“Superior” Veggie Burgers

I used to eat a lot of store bought name brand veggie burgers. I had one particular brand that I ate at least once a week. But then I started thinking about the long list of mysterious ingredients on the box. It concerned me so I gave those up pretty quickly.

Since then I have been searching for a recipe for homemade veggie burgers that suits me. Some were OK, but the biggest problem I found with my homemade veggie burgers was the texture. These recipes almost all rely on some combo of beans and grains (Hey perfect for a website such as this) and the result is a texture that tends to be mushy or crumbly. I’ve tried many, many recipes and have not been bowled over by any of them.

Last week I came across the “Superiority Burger” named for the Superiority Burger restaurant in New York City. I found an adapted recipe for their burger in the Washington Post. The recipe is vegan and is based on quinoa and chickpeas and it’s a superior veggie burger with superior texture AND taste.

I like this one! The texture is pretty good. Mine had a bit of a crunch on the outside and were moist and flavorful on the inside. My carnivore husband took a taste and even he thought it was tasty.

The ingredients list is rather long and the recipe takes a while to pull together. I probably worked on these for an hour or more.

Here is a link to the Washington Post Recipe:

Superiority Burgers, Washington Post Adaptation

I’m sure the recipe is great as written but, as is my normal routine… I did make a few small changes:

  1. I didn’t have a lemon on hand so I used a tablespoon of soy sauce.
  2. I used two tablespoons of ground flax seed with 4 tablespoons of water rather than the potato starch as a binder.
  3. Instead of making 8 large patties, I made 15 small patties. I formed my patties with the ring from the lid of a small mouth Mason Jar so that they are fairly uniform. I plan on freezing most of the patties for later use.
  4. I baked my burgers instead of pan frying. That seemed easier for 15 burgers. I baked them at 425 degrees on a parchment paper lined sheet pan for 15 minutes on each side.

And here is a picture of my burger, ready to eat (lots of pickle!)

Gotta say – veggie burgers just aren’t that pretty!

And finally, here is a link to the cookbook, Superiority Burgers by Brooks Headley, which has lots of great vegan sandwich recipes as well as delicious looking sides and desserts!

How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Tabbouleh and Hummus

OK – this is the last Cookbook Challenge recipes from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. I had a huge bunch of parsley that needed to be used up so tabbouleh seemed like the perfect choice. And what better to go with tabbouleh than hummus with some warm pitas. That makes a nice meal.

I usually think of tabbouleh as a grain salad because it is made with bulgur wheat. While it does have bulgur in it, it is really an herb salad; lots and lots of herbs, a few vegetables and some bulgur to go along with.

I followed the How to Cook Everything Vegetarian recipe (more or less) exactly – with one glaring exception. I was a little short of mint. My mint plant was not as prolific as it needed  to be. I only had about a quarter cup of mint.

Ingredients for tabbouleh

So here are the ingredients you will need:

  • 1/2 cup uncooked bulgur
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 cups fresh parsley
  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup scallion
  • 1 really good tomato

I used Bob’s Red Mill Bulgur. I cooked the bulgur according to package directions, and I actually cooked some extra because I had another use for it. Bulgur is a terrific whole grain because it cooks very quickly. With a ratio of 1 part grain to 2 parts water, the bulgur was cooked in about 15 minutes.

Once the bulgur was cooked and slightly cooled it was time to start chopping. Roughly chop the parsley and mint. Chop the scallion and tomato. The tomato is optional. You can skip it if you don’t have a really delicious one on hand.

In a large bowl add the cooked bulgur (about a cup and a half), herbs, tomato, scallion, olive oil and lemon juice.

Tabbouleh ingredients, chopped

Stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Beautiful Bowl of Tabbouleh

This tabbouleh is gorgeous. It looks so fresh and flavorful!

Next up, I prepared the hummus. Earlier in the day I had cooked a pot of chickpeas. I used Rancho Gordo chickpeas.

In my small crock pot I cooked about a cup of chickpeas with 4 cups of water. I let them cook all day as the recipe calls for them to be well cooked.

Ingredients for Hummus – except for the lemon!

For this recipe you will need:

  • 2 cups well-cooked, drained chickpeas (reserve the cooking liquid)
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 peeled cloves of garlic
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon cumin or paprika (and a little more for garnish)
  • salt and pepper

Tahini is a sesame paste. It looks like peanut butter. Most stores carry it. You may find it in the peanut butter aisle. Or it might be in the Kosher section. It will keep for a long time in the refrigerator.

