Sunday, January 23, 2011

Black Bean Burgers with Guacamole

I love veggie burgers.  I love real burgers too, but I consider veggie burgers to be a different food.  My favorite are those that are made with real food, rather than textured soy protein.  EVOS has a nice actual vegetable patty.  I've had some awesome black bean burgers.  I even ate a black bean and (get this, those who know me) mushroom burger once and loved it.  I've tried them before (or was that just lentil burgers) and they turned out a little bland.  So I decided to follow a recipe.  But I changed it.  And I thought they would be a little bland, but they really weren't.  But they are even better with avocado and tomatoes (and spinach and steamed veggies as in the picture).  Or you could top them with barbecue sauce or hot sauce.  To be honest, I tried the little pieces that fell off, and thought they lacked spice, which is probably due to the fact that instead of chipotle peppers in adobo (which I do not like, for some reason).  However, the final product was quite good.  You could add more, or you could leave it as is if you want to eat it with other things and appreciate all the flavors.  For the spice, I planned on using jalepeno, couldn't find my jalepeno, so instead used chipotle and chili powders, quite frankly less than I listed below but I didn't measure, and a little water for moisture.  I'll copy the recipe and change what I did.  But one thing I did do to add more flavor: I used my leftover bread crumbs from the Daring Cooks, which were garlicy and parsley-y.  I didn't have quite enough, so I threw a little wheat bran in to dry the batter a little.  These are probably a little bland to eat bare, but who eats a burger of any sort bare?  They are tasty and a nice canvas that you could dress up, rather than a single entity of goodness. And tomorrow I will serve it with the steamed veggies from last night to make a colorful and healthy lunch.  A few of the faculty members in the Geometry-Topology group restarted weekly lunches of the group, and I'm very excited about this endeavor.  The first one is tomorrow, and I can show off my healthy and delicious lunch.

  • 1/2    of a medium avocado, seeded and peeled
  • 1  tablespoon  lime juice
  •     Salt
  •     Ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup garlic bread crumbs
  • extra bread crumbs, wheat bran, or oatmeal, enough to make dough hold together
  • 3  tsp frozen cilantro cubes
  • 2  cloves  garlic
  • 1  15-ounce can  black beans, rinsed and drained (or about 1.5 cups cooked from dry, which is what I did)
  • 1/8 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle pepper (or really, anything spicy, extra chili powder is fine)
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1  teaspoon  ground cumin
  • 1    egg
  • 1  small  plum tomato, chopped


For guacamole, in a small bowl mash avocado. Stir in lime juice; season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover surface with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Place torn bread in a food processor bowl or blender container. Cover and process or blend until bread resembles coarse crumbs. Transfer bread crumbs to a large bowl; set aside.
Place cilantro and garlic in the food processor bowl or blender container. Cover and process or blend until finely chopped. Add the beans, chipotle pepper, adobo sauce, and cumin. Cover and process or blend using on/off pulses until beans are coarsely chopped and mixture begins to pull away from side of bowl or container. Taste and add salt and pepper (or any kind) if needed.  Add bean mixture to bread crumbs. Add egg; mix well. Shape into four 1/2-inch-thick patties.
Lightly grease the rack of an saute pan and preheat. Place patties on pan. Grill directly over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until patties are heated through, turning once halfway through grilling.
To serve, top the patties with guacamole and tomato.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Dinner: Blackened Tilapia with Avocado and Steamed Vegetables

I was very excited about this dinner.  And it was delicious.  It was however, not photogenic.  Apparently I did not season my cast iron skillet well enough and my tilapia stuck to it and did not look pretty.  And I mushed the avocado with lime juice last night so it turned brown.  And my veggies were done about 10 minutes after the tilapia.  But I decided to try to eat healthier this year, and this was exactly the kind of meal I had in mind: I want to eat more fish, more olive oil and avocados, and more steamed veggies (and a broader assortment).  So I'll just explain what I did, but please excuse me for not posting a picture.

This was my first time cooking fish and my first time using my cast iron skillet, both of which I was excited about.  The cooking fish was super easy.  I chose tilapia because it's extremely mild and gave me lots of room to play with, and also responsibly raised tilapia was on sale at Whole Foods last week, and I put it right into the freezer.  The cast iron skillet part needs a little work, but I'll get there.  I'll try seasoning it again.

Blackened Tilapia
One tilapia filet (I actually used half, but had lots of extra marinade)
1 Tbsp canola oil
2 tsp lime juice
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp black pepper
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp chili powder (the American kind with cumin)
1/4 tsp paprika
pinch ground thyme

1/2 avocado
1 tsp lime juice

Mix up oil, lime juice and spices in large flat bowl or plastic bag (go for the bowl, it's reusable)
Coat tilapia and leave in for 30-60 minutes
Heat cast iron skillet (or grill or similar cooking thing)
Cook tilapia for 2-3 minutes on each side until it's flaky
Mash together avocado and lime juice.  Serve with the fish.  Yum!

