Gourmet Veggie Mama

Tag Archives: Lazy Tricks

Black bean burgers — finally!

You guys, I have finally done it. I have perfected my black bean burger recipe! It has been a long road, but it was worth it.

My first attempts were flavorful, but the texture was lacking. No matter what I did, they turned out mushy in the center, which, needless to say, isn’t a particularly desirable quality in a burger. Tweaking the flour and/or oats added didn’t do the trick, and neither did adding a bit of quinoa (although it did help). Along the way, I stumbled on the perfect spice mixture and a couple of great combinations of veggies to add. I experimented with different binders. Then, finally, I had the epiphany that tied it all together: spelt!

I actually used a 5-grain mix I had on hand, but spelt was my original inspiration and would work just fine. I put a lot more in than I had with the quinoa, and combined with extra binders (egg and cheese), I had finally created my perfect black bean burger!

Worth the wait.

It wasn’t the least bit mushy, and it tasted wonderful — huzzah! The recipe makes six patties, so I’ve had these a couple of times and they hold up great in the freezer.* Last night I had one with grilled peppers and heirloom tomatoes, and that was awesome.

*Which means way less work for next time, yay!

I still love quinoa burgers, but I think I may have a new favorite. Glad I stuck with it, when I was so close to throwing in the towel.

Black Bean Burgers

1 can black beans, rinsed well and drained
1 cup cooked spelt or 5 grain mix
1 cup chopped mixed vegetables**
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup cottage cheese
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp cumin

Using a potato masher, mash the beans in a large bowl. Add the cooked grains and stir to combine. Add all other ingredients and mix until well combined. Add salt and pepper to taste.

If grilling, preheat the grill to medium-high heat and spray an oven-proof skillet with oil. If preparing on the stovetop, heat a griddle or skillet to medium high heat and spray with oil. Meanwhile, form the black bean mixture into patties with your hands, rolling into a ball first and then flattening slightly. This recipe makes about 6 burgers.***

Grill the burgers in the preheated skillet, turning after 5 to 6 minutes, and serve on a bun with your choice of burger fixin’s. Enjoy!

**You can use pretty much whatever suits your fancy, but my favorite combination have included sweet peppers, hot peppers (minced, and one or two tops), mushrooms, and corn.

***At this point, you can freeze any leftover burgers for later use between sheets of plastic wrap. I like to use Press ‘n’ Seal Freezer, since I don’t have to wrap them in anything else.

The classic martini

Yep, that’s right. I pulled the trigger. Even though I am admittedly gin-phobic, I bought a bottle of Tanqueray No. 10 the other night, just to see what the fuss was all about. Naturally, I decided to make myself the quintessential gin cocktail: a martini.

Straight up, with a twist.

Normally I would go for olives, here, but I realized as I was making this drink that we were (gasp) out. But, because I have a wonderful hubby who thinks ahead (and who knows I’m terrible at making lemon twists), the last time we had a drink that called for a twist, he made a bunch of them and preserved them in vodka in the fridge.

Yeah, let’s twist again.

So, with a twist it was!

It’s going to take some getting used to, but I could see myself becoming okay with gin. I still prefer a vodka martini, but I know there are a lot of connoisseurs out there who really appreciate the flavor nuances in gin… so I’m trying! Help me out here. What are your favorite gin cocktails?

Classic Martini

2 oz gin
dash dry vermouth (may be omitted)

Combine gin and vermouth with ice in a cocktail shaker.Shake vigorously and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with cocktail olives or a twist.

Grilled pizzas

Since it is Memorial Day weekend, what better way to celebrate than by firing up the grill (and putting the flag up, of course)? As a vegetarian, it can be more challenging to come up with a really great meal to make on the grill, but my all-time favorite is grilled pizzas.

Last night we made pizzas with caramelized fennel and onions, goat cheese, asiago, and arugula, and they were absolutely delicious.

Come to mama.

The other one is a grilled potato, sundried tomato, and mozzarella pizza — it was good, but not as awesome as the main one. The real star was the goat cheese: local Pure Luck chèvre.

Oh yeah.

