Spicy Chipotle Black Bean Burgers

 

When you are an expat who lives overseas, one of the things that you miss the most is food. Your favorite restaurants aren’t the same, even when they have overseas locations (hence my mild obsession with trying McDonald’s everywhere?). Your favorite snacks are manufactured else where and even M & M’s taste different. And your favorite convenience foods? Well, they can be difficult to find in general and when you do find them, very expensive.

 For example, back in the US one of the staples in my freezer was MorningStar patties. They were easy, quick and delicious. Oh and cheap. Like buy them on sale and freeze them in bulk. My freezer was never without Chick Patties or Spicy Black Bean Burgers. So when I moved to the Middle East and one day they showed up in freezer section it was as if a little grocery god had appeared to grant my wishes! I bought EVERY. SINGLE. BOX. It was heavenly. I tried, in vain, for months trying to mimic the recipe in case they never showed up again. And then I pretty much gave up when the next month rolled around and they restocked the freezer section (yes, people I said the next MONTH!)

But then we moved to SE Asia. And sometimes at specialty groceries you can find these delicious meat alternatives (they make such easy lunches and quick dinners for late nights after parent teacher conferences and such!) but at a hefty price. We’re talking $12 to $15 a box folks. Not case. Box. Like $4 to $5 a patty. OUCH! I knew I had to get back to the kitchen and work out a recipe to replace these.

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(Vegan) Cream of Broccoli Soup

Just look how sunny out it was when I made this!!

Today was the first day of Autumn. Which means it should be time to be breaking out sweaters and warmer coats, seeing leaves change from green to lovely shades of red and yellow, days grow shorter and cooler so we stay cozy with hearty soups and spiced drinks. EXCEPT if you live in a tropical climate near the equator with no generally discernible seasons (unless you count a difference between hot and wet?)

 

In fact I’m pretty sure that the sunrise and sunset vary by about a whole 30 minutes throughout the year. So, for those of us who miss our beautiful autumn days and the changing season…we pretend. While I crank up the AC, pull the shades shut and cozy up on the couch on a Sunday afternoon with a big bowl of hearty soup and pretend that cooler weather is coming, you can actually enjoy this warm dinner without having to pretend. Me? I’m going to daydream about all the delicious things I can make with pumpkin and count down the days to until my next vacation, somewhere I can wear a sweater!

Happy Eating!

~Nikki

(Vegan) Cream of Broccoli Soup
Cuisine: Soup
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ½ onion
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 large crown of broccoli
  • 1 cube vegetable bouillon
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • 6 cups water
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat.
  2. Roughly chop garlic, onion, carrot, celery. Chop the entire crown of broccoli, including the stem.
  3. Add garlic to oil and cook until fragrant (about 2 minutes).
  4. Add onion and cook until soft (about 5 more minutes). Then add the rest of the vegetables, stirring occasionally until the all of the broccoli is tender, about 10 minutes).
  5. Add vegetable bouillon and water, bring to a boil, remove from heat and stir in coconut milk.
  6. Using a ladle, transfer the vegetables and about ⅓ of the broth to a blender. Mix on high for 1-2 minutes or until you reach your desired smoothness.
  7. Pour back into remaining broth, mix and serve.

 

Broccoli Cashew Veggie “Meat”balls

I’ve never had a meatball. Not once in my life. Not a ground beef meatball, not a turkey meatball, not a faux-meat meatball. Not in a stew. Or on a sub sandwich. Or on top of a mountain of spaghetti. So I am no meatball expert or connoisseur. This is probably most likely the result of being mostly vegetarian since I was eight. Now you’re wondering what they heck is “mostly vegetarian”? Is that like a flexatarian or a pescatarian?

Well when I was eight a friend and I decided that we didn’t want to eat bologna sandwiches for lunch any longer, so we would be vegetarians. My mom thought it was a phase that would pass so she accommodated. And well, I still order a cheeseburger with no meat every time I go to McDonald’s! (Try doing that in Czech!)  I just never really liked meat so I don’t eat it. I try it occasionally, it’s just not yummy. I still tell people that one day, I’m hoping to wake up and be like “You know what sounds good? I big juicy steak.” But it never happens.


Life would be easier if I weren’t a vegetarian. Last week’s work BBQ faux pas was just another example of how frustrating it can be being a vegetarian. What do you eat? Again, roasted or steamed veggies do not constitute an entree! When I was younger being vegetarian meat that my diet consisted mostly of carbohydrates and starches and a very poorly balanced diet. As I got older I stared eating a lot of meat substitute products, which was slightly more balanced but still a lot of processed foods.

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Chickpea Veggie Burgers

This weekend we went to a BBQ for work. The end of the school year is coming up, report cards are finished and it should have been a great opportunity to enjoy the company of my friends, coworkers and have share some dinner.

Sadly, the event organizers made what I consider the cardinal sin of hosting a dinner. Their was no vegetarian entree option. I suppose what really made this particularly obnoxious was that they operated under the pretense that there would be a veggie option…and then had the audacity to offer salmon as a substitute.

