Category Archives: Main Dishes

Vegan Eggplant Parm – Healthy Recipe

Eggplant Parmesan has been one of my favorite dishes for as long as I can remember. It has a lot to do with growing up as a vegetarian in New York City where eggplant parm sandwiches are in abundant supply. That ooey, gooey, saucy, cheesy sandwich was often a go to option for me, with it’s oily fried eggplant slices stuffed into a perfectly toasted Italian roll that excelled at its job of soaking up a sweet marinara sauce and holding the lightly charred mozzarella cheese in its place. If I went out for a “fancier” Italian dinner, I ordered the eggplant parmesan over spaghetti. It was also one of my grandma’s go to orders and we’d often end up splitting or taking bites from the other’s plate on the rare occasions either of us ordered something else.

Of course while the taste was above and beyond measure, so were the calories. I couldn’t even fathom eating something as decadent as that now. But, since I like to reminisce about past favorites, and it is eggplant season, I just had to create a healthier version of this New York classic.

For this healthier vegan eggplant parmesan, I ditch the breadcrumbs, making it naturally gluten free, and opt to bake the eggplant instead of frying it. For a little extra oomph factor, I add in a simple basil pistou, but since this is the oiliest part of the dish, it may be omitted.  There are a lot of components that go into making the final dish, but the sauces are actually all very simple to make and each contains only a small handful of ingredients. To make it even simpler, and eliminate one step, you can use a pre-made jarred tomato sauce.

vegan_eggplant_Parm

Eggplant Parm
1 large eggplant, about 1 pound
olive oil for brushing, or spray

Basil pistou
3 packed cups basil
1 clove garlic
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup olive oil

Sundried Tomato Sauce
1/2 Cup sundried tomatoes, soaked (liquid reserved)
1 cup tomato puree
2 cloves garlic
1/2 Tablespoon balsamic
reserved soaking water as needed

Nut Cheese Sauce
1/2 Cup cashews and macadamia nuts (or other combo), soaked
3/4 Cup water, or more if needed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic
1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast
1-2 Tablespoons lemon juice, depending on how much tang you want
1 teaspoon miso

1. Cut eggplant into rounds about 3/4″ thick. Place in colander and sprinkle with salt to draw out bitterness. Leave for at least 10 minutes. Pat with paper towel. Arrange on parchment lined baking sheet. Brush both sides with oil. Bake at 400 for 30-35 minutes, flipping half way through. You want them to be easy to cut with a fork, but firm enough to not fall apart.

eggplant

2. While eggplant is cooking, prepare sauces.

Basil Pistou
Pulse garlic, salt and basil in a food processor a few times to chop. With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in olive oil until combined. Adjust seasoning.

Sundried Tomato Sauce
Place everything in a blender, except reserved soaking water and blend until smooth, adding soaking water little by little until desired consistency is reached. Set aside and rinse out blender.

Nut Cheese Sauce
If you have a high speed blender, you only have to soak the nuts for a minimum of 10 minutes, in warm water. For lower speed blenders, soak 8 hours or overnight for a creamier texture. Add all the ingredients to blender and blend until smooth.

3. Assemble Eggplant Parm.
Top eggplant slices with tomato sauce, drizzle cheese sauce, bake 5 minutes. Top with pesto.  Layer 3 or 4 on top of each other, if desired. Serve as is with a side of greens or a fresh salad, or layer into a toasty piece of (gluten free) bread.

gluten_free_vegan_Eggplant_Parm

Summer Succotash with Okra

Over the last few weeks, I’ve seen corn making its way into the grocery stores and farmers market, and have caught a few glimpses of okra as well.  The okra is a little early as it usually comes into peak season around August or early September, but seeing it alongside corn inspired me to take advantage of this colliding of the seasons.

Succotash isn’t something I regularly eat these days, but I hold a fondness of it from childhood.

If you’ve never had or heard of succotash, it is a traditional Native American dish typically made with corn and lima beans or other shell beans, and may be combined with a variety of other summer ingredients like peppers, zucchini, and tomatoes. The name is derived from the indigenous people from Narragansett (now Rhode Island) who referred to m’sickquatash, meaning “boiled whole ear of corn”, or something along those lines.

succotash_basil

Naturally vegan and gluten free, Succotash is typically a side dish, but may be transformed into a hearty entree with beans.

