[Nearly] Vegan Weekend, Continued: Nutty Veggie Burgers

Vegan Veggie Burger

Earlier this week I wrote about dipping my toes into vegan baking for a cabin trip last weekend. I’m strictly a lacto-ovo veg, and have been since I was but a wee 3-year-old, but I wanted to make a couple of things to share with our vegan friends: a sweet treat and a substantial meal. Since this weekend was all about convenience, and grabbing food that would get us back to the lake faster, I decided to whip up some veggie burgers. Well, it was mostly this convenience factor that made up my mind, but I’m also kind of obsessed with veggie burgers. It’s true. Weird, but true.

I’m also kind of obsessed with learning about how vegan food works. The science befuddles me (MOST science befuddles me, but that’s a different topic), but I love how creative vegans need to be with their food. I’ve always thought that I’m just on the cusp of being a vegan. Sometimes I think I could do it. Sometimes I think I might even LOVE it.

However, every time I consider veganism, even if only for a moment, there’s this little voice inside of me that screams, “CHEESE! Grab the cheese and run!”

…but we’ll get to that later. First, the veggie burger.

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Vegan Weekend: Peanut Butter Banana Muffins

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This weekend was one of those summer weekends. The kind where you do nothing all day but are tired because of it. The kind where you get sleepy eyes from too much sun, and need an afternoon nap after a midday happy hour. I like those kind of weekends.

This weekend was also an experiment in vegan-ism…or at least sort of. We went to a friend’s cabin with a 50% vegan-friend population, so I wanted to make some things that would be enjoyed by all, including the little 1.5-year-old who entertained us the whole time. My first order of business was to get my sweets covered…I decided to fashion some kind of muffin that was healthy enough to be breakfast, but yummy enough that the non-vegans would also partake.

I figured we needed to come in with a plan for food. Partially because of the group’s varying food preferences, but mostly because I didn’t want anything silly like cooking to interfere with our days of doing nothing. This girl’s got priorities.
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Drama-Free Rice and Beans

Drama Free Rice and Beans

For the most part, I’m a pretty drama-free girl. From day one, my mom says that I “came out mellow,” and that’s pretty much been my way of being in the years since, with the exception of a few adolescent outbursts. However, there are a few things I’m a bit of a drama queen about.

Like when I open my car door to get out and it’s juuuust not open wide enough, so it comes swinging back and hits me in the leg. I think I’ve scared my neighbors with my expletives a few times.

Or when I carry my groceries up my three flights of stairs, huffing and puffing, sweating, needing to pee in a big way, then go to find the right key to open my door in the sea of keys I carry everywhere, and drop the entire thing just as I get it up to the key hole. I will cry.

Or when I get all fancy in my Sunday cooking, just trying to make my lunches for the week, trying to live a responsible, well-planned adult life, and I end up with 5-days-worth of nearly inedible food. To make matters worse, I usually end up eating the failure food anyway because I also hate wasting things. This experience will ruin my day, and usually the only thing that will make it better is an oven-fresh chocolate chip cookie and trash TV (and I mean really the. only. thing). Again, drama queen.

My mom knows all-too-well that my lunches are very important to me. She’s experienced first hand when I’ve spent $30 on ingredients and literally could not force down the result. So, when her coworker recommended a very simple and quick bean salad, she thought of me and my lunch adventures.

The recipe intrigued me, but it was SO straightforward…so simple…so unlike me and my Sunday experimentation. It may not get me into my Sunday cooking trance, but it would supply me with food for a full week with very little effort. I decided it was worth a try. This dish comes together in literally 20 minutes, and will feed you for DAYS. Now that’ll just make a girl smile.

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Raspberry Cornbread Layer Cake

Raspberry Cornbread Layer Cake

I’m a bit of a hypocrite. I know everyone is to some extent, and probably about several different things, but today’s focus is food (are you surprised?). Most of the time I’m all, “Oh I LOVE sweet and salty things. Can’t get enough” – of course this is a food trend right now, so you may also call me a conformist, but let’s keep this post to just one flaw.

With other sweet and salty combinations, however, I have a very firm critique. For example, whenever I take a bite of what I believe to be normal popcorn and it’s kettle corn, words can’t describe my disappointment. It’s not sweet enough AND it’s not salty enough. It’s like it has an identity crisis, and it’s stuck in some boring grey area. I feel similar about cornbread. It’s so deceiving in it’s deliciously yellow, spongy appearance, but then you bite in and it’s sort of…sweetish, but not really, and not salty enough, and don’t even get me started on when there are corn chunks.

Then, over Memorial Day weekend, my world was shaken when I went to my cousin’s wedding and experienced the cake. When I heard that the wedding cake was CORNBREAD, I was all, “whelp, no cake for me” – but ohhhh no, there was cake for me. In fact, this cake has rarely left my thoughts since. Sure, it was cornbread, but suuuuuper moist, and sweeter than usual. A fruit filling broke up the two layers of cake, and then there was this frosting on top…oh man the frosting. It was a simple buttercream, but a buttercream of champions. Light, fluffy, and so sugary it was almost granular…but in a perfect way.

So with some research, I did my best to recreate it. I imagined them as cupcakes at first, because I kind of can’t stop making cupcakes lately, but on this particular baking day I felt very impatient, and wanted to keep it simple and scrappy. So instead of making elegant cupcakes, I grabbed two pans that were (roughly) the same size and went for it.

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Fire-Roasted Pesto Summer Shells

Fire-Roasted Pesto Summer Shells

Summer has a taste. An awesome taste, for sure, but a taste that varies from person to person. For some this means sizzling hot dogs at the ballpark, others can’t get enough butter-dipped grilled corn, and, perhaps the most puzzling, there are people who crave early-morning salted nut rolls on the golf course (I know this from personal beer-cart girl experience). Truth be told, I’ve never craved a hot dog, I choose to slather my butter onto things more decadent than corn, and every morning I’d give a middle-aged man a look of disgust when he asked me for a salted nut roll in my beer-cart girl days. But, to each their own, because this girl has her own ideas about summer food.

For me, the first summery foods that come to mind are roasted veggies and tangy margaritas. So naturally, when we were enjoying 90+ heat in Minnesota this weekend, I asked the boy to fire up the grill and go buy some limes. After all, I had my first Minnesota sunburn, my first crazy 80′s hair day of the humid season, and that sleepy, relaxed, and intoxicating overheated high. It was time for a lime-filled adult beverage and an insanely wonderful combination of roasted veggies, fresh basil, and big ‘ol pasta shells. So, in other words, it was time for summer magic.

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