Vegan Black-Eyed Pea (or Bean) Salad Burgers
with My Secret Binder: Brown Rice Cakes!
Leftover Bean Salad Never Looked or Tasted So Good!

If you have one of “those” bean salads hanging around in your refrigerator–you know, tasty enough, but not exciting enough to eat over and over again–STOP!  Don’t throw it out or force yourself to eat it as is.

Instead, make my newest “burger” creations.  These could not be quicker, easier, nor tastier.

With a salad similar to the lovely one below in the fridge leftover from my mother’s New Year’s Day tradition of eating black-eyed peas for good luck–it was good, but unremarkable enough that I didn’t photograph and post (such salads are a dime a dozen)–it suddenly occurred to me that I could use it as the basis for a bean burger.  But I didn’t want to use the traditional high calorie binder of nuts or flour or even oatmeal because I didn’t have any.  But I did have brown rice cakes (vastly superior in flavor and texture to the white rice ones, as  I recently discovered).

Hattie B's Black Eyed Pea Salad | Life, Love, and Good Food

(photo credit: Sheila Thigpen on Epicurious)

Perusing my pantry, it occurred to me that rice cakes might be just the perfect moisture-absorbing binder I sought.  It turns out that one rice cake per one cup of salad binds perfectly, lending a lovely–I’d say ideal–texture.  Of course, it will depend on the moisture in your salad, so be prepared to add more or perhaps even less.

And for an exterior with an irresistible crusty crunch, I experimented with plain, unseasoned yellow cornmeal.  It was perfect.

Regarding presentation, more Snow Days, courtesy Winter Storm Grayson, than we have had since I begin my teaching career 15 years ago meant that my weekday lunches looked a little different than they do on my art room desk at school.  For the nicest presentation, go for height and color contrast.  I made my cakes small-ish and thick-ish, akin to a crabcake.  And I stacked two on a nest of fresh baby spinach, topping them with a little vegan sour cream and cranberry relish–red is the complementary color of green–leftover from Christmas, finishing with a sprinkling of roasted and lightly salted pepitas.  The combination earns an A+ according to my stringent rubric.

(Note: certainly, you can serve this burger on a bun if you choose, but I prefer mine open-faced, as bread just provides too many calories and not enough nutrition in my diet of around 1,500 to 1,700 calories per day.  Keeps me in fighting form!)

I hope you agree.

Vegan Black-Eyed Pea (or Bean) Burgers

Yield: 4 patties

2 cups black-eyed pea or any bean salad

2 brown rice cakes crumbled (may require more or less depending on moisture in your salad)

1/3 cup yellow cornmeal

Vegetable oil

Optional accompaniment: baby spinach or your favorite greens

Vegan sour cream or your favorite sauce

Vegan relish or salsa (I used cranberry relish leftover from Christmas)

Optional garnish: roasted and lightly salted pepitas or your favorite nut or seed

In a food processor, pulse bean salad until it is finely minced and just starting to hold together.  Crumble 1 1/2 rice cakes into the processor and continue to pulse until the mixture begins to come together almost like a cookie dough, but with lots of texture and flecks of color.  Add the remaining rice cake or more if needed to achieve the desired consistency.  Remove mixture to a bowl and, using a scoop or spoon, compact 1/4 of the dough into a patty about an inch tall.  Set on a plate.  Repeat with remaining mixture to make 4 patties.  Place yellow cornmeal in a shallow bowl and lay each patty on top, patting the cornmeal onto all the surfaces, flipping for a nice even coating top and bottom.  Heat a very thin layer of vegetable oil in a skillet over medium (or at whatever temperature gives you a nice sizzle).  Carefully place each patty into the pan, cook 3 minutes or until lightly browned on the first side, flip, and cook 3 more minutes or until lightly browned on the reverse.  Serve on a bed of baby greens, drizzle with vegan sour cream or a favorite sauce, top with a dollop of relish or salsa, and sprinkle with the nut or seed of your choice.

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Vegan Riced Broccoli-Cauliflower Casserole
Quick-and-Easy

I think I have just invented legal crack!  I am a little late to the “riced” vegetable party, as I like my fried rice with, well, rice.  But, this casserole has made me a believer.

My Vegan Riced Broccoli-Cauliflower Casserole has it all:

  • The entire casserole is vibrantly healthy and only 535 calories. That means you could eat the whole thing and still be under the typical number of calories for an entire meal.  Of course, you might have buzzard breath and a little abdominal gas, but that’s a small price to pay, no?
  • It goes together, stove top, in about 20 minutes plus 15 minutes of optional oven baking.
  • It is an ideal side for a host of main dishes, but you could also stuff an enchilada, spread it on toasted bread for crostini or on pizza, include it as a layer in lasagna, or serve it as a dip, just for starters.

