Vegetable Literacy

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So, I’ve been struggling to find time over the past few months for recipe posting. My recent lack of blogging has largely been due to the fact that I’ve been working quite a lot over the past several months. In May, I got a job focusing on what I am most passionate about: sustainable agriculture. Over the course of the summer and into the early fall, I ran a farming education program where I was working primarily with elementary school students. We had various summer camps and school field trips to our farm where students would participate in our outdoor education program. We would give the children a tour of the crop fields, discussing with them how we grow our vegetables. We would often take them on a hike and allow them to pick some of their own vegetables to take home. The focus of the program was to create “vegetable literate” children, to teach them how food grows, why food grows and to encourage healthy eating habits. Our farm is USDA-certified organic vegetable farm on the campus of Wilson College just south of Harrisburg, PA. Here in semi-rural Pennsylvania, there are all kinds of misconceptions about where food comes from. When asked, my students usually declare that their food comes from “the store”. Although we are surrounded by such ample farmland, there is quite a disconnect between people and the land. In fact, many adults are confused about how and where their food grows. The ultimate goal is to bridge that gap and to stress the importance of eating local and organic. Though I haven’t really had time for culinary experimentation this summer, I have really enjoyed working toward changing our current food system, even in a very minimal way. When it comes to creating a more sustainable agricultural system, every little effort counts. As the farming season comes to a halt and my program begins to wind down, I am finding more time on my hands to blog about my eating adventures. I’ll be posting some seasonal recipes over the next couple of weeks, in preparation for Thanksgiving (this is going to be the first year I’m cooking the meal myself!) Stay tuned!

How To: Build Your Own Veggie Burger

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I absolutely love experimenting with different types veggie burgers. The flavor combinations are endless and homemade burgers are so much better than the frozen store-bought kind. So, I thought I would share MY guidelines to building a veggie burger. These burgers can be made ahead of time and can be frozen for up to 3 months. Who needs meat when you can have veggie burgers like these?! Check out my recipe for Roasted Sweet Potato and Black Bean burgers!

Get creative and make it your own! Here is how:

2 cups of cooked legumes:
•Beans (black, garbanzo, white, kidney)
•Peas
•Lentils

2 cups of starch and/or grains (you can use 2-3 different ones):
•Sweet potato
•Quinoa
•Brown rice
•Breadcrumbs
•Ground oats

2-3 cups of vegetables:
•Onion
•Peppers
•Corn
•Carrots
•Mushrooms

1/3 cup of liquid/thickener (choose 1-2):
•Tomato paste
•Tahini
•Ketchup
•Sriracha
•Oils (olive, coconut, grape seed, canola)
•Vegetable broth
•1 egg

1/3 cup of herbs:
•Cilantro
•Parsley
•Basil
•Rosemary
•Thyme

Spices (based on preference):
•Cumin
•Chili powder
•Paprika
•Cayenne pepper
•Oregano
•Curry powder
•Garam masala

1-2 tablespoons of seeds (optional):
•Flax
•Sesame
•Chia

1/2 cup of cheese (optional):
•Sharp cheddar
•Cheddar
•Mozzarella
•Jack
•Feta

Now, for the assembling:

1. In a mixing bowl, mash legume of choice with a fork or potato masher. Add starch or grain and combine to create a paste (it’s alright if it’s chunky!) I use my hands for this step and it’s really fun.

2. Add vegetables, then liquid and combine with (clean!) hands. Add herbs, spices, seeds and cheese if you so desire. Combine.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

4. While oven is preheating, form patties with your mixture. This recipe should make about 8-10 medium-sized veggie burgers. Place on a well oiled or parchment lined baking sheet.

5. Bake burgers for 20 minutes, flipping once halfway through (10 minutes on each side).

6. Take out of oven and serve on a bun of your choice, topping with: hummus, ketchup, mustard, hot sauce, onion, avocado, tomato, mixed greens, mushrooms – whatever you desire!

7. You can store your veggie burgers in an airtight container for up to 5 days in the refrigerator. These burgers can be grilled or cooked in a stovetop skillet. About 4-5 minutes on each side should do the trick! Enjoy!

Note: You can also freeze these veggie burgers in an airtight container (I recommend a BPA-free bag) for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to cook them up, allow burgers to thaw for an hour before cooking or grilling.

