Monday, December 30, 2013

Quinoa Adzuki Bean Veggie Burgers

My son, Ian, turned one in October. If you can relate, you know that the one year mark is a big turning point for many aspects of a kid's development. So many things change!

Daily life is quite different now. Instead of peeking over the kitchen island to see where Ian has crawled, I am chasing him on foot from cupboard to cupboard, as he explores. He's actually really good, at this point he understands commands and where he is and is not allowed. I have nothing to compare, but I'm told over and over that he's a very obedient and "easy" child. Lucky for me, anything more and I may have melted down long ago. You, with the "difficult" kids, must be a very special breed of hero.

No longer do I purée and strain batches of colorful veggies, fruits, beans and grains. Long ago, Ian demanded only flavorful concoctions, and lately has refused anything served on a spoon. In some cases this makes life easier: quickly cubing some cheese, slicing a banana or slicing an avocado doused in lime juice. And he requests all these items by name, or something close to it. I toss them on his tray and go about my business nearby. However, getting vegetables, legumes and grains into him has become a challenge. Being a growing vegetarian boy, these are very important food groups!

My answer to this problem has been burgers, or "ber-ber" to Ian. I started out with Trader Joe's falafel (freezer to table in under 1 minute) drizzled with tahini. I tried out a few ready-made products on him, and what he really loved were these great quinoa-adzuki bean burgers by Hilary's. I spread them with yogurt and a spritz of lime, and he devoured them. But, at $2-$3 a pop, quite an expensive little gourmet habit! At least I could eat what he had left over, because they are very tasty.

I set my sights on learning to make veggie burgers at home. It seemed like a basic procedure, so I started with my trusty-rusty Bittman book: How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. October was my test-kitchen month for eggless cake. November was all about the veggie burger. I followed the loose rules of combining beans+oats+flavorings, with an egg or slice of toast thrown in here and there to thicken it up. 

I started out with a basic black bean and cheese burger. Those went over real well, and I'll share next time I make them. My second batch, I went for imitating the store-bought quinoa burgers. Ian liked these very much. He would point at the plates of cooling burgers and say "ber-ber", or if he refused all other foods at a meal he would just point at the fridge and say "ber-ber, ber-ber!". Low and behold, microwave 10 seconds, and he would devour it in minutes.

This is still a recipe in work. I have tried it twice now, making some improvements. The first batch I sautéed and the second I tried baking to avoid oil, frying and standing to cook several batches. I do prefer the fried version, but baking is a good hands-off alternative for a large batch. Either way, you'll need some significant kitchen time, but the payoff is worth it. Pop these in the freezer and you'll have a nutritious finger-food meal in minutes for the weeks to come. 

Oh yeah, and to state the obvious, you can eat them too. There's nothing that makes them specifically toddler fare. My husband had taken a bite of Ian's quinoa burger one day and said, "hey, those are really good can we eat these too?" Of course, silly, they're veggie burgers not baby food!

Quinoa Adzuki Bean Burgers
approx. 20 small patties

2/3 C dry quinoa (red, white or mixed)
1 1/3 C water

1 C sweet potato, peeled and chopped

½ T olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small jalapeño, finely diced (remove ribs and seeds)
¼ C plain whole yogurt
2 T lime juice
½ tsp cumin
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
14 oz can adzuki (aduki) beans (low or no sodium), rinsed and drained
3 T whole wheat flour

For serving: lime, plain yogurt, sour cream. Pairs well with diced avocado, cucumber or tomato.

1. To prepare quinoa, rinse well and drain. In a small pot, combine water and quinoa with a dash of salt. Bring to a boil and lower to a simmer, covered for 20 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a pot of water, boil sweet potatoes until tender, about 15 minutes.

3. In a skillet, sauté onions in oil over medium-low heat for 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and cook 3 minutes. Remove to a bowl and set aside.

