Empa-Roses

These delicious morsels will be the star of your next party!

One night, I had some friends over for a small house party, and I had EVERY intention of making vegetarian empanadas for the occasion! I had my yummy filling made and had my dough prepared. I was ready to create some magic! Well, have you ever had something completely planned out, to then find out that that said plan did NOT go your way? Yep-that’s what happened to me.

Deliciously savory empa-rose filling!
I began filling each piece of dough with the filling, and found that the dough could not fold in the shape of an empanada. In fact, the dough was beginning to crumble apart! I allowed myself to freak out for two seconds. Then, being the creative out-of-the-box person I am, I was determined to figure out how to stuff my empanadas in a way without having them crumble. After a couple minutes, I looked at the filling and my dough, and thought to myself: ‘What if I folded the filling into the dough by rolling it into a pinwheel shape?‘ And you know what? It worked out beautifully! I took the filling, and gently wrapped the dough around the filling mixture, and found that the pastry resembled a rose. That’s how I deemed these babies as empa-roses! Not only did my beautiful savory pastry roses look pretty (after making them the second time), but they were incredibly delicious. These babies were also a huge hit with my guests!

Empa-roses are a GREAT & versatile dish to make: You can make them for your next party, or for your next Tuesday night supper. The options are really endless!

Some advice:

·         Be gentle when rolling the roses, as your dough may fall apart if you over-stuff.

·         I highly recommend not scooping more than two tablespoons TOPS (one heaping tablespoon per pastry should really do!)

·         Muffin or cupcake tins will be your best friend.

·         You DON’T have to use crescent roll dough-you can sub that for any other type of dough.

·         The filling can really be whatever you’d like! These can even serve as a sweet dessert!


Here’s my recipe!

Empa-roses
Ingredients
·         One 8oz. can crescent roll dough
·         1 medium bell pepper
·         1 cup fresh spinach
·         1 small onion
·         8 oz. packet baby portabella mushrooms
·         3 cloves garlic, minced
·         2 tbsp. tomato paste
·         2 tbsp. cumin or 2 tbsp. of favorite taco seasoning
·         2 tbsp. cooking oil
·         ¼ tsp. salt
·         1 egg or 1-2 tbsp. melted coconut oil (if vegan)
Directions
1.       Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. While oven is preheating, gently open the crescent roll dough can and separate the crescent roll dough pieces into the pre-cut triangles, and lay them out on parchment paper, or on a lightly floured surface. Set aside.

2.       Dice the onion, bell pepper, and portabella mushrooms into cubes roughly about the size of an inch. Set aside.

3.       In a skillet, heat to medium high, and place cooking oil to let warm up for about 20-30 seconds. Gradually add the garlic, onion, bell pepper, and mushroom. Cover and let the veggie mixture sauté for about 7-10 minutes, or until the veggies lightly caramelize. Make sure to keep an eye on the veggies and stir frequently (about every two minutes).

4.       During the last two minutes of the veggies sautéing, add the spinach mixture and immediately cover and let it sit, until the spinach begins to wilt. Gradually stir in the spinach with the rest of veggie mixture.

5.       After the veggies have been mixed, gradually add in the tomato paste and cumin/taco seasoning and salt, until everything is well combined. Remove the mixture from heat and let it cool off for about 5 minutes, or until it is warm to the touch.

6.       Assembling the Empa-roses!
a.       Place about one tablespoon of filling into the center of each crescent roll triangle (it’s the fattest part of the triangle).
step a
b.      Gently use the bottom portion of the triangle to fold over the mixture.
step b
c.       Fold the right corner over the mixture.
step c
d.      Once both the bottom and right triangle corner of the dough has been folded over the filling, gently take the longest corner and fold it over the dough, and wrap the dough around until the shape resembled something like a rose (or pinwheel/ roll).
step d
step d

e.      Delicately place each rose into an ungreased muffin tin hole. Repeat steps a-e for each empa-rose.
step e
f.        (Vegetarian step-if vegan, go to step g)Take your egg scramble into a bowl. Then brush that mixture over each of the empa-rose.
g.       (Vegan step) Take your melted coconut oil and brush it over each rose.
h.      Place your roses in the center rack of your oven and bake the pastries for about 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown.
7.       Enjoy! 🙂

Makes 4 servings (2 empa-roses each)

Nutritional Information per serving:
300 calories/ 10.4 grams protein/ 12.5 grams fat/ 38.6 grams carbohydrates/ 3.5 grams of fiber


Pasta Primavera-ish!

 A dish that’s so rich and creamy, that you’ll feel like you were in Italy (maybe?!?!)

