Smoky-spicy bar mix (~3.5 cups)

I don't know about all of you, but if I'm ever going to be caught off guard by a social event or expectation, it's going to happen in November or December. Between thoughts of, "That party is this week?" and, "I thought you were getting the hostess gift," I find myself scrambling at least once a week from now until after New Year's.

And yes, I do recognize the irony of working part-time as an executive functioning coach while I struggle with time management and organization myself.

But anyway, whether you're fumbling to figure out what to serve as an appetizer for Thanksgiving, bring to a friend's holiday housewarming, give to your coworker for a Secret Santa gift, or present to that tough-to-shop-for relative, I've got the solution: A jar of crunchy, salty, smoky, spicy nuts and seeds from Oh She Glows. The recipe is dairy-free and vegan, and it can be made gluten-free by swapping out the soy sauce for coconut aminos. And it takes almost no time to put together!

Click here for a printable recipe.

You will need:

  • 1 1/4 cups raw unsalted cashews
  • 1 1/4 cups raw unsalted almonds
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes or chips (Something like this -- not traditional sweetened, shredded coconut)
  • 2 Tbsp sesame seeds
  • 2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
  • 1/2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp liquid smoke
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp smoked sweet paprika
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper or hot sauce (I used chipotle-flavored hot sauce)

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325° F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with non-stick foil or parchment paper.
  2. Mix the cashews, almonds, coconut, and sesame seeds in a medium bowl and set aside.
  3. In a small bowl (or even a mug), mix the remaining ingredients with a fork or small whisk.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients over the nuts mixture and toss to coat evenly.
  5. Spread the mixture out on the baking sheet in a thin layer.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes; stir, and then bake for another 10 minutes, or until the coconut flakes are golden brown.
  7. Allow to cool; store in an airtight container (if it makes it that far).

I made a few tiny changes to the original recipe; I increased the cashews and almonds and decreased the liquid smoke slightly. The original author recommended running the range fan and opening a window, so that made me a little leery of using the full liquid smoke amount. Even with the smaller amount, it was still pleasantly smoky, especially since I used chipotle hot sauce in addition to the smoked paprika.

By the way, if you're on the fence about the coconut, don't skip it! Yes, it's unusual, but in the oven, it becomes crispy and golden, and it lends a beautiful flavor without being too assertive. I wouldn't say it tastes coconut-y at all, really!

Vegetarian Thanksgiving side dishes roundup

Thanksgiving is only a week away, and if you're still looking for some tasty, meat-free side dishes, I've got you covered, friends. Below is a collection of some of my favorite side dishes, just in time for the holidays. It just so happens that all are gluten-free, unless otherwise noted!

Vegan

Vegetarian

Won't you give thanks by liking the MainlyVeggie Facebook page?

Vegetarian Thanksgiving spectacular!

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Happy (almost) Thanksgiving! Instead of relegating yourself to a plate full of side dishes this year, why not make a delicious meat-free (and dairy-free!) main dish? I first tried the Post-Punk Kitchen's chickpea cutlets last Thanksgiving, when I made dinner for just me and Bryan. This year, I'll be making them again, alongside a (free-range, vegetarian-fed, organic) turkey breast for my sister, who's visiting from PA. (And I can't wait to see her! Yaaaay!) 

Now I know that next to a moist, fragrant, crispy-skinned turkey, chickpeas seem... well, boring. But this recipe is surprisingly hearty and flavorful. The thyme and sage bring in traditional Thanksgiving flavors, and the wheat gluten makes the "cutlets" chewy on the inside. I had never cooked with vital wheat gluten before, so seeing strings of gluten spontaneously appear in the dough made me feel like some sort of scientist. It was fun! I've made this recipe several times since last Thanksgiving, and I've found that if the dough gets mixed for too long, the cutlets become too chewy -- like cheese-long-ago-stuck-to-the-pizza-box chewy. So don't mix them too long! They freeze really well, so I'd recommend making enough to put away for later!

You will need:

  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 16-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup vital wheat gluten
  • 1 cup plain breadcrumbs (not fresh)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp dried sage
  • canola or olive oil for frying

Steps:

  1. Add the garlic cloves to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until chopped. Then add the chickpeas in with the garlic and pulse again until the chickpeas are mashed (but not so long that they get puréed). Transfer the garlic and chickpeas to a bowl.
  2. Add all the remaining ingredients (minus the extra oil for frying) to the chickpea mixture and use your hands to knead the dough just until strings of gluten form, which will be a minute or two. (The original recipe has a helpful photo.)
  3. Preheat a large rimmed skillet over medium-low. Add just enough oil to make a thin layer on the bottom.
  4. Divide the cutlet "dough" into two equal parts. Then divide each half into four pieces, making eight pieces total. Shape each piece by hand, stretching and flattening until you have eight rectangular-ish shapes about 4" by 6" in size. (A flat surface like a cutting board will help.)
  5. Place the cutlets in the pan and cook them 6-7 minutes per side. They will be browned and crispy on both sides when they're done. You might need to add a little more oil to the pan when you flip them. Allow them to rest for a few minutes before serving.

If you have to make these in two batches, you can keep the first batch warm under aluminum foil while the second round cooks. I recommend either Hain Brown Gravy Mix or Imagine Wild Mushroom Gravy with these. I think the Hain gravy tastes better, but it does require cooking and stirring it on the stovetop (trust me: the microwave method is gross); the Imagine gravy is ready-to-serve out of the box. 