Note: I purchased the broccoli and cauliflower already riced at Whole Foods, but you can make your own simply by pulsing chunks of both vegetables in a food processor until very finely minced.

1 tablespoons olive oil (125 calories)

4 green onions (both the white and green part), thinly sliced (20 calories)

2 large cloves garlic, minced (10 calories)

Pinch of sea salt and freshly grated black pepper

16 ounces (approximately 4 cups) riced broccoli-cauliflower combination (125 calories)

1 cup vegetable broth or stock (20 calories)

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme or a scant 1 teaspoon fresh, minced

2 tablespoons vegan cream cheese, e.g. Tofutti brand (60 calories)

4 + 1 tablespoon vegan shredded Parmesan; e.g. Follow Your Heart brand (125 calories)

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (optional, but I like the flavor and health benefits; they don’t call it “nutritional” for nothing) (50 calories)

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (I love nutmeg in creamy savory dishes, but only the fresh)

Optional (but recommended): Zest of one-half medium lemon

(Note that my new Samsung gas range cooks with a lot of power.  What I used to cook at medium-high, I now cook at medium-low or low.  Seriously.  So, adjust accordingly.  I am going to recommend “medium” as a, well, happy medium.)

Heat olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat.  Add green onions and garlic, sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt and pepper, and saute, stirring, just until wilted, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Add riced vegetables and saute, stirring, for another 2 to 3 minutes.  Add broth and thyme.  Stir well to combine and simmer for 10 minutes or until moisture is released into cooking liquid and then almost entirely evaporated.  Stir in cream cheese, 4 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese, optional nutritional yeast, and nutmeg, and heat until melted.  Stir in optional lemon zest.  At this point, you can either sprinkle the top with the remaining tablespoon of Parmesan and serve, or transfer mixture to a baking dish sprayed with non-stick spray, sprinkle the top with the remaining tablespoon of Parmesan, and bake for 15 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven.

Pre-Baked

 

Baked
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Vegan Buffalo Roasted Butternut Fries

Yield: 2 servings

My latest Buffalo-flavored obsession needs little introduction.  It’s the traditional bar food with a side of compassion.

2 tablespoons melted vegan butter

.75 to 1 ounce dry Buffalo mix (I prefer mild)

20 ounces butternut squash cut into fries

1/4 cup vegan sour cream or Daiya brand blue cheez dressing

1/4 cup shredded vegan parmesan (I like Follow Your Heart)

1/4 cup finely diced celery

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Melt butter in a rimmed baking sheet.  Add squash fries and gently toss to coat.  Sprinkle with Buffalo mix and gently toss well again to evenly coat. Roast for approximately 20 minutes, stirring occssionally. Or until golden and slightly caramelized. Cool slightly.  Divide in half and top each serving with half each of the sour cream or dressing, parmesan, and celery.

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Vegan Crispy Brussels Sprouts with Creamy Cheese,
Maple Syrup & Sriracha
4 ingredient, quick & easy, super sexy appetizer

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t enjoy Brussels sprouts for breakfast. However, southeast Virginia, where I live, just experienced “Snowmageddon,” aka The Blizzard of 2018, and the light is absolutely breathtaking.

So I knew I wanted to do a photoshoot this morning to take advantage of the glorious glistening out the window.  And I certainly wasn’t going to allow these beauties to go to waste.

If you are in need of a quick, drop-dead gorgeous, and delicious appetizer–or breakfast (just kidding)–look no further.
Simply top crispy roasted Brussels sprouts halves with a dollop of softened vegan cream cheese or nut cheese, homemade or prepared like Treeline brand, a drizzle of maple syrup from a spoon going in one direction, and a drizzle of sriracha straight from the bottle going in the other direction–almost like handwriting–and finish with a sprinkling of coarse sea salt. (Note: I am impatient and like my Brussels sprouts practically charred, so I roast them at 500 degrees with just a hint of nonstick spray or olive oil and coarse sea salt, stir them a couple of times, and watch them carefully.)

Voila! You will impress your guests and satisfy both their eyes and their appetites.

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Vegan Cheesy Buffalo Chickpea-Tater Tot Casserole

Bob and I hosted our 2nd Annual Christmas Day open house again this year. It is amazing how many people are available on Christmas afternoon. We started at 3:30 and went on for hours. 35 people graced our home with their love, laughter, and warmth, creating such a special holiday.

