Spiced Red Lentil Chickpea Cakes

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I have tasted a whole (helluva) lot of beers lately. I think I tried ten different spring seasonal beers over the last two weeks before settling on the one I would use for my pairing for the spring vegetarian beer dinner. Last week I hosted a fundraising event for Team in Training at Legend Brewing Co. in Richmond, and as the sun set, I stayed warm with a bourbon barrel brown ale. Then of course we had the beer dinner last weekend, featuring six different beers paired with six vegetarian dishes (more on that later). And then there were the extra side beers sampled before, during and after the dinner: New Belgium Dig pale ale, Legend Maibock, and Kyle’s homebrewed chile chocolate milk stout from last year.

For this beer dinner, I took a different approach for my pairing, choosing my beer before dreaming up my dish. In the past I have selected the dish first, then I have chosen a beer to match. In the winter, I tried three different versions of my BBQ jackfruit before settling on the winning recipe, then picked a beer pairing at the last minute. This time around, I focused all my taste testing on the beer. Eventually, one favorite emerged: a collaboration beer from Stillwater Artisanal Ales and The Brewer’s Art, a farmhouse ale called Debutante. Both breweries are from my hometown, Baltimore, MD. The talented brewer from Brewer’s Art, Rob Perry, bicycles with my Dad for Team in Training in Baltimore. I have met Rob a few times at the finish line of the Seagull Century, where he always brings a stash of craft beers to share post-race.

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Debutante made a lot of sense to me since it is seasonally appropriate, deliciously complex without being overpowering, and it is at least partially conceived by the masterminds at Brewer’s Art, who are big supporters of Team in Training. With my first TNT event just one week away, this was an easy decision. For some reason, the subtle spice and slightly sweet qualities of this saison led me to Indian flavors for my dish. I packed almost as many ingredients into my recipe as I did beers into my refrigerator over the last couple of weeks. My vegetarian chickpea cakes featured red lentils (which my palate and I think are the perfect complement to saison), chickpeas, cauliflower, carrots, cumin, coriander, and cilantro. These were thrown together at the last minute, meaning that I served them to twelve other people in my home, five minutes after the very first time I ever made them. A swig of maibock calmed my nerves as twelve forks cut in to twelve cakes for twelve first bites.

Some people might go for yeast plus yeast on this pairing, but I opted to let the beer be my bun, and I left this chickpea cake naked instead of serving it between bread. Before you accuse me of garbanzo negligence and public chickpea indecency, allow me to explain that I didn’t leave them completely nude. I offered a cucumber mint yogurt sauce for my non-vegan guests. The vegans just had to make do with a large spinach leaf and try not to feel like their tasty cakes were too exposed. I wanted to use arugula (and I think you should too if you try this at home), but none of the farmers at the market that morning had arugula yet, so I went with the spinach instead.

Shall we get to the recipe then?

Spiced Red Lentil Chickpea Cakes

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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup red lentils
  • 1 cup cauliflower, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, finely chopped
  • 3 green onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 Tablespoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 2 pinches of ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg or 1 flax egg (1 Tbsp ground flax meal + 3 Tbsp water)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Vegetable oil

Preparation:

  1. Add red lentils and cauliflower to a medium sized pot. Cover with 2 inches of water. Heat over high heat, bring to a boil, then reduce to low-medium heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. While cauliflower and lentils are cooking, mash chickpeas with a fork or blend in a food processer. In a large bowl, combine chickpeas with carrots, green onions, garlic, and cilantro.
  3. Preheat broiler.
  4. Drain cauliflower and lentils in a fine mesh strainer. Mash cauliflower into the lentils. When the excess cooking liquid has been removed, add to chickpea mixture. Stir to combine.
  5. To chickpea lentil mixture, add spices, bread crumbs, and egg (or flax egg for vegan version). Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Split mixture into six equal portions and form six patties.
  7. Brush a baking sheet with oil. Place red lentil chickpea cakes equal distance apart on baking sheet and brush tops with oil. Cook under broiler for 10 minutes per side.
  8. Serve with optional yogurt sauce: 1/2 cup plain yogurt + 1 tsp lemon juice + 1/4 cup finely chopped cucumber + 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh mint.

Now only one question remains – who’s going to bring the craft beers to the finish line of the Nike Women’s Half Marathon this weekend?

A Resolution and Quinoa Burgers

Happy Monday!

Whew, I have been running like crazy lately to get back in the groove of things. I started a fantastic new job last week (woo-hoo!) and I committed to a few lifestyle changes to get back on track to being the best possible version of myself, so I have been a little busy. All good things though, so I can’t complain.

