Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pepperoni Beetballs

Even though I'm not vegan (or even vegetarian), Susan V's Fat Free Vegan Blog was the very first recipe blog I really started following. Why? Her recipes incorporate a lot of things I look for in my meals: healthy, tasty, vegetable-heavy recipes made out of whole foods. The first recipe that blew me away was her Patty Pan Squash with Cajun White Beans recipe, and ever since then I have made several more. Sometimes if she uses elaborate vegan workarounds to mimic, say, a cheese sauce, I will deveganize the recipe, but more often than not I just make it as is.

Like tonight. I saw her recipe which she called (somewhat unappetizingly) "Beetballs: A Vegan, Gluten-Free, Soy-Free Sausage Recipe" which usually would make me NOT want to make the recipe, but the photo looked so good I scrolled down to take a look. From the ingredients I thought it would probably taste pretty good, so I made it up tonight. 

It was really good! Sort of like a rich pepperoni/sausage flavored falafel. It would be great with spaghetti in a red sauce, or sliced on a pizza. We had "beetball subs" with some spaghetti sauce and it was quite delicious! I think you can do a lot with this simple recipe. Here it is, with my small changes/notes for next time:

Pepperoni Beetballs


  • 1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 medium beet
  • 1/2 cup raw pecans, almonds, or other nuts (see note for low-fat alternative)
  • 1/2 medium red or yellow onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (mild or spicy) (I subbed chili powder for this since I was out)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon hickory smoked salt or Liquid Smoke (optional)


  1. Place the mushrooms in a small saucepan and add 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the mushrooms with a slotted spoon and rinse them well and set aside. If the stems stay hard like mine do even after boiling, remove them.
  2. While the mushrooms are cooking, put the nuts into a food processor and pulse to chop finely. Do not over-process–we want finely chopped nuts, not nut powder. Place the nuts in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Peel the beet and cut it into cubes. Add it to the food processor along with the reserved mushrooms, garlic, and onion and pulse to chop coarsely. Add the chickpeas and all remaining ingredients and pulse several times to chop the chickpeas, but do not turn it into a paste. All the individual ingredients should be recognizable.
  4. Add the processor contents to the nuts and stir well to combine. If the mixture seems dry, add a tablespoon of the reserved mushroom broth. Allow the mixture to rest while you preheat the oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  5. Using a tablespoon or cookie scoop, measure out a heaping tablespoon of “dough.” Using damp hands, form it into a ball, squeezing lightly to compact it. If the dough seems too dry, add additional broth (this should not be necessary–you don’t want the dough to be too wet). Place the ball on the lined baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough. You should be able to make about 18-22 balls. If you like, flatten some of the balls to use in sandwiches or on pizza.
  6. Bake until the balls are brown and slightly crisp on the outside, about 35 minutes. (Flattened balls will take a little less time.) Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.

Monday, February 20, 2012


Why buy cheap, fast sushi two blocks from your house when you can go out, buy a bunch of expensive ingredients, and make it yourself in an exponentially increased amount of time? I don't know why I do things sometimes.  But it did come out good:

Friday, February 17, 2012

ode to gravy


How do I love thee? Let me count the ways:

1. With a chicken or turkey dinner
2. Poutine
3. hot turkey or chicken sandwiches
4. ???

Well, that's three ways anyway. Somehow I thought it would be more. I do love gravy!

Everyone should learn how to make homemade gravy. Why?

1. It is easy to make!
2. It is cheap to make!
3. It is fast to make!
4. It makes everything taste better!
5. Gravy is one of the MOST IMPORTANT things to make homemade. Any store bought gravy is just not as good tasting. Even most restaurant gravies are not up to par.

About this time you should be asking SO HOW DO I MAKE ME SOME GRAVY?? Well here is my recipe:

Homemade Gravy
makes about 2 cups or so

-- 1 pan with roasted chicken or turkey drippings, or chicken bullion, or you can be all avant garde like my mom and use a combo of beef and chicken bullion cubes -- basically we are looking for any combo of meaty liquids that equals about 2 cups.
-- 2 T. flour
-- 1 cup water
-- salt and pepper
-- gravy darkener, or instant coffee grounds (optional if you want darker gravy)

1. PREPARE YOUR LIQUID -- take your pan drippings, if you are using them, and strain them to get any gross fatty chunks out. If you can make the gravy IN the roasting pan itself that is the best because you can scrape up the roasty brown chunks which are what make gravy the most delicious. You can let the drippings settle and then pour off the fat if you want a lower-fat gravy, it still tastes just as delicious. One thing is that if you have brined your chicken or turkey, you may not be able to use the drippings as is because they can be too salty. When that happens, I usually just add water to the drippings until the salt content is fine. If you don't have that much liquid, add bullion cubes and water so your total liquid equals about 2 cups. OR you can always just use 2 cups worth of bullion and water and forget the drippings altogether, but your gravy will be not quite as delicious.

