Tag Archives: farm

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!

A great Father’s Day weekend!

19 Jun

What a fun day yesterday! We packed up the kids and headed north a few miles into Ida to the pick-your-own berry farm. I have great memories of doing that as a child and was pretty geeked about sharing the experience with my own kids.

We went to Whittaker’s Berry Farm, which I think might be the same place my parents took my sister and me to pick strawberries when we were growing up. It was called Rauch’s Berry Farm back then, but it had a sense of familiarity. Anyway, the kids had a good time and we came home with 20 pounds of strawberries. I got to work washing and hulling and made 10 jars of freezer jam (recipe below). Then I started chopping them up for the freezer so we can enjoy them later in smoothies. For dinner, I made a big salad of mixed greens, sliced strawberries, toasted almonds, red onion and a sprinkle of goat cheese. Since I didn’t have any of that delicious poppy seed dressing mixed up, I drizzled on Newman’s Own Low-fat Sesame Ginger dressing. Delish!

Next on the list is a strawberry pie and some strawberry shortcakes. Now, I’m not a big fan of strawberry pie — the one with fresh berries coated in a strawberry Jell-o sauce in a baked shell. It’s okay, but Jason loves it. And since it’s Father’s Day, I guess I could make one. Personally, I’d rather have strawberry shortcake. The real kind with fresh strawberries layered between a sweet biscuit-like shortcake. That’s the one I loved as a child. We always had it in a bowl and poured milk over it so the shortcake got soft and creamy. I’ll blog a recipe and photos of that after they’re done.

Here’s the recipe for the freezer jam. It’s straight off the package of fruit pectin. I figured that was my safest bet since this is my first attempt at this. It’s sweet, delicious and vegan, so go for it!

Strawberry Freezer Jam
makes 2 half-pint jars

1-2/3 cups smashed fresh strawberries
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons Ball RealFruit Instant Pectin

In a medium bowl, whish together the sugar and pectin. Add the strawberries and stir for 3 minutes. Pour into clean jars and let stand for 30 minutes. Enjoy!

Happy Father’s Day!
Since it’s Father’s Day, I want to say I hope you get to spend the day celebrating your dad, father-in-law or the father of your kids. If my dad were in town, I’d be making him a big serving of strawberry shortcake, because he deserves it! They don’t get any better than him. Happy Father’s Day, Dad! XXOO

Here’s how my hubby started his Father’s Day — French toast with our homemade freezer jam, pure maple syrup, fresh-picked strawberries and a side of breakfast sausage (Organic Prairie Breakfast Links, made from humanely-raised grass-fed pork). The kids loved it, too!



June 19, 2011

Logan rocks the fishing derby!

15 Jun

As the school year winds down (today is their last day), things have been crazy busy with field trips, birthday parties, sleepovers and scout activities. We are having so much fun, but are definitely ready for summer vacation to get underway so we can sleep in a little later, float around the pool in the afternoons and clean some closets (Shh! The kids don’t know about the closet-cleaning part!).

Last night was the year-end Cub Scout event. Our Scoutmaster lives on 40 acres and has a small lake on his property, so he hosted a fishing derby. Everyone brought a dish to share and the kids had a blast fishing. But the highlight of the evening was my one-and-only Logan, who not only caught the most fish, he took home the trophy for catching the biggest fish! He caught a 14.5″ bass, but his winning catch was a 17″ bass. He was so excited he could hardly stand it. My animal-loving kids had no problem releasing their fish back into the lake. It was definitely a night to remember.

Logan with his Scoutmaster and his 14.5″ catch; Logan with Dad and his trophy-winning 17″ catch

Because I have two boys in the Cub Scout Pack, we contributed two things to the potluck — super easy Chocolate Chunk Cookies (from the Duncan Hines website) made with farm fresh eggs, and a delicious little salad that takes advantage of fresh herbs from the garden (recipe to follow).

I can’t remember if I mentioned this in an earlier blog post, but the wild turkeys that have been visiting our property for the last 5 or 6 years decided this year that my garden looked tasty. About 2 weeks after I got the initial seeds in, they stomped their way through all the beds, digging up dirt, tossing seeds everywhere and leaving large holes in areas I had already planted. What a mess. Because many of the seeds had not even sprouted yet, I decided not to weed or try to figure out what was left until I could identify them above ground. So I waited. It’s been a few weeks now, and I’m left with half a row of peas and half a row of beans still in place. I’m missing all of my Swiss chard and most of the rainbow chard. Though my zucchini and yellow squash are growing, I have discovered squash plants growing in other areas where I didn’t even plant them. To top it off, the weeds have gone crazy. I’m so disappointed in my mess of a garden that I can’t even bear the thought of pulling all those weeds out.