Mini Hummus Pizzas

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Well, the past few weeks have been so hectic and I haven’t had the time to make anything super yummy or creative. It’s pretty much been pasta or take out every night. But I finally got the chance to experiment with these delicious (and quick!) pita pizzas yesterday. Now, I went out on a limb here as this is not your traditional pizza. I made these personal pita pizzas (how’s that for alliteration?) with hummus, sautéed veggies and feta cheese. This post is part of Our Growing Edge, a monthly food blogging event that encourages food bloggers to try new things! Hope you enjoy this experiment!

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Dietary Info: Dairy-Free Option

Yields: One personal pizza

Time: 20 minutes

•1 flatbread pita
•1/2 cup Hummus
•3/4 cup chopped vegetables of your choice (I did red pepper, onion and asparagus)
•1/4 cup feta cheese*
•1 clove of garlic, minced
•1 tablespoon olive oil
•Chopped cilantro, for garnish
•Salt and pepper for sprinkling

*For a vegan option, omit cheese or use a dairy-free alternative.

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush flatbread pita with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 5-7 minutes.

2. While pita is baking, sauté garlic and vegetables in a small skillet.

3. Remove pita from oven and smother with hummus. Next, top with veggies and feta.

4. Place your hummus pizza back in the oven and bake for another 5-7 minutes (or until pita is golden brown), allowing the feta to melt a bit. Let cool and garnish with cilantro. Enjoy!

Baked Tofu Stir Fry with Sesame and Ginger

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Serves: 4-6

Time: 1 hour

Dietary Info: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free

It has recently occurred to me that I do not experiment enough with meat substitutes. So, I decided to make this baked tofu stir fry. As far as meat alternatives go, tofu is really not my favorite thing in the world ….but if its prepared just right it can be pretty damn yummy! When it comes to tofu, the firmer the better so I use extra firm tofu. I baked it for about 30 minutes in order to release most of the moisture. Note: if you are short on time, you can drain the tofu the night before and allow it to marinate overnight. You can serve this recipe over rice but I think this stir fry is delicious on its own! I made this recipe with broccoli, carrots and bell peppers but you can certainly mix it up by using your own variety of veggies!

For the sesame ginger sauce:

  • 1/4 cup sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup Gluten-Free soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, minced
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced

    For everything else:

  • 1 12 oz. package of extra-firm tofu
  • 1 small crown of broccoli, cut into florets
  • 1 large green bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and julienned
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds, for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon scallions, sliced for garnish

    1. Slice tofu block in half and lay both halves on a flat surface, covering with a cloth. Place a large cast iron skillet or a stack of books on top of the tofu. Allow tofu to drain for 15 minutes. While tofu is draining, whisk together all ingredients for the stir fry sauce.

    2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place drained tofu in a large bowl or roasting pan and pour half the stir fry sauce overtop. Allow tofu to marinade for about 15 minutes, flipping once.

    3. Slice tofu into rectangles, about 1/2 inch thick. Place sliced tofu on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, turning tofu halfway through. While tofu is baking, prepare veggies.

    4. In a large skillet (or wok), add about 2 tablespoons of stir fry sauce. On medium heat, add veggies and stir frequently. Gradually add the rest of the stir fry sauce. Cook for a total of 5-7 minutes so that vegetables don’t get soggy.

    5. Serve baked tofu overtop veggies and garnish with scallions and sesame seeds. Enjoy!

    Vegetable Sauté with Quinoa and Black Eyed Peas

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    Time: 20 minutes

    Serves: 2

    Dietary Info: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free

  • 1/2 cup quinoa, cooked (yields 1 cup)
  • 1 cup black eyed peas, cooked or canned*
  • 1 large carrot, sliced
  • 1/2 cup asparagus, chopped
  • 1/2 cup peas
  • 1/3 cup yellow onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup chopped almonds
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • dash of cayenne
  • dash of smoked paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • chopped parsley, for garnish
  • *If using canned black eyed peas, drain and rinse.

    1. In a small saucepan, bring quinoa and 1 cup of water to a boil. Simmer and cook covered for 10-15 minutes.

    2. While quinoa is cooking, heat oil in a medium sized pan. Lightly toast almonds for about 3-4 minutes then add garlic and onions, sautéing for another 3 minutes. Add asparagus, carrots and peas and sauté for another 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add black eyed peas, cumin, paprika, cayenne, salt and pepper followed by cooked quinoa. Stir to completely combine for another minute or two.

    3. Serve, topped with chopped parsley. Enjoy!