Hummus ingredients – ready to process

Put chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, garlic, lemon, paprika in a food processor. I have two food processors and I always use the larger, more powerful one for hummus so that I end up with a smoother result.  Turn on the processor. Add cooking liquid as needed (in small amounts) to get a smooth puree.

Dinner

For dinner I served the hummus and tabbouleh with some warm pita bread. I used Ezekiel pocket breads. They are made from whole grains and they don’t have any weird ingredients. You can find those in the freezer section of well stocked stores.  served a yogurts sauce that I made using Greek yogurt, lemon juice and some spicy chili paste, like Srirachi. And I chopped up some cucumbers, red pepper and romaine lettuce.

The Verdict: This was a fantastic dinner. The tabbouleh was just perfect. It was so fresh tasting. It had a lot of lemon so it was very bright. The bulgur gave the salad a nice nutty quality. That was great. I am in love with that recipe. I have eaten lots of tabbouleh in my day and this was the best. Husband ate seconds and thirds of this salad.

The hummus was delicious also. I make hummus from time to time and we aren’t usually all that thrilled with the outcome. But this hummus was great. It was balanced. Not too tart. Not too garlicky. It was just right. Husband was very impressed too.

We made pita sandwiches with hummus and lots of vegetables. The tabbouleh tasted great as a side dish but it was also terrific tucked into the pita sandwich.

I loved both of these recipes and I will definitely make them again. This is the only hummus recipe that I will use in the future. Delicious!

 

 

 

How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Baked Lima Beans Parmigiana

For my next Cookbook Challenge recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, I made Baked Lima Beans Parmigiana.

Right up front, let me tell you, this recipe has everything in it that I love. I love lima beans (a.k.a. butter beans). I love casseroles. I love anything that is cheesy and a gooey. I love crisp breadcrumbs on the top of almost anything. So this recipe really called my name.

It’s very easy to make, though there are three parts to the preparation. I cut the recipe in half, so here is how I did it:

Part One – The 1/2  recipe calls for 2 cups fresh, thawed frozen or cooked dried lima beans. I chose to use dried beans. So the first step is to cook the dried lima beans. I cooked about 3/4 cup of dried lima beans in my slow cooker with about 3 cups of water. I didn’t season them at all during the cooking process, though I did add a little salt at the end. I ended up with more cooked lima beans than the Baked Lima Beans Parmigiana recipe called for. No worries – I’ll use the leftovers to make soup!

Part Two – Prepare one recipe Fast Tomato Sauce –  also found in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.  You’ll only need half of this recipe. But it is quite tasty and it’s very handy to have some of this hanging out in your refrigerator for other purposes (pasta, pizza, etc.).

You’ll need:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • One medium onion, finely chopped
  • One 28 ounce can of whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • Salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for 2-3 minutes, until the onion is softened but not browned. Add the chopped tomatoes. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes until the mixture thickens and looks like tomato sauce. Salt and pepper to taste.

Part Three – Assemble the casserole. You will need:

  • Olive oil for drizzling
  • 1/2 recipe of Fast Tomato Sauce
  • 2 cups cooked lima beans
  • 1/2 cup cubed or grated mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley for garnish

Grease the bottom of a 9×9 baking dish. I used PAM for this step. Spread the tomato sauce over the bottom of the dish. Spoon the beans of top of the sauce. Sprinkle the mozzarella on top. Use the back of a spoon to press it into the beans. Add a little salt and pepper. Top with bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Drizzle with a little olive oil to lightly moisten the topping.

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, uncovered at 400 degrees.  The casserole should be bubbly and the top should be browned and crispy. Sprinkle with chopped parsley for garnish. I have and admission to make here – I completely forgot to add the parsley. I had some cleaned and ready to go. In my haste to eat dinner, I forgot all about it!

Baked Lima Beans Parmigiana, Salad and Bread

 

The Verdict: I ate this as a vegetarian main dish. Husband ate this as a side dish with a piece of grilled chicken. We also had a big, beautiful salad and a fresh demi-baguette.

I thought it was very good. Husband liked it pretty well, too. It was comfort food. The mozzarella was melted and gooey. The topping was crispy and delicious. The beans worked well with the tomato sauce.

Having said all that – I felt like it was missing something. Possibly the parsley, which I forgot! That may have been just the fresh zing that this dish needed. It tasted good. It was satisfying, it just needed a little something extra to make it really memorable.