A couple weekends ago, my fiancé and I wanted to go on a little getaway to this adorable Florida town called Mount Dora. First of all, if you currently live in Florida and have never visited that little town, GO!! Second of all, if you’re planning your next vacation to Florida, consider adding Mount Dora to your list of places to visit. Why? Well, for such a small town with a population of under 14 thousand residents, there is SO much to do!! Here’s some stuff that comes to mind:
·         There’s so much beautiful nature, the area is part of the Harris Chain of Lakes (leading up to Jacksonville!)
·         A lot of great art (including a Modern Art museum with a HUGE collection of David Bowie’s furniture)
·         A serious commitment to small business vitality
·         Over 20 eateries within their downtown area, alone!
It’s just a place that you’ve got to experience, for yourself.
One of the coolest things that we did that weekend was an afternoon food tour, led by John and Paula, the owners and founders of the Taste of Our Town Mount Dora Food tour. During that tour, you learn about Mount Dora’s history, and also get to learn about the town’s diverse culinary landscape. In that DELICIOUS tour, we explored six different eateries, and left with a realm of knowledge and appreciation for Mount Dora’s heritage and gastronomy.
A fun group pic of  the coolest husband and wife: John (left), Paula (second from left), me, and my fience Jeremy! (right)
Out of all the places that we went to on the tour, we hit up this eatery called Olive Branch Mediterranean Bar & Grille. I indulged the heaping sample portion of the Pasta Primavera dish that was served to me. The dish was rich, creamy and felt so incredibly comforting to eat. I was in Heaven, for sure. That dish was so memorable, that I was determined to try recreating it, myself. Since their version was dairy-based, I accepted the challenge of veganizing it and utilizing available ingredients around my kitchen…and boy. Was the dish AMAZING!!!! I really felt like I had made a beautiful replica of the dish, and could NOT stop licking all of the sauce off my spoon, and bowl. It was that delicious. I present you with this delicious, creamy & easy to make sauce!
[pic of the life-changing pasta primavera]
LET ME SHOW YOU HOW I CREATED THIS DELICIOUS REPLICA…keep on reading to learn how I made my Pasta Primavera-ish!!
Ingredients:
8 oz Angel Hair pasta
1 cup thawed frozen peas
2 cups raw spinach
½ cup cashews (raw OR roasted are equally fine!)
1 ½ cup vegetable broth
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp nutritional yeast (nooch)
½ tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
½ cup unsweetened pain almond milk
1 tsp miso paste (or ¼ tsp salt)
Directions:
1.       Pasta prep-In large pots, fill about ¾ full with water, and add some salt. Set on medium high to begin boiling. Once boiling, add angel hair pasta, and let it boil for about 6-7 minutes, or until al-dente.
2.       While the pasta is cooking, boil cashews in vegetable broth for 20 minutes in a spate sauce pan (a small sauce pan should do!)  
3.       Add boiled cashews AND broth to blender.
4.       Add the remaining ingredients to blender: tomato paste, nooch, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, unsweetened plain almond milk & miso paste (or salt). Blend on high for about 2 minutes or until the consistency is rich & creamy!
5.       Add the sauce to the drained angel hair pasta, and gradually stir in the peas and the spinach. Let the mixture sit covered for about 3 minutes, until the peas have warmed up.
6.       Enjoy!
Makes 4 servings
Nutritional Information (per serving):
333 Calories/ 9.7g protein/ 18 grams fat/ 37 grams of carbs/6.5 grams fiber


Vegan Gyro

A dish so tasty and familiar, you’ll be comin’ back for more! 🙂

I really love street food-especially tasty, and sometimes greasy junk food. One of my favorite go-to meals has been the classic Greek Gyro sandwich: The flavors of the rich juicy meat, feta and tzatziki sauce sandwiched between warm pita always made me smile!! But since going plant-based, gyro sandwiches have pretty much been out of the question for me (Ok, well there IS a delicious place called Vegan International Kitchen Co. & Market that makes a bomb vegan Gyro, but they’re a 30 mile trip, and most days, that’s way too far of a drive for me 
🙁 ).

That was, until this week!

I was having some serious Gyro Sammy cravings, but wanted to find a creative way to make them vegan and healthy (While still being very delicious!). And I think I came up with the perfect dish. My Gyro ‘meat’ is made with deliciously meaty Oyster mushrooms, and the tzatziki sauce is made with a dairy-free almond yogurt base. And you know what?? The sandwich turned out to be super quick, easy and DELICIOUS!! This will definitely be a go-to dish.

Here’s the recipe!

Ingredients:

Gyro ‘Meat’
·         8 ounces of fresh Oyster Mushrooms
·         3 cloves finely minced garlic
·         1 tbs. Greek seasoning (I used the Cavender’s All-purpose Greek Seasoning brand)
·         2 tbs. balsamic vinegar
·         ½ tsp. garlic powder
·         2 tbs. vegetable oil
·         ½ small red onion, sliced

Tzatziki Sauce
·         4 ounces of unsweetened almond yogurt (or any other unsweetened dairy-free yogurt of choice!)
·         2 tsp.  finely chopped cucumber
·         1 tsp chopped fresh dill
·         2-3 cloves finely minced garlic 
      1 tsp. lemon juice
      1/4 tsp salt
·        
Additional Ingredients:
·         2 slices pita bread
·         1 small tomato, sliced
·         ½ cucumber, sliced
·         ½ red onion, sliced
·         ½ cup fresh spinach

Directions:
Gyro meat:
1.       Take the oyster mushrooms, and on a cutting board, gently pull apart and shred each mushroom stalk with a fork, until the pieces resemble shredded chicken.
2.       In a large skillet, turn on heat to medium high and drizzle vegetable oil, and let it heat for a few seconds. Gradually add in the sliced red onion and let the onion sauté for about a minute, until it becomes fragrant. Gradually add in the shredded mushroom, the garlic and all of the seasonings, and vinaigrette. Stir frequently and let the ‘meat’ mixture continue sautéing on medium-high for about 7 minutes, until the mushroom mixture begins to lightly caramelize, and most of the water evaporates. Set aside.

Tzatziki sauce:
1.       In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt and all of the seasonings. Mix until everything looks well combined.