The only thing to truly survive is my area of herbs. I planted these from seedlings I bought at the local greenhouse so they are nice and strong and growing well. They came in handy for this recipe. The Mediterranean flavors of this salad work well with just about anything you grill, but especially with veggie burgers, chicken or fish (ethically raised or wild caught, of course). Though this started as a recipe from Cooking Light magazine (June 2005), I have changed it enough that I’m calling it mine. The nice thing about it is that it actually tastes better the next day, so assemble it ahead if you can. Plus, it can be served chilled or at room temperature, making it ideal for a potluck or summer barbecue.

Mediterranean Chickpea and Fresh Herb Salad
serves 8

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup chopped red onion
20 grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1/4 cup pitted and sliced kalamata olives
1/4 cup sliced green olives

In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic. Stir in fresh herbs. Add the chickpeas, black beans, onion, tomatoes and olives. Stir well to combine and coat everything. Refrigerate at least 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Enjoy!

Put your money where your heart is. Buy local.

28 Apr

I am just back from a long Easter weekend in North Carolina. We stayed with my parents for 5 days and had a wonderful time. The warm weather and sunshine were such a welcome change from the cold, rainy days we’ve been dealing with here in Michigan.

I came home refreshed…and inspired.

While in North Carolina, I saw a poster in a store window that said “Put your money where your heart is. Buy local.” I thought it was so perfect. I know it refers to everything consumers spend their money on — not just food. But, of all the things I’ve learned over the last 16 months or so since I started this journey, trying to buy locally-made or locally-grown products as often as possible is the one that’s the easiest for me to incorporate into my daily life. I know it’s not always feasible to buy local goods…hey, I’m on a budget! But when it comes to food, I can’t stress enough how smart it is to really know where your food comes from, know your farmer personally, grow your own vegetables or support your local farmer’s market, and shop at smaller family stores instead of the big box stores whenever you can. Not only does this almost guarantee your food is safer, tastier and healthier, it also provides financial support to your own neighborhood. Now that’s inspiring.

As I’ve mentioned many times before, my mom is a fantastic chef. I always enjoy her cooking and our discussions about food, cooking and health. My Easter dinner was SO good. While the omnivores in my family dined on grilled pork, I devoured marinated and grilled portobello mushrooms. The side dishes were all vegan –- oven-roasted vegetables, grilled asparagus and a wonderful chopped salad with toasted almonds and chai vinaigrette.

While in Asheville on Monday, we had a fabulous lunch at Rezaz Mediterranean Restaurant. (I should have taken a picture!) We started with an appetizer of polenta fries with their housemade tomato jam (a sort of chunky sweet catsup). Honestly, I could think of a hundred things to slather that tomato jam onto! It was that good. My meal was a fat little potato cake topped with a green olive tapenade. On one side of this was a fresh arugula salad. On the other side were four thin slices of grilled ahi tuna. Then the whole plate was lightly drizzled with an orange vinaigrette. After lunch, we shopped some more and came home with 3-4 new cookbooks each. That gets me inspired!

Speaking of inspiring…I consider my dad the king of all things house-related. He’s a builder, woodworker, tile layer, painter, wallpaper hanger, upholsterer, deck designer, plumber, and master of just about everything under the sun. Honestly, my dad can do anything! His latest project is a restaurant in downtown Waynesville, NC, where they live. The owner/executive chef bought an existing restaurant building but is basically gutting the whole place and starting fresh — using local products such as reclaimed barn siding, tin panels and other materials. My dad has been working on this project for months. We got to tour the construction site while there and meet the owner/executive chef. His name is Kaighn Raymond and he, too, is an inspiration.

The name of his restaurant is Frogs Leap Public House. It will be a farm-to-table restaurant meaning they will focus on locally-grown, sustainably-farmed organic foods, which will then be transformed into amazing regional dishes. He’s planning to have a seasonal menu that will feature the freshest produce from local farmer’s markets and farms. I got to talk with him as we toured the place and I absolutely cannot wait to eat there! It looks like the grand opening will be in June, but I’m not sure we’ll get back down there before fall.

