Spicy Cauliflower Burger

Do you love a good burger? How about a veggie burger?

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If you are like me, you would have answered in the affirmative to both those questions. How I wish I could eat burger (the meat version) and fries most days of the summer – straight from the grill onto my plate and into my tummy. In those instances, I try hard to remind myself I am not a teenager who can burn off those calories in a jiffy. So, I don’t indulge them in all that often.

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As a near distant substitute, I resort to veggie burgers every once in a while. It’s usually those frozen kinds. While at least one brand has come to be an OK substitute, I never get the satisfaction of biting into a real burger. At least not until I tried this homemade version for a spicy cauliflower burger.

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This recipe is not my original. It was inspired by Pinch of Yum. While I tweaked my recipe a little, much of the meat (no pun intended) is derived from the original recipe.

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Spicy Cauliflower-Quinoa Burger

  • Servings: 10
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Ingredients
3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
1 head cauliflower, separated into florets
4 tablespoons oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, crushed (or 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder)
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder (adjust to taste)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 cup ground almonds (almond meal)
3 tablespoons cornmeal
1/2 – 3/4 cup shredded Pepperjack or mild cheddar cheese
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
Burger buns of your choice

Toppings
Finely shredded purple cabbage, sprinkled with lime juice and a dash or salt
Thinly sliced red onions
Avocado slices
Chipotle mayo
Other toppings of your choice

Preparation
1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2) Cook quinoa according to package instructions, but use only 1 cup of water or vegetable broth. Turn off heat, fluff the quinoa and let cool.
3) Layer the cauliflower florets in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil and sprinkle with spices. Roast for 20-30 minutes. Let cool.
4) Using a food processor, pulse the roasted florets to break into small pieces that look like grated cauliflower. Take care to avoid grinding to paste.
5) In a large bowl, combine pulsed cauliflower, cooked quinoa, garlic, almond meal, eggs, salt, cornmeal and cheese. If you like your food really spicy, you can add additional cayenne or black pepper.
6) Form into patties. According to the original recipe, this should make about 10 burgers, but if you are like me, you will probably make fewer, thicker patties. It’s your choice. But, if you do make it thicker, add additional cooking time.
7) Heat a large nonstick pan over medium heat. Add a tablespoon of oil and cook a batch of burgers on one side until golden brown. This may take about 4 minutes or so. Flip carefully to maintain shape and cook on the other side for another 3-4 minutes.
8) While the original recipe asks to transfer the burgers to a paper lined plate, I kept mine on a wire rack placed on a cookie sheet and kept in the warm oven to maintain the crispy texture and keep the burgers warm.
9) Assemble the burgers per your taste and be amazed at how incredibly satisfying it is.

NOTE: These burgers freeze well. Reheat in the oven or over the stovetop.

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Spicy and Tangy Tofu Stir Fry

Hello friends!

I failed yet again at my promise to self to keep up with the blog. Too many roadblocks along the way, but I will at least try to post a new recipe whenever I can.

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So, couple of weeks ago, I tried this truly delicious bean curd stir fry with plenty of veggies coated in a delectable sweet-spicy-tangy sauce. That dish used fried bean curds that were kind of squishy and strangely airy. While I enjoyed every bite, I did feel a little overwhelmed with the amount of sliced onions in it. As I was silently chewing every bite, I tried to make a mental note, no, no, more like a package of memory filled with the taste, smell and texture of each bite. Why you ask? Well, I do that quite often, at least as often as I try a bite of a new dish somewhere that I would like to recreate with my own little twist.

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Today would have been the perfect day to succumb to the comfort of eating that dish for lunch. Alas, we were hit with the biggest snowstorm of the season and the family was home-bound. Even though I had already prepared meals ready to be warmed for lunch, something in me kept nudging me to open the refrigerator and take out the ingredients to whip up some spicy and tangy tofu stir fry.

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Little bit of this, little bit of that and before I knew it, a super satisfying, flavor-rich tofu dish was born!

