Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ask VBJD: What Are You Eating For Thanksgiving (The Sweet Answer)

Ask Veg Baker, J.D., The Thanksgiving Special, Continues!

As I mentioned in my last post, I am also bringing a tray of cookies. It's no real secret that I love to share desserts, but there is another practical reason for bringing dessert to a holiday or potluck dinner - when you've arrived, you're all done! No need to reheat, take up space in the kitchen, or worry that your dish is getting cold or messed up. You can deliver the final product, confident in its taste and presentation.

This year, I will be bringing three cookies on my tray: the chocolate caramel bars and sparkled ginger cookies, which I've previously written about, and a new cookie from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar: carrot cake cookies.

Why carrot cake cookies? A couple of reasons, actually. First, I love bringing cakes and cupcakes to parties, but sometimes, it's just not practical. When you've got a hankering for cake but the inability to deliver, I think these cookies are a good compromise.

These cookies are also great because, when fall rolls around, I feel like there are certain flavors I crave, including squash, pumpkins, apples, and root vegetables. I think carrot cake is perfect at this time of year because it incorporates carrots with all of the favorite Thanksgiving spices. It truly brings together the best of the season. The cookies are convenient because you get all of those flavors in an easy portable version.

Finally, I've also got a selfish motive. Greg's favorite cake is carrot cake, but he rarely eats it because he hates cream cheese frosting, which is the typical topping on his beloved slice. I think his distaste for cream cheese frosting makes him a weirdo, even if he's a cute weirdo. :) That's neither here nor there, though, because cream cheese frosting is decidedly not vegan, and I haven't come up with a vegan frosting yet. What's a girl to do? Bring in the cookies!

The original recipe called for a lemon glaze frosting. I'm sure that's probably delicious and all, but I didn't make it, because I didn't think the cookies needed it. In addition, these cookies have the added bonus of tasting better when they've cooled. That's at least what my official cookie tester Greg told me, and I think there's something to that. When the cookies came straight out of the oven, he said they were good and had one. The next morning, he ate four more and in between mouthfuls said he thought they were irresistible at their "equilibrium" state. That said, if you're looking for a tasty dessert that doesn't need reheating, these cookies have mass appeal.

Happy cooking and eating everyone, and most importantly, Happy Thanksgiving!

Carrot Cake Cookies (adapted from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar)
Yields: 3 dozen cookies

1/3 c. soy milk
1 Tbsp. ground flaxseeds
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1/3 c. brown sugar
1 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. orange zest
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 3/4 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 c. shredded or grated carrots (if you have a food processor or stand mixed attachment, it makes this a cinch! Otherwise, a hand grater will work)
1/2 c. unsweetened shredded coconut
1 - 1 3/4 c. raisins (depends on your raisin preference; go as heavy or light as you like)

1) Combine soymilk, flaxseeds, oil, sugars, zest, and vanilla until well combined.
2) Gradually add flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg, and until just combined.
3) Mix in carrots, coconut and raisins.
4) Using an ice cream scoop or two spoons (two spoons are probably best; the dough is sticky and sometimes the scoop doesn't cooperate), scoop dough into little balls by the tablespoonful onto a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper.
5) Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 14-16 minutes. Remove from oven and rest on baking sheet for 10 minutes before cooling on cooling racks completely.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Ask VBJD: What Are You Eating for Thanksgiving? (The Savory Answer)

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I absolutely love the holiday season; heck, Greg and I got married ten days before Christmas, so I must love the season! There is just a magical feeling in the air, and I always reflect on how grateful I am for all of the wonderful people in my life.

One question I get every year is: what am I making for Thanksgiving or Christmas? Truth be told, I think this is less of a vegetarian question and more of a question from curious friends and family who know I love to cook and to bake, and they're just wondering what I'll be whipping up. And because they know I can talk about food endlessly, I'm happy to oblige!

This year for Thanksgiving, Greg and I will be bringing Apple Cider Green Beans and a cookie plate to Thanksgiving dinner. As a result, I've decided to split up the answer into two days so I can talk about both of the recipes.