If you SAY that you are going to have a vegetarian option, please actually have a vegetarian entree. Let me be clear, grilling a few vegetables (30 minutes AFTER you served food to everyone else) is not providing an entree. At best it is a side dish. Then please do not offer me salmon or any other fish as an alternative. I don’t understand this, it happens all the time though. A fish is an animal. It is meat. Why do people insist that it is a vegetarian option!? It is not. I repeat FISH is MEAT! ARGH!

It really soured my evening :( I was hungry and grumpy and not very sociable. Providing a vegetarian entree is simple and even those meat eaters can enjoy a delicious vegetarian dish.

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Roasted Chickpea and Tahini Sammies

I love chickpeas. They’re fantastic. They add delicious texture to salads. Tired of boring old lettuce, no problem, just add a few chickpeas. Tada! They make a delicious salad on their own, with a little bit of balsamic vinegar and red peppers.

Oh and they are the main ingredient in hummus. Which is DELICIOUS! But did you know that you can roast chickpeas? Yes, you can just roast up a can of chickpeas and pop them as delicious little snacks.

OR, even better you can roast them and use them to fill a delicious sammy. Dress them with some tangy tahini and fill up a warm pita and they make a delicious sandwich. It’s like hummus, but undone. Deconstructed. And crunchy.

Happy Eating!

~Nikki  [Read more...]

Creamy Avocado Quinoa and Black Beans

Have you ever looked in the pantry or the fridge and just been inspired? Most days it isn’t like that. You either know what you are going to make or you don’t. And when you don’t you look at recipes, then you open the fridge again, then you go back to looking at recipes and then back to the fridge…because maybe if you open and close it enough times dinner ideas will magically appear? Or you’ll have a sudden moment of dinner time clarity and create something delicious, healthy and just amazing. And then you settle on a sandwich?  Ah, moments of true inspiration are rare I suppose, unless your on Iron Chef or Chopped.

However, when I was visiting my parents recently I had one of those truly delicious moments. I was digging through the pantry and fridge when I found a giant bag of avocados, a bag of tortilla chips and a Costco sized container of Feta. I spent the rest of the day fantasying about how good these would taste together. Could I blend the Mexican and the Greek? Would it be served hot? Cold? Salad? Soup? [Read more...]

Garlic Ginger Fried Rice

Do you like chinese food? I’ll admit it openly. I’m not a fan. I’m a seriously picky eater.  Literally picky. I will spread things around on a plate, examine bits, smell pieces. So when it comes to chinese food, I’m generally only eating rice. Plain rice preferably. And forget vegetables! Oh yes, let’s take perfectly delicious and wholesome veggies and drown them in sauces to make them taste like fish! I agree with Monti from Master Chef “What the hell is fish sauce? And why does it taste like DEATH?!”  Making veggies slimy and covering them in fish and oyster sauce…bleck!

But I do like fried rice. Usually. As long as their are no stray bits of chicken in there. Or shrimp. Double bleck!  And a while back I saw this recipe for ginger fried rice. And I thought, ginger and garlic, that sounds yummy. I like ginger. I like garlic. I think they will taste good with rice. But I’m lazy, and I didn’t make it. And I have a well documented history of being unable to fry a decent egg.  And then I saw this recipe for skinny fried rice and I thought, YES!  I can fry rice with out having to fry an egg. [Read more...]

Pumpkin Round-Up

I didn’t realize that I had a pumpkin “thing”. I guess maybe I did. I knew that I was buying a lot of pumpkin. I guess I thought it was a new development. And then I started looking at this and seeing all of the pumpkin related posts. Yeah, I’ll admit it. I love that big orange squash. It’s just so versatile and yummy! Sweet, Savory it can be anything! Bread, pasta, cakes…yay! So now that Thanksgiving has come and gone and you still have an extra can of pumpkin puree hanging around, why not  use it sooner then later. Here is a round up of some of my favorite pumpkin treats you can try!

If you haven’t tried it already, Pumpkin Whoopie Pies are my new favorite treat. They are delicious with chocolate filling.

Or just as delicious with a cream cheese filling. They are also delicious on their own, with no filling, if you’d like to pretend you’re starting a holiday diet.

If you are tired of Turkey leftovers you could make a delicious vegetarian lasagna with this Pumpkin Lasagna recipe. It’s one of my favorites, but please forgive me! I took the picture with my Iphone! I promise it taste much better than this picture does justice.

If you’re interested in trying something new, try pumpkin ravioli. These combine sweet and savory for a delicious autumn dinner.

If it’s cold outside, whip up a Pumpkin Latte and snuggle up on the couch while all those crazy folks head out for black friday deals. If you live somewhere were it isn’t cold out (like me, in Singapore where it’s muggy and rainy!) turn up the AC, grab a blanket and pretend that it’s cold out while you curl up with one of these.

Happy Eating

~nikki

Macaroni and Cheese Cups

What is it about things that are miniature that makes them infinitely more appealing? Is it their little tiny details? Is there something whimsical about miniature? Is this an ailment that affects only women? Men seem immune to the pull of things miniature. Yu’ll never catch  a group of men cooing over how adorable that miniature kitchen set is.