I’ll try it again with the parsley. But I think it still needs something else. But I’m not sure what.

So my final call: Really good but falls  just short of great!

 

Cookbook Challenge: How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

For my next Cookbook Challenge, I will be choosing bean and grain recipes from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman. I think that we have already established that I am a huge fan of Mark Bittman. Naturally, I own a lot of his cookbooks.

I have had this book for several years and it is an important reference in my cookbook arsenal. Because I am a vegetarian, this book is full of recipes that I can prepare and enjoy. There is an entire chapter devoted to beans and an entire chapter devoted to grains. Additionally, there are beans and grains scattered throughout the other chapters of the book; Salads, Soups, Veggie Burgers, etc.

It seems a bit presumptuous to call a book “How to Cook Everything”. But, in this case, the title is warranted. At almost 1000 pages, this book is quite exhaustive. Mr. Bittman’s style is easy and chatty. Virtually every recipe is accompanied by a number of variations. When you read the recipes you feel like everything is possible and nothing is set in stone. If you like a little more of this – add a little more. If you like less – add less. The book is a good match for the way I cook.

In addition to the cookbook, I have the Ipad App for How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.

How to Cook Everything Veg – Ipad App

It costs $9.99 to download the App. The App includes all the recipes that are in the book , abd it some great navigational tools. The App has some neat features that make it very valuable to have.

In normal mode, your Ipad will go dark and then turn itself off if it is untouched for a few minutes. The App makes the screen stay lit until you tell it you are finished. Otherwise the screen would go dark mid-recipe and you would have to fiddle with it when your hands are dripping wet or your up to your elbows in pizza dough.

IPad App Timers

Another neat feature of the App is that it has timers on it. If the recipe says “saute for 10 minutes” you can touch the screen and a ten minute timer will pop up.

There are lots of food photos. They send me an email every week with a Meatless Monday featured recipe. It’s a fun complement to the book.

 

So let me remind you the rules of the Cookbook Challenge:

In the Cookbook Challenge, I will follow the recipe exactly as written, with the following exceptions:

  1. If the recipe calls for canned beans, I reserve the right to cook my own.
  2. Unless it would significantly change the outcome, I will probably cut some recipes in half, as Husband and I rarely want to eat 8 servings of anything.
  3. If there is an ingredient that I can’t reasonably find, I will make appropriate substitutions.

Because I don’t eat meat, I will only choose recipes that don’t require meat meat or eggs. I’m off the eggs right now.

I’ll make frequent posts about the foods that I am preparing. When it’s all over, I hope I will have some fresh ideas in my bean and grain repertoire!

 

Joy of Cooking: Unsweetened Dried Fruit and Nut Granola

Cookbook Challenge Recipe #2 from the Joy of Cooking; Unsweetened Dried Fruit and Nut Granola. I was telling Husband about this recipe and he was mystified as to why anyone would want unsweetened granola. He’s really likes granola but he is a traditionalist.

Well I like granola too. But I always think it is a little too calorie dense because of all the honey and brown sugar that most recipes call for. So this recipe sounded like a good solution to that problem.

I had to make some substitutions in the ingredients because there were some things that I couldn’t find.

The recipe called for :

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup wheat flakes
  • 1 cup rolled rye

I couldn’t find wheat flakes in the bulk bins or on the cereal aisle in a box. I had a box of Uncle Sam cereal in my pantry. The label says that it is “toasted whole wheat berry flakes and flaxseed” so I substituted that for the wheat flakes.

Uncle Sam Cereal – Toasted Wheat Flakes

I also could not find any rolled rye. I went to two natural food stores as well as my local grocery and couldn’t lay may hands on that. So I substituted in another cup of rolled oats. I felt like both of these were reasonable substitutions.

To make the granola, I preheated the oven to 300 degrees.I poured 1/2 cup of canola oil into a 13″ x 9″ baking pan and then placed the pan into the preheated oven for 10 minutes.  When the oil and pan are hot, I carefully removed the pan from the oven and stirred in 3 cups of rolled oats. The recipe called for me to add the wheat flakes at this point but as mine were already “toasted” I decided to hold off on that. Otherwise I would have done just as the recipe described.

Bake the rolled oat flakes for 15 minutes stirring often. They should get toasty, slightly browned and smell terrific!

Rolled Oats After Toasting – delicious aroma!

As the oats are toasting, combine in a large mixing bowl 1 cup of chopped almonds, 1/2 cup unsalted sunflower seeds, 1/2 cup wheat germ, 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds and one cup of the Uncle Sam cereal (or other toasted wheat flakes!)

