Super Burger-y Bean Burgers

As you  may remember, sometimes, I cook! And right now, I’m pretty obsessed with these awesome bean burgers…

Hello there, 2012

Delicious consumables...and this is just the food

Our NYE party has come and gone, along with its delicious spread of spreads: pear-blue cheese chutney, mushroom-walnut pâté, spicy hummus, homemade crostinis and cinnamon sugar tortilla crisps, various cheeses, bacon-wrapped shrimp, cranberry-orange relish, bhel puri…many of these recipes I will present in the near future for your own experimentation.

As much as New Year’s lists can seem trite, I think it’s important to document where I’m at as an arranger of words, as well as where I am in my life at large, in a space that allows me to revisit my desires and goals and that enables others to encourage me to keep my word. So, without further adieu:

Things to Do in 2012

I. The Professional

  • Set up and maintain a solid, unchanging three-day a week writing schedule, during which I write for three-four hours at a time.
  • Maintain this blog regularly: Adventure Day recaps/status updates at least once every two weeks, more recipes (with photos and perhaps video)
  • Maintain Drawing Coffee regularly: update/cycle through my writing portfolio online, columns/essays on the state of writing and writing-, narrative-, and publication-related issues at least once every two weeks
  • Develop coding skills.
  • Finish all of the work I’ve begun revising and new work I’ve started over last fall and the coming spring.
  • Make some decisions about my thesis by September.
  • Secure at least one internship.
  • Develop bookmaking and binding skills.
  • Write personally about my writing process and my critical self once a week.
  • Submit my work to ten publications.
  • Finish reading one book a month.
  • Perform at three readings.

II. The Personal

  • Set up and maintain a workout schedule three times a week by the first week of February.
  • Take one day a week for myself–to write personally, to get things done around the apartment, to make food for the coming week, do laundry, clean my work space, play video games, etc.
  • Write and adhere to a personal monthly budget.
  • Volunteer.
  • Find/start a band, and play at least one show.
  • Plan at least one road trip.
  • Plan a writer’s retreat+trip for January next year.
  • Acquire enough poster frames for all of my artwork.
  • Go to at least one Cards game.

The beginning of the year has to come to be a very significant time to me. At the beginning of 2010, I felt like everything in my life had dropped away and left me suspended, free-floating in empty space, and I couldn’t tell if I was flying or falling. Graduating from college felt like I had run a marathon and vaulted over a single last hurdle off the edge of a cliff with no base, no ground to crash to. I forced a minimal amount of writing, and mostly stopped altogether. 2011 started with a bang and a bruise, celebrating in Chicago for the first time with tons of significant people who, though they may not know it, help keep me driven even though they are typically far away. And I was, of course, playing the waiting game in many ways, including hearing about grad school admissions. As compared to the previous year, however, I believed in the direction I had come to, and was cutting through the air around me despite not having hit the ground yet.

On the front page of my datebook for 2011, I wrote an important note to myself to be read every time I opened it up–“Devote this year to love.” Over the course of the year, my understanding of love developed in incredible ways. Love–big love, capital-L Love, not just the kind you say to your family or your SO, but the way you feel about life and what’s in it and all the people and objects and places you will never know–is why I write, is one of the things at the center of me that makes me the person that I am. Life is too short not to genuinely extend yourself, the best part of yourself, to as many entities in as many ways as you can and to try to see them for what they are and what they can be, to try to understand them in the way they understand themselves and to be a force of exploration and curiosity and growth and passion in their existence, if only for a brief instant.

More than any other goals for 2012, I plan to devote this year to love. My feet brush the ground beneath with every step.

Portobello Mushrooms with Pasta

My version of a recipe from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. This is a great main course after Challison Salad, is incredibly easy and looks beautiful.

  • 8 oz pasta of your choice (I went with farfalle, because it’s sassy)
  • 1lb portobello mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (or more, depending on how much onion/mushroom you use)
  • 1 small to medium onion, finely diced (I like onion. Use a big ol’ onion.)
  • Salt and freshly milled pepper to taste
  • 2 (or more) cloves garlic, finely chopped or pressed (Come on. Use more.)
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (I used Alamos Chardonnay)
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 tsp minced rosemary
  • 2 tbsp toasted bread crumbs
  • Freshly grated Parmesan

Remove the stems and gills from the portobellos and slice the caps into 1/2-inch strips. Cut the larger pieces in half.

