Veggie Hamburger Helper for Grown-ups

Hey folks! Happy Sunday everyone. Since it’s a cold Sunday afternoon in November, my least favourite month, I thought  I’d share a warm and comforting recipe that brings back nostalgic images of my childhood. I got the idea a couple weeks ago while thinking of easy meals to make during the week. Why not make a healthy, meat-free and grown-up version of this 90’s kid boxed wonder?

It certainly brought back memories of  my brother and I spending the afternoon with our babysitter who whipped up this muck.  When my mom was cooking, we got real food with real ingredients like this dish I’m about to show you. It’s comforting and delicious without tasting gross and artificial. It’s also probably easy, quick and convenient enough for a teenage babysitter to cook for a couple of kids.

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Mmm! “That looks delicious, but how on earth were you able to make that without any meat? Where’s the animal protein? You need meat or you’ll stop breathing and DIE! You cannot survive without the flesh of an animal! I know this for a fact because within this brief conversation I suddenly went back to school and became a Registered Dietitian, so you should listen to me.”

I thought I’d show you pretty much what I hear when someone asks me “where I get my protein” and how on earth I’m able to  buy all those expensive ingredients of dried beans, produce and grains at a regular grocery store. To me, it’s like the food version of “When are you having kids?”. Do you really want to know the entire list of everything I eat? How much time do you have? And will you give me a chocolate bar if I tell you? Jeesh.

Any who, I’m getting sidetracked…

When throwing this meal together I broke it down into three components: Pasta, protein source/veggies, sauce.

For the pasta I used a box of penne I had in the cabinet instead of the more traditional elbow macaroni. So I cooked my pasta and set that aside.

For the protein I chopped two patties of Yves soy-free veggie burgers into cubes and fried with oil, garlic and onion until they were brown and slightly crispy. Gardein beefless tips would also work well or if you’re feeling ambitious you can make your own burgers.

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Hello, beauties!

Set aside the “meat” and chop some spinach and bell peppers to add to the pan. You can of course use any vegetables you choose, these are just the ones I happened to have in the fridge. I’ve also been reading a lot about how important folic acid is for women my age. Yay, leafy greens!  Saute the veggies for a couple minutes until they’re tender.

Now, it’s time to make the sauce! I may have made the sauce before I cooked the burgers and the veggies but I honestly can’t remember. For this, I used a simple white sauce: butter, flour and unsweetened almond milk.  Yes, you can cook with almond milk, I use it all the time because we don’t drink cow’s milk. Just make sure it’s unsweetened.  No, it will not curdle and is perfectly fine to use in making simple sauces such as this one. While it’s simmering, season the sauce with salt and pepper, chili powder and whatever spice you fancy.

You’re going to add a magical ingredient to this base: 1 can of cheddar cheese soup. It gives the sauce that essential creamy texture and helps bind the flavours together.  I remembered to check the label on the can for any suspicious and artificial ingredients and I’m happy to report that there were none that I could see. So this will also please all those people who watch way too many documentaries on food.

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See? No curdles

Add the “meat” to the pan with the cooked vegetables and stir in the pasta and sauce. And, finito!

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Ingredients

  • 1-2 tbsp oil
  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1/2 Onion, diced
  • 1 Box Penne Pasta
  • 2-4 Veggie Burger patties chopped into cube-like pieces
  • 1-2 Red bell peppers, diced
  • 1 cup chopped fresh Spinach

For the sauce

  • 1 Can Cheddar cheese soup
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup Milk, any kind
  • Garlic powder, chili powder to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste

 

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CSA Post: Vegan Cabbage rolls

Hello all, welcome to the 2015 CSA season in Laura’s cooking blog world. I’m quite late to the game here since I’ve been preoccupied with the drudgery of everyday work routine, hibernating from the heat and occasionally writing in my “society” blog. It’s been awhile since  I’ve been able to feel the tingling sensation of culinary inspiration in my bones but I’m finally ready for a comeback.

Last week we received a beautiful bounty in our CSA from Herbivor Farm, including kale, cucumbers, broccoli, zucchini and their unique cousins from outer space, the patty pan squash, scallions, sugar snap peas and of course, the man of the hour: Cabbage!