Apple Cider Green Beans is an adaption of a recipe my mom saw on 30 Minute Meals about five years ago. I am guessing some of my readers are Rachael Ray fans, while others are groaning, so I will do cowardly thing and bow out of the discussion. What I will say, though, is that regardless of whatever you think of Ms. Ray, I have often turned to her recipes, particularly for party situations, because they aren't fussy and often can be prepared ahead of time easily, and the final results have always come out a hit.

Apple Cider Green Beans is no exception. Basically this dish has two components: the green beans and the apple cider onion topping, and both are a snap. Basically, you buy frozen green beans and just heat them right before serving in the microwave, and you can make the apple onion mixture a day ahead of time and just easily reheat on the stove or, if you must, in the microwave (a bonus I find when I go to other houses, since extra oven space tends to be a novelty at this time of year). Mix together and serve, and you're all set. This recipe also easily doubles, triples, quadruples; you basically can't go wrong.

Also important, though, is that the final product is just delicious. The apple taste just fits right in with the season, but it's not too sweet, and the green beans give the perfect crunch. It's also not laden with fat, so it's a relatively guilt-free meal. If you're still scrambling around for a great side dish for Thursday, please consider putting this on the list!

Apple Cider Green Beans (adapted from Rachael Ray)
Yields: 4 servings

1-2 tsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 - 2 1/2 c. apple cider or apple juice
1 lb. bag frozen green beans

1) Heat the olive oil over medium high heat (you can cut back on the fat by spraying the pan first with nonstick spray and then adding 1 tsp. of oil). Saute the onion until caramelized.
2) Pour in the apple cider or juice; reduce until there is a thick, syrupy liquid, stirring frequently. This can take from 20-30 minutes. (If you are making ahead, store in a container in the fridge at this point. Reheat right before serving over medium heat in a saucepan or in the microwave. If using the microwave, check every 30 seconds a stir frequently).
3) Cook green beans in the microwave according to package directions.
4) Mix apple cider onion and green beans together; serve.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Butternut Squash: It Cures What Ails Ya (Whatever That May Be)

We interrupt this spree of vegan holiday baking to kill two birds with one stone. Well, maybe not the best metaphor for a vegan website, but I'll run with it nonetheless.

Greg was a bit under weather this week. Fortunately, not H1N1 or other seasonal flu under weather, but more like day-long stomach discomfort that knocked him out. As the day went on and Greg was feeling better, I realized fairly quickly that he would need to eat something that was "real food" without sending his stomach back into a downward spiral.

I poked around the kitchen and found another trusty butternut squash. Yes, I've been buying these up at probably too great a clip, but I just can't say no 1) to tasty seasonal food and 2) a sale. I was wondering if I could turn this bulbous beast into a tasty soup, and after some poking around, I found a recipe from Weight Watchers for curried butternut soup, so I gave it a shot.

After making this soup, I think this is a new favorite that will be in the rotation. First, for those that are a little unsure of curry, let me say that you can't actually taste curry in the final product, and the soup doesn't get spicy when you add it. Instead, the toasted curry powder adds a depth of flavor that gives the soup body, but you can't put your finger on what that ingredient is, so I would definitely recommend you try it. Second, once you prep the vegetables, this soup just cooks itself. That is definitely a big thumbs up here; anything that tends to itself is a friend of mine. Finally, you can easily make this ahead of time and reheat it. Greg and I had some of the leftovers later, and it was still delicious.

And, I am pleased to report that the soup did the trick for curing Greg, on many levels. While the vegetables were roasting, Greg perked up at the smell. I brought him the soup, and he sat up and slurped it down, and then had seconds! He said it was delicious and felt comforted, which are all important things.

On a final note, maybe what "ails you" isn't sickness, but figuring out what to bring for Thanksgiving. This dish would be great. It is easy to make ahead of time and can either stay warm in a slow cooker or be quickly reheated on the stove. It's festive for the season and easy to handle, either if you're the host or bringing a dish along. Two thumbs up from our house!

