A Fabulous Veggie Burger

07-black-bean-burgerYes, I stumbled upon it.  A veggie burger liked by vegetarians and carnivores alike.  Quite delicious, and fabulously  healthy.  I must say, I’ve only just ventured into the veggie burger world this year, as I typically would dismiss any opportunity to try one.  After having my first, a run of the mill frozen variety,  my conclusion was that as long as you put enough mustard and ketchup on it, it’s certainly passable.   Then we tried a Black Bean burger on a restaurant menu.  This one was more than passable; it was very good.

So at some point in my past, I had torn this recipe out and it sat in a stack of recipes.  We tried, and we liked, very, very much.  My two teens say they’ll even take it in their school lunch this year.  It’s nice to add something new and nutritious to the household repertoire.

Black Bean/Veggie Burger

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 can tomatoes with zesty mild chilis, drained (I used tomatoes with jalapenos)

1 garlic clove, minced or pressed, or 1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder (I used flakes)

2 green onions, chopped

1 cup chopped carrots

1 cup parsley or cilantro

2 cups quick rolled oats (I used Old Fashioned Oats)

8 whole grain buns

Preheat oven to 450.  Process the first seven ingredients in a food processor or blender.  Remove contents into a large bowl and stir in the oats.  Form into patties, place on a sprayed baking sheet, and bake for 8 minutes.  Turn oven up to broil and cook for 2 more minutes, until the tops are nicely browned.  Toast the buns and pile on your favorite toppings.

Note:  These really don’t hold their shape too well in the process of making and baking.  I was wondering if I had used the quick oats rather than the Old Fashioned, as the recipe had suggested, if they would have been firmer.  I also did not drain the tomatoes.

When they came out of the oven, they still were not very firm, but I was able to get them into a bun, and while a little messy, not terribly so.  However, after they sat a bit, they firmed up nicely.  The following day we had them cold on sandwiches, and they were nice and firm.  This made me think that it is not a bad idea to make them ahead of time, and then just bring them out and microwave before serving.

Enjoy.

Source:  Recipe from The New York Times

The Organic Dilemma

images-1The Organic Dilemma:  To buy organic or not.  The historical problem has been finding the organic produce, and then once finding, being willing to shell out the money. Many times I’ve headed to Whole Foods with the best intentions of buying organic, and then not able to make the plunge because of the price. The good news is that more and more chain stores are introducing organic lines, and the number of farmers markets offering their wares on a regular basis is on the rise.  The increased availability is also making the pricing for many of these items much more reasonable.

The Environmental Working Group  (EWG) just released their “dirty dozen” guide to the most pesticide contaminated foods, which is based on statistical analysis of testing conducted by the USDA and FDA.  The list only reflects measurable pesticide residues on the parts of the foods consumers normally eat (after being washed and peeled).  This was an eye opener to me, because I erroneously assumed as long as I was doing a good job washing my produce, that most of the residue would be removed.

According to the EWG, “consumers can reduce their pesticide exposure by 80% by avoiding the most contaminated fruits and vegetables and eating only the cleanest.  If consumers get their USDA recommended 5 daily servings of fruits and veggies from the 15 most contaminated, they could consumer an average of 10 pesticides a day.  Those who eat the 15 least contaminated conventionally grown produce ingest less than 2 pesticides daily.”

The following is the Dirty Dozen list.  If at all possible, buy the following items organic.

1.  Celery:  The #1 veggie, with 64 pesticides detected

2.  Peaches:  62 residues have been detected on peaches

3.  Strawberries:  59 pesticide residues detected

4,  Apples:  42 pesticide residues detected

5.  Blueberries:  52 pesticides detected

6.  Nectarines:  33 pesticides detected

7.  Sweet Bell Peppers:  49 different pesticides detected

8.  Spinach:  Can be laced with as many as 48 different pesticides, making if one of the most contaminated green leafy vegetables

9.  Kale: Typically thought of as a hardier vegetable rarely suffering from pests and disease, this year’s testing showed high amounts of residue

10.  Cherries:  Even locally grown cherries have high levels of pesticides

11.  Potatoes:  37 different types of pesticides detected

12.  Grapes:  Imported grapes run a much greater risk of contamination than those grown domestically.

What was on this list was not terribly surprising to me.  What was surprising was the amount of pesticide residue measured, plus the fact that washing isn’t effective in removing the residue impact.

