June 20, 2014

the ultimate veggie burger

If you are vegan or vegetarian, veggie burger is one of the few things that you can eat when dining out. I think it's great that many establishments offer the meat-free option.

I've eaten a lot of veggie burgers in my life but very few were memorable. In fact, more often than not, I have been disappointed with the quality even when my expectations were pretty low. I would often feel heavy, if not sick, from eating something that I thought would satisfy me. Maybe I was better off gnawing on a piece of cardboard?

So, just like I always do when I can't really find what I want, I decided to create my own. Here's my version of the ultimate veggie burger that will hit the spot but won't weigh you down. Brown rice is added for substance and moisture, chopped dried tomatoes for umami (=savory yumminess) and some sunflower seeds for texture. Slurry made with flax seeds is used in place of eggs to hold everything together. The patties are gluten free if you make your own Worcestershire sauce with GF tamari.

The following recipe makes 4 large or 8 small patties. They freeze well so don't worry if you end up with extra!


Black bean patties 
2 cups cooked black beans, drained (1 canned beans = 1 3/4 cups)
1 cup cooked brown rice, cooled
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 cup sunflower seeds, toasted
2 TBS vegan Worcestershire sauce (store-bought or homemade (see the bottom of this post for recipe))
2 cloves of garlic, minced or crushed with a garlic press
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp onion powder
Salt and pepper as needed

1 TBS ground flax seeds, mixed with 3 TBS water

Sautéed mushrooms, grilled onions, lettuce, avocado, tomato, vegan cheese, sprouts, etc.

Easy BBQ sauce 
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 1/2 TBS vegan Worcestershire sauce


Place cooked black beans and cooked brown rice in a food processor. Process until the mixture becomes coarse. (You can also mash them up with your hands or a potato masher.)

Add minced sun-dried tomatoes, spices, seasonings and flax “egg” and pulse several times so everything becomes well incorporated. Taste (yep, you can taste it 'cause everything is vegan!) and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Wet your hands with water and form the mixture into patties (portion out 1/2 cup for decent-sized patties and 1/4 cup for small ones). Place them on a cookie sheet.

Bake in a preheated oven of 350ºF for 15 to 20 minutes or until they are looking slightly crispy on the top. Flip them half way through. You can also pan-fry these on an oiled skillet.

Assemble the burger with a patty on a bun with all of your favorite fixings.

The patty also tastes great on top of a fresh salad!

 Vegan Worcestershire sauce
  makes about 3/4 cup

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 TBS soy sauce
2 TBS brown rice syrup or maple syrup
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground black pepper

Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan and stir thoroughly. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Simmer 1 minute. Let cool and store in the refrigerator.

February 17, 2014

homemade kimchi

There are two kinds of pickles that I always keep in the refrigerator: kimchi and sauerkraut. Both homemade.

I have always loved kimchi. I remember years ago before I became vegan and had an obsession with this pickle, I made kimchi using an "authentic" recipe with salted shrimp, fish sauce, sugar and all. I started making it again—this time vegan and sugar-free—last summer when I joined a local CSA. I wanted to preserve the abundance of produce that was otherwise taking up the space in the refrigerator.

This recipe is loosely based on one that I saw in a raw foods cookbook. I've changed some things around to my liking. Follow these simple steps and you will have flavorful kimchi in just a few days.

You will need...

two stainless steel bowls
grater (I highly recommend a Microplane grater) 
one half-gallon Mason jar with lid


1 head napa cabbage (2 to 2 1/2 pounds)
1/2 daikon radish (about 8 oz) or 2 hakurei turnips

2 TBS sea salt
1/2 cup water

1 medium carrot, sliced into thin matchsticks
1/2 bunch green onions, cut into 1 inch lengths
3 cloves of garlic, grated
1 small knob of ginger, grated (about 1 TBS)
1 to 1 1/2 TBS Korean chili pepper (coarse type, no salt added)
2 tsp brown rice syrup (optional)


Prepare the vegetables. Peel away the leaves of the napa cabbage, stack them together, cut them in half lengthwise and slice them into 1-inch widths (see photo below). Slice the daikon or hakurei turnips in half-moons (or quarter-moons depending on the size). 

Place the cut vegetables in a large bowl. Sprinkle the salt and pour water. Massage lightly with your hands. Cover the bowl with a kitchen cloth and let this sit for about 8 hours or overnight.

Drain the salted vegetables in a colander set over a bowl. Gently press the vegetables to squeeze out the water. Reserve the strained liquid. This becomes the brine. Take the drained vegetables and put them back in the big bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well with your hands.

Take a half-gallon Mason jar and pack it tightly with the vegetables mixed with spices. Pour the brine into the jar. Leave about an inch of space on top as gas develops in the course of fermentation. Press down the vegetables and seal the jar with a lid. Let it sit at room temperature for a few days.

Check your kimchi at least once a day. Open the jar to release any gas that forms. Press down on the kimchi to make sure the vegetables are submerged in the brine.

After three days, taste the kimchi. Store the jar in the refrigerator when it's mature enough to your liking.

Kimchi is great added to pan-fried rice, served with mung bean pancakes or eaten straight out of the jar. My favorite way to enjoy kimchi is to pair it with natto, fermented soybeans, served on top of warm bowl of rice. Natto is another wonderful product of fermentation, and I have been making it from scratch as well. If you like this slimy stinky delicacy, it is pretty easy to make at home if you have an incubator, gas oven with a pilot or a dehydrator. I guess that calls for another blog post!

February 3, 2014

chickpea chowder

According to groundhog Phil, we're expecting six more weeks of dreadful winter. For the last few months, I have been making soups almost everyday. There is nothing comforting like a warm bowl of soup on a cold winter day.

Here is a recipe for stick-to-your-ribs vegan "chowder." The secret to this thick and creamy soup is using a base made with sweet corn. Partially blending the finished soup also gives the soup a nice rich consistency without the use of cream.


1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced or crushed
1 yellow onion, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)

1 lb butternut squash, peeled and diced (about 3 cups)
1/2 to 1 cup of water or vegetable broth
2 15-oz cans of chickpeas or 3 cups of cooked chickpeas (rinse beans if using canned)
2 stalks celery, diced (about 1 cup)

8 oz frozen corn, thawed (about 1 cup)
4 cups water or vegetable broth
2 TBS chickpea miso

2 TBS nutritional yeast
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp sea salt

freshly ground black pepper
sprinkle of smokey paprika (optional)
chopped parsley for garnish
Place olive oil and garlic in a soup pot. Set the flame to low and slowly saute the garlic. When it starts to sizzle a bit, add onion. Turn up the flame to medium high and let it cook until it begins to brown and caramelize. Add some more water if the onion starts to stick to the pot.
Layer butternut squash, chickpeas and celery on top and add 1/2 cup of water (or vegetable broth). Place a lid and let it simmer for 5 to 10 minutes until the squash pieces become soft.
While the veggie/chickpea mixture is cooking, prepare the base for the soup. Place corn, water (or vegetable broth) and sweet white miso in a blender and process until it becomes smooth.

Pour this into the soup pot with vegetables/chickpeas. Stir in nutritional yeast, thyme, celery seed and salt. If you'd like to make the consistency of the soup creamier and richer, take about 1/3 of the soup and blend until smooth. (You can also use an immersion blender if you have one.)

Ladle the chowder into soup bowls and sprinkle some black pepper and smokey paprika and garnish with chopped parsley.