Category Archives: Recipes

The Veggie Burger I Wish I Could Order at my Favorite Restaurants

Some restaurants deserve credit for offering vegetarian options, especially if there’s an attempt to elevate veggie burgers beyond the commercial stuff. But I’d  prefer a Boca Burger to an over-salted “patty” that oozes out of the bun with every bite. If I wonder “Why isn’t this a burrito?”, then your black bean concoction doesn’t cut it on a bun. The ideal veggie burger is firm. Texture is critical. Having sampled a number of them in the Twin Cities,  I’m not sure that any of them have nailed it, but there are some pretty good ones. I’ve listed some below.

Here’s the veggie burger I wish I could find in restaurants. It’s based on “Wonderful Walnut-Mushroom Loaf”, a recipe in Jazzy Vegetarian by Laura Theodore. The loaf was really good and the leftovers that were sliced and pan fried were even better.

The Ideal Veggie Burger
Author: 
Recipe type: Vegetarian
 
This is a rare homemade veggie burger that is firm, has a good texture and is packed full of flavor without overdoing the salt or garlic. It reminds me of stuffing. But for those who don't like sage and poultry seasoning (I'm thinking of my vegetarian sister), it has none of that.
Ingredients
  • 4 slices of bread, whole grain, rye... whatever or 2½ cups of bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin light olive oil
  • 1 large onion
  • 5-6 ounces of chopped mushrooms, cremini works well
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 heaping teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon tamari
  • 2¼ cups walnuts
  • ½ cup unsalted roasted sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, or vegan cheese
  • Zest from ½ lemon
  • 1 teaspoon italian seasoning
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
Instructions
Equipment
  1. Toaster
  2. A large skillet
  3. The Rosle Multi Cutter or a food processor and a cutting board and a chef's knife
  4. Cheese grater
  5. Zester
  6. A big mixing bowl
  7. Rubber spatula
  8. Cookie sheet or pizza pan
Prep some stuff
  1. Toast 4 slices of bread, whole grain, rye... whatever and set aside.
  2. Warm 2 tablespoons of oil in large skillet.
  3. Chop 5-6 ounces of mushrooms. The Rosle Multi Cutter (RMC) is great for this job (see below). Set aside.
  4. Chop 1 onion. If using the RMC, roughly chop onion into wedges. Set aside a small wedge of onion and chop the rest. Don't overload the unit. Otherwise chop the whole thing on a cutting board as you normally would.
In the skillet add...
  1. Chopped onion. Saute for a few minutes until tender. Then add...
  2. Two cloves minced garlic. If using the RMC to mince, add cloves to the wedge of onion you saved. I find that the chopper needs something to grab onto to work, hence the onion.
  3. Mushrooms. Continue to saute for 10 minutes then...
  4. One heaping teaspoon of brown sugar and 1 teaspoon of tamari. Cook until the pan juices have evaporated.
In the meantime, put this stuff in a big mixing bowl...
  1. Pulverize toast to make 2½ cups of bread crumbs. Either use a food processor or the RMC. Just tear the toast into pieces that fit.
  2. Chop 2¼ cups of walnuts in a processor or the RMC until coarsely ground.
  3. Same with ½ cup sunflower seeds. Process until coarsely ground and add to mixing bowl with the other stuff.
  4. Add 1 cup of shredded cheese, 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, lemon zest, and ¼ teaspoon of salt to the bowl.
  5. Toss everything together.
Mix it all together!
  1. Add the mushroom-onion mixture to the bowl and blend everything together with your hands or a rubber spatula. The mixture will form a ball that holds together.
Bake your veggie burgers
  1. Form medium sized patties and bake them on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 12 minutes. Turn them over and bake for an additional 10 minutes or longer to brown them.
Serve
  1. These were really good on soft whole wheat bagels from the Seward Co-op with a slice of a tomato from the garden. They were also good served over a bed of rice with chopped fresh tomatoes on top. To reheat, pan fry them in a little bit of oil.

 

Veggie Burgers in the Twin Cities

It has been a while since I’ve sampled some of these. Here’s what I remember.