Almonds, Sunflower Seeds, Wheat Germ, Sesame Seeds and Uncle Sam

Stir that into the toasted oat mixture and bake for another 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven and stir in 1 cup raisins and 1/2 cup dried apricots.

Unsweetened Granola Cooling on the Countertop

Let the mixtrue cool completely and then store. This will store at room temperature for several days or in the refrigerator for a month or so.

I ate mine on top of my morning yogurt. But it would also be great eaten with milk or cream. You could just eat it out of a zip-lock bag like trail mix!

Yogurt Topped with Unsweetened Fruit and Nut Granola

 

The Verdict – I LOVE this. It is so healthy. It tastes so yummy and crunchy and and toasty and nutty. The dried fruit gives it a chewy sweetness. Its a wonderful, good-for-you snack. It’s great on top of yogurt. It would be good on ice cream. Or even on top of some cooked fruit.

The granola was very easy to make. You have to stay around and tend to it but it was really no trouble at all.

You could use any variety of nuts and dried fruit. I’m even wondering if you could make it a sweet-salty-spicy mix. I may play around with that. I love that combo.

This is a terrific recipe. Easy to make. Inexpensive ingredients. Healthy. Great snack. Love it! Joy of Cooking – two for two!

By the way, here are some links to websites where you can purchase Rolled Rye and Wheat Flakes online:

Homestead Mills – Rolled Rye

Bob’s Red Mill – Wheat Flakes

 

Joy of Cooking: Classic Bean Burritos

My first recipe for the Cookbook Challenge is from Joy of Cooking, The Classic Bean Burrito. I love Mexican food. I love Tex-Mex food. I love anything spicy.  This was right up my alley.

The only change that I made to this recipe was that I reduced the quantity a little bit.

The first step in making these burritos is preparing the refried beans. The Classic Bean Burrito recipe directed me to another recipe in the book for Refried Beans. The book calls for 4 cups of cooked black beans including their cooking liquid. Earlier in the day I had cooked a pot of black beans but ended up with only 3 cups of beans and liquid. So I cut the recipe by about a quarter. That will effect the number of burritos that we end up with.

3 Cups of Cooked Black Beans – Still warm from the crock pot

To make the refried beans, heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add one medium white onion and saute until it is a deep brown. I a gigantic white onion, so I used about half of it.

Onions Sauteing – Not yet deep brown

When the onion is browned add 3 cloves of garlic. Cook for another minute, being careful not to burn the garlic.

It is easier to mash the beans if they are warm. My black beans were still warm from the cooking process. Into the onion mixture, stir in, one cup at a time of beans. Mash each addition as you go using a potato masher making the puree as coarse or as smooth as you like. When all the beans are added and mashed, add 3/4 cup of cooking liquid or water.

Cook over medium low heat until the beans are just a little soupier than you like them. They will thicken up as they cool a bit. Be careful to keep the heat low and stir often. The mashed beans have a tendency to plop and splatter.

Refried Black Beans

Apologies – there is just no way to photograph black beans and make them look appealing!

Now we can make the Classic Bean Burritos:

The recipe calls for 8 flour tortillas. But I had cut the bean recipe by a quarter, so I only needed 6 flour tortillas. I bought the burrito sized tortillas at my store. I looked for whole wheat, but sadly my store was out of those. They have the advantage of whole grain and they provide a little more fiber.  Wrap the tortillas in foil and put them in a 350 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients.

Grate 1 and 1/2 cups of Monterrey Jack Cheese and 1/2 cup of Cheddar Cheese. Mince 1/2 cup onions. Mince jalapeno or other pepper according to your taste. You can test a little bit of the pepper on your tongue to see how hot it is. I have found that jalapenos  vary greatly in their heat.

I set up an assembly line of burrito ingredients.

Bean Burrito Assembly Line – beans, cheese, onions and peppers

Working with one warm tortilla at a time, spoon about a half cup of the Refried Beans, sprinkle with cheese, onions and peppers. Roll into a burrito…tuck the sides as you roll from the bottom. It takes a little bit of practice to get that just right. Lay the rolled burrito on a foil lined baking sheet.

Burritos rolled and ready for the oven

Pop the burritos into a 350 degree oven for 5 minutes or until they look slightly browned. This will melt the cheese. I sprayed my burritos with a little bit of olive oil. The recipe didn’t call for this but my tortillas were slightly past fresh. I wanted to make sure that they wouldn’t crack or split during the cooking process.