If you want to know more about Frogs Leap Public House, check out their website at http://frogsleappublichouse.org or “Like” their Facebook page. I left the restaurant…inspired.

So inspired, in fact, that I already have several new recipes on the menu for next week. Recipes and photos to follow, so stay tuned!

Oh, and put your money where your heart is!

Can you be vegan-ish?

5 Apr

I think that’s what I have to start referring to myself as. Vegan-ish. Not 100%, but mostly vegan.

I’m still making the majority of my meals vegan. But I do eat eggs a couple of times a week (fresh from happy chickens at a home in my neighborhood). I have, on occasion, enjoyed a small piece of humanely and sustainably-raised chicken or beef, purchased locally. Not too often, but once in a while. I’ve also been actively searching out sustainable seafood. I downloaded the National Sustainable Seafood Guide (here), which helps me choose seafood that is not overfished, is environmentally-friendly and supports healthy oceans. I’ve always enjoyed seafood and I’m glad it’s back in my diet.

I feel good about my food choices. I’m still eating lots of vegetables, fruits and whole grains. And I’m not supporting industrial animal farming in any way except dairy. Though we’ve cut way back on the milk consumption in our house, I still haven’t found a local source for it, so I’m stuck with the grocery store variety for Jason and the kids. Luckily, they like almond milk, so I keep buying it even though it’s more expensive than regular milk. I think that will be one of my goals this summer — locally made cheese and other dairy products.

But let’s get back to the vegetables. I think spring might actually arrive here in southeast Michigan sometime soon! Goodness, this weather is making us all crazy. We are 10 degrees or more below normal just about every day. I’m dying to get out into the garden and get my veggies planted! In the meantime, I’ve been experimenting with some new recipes. Some vegan, some gluten free and some vegan and gluten free. Check back often, because I’ll be posting them!

Here are a couple of recent ones that don’t require an actual recipe.

Sesame Green & Yellow Beans
Rather than the standard old steamed green beans with butter, try these for a quick side dish. Place cleaned beans in a deep saute pan with a little water. Bring to boil, cover and steam them until just barely tender-crisp. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water. In the same saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil over medium-high heat. Toss the beans back in and give them a quick saute. Remove to a serving dish and toss with salt, pepper and toasted sesame seeds. Enjoy!

Polenta Pizzas
The kids wanted to do make-your-own pizzas Saturday night for dinner. They made theirs on regular pizza crusts, but I wanted something gluten free and vegan. I have a bag of Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Pizza Dough mix, but just didn’t feel like messing with it. So I stared into my pantry hoping something would jump out at me. And it did! I pulled out a container of instant polenta. I cooked it per the package instructions (which takes all of 5 minutes) and poured it into a foil-lined baking dish. I spread it out evenly and placed it in the fridge to chill while I got all the pizza toppings ready to go. Once cold, I lifted the foil and polenta out of the pan and put it on a cutting board. Using a biscuit cutter, I cut it into 4″ circles and sauteed them in a little olive oil, turning once, so they were crispy on both sides. Then I used these to build my pizzas on. Though they don’t have the texture of pizza dough, they were really tasty and still had all my favorite pizza toppings. I just popped them into the oven with the kids’ pizzas so the vegan cheese got melty. Cut slightly smaller, these would be fun appetizers! Here are my combinations:

BBQ Chicken Pizza (top)
BBQ sauce + Daiya vegan cheese + red onions + sauteed vegan chicken slices + minced cilantro

Mediterranean Pizza (bottom right)
Vegan pesto mayo + Daiya vegan cheese + grilled red peppers + kalamata olives + red onion + dash of dried oregano

Sausage Pizza
(bottom left)
Pizza sauce + Daiya vegan cheese + crumbled vegan Italian sausage

Spring is here…even though it’s still below 40 every day!

27 Mar

As usual, my “full plate” has been overflowing! We received a Home Depot gift card from my parents this past Christmas and I decided to update both of our bathrooms the last week of February. We painted, laid tile, installed new baseboards in one bathroom, and just gave them both an all-around new look. It had been almost 10 years for the one bathroom, so it was time. They look fantastic…thanks mom and dad!

Just a few days after we finished up, I got slammed with the flu. I mean slammed. I can’t even remember the last time I was that sick. I actually could barely get out of bed 2 of the days. I felt like I’d been hit by a truck. Two weeks later, I’m still battling the cough occasionally, but at least I’m back to functioning.