4. Reheat the skillet and add jalapeno, cooking 5 minutes. Set aside.

5. In a food processor, combine potatoes, cooked onion mixture, yogurt, lime and spices. Puree together.

6. Add cooked quinoa, flour and beans to the processor. Pulse to combine. If the mixture is too wet to stick together, add more flour, or some whole wheat bread crumbs. Fold in the jalapeno and pulse a couple more times to combine gently.

7. Refrigerate the mixture 10-30 minutes.

8. Form small patties to prepare for cooking. Refrigerate pre-made patties, or make them as you go.

9. To cook, pan fry or bake. To pan fry, heat 1 T olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Place patties in oil and press down, cooking 5 minutes. Flip, press down again, and cook at least another 5 minutes depending on the thickness. To bake, heat oven to 375F. Place patties on baking sheets (use parchment or cooking spray). Bake 20 minutes on each side, about 40 minutes total until firm.

*note: the smaller and thinner you make the patties, the easier they are to cook. Start with a donut-hole sized ball and flattening as you go, to 1/4" thick and 2-1/2 round, seems to work ok. 

Serve with your favorite toppings or salsa.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

How to Make Okra Burgers in 2 to 24 Hours

Mommy, Daddy and Ian all had delicious, freshly fried, Okra burgers today! Ian's favorite!

Flash back to yesterday morning:

I pick up a smiling toddler from his crib. He's saying "hi!" and handing me his frog toy. I bring him to his playpen in the kitchen and take Misty out on her leash to pee. But she doesn't go. So we come back in.

I set him Ian in his high chair, facing out the window, and he happily sips his milk. I make him a slice of whole wheat toast with peanut butter and strawberry-rhubarb preserves. He eats some, tosses some, and smooshes some in his hair. It's fine.

Then Misty begs to go out. Obviously she wants to do the business she didn't want to do the first time. She somehow escaped the yard two days ago and has been on lockdown, but considering Amit is around I let her out to see what she does. 

3 minutes later, no sign of Misty. She didn't even pee. She just bolted for the exit, the invisible exit we can not find. The inmate escapes the horrible prison of her loving home, once again. 

I haven't had coffee or gotten dressed, but I walk to the back of the property and see her on the other side of the fence. "Misty, come back, come on, let's play". She wags her tail, looks at me, and runs through the hole in the second fence. The neighbor's patio furniture obviously smells more interesting than me. 

I jump in the car and drive around to the other street, and she gets right in. Phew! Time for coffee.

Amit takes Misty out and finds a hole under part of the fence where she pokes her head out. So he blocks it with a log and we go about our merry day. Problem solved. Until I'm halfway through my breakfast at 10:30, and he exclaims, "oh shit, she's f'ing gone!" 

He drives, I call out, we can't find her anywhere. Finally he drives back in with her, as she'd been trapped in a yard with 2 dogs and locked gates with no one home. So we spent Ian's mid-day naptime trying to figure out where our crazy security-hacking dog breeched our perimeter AGAIN.

She was literally pulling leaves and dirt from under the logs against the fence and pushing her head through. It's hard to explain but she would dive right through feet of leaves under the fence (on a hille) and push out the other side. The leaves just close up again, hiding the evidence. More logs were laid, and she is under supervision going forward. 

So the Okra burgers I planned to serve for lunch yesterday did not happen. Around 1 pm I decided to prep the burger mix so we could have it for dinner instead. I chopped and simmered everything for a long time, and pulsed it all together to put in the fridge to cool.  

But, as the day took us, we never made it home for dinner yesterday. As usual it took us an hour to leave the house to run errands at Home Depot and Costco (btw this is life now). But we didn't make it THERE either. One of the car tires was making a bumping noise and we pulled over a couple times and called the tire place that just installed them and just headed there. After telling us to come, those assholes refused to look at the car and told my husband just leave it there till the next day. We would, all 3 of us, have to find our own way home tonight. 

Obviously he didn't leave it, but we were hungry and tired and closer to the in-laws house than ours. So we popped in for a surprise visit, and like King, Queen and Prince, were treated to royal dinner service without a moment's hesitation. Grandparents rock. 