The lure of the miniature can apply to just about everything. Really. Shrink anything so that it fits on the tip of your finger and try to deny it becomes instantly cuter.  I am partial to mini things. Puppies of course fit into the mini thing category as well. Babies however, I’m not so sure about.

The undeniable appeal of things that are miniature of course applies to food as well. Cute … and delicious? Sign me up! Another great thing about miniature food is that it makes for fantastic party food. Individual servings are always a hit because they are easier to handle. You don’t have to worry about providing a spoon for a dish. Mini food is good conversation starter. Did I mention that they look cuter because they are miniature? These Mac and Cheese cups are no exception to the miniature rule. Make them in an ordinary muffin tin (with or without a muffin liner) and pop them on a cute tray to serve.

While you make these bite sized treats I’m going to start a list of mini things that I want.

A mini horse

Source: indulgy.com via nikki on Pinterest

 

A mini pig (actually I want a micro mini pig hybrid)

Source: krumcake.tumblr.com via nikki on Pinterest

A mini pug (okay, I had one of these already and she turned into a regular pug so I guess I’ll keep her.)

A mini whisk (they just look cuter!)

Source: qcidirect.com via nikki on Pinterest

 

A mini hedgehog (which is really a baby hedgehog)

 

A mini cooper

 

Happy Eating!

~nikki

 

Macaroni and Cheese Cups
Author: 
Serves: about 18 cups
 
Individual Mac and Cheese cups make great party treats Inspired from Shine! on Yahoo
Ingredients
  • ½ pound elbow macaroni
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups milk
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • salt and pepper to taste
Topping
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ½ cup panko bread crumbs
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. On the stove top, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and add about two teaspoons of salt the the water. Then add the pasta and cook according to the package directions. Drain the pasta, but don’t rinse it and set it aside.
  2. In a separate pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk the flour into the butter and cook for about five minutes. Keep the mixture moving and smooth, without lumps.
  3. Slowly, whisk the milk into the mixture and allow to simmer for about ten minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in about ¾ of the grated cheese. Fold the cooked pasta into the cheese mixture, making sure that all of the pasta is coated.
  5. Add the beaten egg to the mixture and continue to fold the pasta to make sure the egg is well incorporated. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Spoon the mixture into muffin tins (I used a nonstick pan so I didn’t spray them with nonstick spray or use liners…but you could.)
  7. To make topping, melt remaining tablespoon of butter and toss the breadcrumbs to coat.
  8. Top the muffins with a sprinkle of bread crumbs and a pinch of the remaining grated cheese.
  9. Bake for about 20 minutes, until they are browned on top. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes (they’ll need to cool a bit to finish firming up) before removing from the pan.
  10. Serve and enjoy!
  11. Preheat oven to 350 F. On the stove top, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and add about two teaspoons of salt the the water. Then add the pasta and cook according to the package directions. Drain the pasta, but don’t rinse it and set it aside.
  12. In a separate pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk the flour into the butter and cook for about five minutes. Keep the mixture moving and smooth, without lumps.
  13. Slowly, whisk the milk into the mixture and allow to simmer for about ten minutes.
  14. Remove from heat and stir in about ¾ of the grated cheese. Fold the cooked pasta into the cheese mixture, making sure that all of the pasta is coated.
  15. Add the beaten egg to the mixture and continue to fold the pasta to make sure the egg is well incorporated. Season with salt and pepper.
  16. Spoon the mixture into muffin tins (I used a nonstick pan so I didn’t spray them with nonstick spray or use liners…but you could.)
  17. To make topping, melt remaining tablespoon of butter and toss the breadcrumbs to coat.
  18. Top the muffins with a sprinkle of bread crumbs and a pinch of the remaining grated cheese.
  19. Bake for about 20 minutes, until they are browned on top. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes (they’ll need to cool a bit to finish firming up) before removing from the pan.
  20. Serve and enjoy!

Beer Pizza Dough

Today is a very sad day. Sad indeed. Today is the day movers will come and haul away my beautiful, shiny, stainless steel oven so it can go to its new home.
And we will be ovenless for the next two months or so. I haven’t told you that we’re moving? Ooops. I loathe moving, but somehow I end up doing this way too frequently. That’s a whole different story, but yep, we’re headed off for our next adventure on July 25th and we’ve got to start emptying out our flat, selling our belongings and getting ready for the movers. So, today, at 6 pm the new owners of my oven will come to take it away.
So I had to make a going away dinner, one last hurrah before parting with the oven. But I couldn’t think of anything…until I opened the fridge and saw that one, lonely bottle of beer that had been sitting on the bottom shelf of the fridge for months now. It wasn’t that it was a bad beer, it was just a maltier beer than I prefer. And there was only one. But it would be perfect for pizza.There are few things that go together as well or complement each other as perfectly as beer and pizza. But put the beer in the pizza? Yes, perfect! It was the perfect final meal to cook with the oven. And it was delicious. A delicious yeasty dough, sweetened ever so slightly by honey. Yum! Easy and delicious!
Happy Eating!
~Nikki

Click below for recipe

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