Black Bean and Sweet Potato Fritters with Pistachio Pesto

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Fritters with Pistachio Pesto | veggieandthebeastfeast.com

Moderation? Psh, not really my thing.

Making 2 rounds of fritters, and watching 10 episodes of Orange is the New Black in one day? More my thing.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Fritters with Pistachio Pesto | veggieandthebeastfeast.com

I recently made some curried carrot fritters, and in the process realized that I didn’t just “like” fritters…nope, I might just be a fritter freak.

FRITTER FREAK. What a label.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Fritters with Pistachio Pesto | veggieandthebeastfeast.comBlack Bean and Sweet Potato Fritters with Pistachio Pesto | veggieandthebeastfeast.com

Making the curried carrot fritters reminded me of a sandwich I order at Brasa, a restaurant in the Twin Cities, that makes a black bean fritter sandwich that haunts my dreams. I crave it ALL THE TIME, so I decided to make a slightly healthier version for at home.

(Quick note – if you live in the Twin Cities GO TO BRASA. GET THE FRITTER AND YUCCA FRIES. k? k.)

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Fritters with Pistachio Pesto | veggieandthebeastfeast.com

Since I love black beans, sweet potatoes and chili powder together, I combined them in these little crispy patties. As you may know, I have fresh basil at my fingertips (thanks, Ry/Beast!!!), so the pistachio pesto was a no-brainer.

To make things a tad less indulgent, I like eating these fritters with some tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and pesto in a blanket of butter lettuce. Yes, the ciabatta bun that the restaurant version comes on is better than lettuce, because OMG CARBS, but if you want a tasty and healthier option, go for the butter, baby.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Fritters with Pistachio Pesto | veggieandthebeastfeast.com

This recipe, friends, uses chia eggs. I know, it might sound a bit strange to some of you, but they are an ah-mazing binder.

If you’re not into vegan binder options, feel free to substitute a chicken egg wherever you see me use an alternative.

Those who know me know I get food aversions sometimes, and currently eggs are one of them. It’s okay though, cause what I lack in egg enjoyment I make up for in fried fritter love.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Fritters with Pistachio Pesto | veggieandthebeastfeast.com

In related news, Ryan has started singing “Fat kid in a skinny body…” to me on the daily. #friedstuff
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Red Lentil, Smashed Chickpea and Millet Burgers

Red Lentil, Smashed Chickpea and Millet Burgers - Vegan and Gluten Free | Veggie and the Beast

It took an embarrassing amount of veggie burger consumption to realize that I could actually make my own.

For years, the term “veggie burger” brought to mind a flat, dingy-brown frozen patty. Sure, it became edible once thrown in my George Foreman grill (hey, college), but I considered it nothing more than a quick protein source and a vehicle for condiments.

It’s important to note that this was during a time when I would dip my tomato slices in ketchup, and then scoop up any leftover ketchup with a spoon, sometimes swirling it in the adjacent yellow mustard. I had a condiment problem.

Red Lentil, Smashed Chickpea and Millet Burgers - Vegan and Gluten Free | Veggie and the Beast

I’ve since discovered that there are plenty of frozen veggie burgers that need not be doused in a condiment to cover their flavor, but I still prefer making my own patties. I also prefer burgers full of vegetables and grains, which don’t even try to resemble beef burgers. Ryan is more open to these types of burgers as well, because a veggie burger will never replace beef (or venison) burgers for him, but a vegetable-filled burger falls into a different category altogether.

MEN. you know?

Red Lentil, Smashed Chickpea and Millet Burgers - Vegan and Gluten Free | Veggie and the Beast

This patty, for instance, is colorful, protein-packed, and about as far away from a beef burger as possible. Red lentils, smashed chickpeas, and chewy millet make up the base, while pepitas, oats, green pepper and carrots add extra texture and flavor. To dry out the moisture a bit, and make the burgers easier to handle, I stirred in garbanzo bean flour, but any other flour should do the trick. You can play with the spices to your liking, but I find the combination below to be just salty/spicy/zesty enough for my tastes.

Red Lentil, Smashed Chickpea and Millet Burgers - Vegan and Gluten Free | Veggie and the Beast

To add a little crunch to the outside, I like to pan-fry the patties after they’re done baking. It’s an unnecessary step, so if you’re pressed for time (or hungry), you can eat them right from the oven.

I used a flax egg in this recipe, but if you’re not concerned with keeping it vegan then a chicken egg should work just fine. Serve the cooked patties on a bun, open-faced on a thick piece of crusty bread, or crumbled over greens.