Butternut Squash Soup (adapted from Weight Watchers)
Yields: 12 servings (1 serving = 3/4 cup)

One butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, and cubed
One medium onion, peeled and chopped into large pieces
32 ounces vegetable stock (one of the cardboard boxes from the store)
1 1/2 tsp. curry powder
Salt and pepper

1) Put squash and onion in a roasting pan. Cover with the vegetable stock. Place in preheated 425 degree oven for one hour, stirring occasionally. (If some of the vegetables brown, don't worry.).
2) Remove vegetables from oven and puree. If you are using an immersion blender, cool for about five minutes and then puree until smooth. If you are using a regular blender or a food processor, cool for about 15 minutes so you don't hurt yourself with ridiculously hot vegetables and puree in batches.
3) Toast the curry powder in a nonstick pan on the stove at medium high heat for about two minutes. Stir continuously so the powder doesn't burn.
4) Mix the curry powder and a couple cracks of salt and pepper into soup.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Doin' It Up Old School...With A Vegan Twist

I love to bake all kinds of things, but I still maintain that the best recipes are the old classics. I've noticed time and again that whenever I pull a recipe from an old cookbook that was sold as a local fundraiser where I grew up, or if I use an old family recipe (either my family's or a friend's!), those are always the foods that are favorites. I'm not sure if these foods just bring back good memories for people, or if the recipes are just classics that have been perfected over the generations, but I know better than to question a good thing.

One of my absolute favorite treats as a kid was straight out of my elementary school cookbook: chocolate caramel brownies. My mom would make these, and I would just melt. These brownies are just ridiculously rich and intense, with sweetness of chocolate mixing in with the salty stickiness of the caramel. Very yummy indeed! They are great because they are a hit with kids, but because they are so decadent, they also pass as a very "adult" dessert as well. What is also great about this recipe is that it took German chocolate cake mix and jazzed it up, so if you don't normally keep baking ingredients in your home but you want to bake something special, a box of cake mix will do the trick.

Let me tell you though, the recipe violates just about every rule of vegan baking that there is. First, cake mix - not only do you find dairy and egg products, but healthywise, these are the worst offenders of partially hydrogenated yuck you can buy. Second, evaporated milk is critical in this recipe. And finally, the caramels. Besides having milk in them, they are just annoying to handle, even if they are delicious in the final product. The original recipe calls you to buy a bag of caramels and individually unwrap each of the 50 caramels. Let me tell you, I'm usually fairly bitter by the time I'm done with that process, and I'd rather just eat the 50 caramels than keep baking.

Fortunately, all of these fixes are pretty easy! I've previously extolled the virtues of Cherrybrook Kitchens (http://www.cherrybrookkitchens.com) vegan cake mixes, and it is just as delicious here, too. Just pick up a box of chocolate cake mix, and you're all set. Evaporated milk? No problem. Just take the amount of milk you need and double it, swapping in soy milk. Then, heat up the milk over medium low heat; the soy milk will get hot, but don't let it boil. Just stir occasionally, and the milk will reduce. Once reduced by half, you have evaporated milk.

And the caramel? That ended up being the best surprise of all. Not only is this stuff delicious in this recipe, but it's actually meant to be a topping for ice cream. The batch whips up really quickly, and the final product has an intense, almost nutty flavor. Two thumbs way up, and a special thank you to http://veganicecream.blogspot.com for posting the recipe! I've put it below.