So what’s on the “Clean” list – fruits and vegetables that have very low residue, and are relatively safe to eat (without having to upgrade to organic):

Onions, avocados, sweet corn, pineapple, mango, asparagus, sweet peas, kiwi, cabbage, eggplant, papaya, watermelon, broccoli, tomatoes and sweet potatoes.

It was hard walking by that large display of delicious looking peaches yesterday on sale for 99 cents a pound.  But I did. I think I will try harder to follow these guidelines.

What about you?  I’m always interested to learn if folks have totally made the switch, if they buy some organic but not all, or if they rarely buy organic.  Let me know!

Lake Placid Part 2: Time to Talk Food

BH_SideMnt_weddingsWise Women Charlotte appropriately called me out on my former Lake Placid blog, as the very important category of where to eat was missing.  While we didn’t hit any primo romantic gourmet restaurant spots (not tolerable with a 5 and 7 year old along) we did have some nice meals.  The town is full of a range of eating options – many casual burger, pizza, Italian, steakhouse type venues.  The many groups of teen guys (including my son) who were in town for lacrosse were in heaven wandering the town on their own, deciding which burger haven to hit.

For those of you who may be visiting the area, here are some dining considerations for you:

Big Mountain Deli & Creperie: This is an excellent place to pick up some sandwiches for a hike or a picnic by the lake.  They have close to 50 gourmet sandwich combinations, and what puts this restaurant over the top is a great selection of breads.  In addition to the standard fare of wheat, hearth, or seeded rye, you can choose from Asiago Peppercorn, Caramelized Onion, Rosemary Garlic, or Basil Pesto.  I had a roasted vegetable, fresh mozzarella and olive tapenade sandwich on Rosemary Garlic bread, and it more than hit the spot.  In addition to the sandwiches, they do have a nice menu for dinner – many styles of crepes.  They have a small dine-in area, and while I did not get there, my friends did and recommended it.  Also for the late evening strollers along the main street, Big Mountain Deli & Creperie has an amazing list of dessert coffees to choose from.  Unfortunately I did not make it in, but I’ve never seen such a long list of unusual combinations for coffee.

The Boat House: This was where we had our nicest dinner (pictured above).  The Boat House is operated by the hotel where we stayed, the Crown Plaza, but sits on the opposite side of the lake.  You can walk from the hotel, drive, or take the hotel shuttle.  It sits right on Mirror Lake, and has a large deck that sits right on the lake for outdoor dining.  The setting was lovely, and we were able to watch the sun set over the lake as we dined.  My meal was delicious, and the food served around me also looked delicious.  I had diver sea scallops, prosciutto ham, sauteed artichokes, roasted tomato and kalamata olive served with jasmine rise.  Everyone left very satisfied.  The added bonus was that the four children left us there, walked into town to visit Ben and Jerry’s, while we stayed for coffee and a piece of indulgent flourless chocolate cake.

The Mirror Lake Inn and Spa:  If you’re traveling to Lake Placid as just a couple, this may be a place to consider for lodging.  It has a beautiful facility that sits right on the lake, and many appealing dining options.  One of their restaurants called The Cottage, has dining on a deck which extends over the lake (similar to The Boat House).  While we didn’t dine here, it was recommended and looked lovely.

Desperados:  If you have a craving for Southwestern/Mexican, this is the spot to hit.  We also did not make it here, but this was recommended by my friend who lives there.  It doesn’t sit in a prime location (but still very convenient to town), and its decor isn’t anything to rave about, but apparently their margaritas and food is excellent.

So hopefully that is enough to get you started on your journey.  To review Things to Do in Lake  Placid, click here to read the Destination Lake Placid blog.

Delicious QUICK Blueberry Desserts

blueberry-cobbler-fire-islandI’m currently in Maine, and when you’re in Maine you eat blueberries – about everyway that you can come up with.  One ‘ole favorite is simply stewing fresh blueberries on the stove with a little water and sugar, and serving this hot blueberry sauce over warm biscuits (using Bisquick makes it ultra easy).