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Spicy and Tangy Tofu Stir Fry

  • Servings: 4-6
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Ingredients
1 Pkg extra-firm tofu
3 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons finely chopped garlic, divided
3 green onions, green part finely sliced and divided
¼ cup oil
4 oz sliced white or baby bella mushrooms
3 cups broccoli florets
½ cup sliced red onion
Few dried red chillis
Sauce:
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Preparation:
1. Cut tofu into bite size pieces. Toss with cornstarch.
2. Mix the curry paste, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and garlic. Coat tofu cubes in the sauce and set aside for 10 minutes.
3. While tofu is marinating, prepare the vegetables.
4. Mix the ingredients for the sauce and set aside.
5. Heat a large wok or frying pan over medium high heat and add oil.
6. Fry the tofu cubes till golden brown and let drain on paper towel.
7. When all the tofu is fried, drain excess oil, leaving about a tablespoon in the pan.
8. Saute the reserved garlic, red chilli and onion.
9. Add the mushrooms and broccoli and flash cook for another 3 minutes or so.
10. Toss in the fried tofu pieces and top with the reserved sauce.
11. Stir and continue to cook till the sauce thickens and coats the vegetables and tofu.
Serve the stir fry with steamed rice or over cooked rice noodles.

South-East Asian Style Vegetable Fried Rice

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There are myriads of recipes for fried rice. I personally love fried rice of any type or ethnic origin. This particular recipe is a blend of Indian and Sri Lankan flavors and textures.

Sri Lankan recipes typically will call for pandan (rampe) leaf which is not easily found in grocery stores in the US (although you can find them quite easily in Ontario, Canada). They impart a very distinct flavor to the rice and meat dishes. In the absence of pandan, I used mint leaves in this recipe, making it more Indian. In addition, Sri Lankan version is sometimes topped with bread cubes sautéed in clarified butter (aka ghee). They add a nice chewy texture and a unique flavor to the rice! When I was a child, I remember hunting for these bread cubes in my rice!

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This is a wholesome vegetarian dish that could be served with Indian/Sri Lankan curries or a simple yogurt/cucumber relish or just plain yogurt. It is pretty straightforward to prepare – the most involved step is making the spice mixture. If you are crunched for time, you can easily use frozen vegetables in place of fresh (like I did in this recipe) without sacrificing the flavor.

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I hope you give this a try!

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South-East Asian Style Vegetable Fried Rice

  • Servings: 6-8
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Ingredients
2 cups Basmati rice, rinsed and soaked in cold water for 15 minutes
1 teaspoon oil
1/2 onion, sliced thick
2 Thai green chili pepper
3 cloves of garlic, cut up
1/2 inch piece of ginger, cut up
2 large tomatoes, cut up
1/2 cup loosely packed mint leaves
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 onion, sliced thin
2″ long cinnamon stick
3 cloves
2-3 cardamom pods, lightly bruised (if available)
1/2 bag (8 oz) frozen mixed vegetables (carrot, green beans and peas or something similar)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tablespoon Madras-style curry powder, optional
Salt to taste
1/4 cup mint leaves, chopped up
2 slices of bread, cut in cubes and pan toasted in butter

Preparation
1. Begin by cooking the rice according to directions.
2. While the rice is cooking, heat a teaspoon of oil in a shallow frying pan and saute thickly sliced onion, chili, garlic and ginger. When the onion begins to get golden, add the tomatoes and mint leaves. Saute for few more minutes and remove from heat.
3. Using a hand blender or food processor, grind the above till smooth. Set aside.
4. Heat a skillet over medium high heat and add butter and tablespoon of oil.
5. Add the thinly sliced onions and saute till golden. Add cinnamon, cardamom and clove.
6. After a few seconds, add the frozen vegetables and turmeric powder and saute till the vegetable are cooked through and the carrot looks slightly caramelized.
7. Stir in the curry powder, ground spice mixture and salt to taste.
8. Continue to cook for another 5 minutes or so till the mixture is cooked through and the oil starts to separate along the edges.
9. Mix in the cooked rice along with fresh mint.
10. Top with bread cubes and serve with a curry of your choice, boiled egg or yogurt (or a combination of all!).