When making succotash with okra, I find the best flavor and texture comes from pan searing the okra first. This okra cooking technique helps to cut down on the slime you may get if you stir your okra too much or allow it to be exposed to too much moisture while sautéing.

okra

Summer Succotash with Okra

Serves 2 – 4.
Ingredients
2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 pound okra, cut into 1/3-inch-thick slices
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large fresh jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
1 or 2 ears corn, kernels cut off and cobs
8 ounces fresh beans (baby lima beans,
1/2 pound cherry tomatoes (about 1/2 pint), halved
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions
1. Heat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in a wide pan over medium heat. Pan sear okra until browned on both sides, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove from pan and set aside.

2. Heat remaining olive oil in pan and add onion. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until softened. Add garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in corn, jalapeno, fresh beans, and tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 7 minutes.

3. Return okra to pan stir in vinegar. Remove from heat, add basil, salt, and pepper, and adjust seasonings, to taste. Serve.

okra_succotash

Easy Weeknight Meals: Curried Chickpea Salad

vegan_curried_chickpea_salad

Chickpeas are most commonly known as the Hummus Bean, but they are so much more versatile than that. I love using chickpeas for everything from breakfast scrambles to tacos, to burgers, to crispy roasted snack alternatives, and in soups. I’ve yet to try them for dessert as Blondies, or a grain free cookie dough dip, though I’ve seen many of those around the internet. More recently, their liquid has even been used as an egg replacer to make meringue.

The versatile legume is high in protein, fiber, iron, folate and manganese. It supports digestion, cardiovascular health and helps regulate blood sugar. Chickpeas are dense and hearty, but at the same time light enough in flavor to absorb whatever seasonings you add to them.

For this Easy Weeknight Meal, I’ve used chickpeas to create a high protein, vegan curried chickpea salad. It is packed with flavor and crunch from fresh vegetables. Lots of color in the chickpea salad means you are eating the rainbow and covering a full scale of antioxidants, vitamins and nutrients.

The vegan chickpea salad can be enjoyed with nothing more than a spoon, or use it to top leafy greens, stuff between slices of sandwich bread or roll in a wrap, lettuce, collard or otherwise. However you eat it, have fun with it!

Curried Chickpea Salad
Makes 3 to 4 servings

Ingredients
1/4 Cup diced red onion (optional, soaked in apple cider vinegar and water)
1 1/2 Cups cooked chickpeas (one can, drained and rinsed)
1/2 Tablespoon fresh lime juice, or more to taste
1 Tablespoon curry powder, or to taste
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 Tablespoons coconut milk, or vegan mayo
1/2 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced small
1/4 Cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Optional: bread, collard wrap, sprouts, lettuce, tomato, or other favorite accompaniments

Directions
1. Optional: In a small bowl, submerge diced red onion in 2 parts apple cider vinegar and 1 part water. Let sit for at least half hour; drain and rinse.
2. Using a food processor fitted with the S-blade, grind chickpeas until flaky. Transfer to a bowl. You may also use a hand masher instead of food processor for chunkier texture.
2. Add remaining ingredients a mix well with a fork to incorporate. Season with salt and pepper.

vegan_curried_chickpea_sandwich

 

What’s your favorite way to eat chickpeas?  Leave a comment below!

Guest Post: Artichoke Spinach Lasagna and Cookbook Giveaway

Today I am thrilled to have Stephanie Dreyer aka VeegMama as a guest contributor. Even though I don’t have kids of my own yet, her blog is an inspiration for maintaining a fun filled vegan lifestyle, and shows how easy it can be to eat healthy.  The best part about her guest post, is that she is giving away a free copy of her awesome new ebook VeegMama’s Guide to Going Vegan to one lucky winner.  In the book, Stephanie shares tips and provides information on how to transition easily and joyfully to a plant-based lifestyle, with lots of yummy recipes included.

An Italian girl after my own heart, Stephanie shares her recipe for Artichoke and Spinach lasagna, a gluten free and soy free version of one of my childhood favorites.

Enter to win at the bottom of this post!  Giveaway ends Monday, March 16.