Cooked Burritos – slightly browner, but warm and melty inside

Serve with sour cream and minced chives. I also served some good fresh salsa. Some guacamole would have been nice too.

We ate two of these Classic Bean Burritos for our dinner. I decided that I would freeze the rest. I had got that idea from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food. I wrapped the burritos individually in plastic wrap. When your are ready to eat them, remove from wrap and pop them into the microwave. Having those it the freezer is really great. Whenever I need a quick meal or snack, I’m ready to go. According to Martha, they will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.

The Verdict –  The Classic Bean Burrito is delicious! The refried beans were wonderful; much better than anything you would get from a can. The texture and flavor was superior. The burritos were a snap to make. In fact, the refried beans were the most time consuming part of the process. The burritos tasted great. They were fun to eat. It’s a winner.

The tortillas that I purchased were not as fresh as I think they should have been. But that was my fault – not the recipe. So that is an important take away – get really fresh tortillas!

Also, I think it would be better to warm the tortillas in the microwave rather than in the oven. My experience is that they dry out less that way. Just wrap tortillas in a clean kitchen towel, microwave on high for 15 – 20 seconds per tortilla (or until the are pliable but not tough). I would work in groups of one or two tortillas so as not overcook them.

If I made these again, I would use a little less cheese and I might use more Cheddar than Monterry Jack. That’s just a personal preference.

I was making every effort to follow the recipe exactly but I think that this recipe easily lends itself to lots of variations. Pinto beans would be a great option. You could layer some grilled vegetables in the burrito. Meat eaters could add some cooked chicken or beef. You could top the burritos with red or green chili sauce as you would eat them in New Mexico. There are lots of opportunities to make this recipe your own.

I will definitely make this recipe again. Joy of Cooking really came through on this one!

New Wave Waldorf Salad

I got a request for the recipe for my new wave Waldorf Salad. And I am happy to oblige.

The traditional Waldorf Salad is made with apples, celery, raisin, walnuts and lots of mayonnaise. That is something  you might see at an all-you-can-eat salad bar, right next to the Jello Ambrosia and the macaroni salad.

 

Waldorf Salad – My Way

My Waldorf Salad is a little fresher and I think more contemporary. I didn’t make this up on my own. I have seen several different versions. But this is my spin on it!

I used about 2 cups of cooked farro, but I suspect that other grains might work as well.

To the farro I added a peeled, chopped apple, a couple of stalks of chopped celery (leaves included), some halved red grapes. I also added some slivered almonds that I had lightly toasted. Pecans or walnuts would work as well.

Rather than use a mayonnaise dressing, I made a zingy vinaigrette. I mixed 2 tablespoons of olive oil and one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. I put in a squeeze of honey to sweeten it up a bit. Sometimes I add a squeeze of lemon juice to make it brighter.

Toss all the ingredients together and serve.

This is a fairly substantial salad because of the farro. The celery and grapes give it a terrific fresh flavor. I imagine you could add some diced, cooked chicken to turn this into a full meal.

 

 

Living Out of My Pantry – Days Eight and Nine

I am past the half way mark now. My urge to go to the grocery store is almost overwhelming. But for now I am comforting myself with preparing a grocery list. That’s pretty satisfying!

Day Eight – For dinner I made a meal that few people other than me would actually want to eat. But this is one of my favorite things. Cabbage sauteed with onions and Rotel. I love cabbage. I don’t know many folks who share my love of cabbage. Fortunately I started off this project with a whole head of cabbage on hand. Lucky!

I also love Rotel.

I try to always have a can of Rotel in my pantry. I believe that almost everything is improved by Rotel.

This could not be simpler to prepare. I used a quarter of a head of cabbage and sliced that fairly thin, and sauteed the cabbage and with some onion in olive oil.

Sauteing Cabbage and Onions

When the cabbage is wilted, pour in a can of Rotel – juice and all – and let that simmer for 5 or 10 minutes. If it gets dry, add a little water. It should be juicy!

Cabbage and Rotel - Yum

I usually eat this mixture over penne pasta but in this case I decided to use a whole grain. I had a bag of mixed 5 grain; farro, barley, brown rice, kamut and oats.

Quick Cooking 5 Grain Mix

I cooked this according to the package directions. It took about 20 minutes start to finish. My store sells this as a Store Brand so I doubt that it is widely available. You might look for something like it. It is low in calories, high in fiber, protein and nutrients. It is a little pricey but it tastes good, it’s healthy and it’s quick to prepare. The trifecta.