  • Northbound Smokehouse Brewpub – Loved the beer. The wild rice veggie burger was a little heavy on the garlic the day I was there.
  • The Local – I must have had the Veggie Lucy. It was good enough to make the “I would order that again” list. I believe it’s the same sandwich you’ll find at The Liffey, which you can enjoy on the balcony that overlooks West Seventh Street in downtown St. Paul.
  • Speaking of the lucy, the Fried Vegetable “Juicy Lucy” at The Happy Gnome can hit the spot, although it’s on the heavy side. I have good memories of being at the Gnome on a snowy Sunday when they had some live music.
  • The Tiny Diner serves a spinach and walnut burger which sounds good in theory but the mushy texture lost me. That said, I love the Tiny Diner and have had other great meals there. Their outdoor dining under the solar panels is especially appealing.
  • Peppers and Fries has a black bean based veggie burger. It was okay, but the next time I visit I’ll stick with the burrito.
  • Pub 112 in Stillwater has the Gaelic Gairdin, which was perfect the first time I ordered it.
  • The Chef Shack – I think the beets made this one interesting and I might steal the idea for another iteration of the above recipe. I just wish it could be have been paired with an equally appealing texture.
  • The Pint Public House gets reasonable marks for its veggie burger but docked for the so-so bun that accompanied it.
  • The American Burger Bar that was on LaSalle Avenue where I tried their veggie burger closed. But there are other locations. The burger had one of the better textures of the ones I’ve tried but was on the bland side. So order yours with plenty of yummy toppings.

Rosle Multi-Cutter

Under the heading of gadgets that work as advertised, I present the Rosle Multi-Cutter. Brian’s sister gave us one as a Christmas gift. I love it and highly recommend it.

Raspberries_002

Preserving Berries

Raspberries_001
Inspired by my neighbors who gave me some homemade raspberry jam and who assured me that it was easy to make (“Just get some Sure Jell or some other kind of pectin and follow the directions.”), I gave it a try. It was easy, although for one batch I forgot to skim off the foam, making for a cloudy product… or at least I think that’s what happened.

With a number of things to get done before Thanksgiving, I was looking for an even easier way to preserve the last of my harvest. In the past, I used a trick my friend Mary Ann shared. Just put the berries on a plate such that they are not touching. Pop them in the freezer. Once they are frozen, transfer them to a plastic bag and freeze. Pre-freezing the berries prevents them from clumping. It works perfectly.

This year I tried something even easier. I rinsed the berries and cooked them down on a low heat to make a sauce. Then I distributed the sauce into ice cube trays. Once frozen, I popped the cubes out of the tray and put them in a plastic bag for storage in the freezer. The raspberry cubes can flavor yogurt, oatmeal, desserts, and – one of my favorites – salad dressing. An added advantage is that there is no sugar added to the cubes. That can be controlled whenever they are used.

Hummus Veggie Wrap

Right before I had left my hometown to take a job in Saint Paul, I took a cooking class at my favorite restaurant in Rapid City. Veggies was a venture of Seventh-Day Adventists. Unlike Mary who was the owner of the restaurant and our teacher, I’m not positive that God intended for people to be vegetarians. Nevertheless, Mary did make a compelling case for being one (actually a vegan, it turns out) and eating whole unprocessed foods. She reaffirmed what I had read years earlier in a random book I found. Sugar Blues argued that sugar was a processed drug, not unlike (do I remember this correctly?) cocaine.

Maybe the book was overstating it. But, I’ll never forget the story Mary told us about a school that was having serious discipline problems. She claimed to have corrected the problem by taking over the cafeteria. She got rid of the sugar, the white bread, the dairy and – of course – the meat. She described a transformation where failing students with a penchant for picking fights became model citizens. Before they couldn’t concentrate or sit still. Now they could. And according to Mary, it was about the food. I believed her. After all, the reason I took her class in the first place was because I noticed that I felt better whenever I had lunch at her long-since closed restaurant. A meal there was always totally satisfying.

I still have the cookbook I bought when I took Mary’s class. The Best of Veggie’s has everything from main dishes like croquette’s with cashew gravy that will stand up to the comfort food of my childhood (think Grandma’s roast beef with mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, sweet carrots drenched in butter, rolls) to vegan mayo and homemade ketchup. So, I was surprised that something as basic as a hummus recipe didn’t hit the mark. Was the ¼ cup of lemon juice a typo? I made it work by adding more beans. But the hummus recipe that my mother gave me last week over the phone is better. From my post-it note to you, here it is with some adaptations:

Hummus Veggie Wrap
Author: 
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
A hummus veggie wrap is a quick and satisfying lunch or dinner.
Ingredients
Hummus
  • 1 can garbanzo beans - reserve juice
  • 2 ounces sliced jalapeno pepper (I used one big ass jalapeno from my garden. It could have taken more)
  • ½ TSP cumin
  • 2 TBS lemon juice
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 TBS reserved bean juice
Note
  • The above makes a dry-ish mixture that didn't seem quite right. I added a dollop of peanut butter (I would have used tahini instead if it had been available), a splash of tamari, and a little extra bean juice.
Wrap
  • Hummus (see above)
  • Tortillas (buy or make, see below)
  • Veggies of your choice: I used cucumber, red pepper, lettuce, tomato, and onion. Black olives, pickled jalapeno and crushed walnuts would have been a good addition. I put crushed walnuts on everything.
Instructions
  1. Blend hummus ingredients in a food processor or mash by hand.
  2. Warm tortilla - I heat mine directly on a gas burner on the stove, turning it with tongs
  3. Spread hummus down the center of a tortilla and sprinkle with paprika
  4. Layer veggies on top of hummus and fold tortilla closed. Don't know how? Look it up on YouTube.

Brian knows that anything I cook is accompanied by the “How would I change this?” conversation. With the fresh tomatoes from my backyard shining in this dish, the obvious answer would have been to grow more of my own veggies. It’s easy to grow cucumbers, onions and peppers. Also, I could have replaced the canned garbanzo beans with cooking up some dried ones, which would have taken just a few minutes in the pressure cooker.

A more challenging improvement would be to make my own tortillas using just three ingredients as shown in this video. Is it really that easy? Or will my ambitions go the way of my pasta machine, which is rarely used even though fresh pasta is notably better than anything I can buy with the possible exception of what I can get at Cossetta’s?

The prominent “Handmade Locally” on the package of the tortillas I have in my fridge makes me feel good. The story on the back of the package about the family behind the business is also touching.

“…Together they worked long hours at low-wage job after low-wage job to support their family until they took a roll of the dice and began peddling an unlikely product: fresh corn tortillas.”

Never mind that it is flour tortillas that I have. After reading the list of 20+ ingredients of which I recognize three (bleached wheat flour, water and salt), these “locally made” marketing techniques quickly lose their luster.

Cutting the veggies lengthwise for a wrap works well.

Cutting the veggies lengthwise for a wrap works well.

Add whatever veggies you like.

Add whatever veggies you like.

Fold the bottom of the wrap up first then roll the sides in.

Fold the bottom of the wrap up first then roll the sides in.

Not-so-Bland Beans and Weenies

Last year I attended a talk about healthy eating and the one thing that stuck with me was the recommendation to eat a big variety of food, counting spices. Gleaning from similar talks (lectures about nutrition apparently bring in the money at PBS), I picked up that an easy way to incorporate ginger into your diet is to add a pinch to oatmeal. Among other things, ginger is an anti-inflammatory medicine that can ease arthritis pain. Maybe it would make me feel a little less creaky after a day working in the yard? Eventually, I was putting a combination of spices in my oatmeal or warmed with fruit that would be added on top of it or some yogurt. A little ginger, cinnamon and vanilla swirled into a combination of frozen peaches and blueberries that are heated in the microwave for a couple of minutes fills the air with the smell of baked a pie. It’s really good.

Last night, noting that he had picked up some Field Roast Vegetarian Frankfurters, Brian suggested I have beans and weenies for dinner (He was settling on yogurt and fruit – I was in the mood for something hot). Along with The Honeymooners, the dish was the Saturday special when he was growing up and it remains a go-to favorite in our own home. With only a few minutes before the Cleveland-Golden State game was to start, it sounded perfect…only this time I decided to jazz it up.

While it seemed like it could have gone either way, it turned out really good.

 

Not-so-Bland Beans and Weenies
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Ingredients
  • Olive Oil
  • 2 Field Roast Vegetarian Frankfurters OR a substitute of your choice, cut lengthwise and then sliced into half circles
  • Onion, a handful, chopped
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • Bush's Vegetarian Baked Beans, 16 oz can
  • Cinnamon, a couple of shakes
  • Ginger, a pinch
  • Oregano, a pinch - don't overdo it
Instructions
  1. Warm some oil in a saucepan
  2. sauté the onion and red pepper flakes for a few minutes
  3. add the frankfurters and brown
  4. add the baked beans and enough water to rinse the can mostly clean
  5. stir in cinnamon, ginger and oregano
  6. bring to a bubble
  7. simmer for 10 minutes

 

In the past, I’ve tried to make baked beans from scratch because I’m not a big fan of “a can of this a can of that”. They weren’t very good. I’ll have to give it another shot.

Peanut Butter Soup

When an old roommate offered me some of her peanut butter soup, it didn’t sound too appetizing but I couldn’t deny that it smelled really good and it turned out to be a very satisfying meal. I never got the recipe, but found that I had luck winging it. Do a search for “Peanut Butter Soup” for recipes that have more precise directions.