Guest Post: VeegMama’s Spinach and Artichoke Lasagna

I am very excited to be on Veggie Fixation today! As a vegan mom of three, I am always looking for new, healthy recipes to delight my family. When I adopted a vegan diet almost 5 years ago, there was a steep learning curve to build a new repertoire of recipes and familiarize myself with vegan products. In my new ebook, VeegMama’s Guide To Going Vegan, I share how to transition to a vegan diet and lifestyle simply and easily, and provide lots of delicious recipes. This one is a nod to my Italian roots, where pasta is a mainstay. This recipe uses De Bole’s Rice Lasagna noodles to make it gluten-free. It also uses a delicious non-dairy, non-soy cheese by Daiya. Both products are available at Whole Foods. I hope you and your family enjoy it!

 

Spinach and Artichoke Lasagna

Vegan and Gluten-free Artichoke and Spinach Lasagna

Ingredients

1 box gluten-free lasagna noodles

12 oz fresh baby spinach

2 cans of artichokes hearts (in water), drained and coarsely chopped

2 Tablespoons olive oil

3-4 cloves of garlic, minced

16 oz Daiya cheese

2 25 oz jars of marinara sauce

2 14.5 oz cans of chopped tomatoes, drained

Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add lasagna noodles and cook according to the package directions (if using De Bole’s, you don’t have to boil them). Drain and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a pan and add garlic. Saute until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes.

Add artichoke hearts to pan and cook 3-4 minutes.

Add spinach to pan in batches. Using tongs, fold in the spinach until slightly wilted, adding more spinach until it is all combined in the pan. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon a ½ cup of marinara sauce on the bottom of a lasagna pan.

Add a layer of noodles across the bottom. Spread ½ of the artichoke and spinach mixture over the noodles. Pour the rest of the first jar of sauce over the noodles.

Top with 1 can of the drained tomatoes. Sprinkle half of cheese over the veggies. Repeat with the remaining ingredients for one more layer, ending with cheese on the very top.

Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes, or until done.

Let sit 5-10 minutes before serving.

About Stephanie Dreyer:

Stephanie Dreyer, is the founder of VeegMama, a lifestyle blog sharing new approaches to healthy living and eating.  She encourages her readers to live their best life every day through food, wellness, and personal fulfillment.  She is also a children’s book writer and mom of three.  Stephanie was most recently featured on KCAL 9 in Los Angeles and Chickpea Magazine.  She is a contributing author in the #1 Amazon Bestselling Book, Sexy Fit and Fab Sirens.

Her new ebook, VeegMama’s Guide To Going Vegan is now available. You can visit her at veegmama.com and can connect with her at veegmama@gmail.com, facebook.com/Veegmamatwitter.com/Veegmamainstagram.com/Veegmama and pinterest.com/veegmama.

**UPDATE: Giveaway now closed.  Congrats to Tanay Colon!

veegmama a Rafflecopter giveaway


Easy Weeknight Meals: Curry Bowl

At lunch the other day, I was having a discussion with Jacques and his coworker about eating vegan and eating healthy.

As he put down his fork, the coworker said very eagerly “if I could eat like this at home all the time, it would be so much easier to maintain a healthy vegan diet.”  We were eating at Native Foods and he had just finished his Bangkok Curry bowl – “Seared tofu steak atop steamed veggies, kale, brown rice, with lemongrass-ginger-infused coconut milk curry. Topped with toasted sesame seeds and cilantro.”

Of course, I jumped immediately into educator mode and assured him “you can eat like this all the time! It’s really easy. All that bowl is when you break it down is steamed vegetables, brown rice and sauce.”

He thought for a second, then admitted that, yes, this was true, but he and his wife are terrible about actually taking the time to pre-plan their meals, or cook in bulk for the week.

Does this sound familiar?

While I am a big fan of recommending that people batch cook, I acknowledge that in reality this may not be possible for most people.  If you don’t LOOOOOVE cooking, the idea of hanging in the kitchen for half a day so that you don’t have to do it every night of the week, may not sound very appealing. Even if you do love cooking, trying to set aside an entire afternoon to do it, often just isn’t going to happen when the rest of life gets in the way.  Something tells me not everyone is as focused as I am on what they are going to eat at their next meal immediately after they just finished their last one.