Assembling sandwich:
1.       (Optional, but highly suggested), lightly warm up pita bread, until it is warm and soft. Add half of Gyro meat mixture into pita, and layer it with the tzatziki sauce. Add the sliced cucumber, tomato, red, onion, and spinach, and enjoy! 😀
WARNING: This sandwich is QUITE messy, so beware!!

Makes two servings.

Nutritional Information (per serving):
364 Calories/ 11g protein/ 16 grams fat/ 47 grams of carbs/8 grams fiber


Spinach-Basil Pesto

 

I will show you how to make my favorite kind of pesto-with a lovely twist!
 


Last time, I showed you how I make my Creamy Bell Pepper & Carrot Pesto. This time, I’m going to show you how to make more of a traditional pesto-but with a nice little vegan touch.
 
Before I delve into my yummy recipe, let’s first address a major question: What exactly is pesto? Pesto, or, more formally pesto alla genovese, is a sauce that originates from Genoa, the capital city of Liguria, Italy. Some historians believe that the recipe dates back to the Roman Era, but became a more refined staple around the mid-1800s. The traditional pesto sauce consists of fresh basil leaves, crushed garlic, pine nuts, coarse salt, olive oil, and a hard cheese such as Parmigiano-Reggiano (think of your classic non-grated Parmesan cheese). The following ingredients are traditionally blended together by finely hand chopping or hand-crushing them down with the utilization a mortar and pestle (pictured below).
 
Photo courtesy: Artur Rutowski
My recipe has a few exceptions which deviate from a traditional pesto alla genovese. First, this recipe is completely dairy-free and therefore vegan. But don’t worry about missing out on the cheesy bite. Nutritional yeast and lemon juice serve as the perfect substitute for the traditional hard cheese required. As you can see by the recipe title, this recipe also incorporates the utilization of fresh spinach. I understand that not everyone has access to fresh basil leaves, be it because of availability, cost, or a combination of the two factors. The spinach, while light in flavor, serves as a perfectly viable alternative if you have zero access to fresh basil. Finally, this recipe has a 21st century instantaneous twist by relying on a food processor (but if you DO have a mortar and pestle-the traditional mixing tool, it works perfectly, as well! It will just take a tad bit more time and elbow grease to prepare  🙂 ). Nevertheless, this remixed version of the traditional pesto recipe is super simple to prepare. Most of all, the flavor is absolutely delicious! Just like my bell pepper-carrot pesto, this yummy sauce goes wonderfully with pasta or over a baguette, risotto or any other vessel you like to serve your pesto with.
 
Do you want to know how I make my version of pesto? Keep on scrolling!   
 
Spinach Basil Pesto
 
Ingredients:
·         2 packed cups of fresh spinach leaves
·         2 packed cups of fresh basil leaves*
·         3 cloves of garlic
·         ¼ cup of nutritional yeast
·         2 tbsp. lemon juice
·         1 tsp. salt (coarse or kosher is preferred)
·         ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (evoo)
·         ¼ cup of pine nuts or roasted sunflower seeds
 
Directions:
 
1.  In a small skillet, set it on medium high and allow it to preheat for a couple seconds. Take your pine nuts and place them into the skillet and allow them to toast up for about 2-3 minutes until they form a light golden brown around the edges. Stir the nuts frequently in the process. Once the nuts area toasted, remove from heat and set aside. You can skip the toasting step if you are utilizing pre-roasted sunflower seeds. Simply set those to the side.
 
2.   Take each garlic clove place each clove on the cutting board. Gently place your knife over the garlic clove with the blade resting parallel to the garlic clove (away from you), ball your fist, and smash the knife. Doing so breaks each clove down, while also cracking open the skin. Repeat until all the cloves have been mashed and skin completely unpeeled. Then, coarsely chop each of the cloves until the pieces are roughly about the size of small grains of rice. Set aside.
 
3.  Blending method 1-Food processor: Take all of your ingredients and add them all into a food processor. Let the mixture pulse for about 2 seconds each time and repeat about 6 times-1 minute until the pesto has a smooth consistency, but still chunky enough to the point where you can see pieces of the spinach and garlic. Stir the mixture in between each pulse.  (do not exceed pulsing over 2 minutes).
 
4. Blending method 2-Mortar and pestle: First, grind your garlic and salt down with the mortar and pestle for about 30 seconds-1 minute, or until it turns into a chunky mash. Then gradually add in your toasted pine nuts or sunflower seeds and mash it down until the garlic/nut mixture forms a paste. Afterwards, gradually add in the basil and spinach, handful by handful and grind that into the mixture until the leaves are very tiny. Gradually, add in the rest of your ingredients, with the olive oil as the last ingredient to add in, and keep mixing everything for a few minutes (3-6), and continue mashing until the pesto has a smooth consistency, but still chunky enough to the point where you can see pieces of the spinach/basil and garlic.
 
5.     Enjoy over your favorite edible vessel! 🙂
 
* Note: If you are unable to access fresh basil leaves, substitute the 2 cups of fresh basil for 2 cups of fresh spinach leaves.
 