My sister brought along the following recipe, just a simple cobbler recipe, but a delicious and oh so easy one, so I thought it was worth logging it into the WWCC archives.  The recipe calls for cooking in ramekins, but we doubled the recipe and baked it in a 9 by 12 inch casserole dish.  We tried it with blueberries, and also with frozen mixed berries (blue, black and raz) which was particularly yummy.  Here it is:

Berry Cobbler

2 pounds of frozen berries, thawed

1 cup sugar plus more for dusting

3 T instant tapioca

1 T lemon juice

1 (7.75 oz) packet butter biscuit mix (recommended:  Bisquick Complete)

3/4 cup cream soda, divided

Directions:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray 8 (4-inch) ramekins with butter flavored cooking spray (we just used regular canola spray) and set aside.  In a bowl combine thawed berries, tapioca, lemon juice, 1/4 cup of cream soda and sugar.  Transfer to ramekins. 

In a large bowl, combine biscuit mix and remaining cream soda.  Mix until well blended.  Sprinkle biscuit mix over berries.  Dust with sugar.  Bake for 30 to 40 minutes.  Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Source:  Sandra Lee

And while I’m on a blueberry kick, this is another favorite recipe of mine from the Saltwater Seasonings Cookbook, Good Food from Coastal Maine written by Sarah Leah Chase (of Silver Palate fame) and Jonathan Chase.

Wild Blueberry Pie:

Crust (although I must admit I typically always resort to the Pillsbury pie crust):

2 cups unbleached all purpose flour

8 T (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces

1/2 cup Crisco shotening

1/4 tsp salt

1/3 cup water

Filling:

4.5 cups fresh wild blueberries

2/3 cup granulated sugar

2 T unbleached all purpose flour

1 T fresh lemon juice (optional)

1/2 to 1 tsp ground cinnamon

pinch of grated nutmeg

1 T unsalted butter

1. To make the crust, combine flour, butter, Crisco, and salt in a mixing bowl.  Using a pastry cutter, blend the shortnening into the flour until the mixture is the consistency of coarse meal.  Add all the ice water and continue to work into a soft dough.  Shape the dough into a flat disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 1 hour.  (Alternatively, make the dough in a food processor by the usual machine method).

2.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

3.  Divide the pastry dough in half and roll one half out on a floured surface to fit into a 9 inch pie pan.  Line the pan with dough, trimming the edges to fit.

4.  In a mixing bowl, toss the blueberries with the sugar and flour to coat evenly.  Stir in the lemon juice (if using), cinnamon and numeg.  Pile the filling into the pie shell.  Dot the top with the T of butter cut into small pieces.

5.  Roll out remaining half of the crust into an 11 inch circle.  Place over the top of the pie and crimp the edges to seal the pie and make a decorative crust.  Cut several slashes in the top of the pie with a sharp knife to seve as steam vents.

6.  Bake the pie until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling, 40-45 minutes.  Note that this pie bakes at a relatively high temperature for a relatively short period of time.  Serve the pie either warm or at room temperature.  Be sure to top with a scoop of vanilla ice scream.

Ta Da!  Dessert (which ever one suits your fancy) is done in a flash, and you’ll have a most appreciative audience.

Vegetarianism – Just around the Corner

foodincMy two older children and I sat down and watched Food, Inc. a couple of weeks ago.  I thought it would be interesting to watch, and they both reported having no interest in this type of Friday night movie activity, but I must say as soon as it started, they were drawn in.

The result of our movie viewing?  I now have a vegetarian daughter, and a son (meat hound that he is) that now takes pause before eating a bite of chicken or a burger.  It makes me not want to ever buy a Purdue or Tyson chicken pack or any meat, for that matter, that is not organic and grass fed.  The documentary was certainly an eye opener, and the representation that it makes of how our agriculture culture caters to a low cost mass production food system doesn’t bode well for our health, or the health of the animals that we eat.  The conditions that these animals are raised under are horrific.

So with that, I think I have the push to buy those more expensive organic meat brands, but probably less often.  Plus, I need to consider this whole new world of vegetarianism.  Nothing would suit me more than turning my entire backyard into a vegetable garden; I just know that is too big a task for me to undertake at the moment.  Last Sunday evening I prepared a meal of Butternut squash and Kale risotto (very delicious – and I will share the recipe, but thought given that it is more of a fall type dish that I would wait until then), black beans, and grilled maple sweet potatoes.  My daughter was in heaven, and remarked that she wanted every meal to be this way.

So, I will share a very simple Bobby Flay recipe that my kids love, and if you have any good vegetarian recipes, please share!