In an effort to help you discover ways to easily prepare healthy meals at home, I’m beginning a series of posts entitled “Easy Weeknight Meals” where I’ll feature different simple recipes you can throw together in a matter of minutes.

How will you prepare delicious, easy and healthy meals in a matter of minutes you ask?

The answer is to take advantage of all the prep work that has already been done for you.  One of the best resources for prepped veggies is Trader Joe’s, especially since their produce section is ever expanding to offer a wider variety of vegetables, and more organic options as well.  The broccoli and cauliflower are already in florets, the kale is already chopped, the onions are diced, and the carrots are wee babies.  Nothing needs to be washed, de-stemmed or peeled. They even have pre-cooked rice and quinoa, and rice that has been parboiled to cut down cooking time. All the time consuming prep work has already been taken care of so all you have to do is steam and choose a sauce.

I use Trader Joe’s as an example, but just about every grocery store, including Costco, have recognized our growing desire to eat fewer pre-packaged meals and more freshly prepared ones, with the same convenience factor, and are now offering pre-cut vegetables.  You can also find some great “done for you” sauces, or whip up a favorite on your own.

Lately, I have been on a curry making kick, which is probably why I got so excited about coworker enjoying his Bangkok Bowl.  While I do take extra steps when I make my curries, you can just as easily recreate a simple version in 15 minutes on a busy work night. I present to you the first recipe in the Easy Weeknight Meals series.

Quick and Easy Weeknight Curry Bowl

What you Need:

Pre-made curry sauce, or curry paste, soy sauce or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, and a can of coconut milk (do not shake!)

coconut-milk

Pre-chopped vegetables of choice (I recommend broccoli, carrots, zucchini, kale and cauliflower)

chopped-veggies

Brown rice or quinoa (this can be a frozen package, or something you pre-cooked)

bowl-of-rice

Marinated tofu or seitan, optional

Sesame seeds and cilantro, optional for garnish

What you Do:

Fill a pot with a couple of inches of water. Place your vegetables in a steamer basket and put steamer basket in the pot, making sure the vegetables are not submerged in water. If they are, dump out some of the water. Turn on heat to medium, cover and steam for 5-8 minutes until vegetables have reached your desired tenderness.

steamed-veggies

Cook or re-heat rice or quinoa according to package directions.

Heat or make your sauce.  If you are using curry paste, add a couple tablespoons to a small pot over medium heat and cook for a minute or two, until it is very fragrant.  (I like to sauté a little garlic, ginger and onion with my curry paste, but we’re keeping it simple right now. Save that for a night when you have more time to cook.) Scoop out just the white part of the coconut milk and whisk into the pot, along with a teaspoon of soy sauce/Bragg’s/tamari. Simmer over low heat until it is warm.  Taste and adjust for seasoning, adding more curry paste or soy sauce as needed.

Get out a big bowl. Scoop half cup to a cup of rice/quinoa into the bowl, top with a cup or two of steamed vegetables, pour about a quarter cup of sauce over everything, top with seitan or tofu, if using.  Devour!  Save the leftovers for lunch or dinner tomorrow.

veggie-bowl-with-sauce

Mediterranean Farro Salad

It’s that perfect time of year when the seasonal veggies overlap and there are seemingly endless combinations of veggies you can put together to create sensational flavors. I’ve been having so much fun in the kitchen taking advantage of this over lap.  I’ve topped roasted autumn veggies with juicy heirloom tomatoes; enjoyed a combination of eggplant and butternut squash; and paired crisp Asian pears with sweet red strawberries.

I just love the way summer meets fall in this delicious Mediterranean farro salad. It takes a little bit of prep, but most of it is down time while the veggies are roasting. Roasting is key to making this salad perfection, bringing out the natural sweetness of the vegetables through a gentle caramelization.

 

Mediterranean Farro

 

Mediterranean Farro Salad

Ingredients

1 cup farro

5 cups water

1 red bell pepper

1 Tablespoon grapeseed oil, divided

2 medium shallots, quartered

1 cup brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half

1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, rehydrated and sliced (reserve soaking water)

4 artichokes, quartered (packed in water)

handful of fresh basil leaves, chiffonade

handful of fresh parsley, minced

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Add farro and water to a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, until farro is tender.