Makes approximately 1 cup of delicious pesto (8 ounces)-6 servings
 
Nutritional Information (per serving):
 
156 Calories/ 6.2g protein/ 12.5 grams fat/6.9 grams of carbs/3 grams fiber / 4 WW smart points (green plan)
 
198% DV Folate, DFE/ 264% DV Vitamin B-1 (Thiamin)/ 202% DV Vitamin B-2 (Riboflavin) 115% DV Vitamin B-3 (Niacin)/ 300% DV Vitamin A/ 373% DV Vitamin K/ 17% DV Vitamin C

 


Ginger Teriyaki Lettuce Wraps


This recipe is incredibly simple, yet delicious. I posted the veggies that I used from the Temple Terrace Farmers Market. Whenever possible, support your local economy!


Earlier today, I had the privilege of facilitating my first cooking demo, EVER! This took place at the Temple Terrace Market’s EBT booth. They have this awesome initiative where EBT (food stamp) recipients are incentivized to purchase double the value of the local produce offered at the market. It was truly a blessing to fuse my passion for cooking a dish with LOCAL ingredients for our beloved community to enjoy.



One of the objectives of today’s experience was to create a recipe utilizing the ingredients available at the market. With that being said, after putting my thinking caps on, I thought it would be a fun idea to take the provided veggies and give it an Asian-inspired twist by turning it into a delicious stir-fry. Because lettuce was also a provision, it gave me the idea of turning the stir fry into delicious wraps. I must say that today’s cooking demo was very well-received!!! Want to learn how I made today’s dish? Keep on readin’!

Ginger Teriyaki Lettuce Wraps
Ingredients:

Stir Fry Veggies
·         1.5 cups fresh kale, coarsely chopped  
·         2.5 cups coarsely-chopped fresh broccoli
·         4 cloves garlic
·         1 onion
·         ½ small red cabbage  
·         1 tbsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
·          1 Head of romaine or butter lettuce
·         2 tbsp. cooking oil (grape seed, coconut or avocado)

For the Marinade:
·         3 tbsp. low sodium soy sauce or coconut aminos
·         3 tbsp brown sugar   
·         1 tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger
·         2 tbsp chili paste

Directions:
1. Combine all the ingredients for the marinade in a medium-sized bowl and whisk until everything looks well-combined. Set aside.
2. Coarsely chop the onion until each piece is about ½” in size, and then add them to a covered medium-sized bowl. Afterwards, finely mince the garlic cloves and ginger until they are very fine pieces, less than the size of corn kernels, but no smaller than the size of a grain of uncooked rice. Add to onion mixture, and then set aside.
3. Take your broccoli and kale and coarsely chop each veggie until each piece is roughly 1” in size. Set aside.
4. If you are using romaine lettuce, cut off the base of the lettuce, then cut the lettuce bunch in half at the width (not length). If you are using another lettuce, like butter lettuce, cut the base, and gently open each leaf. Place the lettuce leaves in a large bowl or plate and set aside. Afterwards, take the cabbage half and chop into fine slices that are no more than a centimeter in width. Place cabbage into a bowl and set aside.
5. Take a wok or large skillet and add the cooking oil and let it heat up on medium-high for about 45 seconds. To test heat, add one piece of onion. If you see that it starts to bubble around the edge, it’s time to add in the onion/garlic/ginger mixture. Sautee in the wok for about two minutes, until the mixture becomes fragrant and becomes slightly more translucent.
6. Gradually add and sir in the chopped broccoli and kale mixture. Cover the mixture and let it steam for about 3 minutes, or until the kale turns a vibrant green. Lift the lid off and stir several times for about a minute, and gradually add in marinade by gently stirring it around. Let the veggies cook covered for about 3 minutes.
7. After the three minutes, lift the cover, and slightly adjust the temperature and let the stir fry mixture continue cooking for about 3 minutes uncovered, until most of the liquid evaporates and slightly thickens. Turn off the stove and remove the skillet from the heat and allow to cool down for about a minute or so.
8. Take your lettuce leaf and with a medium spoon, take some of the stir-fry mixture and spoon it over the lettuce. Take a small handful (about a teaspoon) of chopped red cabbage and top over the stir-fry teriyaki and roll the lettuce wrap, until it resembles a small taco. Eat up, and enjoy!
9. Optional, serve with a side of rice. Enjoy!! 🙂

4 Servings

Nutritional information per serving (without rice):
149 calories/ 4.6g protein/7.8g fat/18.5g carbs/ 4.9g fiber


Creamy Bell Pepper & Carrot Pesto

I will show you how to make my favorite kind of pesto-with a lovely vegan twist!


I LOOOVE pesto…it’s GOT to be one of my favorite type of sauces, hands down. This recipe was really inspired as a result of preventing food waste. About a week ago, I had some bell peppers slowly beginning to wilt in the back of my fridge. I had been trying to figure out how to utilize them, and BAM! I came up with an idea: How about I try ‘sun drying’ the peppers, similarly to how you would with tomatoes? My thought process then evolved into seeing if it was remotely possible to make a pepper pesto. My thought was Why not?

Let me tell you, this pepper pesto has turned into my crack. Slow roasting the peppers brings out the natural sweetness in the peppers. Team that with the creaminess of roasted carrot and garlic, and your taste buds are in Heaven.  The dairy substitution of nutritional yeast and Miso paste gave this a wonderful, rich and savory sense of umami. I actually find this pesto to have an almost cheesy quality to it (something that I was not intending to aim for!). It goes wonderfully with pasta or over a baguette, risotto or any other vessel you like to serve your pesto with! 

