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.

Vegetarian Lavash Wrap with Tofutti and Hummus

I have been on a weight loss kick since August 2010.  I’ve lost about 20 pounds so far and still have about 10-15 more pounds to lose.  It’s been difficult.  Actually, that’s an understatement.  It’s been REALLY difficult, especially because I love to eat… and all I want to ever do is eat.  I also loved to not do anything but sit on the couch and watch endless amounts of Food Network, HGTV, the Travel Channel (only if it about food), and the Bravo channel.  My life was very sedentary and FULL-filling.  I went to the gym one day in August, got on the scale, and almost had a heart attack.  I realized I was at my heaviest, which made complete sense, because my “fat clothes” were starting to become a little snug on me.  So it finally occurred to me that I needed to lose some weight or else I was putting myself at serious risk of developing diabetes, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia.  All of which runs in my family.  Eek!

So here I am, twenty pounds lighter, and still going.  I’ve really cut down my portion sizes, and eating a lot healthier than I used to.  I’ve also reduced buying out for lunch by about 90% while at work, which I feel has helped me significantly! In fact, packing my lunch and dinner (I work 12 hour shifts) has forced me to get creative with making healthier, yet enjoyable recipes.  I’ve experimented with many different kinds of salads for lunch.  Unfortunately, I was as creative as I was getting, I started to get bored with salads.  So my new obsession is the veggie wrap that I came up with recently.

Just in case you’re wondering, I still occasionally enjoy my favorite foods.  Moderation is the key to success.  Who ever said you had to completely cut out all those unhealthy foods was wrong!  If that were true, I would have failed my diet by now.

Vegetarian lavash wrap with Tofutti and Hummus

2 whole wheat lavash
1 small yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 roma tomato, seeded, thinly sliced
2 medium-sized artichoke hearts (in water), chopped or sliced
1 small carrot, cut into thin matchsticks
1/2 avocado, sliced
Baby lettuce mix (or whatever you have on hand)
4 tablespoons Tofutti cream cheese
4 tablespoons of your favorite hummus

Spread 2 tablespoons of toffuti and hummus onto the middle of the lavash.  Top each lavash with thinly sliced bell peppers, sliced tomatoes, artichoke hearts, carrots, 1/4 of the sliced avocado, and a little lettuce mix.  Roll each of them up tightly and cut in half on a diagonal.

Makes 2 servings.

Banh Mi Thit Nuong (Vietnamese sandwich with grilled lemongrass pork)

Ever since Food Network aired “The Great Food Truck Race” with Tyler Florence, we’ve been inspired to start up our own food truck business.  Unfortunately, Fresno doesn’t have much of a market for food trucks just yet.  And we also don’t have the money to purchase a pimped out food truck.  So the dream will have to wait.  However, we were fixated with the banh mis that the Nom Nom truck made, and had absolutely no idea where to get them in Fresno.  Luckily, as foodie fate would have it, a Vietnamese restaurant opened up close by not too long after the show was nearing the finale.

We were torn between beef pho and banh mi sandwich… so we ordered both and decided to share!  It was the perfect compromise.  We salivated in anticipation of our food.  It felt like 30 minutes had passed before our food came out, but in actuality, it was only about five minutes.  Oh, but it felt like forever.  We were in nom nom heaven when we had our first bite of the lemongrass chicken banh mi.  Ironically, I grew up hating banh mis.  I tried it a few times while growing up and I think it was the taste of cilantro and carrots that grossed me out.  Well, our taste buds certainly change as we mature.  I love cilantro now, but can only tolerate carrots in certain forms – stewed or pickled, just not raw.  I digress.

We were in the mood for some banh mi so it gave me the perfect reason to fire up the grill in the middle of December!  The weather has been mild around here.  Apparently, it’s La Nina season and she’s here to stay for a while.  I was out grilling in my scrub pants and t-shirt, which is really unusual for December weather in Fresno.  But it was perfect grilling weather.  Sunny, but not hot.  Cool, but not freezing.  Again, I digress.  There is just something dreamy about the smell of grilled meat, especially grilled lemongrass pork.  Yum.  We dressed up our french bread with a thin spread of mayo, pickled carrots and daikon, cucumbers, cilantro, sliced jalapenos, and of course, the creme de la creme, the grilled pork.  We ate, we nommed, we conquered.

Banh Mi Thit Nuong (from Ravenous Couple)

1.5 pounds pork butt or shoulder, thinly sliced just under 1/4 inch or so
1/4 cup minced Lemongrass (xa bam)
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoons ground pepper
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 shallots, minced
3 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoons thick soy sauce
2 loaf of french bread or 6 demi baguettes
1 cucumber, sliced thin
1/2 bunch cilantro
Jalapeno, thinly sliced (optional)
Pickled carrots/daikon
Mayonnaise
Pate (optional)

For the marinade, combine the lemongrass, shallots, garlic, sugar, fish sauce, pepper, dark soy sauce, and sesame oil in a large mixing bowl.  Add the pork, mix well, and marinate for at least a few hours or over night (the longer the better!).

Grill the lemongrass pork until golden brown and slightly charred on each side.

Spread a thin layer of mayo and pate on the baguette, and add the pork and condiments.  And nom away!

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