I dreamed up the obvious usage of this wonderful cruciferous vegetable: Cabbage rolls, or traditionally known in Poland as Golabki, galumki, halupki , galoopi and hippopotamus in several other  Eastern European countries and variations. There’s so many different variations and names on the internet that I can’t keep track of them all. I may have made a couple of those names up, but it’s really quite hard to tell.

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Laura’s vegan cabbage rolls: A simple name for a weeknight classic

None of that traditional name and recipe business matters because we’re going as far away from tradition as you can imagine in this vegan version. Us vegetarians are usually forced to reinvent recipes from meat-heavy cuisines in order to survive. And our versions are usually a lot healthier so you’re in very good hands. So, if you’re looking for a recipe that’s similar to your grandma’s, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

So, begin by washing the cabbage, removing some of the nasty looking leaves on it (if any) and removing the core at the bottom. Then fill a huge pot of water, add the cabbage and bring the water to a boil on medium- high heat.

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Turn the cabbage every 2-3 minutes and slowly remove the cooked leaves that appear cooked and easy to fall off. Place each leaf on a plate for later. This whole process should take about 10-15 minutes for you to have enough leaves cooked to use.

When you’re finished cooking the cabbage, slice it in half and roughly chop and dice up some of the leftovers to add to the sauce. Any remaining cabbage can be put away in the fridge and used for coleslaw or braised cabbage to accompany another meal.

Chop up some onion and garlic, and saute in oil until tender.

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Now it’s time to make the mixture. By now, you should have your lentils cooked (about 1 1/2 cup) and long grain wild rice ready to go. I forgot to mention this before, whoops! I used a teeny tiny bit of inspiration from my mom’s Americanized ground beef, rice and tomato sauce-based recipe that she used when I was growing up. I of course swapped the beef for brown lentils and used long grain wild rice.

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As you can see, I also added some extra chopped cabbage to the mixture. For the spices, I went all across the board: Some paprika of course, chili powder, oregano, salt and pepper and red pepper flakes.  Then I added  the cooked onion and garlic. I later stirred in a bit of the sauce to this mixture once it was done cooking to even things out.

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For the sauce, add a can of tomato sauce and simmer on low-medium heat. Add 1-2 tablespoons of tomato paste and stir in the chopped cabbage. Add salt and pepper, paprika, chili powder and dash of white vinegar. At this point I still wasn’t satisfied with the flavour and added a squeeze of dijon mustard and…drum roll.. just a pinch of adobo sauce. Gasp! Oh, the blasphemy! But I tasted it and it was perfect!  The goddess of culinary creation had to spoken to me. In a way, this method was actually more traditional because I didn’t meticulously measure and add the spices to the sauce, but instead added and tasted it as I went along. No written recipe involved. This is something that mothers and grandmothers from the old country do.

So now that the sauce is finished, you can get down to business and begin the assembly of the rolls. Or, you could have already started it by now, who am I to boss you around? It’s your kitchen. Firstly, trim the ribby vein of the cabbage leaves with a knife so they’re easier to roll.

You can also preheat your oven to 400 degrees. I figured I’d mention this before I forget and it’s too late. It wouldn’t be fun if you discovered an hour later that your oven hadn’t been on the whole time.

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Spoon 1/4-1/3 a cup of the filling in a leaf and roll up, folding the base of it up and over the filling until it’s covered. Make sure to fold the sides in so the goods don’t escape. Place each cabbage roll seam side down, side by side in a casserole dish.

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Spread the sauce over the rolls, cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45-50 minutes. Voila! Enjoy my friends.

Ingredients

1/2 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic

1 Head Cabbage

1 1/2 cup Brown Lentils

1 Cup long grain wild rice

1 Can tomato sauce

1-2 tbsp tomato paste

1/2 tbsp white vinegar

paprika, to taste

chili powder, to taste

oregano, to taste

red pepper flakes, to taste

salt and pepper, to taste

1 tsp dijon mustard, or to taste

Adobo sauce, a pinch to taste

That’s not bad for a girl of French Canadian descent who grew up seeing her grandma ‘s and great-grandma’s  handwritten recipes for Tourtiere (meat pie) on faded recipe cards in her mother’s recipe cabinet. We don’t specialize in cabbage rolls and pierogies in our family but we love to experiment and try new things and that means riffing on old favourites. That’s our tradition.

Happy cooking!