Nutshroom Neatballs (GF,DF): Endless Possibilities

I’ve shared with you my serious leaning toward the burger as a warm, satisfying handheld meal.  My experiments in veggie burgering are many and I’ve enjoyed every one; however, there are only so many warm satisfying handheld meals one can consume in a single week (this is what I’ve inferred from my crew, mind you, not my own opinion).  Far be it from me, however, to simply leave the flavors of my beloved veggie burgers behind.  What better way to get the flavor I’m looking for and make it LOOK like I was inventing a whole new meal just for my little one’s picky little palate than to make veggie burger neatballs?  How awesome am I? And neatballs? Small, yummy, cute, warm.  What picky pantser could possibly resist?

IMG_0223This meal has some of my favorite qualities. Delicious, easy to make, easy to double or triple for freezing, perfect leftovers, and super flexible. Being a competent and happy cook often has more to do with re-imaging something you already know how to do than with learning how to make something new every night – who has time for that? So, we make do. And sometimes that making do, that little twist, that sneaky trick, turns out to be quite delightful, like Nutshroom Neatballs. Continue reading

Spinach Chickpea Burgers w/Cumin Cashewnaise (GF,DF)

I CANNOT believe I’ve not shared these burgers with you. They are an absolute favorite of mine and they are Ms. Picky Pants’ favorite veggie burger.  If THAT isn’t a recommendation, I don’t know what is. I came across the recipe a few years ago in The Washington Post, and after quite a bit of experimentation, we’ve found the version of their version (ha) that appeals most to us.  If you’re a fan of Lynne Rosetto Kasper (of American Public Media’s The Splendid Table fame), you should know she has also claimed a version of these as HER personal favorite veggie burger.  If you’re not yet impressed I’ll go out and fine some more people who love them… okay, you’re right I won’t.  You should just give them a try.

If you’ve got a food processor, these babies are ingredients to table 35 minutes.  If you don’t serve on bread (or choose your bread wisely), they’re gluten free. They’re packed with nutrition between the chickpeas and the spinach and if you pantry stock, the only fresh ingredient you need is greens – and yes, you can sub out frozen there. These babies also keep and freeze beautifully.  I double the recipe (except when I forget, which I did tonight and I am oh so sad). The flavor is satisfying and while they are not remotely burger-y (you should try these Nutshroom Burgers if that’s what you’re after), they work beautifully with typical burger treatment and really satisfy that hot handheld entree craving. Enough with the sell – let’s get down to some quick and delicious dinner. Continue reading

Frankenstorm Frankenpatties Frankengood

There is a fine line between preparedness and panic and while I’ve not yet swung into panic, I confess that weather events get me a little looney.  The unpredictability, the noise, the fact that I’m responsible for small people and a VERY neurotic dog…  I’m not a good storm buddy.  If you live in the U.S. and don’t have your head planted firmly under a rock, you’ve likely heard that the East Coast (coast being used VERY broadly here) is taking a beating, and we are about 36 hours out from the most intense part of the storm.  

I’ve tried not to act as though there the ZombiePocalypse is imminent; however, I did see some wisdom in loading up on lighting devices, getting some bottled water, some food items that will be easily dealt with in low power situations, and a few craft items for the kids to interrupt anxiety.  I’ve also made an effort to eat up items that would be unlikely to make it through a power outage of any duration.  THIS is how I come up with a recipe friends.  I’m not proud, but near panic and a desire not to waste food can really get me moving in the kitchen.  So, I’ve pulled together a strange assortment of items to make fabulously green patties (just in time for Halloween :-)) that we ate like burgers, but that if I made again I would likely serve more like falafel – smaller patties rather than one large one. Perhaps like my daughter, I admit to a certain appreciation for small food.

Given the landscape of my fridge, I must concede that this is a strange assembly of ingredients, but I’ll give some suggestions for replacements if you’d like some good green eating for the monsters in your tribe and don’t have the same sampling currently available.

Gluten Free Frankenpatties

  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, smashed
  • 1 1/4 c chickpeas (I suspect any bean would work)
  • 3/4 c almond milk mash (leftover from making almond milk, alternatively I would suggest using mashed potatoes)
  • 2 oz kale (a couple of generous handfuls, any hearty green would work)
  • 2 T sunflower cheese (or mayo)
  • 3 T almond milk (or other liquid)
  • 2 T tahini (or other nut butter)
  • 1 1/2 T Bragg’s or soy sauce
  • 1 t salt
  • 3/4 t dry yellow mustard
  • 2/3 c garbanzo flour (you could probably use just about any flour here, although I like the flavor, and the gluten free-ness of the chickpea)
  • 1.5 c cooked quinoa (or rice or whatever other grain you have leftover)

Preheat oven to 325.  In pan on stove, warm pan with a splash of olive oil.  Add onions and cook on low-medium until onions are soft.  Add garlic and cook until you can smell it (about 30 seconds).  Put contents of pan and ingredients up until the garbanzo flour into a food processor.  You may need to add the kale a little at a time.  Add the flour a bit at a time until the mixture is wet, but will hold shape.  In a bowl, add the quinoa and stir to distribute. Form dough into patties. If the mixture is too wet, add bit more flour.  Add olive oil to pan and warm over medium heat.  Cook patties about 6-8 minutes per side and then move to oven for about 10 minutes to cook through.  There you go.  A perfectly spooky green dinner, delicious with burger fixings, or as I had mine, with a nice big dollop of smoky baba ghanoush.  Delish.

