Archive | February, 2012

Happy Valentine’s Day!

14 Feb

It makes me a little sad that I only have one child young enough to do cute little Valentine goodies like this…

Logan’s 2nd grade class is having a traditional school party with games, treats and crafts, so we made these treat bags for him to pass out. Brady’s 5th grade class is doing a luau instead of a Valentine’s Day party, with tropical treats and games like the limbo. And poor Madison? Well, Brady asked her what they do for Valentine’s Day at the junior high and she said, “uh, you walk around and say Happy Valentine’s Day to your friends and then go to class.” He looked at her like she was crazy.

Actually, the junior high had a Valentine’s dance last Friday. Madison went with her BFF, Brooke, and they met up with a bunch of friends at the dance. It makes me even more sad to see how grown up she looks in her dress for the dance!

So I haven’t figured out a fun dinner yet for Valentine’s Day, but I did do a tasty little treat for last night’s dinner. I don’t watch a lot of TV, but I do have a few favorites that I DVR. One of those is Chopped on the Food Network. I’m addicted to this show. And it doesn’t sadden me one bit that Brady, my 10-year-old, has taken a liking to Chopped either! Chopped is a competitive show that starts with four contestants presented with a basket of “mystery ingredients.” They must create an amazing appetizer, which is then judged by the panel of expert chefs. At the end of the round, one competitor is chopped. The next round features another basket of mystery ingredients which must be turned into an entree. The last round is dessert, with just two competitors remaining. The one not chopped wins $10,000.

Over the weekend, Brady and I watched a recorded episode that was a special event. Rather than four restaurant chefs, the competitors were real “lunch ladies” and White House chef Sam Kass filled in as a guest judge. It was a great show, filled with a lot of emotion as these wonderful cafeteria workers talked about the kids they feed, the meals they try to keep healthful, struggling with budget limitations, and the many children who come to school hungry because there’s no food at home. The love they have for the students in their schools is immense.

As the show made its way to the dessert round, Brady and I watched with anticipation of what the mystery ingredients might be. The remaining two competitors mentioned that dessert is not really part of the typical school lunch. The mystery ingredients they had to work with were cream cheese, fresh grapes, canned pineapple and sunflower seeds. Both of these amazing ladies created a healthy dessert, but the winning dessert had Brady drooling! It was basically a dessert grilled cheese. The contestant took the cream cheese and mixed it with the crushed pineapple, fresh grapes, and other fresh fruit. She then spooned it between two thick slices of bread, buttered both sides, and grilled it. To serve, she sliced it in half, drizzled a little melted chocolate on top and sprinkled it with the sunflower seeds. What kid would not want that?!

Yesterday, while at Aldi, I picked up the ingredients I needed to make these. I bought whipped cream cheese (substitute Tofutti if you want it vegan), a can of pineapple, fresh grapes and, believe it or not, some gorgeous strawberries from Plant City, Florida!

I wish I’d taken a picture of Brady’s face when I told him that’s what we were having for dinner! They were delicious! Actually, they’d make a perfect breakfast. The amount of chocolate is minimal and the sandwich is stuffed with cream cheese and fruit. I didn’t have the sunflower seeds, so we left them off, but I think toasted almonds would be a nice touch. Here’s the recipe, if you want to call it that. Oh, and have a fork handy. These are messy! And what kid doesn’t love that?!

I wish you all a wonderful Valentine’s Day filled with the company of your loved ones!

GRILLED CREAM CHEESE & FRUIT
makes 4 sandwiches

8 oz whipped cream cheese or Tofutti, softened
1/2 cup crushed pineapple, drained
6 large strawberries, stemmed and chopped
1 cup grapes, halved
1/4 cup apricot fruit spread (All Fruit)
8 slices whole wheat bread
1/4 cup chocolate chips, melted
toasted slivered almonds or sunflower seeds, optional

In a medium bowl, mix the cream cheese and fruit until well incorporated. Divide evenly between 4 slices of bread, spreading to the edges. Spread 1 tablespoon of the apricot fruit spread on each of the remaining 4 slices of bread and place jam side down on top of the cream cheese covered bread, forming a sandwich. Heat a pan to medium and coat with nonstick cooking spray. Grill each sandwich, flipping once, until toasted and golden brown. Remove to a plate, cut in half and drizzle with melted chocolate. Garnish with toasted nuts, if using. Enjoy!