Oh, and they also graced it with lovely and delicious vegan food. Last year, because we were hosting Christmas dinner for Bob’s family afterwards, I just did sweets and cider. This year, generous guests wanted to bring much more food and I didn’t turn them down on their gracious offers.

Our good friend, Juan Gelpi, loves my hot buffalo chickpea dip, so I made some in my never before used deluxe stainless steel Crock-Pot, and I will definitely do that again.

With some leftovers and a house guest for the week who we ended up taking out for most every finner, I didn’t want any spoilage and waste, so I decided to make Juan and his wife, Barbara, both excellent vegan cooks, a casserole out of the leftover dip.

Let’s just say that these two serious foodies gave it a big thumbs up.  And I hope you do too. Honestly, there i nothing not to like about this intensely comforting and satisfying casserole.

1-20 ounce package white or sweet potato tater tots, baked according to package directions ( I used Alexia brand Sweet Potato Puffs)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 1/2 cup celery, diced

3/4 + 1/4 cup cup sliced green onions

3 cups Vegan Cheesy Baked Buffalo Chickpea Dip, at room temperature

(http://www.thebloomingplatter.com/vegan-appetizers/vegan-baked-buffalo-dipbetsys-best)

1/2 cup shredded vegan cheddar cheese or cheddar cheese blend

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add celery and saute, stirring frequently, until softened. Add 3/4 cup green onions and continue sauteing a couple of minutes just until slightly wilted. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, combine sauteed vegetables, baked tater tots, and dip.  Spoon into a greased casserole dish, sprinkle with grated cheddar and remaining 1/4 cup green onions. Bake for 20 minutes or until bubbly and heated through.

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Vegan Cheesy Garlic and Herb Snack Crackers
quick and easy perfection

Every year of my life, until my mother passed away, I was in my parents home for Christmas. And every night before I was due to fly home, my mother would be up late–me often with her, though I tended to give out earlier than her even more intrepid and tenacious self–in the kitchen making a treat for me to take on the plane. It was either Chex Mix, which she called Texas Trash, or her famous almond butter toffee.

After Mama died, my father and sister were supposed to come to Virginia to celebrate Christmas with me, and both times there plans fell through. The first year, which was 2 years ago, they both got sick. This year, they got snowed in.

But, Tammy Wells, my best friend since 3rd grade, who was, like me, also recently widowed, came on Christmas Day to attend Bob’s and my open house for 35 beloved people in our lives, and spend the week. It has been a glorious will we end up hiking in the freezing cold, happy hours and tea with friends, dinner with Bob’s family, yoga, and more.

She is leaving at 6 this evening, flying back to Mississippi, so I had to uphold the tradition of my dear Mama, whom one of my friends dubbed the Genius of Christmas, and make Tammy  a treat for the plane.

I love Chex Mix and almond butter toffee, but I needed something even quicker. So I devised this tecioe in my mind, whipped it up, and even Bob the Omni who, for the most part, does not care for my food, loved them.

I will be making this quick and easy treat over and I can throughout the holidays and beyond.  Feel free to experiment with different types of dry seasoning mixes and nuts.

Recipe

1 6-ounce box Earth Balance Cheddar Flavor Squares

1/4 chp roasted and sakted almonds

1/4 cup really good olive oil

.70 to .75 ounce package dried garlic and herb seasoning mix

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. In a 9 x 13 -nch metal baking pan, combine crackers and almonds. In a small cup or bowl, whisk together olive oil, seasoning mix, and paprika. Drizzle over crackers and almonds, stir gently to combine well, place in oven and bake for 7 minutes.  Stir and bake for 7 more minutes. Let cool and store in airtight containers.

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Vegan Nutella and Puff Pastry Christmas Tree

I can’t see Santa’s Forest for these adorable trees.

Apparently they are all the rage this year, but I was evidently a little late to the pastry tree party.  Make yours with pizza dough or puff pastry and spread with the sweet or savory filling you most crave. Just be sure to include a creamy base to adhere the layers together.

My version is sweet–but not too–uses only three ingredients and, after the pastry thaws, is ready to devour in under 30 minutes.  I left a Middle Eastern dinner and this tree last night for our dog sitters (yes, we are those dog owners) while we joined friends for their Christmas Eve Eve tradition: a salad and sip of wine followed by a Christmas light-lit walk over to the Naro, an independent film house, to see “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The twins left some of the tabouli salad but not a crumb of the pastry. It was a huge hit with these 19 year olds.