In lieu of the sun, I utilized my trusty oven for these peppers. As you’ll see, I let these babies roast for a while. Don’t let the 8 hour oven time intimidate you-these peppers can either be slow-roasted overnight or while you’re at work. This sauce does take some time to prepare from start to finish…but I PROMISE you that it will be worth the wait!


Let me show you how I made this!

Creamy Bell Pepper & Carrot Pesto

Ingredients:
·         5 large colorful bell peppers, or 8-10 miniature bell peppers
·         3 cloves of garlic
·         2 carrots
·         3 tbsp nutritional yeast
·         1 tbsp miso paste
·         2 tbsp lemon juice
·         4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (evoo)
·         ¼ cup of pine nuts or sunflower seeds
Directions:
1.       Roasted peppers-Preheat oven to 170 degrees Fahrenheit. Take each bell pepper and slice directly in half, lengthwise and remove the saps and seeds.  After slicing and de-seeding, take a large baking sheet and line with parchment paper. Place your pepper halves on the parchment paper and drizzle 1 tbsp of the evoo and massage over each of the pepper pieces until they are all oiled. Place baking tray in middle rack and allow the peppers to slow-roast for 7-8 hours, or until the peppers start to wrinkle. Be sure to check them after 7 hours to ensure that they do not burn!

2.       Roasted Carrots and garlic-Preheat oven to 400. Coarsely chop carrots until they are about 2 inches in size. Take your carrots and unpeeled garlic cloves, lightly drizzle with evoo and let them roast for about 20-25 minutes, until the carrots are fork tender. Afterwards, remove them from the oven and gently unpeel garlic clove. Should be relatively fork tender. If its not quite fork tender, leave the cloves in the oven for about 5-6 more minutes. Place your seeds in the oven to roast for the last 5 minutes.

3. Mixin it all-Take all of your roasted veggies and the remaining ingredients and add them all into a food processor. Let the mixture pulse nonstop for about 3 minutes, or until the mixture has the consistency of a smooth  hummus-like consistency.

4.       Enjoy over your favorite vessel of choice! 🙂

6 servings

Nutritional Information (per serving)
194 Calories/ 4.9g protein/ 13.6 grams fat/14.3 grams of carbs/4.4 grams fiber

Beet Burgers with Rhythm!

In this recipe, I’m going to show you how to make beet burgers that are so fly, that you’ll get a rhythm & beat to your feet!


I’m going to keep it real with you: I was not feeling well at all, this past week. My full-time job has been very mentally demanding, and life has been throwing all sorts of challenges my way. With that being said, my immune system crapped out on me, and hence, I developed a fever. Moral of this short story? When your body is not feeling well and feeling off, LISTEN to it. Your body is your temple, so you must be kind to your shrine. Give it rest when it needs it and be intentional about nourishing yourself with healthy whole foods.

Since my body was telling me to pause and listen, I had no choice but to obey. This meant trying to determine the type of meal to prepare for my recovery dinner. To provide as many nutrients as I could, I wanted be purposeful in feeding myself whole produce foods of various colors. With that in mind, I looked at the bunch of fresh beets quietly sitting in my fridge, waiting to get devoured.

Not only do beets have a naturally beautiful velvet color, but they are also a nutritional powerhouse. These low calorie gems are rich in vitamin C, Folate, Vitamin B6, Magnesium, Potassium, Phosphorous, Magnesium and Iron. Did I mention that you can even eat the leaves and stems?! With all these vitamins and minerals, my body was surely going to be closer to healing, than ever!

After trying to figure out how to incorporate the beets, an idea came to mind: What if I turned them into burgers?!? I had seen previous recipes attempt to do the same. I like veggie burgers, and I like beets. Why not give it a shot by marrying the two?



This recipe was inspired by Jenné Claiborne’s Sweet Potato Soul rendition. Mine, however, was remixed to my personal liking. Listen, before any of you make any gagging faces or click away from this link, I urge you not to! These burgers came out tender, filling, and absolutely delicious. Even my very picky fiancé loved these! It actually did not have a very overpowering earthiness that beets can unfortunately be infamous for. The essence of the beets was complimented beautifully with the rich flavor and texture of the black beans and cumin. The oatmeal was an excellent way to bind these patties together. Rather than pan frying the patties, I personally prefer baking mine, as veggie burgers can sometimes be known to crumble in the skillet.

GIVE BEETS A CHANCE.



Beet Burgers

Ingredients:
  • 1 large beet or 4 small beets, unpeeled
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 16oz can of black beans, drained (reserve ½ liquid from the can)
  • 1 cup oatmeal (uncooked), or 1 cup of rice, cooked (if gluten free)
  • ½ cup pumpkin seeds, diced
  • 1 tsp Fennel, crushed
  • 2 tsp Cumin
  • 1 tsp Parsley
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp black Pepper
  • 3 Garlic cloves
  • 1 ½ tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 2 tbs apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • 2 tbs sriracha (optional)

Recommended Kitchen Appliances:
  • 1 food processor
  • 1 cutting board
  • 1 sharp chopping knife
  • 1 large baking sheet & mixing spoon
  • 1 sheet of parchment paper
  • 1 large skillet & spatula
  • 1 vegetable/potato slicer

Directions:

1-Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, if you plan to bake your patties. (optional)

2-Take your beet(s), and slice the skin off over a cutting board, using your potato slicer. After slicing the beets, dice the beet(s) and the onion into small chunks, no bigger than about ½” in size. Set aside.