Pan-Cooked Southwest Quinoa Patty

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Quinoa has come a long way from its humble beginnings! What used to be a trendy food item of the ultra-health conscious folks, has now become a near staple in many a household – thanks to its nutty texture, delectable taste and most importantly its high nutritional value!

I use quinoa in salads, as a replacement for rice for serving with curries, as breakfast cereal and now as quinoa “burger” or patty.

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You can season these patties with your favorite combination of spices, herbs and other add-ins. I prefer the spicy notes imparted by southwest flavors of peppers, cilantro, citrus etc. and so decided to make these patties with those flavors! I used minced red peppers and zucchini to the patty mix. Needless to say, these ingredients add specks of bright colors and also boost the nutritional value. Addition of cheese not only gives a nice taste, but also helps in the holding power of the patty. As you may already know, cooked quinoa is rather fluffy, individual grains. Even with mashed black beans, you will still need the cheese in there for the best texture. I did make a few without cheese. They came out great, but I had to be extra careful not to break them while flipping or removing from pan. Lastly, even with cheese, be careful handling the patties. They are a bit fragile but so worth it when it comes to taste.

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Lastly, you can use any type of quinoa for these patties (red, regular white, a combination etc). Also, you could substitute cannellini beans (or may be even navy beans) for the black beans in this recipe. Since I used regular canned black beans (not unsalted or reduced sodium), I could get away with just 1/2 teaspoon of salt. If you are unsure of the spice amounts, taste the mixture BEFORE adding eggs so you could adjust the seasoning. I did and boy was the mix delicious even at that stage! Would make a yummy dip baked with some cheese on top. Next time!

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The formed patties can be frozen. Just pan “fry” them straight from the freeze under a low temp so the inside gets cooked through without burning the outside.

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Pan-Cooked Southwest Quinoa Patties

Ingredients
2 to 2 1/4 cups cooked and cooled quinoa
2 eggs
1/4 cup finely minced red onions
1/2 cup finely chopped red pepper
1/4 cup diced zucchini
1 jalapeno pepper, minced finely (remove seeds if desired)
1 1/2 cups black beans, drained and rinsed well
3 cloves of garlic, grated fine
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese, grated
2 – 3 tablespoons olive oil

Preparation
1. Mix quinoa and all other ingredients EXCEPT oil thoroughly.
2. Divide the mix into 10 equal portions and flatten on parchment lined baking sheet into patties about 4-5″ in diameter and about 1/2″ thick.
3. Place the patties in single layer on a platter and chill for at least 30 minutes. Alternatively, you can just chill the mix and form the patties immediately prior to cooking them. To do this, just take a ball of mix and flatten on palm of your hand and gently and carefully transfer it to the frying pan.
4. Heat a frying pan over medium heat and add a tablespoon of oil. Swirl to coat and place patties in the pan.
5. Cook for about 6-8 minutes. Carefully turn the patties on the other side and continue to cook for another 5-7 minutes. Extended cooking results in a golden and crispy exterior while ensuring the inside is cooked thoroughly.
6. Hold in a warm oven or toaster oven till ready to serve.

TIPS:
1. If serving the patties assembled as burgers, proceeds as you would with any meat patty.
2. If serving at a later time, freeze uncooked patties after their initial “chilling” period in the refrigerator (for easier handling). Wrap individual patties in clear plastic wrap and store in a zip top bag or other airtight container. Pan “fry” frozen patties under low heat to help thaw the inside and increase heat to finish cooking and ensure proper internal temperature.