A Pot of 5 Grain Mix

This cooks up in very distinct grains. It isn’t at all mushy.

I was afraid that without pasta, I might not enjoy my cabbage quite as much. But it was great. The whole grains were tasty and a bit chewy. They were an excellent accompaniment to this dish. I ate it with just a little Parmesan cheese grated on top. I ate every last bite of that cabbage.

One of My Favorite Meals - Cabbage and Rotel

Husband passed on this meal. He does not share my love of cabbage!

Day Nine – I am really trying to be inventive about using up the perishable items that are currently available to me. After a quick inventory of my refrigerator, the two items that were nearing the end of their shelf life were coconut milk (opened that can on Day Two ) and the rest of the butternut squash (also Day Two)

I made a spicy black bean soup with butternut squash and coconut milk. This is a recipe that I improvised, combining ideas and ingredients from several other recipes.

I cut the remaining squash into small cubes, yielding about 2 cups.

The Last of the Butternut Squash

I tossed the squash in a bit of olive oil and but it on a foil lined baking sheet. I roasted the squash for about 20 minutes at 400 degrees. It was slightly browned and quite tender.

Meanwhile, I cooked a cup of dried black beans with some chopped onion and 2 dried chipotle peppers in my small slow cooker. When the beans were tender I let them cool. In my new Vitamix blender, I pureed the beans, the chipotle chilies, the squash and a half cup of coconut milk. This turned into a beautifully pureed soup. I returned the soup to the slow cooker and let it simmer until dinner was ready. Just before serving, I added the juice of one lime to add a bright fresh note.

A Delicious But Homely Pot of Black Bean Soup

There is just no way to make black bean soup look pretty. Sorry!

To go with this very flavorful and spicy soup, I made a 5 Grain Waldorf Salad.

Some of the Ingredients for 5 Grain Waldorf Salad

I combined chopped celery, apple and toasted walnuts with raisins and leftover 5 Grain mix. I topped that with a simple vinaigrette of olive oil, apple cider vinegar, honey and fresh lemon juice. The result was sweet and tart.

Really Good 5 Grain Waldorf Salad

This salad was spectacular. I can’t go on enough about how good this tasted. The grains were chewy. The apples and celery were crunchy. Nutty. Tart. Sweet. This salad really had it going on. Husband and I both loved this salad. It’s a keeper.

Dinner - Spicy Soup, Cooling Salad

The soup was spicy and full of flavor. The salad was fresh and refreshing. This was good combination and a great pantry meal!

Living Out of My Pantry – Days Four, Five and Six (Busy Weekend!)

On Friday, Day Four of the pantry experiment, Daughter was driving in from Austin to spend Mother’s Day weekend with us. Whenever Daughter comes home, we always tell her that we will kill the fatted calf. It’s our little joke. Of course, no calves are ever harmed, as none of us eat red meat.  But I do always go to the grocery store and stock up on her favorite things. With the no grocery store rule, I was wondering how this would work out.

At first she told me that she would not be home for dinner Friday night. That meant that all I had to do was get us through Saturday because we were going to a Mother’s Day brunch on Sunday.

But at the last minute she called and said that her plans had changed and she was on her way home and would be there in time for Friday night dinner. This would really put my pantry to the test. I needed to cook something from the ingredients on hand and it needed to be a dish that would make her feel at home.

Pasta! Even better – baked pasta.  I cooked a half a pound of Barilla Farfalle for 8 minutes. It should be a little under-done as it will continue to cook in the oven.  

I know that we are all supposed to be eating whole wheat pasta, but I don’t really like it all  that much and I figured that since it was a special occasion, we could splurge on good old fashioned, highly refined pasta.

I had an opened can of whole San Marzano tomatoes.

I made a quick marinara sauce from that using Martha Stewart’s recipe, of course, store bought sauce would work too. To the cooked pasta I added some frozen spinach that had been thawed and well drained. I threw in about a half a can of drained chickpeas and a half can of drained quartered artichoke hearts. I added some marinara and grated mozzarella. Yup – I had all of those things on hand. I baked that at 400 degrees until it was hot and bubbly. Then I added a topping of bread crumbs, grated cheese, and enough olive oil to moisten. The whole thing went back in the oven long enough for the cheese to melt and the top to get brown.