Chocolate Caramel Brownies
Yields: 20-24 brownies

2/3 c. soy milk (directions in recipe for turning it into evaporated milk)
Caramel Sauce (recipe follows at end)
1 box vegan chocolate cake mix
3/4 c. non-dairy butter substitute, melted (like Earth's Balance)
1 c. vegan chocolate chips (like Ghirardelli)

1) Prepare evaporated milk. Heat soy milk over medium low heat, occasionally stirring to keep from boiling. After approximately 10-15 minutes, the milk should have reduced by half (1/3 c.). Remove from heat.
2) At the same time, prepare caramel sauce (recipe at the end).
3) Mix together (by hand) the evaporated soy milk, the cake mix, and the melted butter substitute. The mixture will look like brownies.
4) Pat 2/3 of the dough into a greased 9 x 13 inch pan. Bake the mixture for 8 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven.
5) Remove from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips on top. Add the caramel sauce; you will not need all of it, just add until the caramel covers the top. (Put the rest in the fridge for ice cream!)
6) Take the remaining dough and crumble over the top of the caramel, pushing the dough into the caramel if need be.
7) Bake for 15-20 minutes. Cool completely before cutting. If you are having trouble removing the brownies from the pan or if you used too much caramel, do not worry. Simply leave the cut brownies in the pan, cover, and put the brownies in the fridge until cold. The caramel will firm up, and then you'll have an easier time removing them.

Caramel Sauce
Yields: 2-3 cups sauce

1/2 c. non-dairy butter substitute (like Earth's Balance)
2 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. soy milk, divided
2 Tbsp. arrowroot.

1) Mix 1/4 c. soy milk and the arrowroot together; put aside.
2) Melt the remaining ingredients in a saucepan, over medium to medium high heat, stirring frequently. Once melted, the mixture should boil (or will shortly begin to boil). Boil for 4 minutes, stirring constantly.
3) Immediately remove the mixture from the heat and add the soymilk/arrowroot mixture. Stir until smooth.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Vegetarianism: Sticking To Your Ribs Since Day One

People have often asked me how vegetarians and vegans stay full. This isn't as strange of a question as it sounds; even the words vegetarian and vegan conjure up images of youthful, glowing men and women flocking through a field, picking and joyously eating fruits and veggies for sustenance.

Okay, maybe I took the image a little far, but you get my drift. Sometimes as I'm excitedly describing how I finally made a tasty quinoa pilaf after many failed attempts or how Greg and I decided we love the Mediterranean Lentil Salad from Moosewood, but we had to pull back on the dressing to make it work, I can see it in their eyes: how aren't you starving? I think what really surprises people is when I talk about some of the other meals Greg and I have, including one of Greg's all time faves: meatloaf. Excuse me, did I say meatloaf? I meant neatloaf.

Oh dear, we've crossed the threshold, into creating vegan replacements, with cutesy takes on the original name! But I assure you, this mock meatloaf is delish. I served it up a couple years ago for a dinner party and it was a hit, and Greg and I love to eat this when the weather is cold outside. It has the mouthfeel and satisfying taste of the original; trust me, I'm the original love to eat until I explode kind of person. At the same time, this recipe is vegan, and even if you're not vegan, it's great because it is much lower in calories than the original and is cholesterol free - something all of us can get behind.

This recipe was adapted from Mama's Mock Meatloaf at goveg.com. They recommend using Gimme Lean Beef for the hamburger replacement; although it has the texture of ground meat, I'm actually not a huge fan of the flavor. Instead, I recommend Lightlife's Smart Ground Original; the final result may be a little more crumbly, but the flavor is fantastic. Regardless with what you decide, all of these items can be found in the refrigerated "mock meats" section in the grocery store, which is usually by the produce.

This recipe is also great for a make-ahead meal; simply put the loaf together the night before, put it in the pan, cover with saran wrap, and it can stay in the fridge. You can also make the coating the night before, too; just put it in a separate container. The next day, just bake according to the directions below.

