real food. real life.
Whew! What a busy weekend! 2 Birthdays and Father's Day! My teacher-planning skills were put to the test this week - making and checking to-do lists, planning menus and activities... I am glad it's over. But, hey, who am I kidding - I loved it all. Tiring - yes. But I loved every second of it.
Hannah celebrated her first birthday (and, I, my 31st), and then Lee had his very first Father's Day today. We had about 40 people over to our house on Saturday for the big festivities. BBQ, presents, birthday cake. The whole deal. It was a lot of planning, but it all worked out great. We had amazing sunshiny weather, which helped immensely as the kids played in the yard and everyone was able to come and go from the deck to the kitchen. Definitely makes our little house feel a little bigger when we can use the outdoors!
A big part of the planning was food, of course. What recipe I wanted to use for Hannah's birthday cake, of course, hoping to make it sugar-free and not use dairy. What easy, make-ahead or cook-easy foods to serve a crowd of children-grandparents, but still trying to keep it true to my style of cooking - healthy and delicious. We settled on BBQ burgers with side salads for the meal, and chocolate beet cupcakes with chocolate avocado frosting for dessert.
The burgers we made ahead of time, with pork, fresh chives and spices, oats and an egg, and froze them. Easy to grill up. I also made a batch of veggie burgers the day before, which were eaten up, so wasn't a waste! (Yes, we did have hotdogs as well... I just can't escape them, no matter how hard I try!)
I tried to find other frosting recipes to try for Hannah's cake, but nothing could beat the simplicity, fool-proof recipe, and delicious texture of avocado frosting. So easy to make, stores so well, and tastes great.
For the salads, I wanted to make a couple. But they had to store well in the fridge so I could make ahead of time, use some of the local ingredients I had from the farm share, but appeal to both children and adults. For one salad, I settled on a simple pasta salad with just some grape tomatoes and peppers and simple sweet dressing. That's easy to make ahead of time, and usually, something children will eat.
The second salad was a new one for me! I wanted something like a coleslaw, that could be made a day ahead of time, but still offer some use of leafy greens or something healthy. I looked around on the internet and came across this pairing - Kale and Apple. Perfect - I have tons of apples at any given time because of the farm share, and could easily find kale this time of year. Kale is such a thick leafy green and can hold up to a dressing for more than a few hours. Plus, it may be something not many have tried. I love introducing new food! It's got a nice crunch, as well. Paired with a sweet apple - it worked out great! I used a poppyseed dressing, just using some basic kitchen essentials. It held up really well, looked pretty, and tasted wonderful! I was impressed! So, here it is! Try it at your next BBQ!
Total Time: 10 minutes??? Just slicing, shaking, and combining :)
1 big bunch of kale
3 apples, any kind!
3 tbsp cider vinegar
2 tbsp honey
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tsp poppy seeds
Pinch of sea salt & pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup small-diced red onion
What to do:
1) Cut the thick stems out of eat leaf of kale. They are bitter tasting and not needed. Roll the leaf up and cut down, sliced into thin pieces, similar to that of a 'slaw'. Place in a large bowl.
2) Slice up apple in a similar way, match-stick style. Add to kale and toss together.
3) For the dressing, place all other ingredients in a jar or plastic container. Cover well and shake! Shake until evenly combined. Test taste and adjust ingredients, if needed (sometimes a bit more sweetener or salt). Pour over kale and apples and toss well to combine. Let sit, covered, in refrigerator for about 15 minutes if serving right away, or refrigerate for up to a day ahead. It should still be crunchy and delicious.
I'm a sucker for veggie burgers. I order them wherever we go. It started years ago when I thought they'd be healthier. Which they are. Oh, and I was a vegetarian-wannabe but just couldn't give up the taste of bacon and lobster. :) But ordering veggie burgers made me feel closer to that goal... :
But then it grew into an actual appreciation for the taste of a veggie burger. I really do love them. And still order them often. At times, I think I could pull off the vegetarian lifestyle, heck, even vegan as I already avoid dairy... although then I remember my love for the taste of bacon... and lobster.