Peanut Butter Soup
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • Olive Oil
  • Onion, medium, chopped
  • Garlic, a handful minced
  • Peanut Butter, 1 large TBS
  • Water, 1 cup
  • Milk, 1-3 cups
  • Cayenne Pepper, 2-3 shakes
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Spinach (optional)
  • Carrots (optional)
  • Tomatoes (optional)
  • Garbanzo Beans (optional)
  • Rice (optional)
  • Noodles (optional)
Instructions
  1. Warm oil.
  2. Sauté onions and garlic on medium heat. Do not burn. You could include celery and carrots at this point if desired.
  3. Stir in peanut butter. Turn the heat up and let it brown and start to stick to the bottom of the pan, but do not burn it.
  4. Gradually add a cup of water, stirring it in to make a smooth mixture.
  5. Stir in milk.
  6. Add cayenne pepper, pepper, and salt to taste.
  7. Add other vegetables as desired. For example, spinach or some other chopped up green such as kale can be nice. A can of diced tomatoes will work. Garbanzo beans worked great. If you use them, I'd keep it simple and leave out the other vegetables. A cup of rice or noodles will make for an even more filling dish.

Squash Soup with Croutons

This recipe reminds me of the 2011 Boise trip I made with my parents. With plans to stay for a couple of weeks, we drove out to see my sister in October and stayed through Thanksgiving. I was the sous-chef the night we first tried this soup, taking directions from Mom – who I believe got this out of Cooking Light. Unless it was a Tuesday night, we probably followed dinner with Scrabble or Rummy, otherwise it would have been DWTS. Go Ricki!

Squash Soup with Croutons
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
I love a recipe that doesn't require special ingredients. Don't skip the croutons. Like the soup, they're simple but worth it.
Ingredients
Soup
  • 1 TBS Olive oil
  • 1 squash - cubed - I think we used Butternut
  • 4 cloves of garlic - chopped fine
  • 1¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 C Vegetable broth - used canned or take a few minutes to make your own.
Croutons
  • 4 slices of bread - cubed
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • Salt
Vegetable broth
  • Olive oil
  • 1 carrot - cut in thirds
  • 1 small onion - quartered
  • 1-2 celery sticks - cut in thirds
Instructions
Vegetable broth
  1. Sauté vegetables until they are caramelized.
  2. Turn up heat.
  3. Gradually add enough water to loosen whatever is sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  4. Add more water to cover vegetables.
  5. Bring to boil.
  6. Turn down heat.
  7. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Simmer 20-30 minutes.
  9. Remove vegetables and discard (in the compost pile :o)
  10. Or used canned vegetable broth.
Soup
  1. Sauté garlic and cayenne 1 minute
  2. Add squash, broth, and 2¼ cups of water.
  3. Bring to boil.
  4. Lower heat and simmer for 25 minutes.
  5. Soup should be creamy. If needed, smooth it out with a potato masher or mixer.
  6. Note: When I made this, I sautéed the squash cubes with the garlic and cayenne before I added the liquid.
Croutons
  1. Toss bread cubes and 2 Tbs of oil and ½ tsp of salt.
  2. Bake at 350° for 12-15 minutes.

Spicy Lentils and Noodles

This is what happens when you screw up the Soba Noodle & Lentils Salad. I started knowing that I didn’t have all of the ingredients for that recipe, which shouldn’t have been a problem. But then I overcooked the lentils, which was starting to look less appetizing. So, I shifted gears to make a soup, but ended up with a spicy sauce  instead. I stand by it even though Brian didn’t appear to be a huge fan.

Spicy Lentils & Noodles
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • ¾ Cup Lentils - I used red.
  • Olive Oil
  • Onion
  • Carrots
  • Garlic
  • 1 TBS Flour
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • Black Pepper
  • Salt
  • Plain Yogurt
  • Milk
  • Egg Noodles
Instructions
  1. Cook the lentils. Normally, you would boil them for 5-7 minutes. I overdid it, so mine were mushy, hence the adaptation. Set aside.
  2. Sauté chopped onions, carrots and garlic in light olive oil.
  3. Add lentils and continue to cook. Stir in flour. Once a brown crusty goodness has formed on the bottom of the pan (not to be confused with burning), turn up the heat and cool down with water. Scrape the pan and blend. Add spices. I should have measured this, as my dish turned out too spicy. It wasn't ruined, but it took away from an otherwise flavorful dish. Let bubble.
  4. Blend in a dollop of yogurt.
  5. Stir in milk. Cook down to the consistency that you want.
  6. At the end you could add some frozen peas. I didn't.
  7. Serve over egg noodles or whatever you like.