Steamed Veggies
1.5 red bell peppers (I can never actually cook full peppers, too much of them always ends up in my mouth)
3 small summer squash
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 sprigs thyme
2 Tbsp parsley
Cut veggies into bite sized pieces, whatever you consider those to be.  Remove stems from thyme and chop parsley.
Steam veggies until slightly more firm than desired consistency.  Then cook in pan for a few minutes with olive oil, thyme and parsley.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Single Coconut Lime Cupcake

I found this recipe for a single coconut lime cupcake and I thought it was pretty much the greatest idea ever, making a single cupcake that is.  This was adapted (that is divided) from a Vegan cupcake book (vegan works well since there are no eggs, which makes it divide better), and I decided to try it and if it worked well, experiment with my own ideas more regularly.  I love cupcakes, but I hate that they make so many and they are hard to transport if you frost them before transporting them, but frosting them after transporting them doesn't necessarily work well either.  So I thought this was a great thing to try to play with.  As for the cupcake, I think I may have added too much lime juice, the batter was a little runny and the cupcake was VERY limey.  The texture was different from a regular cupcake, maybe a little sticky/spongier, but definitely not bad.  That was probably due to the fact that it was vegan and not the fact that it was a recipe for one.  But remember, when you are dealing with such small proportions, you have to be fairly careful with measuring.  I wasn't super careful because 1/4 Tbsp is hard to measure, so I just went for a little less than a tsp.  The frosting is an avocado buttercream which is great since I gave up dairy and am trying to eat more avocados.  Also it's tasty, but I unfortunately cannot eat it by the spoonful since it is WAY to sweet.
The divided recipe is here, and the original is from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.

Single Coconut and Lime Cupcake
  • 1 + 1/4 T soy milk (I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk)
  • Tiny drop of white vinegar (I used white wine, it is after all, only a drop)
  • 1/2 T sunflower (or any other light-tasting) oil (I used canola)
  • 1 T raw sugar (just use regular)
  • Drop of vanilla
  • 1 + 3/4 T self-raising flour (scant 1/8 cup)
  • 1/2 t cornstarch
  • 1 t fresh lime juice
  • 1 t shredded unsweetened coconut
  • pinch lime zest
  1. Preheat oven to 350F/180C.  I used the toaster oven.
  2. In a small cup, mix the soy milk and vinegar and allow to curdle.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk the soy and vinegar mixture, sugar, oil and vanilla for about 1 minute or until most of the sugar has dissolved.
  4. Sift in the flour and cornstarch. Mix well to combine.
  5. Stir in lime juice, coconut and optional lime zest.
  6. Pour batter into one cupcake paper/tin and bake for 18-20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
  7. Cool on a wire rack completely before icing. Makes one cupcake.
Lime Avocado Buttercream
  • 1/4 of a medium avocado
  • 1/4 t fresh lime juice
  • 110g icing sugar
  • 2 t cornstarch
  • pinch lime zest (optional)
  1. In a medium-sized bowl, beat the avocado and lime juice until smooth.
  2. In batches, sift in the icing sugar and cornstarch, beating well after each addition.
  3. Stir in the lime zest if using. Makes about 2/3 C frosting.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Fail Cake

Maybe this is a bad name for this cake, seeing as it is the easiest cake ever and even a slight imperfection still leads to an okay cake.  Maybe I can call it fail cake because it wards of failure.  Last year I made it for a couple of my friends before their qualifying exams and both passed all parts.  However, I failed the first time I made it because I forgot baking soda.  I almost did it again today, and I realized why.  It was listed between the cinnamon and cayenne/chili powder, though those are two things I kind of lump together and add together and don't read carefully between them.  Forgetting the baking soda is kind of a problem because that is the only leavening in this cake (though it might be Kosher for Passover otherwise?), however it still turned out okay.  But this is seriously the easiest cake ever.  In fact, it is easier than boxed cake mix.  So I had the time and energy to make another to share with my qual studying friends, and I brought the first cake into the math department and called it fail cake because, it was the failure and the good one went to my friends.