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Where’s the beet?

9 Feb

Right here, baby! Oh, my goodness, I’m in heaven. I spent much of 2010 tasting veggie burger recipes and creating my own veggie burger recipes…in search of the perfect one. I have finally found it. This is so incredible, I wish I could take full credit for it, but I can’t. This recipe comes from Isa Chandra Moskowitz, well-known vegan chef, cookbook author, and my new best friend – although she doesn’t know that!

If you’ve tried the store-bought veggie burgers, you’ve experienced that overly-compressed, flavorless disc whose only purpose is to fill your belly when you’re on the run and Burger King is the only restaurant in sight. Don’t buy those anymore, unless you are traveling and the only food in sight is BK! Make a bunch of these and store them in your freezer for future quick meals.

If you’ve experimented with homemade veggie burger recipes, you’ve enjoyed really good tasting “burgers” more comparable to a crab cake or potato pancake. Though I’ve enjoyed many black bean burgers, chickpea burgers and vegetable-based burgers, nothing compares to this one. Nothing.

It is dense, but not compacted. It has bite. It has flavor. It is not a colorless blob (quite the opposite, actually). And it takes the standard burger toppings as well as any beef burger you’ve tried before. Is it exactly like a beef burger? No. Does it beat the pants off of any veggie burger in existence? Absolutely.

Besides being mouth-wateringly good (is that even a word?!), these were a cinch to put together. The night before we had these, I made teriyaki stir fry for dinner. Since I had to cook rice for that, I cooked extra and put it in the fridge overnight. And since I already had the stove going, I went ahead a threw another pan on and cooked the lentils for this burger recipe. I put those in the fridge overnight, too. To assemble these burgers, it’s a matter of shredding a large beet with the food processor then throwing the rest of the stuff in and pulsing until well-combined. Easy breezy.

I prepared the recipe as written here, but made a few minor changes. And I mean minor. I really think Worcestershire sauce gives foods that “meaty” taste, so I added 1 teaspoon to the recipe. Next time I make them, I may bump it to 1-1/2 teaspoons. I mixed it all up as she explains, but I could not get them to stick together. I don’t know if my rice and lentils were a little drier than hers because I made them in advance, or what, but I mixed in 2 tablespoons of Veganaise and it came together perfectly. From the recipe, I made six burgers, each about 4 ounces. After I made all the patties, I sprinkled McCormick’s Reduced Sodium Grill Seasoning on them. That’s it for changes.

Isa cooks hers in a pan on the stove, but I grilled mine. Jason and the kids were all having beef burgers (from the locally-raised, pastured cow we bought last fall), so I decided to grill the veggie burger. I cooked one for me and an extra one for them to taste. (The other four were wrapped separately then put in a freezer bag in the freezer, uncooked.) Before grilling, I brushed both sides of the burgers with a little canola oil. I wasn’t sure if they would stick to the grill grates, so I used my Weber grill pan that I normally use for vegetables. It worked perfectly. They came out nicely browned on the outside. I melted a slice of vegan cheese on it, slid it onto a whole wheat bun, then piled it with all the usual burger toppings – mayo, catsup, mustard, onion, pickles, lettuce and tomato.

One bite and I was smiling. Oh, man. Fantastic.

Madison and Jason liked it (Jason ended up eating half of the extra burger after his beef burger). Logan is sick so he didn’t even eat dinner last night. Brady didn’t try it because of the color. He thought it looked like raspberries! I will admit, before you cook them, the color looks very much like raw beef. After you cook them, the color is only slightly darker. The outside gets a nice brown “crust” but the inside stays dark red. I mentioned this to my mom this morning and she had a brilliant solution – use yellow beets instead of the usual red. I’m adding yellow beets to the seed list for this year’s garden!

Here are some photos of the world’s best veggie burger. Thank you, Isa!

The mixture heading into the fridge.

My 2 beet burgers ready for the grill with the family’s 4 beef burgers.

The wonderful, piled high burger I savored through dinner!