Sweet Potato Black Bean Burgers

Ever made your own veggie burgers? We had always bought pre-made until we found this recipe last summer. Now this is our go-to burger. It’s really flavorful, packed with sweet potato, black beans, and spices. Even our meat-eating friends loved them! And for you vegan and/or gluten-free people, this burger is safe. Original recipe here.

If you think making your own veggie burger is going to be complicated, don’t worry. This recipe is really easy. The prep work is a little bit time consuming, but nothing too crazy.

Sweet Potato Black Bean Burgers (Makes 6-8 burgers)

  • 15 oz black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 c cubed sweet potatoes (skin on)
  • 1/2 c frozen or fresh corn
  • 2/3 c finely chopped onion (1/2 medium onion)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/2 c cooked quinoa
  • 6 Tbsp rolled oats, partially ground (we use our coffee grinder to grind them)
  • 2 Tbsp sunflower seeds (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil

Before doing anything else, you’ll want to cook your quinoa, and steam your cubed potatoes. For the quinoa, just follow the directions on the box. To cook the potatoes, I usually put them in the microwave sprinkled with a tiny bit of water and microwave for 5+ minutes, until tender.

Preheat the oven to 375° when you’re done cooking your quinoa and potato.

Wondering what quinoa is? First things first, it’s pronounced keen-wa, and it is really good for you! It is a great source of protein, and contains all 8 essential amino acids (I don’t really know what that means, but it’s probably good). You should be able to find it in any grocery store. Try it as a substitute for rice in any recipe; you can also substitute it for the pasta in my pasta salad.

Back to the recipe!
1. After you’ve rinsed and drained your beans, mash half of them in a bowl until it is paste-like. After they are good and mashed, add in the rest of the beans, and very lightly stir/mash just until combined. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, mash your cooked sweet potatoes, but leave it a little bit chunky. While each cube should be mashed, you don’t want the creamy texture of mashed potatoes.
3. Stir in the salt, pepper, oregano, coriander, chili powder, cayenne (if using) and olive oil, until combined.
4. Mix in the onion, garlic, corn, black beans, quinoa, sunflower seeds, and ground oats, until just combined. Feel free to taste at this point and add more spices if you think it needs more kick.

Using your hands, form the mixture into balls and flatten into patties, between 1/2″ to 3/4″ thick. We usually make 6 patties, but you can make up to 8.

Place the patties on a pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 30 minutes, flipping the burgers halfway through.

We usually serve on a bun with pepper jack cheese and ketchup. It’s also good with avocado and/or roasted red peppers!

If you make 6 patties, each burger (without bun & toppings) is 4 PointsPlus. If you make 8 patties, each burger is 3 PointsPlus.

Guilt-Free “Ice Cream”

Another delicious dessert post for you. But this time it’s healthy. Seriously.

No sugar. No dairy. This recipe really only requires one ingredient plus one or two others if you want to add some flavor. Are you ready?

Frozen banana. 

Yep.

By some crazy miracle, when you blend frozen banana in the food processor, it turns into the consistency of soft-serve ice cream. Really! Discovering this recipe is probably the best thing that has ever happened to me. OK, so maybe not the best, but it’s up there. Because I love ice cream. Love it, love it, love it. I hardly ever keep it in the house, though, because I would probably eat the entire container by myself. But this recipe is something I can feel good about eating, even though it tastes just like ice cream. Genius.

I am in the habit of keeping sliced bananas in the freezer for smoothies, protein shakes, and this recipe. You will probably want to do the same so you can make this “ice cream” whenever you want. The following recipe is purely a starting point … you can really put anything you want in there to flavor it however you like.

Banana “ice cream”
3-4 bananas, sliced and frozen (slice before freezing)
A spoonful of peanut butter
2-3 tsp. cocoa powder

For this recipe, you will definitely need a food processor. The blender is not gonna cut it. Unless you have a seriously powerful blender.

Put your bananas into the food processor, and blend.

At first, it will looks like this:

It will be kind of grainy. Keep going. You will probably have to stop blending once in awhile and push the banana down with a spatula.

Be patient with it. For awhile it seems like nothing is happening and the banana is just spinning around and around. Just wait. I promise, it will happen. After a while of spinning, the banana at the bottom will start to get very smooth, and then the rest will follow. It’s actually really cool to watch it happen.

Here’s what it will look like when it’s the right consistency:

See how smooth and creamy it is around the sides? But if you look in the middle, you can see there is a big chunk of frozen banana. This happens every time. This last stubborn chunk doesn’t seem to want to break down, and it just keeps spinning around. You will probably have to stop and push it down/break it up a little bit to speed up the process.