So, I live a lifestyle that includes meat eating, vegan eating, vegetarian eating, sometimes raw vegan - I love it all! However, as a home cook, I especially love the simplicity of vegan-style cooking. Real, basic ingredients. Brought together in creative ways that make amazing flavours. Spices really enhance each dish, especially in a veggie burger. They can be made from a variety of base ingredients, anything that, when combined, creates that perfect blend that mimics the consistency of ground meat. A veggie burger needs that the perfect balance of sticky/wet/dry to allows you to form them into patties and grill on the BBQ!
I've been making veggie burgers for awhile, but have realized I don't have very many featured here on the blog! I usually use black beans - 1) because I love the taste of black beans and they are cheap! 2) because they make a great 'meat-like' base for a burger (or really anything you usually use meat for, we also use black beans in place of taco meat! For the burger, you could then add anything to it - oats, breadcrumbs, egg, spices - whatever you prefer - to make it hold its own flavour and form.
This version has sweet potato, added to the black beans. It's sooooo good. Definitely my favorite. The sweet potato adds a good amount of moisture (no need for an egg - yay vegans!) that helps to hold it together and also gives it a great boost of sweetness! Add a little extra spice - yum! This burger tastes great with a little spicy mayo, lettuce, and tomato. (As pictured above, with some fajita rice on the side)
Veggie burgers can be tricky though. They are simple to make, but also simple to mess up. I've messed up A LOT. A few tips to prepare veggie burgers, of any kind, that I've learned along the way:
1) Make ahead of time and refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer. Overnight, if you can. They will firm up and hold together much better on the grill or frying pan, or you could even bake in the oven on a low-isn heat. Firmer means easier flipping. No crumbly burger falling into the coals on the BBQ... :(
2) Right before grilling, lightly brush a little olive oil on each side. This will reduce the chances of it sticking to the grill. If baking or frying, be sure to use a greased pan!
3) If you can, taste it before you cook it. Really. It's not meat and it's usually fully cooked already - be weary though if you're using egg in yours. When cooking, you're just grilling it to get a little crispy and warm. By tasting it before, you'll know if you added enough spice.
4) Don't blend the ingredients too much. Just enough to combine it, not puree it. If it's purred it loses some of it's flavour, especially if using sweet potato, and can get way too sticky. You still want to taste a chunk or two of smooth sweet potato in your burger. Well, I do at least.
5) Hannah loves these!! Get your kids to try them before you give them any idea that the rest of meat-eating world thinks veggie burgers are weird. You might be surprised that they like the flavour of them. Beans, rice, lots of spice - you can also use this opportunity to sneak in some extra veggies - peas, corn, carrots - cut super small. They hide well in veggie burgers, especially if you're going to sandwich it between a bun and smother it in ketchup... :)
Total Time: 10-40 minutes to prepare (depending on prepping sweet potato/rice) + cooling time
(This recipe made 5-6 good sized burgers)
1 can of black beans, rinsed
1 medium sweet potato, cubed and cooked* (should make about 3 cups)
1/2 cup brown rice, cooked and cooled*
2-3 tbsp of oats or breadcrumbs, if needed to reduce stickiness
1/2 onion or green onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp: sea salt
1 tsp: cumin, paprika
1 tbsp: cilantro
Spicy Mayo Ingredients:
1-2 Tbsp of mayo (depending on how much you want!) Also, we use Spectrum brand, as it contains honey instead of white sugar)
1/2 tsp of each: cumin, paprika, cilantro, chilli powder
Sprinkle of sea salt/pepper
What to do:
1) *Make sure you have your sweet potato and rice cooked. It tastes better to have roasted sweet potato, rather than boiled. It just takes a bit longer - 30 minutes in the oven under 400 degrees fahrenheit. Just chop them up, spread them on a pan, and drizzle with olive oil. Bake, uncovered. Cook your brown rice according to the package. Once these 2 main ingredients are cooked, cool them slightly in the fridge for a few minutes before using.
2) Okay, now that everything is cooked and ready to use, let's get started. First, place sweet potato, rice, and rinsed beans in the food processor. Pulse for just a short, short bit. DO NOT PUREE. Just look to combine them.