3-Take your carrots, cut the ends off and chop them onto course pieces (about 1”-2” in size). Then, take your very course pieces and place them in the food processor. Pulse the carrots and hold for about two seconds. Repeat the pulsing process until your carrot pieces should be roughly about the size of corn kernels (about 2-4 times total). Add the carrot to the beet and onion mixture and set aside.

4-Take each garlic clove place each clove on the cutting board. Gently place your knife over the garlic clove with the blade resting parallel to the garlic clove (away from you), ball your fist, and smash the knife. Doing so breaks each clove down, while also cracking open the skin. Repeat until all the cloves have been mashed and skin completely unpeeled. Chop the garlic into fine pieces and then set the garlic aside.

5-Take your skillet, drizzle the cooking oil, and let it warm up on medium. You can test to see that the oil is hot enough by placing a small beet chunk inside. If you see small bubbles on the side, then oil is hot enough. It should take no more than 45seconds-a minute to heat up. Once it is warm enough, add your minced garlic and let it sauté for about a minute until the garlic is translucent. Gradually add in the beat/carrot/onion mixture and cover, and allow to cook down for 15 minutes, or until the beet pieces become fork tender. Be sure to stir veggie mixture several times throughout this process.

6-After the veggies finish cooking, allow them to cool down for one minute, and then gradually add in the black beans and the reserved canned liquid. Gradually stir in the oatmeal, pumpkin seeds, and the rest of the ingredients and spices.

7-Take your entire mixture and place in the food processor. Pulse the mixture and hold down for two seconds. Repeat this process about 5-6 times, or until the consistency of each pulsed piece is roughly the size of a grain of rice. If your food processor is too small to add in the entire batch at once, separate it into thirds, and then combine everything into a large bowl and gently mix until everything looks to be uniform.

8-Take some of fresh cooking oil and massage it around your hands. Divide the batter into six equal parts and with your greasy hands, gently form each section into a patty that will roughly be about 3”-4” in diameter. You can then cook the beet burger patties one of two ways:

8a-Skillet: Heat your skillet on medium high and lightly oil. Once it’s warm enough place your patties on the skillet and let each side cook for about 3 minutes. After the three minutes, gently flip over with your spatula and allow them to cook for 3 additional minutes, until they have lightly browned. Depending on the size of your skillet, I do not recommend cooking more than three patties at a time. Unless you have a very large skillet, I’d recommend just cooking two at a time.

8b-Oven: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and gently place each patty on the baking sheet. Let these babies bake in the oven for about 35 minutes, and flip halfway.

9-Enjoy these babies with your sandwich vessel of choice. I highly recommend topping these with avocado and a nice side of baked sweet potato fries. 🙂

6 servings

Nutritional Information per serving:

181 calories/ 5.9 grams protein/ 10.5 grams fat/ 19 grams carbohydrates/ 5 grams of fiber

Did you make this recipe? What did you think?!? Comment below!


Girls Night Out-With a ‘Rican Twist! (Vegan Jibaritos)

Photo Courtesy Victoria Saunders

One of my amazing girlfriends’s recently had me over for a ‘girl’s night in’, a couple Friday nights ago. It was one of the best times that I have had in a while. There was so much laughing, joking, dancing, and eating. More than that, we shared a beautiful moment of bonding. With the hustle and bustle of life, it can be really hard to for me to see my friends on a regular basis. So that particular night was really a sacred time and space for us ladies to let our hair loose, and have a good time!

Photo Courtesy Victoria Saunders

One of the highlights of our girl’s night in was getting to eat some damn good homemade Puerto Rican ‘street’ food. I wanted to show my friends how to make a classic Puerto Rican dish, called Jibaritos. Jibaritos (Hee-ba-ree-toes) is a Puerto Rican-style sandwich that uses tostones (fried green plantains) as the bread. Typical Jibaritos are simple, and traditionally contain skirt or flank steak, grilled onion, lettuce, tomato, and a ketchup-mayonnaise sauce (referred to known as ketcho-mayo).

Photo Courtesy Victoria Saunders

Since going plant-based, I showed my friends how to make these sandwiches with a healthy, vegan twist. Instead of steak, I used Lions Mane mushroom, and substituted ketcho-mayo with a garlic guacamole. To cut out on unnecessary fat and calories, I opted for baking my tostones, as opposed to frying them. And I must say that my remixed version of the Jibaritos sandwich was a delicious success!



You may be wondering what the heck Lions Mushrooms are. A good friend of mine who is launching a local gourmet mushroom farm gifted me with a couple pounds to try out for my recipes. When raw, they almost resemble miniature white fuzz balls (see photo below).

Fuzzy Lions Mane Mushrooms (left), green plantains (right). Photo Courtesy Victoria Saunders
When sliced and cooked, these fuzz balls have a resemblance akin to dark meat chicken, and emit a beautiful caramelized color and robust meaty flavor when cooked. Far from unpleasant, these delicious mushrooms make a great alternative for any recipe which calls for the use of sautéed chicken or pork (see pic, below).

Mouth-watering cooked Lions Mane mushrooms. Photo Courtesy Victoria Saunders
Lion’s Mane Mushrooms are not as common to find around, so if you don’t find any available nearby, you can always opt for fresh oyster mushrooms, which have a relatively similar flavor and will work just as well! If for SOME reason you cannot find oyster mushrooms, you can always use sliced portabella mushrooms. Just keep in mind that they won’t have the fibrous meaty-texture like the Lion’s Mane or oysters do. But the flavor will still be tasty!