The caramelized onions and fennel were also awesome. Hubby sliced the onions and fennel bulbs thin, and then caramelized them in butter and olive oil in a cast-iron skillet.

This is the stuff.

He also whipped up a sundried tomato and anchovy paste for a couple of the pizzas, which was a great addition.*

*Yes, I tried it. Nope, not vegetarian — I occasionally eat fish.

This was a super-easy meal, since we made and froze the crusts last weekend, and once the fennel and onions were caramelized, there was really no more prep work other than topping the pizzas and throwing them on the grill to finish.

Ready for the grill!

I tried my hand at from-scratch pizza dough for the first time last weekend (hubby is usually on dough duty), and I was thrilled with the results. Since the process can be a bit tricky the first time you do it, I am including a photo tutorial on how to stretch and shape the dough. Once the dough is made, you can check out this post on how to grill the pizzas, and more a few more topping ideas. Enjoy!

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough
Adapted from a recipe for Garlic-Herb Pizza Dough in The Cook’s Illustrated Guide to Grilling and Barbecue

2 cups bread flour
2 cups whole-wheat flour, plus extra for dusting hands and work surfaces
1 envelope (2 1/4 tsp) instant yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups warm water (110°)

Place the flours, yeast, and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer. Using the paddle attachment, mix briefly to combine on low speed. Slowly add the water and continue to mix on low speed until a cohesive mass forms. Stop the mixer and replace the paddle with the dough hook. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Form the dough into a ball and place it in a well-oiled deep bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about an hour to an hour and a half.

Press the dough down with your fist and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Use a bench scraper or a chef’s knife to divide the dough into 8 pieces. Form each piece into a smooth, round ball and cover them with a damp cloth.

Ready for a little rest.

Let the dough relax for at least 5 minutes, but no more than 30 minutes. Working with one ball of dough at a time and keeping the others covered, flatten the dough ball into a disk using the palms of your hands. Starting at the center of the disk and working outward, use your fingertips to press the dough into a round about 1/2-inch thick.

Getting into shape…

Use one hand to hold the dough in place and the other to stretch the dough outward. Rotate a quarter-turn and stretch the dough again.

Stretch it out…

Continue turning and stretching until the dough will not stretch any further. It should be about 1/4-inch thick.

Nice and thin.

Use the flat of your palm to press down and flatten any thick edges. Transfer the dough rounds to lightly floured baking sheets, and cover with a damp cloth until ready to use.

Ready for its close-up.

Don’t forget these can be partially cooked (stop when you’d ordinarily put your toppings on) and then frozen to use later. We always do this with any extra crusts, and it makes for a wonderfully easy dinner later!

Capellini with Cauliflower

I love it when I end up with both cauliflower and fennel in the CSA box. I automatically put capellini with cauliflower on the menu when that happens, since it’s such a good, quick and easy meal.

I didn’t get cauliflower in the box this time, but I did get fennel, and when we stopped by Cedar Park Farms to Market on Saturday morning, one of the stands was selling small-ish heads of purple cauliflower for a buck apiece — score! So, of course, I knew what I was doing with that fennel.


Ample garlicky bread crumbs and parmesan seal the deal, making this an awesome weeknight meal. Try it out, while we’re still enjoying the tail end of winter’s bounty!

Capellini with Cauliflower

12 oz whole wheat capellini
1 small head of cauliflower
2 fennel bulbs with fronds
1 onion
2 Tbs olive oil, plus additional for tossing with the pasta
fresh bread crumbs*
1 Tbs butter
1 clove garlic
grated parmesan for serving

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a generous pinch of salt, along with the capelini, and cook according to package directions. With 3 to 5 minutes left on the cooking time (depending on how crisp you like them), add the cauliflower florets.

Meanwhile, thinly slice the fennel bulbs and onion, and finely chop a couple of the fennel fronds. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat, and saute the onions and fennel until soft and caramelized.

Melt the butter in a small skillet. Add the garlic and stir briefly, then toss in the bread crumbs. Stir over medium high heat until toasted.