Easy Weeknight Vegetarian Supper

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Have you had one of those days when you are trying to do many things simultaneously when you suddenly realize, “yikes, it’s time for dinner!” If you said “yes,” then I don’t feel like the odd one out! 🙂

I had one of those days last week when I tried to bake couple of types of cookies and lost track of time. I realized I had no leftovers and had to quickly throw together something while one batch of cookies were baking with remaining dough chilling in the refrigerator.

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My conditions – our dinner had to be something nutritious, quick and vegetarian! A quick inventory of what I had on hand resulted in me laying out an eggplant, a red pepper, can of chickpeas (see, I didn’t lie when I said I try to have cans of beans around), red onion, couple of Roma tomatoes, non-fat plain Greek yogurt and a small can of tomato paste.

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Since I had some leftover dill rice, I thought of making a one-pot Greek-style sautéed veggies and beans. It was amazingly simple, quick, delicious and filling that I think I might actually plan on making this again.

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Try it topped with extra plain Greek yogurt for a nice touch!

  • Servings: ”4″
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Ingredients
1 small eggplant, sliced thin
1 large red pepper, cut into long thin strips
2 Roma tomatoes, sliced
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onions
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
salt to taste
optional, dash of cayenne
1/4 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt

OPTIONAL: Additional Greek yogurt, lemon juice, feta cheese

Preparation
1. Begin by preparing the vegetables.
2. Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium high heat. Add olive oil.
3. Add eggplant, red pepper and onions and sauté till lightly browned. Add garlic and continue to sauté for another minute.
4. Now add the tomato paste and ground cumin and cook for about 3 minutes.
5. Add the chickpeas and Greek yogurt and stir to heat through. Remove from heat and serve with warmed pita or rice.

You can “dress up” your meal with a small dollop of Greek yogurt, light spritz of fresh lemon juice and a sprinkling of feta cheese.

Chickpeas in curry sauce

20140327_191710I always try to have a can or two of chickpeas on hand. Yes, they are tastier and probably healthier if you soak and cook them in your own kitchen, but I always seem to need them on the spur of the moment. Hence, I usually stock my pantry with few cans of different types of beans.

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I use chickpeas in salads, mixed in with rice, tossed in chicken curry and in myriad other ways. One of the most common preparation is making a curry highlighting their simple, yet delicious taste and texture. Chickpea curry can be prepared in many ways and it goes by different names – chole and channa masala being the most common.

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This particular recipe also uses some diced potato. Potato soaks up the flavors well without “stealing the thunder” from the chickpeas. Feel free to omit it if you want to just keep it all chickpeas. Taste will be unaltered.

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This dish can be served with steamed rice or any flat bread. Accompany it with a small crispy salad or sliced cucumbers and red onions with bit of lemon juice.

Chickpeas in curry sauce

  • Servings: 4-6
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Ingredients
1 15-oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 medium sized potato, diced into about 1/2″ cube
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
2 tablespoons ginger/garlic paste
2″ piece of cinnamon, broken up
1/2 teaspoon cumin
2 tablespoons oil
1 1/2 tablespoons Madras curry powder
1 small can tomato sauce
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne (adjust to taste)
salt to taste
To garnish
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup sliced red onions
Sliced lemon

Preparation
1. Heat oil in a medium wok or pan. Sauté cinnamon and cumin for a minute under low medium flame.
2. Increase heat to medium and add onions and ginger/garlic paste and sauté for 3-5 minutes.
3. Add potato and continue to cook for another 3 – 4 minutes.
4. Stir in cayenne, tomato sauce, curry powder and water. Season with salt and cook for about 20 minutes, till potato is cooked through.
5. Add chickpeas and continue cooking till chickpeas are heated through and the sauce reaches the desired consistency.
6. Garnish with sliced onions, chopped cilantro and slices of lemon.
7. Serve hot with steamed rice or flat bread of your choice (like naan, roti, chappati or even pita bread).

Curried Barley with Chickpeas

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Let me be the first to admit I can’t remember the last time I cooked with barley. It is possible that I never did! Oh boy, am I glad I managed to bring some into my kitchen just couple of weeks ago!