One of the household resolutions that I share with Kyle is to create more healthy and economical meals at home, and to eat those meals at a reasonable hour. For the last few months, dinner has gotten later in the evening and I have sacrificed nutrition for convenience. Consequently, we aren’t getting the fuel we need and we are crashing into bed immediately after dinner every night. With the new job comes a new schedule (a better schedule), which leaves us no excuses to get in the way of achieving our goal every day.

We, Lauren and Kyle, do solemnly vow to quit ordering take-out and start rolling up our sleeves together in the kitchen in order to get a healthy home cooked meal on the table (almost) every night.

We stumbled a little the first night when a late trip to the grocery store, oven problems, and poor planning resulted in a dinner disaster. I was so excited to use my new mandoline to make eggplant parmesan rolls, but the rolling and baking process took so long that Kyle was falling asleep in the living room chair before dinner was even close to finished.

I was able to refrigerate them and heat them up the next night just in time for dinner so it was not a total failure. I modified the recipe quite a bit, substituting mache for chard and basil for mint, and they were excellent albeit time consuming. It was that night, as we ate the previous night’s reheated eggplant rolls, that we revised our resolution from “healthy, economical, home cooked meals” to “healthy, economical, home cooked meals. . . at a reasonable hour.” It just takes a little planning and teamwork and we are confident that we will be successful soon. The next night, we achieved our daily goal for the first time, and we have been going strong ever since.

We were inspired by the delicious veggie burgers from Boylan Heights in Charlottesville.

I found the recipe online but with a ton of ingredients and a super involved process, the recipe didn’t meet my time restriction. Plus, among the ingredients are Ritz crackers and other questionable things, AND the whole burger is deep fried which I refuse to do in my own kitchen. We liked the incorporation of quinoa and various vegetables though, so we modified another recipe to work for us.

If you can pan fry them all in one batch, this recipe is super easy to pull off on a weeknight.

We baked some sweet potato fries and green bean fries at the same time, and they were the perfect accompaniment. We are still working on getting a healthy, inexpensive meal together by 7:30 every night, but we have already made quite a bit of progress. It turns out that planning our meals at the beginning of the week, knocking out the grocery shopping on the weekend, and sharing the responsibility for prepping the meal is working for us. Basic stuff, but giant leaps toward our mastery of domesticity!

Quinoa Veggie Burgers (adapted from Whole Living)

Makes six burgers (makes perfect leftovers for lunches!)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup rinsed quinoa
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 1 small zucchini, diced
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 15 ounces great northern beans, drained, rinsed, and mashed
  • 1/4 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • Coarse salt
  • Ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 whole wheat sandwich thins
  • Toppings (optional): fresh spinach, sliced tomato, stone ground mustard
Preparation:
1. In a small saucepan, bring 3/4 cup water to a boil; add quinoa, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook until liquid is absorbed, 12 to 14 minutes; set aside.
2. Combine diced carrot and zucchini in a medium bowl. Add cooked quinoa, scallions, beans, breadcrumbs, egg, cumin, paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Stir until thoroughly combined.
3. Form mixture into six 3/4-inch-thick paties. If too soft, refrigerate 10 minutes to firm. In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium; cook burgers until browned and cooked through, about 8 minutes per side.
4. Serve on sandwich thins with the toppings of your choice.
Sweet Potato and Green Bean Fries
Ingredients:
  • 1/2 lb green beans
  • 1/2 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch thick sticks
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Seasonings of your choice: salt, pepper, dried basil, dried oregano, garlic powder, etc.
Preparation
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Toss green beans and sweet potato sticks in olive oil (together or seperately).
3. Spread out in a single layer on a baking sheet and sprinkle with the seasonings of your choice.
4. Bake at 400 degrees F for 20-25 minutes, turning once during cooking.
To everyone else who is trying to make their resolutions last longer than one week – keep up the good work! And have a delicious week!

18 Hours in Charlottesville

This Friday evening I traveled to Charlottesville for some good food and a great hike in the beautiful surroundings of Autumn in Central Virginia. Kyle and I soaked up the beautiful weather while visiting family and we made some great stops along the way.

I met Kyle in Charlottesville, just over an hour’s drive from Richmond. On Friday night, we visited with family members and then grabbed a bite to eat at our favorite pizza place in Virginia. Our Cville adventure started around 7:00 PM with cold beers and hot pizza.

The Mellow Mushroom (website)

We had a medium Mega Veggie pizza to share. The piping hot pie was loaded with delicious veggies and it was perfect as the night was getting colder. I had waited too long for dinner and was starving for that perfect crispy-doughy crust. And their pizza sauce is unbelievable; the combination of crust and sauce is what makes this pizza special.