3) Once combined, remove and place into a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients. Mix together using your hands to have everything incorporated.
4) Form into balls, should make about 5-6. Flatten into patties. Be careful not to make them too thin or they'll fall apart on the grill. Make a nice thick burger!
5) Refrigerate for 30 or more minutes. Overnight if you have the time. They'll firm up and be easier to grill.
6) Once ready to grill, lightly brush with olive oil. Grill for just a few minutes on each side. Remember that everything in the burger is already cooked! You're just looking to heat them up and get some awesome grill marks to bring out the flavour.
7) Serve immediately, so they are at the peak of flavour. I recommend serving them on a bun, lettuce, and tomato with some spicy mayo! Ingredients listed above, just mix together the mayo and spices. Some other suggestions to serve the burger with are guacamole, salsa, or just your go-to ketchup and mustard! Or, you could be like Hannah, and just eat it plain, no bun or anything :)
*You can freeze these, as well! They last quite awhile in the freezer :)
Chocolate... OR Super-easy-can't-eat-dairy-or-refined-sugars-but-that's-okay-because-I-can-eat-this Kind of Chocolate :)
Okay, so if you can eat a chocolate bar without the horrifying after effects, please do. It's easier and can satisfy a sweet-tooth in no time.
However, if you can't. Try this.
It's pretty easy, I think, and gives you a just-as-satisfying wish-you-had-more-oh-wait-you-do feeling because you made it yourself and you made more than a single serving in one go. :)
It does require coconut oil though, which, yes, seems pricy. Okay, it is pricy. But if you used as much as I do, and for things I use it for, you would forget its priciness. You'd consider it a staple. It honestly is my cooking oil, my butter/margarine/shortening replacer, my baby's bum cream, my skin moisturizer, my skin exfoliant (mixed with granulated coconut sugar)... and the list goes on. It's pretty awesome stuff.
I use honey in mine. You could sure you another liquid sweetener... maybe a granulated one as well, I'm just a honey-lover at heart. It's much sweeter, which I'm going to admit is what I love about it. Sorry folks who aren't about the super sweetness. But hey, you wouldn't be looking for chocolate recipe anyway.
Also, as a newbie vegan chef-wannabe, I've come to learn that really, most or ALL raw or vegan or super easy dairy/sugar-free styles of cooking use all the same ingredients, for everything, haha, rarely measuring, and really just going off of taste. So, in a great way of being efficient and super easy, this recipe is the same recipe I use to make chocolate sauce/ganache. It will harden in colder temps (i.e.: the chocolate) and soften/melt in warmer temps (i.e.: the sauce). Wonderful, ain't it?
So, here's my go-to chocolate recipe. Whips up in a few minutes. Then, just freeze and eat as the cravings hit you. Or melt 30 sec in the microwave for chocolate sauce. Soon going to eat a piece as soon as I finish this post.
Total Time: 5 minutes prep + 30+ minutes in the freezer or fridge
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla
pinch sea salt
What to do:
1) Melt all ingredients together over medium heat, or for added convenience, in a jar for 30 seconds or so in the microwave! Use a fork or whisk (I'm going to be honest here and admit I totally had to google what that thing is called in the real world... "Whisk") and whisk it together, or just put the cap on the jar and shake.
2) If the coconut keeps separating from the honey/chocolate, place it in the fridge for a little bit to cool it down. Then try mixing again. Or, you can add a bit more honey, which sometimes help to keep it together.
3) For hard chocolate: Pour mixture in a parchment-lined brownie pan, smooth to flat, and place in freezer for 30+ minutes.
4) OR for chocolate sauce: Keep in a jar. Use immediately, or store in refrigerator and heat for 30 seconds and shake well.
We really cooked these things. From scratch. On weeknights. And we even had time to do the dishes.
They have real, simple ingredients that you'll find in your cupboards. They're healthy and delicious. No lies.
Thanks for reading. Leave a comment below!
Here's a pic of me and my babies. Just because.
A Bit About Me...