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Barley is one of those grains that can be easily passed off in favor of others such as quinoa etc. However, with its delectable chewy texture, thickening properties and satisfying nature, I think it could definitely be one of the most promising grains out there. If you have never had it before and are wondering how it tastes, it tastes like tiny bits of cooked pasta, but perhaps a bit chewier. Definitely a pleasant taste and texture.

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For my first attempt at preparing a vegetarian entrée using barley, I wanted something very flavorful and substantial, yet without much heaviness. A pilaf-style dish should fit the bill and that’s what I did. The end product was very satisfying, especially with the addition of chickpeas and was very flavorful with just the right amount of curry flavor.

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Curried Barley with Chickpeas

  • Servings: 4-5
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Ingredients:
1 cup of uncooked barley
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup chopped onions
1 tablespoon ginger/garlic paste
1 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup diced red peppers
1 6oz can tomato sauce
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Madras curry powder
1/4 teaspoon allspice spider
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Preparation
1. Melt the butter in a medium pan over medium heat.
2. Sauté onions and ginger/garlic paste till onion turns translucent and starts to turn golden.
3. Add the barley (rinse barley before adding, if needed) and sauté for 2-3 minutes.
4. Add the vegetables and continue to cook for another 3 minutes. Now add the ground spices.
5. Stir in the tomato sauce, salt and water. Bring the mixture to boil, cover, reduce heat and cook for about 25-30 minutes till all the water is absorbed and the barley is fully cooked.
6. Finally, stir in the rinsed chickpeas and warm through for another 5 minutes.
7. Serve immediately. Leftovers can be refrigerated and reheated.

Roasted Veggie Melt with Mozzarella

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I love eggplants! Chunky purple American eggplant, somewhat smaller confetti purple Italian eggplant, long and slender Chinese eggplant, golf-ball sized Indian eggplant, white round Thai eggplant….you name it, I love it! I like them prepared in any way – curries, roasted and added to salads or transformed to baba ganoush, layered in vegetarian lasagna, indulgingly breaded and fried, or simply layered on with other roasted vegetables as a “melt”! As you can see, I am somewhat obsessed with this vegetable and my love goes back to my childhood. My other favorite vegetable is bitter gourd or Chinese bitter melon. I will have to add a post on that as well!

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I bought this beautiful Italian eggplant the other day and was debating which route to take with it. After bit of self contemplation, I settled for a “melt”. I had some fresh mozzarella and sweet red peppers sitting around and figured they would go well together. This recipe is so quick and easy to put together. You start with roasting the eggplant and red peppers. Then, you just layer them with sliced tomato and mozzarella and bake them till the cheese melts into a ooey gooey goodness. Just top it with a bit of prepared pesto and voila, you have yourself a delicious stack (or two) of cheesy, yummy veggie melt!

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Roasted Veggie Melt with Mozzarella

  • Servings: 2-4
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Ingredients
1 medium sized Italian (or American) eggplant, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
2 tablespoons plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
2 beef steak tomatoes, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
1 medium sized sweet red pepper, core removed and quartered
Eight 1/8″ slices of fresh mozzarella
2 tablespoons prepared pesto
Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation
1. Turn broiler on to “high”
2. Arrange eggplant slices and red pepper on a baking sheet sprayed with non stick cooking spray. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and turn to coat the other side as well.
3. Roast the vegetables for 4-6 minutes in the top rack of the oven till they turn golden. Turn over and roast the other side as well (another 4 – 6 minutes).
4. Remove the veggies from the oven. Turn oven to 375F.
5. Stack the vegetables on a greased baking tray in the order of eggplant, tomato and mozzarella, seasoning each layer with a light sprinkling of salt and pepper. Repeat the layer once more. Top with a piece of roasted red pepper. Secure the “deck” with a toothpick.
6. Bake for about 4-6 minutes till cheese melts and the “deck” is heated through.
7. Serve immediately with a light drizzle of pesto and olive oil.