Baked Pasta with Spinach, Chickpeas, and Artichokes

I had a half a loaf of bread in the freezer. I thawed that and sliced it thinly. I brushed the slices with some olive oil and toasted them.

Dinner!

Last but not least, I baked a batch of gingerbread for dessert. This has nothing to do with beans and grains but it was so good I have to tell you about it. I am not much on making desserts. I almost never bake sweets. It’s just not my thing. But I had a box of gingerbread mix in the pantry left over from Christmas.

I prepared the mix according to the package directions. The back of the package suggested a praline topping. I made the topping  using 1/4 cup melted butter, 1/2 brown sugar, and 1/2 cup pecans (I should have chopped the pecans). I spread that evenly over the gingerbread and put it back in the oven for 10 minutes to caramelize.

Gingerbread with Praline Topping - too good!

Oh my goodness! This is a new family favorite. I will try to keep gingerbread mix in my pantry from now until eternity. Fantastic.

This was a good dinner. Baked pasta is comfort food. My pasta was really a full meal. Artichokes and spinach provided the vegetable. The chickpeas provided some protein and fiber. The crunchy breadcrumb topping just made it yummy. The gingerbread was a really super dessert. That praline topping would make anything tast good.

I was very proud of how my pantry performed in a pinch!

On Saturday, Day Five, I was still on a pasta jag. For lunch I made a quick pasta salad using whole wheat gemelli pasta.

Whole Wheat Gemelli

I cooked that according to the package directions. To the pasta I added the remaining half can of chickpeas from the previous night and the remaining artichokes. I chopped up green olives, sun dried tomatoes and fresh green onions. For good measure, I threw in a little bit of frozen spinach (thawed and drained).  I dressed the whole thing with olive oil and lots of fresh-squeezed lemon juice.

Although this had some similar ingredients to the baked pasta we ate the night before, it was a completely different meal. We didn’t feel at all like we were eating a repeat. Very good.

Pasta Salad for Lunch

For dinner on Day Five, I made pizzas. This is one of my specialties.  I follow Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Pizza Dough that tastes great and is very simple. You just have to get it started early in the day. In needs some time to develop. I use King Arthur Bread flour. I don’t use whole wheat flour when I make pizzas. The bread flour makes a fantastic crust. I am willing to sacrifice the whole wheat in this instance.

To make the dough I mixed mix 3 and 3/4 cups flour, 2 teaspoons active dry yeast, 1 teaspoon table salt. Stir that to combine. Add 1 and 1/3 cups water. Mix until blended. I found that mixture to be just a little bit dry. So I added a little more water, a tablespoon at a time, just until it came together. The dough will be sticky.

I put the dough in a Multi Mix container (available at Hardware stores for less than $2). I like letting dough rise in a container that is calibrated so that I can easily see how much it has risen. After about 5 hours, the dough will have more than doubled, punch it down and divide into 3 balls (this is enough for  3 pizzas, 14″ round). I made two pizzas so I froze the third ball of dough for another occassion.

For 2 pizzas,  I cut two pieces of parchment paper into rounds the size that my finished pizzas will be. I press out the dough directly onto the parchment paper. This makes it easy to get off of the peel into the hot oven. Julia Child taught me that one! I topped the pizzas with sauce. I put olives, sun dried tomatoes and onions on one. The other pizza was a simple cheese pizza.

I bake my pizzas on my gas grill using a pizza stone. I can actually get 2 round stones on my grill so I can cook two pizzas at a time. My grill gets really hot so the cooking time is about 8 or 9 minutes. You can also cook these in a 450 degree oven. If you don’t have a stone, just cook the pizza using a pizza pan or other baking sheet.

I forgot to take pictures of the pizzas. We were in too much of a hurry to eat those gorgeous pies. But here is a picture of some of the leftovers. I realized after the fact that I had failed to take pics!

A few slices of pizza leftover!

 

Day Six of the Pantry Challenge was Mother’s Day. We went to brunch at a local restaurant. We had a lovely time and I didn’t do any cooking or cleaning. We were pretty full from brunch so we just snacked for dinner. We had some leftover pizza and some leftover baked pasta from Friday night.

I am almost a week in to my pantry project. I have had plenty of available options to prepare. There has been a fair amount of variety.  But I do wish that I had some lettuce to make a salad!

 

Living Out of My Pantry for Two Weeks (Lots of beans and grains on hand!)

