Day 24 of vegan recipe challenge: it’s all about those frites

Raise your hand if you don’t like French fries. (and, if it is because you believe them to be called Freedom fries, you may exit this blog immediately).

No doubt there are certain types of fries you may not care for, but – and this is perhaps a gross generalization – most people like French fries.

So, here’s the follow-up: what is your favorite type of French fry? In need of a great opening for your next networking event, you’re welcome. As silly as it may sound, this line of questioning can lead to serious discussions, even potential arguments, over which form of fried potato reigns supreme. Thick-cut steak fries? I know those are near the bottom of Aaron’s rankings. The spiraled delight of the curly fry? How about the porous waffle fry? Skinny? Sweet potato? Shoestring? Home fries? The list could go on and on. One that tends to be overlooked but eoften vokes strong memories of cafeteria lunches is this one:

crinkleRight next to your creamed corn and “chicken tenders”

The crinkle fry. An ole-forgotten standby of many diners, drive-ins, and now, our freezer. During menu planning last week, I had already pinpointed Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Island Black Bean Burgers as one of the new recipes to test out. As American as I can possibly sound, what goes best with burgers?

Kale.

Yes, there was some stir-fried kale served alongside the burgers. But really, I meant:

crinkle2In one word: yum.

Unfortunately, the actual burger component of this meal went to hell-in-a-handbasket quickly. It wasn’t the preparation portion that threw me into a tailspin. Apparently, during the shopping trip, I failed to open my eyes and actually read what I was purchasing. Sooo…instead of cilantro, I picked up parsley. And, instead of scallions, I purchased shallots. And, to boot, my Jamaican curry powder arrived at 8pm that evening, so the spice component was all improv.

Regardless, these burgers were outstanding, and I know they will even taste BETTER with the island-infused curry powder and perhaps cooking my black beans just a tiny bit longer so the mashing process goes a little easier.

dinner2Baked bean burger goodness.

Isa includes a recipe for nectarine salsa with these burgers. But, since nectarines aren’t in season, I didn’t want to chance it. Instead, I picked up some Mrs. Renfro’s Mango Habanero Salsa. In three words: ay de mi!

Island Black Bean Burgers
Makes 8 burgers (mine made 10 somehow)
Total time: 45 minutes; Active time: 20 minutes

For the burgers:

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained (1 1/2 cups)
1 (15-ounce) can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained (1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1 cup finely chopped scallions
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoon Jamaican curry powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable broth
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 cup panko breadcrumbs

Burger buns
Additional toppings of choice (mango or pineapple salsa is fun!)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400F.

In a medium bowl, use a small potato masher (or a strong fork) to mash the black beans and black-eyed peas. They should be good and mushy but not totally pureed, with a few beans still identifiable in the mix.

Add the red pepper, scallions, cilantro, curry powder, salt, broth, and lime juice and mix well. Mix in the panko until it all holds together. Refrigerate for 10 minutes or so.

Then, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray or brush with oil. Form the burger mixture into 8 patties (or more) that are about 1 inch thick. Spray or brush with a little more oil and bake for 15 minutes. Flip the burgers and bake for 12 to 15 more minutes, until nicely browned.

A note from Isa: she writes in Isa Does It that to make a perfect patty every time, use a 3-inch cookie cutter. Pat the mixture into it, and don’t worry about fingerprints (they will flatten out when you flip them). If you don’t have a 3-inch cookie cutter, use an empty 15-ounce can and press it into the veggie burger mixture. Then, simply pop the patty out of the can!

dinner1

And what to dip those crinkle fries in? We kept it local with some Num Num Sauce.

The burning question: what is your favorite French fry shape?

Day 17 of vegan recipe challenge: time to warm up

For those of you not in the States or who live somewhere where “cold” equates to below 60F, send the majority of this country your temperatures. At this exact moment, I don’t actually now how cold it is outside. I would like to live in this veil of ignorance for a bit longer before the biting, bitter reality hits.

So let’s think warm thoughts.

And to me, warm thoughts start in a bowl. A soup bowl, that is. Today’s recipe comes from Kellie Anderson’s blog Food To Glow, and it is super (and not solely because it was indicated as an ideal accompaniment to a Super Bowl celebration, and in her case, introducing this epic-Americana event to a foreign crowd).