2. Place bell pepper on a parchment lined baking sheet. Toss shallots and brussels sprouts in in half a tablespoon of oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, if desired. Arrange in a single layer on baking sheet next to the pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes. Remove pan from oven, flip all the vegetables, then return to oven for another 10-15 minutes, until browned.

3. Place the pepper in a small bowl and cover until cool enough to handle, then peel, remove seeds and dice.  Chop shallots into smaller pieces.

4. In a large pan, saute the artichokes and sundried tomatoes in remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil, until artichokes are lightly browned. Remove from heat, transfer to a large mixing bowl and set aside. When farro is done cooking, drain and rinse under cold water. Add to bowl along with roasted vegetables. Stir in basil and parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper.

 

What are your favorite cross seasonal pairings?  Share in the comments below.

Lentil Mushroom Burger and Green Festival

This morning I was reminded that next week is Labor Day. I remember back in my school days, this would usually mean one more week of summer vacation (or once college rolled around, it meant we were in our first week of classes). These days, my mind goes to food and the winding down of barbecue and burger season. Since Labor Day is always on a Monday, what better way to spend it than supporting a Meatless Monday.

Burgers have been a hot topic for me lately, teaching two sold out Perfect Veggie Burger classes at The Gourmandise School, a private lesson on veggie burger making, and **Drumroll please** an invitation to participate in the Good Food Stage at Los Angeles Green Festival, based on my proposal for a veggie burger cooking demo.

I’ve been attending Green Festival for several years now and have dreamed of presenting there. I’m thrilled to finally see that dream become reality. If you’ve never been to Green Festival, you should plan to attend this year, for sure, as it’s gotten bigger and better. Green Festival, the nation’s largest and longest running sustainability and green living event is now offering three days of thought provoking speakers and presentations, cooking demonstrations and food and product samples galore.

Green Festival begins on Friday, September 12. I’ll be presenting at the Good Food Stage on Sunday, September 14 at 3:30pm.  If you can’t make it to all three days (although I highly recommend you do!), please plan to drop by and say hello during my demonstration.

At just $10, tickets are ridiculously inexpensive for the caliber of information, experience and free food samples (– did I mention the samples? One friend goes just to eat her weight in raw single origin chocolate samples) you’ll receive. Buy your tickets now!

Until then, I leave you with one of my favorite veggie burger recipes that even your omni friends are sure to love.

lentil burgers

Lentil Mushroom Burgers
Makes about 6 burgers, 3 inches across.

Ingredients
Olive oil
1/2 Cup cremini mushrooms, minced
1/4 cup onion, small dice
1 1/4 Cup cooked lentils (about 1/2 cup dry)
1 Tablespoon soy sauce  or tamari
herbs and spices of your choice (ie. Thyme; tarragon; oregano; chipotle powder; chili powder; cumin; coriander)
1/2 Cup cooked brown rice
2 Tablespoons brown rice flour
1 Tablespoon almond flour or breadcrumbs (you may need to add more)
Cooking spray

Directions

1. Heat a large, heavy bottomed pan over medium high heat. Sauté onions until soft and translucent, and just beginning to caramelize, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add mushrooms and tamari and sauté for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, or until mushrooms are cooked.

2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mash lentils well, using a fork, or pulse in a food processor. When mushrooms have cooked, add mushroom mixture to the bowl. Add all other ingredients and mix well; it should be smooth with a little texture.

3. Divide burger mix into equal portions. Press into a cookie cutter or use a scooper for uniform size and shape. The number of burgers will depend on the size.

4. Heat a skillet over medium heat and spray with cooking spray or coat with a thin layer of olive oil. Place burgers a couple of inches apart (leave room for flipping!) and cook for about five minutes on each side, until lightly browned and firm to the touch.

Alternate baking method: 1. Preheat oven to 350 F for baking method. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray. Spray patties with a little more cooking spray and bake for 15 minutes. Flip burgers and bake for 12 to 15 more minutes, until nicely browned.