I woke up this morning and decided it was absolutely imperative that I clean out and organize my pantry. This is a job I feel like I have to tackle every few months. I am lucky enough to have a very large, well-stocked pantry. My pantry is of the walk-in variety, it is a room that is about 7′ x 6′. It has rows and rows of shelves that I try to keep organized.

Despite the fact that I have all this food on hand, I find myself heading to the grocery store once or twice a week to stock up. We once had a dear family friend who told me, based on the contents of my pantry, that I must have some weird food issues. Well, I won’t argue with that.

As I was organizing my pantry this morning, it occurred to me that I could probably skip going to the store for weeks, if I would just get organized and eat the bounty that I already have.

I have at least a dozen types of dried beans on hand.

My shelves are stocked with at least a dozen types of grains.

We have pasta, canned tomato products (whole, crushed, diced, and paste!), nuts, nut butters (peanut and almond), dried fruits, whole grain crackers, oils and vinegars of every ilk. On top of that there are pasta sauces, salsas, artichokes, olives and every kind of herb and spice imaginable (alphabetized). OK – I’m a nut.

This is the goal that I have set for myself: I am going to eat food out of my pantry for the next two weeks, no trips to the store. You must be thinking “with all that food in her house, is this even a challenge?”. Well I’m certainly not going to starve to death. I guess the challenge here is to break a habit of running to the grocery store whenever the mood strikes. The challenge is looking at what I have available and figuring out how to use it.

As it happens I went to the grocery store yesterday. So my refrigerator is adequately supplied with fresh produce and other items. I have some varieties of frozen fruits and vegetables in the freezer.

My two week pantry quest will commence tomorrow, Tuesday, May 8 and run through Monday, May 21. I there will be lots of beans and grains on the menu. I will post every day or two with an update.

Today is a preparation day. I got my pantry organized and made a few notes about what I have on hand and some possible meal ideas.

I cooked a batch of 6 bean soup that I had on my pantry shelf. At Christmas I put together several jars of mixed bean soup to give as gifts (see my post “Giving the Gift of Beans and Grains“). I gave away several jars but this one was still on my shelf.

I like having some soup in the refrigerator  to heat up for a quick meal.

I also made two batches of Lilla’s Granola. Lilla is my niece and she is a pastry chef. So she shared her recipe for the world’s best granola. I am making a double batch of granola today. We’ll have that on hand for two weeks, for breakfast and snacks. Husband REALLY loves this granola. And it is a snap to make with pantry items.

Here is the recipe:

Lilla’s Granola

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Any combination of nuts, seeds, dry fruit your heart
    desires….to equal about 1 and 1/3 cup

In a large bowl toss the cinnamon and oats. Mix together in a different bowl the salt, oil, honey, sugar and vanilla. Whisk until fully incorporated.

Add the liquid to the dry. With your hand, or a spatula, mix it until the oats are coated with the honey mixture.

Pour it onto a non-stick baking sheet, or a baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake about 25 minutes at 300 degrees. With a metal spatula, stir the granola around on the pan; this prevents you ending up with big clumps of granola. If you like big clumps, skip this step. Bake about 10 more minutes.

Add the nuts/seeds/dry fruit and give it another stir.
Bake about 10-15 minutes longer. Let the granola cool completely. Granola can
be stored in a zip-lock or other air tight container for about a week. It can
be frozen, for even longer.

 I make one slight change to Lilla’s recipe. Instead of using 2 cups of oats, I use 3 cups. This change means that each serving has more oats and a little less fat and sugar. It’s not quite as delicious as hers, but I consider it a reasonable concession in the war against middle age spread!

 

 

Two weeks without a trip to the grocery store? I am ready to start my two week program with a delicious bean and grain soup in the refrigerator and a large air-tight container of granola.

Husband is not totally on board with the 2 week pantry idea. He will almost certainly make some trips to the store. But I’ll make sure that none of his purchases make it into my meals. He and I generally eat different menus because of my non-meat choices. And he usually goes to the store every couple of days. He likes to make his food decisions on the fly. I’m more of a planner.  We’ll see if I have any influence over his ways. Doubtful!

Beans and grains are perfect partners for making pantry meals.  They are generally inexpensive. They store beautifully. And they can be prepared in unlimited ways.

I am thinking that at the end of the two weeks, my pantry shelves will be less full, perhaps easier to keep organized. I will have to do some planning to come up with meals that really work based on the ingredients that I have available. And I will have to figure out how to incorporate my refrigerator and freezer items, to keep things tasting fresh.

I’ll keep you posted!