2. BOIL THE LIQUID -- put the liquid in a pan over med-high heat and boil.

3. MAKE FLOUR/WATER SLURRY -- Anytime you get to make a slurry is a good time. Just saying the word is fun. Slurry. Slurry. Slurry. Yeah. Get about 1 cup of cold water. Add 2 Tablespoons of flour to the water, and mix it up super well with a fork or whisk. You want to make sure there are NO LUMPS IN THIS so mix well.

4. WHISK WHISK WHISK -- Whisk the boiling liquid in the pan. Mix the slurry one more time and pour in a thin stream right into where you are whisking to make sure to get it super whisked into the hot broth BEFORE it starts to cook. Lazy whisking is what causes LUMPY GRAVY which is a misdemeanor in some states, so tell your children to step away and GO CRAZY with the whisk. Keep whisking ask the mixture comes back to a boil, and you will notice as the gravy boils it thickens up very quickly. Make sure the gravy is as thick as it is going to get before you stop whisking.

5. CHECK CONSISTENCY -- Depending on how thick or thin you like your gravy, either thin it out with water, or add more slurry until your gravy becomes as thick as you like. I tend to make it thin because it thickens up as it sits.

6. CHECK FLAVORINGS -- Taste your gravy. Does it need salt and pepper? If so, add some. My mom always used to use the commercial gravy darkeners to make her gravies look better. Sometimes I just throw in a little instant coffee and it does the same thing.

Enjoy! And soon you will be writing your own Ode to Gravy!

Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

Okay, when Mahesh is out of town it is my chance to cook up some meat dishes! I have been craving sausage so I went and bought some last night and this is what I made with it:

Heat in a large skillet over medium heat:
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Remove the casings from and add:
2 sweet Italian sausages (about 1/2 pound/250g)
Cook, breaking up the meat with a spoon, until nicely browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in and cook for 1 minute:
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Stir in:
1/2 large bunch broccoli rabe, trimmed and coarsely chopped, or 3/4 pounds broccoli (300g), trimmed, stems peeled, and coarsely chopped

Salt and black pepper to taste
Cover and cook just until tender, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, cook in a large pot of boiling salted water:
1/2 pound (250g) orecchiette or cavatelli (or any other smallish pasta)
Drain the pasta, add it to the skillet, and toss over low heat. Serve, sprinked with:
Grated Romano

OH MY GOODNESS it was delicious. THE SAUSAGE GREASE MAKES THE SAUCE GUYS. How can it not be good? Next time I would add many more veggies though, bell pepper, onions, even spinach would be great in it.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Baked or pan-fried Falafel with tahini sauce

We are big fans of falafel, BUT it is typically deep-fried, so for the first time I tried making a pan-fried version at home. It came out very good (for healthy falafel, anyway) and I really loved the tangy sauce on the sandwich. Mahesh said he would like the falafels to have more flavor but I just thought they needed a little more salt so I have doubled the soy sauce below, but I also might try increasing the parsley, spices and/or onion and garlic too (not sure by how much though). The recipe below is based on the recipe in this video:

For the Falafels:
1 15 oz can of garbanzo beans, washed and drained (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup fresh parsley
1 T lemon juice
3 T onion
1 clove garlic
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp coriander
2 tsp soy sauce
1/4 cup garbanzo flour (also called chana flour, I found this in the bulk section of a health store)
1/4 tsp baking powder

For the Tahini Sauce:

Yield: 2/3 cup
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp salt
a few grinds black pepper
3 T tahini (a fermented sesame seed paste, can find it in the middle eastern section of stores)


4 pita bread
4-8 lettuce leaves
1 cup chopped tomato
16-20 slices of cucumber
red hot sauce

For the Falafels:
Put all ingredients except the garbanzo flour and baking powder into a food processor. Process everything until it becomes smooth but not quite a puree. Add the flour and baking powder and pulse until mixed in. Scoop by tablespoon and form into balls. Flatten them slightly (about 1/2 inch thick). At this point you can deep fry them, pan fry them, or bake them. Deep fry in 2 inches of oil at 350 degrees for 5-7 minutes OR Pan fry in lightly oiled pan on medium-high heat until browned on both sides OR Bake in 400 degree oven for 40 minutes turning them half way through the baking process.

For the Tahini Sauce:

Whisk all of the ingredients together in a bowl.

To Assemble the Pita:

Cut 1/2 inch off the top of pita. Open pocket and insert lettuce, 2-3 falafel balls, 1/4 cup tomato, 4 slices of cucumber, 1-2 tablespoons of tahini sauce, and red hot sauce to taste.