Heat the oil in a large skillet, add the onion, and cook over medium heat until lightly colored. Raise the heat, add the mushrooms, and saute until they begin to brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add half the garlic. Mix the tomato paste and win and add it to the mushrooms. Lower the heat and cook for 5 minutes more.

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water, then drain and add it to the mushrooms along with the cream, herbs, and remaining garlic. Toss, correct the seasonings, and divide among warm serving plates. Scatter the bread crumbs and a very light dusting of freshly grated cheese over each serving.

Challison Salad

The long-awaited peach & blueberry salad recipe. Use your best judgement on how much salad to make. First, the dressing.

Lime-Mint-Chili Vinaigrette
(I doubled this for when we had company for dinner and made it the day before–if the olive oil solidifies, just let it sit out and warm up a little while before you need to use it. This is a modified version of Deborah Madison’s lime and fresh mint vinaigrette recipe from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone)

  • 1 tsp grated/minced lime zest
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 5 to 6 tbsp olive oil (I wouldn’t use anything heavier than that; if you want less flavor, use light olive oil or sunflower oil)
  • 2 green onions, including an inch of the greens, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
  • 1/2 of a Serrano chili, sliced into thin rounds, including seeds (you want it hot! Also, don’t hesitate to add more if you want it zingier)

Combine the lime zest and the juice with the salt, then whisk in the oil. Stir in the onions, mint, and chili.

Challison Salad

  • Greens (we used spinach and romaine; arugula would be perfect but we couldn’t find it readily)
  • 1 medium peach, diced (or more, depending on how much salad you’re making)
  • Handful of blueberries (try to be even about the peach to blueberry ratio)
  • Lime-mint-chili vinaigrette to taste
  • 1/4 to a 1/3 o f a cup sliced almonds
  • Crumbled fresh goat cheese to taste

Chop or tear the desired amount of greens to serve everybody. Dice the peach(es) and add to the salad, along with the blueberries. Pour lime-mint-chili vinaigrette over salad and toss in order to coat everything. Add almonds and goat cheese, then serve.

Simple sweet French toast

I’ve got some ideas for other spice combos, but here’s what I made for brunch for my parents today since we all had the day off.

Basic sweet-but-not-too-sweet French toast

  • Bread of your choice (I had French bread that I purposely let get a little stale–makes for chewier, less soggy toast)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk (dairy, non-dairy, whatever)
  • 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (you  may  need a little more)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Butter/oil for your cooking pan
  1. Throw all your ingredients that are not bread in a decent-sized bowl (one that’s big enough to let your bread slices lay flat and soak). Whisk them together.
  2. Melt your butter over medium heat (on a stove scale of 10, I was at about 6.5), until it starts to bubble.
  3. Soak your bread slices to desired level of batter saturation and toss them in the pan, cooking both sides until they are lightly browned. Since the cinnamon will not dissolve in the batter, you may need to add a little bit more periodically since it will mostly cling to the first slice of bread you soak after adding it.
  4. Serve however you like–with jam, honey, maple syrup, powdered sugar, the sky’s the limit. I sliced fresh strawberries over mine, dusted them with a little bit of extra cinnamon, and drizzled a little bit of maple syrup on top.

Change up the flavor profile of these however you want–don’t want them to be sweet on their own at all? Leave out the sugar and vanilla, and consider serving with fresh fruit or just jam. Go the complete opposite direction and make them savory–add a little bit of salt, black pepper, paprika, and cumin to your batter and cook. WHATEVER YOU WANT, BRO.

Ugly and delicious scrambled eggs

The title says it all–these guys turn out a crazy color combo, but they taste amazing (and would be perfect for egg sandwiches). I just sent this recipe to a friend, so I thought I should probably share with the rest of the class. This is verbatim, so forgive me (or totally love me) for playing it fast and loose with formatting, POV, tense, profanity, blah blah blah.