Red Lentil, Smashed Chickpea and Millet Burgers - Vegan and Gluten Free | Veggie and the Beast

I have not tried grilling these, but it would probably work well if you throw them on the grill AFTER they bake in the oven. Don’t throw the raw burger dough on, or else you’ll have a crumbly mess to clean up. The patties will keep in the fridge for several days, but can also be frozen after baking.

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Spicy Buffalo Lentil and Roasted Cauliflower Tacos

Buffalo Lentil and Roasted Dill Cauliflower Tacos | Veggie and the Beast

I’m in the midst of a serious lentil fling. I don’t even know if I can call it a “fling” since it seems that I might be in it for the long haul. It’s getting pretty serious.

You wouldn’t know it from reading this blog, but I’ve been eating a LOT of lentils lately. Red, green, black, brown…all of ‘em. They’re so versatile, healthy, and PACKED with protein. Since the cookbook I’m working on is focused on high protein vegetarian foods, you can bet I’ve had lentils every which way over the past several months.

Buffalo Lentil and Roasted Dill Cauliflower Tacos | Veggie and the Beast

I even went through a phase where I was trying to make red lentil peanut butter cups happen. I know, I know…stop trying to make fetch happen, Katie. It’s not going to happen.

Except, let’s be honest, it might eventually. Sorry not sorry.

Buffalo Lentil and Roasted Dill Cauliflower Tacos | Veggie and the Beast

Today though, we’re going to be putting lentils in totally appropriate places, like in tacos! With garlic, shallots, spicy buffalo sauce, and nutty roasted dill cauliflower.

We’re also going to cover dem tacos with a creamy basil and kale sauce, because basil is delicious (and Ryan is a basil farmer, REPRESENT), and kale is good for you.

Buffalo Lentil and Roasted Dill Cauliflower Tacos | Veggie and the Beast

I’ve combined buffalo sauce and cauliflower a few times before (see examples A and B), but this time I separated the cauliflower from the sauce. In these tacos the lentils absorb the spicy sauce, and sit alongside cauliflower that’s been salted, peppered, tossed with dried dill, and roasted until nicely browned and nutty. The flavorful basil and kale sauce adds a bit of brightness, and cuts the heat of the buffalo lentils. Flavor for days in these here tacos, folks.

Buffalo Lentil and Roasted Dill Cauliflower Tacos | Veggie and the Beast

I bought an all natural buffalo sauce from Whole Foods, and oh me oh my is it spicy. If you’re using a more mild buffalo sauce, but you like a ton of heat, you may add a little bit of ground cayenne to the lentils as they’re absorbing the buffalo sauce.

If you want your tacos to be vegan, just make sure your buffalo sauce is vegan (Franks Red Hot IS vegan), and then top with some cashew sour cream instead of the basil yogurt sauce.
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Smoky Kale and Chipotle Grilled Cheese

Chipotle Kale Grilled Cheese | Veggie and the Beast

I eat grilled cheese year-round, but it feels more appropriate to curl up with a cheesy, toasty, buttery sandwich when it’s starting to get cold outside. Especially if you dip that goodness in some warm soup. Ahhh yes.

Last week was a perfect week for grilled cheese. Not to go all Game of Thrones on you, but winter is coming, folks. I’ve started wearing my boots with warm socks, and even pulling on my hat and mittens when I take Teia out for a walk. The shift in seasons definitely calls for a hot and spicy sandwich, don’t you agree?

In this post, I tell you how to sauté kale, make it smoky and spicy, and eat it with cheese between 2 slices of bread. It seems simple, yes, but kale in grilled cheese is a thing in my life, and it occurred to me that it might not be a thing in yours, so I thought we should talk about it.

Chipotle Kale Grilled Cheese | Veggie and the Beast

I know some people think that kale is just WEIRD. They think it’s tough, bitter, and hard to work with. Admittedly, it’s not the most forgiving vegetable. No one has ever bitten into kale’s thick, uncooked center stem and ENJOYED it. You need to cut those guys out and either throw them away or juice them, but definitely, DEFINITELY don’t leave them in there.

I opted to use baby kale in this recipe, because it’s much less tough than lacinado kale, doesn’t have those darn stems, and its flavor is less strong. If you’re using lacinado kale, just cut out the large center stems, chop it up, and pick the recipe up from there.