Black Bean Quinoa Chili
Serves 4 to 6

blackeanPhoto credit: it’s ALL Miss Kellie Anderson

1 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 medium sweet potato, scrubbed and small dice
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 red or green pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
2 bay leaves or 2 kaffir lime leaves (I use 2 whizzed up lime leaves)
1 ½ tbsp mild chili powder (the kind that is a blend)
1 heaped tbsp dried oregano
2 tsp ground cumin
3  400g (14.5 oz) tins of black beans, drained but not rinsed
1 400g (14.5 oz) tin of good quality tomatoes, or 4 tomatoes, chopped
2 heaped tbsp sundried tomato paste OR ketchup
Light vegetable stock, about 1 litre (4 ¾ cups)
85g (1/2 cup) quinoa, rinsed (or 1 cup cooked quinoa)
Handful of thinly sliced cabbage or kale – optional

1. In a large saucepan sauté the onion in the oil for about five minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened.

2. Add the garlic, sweet potato, celery and red or green pepper and sauté, stirring as needed, for a further five minutes (to cook down the harder vegetables).

3. Stir in the bay/lime leaves, chili powder, oregano and cumin. Let this cook for a minute before adding two-thirds (eg two tins) of the beans, the tomatoes, tomato paste or ketchup, quinoa and three-quarters of the stock. Bring it to the boil and then turn down to simmer for 15 minutes. If you are using the cabbage/kale, add this towards the end unless you want it well-cooked.

4. While the chili is cooking, blend the remaining cooked beans to a puree with a hand blender, or similar. Add into the chili and carry on simmering for a further five minutes. If you want it a bit thinner – more like a soup – add the rest of the stock.

5. Let the chili sit for a few minutes then taste for seasoning and heat – adjusting as you prefer. Remove the bay leaves or lime leaves before serving warm but not hot, with guacamole, Greek yogurt/soured cream, chopped cilantro/coriander and or lime wedges.

This chili reheats very, very well although if allowed to sit overnight you may wish to add a dash more vegetable stock or water to make up for the absorbency of the quinoa.

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Enjoy, Americans and non-Americans alike! I used canned black beans because she calls for a no-rinse, but that should not preclude you from punching in your dried bean ticket.

Warming Up From the Inside Out

In case you were hibernating in an underground lair last week, the majority of our country experienced the still trending Polar Vortex. I experienced the coldest temperatures ever as an adult: a high of 27F. How to counter the chill of Jack Frost outside of continual transitions between hot baths and nestling up to the space heater? Make warm, delicious comfort food. Last week had two new gems for dinner entrees:

1) Spicy Vegan Black Bean Soup via Cookie + Kate

IMAG1172Mmmmm…

This was an easy, relatively quick dinner to make during the week. My soup isn’t quite as dark in color as the one pictured in the blog due to using homemade black beans instead of canned. This did affect the overall seasoning profile; I will be sure to add more if I use homemade beans in the future. I would also puree less of the soup than I did in the first batch – I love the chunks of carrots, beans, onions, and celery. We paired it with a slice of crusty Italian loaf from Guglhupf Bakery here in Durham.

2) Chipotle Quinoa Sweet Potato Tacos via Half Baked Harvest

IMG_20140108_190430Didn’t I just see those toppings…?

After having some overwhelming, tear-induced experiences with chipotles in adobo, I was a bit gun shy at first with the recipe. TWO minced peppers? And one tablespoon sauce? AND cayenne? Well, I opted to leave the cayenne out, which was great because this recipe did  boast a nice, robust heat (but no tears – only when I was done with my plate because I wanted to inhale more). This recipe is SUPER filling and made more than we anticipated. I did not make her Roasted Cranberry Pomegranate Salsa, but I will. Oh yes, I will.

In other fun cooking exploration in the last few days, I attempted making homemade Lara bars via 100 Days of Real Food. Since I absolutely adore anything cashew, I opted to make the bars with 1 cup cashews, 1 cup dates, 1/4 cup peanut butter, and 1 – 2 tablespoons water (i used 2). Now, this recipe SAYS it makes 12 bars. Square bars. After whipping this up in the food processor, I was shocked to feel how oily the mash had become – much more difficult to form into squares than anticipated. So, I made bars more similar to the packaged Lara bars and cut them in half. I think they are delicious, and it is great to have just a small pick me up to grab before working out. Currently, I open a Lara bar and break it into two, saving the other half for the next day.

IMAG1176

Jump into the pool!

IMAG1177

It’s getting there…

IMAG1178Awww..hey little bar (and penguin blanket – I swear, it’s my cats….right)

IMAG1180Or…not….

What are your comfort dishes on those blustery winter days?