We washed it all down with a few cold beers, including a new one that we had not seen before: Midnight Project #3, Oxymoron. The Midnight Projects are a series of collaboration beers created by Terrapin (GA) and Left Hand Brewing (CO). As the third installment in the series, Oxymoron was a highly anticipated beer that made its debut this Fall. Kyle and I were BIG fans of Midnight Project #2, Depth Charge, which was an espresso milk stout that was released in the Fall of 2009. Oxymoron is an India Pale Lager, which appealed to us because Kyle is really into IPAs and I love a good lager. It was very interesting and I think we will try it again when we are more focused on tasting beer and less focused on tasting pizza.

The service was excellent from the hostess and the wait staff. At the end of our meal, the owner/manager stopped by our table to make sure we were having a good time. We were very impressed that he stopped to check on us, especially on a busy Friday night. The Mellow Mushroom, as usual, did not disappoint these hungry travelers. It remains one of our favorite places to visit while in Charlottesville.

Humpback Rocks

On Saturday morning, we got up bright and early to make the 30 minute drive to Afton and hike up to the Humpback Rocks Overlook. We did a longer version of the same hike 6 months ago, and this time we just climbed up and right back down because we were pressed for time. It was about a 1.5 hour hike that we completed while the sun was rising over the mountain. I had to stop to catch my breath several times on the ascent, but the view from the top was worth the climb.

The views were spectacular and we wanted to stay all day at the top of those rocks. But our stomachs were growling and we had a tight schedule so we had to hike back down. On our endorphin highs, Kyle and I brainstormed how we could fit more hiking into our schedules. I hope we get at least one more good one in while the leaves are still changing.

We got back to our hotel with 25 minutes to shower, pack, and check out of the room. I made it out with wet hair, a crumpled mess of clothing stuffed into my overnight bag, and a fistful of cosmetic products in my hand to hide my dark circles during the car ride back to downtown. Kyle drove towards UVA with the single goal of calorie replacement.

Boylan Heights (website)

We had been meaning to visit this “gourmet burger bar” at the Corner in Charlottesville for awhile. Our timing was perfect as we ducked in for an early lunch. The place filled up with students in the hour that we were there; the crowd grew from two tables to twenty and we were glad we got out orders in when we did.

I must have had 40 ounces of water while we were there because I was so thirsty after our hike. We both ordered veggie burgers, and the patties were unlike any others I’ve ever had. They were homemade patties formed from a mixture of quinoa, black beans, and fresh vegetables and then deep fried so that the outside was crispy while the inside was soft.

The taste of the burger was great, and my only complaint was the consistency. It fell apart while I ate it, and I think the burger could be made better by either the addition of lentils or more mashed beans to the mix, or a reduction in the size of the veggie pieces. The recipe includes white beans but they don’t stick the patty together very well. I just like my burger to stay on my bun while I’m eating it. But I would be lying if I said I didn’t eat every last errant crumb with my fork after the bun was history. I was not crazy about the fries on the side, but I will be back for that burger again. I even caught myself daydreaming about it earlier today.

Another note on Boylan Heights: I really liked the concept of the restaurant and the prep-school theme was integrated throughout the experience in a creative way. I was also impressed by the branding, which was done very well with a clean and academic looking logo emblazoned on every inch of the restaurant space, from the menus to the napkin dispensers to the toothpicks that poked out of the tops of our burger buns. The folks at Boylan Heights know a lot about burgers, but they also know a thing or two about marketing, which helps them stand out.

Home Sweet Home

After about 18 hours in Charlottesville, we drove back home to get some other weekend chore stuff out of the way. Again we took advantage of the beautiful weather and walked to dinner in the Fan. The excitement of our quick trip woke up the travel bug in us and caused us to talk about vacations, school, our careers, and the future. It was a great conversation and as we walked the streets of our own beautiful neighborhood, we reminisced about exploring Richmond when it was new to me (Kyle grew up here), and we dreamed about exploring other cities too. Although after a healthy meal and a stroll back home, with the comforting smell of freshly baked cookies wafting over from our tiny oven in our little apartment kitchen, in that moment we were happy to be right where we are.


Monday Night Vegetables

Watching football is all about good beer and great finger food. However as vegetarians, we are somewhat limited in our football food choices. Most people watch football with a side of chicken wings, a burger, a meaty bowl of hot chili, or a pile of loaded nachos. When Kyle and I go out to catch a game, we often find ourselves hovering around the veggie tray, as it is the only option that suits our diet. And let’s face it: celery and carrot sticks are tasty but they don’t exactly pair well with a frosty mug of beer. Or shouting at the television. Or shouting at your friends, for that matter.

