sorry for the lack of exact measurements, but for a lot of the ingredients I just used up what little I had left and didn't bother to measure. I used whole grain rolled oats (Bob's Red Mill) instead of bread crumbs, and I really liked how that worked out.

I used just a little bit of coconut oil for searing/frying. Olive oil was my second choice, but any oil will do. Other ingredients I would consider using with this:  garlic, Dijon mustard, fresh herbs, mushrooms, other spices.

Chickpea Burgs

1 15-oz. can of garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
2 tbsp almond butter
diced onion
diced roasted squash (leftovers from the freezer)
rolled oats
sunflower seeds
Garam Masala
soft goat cheese
salt & pepper
oil for frying

Rinse and drain the beans, then toss in a medium bowl with the nut butter and combine (I used a potato masher; this could also been done in a food processor). Add the other ingredients and mix well. Using your hands, form into patties (size is up to you; I made 5 + 1 mini). Fry over medium heat for about 3 minutes on each side until browned, using a cover for the pan.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Quick & Easy Garlic Mashed Potatoes

These are the easiest and quickest mashed potatoes you can make. This is another recipe from The Southern Vegetarian Cookbook. It's also a healthier version since there's just a tiny bit of butter and there's some cauliflower added.

You just peel and chop the potatoes, chop the cauliflower, and throw them along with a little butter, milk or half-and-half, chopped garlic (as much or as little as you like), and salt and pepper into a microwave-safe dish. It only takes 8-12 minutes in the microwave, then it's ready for mashing. 

I first tried the mashing manually.

But then I decided to bring out the handblender to get it creamier faster.

The original recipe calls for adding 1/8 cup sour cream at the end. I left this out and was happy with the results.

The amounts listed below are half of that in the original recipe which states that it makes about 8 cups. Mine was enough for two, with plenty of leftovers.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes
(slightly adapted from The Southern Vegetarian Cookbook)

2 1/2 cups peeled & chopped potatoes
1 cup chopped cauliflower
1 scant tbsp unsalted butter (scant, meaning "just barely")
1/2 cup milk or half-and-half (I used 2% milk)
4 cloves garlic, chopped (this makes it pretty garlicky)
1/4 tsp salt
pepper, to taste

Place all the ingredients in a microwave-safe dish, cover, and microwave for about 8 minutes (more or less, depending on your microwave oven) until everything is soft enough for mashing.

Friday, August 16, 2013

A Recipe from The Southern Vegetarian Cookbook

One of the food blogs I peruse on a regular basis is The Chubby Vegetarian ( They (it's a two-person operation) do very creative things with their vegetarian recipes, often recreating traditional dishes in imaginative -- but very do-able -- ways. Many of their creations look exactly like their meaty counterparts, like sloppy Joe's, eggplant "sausages", etc. Their take on making a vegetarian diet interesting is original and inspiring. Apparently one of their favorite foods is mushrooms (mine, too) and they do some fantastic things on that front. It's worth a peek at their blog if only for the mushroom recipes.

They just published their first cookbook, The Southern Vegetarian Cookbook.  In honor of that, I thought I would take a recipe or two from the book and try it out. I've been looking for something to make with garbanzo bean (chickpea) flour and they have a recipe for Fried Chickpea Sandwich with Blue Cheese and Tomato. I'll make some slight adaptations and will note those here.
Since I didn't have vegetable broth on hand (called for by the original recipe), I just used water to cook the chickpea flour.

After cooking the flour on the stove top, spread it out into a dish and let it cool. I put it in the frig until I was ready to finish the process later.

I also made a batch of Maple Mushrooms from The Southern Vegetarian Cookbook to go along as a side. Marinate the mushrooms for 20 minutes or so.

And then spread them out on a baking sheet.