Once it is completely done, you can add your flavor.

Like I said, add whatever you want. I usually stick to peanut butter & chocolate because it’s my favorite combo with the banana. But you could add fresh fruit like raspberries or strawberries to make more of a sorbet; coconut; chocolate syrup instead of cocoa powder… whatever you want. Go crazy.

The result is a smooth and creamy soft-serve-like treat that could definitely pass for ice cream. Just without all the calories. If you want it less soft-servey and more ice-creamy, stick it in the freezer for a few minutes to firm up.

Yum!

Tortilla Soup

As part of lent, I’m trying to do less time wasting. Which means no facebook (except to link to new blog posts) and instead of just spending wasteful hours on pinterest, pinning things that I’ll probably never do or wishing for things that I don’t have, I’m making an effort to actually spend time making some of the recipes and crafts that I pin. I really would like to be more creative and spend time doing things that I love instead of spending all of my spare time with my face in front of a computer. I get enough of that at work every day, thank you very much.

All of that to say, this lovely tortilla soup recipe caught my eye on pinterest (originally from the Cooking Photographer) and I am so glad that I tried it! It was pretty dang easy, made for a ton of leftovers, and was oh-so-delicious topped with avocado, a bit of cheese, and tortilla chips.

I also had been lookin’ for a good soup recipe so I could use up some of my homemade veggie broth. It has just been hanging out in my freezer for a few months now, waiting to be used up on something delicious. Well, veggie broth, your time has come. I had wondered if it would taste any different than store-bought broth, but it tasted great. It also felt good knowing exactly what went into it – no preservatives or ingredients that I could barely read the names of – just vegetables and water. I think I also had been delaying using it because I thought that it might take forever to defrost and I would have to leave it out overnight before using it (of course, you could heat it up to quicken the process), but it wasn’t a problem. I just set the container out on the counter around lunchtime and most of it had thawed by the time I was ready to make dinner.

Anyway, enough about the veggie stock. Onto the soup…

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons sweet paprika (or regular paprika will do)
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons light colored oil
1 large onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (4 ounce) can diced mild green chiles, drained
2 (10 ounce) cans RoTel Diced Tomatoes with Lime & Cilantro*
1 (15 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
4 cups vegetable broth
2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
Juice of 1/2 a lime

*I couldn’t find the diced tomatoes with lime & cilantro. Instead, I got regular canned tomatoes, and added a couple tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro and the juice of 1/2 a lime to the soup (In addition to the 1/2 a lime that the recipe already calls for).

1. In a small bowl, mix together cumin, paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, coriander, salt and black pepper. Set aside.

2. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and peppers. Sauté until soft, stirring occasionally. Add the spices and garlic, and cook for 2 minutes.

3. Add the green chile peppers, diced tomatoes, corn, and veggie broth. Cook until warmed through.

4. Add the black beans and cook for 2 minutes before serving. Squeeze in lime juice. Serve in bowls and garnish as desired.

Yum!

I apologize for the horrid lighting. The soup, on the other hand, is anything but horrid. It’s the perfect winter meal, loaded with veggies and some spice (but not too spicy)! Enjoy it!

Mushroom & Tofu Quesadillas

Picture this: It’s a Monday night. You’ve just gotten home from work with no plans for dinner, and you don’t exactly have a well-stocked kitchen. You spend a long time standing in front of your fridge, door open, staring into it, hoping a meal will just put itself together.

This is an all-too-common scenario for me, and probably for many of you, too. I kind of hate this and I kind of love it. Hate it, because most of the time I just want something easy and I don’t feel like concocting a recipe out of whatever random ingredients I’ve got. But I love it because it is a chance to get creative and to be resourceful. I really try not to waste food. Of course it happens sometimes anyway, but on nights like these where I need to make up a recipe on the spot, I try to use as many things in my fridge that really need to be used up before they go bad.

So, tonight I looked in my fridge and picked out bell peppers, portobello mushrooms, onion, tortillas, tofu, and cheese. I decided to make some quesadillas. And they actually turned out pretty dang good.

