Baked Falafels Drizzled with Lemon-Tahini Sauce

My partner has been on a quest to find the best falafels in town.  She’ll compare the falafels to this little Greek restaurant on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland, CA, that she just loved.  But it all seems to disappoint in comparison.  I’ve found several recipes for homemade falafels, and all of them involve deep frying.  And although I know that’s how it should be done, I just can’t bring myself to deep fry at home.  I just don’t want the smell of fried oil lingering around our house for days, but also because I’m on a quest to continue keeping us on a healthy eating track.   So I was extremely happy when I came across this recipe, and had to give it a try!  Not only was it super easy to make, it was also a delicious healthy alternative.  My partner really enjoyed these baked falafels thoroughly, and said it was definitely a close second to the real thing :)

Baked Falafels Drizzled with Lemon-Tahini Sauce (adapted from Can You Stay For Dinner?)

2 15-ounce cans garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
4 tablespoons whole wheat flour
6 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 teaspoons ground cumin
3 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until well blended. Taste the falafel mixture, and adjust seasoning to your liking. Scoop the bean mixture into a bowl and shape into 16 equal sized patties. Place on a greased baking sheet, brush each with olive oil and bake for 25, or until browned and crispy on the outside.

Serve as an appetizer, over a salad, or in a pita wrap with the lemon tahini sauce drizzled over the falafels.

Makes 16 falafels.

Calories per falafel: 35

Lemon Tahini Sauce

3 tablespoon tahini
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons water
1 garlic clove, mashed into a paste

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, salt, water, and garlic paste. Adjust seasoning with salt and/or lemon juice.

Makes about a 1/3 cup.

Super Duper Vegan Chili

We’ve been having mad cravings for vegan chili as the weather is still cool for this time of the year.  The weather has actually been really wacky… lots of rain, and cold days.  The weather is usually in the 80s this time of year, but today it’s only reached a high of 65.  I’m not complaining.  At all.  Trust me.  The month of May just means the summer is around the corner, which means hot summer months.  Ugh.  Such a drag.  So as much as I would like some days in the high 70s/low 80s, I’m going to enjoy this weather now because it’s gonna get hot in herrre.  Okay, now I’m complaining.

We decided to take advantage of today’s weather to make some spicy vegan chili to satiate our cravings.  And satiate it did!  I would love to eat this chili all year around, but the thought of cooking and eating it during the summer when the temperatures can range anywhere from 100-110 degrees F seems torturous. In fact, anything involving the burners or the oven inside the house during the summer heat sounds unpleasant.

Interestingly, I enjoy this chili more than I do a hearty and meaty chili! Don’t get me wrong, I’m a total carnivore. In fact, my initial thought before I tried this chili for the first time was how vegan chili could taste better than a meaty chili? Well, let me tell you, I was completely blown away after my first bowl. The texture of the “ground meat” fooled me, and the beans, vegetables, and spices were so flavorful that I didn’t need or miss the meat.  This chili even fooled my dad who says no one can trick him with vegan meat products.  Hah!  Take that, dad!

This chili is truly the best prescription for the soul.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onions, diced
1 red bell peppers, seeded and diced
4 large garlic clovies, minced
2 large jalapeno peppers, minced
1 large serrano pepper, minced
12 ounces textured vegetable protein (aka, original Smart Ground)
1 cups water
1 cans (28 ounces each) crushed tomatoes
1 cans (15 ounces each) red kidney beans, drained
1 can (15 ounce) black beans, drained
3 medium sized fresh tomatoes, chopped
1.5 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a large dutch oven, heat the extra virgin olive oil over medium high heat. Add the garlic and onions, and saute for five minutes or until the onions are translucent.

Add the textured vegetable protein and water, cook for 5 minutes, while stirring occasionally. Add the remaining ingredients and cook for another five minutes. Reduce the heat to a medium to medium-low (depending on your burners), and let it “stew”, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes (or until the bell peppers are tender).

Remove from heat and serve with your favorite toppings!

Quick and Easy Cuban Black Beans Sprinkled with Cotija Cheese

I think Cuban foodie purists would chastise me for using canned black beans instead of the long, tedious process of using dried black beans to make this dish.  What would have taken me 24 plus hours only took me about 30 minutes to make.  I like fast results.   I’m an instant-gratification-kind-of-person.  However, I suppose I would disapprove, too, if I heard of a recipe calling for white rice from an Uncle Ben’s Minute Rice to be made into fried rice.  But I don’t judge… just sometimes.

But hey, we all need some shortcuts in life, right?  Especially for those lazy, I mean busy days when you (and by you, I really do mean I) get too caught up on the couch watching endless reruns of trashy reality TV shows, or just plain busy with life.  My excuse?  I forgot to buy the back beans the day before.  Oh, who am I kidding.  I succumbed to the comfiness of my couch catching up on my DVR’ed Celebrity Apprentice (don’t judge me) shows from the last two weeks.