Neatloaf (adapted from Mama's Mock Meatloaf)
Yields: 6 servings

Loaf ingredients:
1 medium onion dicde
1/2 green pepper, diced
1 tsp. vegetable oil or spray
24 oz. (approximately) of burger substitute (that's two packages of Smart Ground)
1/4 c. oats
2 slices vegan bread, toasted and crumbled
3 Tbsp. ketchup
2 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp. pepper

Coating ingredients:
1/2 c. ketchup
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. mustard
1 tsp. nutmeg

1) Saute the onion and green pepper in the oil or spray over medium heat until soft. Combine in a bowl with the ground beef alternative, oatmeas, bread, ketchup, garlic salt, and pepper (preferably with your hands!) until well combined. Press into a greased loaf pan.
Cover with foil and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 30 minutes.
2) Mix together the ingredients for the coating and set aside.
3) Remove the loaf from the oven and spread the coating over the top of the loaf. Cook, uncovered, for another 15 minutes-25 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Cookies Are Officially Okay For Breakfast

I realize the big theme in my last few posts has been about my love for Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. I promise, I have a mental stockpile of recipes from other cookbooks I want to try and from childhood which I'm working on veganizing. My love for this book is fairly rapturous, though, so I appreciate your patience while I'm working through this particular love affair.

As with many relationships, there is initial phase of complete infatuation, and the more you learn about one another, the more different twists and turns emerge that could lead to an even deeper love. This happened to me yesterday with Vegan Cookies. Why? Because there are suggestions for making breakfast cookies. As I have previously written, I feel strongly that there is no discernible difference between eating a donut and eating dessert for breakfast. This doesn't mean that I am ripping on the almighty donut; rather, why aren't we recognizing the potential that dessert has to offer at other meals?

Enter Vegan Cookies and the authors' dedication to providing some breakfast cookie recipes. Score. Now I should note that they have written a recipe for banana oatmeal breakfast cookies, but that is not the recipe I've adapted below. Rather, they have a recipe for "banana everything" cookies, with a suggestion for making it breakfast friendly. I took it a little further and added dried fruit. I think there are other ways it can be "breakfasted" as well and I might update the recipe in the future, but I think this is pretty darn tasty on its own right now.

RECIPE UPDATE: I made another batch and tried to give them more of a healthy twist so Greg could bring a snack to work, and I think I was met with success! I've updated the recipe below; there are just simple swaps that can be made, so for the "healthier" version, I've put the swap in the ingredient list in parentheses.

Banana Oatmeal Raisin Flaxseed Cookies (adapted from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar)
Yields: 2 1/2 -3 dozen cookies

1 banana, peeled and mashed
1/3 c. canola oil (or applesauce)
2/3 c. sugar (or raw sugar)
1 tsp. vanilla
Just a little shy of one cup of flour (or 1/2 c. whole wheat flour + 1/2 c. soy flour, or 1 c. whole wheat flour if you think soy flour is freaky)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2 Tbsp. ground flaxseeds
2 c. oats
1/2 - 3/4 c. raisins, optional

1) Mix the banana, oil (or applesauce), sugar, and vanilla until well combined. Add flour, soda, cinnamon, and flaxseeds gradually, until just mixed. Mix in oats and, if desired, raisins.
2) Using a cookie scoop or tablespoons, make a small cookie ball and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes. Cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes, then cool completely on wire rack.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Vegan Holiday Cookie Journey Begins

As promised, it didn't take long for me to start thinking about holiday baking! Of course I'm not already baking the final product that will be served during the holidays. It's just that I don't have any vegan cookies already in my arsenal. Every year I probably make any where from 10-15 batches of cookies, which I love, and I'd like to branch out and try to make some pies and different cakes as well this year. I'm feeling ambitious, but up to it - but if I want to make these desserts vegan, I need to start playing around with recipes now so I can be more confident later in the season.

The first cookie I took a crack at was the cookie least like to be amenable to veganizing - the macaroon. I wasn't that familiar with macaroons until I started Greg; they are his favorite holiday cookie. The ingredients in macaroons? Egg whites whipped into meringue, sweetened condensed milk, and coconut. You can see how 2/3 of this recipe was a problem. There are recipes out there for turning soy milk into condensed milk, but I had no clue what to do about the egg whites.

