Millet Burgers

I have been making different versions of vegetarian burgers for years, and my mom has been making them for years before that. This is one my mom invented, which is probably the easiest and tastiest of them all. The millet gets a lovely crunchy texture when the burgers are fried. They are a crowd-pleaser.

If you cook the millet ahead of time, this recipe comes together really quickly. Millet is an ancient seed, often described as a grain, that is mainly a starch. You cook it the same way you cook quinoa or brown rice. It contains no gluten. If it’s not in your local grocery store, try a health food store or buy online. These burgers also are vegan, and don’t use eggs to hold them together. The oats help to bind them, and while slightly crumbly they stay together remarkably well for being egg-free.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup cashews

1 T dried, minced onion

1 tsp dried, minced garlic

1 T vegetable stock seasoning (we use McKay’s chicken-style seasoning — it’s vegetarian!)

2 T soy sauce

1 cup water

1 1/2 cups cooked millet

1/2 cup oats

1 cup crushed cornflakes (you can put into a sturdy ziplock bag and crush with a rolling pin, or blend for just a pulse or two in the blender)

Method:

First, cook the millet. (I usually do this a day or a meal ahead of time, and give the kids a bowl of cooked millet with butter, like I might give them rice, then use the rest for the burgers.) Cook 1/2 cup millet in 1 1/2 cups of water with 1/4 tsp salt until all the water is absorbed. If you pre-cooked your millet and it is now cold, heat it in the microwave so it is soft and moist before adding to the recipe.

In a blender, mix the cashews, dried onion and garlic, chicken-style seasoning, soy sauce and water until smooth.

In a bowl, mix the cooked millet and oats. Pour the blended mix over them. Stir in the crushed cornflakes. Mix well.

Drop by spoonful (I use a stainless steel cookie dough scoop) onto a hot frying pan (I use cast iron) with a little oil for frying. Flatten the top, and flip over so that each side is browned. Serve immediately.

They go great in a sandwich, or just on their own, next to a potato or sweet potato at dinner.

Sunflower Mac

My kids love mac n cheese just as much as anyone. And yes, sometimes they get the classic box with the scary orange powder cheese. (So easy to hand to a babysitter or DH!) But I have been attempting various forms of sneaky mac n cheese, with sauces made with cauliflower, cannellini beans, carrots and so on. One of the nicest ones I’ve tried comes from the Isa Does It vegan cookbook, using sunflower seeds as the main base for the sauce. It’s really creamy, and flavorful enough to please grownups too. This is also nut-free, so good for kids with allergies. And no cheese or butter!

This recipe makes more sauce than you’ll need, so you’ll have extra to put on your veggies or maybe mix with your rice later. Or serve this delicious recipe again the next day!

Sunflower Mac

Ingredients:

1 cup unroasted and unsalted sunflower seeds (shelled), soaked in water for at least two hours

8 oz elbow macaroni or other small pasta

1 T olive oil

1/2 cup thinly sliced carrots

1 small yellow onion, diced

1/2 tsp salt

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 cups vegetable broth

2 T cornstarch

1/4 nutritional yeast flakes

2 T tomato paste

1 T fresh lemon juice

Sweet paprika, for garnish

Method:

Submerge sunflower seeds in a bowl of water and soak for at least two hours, or overnight. Drain.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, and then cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and return to the pot.

Meanwhile, sauté the onions in the oil in a saucepan for about five minutes, then add the carrots and sauté at a medium low heat until they are slightly soft. Add the garlic and sauté for a minute more.

Place the mixture in a blender or food processor. Add the broth, cornstarch, nutritional yeast, tomato paste, salt and sunflower seeds. Blend until very smooth. This could take a long time depending on the power of your blender.

Transfer the sauce back to the saucepan. Turn the heat to medium and let cook, stirring often, until thickened. This should take about 15 minutes. Add the lemon juice and adjust the seasoning.

Pour most of the sauce over the pasta. Mix it up and serve with a sprinkling of paprika over each bowl.

Isa says she likes to add tons of steamed kale to the top, and pour more sauce over that!

Green Pea Soup

I have made this recipe probably more than 50 times, and I have yet to find anyone who doesn’t like it. Plus, it’s so simple you can have it on the table in minutes. It comes from my Aunt Karen, who is a healthy and imaginative cook, (and was making kale salad before I’d seen it anywhere else). The cashews give it a rich, creamy flavor, and the peas make the soup taste nice and fresh. Perfect for springtime. I made it for dinner tonight!

Ingredients:

1 cup of boiling water

2 cups of frozen peas

1 1/2 teaspoons of salt

3/4 cup raw, unsalted cashews

1 tsp onion powder (or small piece of fresh onion)

3 cups of water

Method:

Boil 1 cup of water in a pot on the stove. Add peas to the boiling water, and quickly bring to a second boil and cook for about 2 more minutes.

Meanwhile, add cashews and a small amount of the 3 cups of water (maybe 1/8 of a cup) to a strong blender. Blend until smooth. Add the partially cooked peas (including the cooking water). Add the remaining ingredients and blend. Finally, add the remaining water until the mixture is creamy and smooth. Pour back into the pot and heat gently, but don’t cook further. Serve immediately.

Note: If you use a bit less water for a thicker soup, decrease the salt proportionally.

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Quinana Muffins

When I made these yesterday — almost 40 mini muffins — my three kids and niece ate all but three of them in about 30 minutes. They couldn’t believe I kept letting them have more, but they are pretty healthy, so. . .

This recipe comes from the vegan Forks Over Knives cookbook, and the dessert section is by Isa Chandra Moskowitz of Post Punk Kitchen fame.

I’m really enjoying learning how to bake vegan, without butter or eggs. It’s not nearly as difficult as I had always assumed.