Mushroom & Tofu Quesadillas (serves 2-4, depending how hungry you are)
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 portobello mushrooms, cut into 1 inch pieces
8 oz firm or extra-firm tofu, crumbled* (a regular size container is 14-16 oz.)
1/2 medium-large onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
Freshly ground sea salt and pepper to taste
1/8 – 1/4 tsp. chili powder, depending how spicy you want it
1-2 Tbsp. oil (olive oil, grapeseed, canola.. whatever you got)
4 flour tortillas
vegan cheese or real, shredded for topping (we used real pepperjack)

*A note about the tofu: we sometimes freeze our tofu and then defrost it in the fridge. Freezing it gives it a more crumbly, substantial texture, and also makes it a lot easier to press (pressing tofu means pressing out the excess water). If you’ve never cooked with tofu and don’t know how to press it, check out this handy how-to. The video says to use a book, but you can really use anything a little bit heavy that will sit on the top plate. Also, I’ve never waited 40 minutes for my tofu to press. I’m too impatient. I probably wait 5 minutes tops. If you’re in a pinch and don’t feel like using the plate method, you can use paper towels or any clean cotton towel – just wrap the tofu up and squeeze to push the water out. If you have frozen and defrosted your tofu beforehand, the water is much easier to get out.

Pour 1 Tbsp. oil into large sauté pan. Heat oil over medium-high heat and add onion, pepper, and tofu. Sauté until veggies are soft. Add mushrooms and garlic. You can add another Tbsp. oil if needed. Season with salt, pepper, and chili powder. Cook until mushrooms are soft.

Meanwhile, lightly spray or brush each side of your tortillas with oil, and heat in a separate sauté pan over medium heat. Warm each side of the tortilla for about a minute.

On each tortilla, spoon some tofu mixture onto half of the tortilla. Sprinkle with cheese and fold the other half of the tortilla over.

Put the tortillas on a pan and pop in the oven at 300 °F for a few minutes, until cheese is melted.

Cut into triangles and serve!

Baby Potatoes and Brussel Sprouts

If you read the title of this post and were turned off by the idea of brussel sprouts, you’re probably not alone. But wait, let me convince you to try them!

For some reason a lot of people have this idea that brussel sprouts are really disgusting. And they can be — if they’re overcooked. If you overcook them, they release a nasty sulphurous odor, and I assume, don’t taste very good. Oh, and according to Wikipedia, they’re actually called “brussels sprouts” not brussel sprouts. Who knew?

Anyway, if you’ve never actually tried brussels sprouts, you really should! I tried them for the first time last year, and I love them. They have this delicious, nutty flavor, and taste good cooked a number of different ways. Also, they contain something called sulforaphane, which is supposed to have anti-cancer properties. Bonus!

A couple months ago Ric concocted a little somethin’ somethin’ using fingerling potatoes and b-sprouts. Trader Joe’s actually calls the potatoes “teeny-tiny potatoes,” and they are! They’re so cute. This recipe is so yummy and easy, and all you need are 3 main ingredients.

If you’re at the store looking for brussels sprouts, check to see if they have them available on the stalk. This is a crazy-looking alien-like beast of a vegetable (Google “brussels sprout stalk” and you’ll see what I’m talking about), but don’t be scared. The sprouts that come on a stalk are so much fresher and yummier. Look for tight, bright-green heads. Avoid yellowing or loose-leafed sprouts.

If you can’t find them on the stalk, don’t worry about it. You can buy them in a bag, too. But make sure you buy fresh, not frozen!

Before I get to the recipe, let me say that I don’t have exact amounts for how many potatoes or sprouts you should use. When we make this, it’s just for the two of us, so we probably use about 10-12 sprouts cut in half, and maybe 15-20 potatoes cut in half. Use as many or as little as you think you’ll need.

Baby Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts
Fingerling potatoes, cut in half lengthwise
Brussels sprouts, stemmed and cut in half
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. light-colored oil (canola, olive oil, grapeseed – whatever you’ve got)
Salt and pepper to taste

To prepare the brussels sprouts, cut off the stem, and remove outer/bruised leaves. Once you cut the stem, the outer leaves will fall off pretty easily on their own.

Once you’ve de-stemmed them, rinse the sprouts in cold water, drain, and set aside.

Now rinse your potatoes and chop them up.

Pour oil in a large sauté pan and arrange potatoes face down. Set heat to medium and cover the pan. Cook until golden brown. (About 3–5 minutes)

Once your potatoes are nice and golden brown, push them to the side and set your brussels sprouts face down in the middle. You might want to add a bit more oil to the pan at this point, but remove the pan from the heat before doing this! Otherwise it will splatter, and this is not fun. Trust me.

Cover the pan. You might want to turn your heat down a bit. Cook for 3-5 minutes, until browned. Be careful not to burn them! As you can see, some of mine got a little bit charred. Oops.

Once they’re cooked, add in the garlic, salt, and pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly and cook for one or two more minutes on low heat.