Making macaroons also became more of a mission because about a month ago, Greg officially gave up eggs. This is huge, because formerly, Greg was a big eater of omelets and pad thai with scrambled eggs, and macaroons were a fave, but now, he has left eggs behind. I support his decision (not shocking, given this blog, I know!) but I can't stand the thought of him having to give up so many things that he loves. I knew I had to make the macaroons work; just because Greg gave up eggs shouldn't mean that he has to give up all of his favorite things to eat.

I have been collecting from the internet for vegan macaroons; they all looked okay, but there wasn't anything that I felt would really mimic classic macaroons. I wasn't exactly sure how to proceed. And then, my new cookbook came: yes, the book I've been hyping, Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. I cracked open my new copy, and what did I find - a cookie for macaroons with chocolate bottoms. Hooray! Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero have never led me astray before, and I felt good that I could figure something out.

And I'm pleased to say, I feel like we do have a winner! The surprising ingredient here: tofu. (I will pause a moment so the anti-tofu crowd can gag.) Using tofu instead of egg whites makes sense; tofu and eggs structure functionally the same way, and flavored the right way, they definitely can taste very similar. That is the key with this recipe; although many recipes can skip the extracts, in this one they are necessary to make sure the tofu melds into the rest of the eggs. I have suggested some variations, though, to please different palates. You can also dip these macaroons in melted chocolate for an extra kick.

And Greg's reaction? Let's just say he's sitting next to me on the couch now, snacking on a classic macaroon, with a smile on his face and intermittently asking "Really, there's tofu in this?" I think we can add this cookie to the holiday baking list.

Macaroons (adapted from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar)
Yields: 2 1/2 - 3 dozen

3 ounces extra firm tofu (1/4 package), pressed*
1/3 c. canola or vegetable oil
1/4 c. soy milk
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. almond extract
vanilla extract (1-1 1/2 tsp. if you prefer the almond flavor, 2-3 tsp. if you prefer a vanilla-y flavor)
1 c. flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 c. unsweetened shredded coconut**
1/2 c. vegan semisweet chocolate chips (optional)

1) Puree the tofu, oil, and soy milk in a food processor until smooth.
2) Transfer tofu to a bowl and mix in sugar and extracts. Mix in flour and baking powder. Finally, mix in coconut until well incorporated. (It will look like too much, but it's not - I promise!)
3) Drop cookies by the tablespoonful or with a cookie scoop onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake for 12-14 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven, until the bottoms and tops are just beginning to brown.
4) Remove from oven; cool on sheets for two minutes, and then cool completely on cookie racks.
5) If you prefer, melt chocolate chips in the microwave (Put in microwave for 30 second intervals and mix in between. Chocolate will probably be melted after one minute.) Dip the cookie bottoms into the chocolate, or dip half the cookie into the chocolate; dry on parchment paper in the fridge for 30-40 minutes.

*Part of the trick with tofu is to prepare it properly before you even start cooking. Whenever you'd like to cook with tofu, put the tofu between two plates with a can on top for 30 minutes. This will press out the extra liquid and make it ready for further cooking.
**Most people can easily find sweetened coconut flakes at their grocery store; honestly, I'm not sure if it will make a difference or not. The original recipe called for unsweetened, which Whole Foods sells, so I picked up a bag, gave it a try, and liked it a ton. I find that unsweetened is drier than sweetened and gave the cookie a nice crunchiness while keeping the center soft, so it might be worth it to pick it up and give it a try.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Bulgur and Burgers

Not surprisingly, this is the time of year I really ramp up my baking. Get ready; there are weeks of cookie recipes to come, as well as my new exploits into pie baking and bread baking and substituting some holiday faves, like evaporated and condensed milks.

So my first November post is...not about baking? Truth to be told, I've been really ridiculously excited about baking in November and December, like I always am (especially now that the new cookbook, Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, has finally arrived - it looks amazing!). But I've been lacking ingredients, which has put a halt on the process. And I don't mean the usual omissions, like I usually write about in my posts when it's become clear I've forgotten something and need to make an off-the-cuff substitution. I mean I don't even have the basics to get a project started. Depressing, especially for me. The good news, though, is that I went shopping last night and reloaded my kitchen, and I have been reading Vegan Cookies like I suspect most people read The DaVinci Code or Harry Potter, so I'm sure some baked goods posts are forthcoming.