Before I move onto the recipe, itself, I wanted to share a couple words of wisdom. Folks, no matter how busy your life schedule gets, please do yourselves a favor, and never forget to regularly carve time out to spend with your friends. Be intentional about cultivating the relationships you have with those around. Be purposeful in surrounding yourself with individuals who will uplift, inspire, challenge, motivate and accept you for YOU! We can either choose to allow the relationships around us lift us up, or tear us down. Make every moment and relationship count.

Photo courtesy Victoria Saunders
Photo Courtesy Victoria Saunders

Jibaritos Recipe

Ingredients:
  • Two large green plantains
  • Approximately 16 oz of fresh Lions Mane or Oyster mushrooms
  • Two ripe hass avocados
  • 3 large garlic cloves
  • 4 tbsp cooking oil (I used coconut oil)
  • 1 small red onion
  • 2 tsp adobo seasoning
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup of fresh spinach leaves
  • 1 sliced tomato (optional)
  • 2 tbsp ketchup (optional)
  • 2 tbsp veganaise (optional)
Recommended Kitchen appliances:
  • 1-8.5”x10” baking tray
  • 1 tostonera (plantain smasher), or a plate flat enough for smashing
  • 1 skillet (minimum 10” diameter)
  • 1 set of tongs
  • 1 medium bowl
  • 1 large fork or smasher
  • 1 sharp cutting knife (one you like to use for chopping produce)
  • Parchment Paper
  • 1 cutting board
 Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. While the oven is pre-heating, take each of the green plantains and with your knife, slice off both ends of each plantain, and gently slice open the peel, lengthwise on each side. The skin peel is about 1/8”- 1/4” deep, so at this point, be able to have sliced the peel open and can take each plantain out of their tough exterior skin (images below). 

Photo Courtesy WikiHow.com

2. Take each plantain and split them directly in half. Then, take each half and carefully slice down the middle, until you get two halves from each piece. Those will serve as the ‘bread’ for your sandwiches (image of slices, below).

Photo Courtesy Carribbeanpot.com
3. Take two tablespoons of the cooking oil and gently massage each of the plantain halves with the oil until they are well-coasted. Take your baking tray, and line it with a sheet of parchment paper. Once the plantains are coated, line them individually on the parchment paper and let them bake in the oven for 10 minutes.

4. While the plantains are baking, this serves as a good opportunity to begin preparing your onions, garlic, and mushrooms. Take each garlic clove place each clove on the cutting board. Gently place your knife over the garlic clove with the blade resting parallel to the garlic clove (away from you), ball your fist, and smash the knife. Doing so breaks each clove down, while also cracking open the skin. Repeat until all the cloves have been mashed and skin completely unpeeled. Set the garlic aside.

5. Take your onion, and slice into approximately ¼” thick slices. Set aside.

6. Take your mushrooms and cut into ½” slices. If you are slicing the Lion’s Mane, slice with the grain. Set aside.

7. Take your plantains out of the oven and either place them on the cutting board or another flat surface. Take your tostonero or plate and gently smash each of the tostones until they are about ¼” thick. Place each of the smashed plantain pieces back into the tray and take the salt and season them during this time. Place tray back into the oven and allow them to bake for an additional 15 minutes.

8. While the tostones are baking the second time, heat your skillet on medium-high. Place the remaining two tablespoons of your cooking oil into the skillet. Place 1 ½ of the mashed garlic cloves into the skillet and allow them to sauté for one minute, until the smell becomes fragrant. Gradually add the mushrooms into the skillet by gently placing them down flat-wise with the tongs. Sprinkle the mushroom mixture with half of the adobo seasoning and then place the sliced onions around and on top of each mushroom. Let the mushrooms cook for about three minutes, and season the top halves with the rest of the adobo seasoning. After three minutes, gently flip each mushroom and onion piece over and allow to finish cooking for three minutes, until the other side also has a caramel brown coloring to it. If the tostones have not yet finished baking, turn the heat down to low, to keep the mushroom/garlic/onion mixture warm.

9. Slice each of the avocados in half. Place the avocado halves and remaining 1 ½ garlic clove chunks in the medium bowl and with a masher or fork, mash mixture until the avocado mixture is smooth-similarly to a guacamole. Lightly season with salt (optional). To prevent the avocados from turning brown, place the avocado seeds into avocado mixture.

10. (Optional step) in a small bowl, take your ketchup and veganaise mixture and mix well until the mixture turns into more of an orange hue. Then you have created a vegan ketch-mayo! 

11. Once the 15 minutes are up, check on the tostones (the mashed baked plantains). They should be golden brown. Take out of the oven and allow to cool down for a couple minutes. Take each long half, and layer with the mashed avocado, and then take the mushroom/onion mixture and gently pile on each ‘sandwich’. Layer with some spinach, tomato, and even the ketcho-mayo mixture.

12. Eat, and enjoy the hell out of this potentially messy sandwich eating experience!! 🙂

4 servings

Nutritional Information:

397 Calories/ 7 grams protein/ 24 grams of fat/ 46 grams of carbohydrates/ 9 grams fiber

Did you try this recipe? Did you do any substitutions?? Comment below! 


Fancy-pancy-party-pizza!