Serve hot from the pan, and enjoy your brussels sprouts experience! I hope you like them as much as I do!

Polenta, Beans & Bok Choy

Since my last post was very non-vegan, I decided to go the vegan route this time around. Something a bit healthier for us as we prepare for another holiday where we (OK, I ) will inevitably stuff our faces with entirely too many desserts, etc. I usually try to plan out at least one meal per week. I’m not the type who can plan the entire week’s meals (planning ahead is not my strong suit). As I was thinking about a healthy meal I could make this week, I remembered this delicious and easy recipe I discovered last year. You can find the original on Fat Free Vegan Kitchen.

This recipe is super flavorful, super good for you, and of course 100% vegan.

The original recipe calls for making your own polenta with a pressure cooker, which of course you are free to do. But if you want to be lazy, like me, just buy it pre-made at the store. If you’ve never tried polenta before, it looks something like this (at Trader Joe’s anyway). You’ll need two of these little guys for the recipe.

I’ve also modified the original recipe because I did not have fresh herbs on hand, and I’m not a huge fan of peppers, so I left those out.

Herbed Polenta with Beans and Bok Choy
1 recipe herbed polenta, below

3 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz. baby or regular portabello mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup veggie broth
6 oz. baby bok choy, sliced
1 14 oz. can kidney beans or cannelloni beans, drained
1 tsp. dried basil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. white balsamic vinegar (If you don’t have any, don’t worry about it. I forgot to add mine in, and the recipe still tasted great!)

Herbed Polenta 
2 polenta logs (18 oz. each)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. dried basil OR 3 Tbsp. fresh
1 1/2 tsp. dried parsley OR 2 Tbsp. fresh
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried rosemary

*I did not have parsley or rosemary. Instead, I used 2 tsp. basil, 2 tsp. oregano, and 2 tsp. herbes de provence

Cut the polenta into 1 inch pieces. Mix with herbs and sauté in a large pan with olive oil until golden brown on each side. Stir frequently.

Keep warm until ready to serve.

In a separate large skillet, sauté the onions with a bit of olive oil for 3-4 minutes, until soft. Add the garlic and mushrooms, cooking over medium-high heat, stirring until mushrooms soften.

Add the broth, bok choy, beans, and basil, and stir well.

Cover for 5 minutes or so until the bok choy is wilted, but still bright green. Season with salt and pepper to taste and stir in vinegar. Serve over polenta.

Rosemary & Chipotle Spiced Nuts

Last night I was up ’til 11:30 (way past my bedtime) making spiced nuts. But it was worth it. Oh my goodness, these are yummy. Spicy, sweet, and salty. Mmmmm, all kinds of good. We are headed out of town for Thanksgiving and I wanted to make these as a little gift to bring for our hosts —something to snack on tomorrow during the day when maybe we don’t want to eat a whole meal before the big dinner, but want a little somethin’ somethin’ to munch on.

I got this recipe off of Pinterest, and it’s from Ina Garten’s book, How Easy is That? Here’s the link to the recipe.

Chipotle & Rosemary Spiced Nuts
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil (and more for oiling pan)
3 cups whole, roasted, unsalted cashews (14 ounces)
2 cups whole walnut halves (7 ounces)
2 cups whole pecan halves (7 ounces)
1/2 cup whole almonds (3 ounces) (We forgot the almonds at the store, so we went without and just used a little bit more walnuts and pecans)
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice (I used store-bought)
2 teaspoons ground chipotle powder
Kosher salt
4 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary leaves, divided (I used a little less. my poor rosemary plant would have been stripped bare if I used 4 Tbsp worth!)

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Brush a sheet pan generously with vegetable oil. Combine your nuts with vegetable oil, the maple syrup, brown sugar, orange juice, and chipotle powder on the sheet pan. Toss to coat the nuts evenly. Add 2 tablespoons of the rosemary and 2 teaspoons of salt, and toss again.

Spread the nuts in one layer. Roast the nuts for 25 minutes, stirring twice with a large metal spatula, until the nuts are glazed and golden brown. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with 2 more teaspoons of salt and the remaining 2 tablespoons of rosemary.

Toss well and set aside at room temperature. At this point, the pan was reeally sticky and starting to harden, and the nuts were all getting stuck in it. So to prevent a disaster, I moved the nuts onto a clean pan. While they were cooling, I used a fork to break everything up so they didn’t all stick together.

Cool completely and store in airtight containers at room temperature.

I put mine in some mason jars with cute little labels! Happy munching!