Now back to the chickpea dish. Slide it out of the dish onto a cutting surface and cut it into little triangles.
I used grapeseed oil, instead of canola oil, for frying ... just because that's what I had in the pantry. I would think any neutral oil would do. I generally don't deep fry anything, in fact I never do. I don't have a proper thermometer for measuring oil temperature and I don't have the cookware for it. It's just not something I've gotten into doing myself, but I can appreciate why people do it. 
So for this recipe I used a non-stick pan and did a pan fry, using just enough oil to cover the bottom. I had some trouble getting the stove top heat just right, so there were varying degrees of browning among the batches.
Come to think of it, this was a gluten-free meal that I made with this recipe. The Southern Vegetarian Cookbook recipe is a sandwich recipe, calling for sesame buns and the additions of baby spinach, mayo, tomato, shallot, and crumbled blue cheese. I made mine a bun-less sandwich with heirloom tomato, Vidalia onion, and fresh goat cheese. To the dinner plate I added some left-over oven-roasted potatoes and the Maple Mushrooms.
It's explained in The Southern Vegetarian Cookbook that these chickpea fritters are called panelle in Sicily, but their intent with this recipe was to use them as a substitute for fried chicken in a sandwich. Since mine weren't deep fried, they turned out less crispy on the outside but there's still a contrast between the outside and the creaminess inside.
Chickpea Fritters
(adapted from The Southern Vegetarian Cookbook)
1 cup garbanzo bean (chickpea) flour
2 cups water
salt & pepper
oil for frying (canola, grapeseed, etc.)
heirloom tomato
fresh goat cheese
Vidalia onion
Add 2 cups of water to a  small sauce pan. As you bring the water up slowly to a low boil, slowly add 1 cup flour and whisk continuously. Once the mixture thickens, cook at a simmer for a few minutes while stirring occasionally.
Spread the mixture evenly in a baking dish (I used a 6" x 9" glass dish). Let it cool on the counter. Once cooled, you can either cover it with plastic and store in the refrigerator or proceed with the process.
Slide the mixture out of the dish onto a cutting surface and cut it into 2-inch squares and then halve those. Heat a pan with the oil on medium heat and fry the patties in batches for about 2-4 minutes per side. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Maple Mushrooms
(adapted from The Southern Vegetarian Cookbook)
Note: Instead of using canola oil, soy sauce, and liquid smoke as called for in the original recipe, I used olive oil and sesame oil (again, going with what I had on hand).
1 5-oz. package of sliced shiitake mushrooms
1/8 cup maple syrup
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp toasted sesame oil
pinch of salt
pepper, to taste
Whisk together all the ingredients, except the mushrooms, in a medium bowl. Toss in the mushrooms, stirring gently to coat everybody, then set aside to marinate for 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Scoop out the mushrooms from the marinade and spread them out on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, and bake for 20 minutes (until they're beginning to brown).

Friday, August 2, 2013

Review of Village Burger (Dunwoody, GA)

There's a neighborhood burger shack (literally) tucked back in an area called Dunwoody Village, on Dunwoody Place Drive, that has gotten good reviews.  Dunwoody Village is in sore need of updating; just a little mowing of the landscaping, including the medians, would help tremendously.  So this burger joint, Village Burger, fits in perfectly with its setting, with reasonably low prices for the food and bare bones/rustic decor ... yeah, a shack. 
Their one veggie burger offering is black-bean based.  According to the menu, it comes with the in-house made VB sauce, the standard lettuce and tomato, and cheese (type?) on a whole wheat bun.  The only change to that I requested in my order was the addition of avocado.  This photo tells it all (it was a to-go order).

It was a disappointing execution of a surprisingly tasty paddy.  And, yes, presentation does matter even with take-out orders.  It had a man-handled appearance and it was full of errors -- plain ole white bun instead of wheat (veggie burgers do not belong on white bread), and no lettuce or tomato or sauce.  And the avocado slices were wedged underneath the paddy -- huh?!  Very sloppy. 
But the paddy itself was one of the better tasting black-bean burgers around.  It wasn't dry and bland, but flavorful and tender.  The hand-cut fries were better than average as well.  I would have been more perturbed if the prices weren't as reasonable as they are.  Definitely worthy of a second visit.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Lentil and Farro Veggie Burgers

You can pretty much combine whatever non-meat ingredients you want, smoosh them into a patty, and fry or bake them ... and you have veggie burgers. Just make a list of ingredients that sound good to you, and go for it. Here's a start:

black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans
rice, quinoa, farro
mushrooms, beets
seeds, nuts
cheese (ricotta, soft goat)

Mix in an egg or two, spices, greenery (fresh herbs and/or cooked greens like kale, chard, spinach), chopped onions, and enough bread crumbs to help hold it together, and that's it. It's always good to make extras to store in the freezer for quick lunches.

The following combination I came up with has a nice crunch/chewiness from the farro and sunflower seeds.