When football is at our place, I always make sure we have great food that fits both our diet and the situation: watching sports. Think mean and meaty; taste lean and veggie. I’ve gotten pretty good at it.

This week we used Monday Night Football as an excuse to test a recipe we’ve been dying to try: Green Bean Fries!

We used to love the version served at a popular chain restaurant that we haven’t visited in a very long time. In an attempt to be just a little healthier, I chose to forego the deep fryer and bake them instead.

First I blanched some green beans.

Then I coated them in flour and shook them.

After dipping them in a mixture of egg and milk, I tossed them in a large plastic bag with: bread crumbs, garlic powder, oregano, black pepper, and chili powder.

Then I placed them in  single layer on a baking sheet and baked for about 25 minutes at 350 degrees.

And served with Southwestern ranch dressing.

Now this is a veggie tray that means business.

Add a big burger and it gets real serious.

We had our green bean fries with homemade black bean veggie burgers topped with ricotta-cheddar-stuffed Carmen peppers, fresh tomatoes, and brown mustard on sesame buns.

Full disclosure: these green beans were as dry as my sense of humor at the end of a tough week at the office. We had a few and then gave in and threw them in a saute pan with some hot oil to crisp them up a little. Delicious.

Add one two Hofbrau Oktoberfest beers and. . . Game on!

Dog Days and Bean Burgers

I love animals, but I’m a little nervous around large dogs. And by “large dogs” I mean: larger than my purse .

In my defense, my purse is larger than average.

I have had great experiences with large dogs with which I am familiar, but I tend to be a bit skittish around large canine strangers.  Yet in a bizarre turn of events, I found myself dog sitting three black labs this weekend. Three black labs whom I had never met. I was a little frightened so I brought reinforcements.

Kyle loves large dogs so I knew we would be OK. I took over sitting responsibilities around 4:00 PM on Sunday. Kyle and I saw this as a great opportunity to do two things:

1. Pretend we live in someone else’s much larger, much cooler house (temporarily, of course, although I’d be lying if I said we never considered changing the locks during our stay).

2. Prepare a make-ahead dinner to bring with us on Sunday afternoon (fewer dishes! more time drinking wine out of someone else’s glasses and watching movies on someone else’s couch!).

I love making burgers from scratch (black bean and lentils and falafel, oh my!) and I have been obsessing lately over doing a pinto bean burger. I am not sure when the idea originally struck me, but ever since it did in the last few weeks, I have considered this experimentation every night for dinner. And surprise-last-minute-dog-sitting night was the perfect night. I was able to make the patties on Sunday afternoon and refrigerate them, then cook them in a pan at my pretend house dog-sitting house.

The recipe really lends itself well to adaptation. I chose to load mine up with carrots, but you could substitute almost any other vegetable. I pan-fried mine, but they would do fine in the oven on a prepared baking sheet instead. And if pinto beans aren’t your thing, you could sub a different kind of bean.

Overall I was really happy with how these turned out. We had them on whole wheat buns and then I used the leftover patties for lunches this week. They were great over baby romaine with heirloom tomatoes and cucumbers and a sun dried tomato garlic vinaigrette.

There is no way these are going to look appealing in a picture taken with my BB in low light, but I will give it a shot just so you can get an idea of what they look like. You might get an even better idea if you click on the photo to enlarge it.

So are you hungry for light brown hockey pucks now? I swear they’re tasty: soft on the inside and crispy on the outside with a carrot crunch and a hint of cool cilantro, with a bit of cumin spiciness. Yummy indeed. On to the recipe!

Pinto Bean Burgers

Ingredients

1 large carrot

1 small onion

1/2 green bell pepper

1/2 cup dry bread crumbs

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoon reduced fat sour cream

2 teaspoons hot sauce

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning (or use chili powder)

Salt and pepper

1 large egg

1 – 15 oz. can of pinto beans

Preparation

1. Cut the carrot, onion and bell pepper into chunks and chop in a food processor until finely chopped. Transfer to a large bowl.

2. To the carrot mixture, add the breadcrumbs, cilantro, garlic, sour cream, hot sauce, and spices. Break the egg and add it to the mixture. Mix together with a large spoon or spatula.

3. Drain and rinse the pinto beans. Add 1/4 cup whole beans to the burger mixture. Chop the remaining beans in a food processor until they form a paste. Add the bean paste to the burger mixture and stir to fully incorporate it into the other ingredients.

4. Form the mixture into 6-8 patties and refrigerate.

5. Fry in a pan lightly coated with oil over medium-high heat or bake on a lightly oiled baking sheet at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes each side.

Puppies can’t even tell it’s not real meat! Beggars…

And with that, I have magically tamed the beasts.