Thanksgiving Leftovers – A Soup

 

Thanksgiving Leftovers
Author: 
 
This is proof that knowing a few basic tricks makes winging it in the kitchen a little less of a gamble. Using tips I've collected from cooking shows, recipes and friends, I came up with a soup made from Thanksgiving leftovers. Below is listed what I used. Use whatever leftovers you have.
Ingredients
  • Turkey Carcass - From the turkey, of course!
  • Rice - I used a short brown rice. I thought about using potatoes instead. Noodles would also work.
  • Carrots - some end-of-the bag scraggly carrots
  • Celery - 2 stocks
  • Leeks - left over from a Lentils and Soba recipe that called for just the white part of the leek
  • Onion -
  • Mushroom stems - left over from The World's Best Green Bean Caserole that called for removing the stems
  • Flour
  • Vegetable stock - left over from when I made potato soup.
  • Olive Oil - Extra Virgin
  • Heavy Whipping Cream - the portition that wasn't used for whipped topping for the chocolate pie
  • Red Wine
  • Milk
Instructions
Prep
  1. Clean meat from turkey bones and set aside.
  2. Chop carrots, celery, leeks, onion or whatever vegetables you have. A consistent shape - whatever you choose - works nicely. Set aside.
Turkey Broth
  1. Sauté bones with a little olive oil. You can add an onion or other vegetables if you like. Stir occasionally. Don't burn but brown enough that some sticks to the bottom of the pan. When this happens turn up the heat and add enough water to cover the bottom before it burns. Be careful of the steam. Stir while scraping the browned crusty goodness from the bottom of the pan. At this point, you can add enough water to cover the bones and simmer for 20-30 minutes. For my experiment, I did this after letting the water cook down (not to a dry point), added more water and back and forth. Use a colander to separate the bones from the broth or save a dish and just carefully pour the broth into a bowl, leaving the bones behind in the pan.
Rice
  1. In a large pot, add a little olive oil. Cover the bottom with rice. I probably should have measured the rice, as I used more than I needed, but the soup is still quite good. Toast the rice until it smells good. Be careful to stir as not to burn it. Turn up the heat. Add enough turkey broth to cover the rice. Be careful of the initial steam this will create. As the broth cooks down, add more broth. Repeat until you've used up all of the broth and the rice has doubled in volume. For a final product, you're aiming for rice that is cooked or mostly cooked and slightly covered with liquid.
Vegetable Mixture
  1. In a separate pan, sauté vegetables in olive oil until it smells good.
  2. Stir in a big TBS of flour.
  3. Add vegetable stock, stirring to make it smooth, blending in a little at a time.
  4. Add a splash of wine.
  5. Drink a splash of wine.
  6. Add cream.
  7. The end product should be vegetables in a creamy sauce.
The Soup
  1. Add vegetable mixture to rice.
  2. Add milk.
  3. Season to taste.
Spices
  1. What no spices? I considered putting a curry twist on this to mimic a turkey soup recipe that my friend Nancy gave to me. I also have some Bouquet Garni that pairs nicely with poultry. In the end, I didn't season it at all. I tasted the soup and liked it just fine the way it was. However, at the table, I did find myself adding salt and pepper.

Lentils and Soba Noodles

This dish that can be served warm or cold could be your answer to “What do I bring to the potluck?” It also worked well as a Thanksgiving side dish.

Lentils and Soba Noodles
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • Olive Oil
  • 2-3 cloves Garlic - Chopped
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • ¾ to 1 C. Lentils (Lucy says that French ones are the nicest)
  • 1-2 Leeks - Cut in squares, white part only
  • 1-2 Carrots - Cut in squares
  • 1 bunch of Chard - Remove stems and chop leaves
  • 8 oz package of Soba Noodles
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Boil lentils 15-20 minutes - Do not overcook and make them too soft.
  2. Warm olive oil, garlic - Do not burn.
  3. Add Pepper Flakes - Cook 1 minute.
  4. Add Leeks, Carrots and sauté for a bit
  5. Add cooked lentils and chard
  6. You will need to add liquid, like the lentil water, chicken or veggie stock, white or red wine - whatever. Just make sure there is a brothiness to the end product.
MEANWHILE:
  1. Boil Soba Noodles. When they are done, blend with sauté
SERVE:
  1. Drizzle olive oil & grated parmesan cheese
Notes
This is a solid recipe as is and worked perfectly the first time I tried it. It's also easy to imagine variations. For example, I think lima beans could be used in place of lentils.