Maple – Glazed Grilled Sweet Potatoes

4 large sweet potatoes (do not peel)

3/4 cup pure maple syrup (I didn’t use this much)

1 T ancho powder (I also used chipolte pepper powder)

salt

1/4 cup mild vegetable oil, such as canola

1.  Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer the potatoes until soft but not mushy (you should still feel resistance when you stick a small knife through the center), 25 to 35 minutes.

2.  Have ready a bowl of cold water.  Drain the potatoes, put them in the cold water, and set aside until cool enough to handle.  Peel the potatoes and quarter each one lengthwise.  (The potatoes can be cooked a few hours in advance, covered and set aside at room temperature.  Don’t cut them until you’re ready to grill).

3.  Heat your grill to high.

4.  Whisk together the maple syrup, ancho powder, and salt to taste in a small bowl.  Brush the potatoes with oil.  Grill until golden, about 3 minutes.  Brush with the maple glaze and continue grilling, brushing often with the glaze, until the potatoes are glazed, lightly charred, and heated through, about 3 minutes more.

Serves 4, From Bobby Flay’s Boy Gets Grill

For the last few days of Winter…

oatmeal1….good, yummy, hearty, robust Slow Cooker oatmeal.  There’s nothing better for getting a house full of people out of the door in the morning than walking into a kitchen and knowing that a healthy breakfast is ready to go.  It’s so easy to throw a few ingredients into a slow cooker before you go to bed.  I’ve tried a few recipes, and just made this one a few days ago.  It was delicious and loaded with good things.  So while the cool days still hang on for awhile, you may just want to give this a try:

2 cups steel cut oats (not instant)

6-8 cups of water, depending on how long the oatmeal will cook

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 cup brown sugar (I think 1/4 cup would be fine)

1 tsp vanilla

2 apples, peeled and diced

1 cup raisins

1 cup sliced bananas

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Spray crockpot with nonstick cooking spray.  If you’re planning to cook the oatmeal less than 8 hours, use 6 cups of water.

Put first seven ingredients (through raisins) in slow cooker and cook on low.  Just before serving, stir in bananas and walnuts.

Anchovies, Olives, Capers …

imagesI have always been a Puttanesca fan, although I’ve never made it.  Over the holidays, sitting in a rental house in Vermont, I was perusing one of the house’s cook books – one which is most likely on your own shelf (as it is on mine) if you enjoy cooking at all.  In Rosso & Lukins (Silver Palate) The New Basics Cookbook was this fabulously delicious and simple puttanesca recipe.  My friend even commented that the sauce was better than the puttanesca sauce that her favorite local Italian restaurant serves.

So for those of you who don’t have this book on your shelves, here’s the recipe. (For those who do, p.133).  It’s a great wintry pasta sauce to drink with a robust red wine in front of a fire!  And it was a nice little discovery for me, as I hadn’t picked up this cookbook in at least a couple of years.

Here it is:

Puttanesca Sauce

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 can (2 ounces) anchovy fillets, undrained

4 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 can (35 ounces) plum tomatoes, drained

1 jar (2.5 ounces) capers, drained

1 1/2 cups pitted imported black olives, coarsely chopped

Coarsley ground black pepper, to taste

1.  Place the oil, anchovies, and garlic in a heavy medium size saucepan.  Mash thoroughly to form a paste

2.  Add the tomatoes, capers, and olives.  Stir, and heat to simmering over medium heat.  Reduce the heat to low, and simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.  Season with pepper.

2 portions (I think you can stretch it to 4); enough for 8 ounces capellini (I think you can stretch to 16 ounces)

Enjoy!

Potatoes Gratin for a Christmas Side Dish?

Sage_and_Cheddar_Potato_Gratin.ashxMy sister just forwarded this recipe with rave reviews.  I thought it was worth sharing, as it sounds like the perfect accompaniment to a nice Christmas roast beef or filet mignon. Of course after reading through it, my first thoughts are – ANYTHING would be good with cheese, cream and butter! Anyhow, if your heart will so allow, you may want to consider this:

1 garlic clove

2 lbs (or more) russet potatoes, peeled and very thinly sliced (I do all of the potatoes first and then put them in a large bowl with cold water.  When ready to use, drain them and dry on kitchen towels before layering into dish)

1 cup freshly grated French or Swiss Gruyere cheese

1 cup heavy cream

Salt (I used Kosher salt)

Preheat oven to 350.