Instead, I thought today I would talk about another dinner idea that has ended up being a big hit in my house: Bulgur Burgers. I'm sure many of readers just scrunched their noses when they read that, but bear with me!

Although I'm generally a fan of such soy products like tofu, tempeh, and soy milk, I try to limit how much of it I eat. Soy is definitely a wonder food and very good for you, but from talking to different doctors and experts and doing research, it is pretty clear that the jury is still out regarding how much soy is recommended per week. I'm no doctor, but the general consensus is that it is fine to eat two significant servings of soy a week (like tofu or tempeh), but anything more than that and people seem to differ. As such, in any given week, Greg and I usually have one meal per week that is very soy-oriented, and occasionally we'll throw in a second one for good measure. In addition, although these options taste good, we try to limit the amount of processed "mock meats" that are on the market, because we figure it can't be healthy to eat out of the freezer constantly.

So what the heck else are we eating, especially to get protein? The good news is that there is a significant amount of protein in beans, grains, seeds, and some kinds of pasta, plus protein that gets overlooked in fruits and vegetables, so we have been experimenting with different kinds of recipes to vary our eating routine and still get plenty of protein.

One of the grains we've really enjoyed is bulgur, which is a great source both of fiber and protein. I think the majority of people eat bulgur (also called cracked wheat) in tabbouleh, which, although good, can get old kind of fast. And then one day, I was flipping through one of my trusty Moosewood cookbooks (Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home, to be exact) and found a recipe for bulgur burgers. Wow, have these turned out to be great! Greg and I love these because they are filling, and they are crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside. We've had them with a whole number of sides: everything from fries to roasted vegetables to a simple salad.

The original Moosewood recipe calls for a number of ingredients but, as this post - and many previous posts - have highlighted time and again, I am usually lacking some kind of ingredient. I find it is really easy to substitute ingredients or just leave out some ingredients altogether; just make sure at least one or two of the ingredients will serve as a binder to hold everything together. The other nice thing about this recipe is that it is really easy to make ahead in one of two ways; you can either cook the bulgur ahead of time and then mix in the extra ingredients before making burgers, or you can mix everything together and just make the burgers right before baking.

I should note that when it comes to homemade burgers, I am terrible at actually getting the burger to stay together, regardless of what the recipe says. Although I've had the burgers fall apart on me in this recipe as well, I can say I've definitely had the most success with keeping these together. Or, on the flip side, sometimes I don't feel like making all of the burgers; in that case, you can honestly just skip making these into burgers and eat the hot bulgur mixed with the ingredients by itself, or mix everything together and reheat the next day (which I usually do). I love this recipe because it is so versatile, so don't be afraid to experiment!

Bulgur Burgers (adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home)
Yields: 8-10 burgers

To prepare bulgur:
3 c. water
2-4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 1/2 c. bulgur
Olive oil or fat-free spray

To prepare burger mixture:
1/2 c. chopped scallions or diced onions
1/2 c. grated carrots
1/4 c. hummus (try different flavors!)
2 Tbsp. tomato paste (or else I have subbed just regular chopped tomato)
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 heaping teaspon Dijon mustard
black pepper

1) Boil water; while water is boiling, saute garlic and bulgur in oil or well-sprayed pan over medium-high heat. Stir frequently. When the water boils, add it to the bulgur (it will sizzle, that is normal!). When the water boils again, cover and reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Simmer for 15-20 minutes until the bulgur is cooked (the water will be absorbed, and the bulgur will be soft but chewy).
2) When the bulgur is cooked, remove from heat and mix in the ingredients. Form the mixture into 8-10 burgers and place on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 20 minutes. They will be done when the outside is crunchy.