The Perfect Veggie Burger

Somehow I blinked and fourth of July is right around the corner. Seriously, how is this year going by so fast? I need it to slow down just a little bit so I can have more time for wedding planning!

That aside, this is a great time for cookouts. And cookouts mean burgers. Tomorrow I’m teaching a class at The Gourmandise School in Santa Monica on how to make the perfect veggie burger, so burgers are very heavily on my mind at the moment.  I’m sure you’ve been thinking about them a lot too. (This class is sold out, but there’s another on August 13.)

Sure, you could buy any number of store bought frozen burgers, but you’ll save yourself a lot of money and label reading if you just make them yourself.  If you’ve never forayed into the land of veggie burger making, you’re in for a treat. Once you’ve started making your own veggie burgers, it’s hard to go back.  Why restrict yourself to what’s available in stores when the options for homemade are endless?

In preparing for my class, I put together some tips based off my own experience and information I found scouring the internet on the topic of How to Make the Perfect Veggie Burger.  I’m pleased to share this information with you.

Tips for Making Perfect Burger

1. Sauté your veggies

Cooking your vegetables first, especially onions, peppers and mushrooms, adds moisture and flavor. Allowing your onions to get caramelized adds an extra sweetness and depth of flavor. Alternately, roasting is another good option, especially for high moisture vegetables like eggplant or mushrooms.

2. Don’t be shy with seasoning

Play around with different spice mixes; grains and beans absorb lots of seasoning so feel generous enough to add up to a tablespoon of your favorite herbs and spices. Seasoning also gives you the option to take the same burger base and turn it into something different. Want a Latin American inspired burger? Use cumin, coriander, and chili powder. In the mood for something more Mediterranean? Opt for basil, oregano, sage and thyme.

Flavorful liquid ingredients are also great additions. They add moisture to your burgers and liven them up, many adding an important savory/umami taste that is helpful for a “meatier” tasting vegan burger. Some good liquids are Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, tamari, coconut aminos, ketchup, bbq sauce, and chili sauce.

lentil burgers
Lentil Sausage Patties

3. Use a variety of ingredients

There are endless possibilities for beans, grains, and veggies that can make up a good hearty burger. Don’t feel like you need to use just one type of bean or grain for each burger you make. Try lentils for a more savory burger, chickpeas or white beans for a milder one. Incorporate vegetables for textural contrast, or use things like mushroom, eggplant, or zucchini as a more primary ingredient. Carrots, peppers, corn, nuts and seeds add a bit of a crunch element. Spinach is a great way to add moisture and contrast.

vegan crab cakes
Hearts of Palm Crabby Cakes

4. Be mindful of extra moisture

Spinach, fresh herbs, zucchini, and onion, for example, all release moisture, especially when cooked.  Using liquid seasonings as previously mentioned may increase moisture even more. It’s a good idea in many cases to pat vegetables dry before adding to the burger mix to reduce moisture.

5. Don’t follow recipe exactly

It sounds odd to say this, but small changes can affect the overall recipe.  When adding dry ingredients like grains or flours, use your judgment and add in stages. You may find that you need more or less than the recipe calls for. Play with the burger mixture to get a feel for the consistency. Try to form it into a patty. If it’s too wet, add more dry ingredients until it comes together to be firm and moist, but not sticky.

quinoa black bean burgers
Quinoa Black Bean Burgers

6. Measure your burgers for perfect patties

Use a cookie scooper, measuring cup or cookie cutter to shape your burgers. This allows them to all be the same size and thickness. They’ll cook more evenly and uniformity also means no fighting over who gets the biggest one!

ginger beet burgers
Hearty Ginger Beet Burgers

7. Choose your binder

Starch helps to bind in place of egg, things like breadcrumbs, oats, ground flax mixed with water, mashed potato, ground nuts or seeds are just some of the options that help to bind, add texture and flavor. Always incorporate your flours at the last minute so they don’t soak up too much moisture.  If left in the fridge, they will become more moist, making the burgers mushy, especially at the center.

Lastly, a quick note about grilling. When grilling, vegan burgers tend to fall apart or stick because there is not enough fat to survive being cooked directly on the grill. When I grill my homemade veggie burgers, I lay a piece of foil under them so that they maintain their shape.