Chipotle Kale Grilled Cheese | Veggie and the Beast

To start things off, we heat up some olive oil in a skillet, add a cup of baby kale with a sprinkle of salt, and cook it until it wilts and loses that tough exterior that turns so many people off. Once it’s done cooking, stir in just a teaspoon of adobo sauce to give it a smoky flavor. When it’s time to layer the sandwich, we smooth on some sour cream (to help cool down the heat), then cheddar cheese, then smoky kale, then a chopped chipotle pepper, and then MORE cheese.

As a side note, remember when I didn’t eat cheese for a month? I feel like I’ve been making up for those 30 cheeseless days with 90 days of eating ALL THE CHEESE.

Chipotle Kale Grilled Cheese | Veggie and the Beast

If you can’t handle spice, do NOT make this sandwich as-is. I eat spicy food every day, and this sandwich still made me sweat. Those who are spice-adverse can just sauté the kale in the olive oil, forego the chipotle pepper and adobo sauce, and just have a nice grilled cheese and greens sandwich. You can even swap the chipotle cheddar/pepperjack for sharp cheddar or provolone. There’s no shame in that.
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Smashed Chickpea, Avocado and Roasted Tomato Sandwich with “Cheesy” Tofu

Smashed Chickpea, Roasted Tomato, and Avocado Sandwich | Veggie and the Beast

My vegan challenge officially ended on Monday. The first night I dined on cheesy potato pizza and soft serve. The second night I ate a balanced meal of brie and puff pastry. I’m concerned about what the third night could bring.

From my recent dairy binges you’d think that I found the whole vegan thing difficult, but not really. I made a lot of meals and snacks that I really loved, and I didn’t feel deprived most of the time. I often pack vegan lunches for work, and making dinner at home proved to be fairly easy (when The Beast wasn’t flaunting his melted cheese, of course). I struggled the most with going out to eat, ordering the one vegan thing (or the one thing I could adapt to be vegan) on the menu, and shelling out $10-$15 for something I could easily make at home…and, to be honest, I could probably make it better.

Sorry, mainstream restaurants, but you seriously need to up your vegan game.

Smashed Chickpea, Roasted Tomato, and Avocado Sandwich | Veggie and the Beast

The go-to meal I missed most during my vegan month: sandwiches. Specifically grilled cheese sandwiches, since that’s really the only sandwich worth making in my book. When I’m not eating vegan, The Beast and I enjoy weekly “Adult” Grilled Cheese night, where we take the basic grilled cheese and pimp it out with all sorts of things. See Example A and Example B.

Last week, as my grilled cheese cravings worsened, I knew some vegan cheese experiments were necessary for me to successfully finish my challenge. Although I had bought a pack of Daiya pepperjack shreds that proved to be pretty darn convincing, I wanted to work with the other vegan magic ingredient: nutritional yeast. I bought about 8 ounces of the golden flakes at the beginning of the month, and had enjoyed sprinkling it on top of pizzas, in pasta sauces, and even in a vegan version of my favorite quick Mexican meal. Nutritional yeast has a crazy-impressive buttery flavor that, while not identical to cheese, can make a big difference in the savory decadence of a dish.

Smashed Chickpea, Roasted Tomato, and Avocado Sandwich | Veggie and the Beast

For this sandwich I made a simple “cheese” bechamel sauce with some olive oil, flour, almond milk, nutritional yeast, spices, and dijon mustard. I coated the tofu in the sauce and let it marinate for 20 minutes…and during this time I also dipped chips, pretzels, and my fingers in the sauce so I could appease my need for cheese (totally not desperate or anything…). While the tofu marinated and then grilled in a sandwich press, I sprinkled tomatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper, then roasted them until they shrunk down into little spheres of concentrated, juicy, subtle sweetness. Finally, I smashed down 1/3 cup of chickpeas with a fork, and then mixed in some spices to make it the smashed bean layer wonderfully umami-flavored.

Smashed Chickpea, Roasted Tomato, and Avocado Sandwich | Veggie and the Beast

Once all the pieces were in place, I layered the chickpeas, grilled tofu, leftover sauce, tomatoes, fresh basil and smashed avocado on hearty multigrain bread, then lightly grilled the sandwich just until the flavors melded together.

Smashed Chickpea, Roasted Tomato, and Avocado Sandwich | Veggie and the Beast

Maybe there’s no actual cheese melting around all corners of the sandwich, but the cheese flavor infuses the sandwich just enough to satisfy those aches of cheese need. The sweetness of the roasted tomatoes plays off of the savory smashed chickpeas, and the avocado adds a creaminess that brings everything together. It’s truly a perfect sandwich for the vegan who needs a bit of cheese flavor in life. Like me, 3 days ago.

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