I love Pizza. There’s something so delicious and nostalgic about biting into a cheesy slice of Italian goodness. Pizza pies are what brought me and my family together on weeknights. Eating an authentic slice of New York pizza was what drove my insane fiance to have us walk several snowy blocks around Manhattan just to seek the perfect slice of heaven. If I won the lottery right now., one of my bucket-list items would be to go on a gourmet pizza tasting tour around Italy. I’m just sayin’! 😉



Since going plant-based, I have made a very conscientious decision to cut dairy. This, unfortunately means that my fiance and I have stopped visiting local pizzerias (and Italian restaurants). However, i’d rather know that none of my my pizza compromised the welfare of animals. 
With that being said, I decided to make some semi homemade pizza for tonight’s Tuesday dinner. This included the cheese-YES. THE CHEESE. I made two completely vegan pizza cheeses that turned out to be absolutely delicious; The cashew ricotta cheese was so thick and creamy, while the vegan mozz was gooey and melty-just like you’d expect!
Tonight, I made two incredible pizza pies: both had a sun dried tomato pesto base, and were layered with the mozz and ricotta. The second slice, however, went a little crazy with roasted red peppers and (vegan) Italian sausage.

Want to know how I made my gourmet pizza pies?? Let’s jump to the recipe!

—-

Fancy-pancy-party-pizza!

Ingredients:

  • Pack of two thin pizza crusts
  • 2 Field roast Italian sausage links (sliced)
  • 1 large red bell pepper, sliced
  • 8 oz jar of sun dried tomato pesto
  • Italian seasoning mix (dried basil, oregano & parsley)
  • One serving of cashew ricotta cheese, chilled
  • One serving of gooey vegan mozz
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • Pinch of garlic powder (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. While the oven is preheating, sautee the Italian sausage and bell pepper with the cooking oil over medium-high. Sautee for about 6-8 minutes or until the sausage slices begin to lightly brown, and the peppers begin to wilt. 
Take both pre-made pizza crusts and spoon the entire sun-dried tomato pesto sauce mixture over both slices. You will have enough sauce to cover both pizza pies. 
Take the gooey mozz and gently spoon it over both pies. Make sure that the mozz sauce is cool enough to spread over both pizzas, to prevent yourself from getting burnt. I suggest to spoon several dollops around each pie, and then gently spread it with a spatula or small spoon, as it gets quite gooey. 
After spreading the mozz over both pies, place several large ricotta cheese dollops over both pies, and then sprinkle with Italian/oregano seasoning, for garnish. For the second pie, add the sliced bell pepper and sausage mixture by gently sprinkling it throughout the second pie. At this point, you can also lightly sprinkle a pinch of garlic powder on each pie. 
Once you are done topping both pizzas, place in the oven and allow to bake for about 10-15 minutes or until they reach the golden brown/level of your preferred crispiness. 
(optional step) to make the pizza slightly golden browned on top, broil on high for about 2-3 minutes until it reaches the golden-ness of your liking (watch carefully or the pizza & cheeses WILL burn! 
Once the pies are done baking, take out and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes & then slice and enjoy! 🙂 

Makes approx. 16 slices (total)

Nutrition Information (per slice):

415 calories/ 12.5 g protein/28.13 g fat/ 2.8g fiber


My Favorite CREAMY Vegan Mac-n-Cheese!!

 

 

Tonight my fiancé and I were really craving comfort food, so I whipped up this vegan macaroni and cheeze dish, inspired by from Rachel Ama’s recipe-with my unique twist!  It was AMAZING and the star of the tonight’s meal. It was super thick, slightly creamy and incredibly filling.

 
If you are transitioning into a plant based way of eating (like me), just keep reminding yourself that the end product will NOT taste like cheese, because it’s not. However, it is no less delicious, and it has just as much creaminess as regular cheese does and actually does have a bit of a slightly sweet, Smokey cheese-like essence of flavor. I could not stop eating the rest of the cheeze mixture from the food processor, like eating cake batter. 


Here’s the recipe:
 
Ingredients:  
·    
     One 12 oz package vegetable tri color rotini (I honestly prefer that to macaroni pasta)
1 large sweet potato
·    1 small onion
4 garlic cloves
1 medium carrot
·    1 cup of raw pre-soaked cashews
·    1/2 cup water (I used water from cashews)
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1/3 cup unsweetened plant based milk
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1/8 cup soy sauce
·    1 tsp black pepper
·    1 tbsp mustard (I used regular)
·    2 tbsp sriratcha
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp turmeric 
2 tsp Evoo (extra virgin olive oil)
1 tbsp miso paste(optional)

Directions:

1. Roughly chop the sweet potato and onion into 1 inch cubes. Un-peel the garlic cloves. Place all these ingredients in a pot of rolling boiling water and let these boil for about 15-20 minutes until they are fork tender. Drain sweet potato mixture and rinse with cold water to stop cooking process. Sweet potato dices should be easy enough to gently remove skin from.
 
2. Boil pasta while veggies are boiling. Also a good time to measure out other ingredients. 

 

3. Once veggies are finished boiling, mix all ingredients (except pasta) into food processor until smooth and creamy. Add more milk if needed. 

4. Mix sauce with pasta and eat right away!!

5. (Optional) place the pasta mixture in a casserole dish and let it bake at 350 Fahrenheit for 15 minutes. 
 
Makes 6 hearty servings
 
Nutrition Information per serving:
431 calories/ 11.28g protein/25.7g fat/44g carbs/ 7g fiber

 


What’s YOUR favorite vegan pasta and cheeze recipe..? Comment below!