Quick and Easy Cuban Black Beans Sprinkled with Cotija Cheese(from 3 Guys from Miami)

1 large onion, diced finely
1 large green bell pepper, diced finely
3 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed, and chopped
3 tablespoons mojo criollo sauce or 3 tablespoons vinegar
3 cans plain, unseasoned black beans, drained but reserve the liquid
1 bay leaf
3 teaspoons ground cumin (more or less)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Crumbled cotija cheese
Extra virgin olive oil

Take one can of the black beans, and mash them into a chunky paste.

Make a sofrito by chopping onion and green pepper. Heat extra virgin olive oil over medium high heat in a large skillet, and sauté onions and green pepper until onions are translucent.

Add the garlic garlic and sauté another minute or so.

In a sauce pan over low heat, add the beans, sofrito, bay leaf, mojo sauce (or vinegar), and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add the reserved liquid from the canned beans to adjust consistency of the black beans to your liking.  Add cumin, salt, and pepper to taste.

Sprinkle with crumbled cotija cheese and serve with your favorite Cuban entrees.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Healthy Refried Black Beans (and it’s vegan, too!)

If you didn’t read my last post on my chile verde recipe, I’m helping my partner wean off of her obsession with restaurant-made Mexican food and Taco Bell.  It is her only vice in life.  My partner loves Mexican food.  And when I say love, I mean it’s an obsession with Mexican food.  My partner is a glutton for anything nachos, tacos, burritos, beans and rice.  She especially loves bean burritos.  Really, anything Mexican food.

Beore I go on, I don’t want to give you the wrong impression that she’s unhealthy and eats loads of calories and fat saturated foods.  She, in fact, is very healthy.  But she has been on a Taco Bell and Mexican food kick for a while now, which shocks me because she used to hate the idea of me consuming fast food.  It’s funny because I was the unhealthy one in our relationship for years.  In fact, I was on a fast food kick daily before we met up until a few months after we started dating.  After a week or so of dating, she was disgusted by the amount of fast food that I consumed, so she made me a “detox salad.”   I used to cringe when I heard the words “detox salad.”  Who needed a detox salad?  Actually, who needed more vegetables in their life?  I mean, doesn’t french fries, and lettuce and tomatoes from a taco or burger count?  Horrifying, right?  That’s how I used to think.  Well, I made a deal with her that I’d wean myself from fast food, but only if I could eat it once every few months.  I did stop, but when I did crave a fast food burger or french fries I made sure to satisfy it.  But I realized how gross I felt afterwards.  And being reminded of that feeling a few more times has given me the will power to stop eating fast food.  The end.

So it’s funny how the tables have turned.  But it makes me sad at the fact that she’s become addicted to Taco Bell.  She can eat all the Mexican food she wants, but only if it’s “real” and “identifiable” foods.  The other thing is that we are trying to lose the “happy 15″ pound weight gain (or in our case, happy 20) that we put on our first year of dating.  She’s sort of defeating the purpose of eating healthy and exercising up to four times weekly, if she eats fat laden foods.  So the deal is if she stops eating Taco Bell, I’d make her more healthy Mexican foods.

In my attempt to make healthy, almost authentic homemade Mexican food, I found a refried black bean recipe that doesn’t use lard.  Refried black beans is traditionally made with lard.  But this recipe uses extra virgin olive oil and a nonstick pan to for that “refried” look and taste.

Healthy Refried Black Beans (adapted from New York Times‘ Fitness and Nutrition Section)

2 (15 ounce) cans simmered black beans
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon ground cumin, lightly toasted
1 teaspoon chile powder
1/2 cup yellow onion, minced

Heat medium sauce pan over medium heat.  Drain off about 1 cup of liquid from the beans to reserve, and pour beans and remaining liquid into pot.  Mash half the beans with a potato mahser.  Don’t puree them (you want texture).

Heat extra virgin olive oil over medium-high heat in a large, heavy nonstick frying pan, and add the ground cumin and chili.  Cook, stirring over medium heat, for about a minute, until the spices begin to sizzle and cook.  Add the minced yellow onion to the pan and cook until tender and fragrant.  Add the black beans and fry, stirring and mashing often, until they thicken and begin to get crusty on the bottom and aromatic.  Stir up the crust each time it forms, and mix into the beans.  Cook for about 10 minutes.  The beans should be thick but not dry.  Taste the refried beans, and adjust the salt if necessary.  Add liquid you reserved from the beans if they seem too dry.

Spoon refried black beans over nachos, into a burrito and/or taco, or as a side dish.  This recipe is the perfect prescription for your favorite Mexican food dish.

The refried beans will keep for up to three to four days in the refrigerator.  To reheat, cover with foil and reheat in a 325 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Makes 6 servings (1/2 cup each).

Calories per serving: 135 calories

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