My take on this new classic was inspired by its key ingredient: Rigoni di Asiago’s Nocciolata Oraganic Dairy-Free Hazelnut & Cocoa Spread, generously sent to me for product review purposes. With a deeply nutty and chocolatey flavor–its richness undiluted by dairy–and a thick and creamy–but spreadable–texture, this product is tops in my pantry (it needs no refrigeration).  It is also gluten- and palm oil-free.

Recipe

1 box Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry (2 sheets), thawed according to package directions

4.5 to 5 ounces vegan Hazelnut-Cocoa spread (1/2 jar Nocciolata)

1 to 2 tablespoons non-dairy milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On baking stone or parchment- or Silpat-lined baking sheet, stack the two pastry sheets.  With a sharp knife, cut into a triangular tree shape with a 1-inch or so wide trunk at the bottom. Remove top sheet, spread bottom sheet with hazelnut-cocoa spread, replace top sheet, lining up edges, and press down gently.

Cut 1 star from scraps and whatever other shapes you like fir nibbling or to serve as croutons on salads. Place pastry shapes on a separate stone or lined baking sheet.

Make 3/4-inch wide horizontal cuts from outer edges of triangle toward the center, stopping even with outer edges of trunk leaving a 1-inch or so wide trunk up the center. Twist each long cut strip twice and the shorter ones once, pressing tips firmly against baking stone or sheet.  Brush very lightly with non-dairy milk, press star onto top point, and brush star with a tiny bit more non-dairy milk.  Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown, but remove shapes cut from scraps after 10 or 15 minutes or they will burn. Remove baking sheet with pastry tree from oven, cool slightly, and slide tree onto serving platter. Serve warm or room temperature.

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Vegan Roasted Za’atar Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

If, like me, you find yourself in need of quick, no-fuss holiday gifts from your kitchen, you and your recipients will love my twist on a classic. The Middle Eastern flavor of za’atar curls up next to a hint of smoked paprika, garlic, and tamarind syrup for an intoxicating savory and slightly sweet flavor combination that is tantalizingly exotic, but not odd.

Za’atar is an aromatic Middle Eastern herb blend of earthy-lemony sumac, oregano, thyme, savory, and sesame seeds.

Package these seeds in pretty canisters or jars…or enjoy them warm right off the baking sheet.

Note: adjust spices if necessary to suit your palate.

4 cups raw pumpkin seeds (I purchased sprouted seeds at Whole Foods)

Non-stick spray

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons za’tar

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons tamarind syrup (sold at Middle Eastern markets)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray (so that less oil is needed).  Spread seeds out in an even layer. Drizzle with oil, sprinkle with remaining ingredients except tamarind syrup, and roast for 10 minutes or until lightly golden brown, stirring half-way through. Remove from oven, drizzle with tamarind syrup, stir well to distribute evenly, cool on wire rack, and package in airtight containers.

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Vegan Mini-Chutney & Cocowhip “Pies”
Ready in a (Ginger)Snap

These pretty little mini-pies make holiday pie “baking” a snap. A gingersnap.

I am so happy to share this cheater “recipe” with you, the brain child of my good friend, Mary Beth Watson. It is really just a 3-ingredient lickity-split process.

After one bite, no one will care how little time you spent laboring in your kitchen.

Ingredients:

Anna’s or your favorite brand crispy scalloped (preferably) vegan gingersnaps

Chutney (apple-pecan or, for Christmas, cranberry-orange-walnut “sauce” works nicely)

So Delicious brand Cocowhip or your favorite vegan whipped cream

To make each mini-pie, top one gingersnap with a spoonful of chutney followed by a dollop of Cocowhip. That’s it! Make as many or as few as you need just before serving time.

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Vegan Roasted Butternut Squash and Cream Cheese Ricetini

Yield: 4 servings

When you need a meal that is more like a snack, you need my Vegan Roasted Butternut Squash and Cream Cheese Ricetini, a play on crostini (not a martini!).

It’s a little bit open-faced sandwich and a little bit pretty appetizer, so it seems special–and it is special enough for a party–but it is so quick and easy.  And it is low-fat and low-calorie but, shhh, don’t tell anyone.  Each serving is less than 200 calories!  (Ten ounces of spiralized butternut squash is only 128 calories.)

10 ounces spiralized butternut squash (spray roasting pan and squash with a little nonstick spray, sprinkle lightly with sea salt, and roast for 25 minutes at 450 degrees, tossing half way through)

4 rice cakes

1/2 cup vegan cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup roasted and lightly salted pumpkin seeds.

To make each ricetini, spread one rice cake with 2 tablespoons vegan cream cheese.  Mound 1/4 of the roasted butternut squash on top and garnish with 1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds.  Serve immediately, perhaps with a small salad.

 

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