Drain the capellini and cauliflower and return them to the pan. Add the caramelized onions and fennel and toss well, adding a bit of olive oil to coat the pasta. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve topped with a nice layer of bread crumbs and plenty of parmesan cheese.

* I just ground up a day-old baguette in the food processor and used about a cup of the crumbs. The rest I threw in a jar in the fridge for later use.

Lazy pierogi

Last week, after much drama, I spent a whole day hanging around the house waiting for AT&T to show up to install our internet connection, and they didn’t show. Long story short, they showed up to our old address in California, so, we had to wait yet another day for internet service. A day spent hanging around the house does NOT equal a happy baby, and that equals a hectic day for Mommy, too.

So, without a doubt, when dinnertime rolled around, I was not in the mood to cook an elaborate meal. I was more in the mood to collapse on the couch, frankly, but, after a couple of weeks of takeout and eating on the go, I was not in the mood for takeout either. Good thing I had bought a box of frozen pierogi* earlier, and with a few other things I had on hand, I was able to make them into an easy weeknight dinner.

* I had to consult Google about this, but the word pierogi is plural. Who knew? In case you’re not familiar with them, they are Polish “dumplings” with potato and sometimes cheese or other ingredients in the center.

I conscripted the hubby to chop and caramelize an onion while I took care of some other things around the house (moving is hard!), and from there is was easy. Sauté some mushrooms and the frozen pierogi, make a super-simple sour cream sauce, and dinner is ready.

Get it while it's hot.

I would have served it with a salad on any other night, but I was fresh out of salad greens. Good thing our first CSA delivery came on Friday — now I’m flush!

Pierogi with Caramelized Onions and Mushrooms

1 large onion
1 Tbs butter
2 Tbs olive oil, divided
1 box frozen pierogi
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup sour cream
Smoked paprika
Salt and pepper to taste

Peel, halve, and thinly slice the onion. Melt the butter in a large skillet and add 1 Tbs olive oil. Sauté the onion until soft, and then turn the heat down. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Remove the onions and set aside.
Add the remaining olive oil to the skillet and turn the heat up to medium high. Add the frozen pirogues and mushrooms and sauté, turning occasionally, until browned on both sides, about 8-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the sour cream in a small saucepan over very low heat. Add a generous sprinkle of smoked paprika and salt and pepper to taste.

Add the onions to the skillet with the pirogues and mushrooms and stir to combine. Serve with a dollop of sour cream sauce.

Welcome home

The first meal I cooked in my new kitchen was not a fancy one, but it was certainly a good one. After more than a week on the road, and days before that living on takeout, we were more than ready for a little home cooking.

Look, real dishes!

I used one of my own lazy gourmet tricks and dressed up some frozen ravioli (Central Market‘s goat cheese and ricotta spinach ravioli) with olive oil, a dash of truffle oil, a sprinkle of fleur de sel, some wilted spinach, and grated parmesan to top it all off.

It was simple, but lovely, and a welcome change from takeout. Plus, I love my new gas range. Here’s to cooking many, many more meals on it!

Lazy gourmet Valentine’s meal for two

An evening out for Valentine’s Day sounds great in theory, but when you have a little one who goes to bed early and you’re just back from a crazy 3-day house-buying trip… well, let’s just say an evening in sounds even better. With this in mind, we cancelled our reservations at The Basin* and decided to cook a simple meal at home last night.

* This is my favorite, favorite local restaurant, and I will be so sad to leave it. We’ll definitely plan a good-bye dinner there sometime soon.

I used one of my favorite lazy tricks and gussied up some frozen chanterelle ravioli I picked up at Whole Foods with a cream sauce and spinach from our garden. It made a nice, simple dinner, especially when enjoyed with a lovely bottle of 2006 Ridge Zinfandel Old School.**

** Not my first choice to pair with the meal, but Cellar Tracker said to drink it, and you can’t go too wrong with a bottle of Ridge!

Not bad. Not bad at all.

The real main event, however, was dessert. Although it sounds fancy, (almost) flourless chocolate cupcakes with salted toffee hazelnut sauce is an incredibly quick and easy recipe to put together. They’re only almost flourless because they only have a couple of teaspoons of flour as a bit of a cheat, but the effect is the same.