As for the actual cake, anyone who knows me, knows I love the chocolate, cinnamon, chili combo more than just about anything else.  So this is definitely something I'm into.  It's also slightly fruity from the balsamic vinegar.  It does have a bit of a kick from the cayenne.  This time instead of using 1/4 tsp cayenne, I used a 1/2 tsp of chili powder (the American kind with cumin and oregano, as opposed to the Indian kind), which made it a little more mild but a little more complex.  Also, this cake is vegan and fat free.  This does not, of course, mean that it is healthy, it has no nutritional content, it just means it could be worse.  The original had canola oil I guess, but the recipe I got it from said they missed it, made it without and it was great, so I just follow their recipe.  There is also a glaze for it, I'll include it, but I never made it.

The one warning is make sure you work quickly after adding the liquids.  Baking soda is the only leavening and it only rises once, that is when it reacts with the acid, so your only rise comes pretty much immediately.

Here you go:
Mexican Chocolate Cake (that's it's real name)
From Serious Eats
1 1/2 c flour
1 c sugar
1/2 c cocoa
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt (I use Kosher for baking)
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 cup cold water

Preheat oven to 350 (you might want to even wait a bit if you have a slow oven, as this shouldn't sit around once you've mixed it up and it comes together SUPER quickly)

Grease a 8 inch round pan

Mix the dry ingredients.  Don't forget the baking soda; I wrote it in an order so you hopefully won't miss it like I did.  Make two wells in the dry ingredients...

Now work quickly.  Add the balsamic to one well, the vanilla to the other and pour the cold water on top.  Stir until just moistened and still slightly lumpy.  Pour into pan, put into oven.  Bake for 30-35 minutes.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Daring Cooks: January-Hearty Winter Stew the French Way

So due to what people are calling the "Snowpacolypse," which it wasn't (4 inches of snow, the big problem was the inches of ice Atlanta does not have the salt to melt), the grocery stores were closed and/or out of produce, so I was a little delayed in completing my daring cooks challenge this month.  But I did, and it was good.  I give you the required lines and then I'll discuss.

Blog Checking Lines: Our January 2011 Challenge comes from Jenni of The Gingered Whisk and Lisa from Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. They have challenged the Daring Cooks to learn how to make a confit and use it within the traditional French dish of Cassoulet. They have chosen a traditional recipe from Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman.

The requirements were a confit and cassoulet.  The most traditional confit I can think of is duck, but I do not have access to duck.  So you could have made chicken.  But garlic confit sounded so much better to me, so that's what I made.  And spending 3 days making a pot of meat for the cassoulet sounded like something I was not interested in, so I made the veggie one, which quite honestly isn't that different from the kind of thing I usually eat in winter.  However, the garlic breadcrumbs were an extra thing I wouldn't usually make (and man, grating that baguette took forever and I cut myself), though they were tasty.  I was going to say they weren't worth it, but thinking about it, I think they were.  I will probably have leftovers though, and I think they would make an awesome glue for bean burgers.  And the garlic confit was something totally new and awesome.  Yes, you have to peel 65 cloves of garlic, but the result is essentially extra awesome roasted garlic AND garlic and thyme infused olive oil.  TOTALLY WORTH IT.  But my fingers still smell like garlic and I made this for lunch yesterday, washed my hands dozens of times, showered, etc.  We were supposed to "incorporate" the confit in the cassoulet, which I just took to mean "eat with," though I realized after I started cooking the vegetables that I should have cooked them in some of the infused olive oil, so I added a little of it, but I wish I had caught that sooner.  I'm going to need to be reminded to use that infused olive oil in my cooking.  Maybe I should have tried meat, but I'm still weaning myself back into that  (yes, that's right, I'm going to eat more meat this year, I hope, I even bought some tilapia, which I guess isn't meat, to try to have fun with) and I was quite pleased with the result as it was.  Oh, and I made challah (see my previous pseudo post) to go with it, which was a pretty awesome (but nonvegan) combination.  I'll include the recipes I used.  Like I said, I'd recommend making the confit first and using the infused olive oil in the cassoulet and bread crumbs.

Garlic ConfitGarlic Confit from Saveur, Issue #129
1½ cup (360 ml) Olive Oil
1½ tsp (7½ ml) (4 gm) kosher salt (**Note: if using table salt, use ½ the amount)
10 whole black peppercorns
5 sprigs fresh thyme
65 garlic cloves, peeled (about 1 ½ cups/360 ml)
1 dried bay leaf
1. Preheat oven to slow 300°F/150°C/gas mark 2. Put ingredients in a 1 quart (950 ml) pot, making sure all the garlic is submerged in the oil. Cover pot. Bake until garlic is golden brown and tender, about 1 hour. Let cool.
2. Transfer mixture to a glass jar; cover surface of oil with plastic wrap. Cover jar and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Makes 2 cups/480 ml.
Bread crumbs out of the oven