Lentil and Farro Veggie Burgers

1/2 cup cooked lentils
1/2 cup cooked farro
5 oz. sliced shiitake mushrooms, sautéed
1/4 cup small diced onion
1/4 cup kale, chopped and sautéed with minced garlic
1/2 tsp garam masala (or cumin)
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
3/8 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
2 eggs
salt & pepper
fresh sage, thyme, parsley, chopped

Combine all ingredients, adding additional bread crumbs if needed, and form into small, thick patties. Remember to do your taste-testing before adding the eggs! It's helpful to refrigerate the patties for an hour or so.

Heat up some extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Cook the patties until browning occurs on the bottoms, then flip and cook the other side until browned. I cooked mine for about 6 minutes per side, and I also covered the pan for most of the cooking time.

Makes 8 small, thick patties

Friday, April 12, 2013

Wild Sockeye Salmon with Farro and Kale Salad

It's time to take a break from all the searching. Searching for a dentist, an eye doctor, a place to get a haircut and the occasional (although on a regular basis) highlight. After sticking with the same hair salon for 20+ years in Charlotte, I'll be searching for the third one in 5 months here in ATL.

Speaking of searches, I decided to give Angie's List a try. Of course, in order to try it you have to join ... for a price. One would think it could come in handy in a new city. Surprisingly though, I'm finding very few reviews for such basics as dentists, hair salons, movers, etc. If there are so few reviews (in the less-than-five range) in a city of this size, I can't imagine it would be useful at all in a smaller city. I would love to hear what others have experienced with it. Please let me know.

The one meal that I feel pretty confident about cooking well is one that includes fish. I'm sure that's only because I cook fish quite often. I've done a little steaming and roasting of fish, but usually I just keep it simple with a little bit of butter and olive oil in the pan on the stovetop. It's so simple, but lets the particular fish I'm cooking come through on its own -- which makes starting with a good piece of fish to begin with essential. And that statement makes me once again mourn and pine for the Clean Catch fish market in Charlotte. There is no equivalent in this city, and I can't seem to convince the guys at Clean Catch that they would be a huge hit here.

With salmon I like to play around with adding something extra, like a mixture of spices or, as in this case, a brushing of a Dijon mustard and maple syrup mixture. Farro is easy to make and goes well with salmon and, for hubby, a pork chop. I added a simple vinaigrette to boost the flavor -- a bit of Dijon mustard, sherry vinegar, olive oil, and salt & pepper, and I think I may have even added a few drops of maple syrup. The kale salad was from Whole Foods.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Burgs in the Big City

I wish I could say that I created this. A tuna tartare burger with a side of sweet potato tots. It was excellent.

Relocating to a new state, a new city, makes cooking in the home kitchen tough. Especially when home is a temporary, cramped apartment. And not the best of appliances to work with. The stove top gets way too hot, and the oven does too ... and the oven thermometer seems to be lying about that fact. So the baked goods have been a little on the dry side, and there's a lot of boiling-over on the stove top going on.

Maybe it's just another lesson for a beginner cook. Appliances are all different, with their own quirks and nuances.

By the way, I miss Earth Fare (a bit better than Whole Foods, in my opinion), Clean Catch (Charlotte is truly lucky to have such a high quality fish market), The Secret Chocolatier, Great Harvest Bread, Dilworth Coffee (especially the people behind the counter), Daphne's Bakery (in Mint Hill), and especially the Matthews Farmer's Market (again, Charlotte/Matthews is lucky to have such a high quality, year-round farmer's market).

That said, I have gained an abundance of new restaurants to choose from. One of the specialties/obsessions here seems to be the all-mighty burger. There's Flip Burger Boutique for one, where I went pescatarian with the tuna burg above. And there are a lot of really good veggie burgers, too. Farm Burger and the World Peace Cafe both have delicious, non-soy (watching the soy intake; there's too much soy in everything these days) veggie burgers that are just as hearty and tasty as the all-American beef kind (yes, really, Steve!).

Also, aren't those great names ... Farm Burger, Flip Burger?

And, lastly for this post, here's a veggie burger I made in my own lowly apartment kitchen. It's a concoction of whatever was on hand ... pinto and cannellini beans, mushrooms, onions, etc. Pretty good in a pinch, but not as good as a Peace Burger by any means.