Now that spring is here, I’m looking forward to fresh vegetables at the farmer’s market and planting our garden. My mom sent me a seed catalog and I’m excited to get a new plan in place for my raised beds.

Even though it will be a few months before I can harvest anything, I’m in the mood for the taste of crisp salads and beautiful veggie combinations. I decided to make a quinoa salad last weekend and it turned out to be something you’d want on a warm summer day. It has a light flavor and plenty of vegetables. I will definitely be serving this up at a few backyard gatherings.

If you haven’t had quinoa before, you are missing out! Quinoa is a grain-like seed that has a nice chewy texture. It’s gluten free and is a nutritional powerhouse. Full of vitamins and minerals, it is an excellent source of iron, magnesium and zinc — which are good for blood pressure control and diabetes. Quinoa has just 220 calories per one-cup serving and provides 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. The protein in quinoa provides all eight of the essential amino acids we need, making it an ideal food for vegans and vegetarians.

Cooking quinoa is similar to cooking rice, but you have to remember to rinse quinoa in cool water before starting your recipe. If you don’t, it has a bitter taste. So rinse it well in a fine mesh strainer or colander with tiny holes. Then cook per package directions.

I made this salad only an hour or so before dinner, but the flavors were much more developed the next day when I ate the leftovers. I would highly recommend chilling this overnight before serving. It does not get soggy. It’s delish!

Spring Quinoa Salad
serves 6

1 cup quinoa
1 cup water
1-1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 English cucumber, chopped
1/2 yellow or orange bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup sliced grape tomatoes
1/4 red onion, chopped
1/4 cup sliced kalamata olives
salt and pepper

Bring quinoa and water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Chill for about 1 hour.

In a blender, combine lemon juice, vinegars, dijon mustard and garlic. Puree. Slowly drizzle olive oil into running blender until smooth.

In a large bowl, combine cooked quinoa, cucumber, bell pepper, tomatoes, red onion and olives. Add dressing and toss to coat evenly. Season to taste with salt and freshly-ground black pepper. Chill overnight. Enjoy!

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

3 Mar

Wow. I can’t believe March is here and it’s been almost a month since I posted anything on my blog. I apologize to those of you who have been looking for new recipes! I spent all of January’s and most of February’s “blog time” doing the one thing I dread most. The 4 or 5 hours a week I was spending on writing and creating recipes and blog posts has been used for exercising. Then, for the last two weeks, all of my spare time has been spent remodeling two bathrooms (paint, tile floor, baseboards, new wall hangings, etc.). I’m trying to get back into my morning exercise routine, yet the winter doldrums keep dragging me down.

But, spring is coming and that means gardening, fresh vegetables, and a whole new outlook on what to make for dinner. Plus, I finally got my new stove so now I have an oven that works! I promise you, new recipes are coming!

Maybe you already know this, but yesterday would have been the 107th birthday of Dr. Seuss, the amazing author of children’s classics such as Green Eggs & Ham and The Cat in the Hat, among hundreds of other stories. Dr. Seuss is a big hit in our house. All of my kids have enjoyed his crazy, rhyming stories as they’ve learned to read. As they headed off to school yesterday, one of them mentioned it was Dr. Seuss’ birthday. That got me thinking…about something fun for dinner.

Yep, I did it — I made green eggs and ham for dinner. The eggs were fresh from our local farmer (I waited in the car for him to gather the eggs from the barn yesterday). I simply whisked them for scrambled eggs and added a squeeze of green food coloring. I still haven’t found a local source for ham, so it was not exactly *happy* ham, but it was nitrate and nitrite free and minimally processed, so I included a small amount for my omnivore boys. I made Whoville Taters (cubed potatoes, tossed in olive oil, seasoned, and roasted in the oven) and Starbellied Sneetch toast.

For dessert? Some Cat in the Hat yogurt parfaits! I simply took vanilla yogurt (made with coconut milk) and mixed half of it with thawed frozen raspberries and some stevia. I mixed the other half with a little coconut extract and chopped ripe bananas. Then I alternated layers of the two yogurts to look like the stripes on The Cat in the Hat’s hat. The effect would have been better if I had tall, skinny glasses, but I used what I had and I didn’t hear any complaints!

It was a fun dinner and led to Brady running upstairs and digging out ALL of the Dr. Seuss books to read before bed last night. We didn’t make it through all of them, of course, but it was a great way to celebrate such an important birthday!