Thoroughly rub a shallow 6 cup porcelain gratin dish with the garlic.  Rub about 1 T. butter in the bottom and up the sides of dish.

Layer half of the potatoes into dish.  Sprinkle with half of the cheese and then half of the cream and sprinkle with salt. (I actually did three layers, and sprinkled about ½ cup cheese and ½ cup cream with each layer) Add another layer using rest of the ingredients.

Bake, uncovered, until the gratin is crisp and golden on top, from 50 to 60 minutes.

I’m willing to give it a try!

Delicious & EASY Pumpkin Cake

Spiced_Pumpkin_Cake.ashxAt my 5 year old son’s Thanksgiving feast at school, one of the Moms brought in a pumpkin cake.  Parents and children alike were crazy for it – a huge hit.  I have thought about getting my hands on that recipe since last week, and low and behold – the totally on top of things Class Mom sent all the parents the link to the recipe.  (I must admit I’ll have to put my hurt feelings aside as my cranberry bread seemed to pale in comparison; better yet, maybe I’ll just go with the fact that my cranberry bread is for a more sophisticated palate!).

Anyhow, here is the recipe.  My brother-in-law, who works for McCormick Spice Company, will be happy with this plug:

Spiced Pumpkin Cake (from McCormick)

1 package yellow cake mix

1 package vanilla instant pudding mix

1 cup canned pumpkin

1/2 cup oil

1/2 cup water

3 eggs

1.5 tsp. McCormick ground Cinnamon

1 tsp McCormick ground Cloves

Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)

Directions:

1.  Preheat oen to 350.  Beat all ingredients, except Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting, in large bowl with electric mixer on low speed just until moistened, scraping side of bowl frequently.  Beat on medium speed 2 minutes or until well blended.

2. Pour into greased and floured 13 x 9 inch baking pan.

3.  Bake 30-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool in pan on wire race.  Spread with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting.

Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting:  Beat 1 package (80z) cream cheese, softened, 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened, 1 tsp McCormick Pure Vanilla Extract, anad 1/4 tsp McCormick Ground Cloves in large bowl until well blended.  Gradually add 1 package (16oz) confectioner’s sugar (about 4 cups), beating until well blended after each addition.  NOTE:  The cake I tasted just had confectioners sugar spread on top.  Certainly cuts down on the calories!

Calories per serving:  379

The First Thanksgiving

cooked-turkeyGrowing up in Plymouth, Mass., my fellow classmates and I were groomed to be mini-historians when it came to Thanksgiving. In elementary school, the entire month of November was dedicated to everything-Pilgrim: every class, every activity and every reading assignment related to our hometown heritage and that first feast.

Thus, it’s a bit ironic that, when I think of the First Thanksgiving, my mind goes to the first Thanksgiving dinner I prepared all by myself. For most women, the first time we are responsible for the guest of honor – the turkey – and the delivery of hot and timely side dishes to the dinner table  is an important milestone, evidence of our crossing the threshold into “real” adulthood.

My First Thanksgiving occurred when I was 25 and cooked for my husband’s family at their home while my mother-in-law recuperated from gall bladder surgery. Although the meal turned out fine, I learned that Thanksgiving is a very tradition-bound celebration and families vary greatly in their traditions.

In my zeal to impress, I prepared homemade stuffing with lots of yummy ingredients. Their family tradition was Stove Top stuffing, and they looked suspiciously at the unusual-looking stuffing sitting on their plates. I put out cranberry sauce, a must for a girl who grew up around cranberry bogs. They didn’t know how (or why) anyone would eat it.  The veggies served in assorted bowls were fresh and steamed; they were used to soft (i.e., over-cooked) veggies cooked in the microwave.

Now, don’t get me wrong – they were all very appreciative of the meal and my efforts. They, particularly my mother-in-law, thanked me up and down. Yet, we all knew something was missing that year – the comfort of familiar food, tradition, and long-established roles.

Do you remember preparing your first Thanksgiving feast? Ever have the experience of introducing something “new?” How did that go over? Share the good, the bad, and the ugly and help distract us as we frantically prepare for Thursday.

How is it that so often ... I get the feeling I've worked hard to learn something I already know, or knew, once.
Linda Ellerbee

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