Vegetarian/Vegan Cassoulet
Vegetarian Cassoulet by Gourmet Magazine, March 2008
3 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only)
4 medium carrots, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch-wide (25 mm) pieces
3 celery ribs, cut into 1-inch-wide (25 mm) pieces
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup (60 ml) olive oil
4 thyme sprigs
2 parsley sprigs
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
1/8 teaspoon (2/3 ml) (1 gm) ground cloves
3 (19-oz/540 gm) cans cannellini or Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained (I ideally use dried beans I cook myself, but I only had a cup and a half of dried beans, so I cooked those and used a can.  The canned ones were better, I somehow can cook all beans EXCEPT cannellini)
1 qt (4 cups/960 ml) water
4 cups (960 ml) (300 gm) coarse fresh bread crumbs from a baguette (I just used the part of a baguette I could avoid eating, and I had decent will power, so that was most of it)
1/3 cup (80 ml) olive oil
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (12 gm) chopped garlic
1/4 cup (60 ml) (80 gm) chopped parsley
1. Halve leeks lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch (13 mm) pieces, then wash well (see cooks’ note, below) and pat dry.
2. Cook leeks, carrots, celery, and garlic in oil with herb sprigs, bay leaf, cloves, and 1/2 teaspoon (2½ mm) each of salt and pepper in a large heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden, about 15 minutes. Stir in beans, then water, and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until carrots are tender but not falling apart, about 30 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 with rack in middle.
4. Toss bread crumbs with oil, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon (1¼ ml) each of salt and pepper in a bowl until well coated.
5. Spread in a baking pan and toast in oven, stirring once halfway through, until crisp and golden, 12 to 15 minutes.
6. Cool crumbs in pan, then return to bowl and stir in parsley.
7. Discard herb sprigs and bay leaf. Mash some of beans in pot with a potato masher or back of a spoon to thicken broth.
8. Season with salt and pepper. Just before serving, sprinkle with garlic crumbs.


I found a challah recipe that doesn't make 2-3 loaves!  I am excited.  I love challah, but am not a huge fan of freezing and thawing my bread.  So I was excited when I found a recipe for 1 challah loaf.  And braiding bread is fun!  I would have taken a picture, but before I ate it a chunk before I had a chance and it was no longer photogenic.  Oh well, I'm sure I'll try again.

Something seemed a little off about it.  The texture wasn't quite right.  The instructions did confuse me a little.  You start out with a stiff blend of dough, then you knead until its soft?  The dough was never soft for me.  That is probably the problem.  Also, the taste was slightly off, but I expect that is because I used half honey that had crystalized (which I don't think was a problem or maybe that's what affected the texture, anyone know?) and half raw wildflower honey, which has a bit of a taste that is different from other honeys.

This might be a pointless entry with no picture and no recommendations and just a link to the recipe.  However, I'll try it again and we can compare, and then it will be more of a base of learning post.

However, I will take this opportunity to mention my new favorite website  I'm trying to reduce my pointless time online, and this is actually good for that because 1) it's slightly less pointless than facebook.  I did after all get a challah recipe there. 2) It takes less time to look at pretty pictures and bookmark some of my favorites than I will invariably spend on any other site to get the same amount of "break" quality.  After all, sometimes I just feel like killing a few minutes online and reading through one page of that website is satisfies that craving sufficiently.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Baked Oatmeal

I don't think another post about oatmeal should surprise anyone, since it is one of my favorite foods and certainly my most common breakfast.

Last year around this time, my dad and I stopped at his favorite breakfast place and split a baked oatmeal.  I thought it was great and so easy, you make it once and you can heat it up the next day and it's just as good. I tried it once and it was too dry and too thin (I think it's better if it's about an inch thick), but I tried again for my family and it was a good thing.  And it smells like cinnamon rolls as you mix it, but it's so much healthier and heartier.  It's a great start to a cold winter day (and like I said, it keeps very well).  However one thing I've found that made it much better the second time: soaking it overnight.  Otherwise it's too dry.  In fact it was a little dry as it was, so you could get away with more milk.  My mom poured a little eggnog (as a substitute for cream) on top of hers.

1 egg
2 Tbsp melted butter
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt (I would usually use sea salt, but my mom doesn't have that)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (I grated just a pinch instead)
1 cup milk
3 cup oats
2-3 Tbsp dried cranberries
slightly toasted walnuts to top (optional)

Beat egg, whisk together with butter, baking soda, salt, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and milk.  Add oats and stir until moistened.  Add cranberries and stir until distributed.  Grease a 9x9 pan and pour mixture into the pan.  Top with toasted walnuts if desired.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, preheat the oven to 350, then bake for 30-40 minutes until set in the middle.