For more tips and ideas, check out One Green Planet, The Savvy Vegetarian, and Serious Eats.

 

Did I leave anything out that you think is important when making your own veggie burgers?

 

What are some of your favorite burger ingredients, herbs or spices?

Share in the comments below.

Sundried Tomato and Wild Mushroom Risotto

It’s been almost a month since getting engaged and Jacques and I are on cloud nine. We’ve gone into full swing of wedding planning.

It’s so much fun having a partner who is as thrilled about the details and planning process as I am. I’ve heard so many horror stories about grooms who just want to show up on the day of and not have an active role in the steps along the way.  I never would have expected Jacques to be one of those grooms, but it’s still a nice relief to know I truly have someone by my side for all the small stuff.

So far, we’ve been able to agree, or at least compromise, on all ideas, which is great.

We’re gearing up for a wedding that is as eco-friendly and sustainable as possible. Our ideal venue is an outdoor setting with the possibility for an all vegan and organic menu. We have our eye on the perfect location, made even more so with an entree option that is one of Jacques’ favorite dishes… RISOTTO!

Risotto has been playing a prominent role in our lives, of late.

It started with our anniversary dinner at Crossroads Kitchen. The risotto of the day was fresh pea and morel mushrooms (my weakness). It was perfection. So perfect, that it led to Jacques getting on one knee to propose to me.

Okay, that probably had nothing to do with the risotto specifically, but it was magical, nonetheless.

Engagement Dinner Risotto at Crossroads
Engagement dinner risotto at Crossroads

On my birthday a couple weeks later, we went to a nice Italian restaurant and, of course, one of the few already vegan items on the menu was their a spring veggie risotto.

After our special risotto dinner, I went on a risotto making kick and have been creating it for clients to much acclaim.

Yesterday, I decided that despite the 90 degree temperature and lack of air conditioning in my apartment, that I’d whip up some risotto for my loving fiancé (still getting used to that!).  Not the best decision I’ve ever made to stand over a hot stove while I was already uncomfortably hot, but it was worth it.

Anyhow, I posted a pic on instagram a couple weeks ago of a wild mushroom risotto that I’d made, along with a promise that a recipe would follow. Well, here’s that recipe.  I recommend getting friends to assist whenever making risotto. It’s always more fun with a group, especially in sweltering heat. 🙂

 

Vegan Wild Mushroom Risotto
Vegan Wild Mushroom Risotto

 

Sundried Tomato and Wild Mushroom Risotto
Author: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • ½ cup sundried tomatoes, soaked until rehydrated, liquid reserved, sliced
  • 8 oz dried wild mushrooms, soaked in warm water for 30 min, liquid reserved, sliced
  • 4 oz fresh mushrooms, mix of crimini, shiitake and/or other wild mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup red onion, leek or shallot, diced
  • 3 Tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 1½ cups Arborio Rice or short grain brown rice (if using brown, parboil for 10 minutes first)
  • ¼ cup red wine, optional
  • 5 cups vegetable stock, heated
  • couple handfuls spinach, chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 - 3 sprigs each, fresh thyme and rosemary
  • drizzle of truffle oil, optional, but adds such an added depth of yumminess!
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Coat mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 25 minutes, or until slightly crispy around the edges. (If it's too hot for the oven, saute instead.) Set aside while you prepare the rest of the risotto.
  3. In a large heavy bottom sauce pan, heat remaining tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat, then add onion and saute until golden brown. Add rice and stir until well coated and translucent. Stir in red wine, if using, and allow to absorb.
  4. Stir in 1 cup of hot stock, add a pinch of salt, and simmer gently.
  5. When the stock has absorbed, add another cup, and continue this process until all the liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, about 20 - 25 minutes. Add a small pinch of salt with each addition of liquid.
  6. Fold in herbs and spinach, continue to cook until spinach begins to wilt. Add mushrooms and sundried tomatoes. Remove from heat, cover and set aside for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Drizzle with truffle oil just before serving.

 

Want to learn hands-on how to make risotto? Contact me for a private cooking lesson, or join me on Friday, July 18 for a Vegan Italiano class at The Gourmandise School in Santa Monica.

How to Create the Perfect Vegan Taco

In honor of today being Cinco de Mayo, and Meatless Monday, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to do a post on one of my favorite quick meals – Tacos!