Recalibration

Whenever a friend asks me for advice about food (what are they thinking, right), my answers are pretty consistent. Read your labels, avoid processed food, less packaging is usually better, yes you have to cook, buy ingredients not meals, and for pete’s sake put down that soda. Great advice, and I follow almost all of it much of the time. This is the way with advice right? Right? Please tell me I’m not the only well-intended hypocrite out there. This week I’ve made a conscious effort to remind myself of the central mission that Big Sis and I adopted when we started this enterprise. Eat food, real food. Just food, not chemicals, not gimmicks, not time-savers, and not substitutes.

A few months back, I decided to cut meat and dairy from my diet most of the time (weekday vegan). For the most part I’ve been pretty successful at staying true to the eat food, real food tenants, but there has been some slippage as I’ve tried to replace food items that are near and dear to my palate and I’ve found myself sucked in by some items that definitely don’t honor the other part of our shared philosophy, which is that eating real food can be affordable. Due to my enthusiasm and sporadic attention, the grocery bill has become a bit of a monster. We haven’t talked about this much, but Big Sis and I both believe that it is possible to maintain your current budget, and in some cases even decrease your spending by replacing processed foods with real food. This belief doesn’t even begin to take into account the long term savings in health care and work lost to illness that healthier eating can provide – don’t worry, I’m not about to do any math here, although I am now tempted to Google to see if someone else has already done that math….. Stay on target. Stay on target.

beautiful, simple, inexpensive lentils

And so after paying the last month’s bills, I decided it was time for a bit of a recalibration. Time to remind my brain and my body that there are simpler ways to stay true to my dietary choices without breaking the bank. And so I whipped up an old friend, one that you should meet as well. Enter bulgur and lentils. These two humble (and CHEAP) ingredients can be manipulated into a variety of dishes on their own, but put them together and a world of possibilities opens up, particularly for those interested in replacing some meat based dishes in their recipe box. I stumbled upon this combo in The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyzyn years ago. As a side note, if you are looking to shrink your expenditures and you come across a used, or better still a library copy of this book, you will find a wealth (hahahaha) of ideas on how to economize in just about every category of domestic life. At any rate, the recommendation here is to mix lentils and bulgur and cook them in water (2 water to 1 lentils and bulgur). This mix can then be used in essentially the same way that you would use ground meat. We used the ridiculously large amount that I made this week in veggie burgers and for a taco/burrito night. The bulgur-lentil mix performed beautifully in both of these areas. My son was particularly taken with his grainy beany tacos. I thought I’d share these simple, cheap, real food recipes with you, just in case you need to recalibrate too – or just in case you’re looking to save a little money and improve your family’s nutrition. Eat food, real food.

Lentil Bulgur Mixture – from The Tightwad Gazette

  • 4c water
  • 1c lentils (I used plain brown, super cheap, lentils)
  • 1c bulgur

Bring water to a boil, add lentils and bulgur and simmer for 45 minutes.  Do check and stir periodically as they will stick on the bottom, particularly if you over cook.  When finished, I turn off heat, leave cover on and let them steam a bit to make the bottom sticking phenomenon go away (works with rice too, by the way).  I doubled this recipe and we now have far more of this mixture than we can use in a reasonable amount of time.  I will try freezing, but remember that this is an expandy food when you make your own.  This mixture should be refrigerated once cooked.  Feel free to make the mixture ahead of time by a few days and save yourself some meal prep time.

happy little burgers waiting to go in the oven

Lentil Bulgur Burgers – adapted from The Tightwad Gazette

  • 2 c lentil-bulgur mixture
  • 2 c bread crumbs
  • 1 c chopped onion
  • 1/2 c chopped green pepper (opt.)
  • 4 T mixed herbs (I use bail, oregano and thyme)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 eggs (flax, soy, or chicken)
  • 2 T soy sauce or Bragg’s plus milk to make 1/2 c (I used almond)
  • 1/4 c sunflower seeds (opt., but I like the texture)

Preheat oven to 350 if you want to bake your burgers.  Mix the first six ingredients.  Add eggs and soy sauce/milk and mix well.  Stir in sunflower seeds.

amazingly yum and easy pretzel rolls

If you have time, chill for at least half and hour (I did it without the chill and it wasn’t a problem).  Form into patties.  Fry 10 minutes per side, or bake (on parchment or lightly greased cookie sheet) at 350 ten minutes per side.  The fried version has a more burger-like appearance, so if you’re looking to convince someone, that may be a better approach.  I find baking easier in process and for cleanup.  We served our burgers on these pretzel rolls from our friend Somer at Good Clean Food. Traditional burger toppings plus a little kimchi for me. Delish!

Lentil Bulgur Tacos

I must confess that I got a bit slapdash here, so I’m going to describe my procedure without measurements as I would be completely fabricating quantities any other way.   Saute chopped onion until soft.  Add minced garlic.  Add chili powder, cumin, and a little soy sauce or Bragg’s.  When fragrant, add enough lentil bulgur mixture to satisfy your crew.   Turn heat up a little if you’d like to get some browning on your taco filling.  Cook until flavors meld and all is warm.  Serve with taco shells or tortillas and fixings.

No chemicals, no gimmicks, little packaging, no “time savers” (although it really didn’t take long), and no weird factory substitutes.   Just food, real food.  Cheap and delish.