If you’re not in the mood to make the sauce, you can always serve the cupcakes with ice cream or purchased caramel sauce, but I highly suggest that you make the sauce. It’s super-easy, and it makes the whole thing!

(Almost) Flourless Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Toffee Hazelnut Sauce
Based on this recipe; makes 4 servings

1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 Tbs plus 2 tsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract, divided
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs unsalted butter, divided
2 2/3 oz good quality bittersweet chocolate (either morsels, or chopped bar form)
3 tsp all-purpose flour
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup***
1/4 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 425°. Grease a muffin tin. Place the egg, egg yolk, sugar, and 1/2 tsp vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on medium-high speed with the whisk attachment until fluffy and light yellow, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt 1/4 cup butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add the chocolate and stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat.

Switch to the paddle attachment and slowly add 1/3 of the chocolate mixture to the egg mixture, stirring slowly. Once incorporated, add the rest of the chocolate mixture and the flour. Mix on low speed until a somewhat thin batter is formed.

Divide the batter among 4 muffin cups. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until set around the edges and slightly jiggly in the center. Place pan on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Gently run a knife around the edge of each muffin and turn out onto a rack to cool for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, make salted toffee hazelnut sauce. Place the brown sugar, corn syrup, hazelnuts, 1/2 tsp vanilla, and salt in a saucepan. Over medium heat, stir until the butter and sugar melt. Continue stirring occasionally until the mixture comes to a full boil, and then let it boil without stirring for 1 minute.

Remove the sauce from the heat and let it cool for about 10 minutes. Spoon over the cupcakes and enjoy!

*If corn syrup icks you out, or if you just don’t have any on hand, you can combine 2 cups sugar, 3/4 cup water, 1/4 tsp cream of tartar and a pinch of salt to make a corn syrup substitute. Bring the ingredients to a boil in a saucepan, stirring constantly, then lower to a simmer and put the lid on to get any crystals off the sides of the pan. Uncover and simmer, stirring often, until it reaches the soft ball stage (meaning a soft ball forms when you drop a bit of the liquid into a glass of cold water, or you can use a candy thermometer). This makes about 2 cups, and it keeps for a couple of months in the fridge.

Vanilla jasmine martini

As part of my recent experimentation with Chambord, I tested out a recipe for a vanilla jasmine martini the other night. I have to say, this is the first new cocktail recipe (that I didn’t concoct myself) that I’ve been excited about in a while, and it did not disappoint.


It was simple, sophisticated, and oh-so-slightly Asian, which made it the perfect compliment to our simple Japanese meal the same night (recipe forthcoming!).

As I began making the cocktail, I realized I was out of simple syrup, so I whipped up a quick batch. Never buy simple syrup, seriously. It’s, well, simple to make yourself. It’s one part sugar to one part water, brought just to a boil so that the sugar dissolves completely and then removed from the heat. I made a bigger batch so I could save some for later.


I do a quick canning process that just involves heating the jars with hot water before I pour the syrup in (so the glass is less likely to break), adding a dash of vodka to each jar to help with preservation, and screwing the lid on immediately so that the heat seals it. I know it’s not a “proper” canning method, but I keep the jars in the fridge anyway, so it’s fine.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand — both the hubby and I loved the vanilla jasmine martini! It’s one of those slightly deadly drinks, though, that doesn’t really taste alcoholic… until it hits you with a sledgehammer. So tread carefully.

Vanilla Jasmine Martini
Based on this recipe found on Slashfood

3/4 oz Chambord
1 oz vodka
1/2 oz vanilla vodka
1 1/2 oz brewed jasmine tea
1/2 oz simple syrup

Combine all ingredients over ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously and strain into a cocktail glass.*

* Or over ice in a rocks glass, if you have a gentleman companion who insists that cocktail glasses are for girls. Not that I have personal experience with such an issue.

White chocolate cranberry cookies

Merry Christmas Eve! In honor of the occasion, I’m sharing my favorite Christmas cookie recipe: white chocolate cranberry cookies. I’m not the biggest fan of white chocolate, and cranberries in baked goods aren’t really my thing, but these are delicious. Go figure.