Awesome (and Ugly) Scrambled Eggs with Veggies

  • 2 – 3 eggs
  • Clove(s) of garlic (I use one for 2 eggs, 1 + a small one for 3), minced
  • Ground cumin
  • Turmeric
  • Red chili powder
  • Kosher/sea salt (tastes better in my opinion)
  • Half of a small red/orange bell pepper, diced
  • Generous handful of chopped spinach (adult spinach, not that baby spinach shit. GROWN-ASS SPINACH)
  • Oil/butter/vegan butter/whatever
  1. Put a somewhat generous amount of oil/butter/vegan butter in your pan (I use vegan butter, not because I am vegan but because it is tasty and I like buttery eggs) and turn your stove to med-high. Melt and swirl until the bottom of your pan is coated. Throw in your minced garlic and sautee for about 30-45 seconds, until fragrant.
  2. This next part is specific to me, it’s just how I scramble eggs. I don’t like to add salt/seasonings into my eggs after cracking them into a bowl and beating them because the salt can dry the eggs out at that point. You can do this however you like, but here’s how I do it: turn the heat down to medium and take your pan off the burner. Crack your eggs into the pan, and season as desired–I add a very, very light amount of salt, and then generous amounts of cumin, turmeric, and chili powder. Using a spatula or your utensil of choice, break the egg yolks and stir everything around in the pan. Put the pan back on the heat.
  3. Cook the eggs until they’re starting to solidify at the edges of the pan. Cut ’em up with your spatula and flip ’em around, you don’t need to be precise. They’ll still be gooey. Add your bell pepper and mix everything around.
  4. Wait until the eggs are almost entirely set before adding the spinach so as not to overcook it. Cook the eggs the remainder of the way, as long as you like–still slightly moist or scrambled hard, until they’ve got some brown spots and are more dry.
  5. Throw ’em on a plate and eat ’em!

Cucumber & Egg Sandwich

Made this up tonight post-workout and trying to use some of the leftover cucumber from vegetable trays people brought over last weekend. I am a firm believer in the usage of hummus on sandwiches; I think particularly in veggie sandwiches, it helps bring everything together–it’s versatile and can be seasoned all kinds of ways, and is way better for you than something like mayo (I hate most condiments).

Stupidly Easy Cucumber & Egg Sandwich

  • As much sliced cucumber as you freaking want, whatever
  • As much hummus as you want, man (I used jalapeño hummus, but other kinds would work too–I just found this spicy and light)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 slices of bread, unless you plan on making a halfwich, which would be very difficult with the given ingredients
  • Paprika to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • Little bit of butter or oil
  1. Spread as much hummus as desired on one or both slices of bread (I just do one). Slap as many slices of cucumber on your sandwich as you feel like.
  2. Break the egg into a small bowl. Add some  paprika and fresh ground black pepper and beat the egg lightly, mixing everything together.
  3. Heat a pan on medium with a little bit of butter (or oil; I just like the way slightly buttery eggs taste). Gently pour your egg into the pan and sprinkle some salt on it. When it’s solid enough to get a spatula under the side, flip or fold the egg however you need to in order for it to fit on your sandwich well. Scramble that sucker as little or much as you like it, then scoop it up and put it on your sandwich. Fin.

Oh yes well

For those of you who don’t know:

  1. Sorry, no nanonovels this week. I’m revising stories (gasp!) for writing samples for grad school applications (double gasp!). Oh yeah, I’m applying to grad school or something.
  2. Didn’t see anything on Twitter already about surprise not-vegetarian foods (I probably just didn’t look hard enough). #Vegwarning seemed too long and potentially confusing, so I opted for #notveg. If you notice anything that surprisingly isn’t  vegetarian (like some miso soup, much to my chagrin), take my hashtag for a whirl.
  3. Going to Boston on Saturday. Expect some posts about it. Other things to expect in the near future: photopost and recipes for successful seitan tikka masala, and a discussion about writing in a digital age.

Well, now I have to go enjoy the unseasonable warmth.

Dinner for hungry people

As I usually say, lots of things have been happening, which explains my long-term absence. I hope this will assuage the concerns of those who began to wonder if I fell off the face of the planet.

I’ll post more about this week probably tomorrow, but in the meantime, I’d like to share a recent cooking success (tonight, in fact!) from the fabulous Veganomicon.

Smoky Grilled Tempeh

  • 1 (8-ounce) package tempeh (I used flax tempeh)
  • 3/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons liquid smoke
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed

“Bring a medium-size pot of water to boil. Whisk all marinade ingredients together in a bowl large enough to fit the tempeh slices. Cut the tempeh in half, widthwise, then cut each of the resulting squares diagonally to form four large triangles. When the water is boiling, lower the heat to a simmer, add the tempeh triangles, and cook for 10 minutes.