Cinco de Mayo, literally translated to 5th of May, is a Mexican American celebration of heritage and pride. It originated as a way to commemorate freedom and democracy in the first years of the American Civil War.

Tacos are believed to originate in the 18th Century by silver miners in Mexico. According to Jeffrey M. Pilcher, professor of history at the University of Minnesota, “the word “taco” referred to the little charges they would use to excavate the ore.” (To learn more check out his Smithsonian interview.)

How to Create the Perfect Vegan Taco in Five Easy Steps

1. Choose your tortilla.

Crunchy or soft, rice or corn, flour or a big ol’ lettuce leaf for a low carb version, handmade or store bought.

Raw Taco from SunCafe in Studio City
Raw Taco from SunCafe in Studio City

2. Decide on your filling.

This could be beans, veggies, grains, nuts, seeds or a combination. I almost never make the exact same taco twice.

A. Pick your “Meat”: Black beans and lentils are my go to hearty base sources. I’ll add smoky, spicy seasoning to my lentils, whereas my black beans I keep pretty basic. Jackfruit carnitas filling is also delicious. If you’re not avoiding soy or gluten, you may choose to use a meat replacement like seitan, tofu, tempeh.

B. Choose your Veggies: onion, pepper, zucchini, broccoli, mushrooms, cauliflower, asparagus. The possibilities are truly endless. I’ll saute some veggies and mix them in with my beans for the ultimate taco deliciousness.

handmade blue corn soft tortilla, crunchy taco shell
Handmade blue corn soft tortilla, crunchy taco shell

3. Create a killer spice blend.

Sure you could buy a pre-made taco seasoning, but many of them have additives or preservatives for “freshness”, and you have no flexibility over which spices are used or how much of each is in the blend. Mixing your own, you can use your favorite herbs and spices. Keep a jar of your personalized blend in your spice rack and you’re always ready to get cooking!

Here’s my favorite blend (the measurements are for a single recipe of 4 servings of taco filling):

1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp garlic powder

Jackfruit taco with mango salsa and pickled onion
Jackfruit taco with mango salsa and pickled onion

4. Pick your toppings.

A. Avocado: Slice a ripe avocado, mash it into guacamole, blend it with lime to create an avocado sauce.

B. Salsa: Fresh Pico de Gallo, roasted tomato, pureed, tomatillo, mango, pineapple, or just straight up hot pepper sauce. The salsa possibilities are far reaching and delicious. I always try to include some form of salsa on my taco, usually tomato based for convenience.

B. Non-Dairy Cheese: Rarely do a put any form of “cheese” on my tacos. They just don’t need it. On the rare occasions I do, I opt for spread, either homemade or bought. If you must have a shredded cheese product on your tacos for nostalgia sake, I recommend Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet Shreds in Cheddar or Fiesta Blend.

C. Sour Cream: This is another one I rarely opt for, but that’s just personal preference. When I do choose to add sour cream, I make my own from cashews.

Cashew Sour Cream
Ingredients
½ Cup cashews, soaked at least one hour
¼ Cup non-dairy milk, plus more to adjust consistency
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
lemon juice, optional to taste
salt, to taste

Directions
Combine milk with apple cider vinegar and allow to sit for a few minutes. Drain cashews and put  in a blender. Add milk mixture, and a pinch of salt and blend until smooth. If it’s too thick, add more milk until desired consistency is reached. Taste, then adjust flavor by adding lemon for tartness and salt to bring out the flavors.  Can be stored for up to one week.

D. Additional toppings:

This is all up to you and what you like. Get creative. Some suggestions are shredded lettuce or cabbage, diced onion, pickled onion, sauerkraut or curtido, cilantro, radish, lime.

Cauliflower Taco with guacamole
Cauliflower and Seitan Chorizo Taco with guacamole

5. Assemble.

A. Heat your vehicle (aka your tortilla).

B. Pile on your fillings.

C. Load up on toppings.

D. Devour and repeat.

 

Vegan Lentil Taco
Vegan Lentil and Veggie Taco with Roasted Tomato Salsa

 

What are some of your favorite taco fillings and toppings? Let us know in the comments below.