Quinana Muffins (Quinoa Banana Muffins)

Ingredients:

2 cups spelt flour (you can use whole wheat pastry flour instead, or some other type of flour if you prefer)

2 tsps baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 cup cane sugar

1 cup mashed banana (from about 2 large very ripe bananas)

1/4 cup unsweetened plant-based milk (I used almond milk)

1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup cooked quinoa, drained and rinsed until cool

Method:

Preheat the oven to 350. Put muffin liners into pan. ( I used a mini muffin pan, but you can also make regular-sized muffins.) You can use reusable silicone liners, or paper ones.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and sugar. Make a well in the center of the mixture and add the mashed banana, milk, applesauce and vanilla. Stir together the wet ingredients in the well. Then mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just mixed. (Do not overmix.) Fold in the quinoa.

Fill each muffin cup to the top. Bake for about 12 minutes (22 minutes for a regular-sized muffin) or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Serve. Put a few aside for yourself before the kids gobble them all up!

Papaya Treats

Last week it was my turn to bring snacks for the preschool class. Believe it or not, I actually like coming up with new ideas and having an excuse to bake (although DH shakes his head when he finds me sliding pans out of the oven at midnight). My snacks aren’t very cute or visually creative, but they are healthy and tasty, I hope.

This is a recipe my Mom invented, and it is a favorite with all of her grandchildren. It’s great for kids with allergies, and sweet without any sugar. It can easily be made gluten-free or dairy-free.

Papaya Treats

Ingredients:

1 cup dried papaya

3/4 cup water

1/4 cup vegetable or coconut oil

1 tsp vanilla

1/3 cup applesauce

1/4 cup honey

1 egg OR 1 1/2 tsp. egg replacer

1 1/2 cup oats

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp. baking powder

1 cup whole wheat flour (or gluten-free flour)

3 cups Rice Krispies (or similar cereal)

Method:

For several hours soak 1 cup papaya in water

Set oven to 350 degrees.

In food processor:

Blend papaya and water with oil, vanilla, applesauce, honey, egg (or egg replacer).

Remove wet ingredients from food processor.

Next blend in food processor the dry ingredients: oats, salt, cinnamon, baking powder.

Remove to a bowl.

Add 1 cup whole wheat flour to above mixture.

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients.

Mix well, then add Rice Krispies.

Drop by small scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheets.

Bake 15 minutes at 350.

Green Rice

One of my favorite family-friendly cookbooks is Gwyneth Paltrow’s My Father’s Daughter. She cooks with her kids in mind, and I have been surprised more than once when I have skeptically tried one of her recipes, and found that my kids gobbled it up. She has a lot of easy recipes, with just a short list of ingredients. This is the one I have made more than any other, and it consistently pleases the whole family — one of very few dishes! Here is my (adapted slightly) version.

Ingredients:

1/2 pound kale, stems discarded, chopped very fine

1 T olive oil

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

3 green onions, finely chopped

3 cups cooked brown rice

1 1/2 T good quality soy sauce

Method:

Chop the kale very very finely. This is the secret to making the dish kid-friendly. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife and try to chop like you see chefs chop on TV! You want the green pieces to be as small as you can chop them, like the way you might chop parsley. It takes a while, but eventually you’ll have a pile of fine green kale.IMG_2268

Heat the vegetable oil in a large cast iron or nonstick skillet. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two on medium-low heat. Add the kale and green onions and cook for a few more minutes until the kale has wilted and reduced. Add the rice and stir to mix thoroughly, cooking for another two minutes. Finally add the soy sauce. Serve hot.

I often serve Green Rice with roasted sweet potatoes. My friend Natalya has a great recipe on her blog here.

Slow-Cooked Red Sauce

This recipe is my standby. In my humble opinion, homemade tomato sauce tastes worlds better than any you buy in a jar. I fill this sauce with vegetables and the kids eat it in large quantities (as long as it tops some kind of carb!).  I make a big pot on a day when I am going to be home all afternoon and freeze portions in the freezer so that I can make a quick spaghetti or pizza dinner when we are late getting back from swimming lessons and the kids are starving.

Red Sauce

Ingredients:

2 T olive oil

2 onions, chopped

3 cloves of minced garlic

3 carrots, chopped

1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped

2 red peppers, chopped

1 zucchini, chopped

2 28-oz cans of diced tomatoes

1/4 cup red lentils

1 vegetable stock cube

2 tsp salt

2 tsp sugar

1 T oregano

Method:

I use a cast iron Dutch oven, because it cooks really well for a long time at a low temperature, but you can use any big pot.

Begin by adding the onions to the olive oil. Start at a medium temperature, and when you start hearing sizzling, turn the temperature to low. Put the lid on and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add garlic and cook for 2 more minutes.

Add carrots, sweet potato, red peppers, zucchini and cook until softened (about 15 minutes), stirring occasionally.

Add diced tomatoes and other remaining ingredients. Continue to cook on low, with the lid on, for about three or four hours, or until the sauce is no longer watery, but thick.

Adjust seasoning to taste. (I often add some garlic salt and onion salt.)

Blend until smooth. (I use a stick blender because you don’t have to take the sauce out of the pot.)

Serve liberally on whole wheat spaghetti or use as a pizza sauce. This red sauce also works well on spaghetti squash or zucchini — although I can’t my kids to eat them! But often when I am making them spaghetti, I will roast a spaghetti squash, take out the strands with a fork and replace my pasta with the squash.

Or instead of eating pizza, I will make zucchini pizza by spreading the red sauce on zucchini halves with a few extra pieces of garlic on top and roasting them in the oven for about 20 minutes. Delicious! If only I could convince my kids. . . But at least I know they are getting some vegetables with this hearty sauce!