Last year, I served this with Smitten Kitchen's garlic butter roasted mushroomsEpicurious' roasted green beans and cashews, and Rachael Ray's red-skinned mashed potatoes. I may just do the exact same thing this year!

Meatless burgers (6 servings)

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Back on Labor Day, I finally experimented with something I'd been meaning to try out for a long time: turning my meatless meatballs into burgers. The idea seemed plausible; the meatballs were always deliciously juicy, so I figured they would be moist enough as burgers. The meatball seasonings were Italian-influenced, but I reasoned that I could change that up to make the flavor more burger-y. After some Internet research on oven temperatures and cooking times (and an excellent smoke-prevention tip from the Amateur Gourmet ), I was ready to venture into Burger Land. And what a delicious trip it was. 

Basically, what follows is my go-to meatballs recipe with a change to the cheese and herbs. 

You will need:

  • 4 eggs, slightly beaten
  • an envelope of onion soup mix
  • 2 cups shredded mild-flavored cheese (I used Colby-Jack, but I imagine Swiss would work well, too)
  • 3/4 cup walnut halves, processed until finely ground
  • 1 c unseasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1-2 Tbsp of your favorite seasoning mix (I used some Mt. Elbert blend, which is a mix of salt, onion, bell pepper, black pepper, garlic, thyme, and oregano)
  • a good squeeze of tomato paste

Steps:

  1. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. I'd suggest using a spoonula to fold/mush the mixture until it's well blended.
  2. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and then sprinkle a layer of salt on top of the foil. Place a wire rack (the kind you'd cool cookies on) on top of the salted foil. (This is the genius tip from the Amateur Gourmet; the salt absorbs any dripped grease and keeps the oven from smoking!)
  4. Bring the burger mix out of the fridge. Use your hands to shape the mixture into six patties (each should be about an inch thick), reshaping and resizing them until they're pretty much uniform size.
  5. Place the patties on the wire rack and place the baking sheet in the oven. Bake the burgers for 12-16 minutes, turning them over halfway through the cooking time. When they're finished, they should be a lovely golden brown and crispy on the outside.
  6. Serve them on buns with your favorite toppings -- lettuce, tomato, ketchup, and smoked Gouda for me!

The nice thing about these burgers is that you don't have to fuss over internal temperature the way you do with beef burgers. Yes, there are eggs in the mixture, but they cook quickly enough that you don't have to worry about them still being raw. 

If you're not sure what type of seasoning mix to use, I'd think Mrs. Dash hamburger blend or Emeril's Bam! Burger seasoning (rolling my eyes at the name) would work nicely. I was a little worried that my burgers would turn out too salty, since my seasoning blend was salted, but we really didn't notice a problem. I used only about a tablespoon of the mix, so maybe if I'd used more, it would have been an issue.

The only thing I'd do differently next time would be to spray Pam on the wire rack before I placed the burgers on it. They stuck to it so much that I had a hard time removing them! You can see from the picture that one edge of the burger dipped down into the salt layer while I was lifting the other end up! It was a little messy to clean up, but the flavor was so good that I didn't mind. These burgers are crispy, juicy, flavorful, and healthy. I'm happy my experiment turned out so well!

Oh, and Amy's vegetarian baked beans make an excellent side dish!

Roasted new potato salad with sage leaves (8-10 servings)

Side Dish Saturdays are back! From now until Christmas, I'll post a new side dish recipe every Saturday (or Sunday, if I'm lazy).

**I lied. Life got in the way.

I made this particular dish for Thanksgiving at our friends' house last week. It's a convenient side to serve around the holidays because it doesn't need to be hot. It can be served warm or at room temperature. I apologize for not taking a photo, but I was in a hurry to get out the door!

You will need:
  • 6 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1-2 Tbsp minced chives
  • 3 1/2 lbs. small, red-skinned potatoes, cut into even bite-sized pieces (I halved most of mine because they were the tiny little guys)
  • 35 fresh sage leaves (I needed less than one bunch to get this number of leaves)

Steps:
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  2. To make the dressing, mix 3 Tbsp oil with the vinegar and chives, using a whisk or shaking it up in a container with a tight lid. Season with salt and pepper; set dressing aside.
  3. Place potatoes in a large roasting pan; add in the sage leaves and remaining 3 Tbsp oil and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Roast until the potatoes are browned on the outside and tender on the inside and the sage leaves are browned and crisp (25-30 minutes).
  4. Allow the potatoes to cool slightly. Crumble the sage leaves over the potatoes, rewhisk the dressing, and pour it over the sage and potatoes. Toss to coat and serve.

Putting this together is definitely not difficult. The only step I found challenging was crumbling the sage leaves. Some of them had become stuck to the potatoes, so I had to hold down the potatoes with a fork and pry the sage leaves free with a pair of tongs. I used my fingers to crumble the sage, but the oil made many of the pieces stick to me instead of the potatoes! Maybe next time I'll add a bit more sage to compensate for the pieces I'll inevitably lose to the sink after washing my hands.

On Epicurious, readers made some interesting suggestions for add-ins -- everything from garlic and rosemary to roasted red peppers and feta. I did add in a couple of diced roasted peppers from a jar, mainly just because I wanted to use them up. I liked the flavor they added, and I'd definitely keep them in next time. I think crumbled goat cheese or feta would be lovely too, but I skipped it this time, since Thanksgiving comes with enough heavy dishes already. If you don't add cheese, this dish is vegan.