Use tongs to immediately place the tempeh in the marinade bowl. Let marinate for 1 hour, flipping the tempeh every now and again to cover with the marinade.” (From Veganomicon)

If you have a grill pan, definitely try that, but I only have regular pans here, so I opted to panfry these bad boys in a little bit of olive oil. Put about a tablespoon of whatever oil you want to use in a pan over medium heat, slap those tempeh triangles in there and spoon some of the marinade over them each time you flip them (which should be relatively frequently over a span of about ten minutes). I ate them with stir-fried bell peppers and tomatoes and some leftover amaranth–deeeelicious.

Chickpea extravaganza

As promised, here are my two customized recipes of the previous weekend.

Pasta with garlic and oil (pasta aglio e olio)

Note: Another Bittman recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, I simply added to it. The cooking directions are again straight from Bittman’s cookbook. Super easy, fast, and it turned out to be a party fav.

  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp (at the very least, in my opinion) minced garlic
  • 1 or 2 dried chiles, or to taste (I used 2 ancho chiles, and it was nowhere near what I wanted–I don’t know that you could even detect the flavor at all. If you want spicy, get hot ones; if you want flavorful, perhaps try more ancho chiles and cook them in the oil before adding the garlic and everything else)
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, or more as needed (use a teeny bit more; also, since you’re dressing the pasta with just this, get an enjoyable, flavorful olive oil, not any cheap old thing off the shelf)
  • 1 pound penne pasta (which I chose since I was adding chickpeas)
  • 1 15-ounce can of chickpeas/garbanzo beans
  • At least 1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley
  • Grated Parmesan to taste (NOT SHAKEABLE KRAFT, FOR GOD’S SAKE)
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Put the garlic, chiles, oil, peppers, chickpeas, and a pinch of salt in a small skillet our saucepan and turn the heat to medium-low. Let the garlic sizzle a big, shaking the pan occasionally, just until it puffs and turns golden, then turn off the heat if the pasta isn’t ready. (I started cooking the pasta first so that it would be done before the oil and garlic mixture and have some time to drain and cool a little before I dressed it with the oil).
  2. Cook the pasta until tender but not mushy. Drain it, reserving a bit of the cooking water. Reheat the garlic and oil mixture briefly if necessary. Dress the pasta with the sauce, adding a little more oil or some of the cooking water if it deems dry; toss with the parsley and parmesan.

Chana masala burgers

Note: Chana masala is one of my favorite Indian dishes, and I love the promise of fusion food. I was already planning on making this bean burger recipe with chickpeas, so I thought, why not tweak it to compliment my love of Indian flavors? This is the simplest, cheater’s way to do it (after all, I should use a good chana masala recipe and make my own spice blend), but they tasted great and they are incredibly fast to prepare (I had less than an hour before I needed to leave to go to the party I was serving them at). Also a party fav. Please also note that this recipe is a variation on Mark Bittman’s recipe “The Simplest Bean Burgers” in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, and uses Bittman’s cooking directions almost verbatim. This yielded me six nicely-sized patties, but could easily have made seven or eight bitty burgers or “sliders,” as they’re sometimes called.

  • 1 15-ounce can of chickpeas/garbanzo beans, drained (I tend to prefer Eden; their cans are not lined with BPA)
  • 1 medium onion, quartered
  • 1/2 rolled oats, not instant oats
  • At least 1 tbsp of chana masala seasoning blend, or more to taste (Frankly, I added only 1 tbsp because I didn’t want to overwhelm anyone, and in my opinion, it could have for sure used a little more)
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup tofu (I substituted this in for the egg that the recipe called for)
  • Liquid if necessary (to keep the mixture from being dry. You probably won’t need it, but I did use just a tiny bit of milk)
  • Oil for cooking (I used grapeseed, since it’s flavorless)
  1. Combine the beans, onion, oats, chana masala seasoning, salt, pepper, and tofu in a food processor and pulse until chunky but not pureed, adding a little liquid if necessary (this is unlikely but not impossible) to produce a moist but not wet mixture. Let the mixture rest for a few minutes if time allows.
  2. With wet hands, shape into whatever size patties you want and again let rest for a few minutes if time allows. (You can make the burger mixture or even shape the burgers up to a day or so in advance. Just cover tightly and refrigerate, then bring everything back to room temperature before cooking.) Film the bottom of a large nonstick or well-seasoned cast-iron skillet with oil and turn the heat to medium. A minute later, add the patties. Cook until nicely browned on one side, about 5 minutes; turn carefully and cook on the other side until firm and browned (I should have cooked them a few minutes longer on both sides, in my opinion–they tasted great but were very soft and I had a hard time keeping them intact as I took them out of the pan).
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