Today is better, although it's become dreary and stormy. The troublesome car is fixed, and lesson learned to stay in the Oyster Bay/Glen Cove area whenever you need a good service of any kind (as opposed to the more crowded central areas of Long Island). People up here (North Shore folks) are much more laid back, tend to know their neighbors and have that kind of local relationship incentive that make them just so much fricken NICER. 

So around 1pm I started frying batches of Okra burgers. The mix holds up well in the fridge overnight, and there's no raw egg involved to worry about either. 24 hours after I started, and we finally got to enjoy the finished product.

Okra Pinto Bean Burgers

yields about 12  3" patties 

1 T vegetable oil
¼ C onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
*1 T jalepeno (no seeds) optional
*2 T roasted red bell pepper, finely chopped,  optional
2 C fresh okra, ends trimmed, cut into ¼” rings
1 C carrot, trimmed, cut into ¼” rings
15 oz can pinto beans (preferably no or low-sodium), rinsed and drained
1 tsp chili powder blend
¼ tsp paprika
1/8 tsp cayenne
¾ C water
salt & pepper to taste

1 C old fashioned rolled oats

vegetable oil for pan-frying

Toppings: yogurt or sour cream, lime or lemon juice, hot sauce

1. In a skillet over medium heat, sauté onion in oil for 5 minutes. Add garlic, and jalapeno, if using. Stir in roasted pepper, okra, carrots, beans and spices. The spice amounts given are minimal, up to 1 tablespoon of chili powder would be fine if desired.

2. Add ¾ C water and simmer, covered, over low heat for 45 minutes. Carrots should be tender and okra should be darker green and soft. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.

3. Place the okra mixture in a food processor and add oats. Pulse to combine, leaving it slightly chunky. Cover and chill the mixture until ready to cook (30 minutes or overnight).

4. Heat 1 T vegetable oil in skillet over medium heat. Scoop tablespoons of the mixture and use a second spoon to slide the mixture into the oil. Flatten the patties slightly and cook about 5 minutes. Flip and flatten again, cook another 5-7 minutes or until firm and not squishy.  Remove to a paper-towel lined plate to cool Work in batches, being careful not to crowd the pan.

Serve warm with toppings of your choice, over greens with vinaigrette, or in a bun with some pickles and such.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Where Did 2013 Go?

As 2013 comes to an end, I realize I neglected this little blog, Libra Loves. 347 posts over 4 years and over 35,000 hits. And then nothing. 

So many reasons:
1. Baby
2. Lack of sleep
3. Moved to a new house
4. Lack of energy
5. Lack of content or ideas (boring meals)
6. Useless shitty photos and bad lighting
7. Toddler

It was a rough and exciting year. So much happened. If days were 27 hours long, I may have gotten to a handful of posts. And I say handful because that's how many times I created something good, new or interesting worth writing about. To be honest, I make a lot of microwave meals now. Oh the horror of who I've become! 

I've had a few moments of inspiration and motivation, unrequited creative energy. And I just haven't gotten back on this horse quite yet. The closest I have been to sharing content was creating pinboards, yeah, lots of pinboards. I get sidetracked sometimes, and Pinterest doesn't require too much thinking.

And then, in November, my neighbors gave me a grocery bag full of persimmons from their tree. Whoa! Lightbulb! What to do with all these persimmons? Battle persimmon! What would an Iron Chef do? What would I have done a year ago? Must find ideas! Maybe start a new, better, brighter, more focused blog. I even selected a title, and wrote an about me section. 

...and then I waited for the persimmons to ripen... and waited... and waited. 

In December, I overcooked a beautiful Persimmon Cake

I never started that new blog. 

Here we are about to start a new year. There are many things I hope I have time to achieve going forward, including reviving Libra Loves. I think if I just start writing, good posts will come eventually, like when I started in 2009.

So here you go - I've started writing. Now I just have to come up with something interesting to share, so stay tuned!
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