Maybe it's the brandy.


White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 Tbsp brandy
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 375° and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.* In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg and brandy. Combine the flour and baking soda and stir into the sugar mixture. Mix in the white chocolate chips and cranberries. Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheets.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. For best results, take them out while they are still doughy. Allow cookies to cool for 1 minute on the cookie sheets before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

* Alternatively, make half of these, and freeze half of the dough in pre-formed balls so you have ready-to-bake cookies for another day!

Chard lasagna

I haven’t made a lasagna in ages, but I’m always looking for a new use for the beautiful bunches of chard that I find impossible to resist at the farmstand, so chard lasagna sounded like a great idea. Turns out, it was!

A work in progress.

The best thing about lasagna, in my humble opinion, is that it makes a TON. So, there’s plenty for leftovers the next day, and the rest can be frozen in slices and reheated for an easy meal later.

I love that this particular recipe doesn’t use a tomato sauce, so that the chard and mushrooms can really shine. Ricotta cheese packs a protein punch, too, so what’s not to love?

Chard and Mushroom Lasagna
Based on this recipe from Bon Appétit, January 2011

2 1/2 cups whole milk
1 bay leaf
6 Tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg, divided
Pinch of ground cloves
1 lb chard
4 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 1/3 cups chopped onion
4 large garlic cloves, minced, divided
1/4 tsp dried crushed red pepper
1 lb crimini mushrooms, sliced
9 7 x 3-inch lasagna noodles
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 15 oz container whole-milk ricotta cheese, divided
6 oz fontina cheese, coarsely grated (about 1 1/2 cups packed), divided
8 Tbsp finely grated parmesan cheese, divided

Melt the butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add flour and whisk to blend. Cook for 2 minutes, whisking almost constantly (do not let roux brown). Gradually whisk the milk into the roux. Add the bay leaf, 1/2 tsp kosher salt, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, and cloves and bring to simmer. Cook until the sauce thickens enough to coat a spoon, whisking often, about 3 minutes. Remove the bay leaf.*

Remove the stems from the chard and chop into small pieces, setting the leaves aside. Blanch the stems in a large pot of boiling salted water for about 2 minutes, then add the leaves and blanch 1 minute more. Drain, pressing out all water, then chop coarsely.

Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, half of the garlic, and crushed red pepper. Sauté until the onion is tender, then mix in the chard leaves and stems and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Heat the remaining 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and the remaining garlic. Sauté until the mushrooms are brown and tender, 7 to 8 minutes. Mix in 1/4 tsp nutmeg and season with salt and pepper.

Cook the lasagna noodles in a medium pot of boiling salted water according to the package directions. Drain and arrange them in a single layer on a sheet of plastic wrap.
Brush a 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass baking dish with oil to coat.**

Spread 3 Tbsp of the béchamel sauce thinly over bottom of the dish. Arrange 3 noodles in the dish to cover the bottom. Spread half of the chard mixture over the noodles, then half of the mushrooms. Drop half of the ricotta over in dollops and spread in an even layer. Sprinkle with half of the fontina, then 4 Tbsp parmesan, and spread 3/4 cup béchamel over. Repeat the same layering with 3 noodles, the remaining chard, mushrooms, ricotta, fontina, parmesan, and 3/4 cup béchamel. Cover with 3 noodles and remaining béchamel.***

Preheat the oven to 400°. Bake the lasagna covered for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until it is heated through**** and the top is golden brown, 20 to 30 minutes longer. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

* Béchamel sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Press plastic wrap directly onto surface and chill. Remove plastic and rewarm sauce before using, whisking to smooth.

** Or use your Misto. I heart my Misto (as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before). In case you’re looking for a great inexpensive gift for the foodie in your life, this is it!

*** Can be made up to 2 hours ahead. Cover with foil and let stand at room temperature.

**** To test for doneness, insert the blade of a small knife deep into the center of the lasagna for 30 seconds. Remove the knife and feel the blade. If it’s hot, so is the lasagna.

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