sweet potato pierogis


I have some pretty fond memories of pierogis. Definitely didn't grow up in a Polish household (notttt even close), but somehow had them as a staple in our dinners growing up. Frozen, sure, but still delicious. How can you go wrong with cheese and potatoes wrapped in a soft yet crispy dumpling?

Well? As it turns out, yes. Though my craving for pierogis surfaced a few weeks ago, we had a devil of a time finding an option without cheese. Don't misunderstand: I love cheese. Cheese is more or less the food group I deem the most heavenly. There are other cute reasons why cheese will never do. (To understand, go here.)

Anyway, I thought, if I've conquered other recipes of things I formally bought pre-made, why not this? How hard could it be? Plus, it will give me the opportunity to adjust the recipe, to make it my own, to give it a twist.

So, for this slightly adapted version of a pierogi, you will need:

1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour
1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup vegan margarine, completely softened

For the filling:

1/2 cup mashed white potato
1/2 cup mashed sweet potato
1/2 small onion, caramelized
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil to make smooth

Easy enough, no? You want to start by making your dough, which needs to be refrigerated for about thirty minutes to an hour before you can form your pierogis. Combine your flours into a large bowl with your salt. Whisk together. Add your egg and yogurt. The mixture will be a bit crumbly, but that's okay. Add your softened margarine and mix together until it forms a soft dough. It will feel pretty wet, but don't worry. Wrap your dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for the recommended time above. Using some olive oil, caramelize your onion and garlic in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Set aside.

In the meantime, set a medium-size stockpot full of salted water to boil. Once boil, add your potatoes (peeled and cut into large chunks). Allow to cook until soft enough to mash, about 15 minutes. Drain your potatoes and then add your caramelized onions, garlic, salt, pepper and cumin. Mash together. If you find yourself straining to break the chunks down or that you need more liquid, add a dash of olive oil and try again. Continue this way until you've reached your desired consistency. I firmly believe that all mashed vegetables are better when not completely liquified, ie. retaining a few chunks for texture. But you have to do what feels right to you.

Set a large stock pot of water over high heat and bring to a rolling boil. Once your dough has chilled, remove plastic and roll out on a lightly floured surface. You'll want the dough to be about 1/8 thick. However, I found this to be a little tough to do all in one shot. If you feel the same, roll it about as thin as you possibly can. Then using your cookie cutter of choice, cut out your pierogi shapes, then flatten each cut-out individually until you achieve the right thickness. So much easier, am I right? Fill each pierogi with approximately 1 teaspoon of potato filling. Which, I know, doesn't seem like enough. It will, however, when you go to seal your dumpling and find it impossible to close. After you center your filling, fold the dough over and pinch closed. You can then use a fork to further seal the deal and add a cute, crimped edge to your pockets. Repeat until all pierogis are filled and sealed.

For any pierogis you don't plan on consuming immediately, now would be the perfect time to place them in a freezer-safe container for a later date, say, when you're ready to make this soup again. For all other finished pierogis (about 10 at a time, but no more), drop them into the boiling water. You'll know that they're ready to come out when they float to the top. Since they're fresh, this will happen relatively quickly, about 2-3 minutes.

Even though they're perfectly ready to eat at this stage, what's a pierogi without a little extra crispness? Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add some vegan margarine to the pan, which will no doubt start sizzling right away. Place your boiled pierogis in the pan and heat on each side for about 2-3 minutes, or until crisp. These are perfect to serve with more yogurt or a little apple sauce. Or just as is. The sweet potato lends a slightly nuttier, sweeter flavor to the pierogis, not to mention a little more color, though this recipe could definitely be completed using just white potatoes.


a very persian valentine's day


If you ask me (I know, you didn't, but here it is), a Valentine's Day in can be pretty romantic. Mostly because you're not stuffed into an overcrowded restaurant with specialty (or, hiked) prices for the occasion. It's more intimate, more about the shared experience. Though Colin and I do a lot of cooking at home and a lot of cooking together, we decided to stay in and prepare a special meal anyone, one that came from the present I got for him, The New Persian Kitchen. Full of tons of tips and tricks for recreating traditional Persian dishes at home (and, okay, a few meat-based recipes, but we'll just skip right past those), this book by Louisa Shafia introduces a modified take on Persian cooking that celebrates seasonal eating and lighter fare.

Just take me to the dessert section, okay?

No but seriously: we paged through the options for our Valentine's Day special and somehow settled on a jeweled brown basmati rice and quinoa dish. Just a quick side note here: I totally thought I invented the quinoa-rice combo, even aptly naming it rice-oa. There is a documented evidence of this somewhere. But apparently the Persians have beat me to it.

This aromatic rice dish is full of heady sweetness, spices and lots of roasty-toasty nut flavors. Brace yourself for it, because this dish requires a little bit of advance planning and preparation. Possibly even some online ingredient ordering - rose petals, anyone? Ah, but all in the name of love; so worth it.

For this recipe, you will need:

1 cup brown basmati rice, soaked in cold water for 1 hour
1 1/2 cups of white quinoa, soaked in cold water for 1 hour
5 tablespoons grapeseed oil
Sea salt
4 cups water, boiling
2 tablespoons coconut oil (or you could always use butter)
1 large yellow onion, minced
1 cup minced dried apricots
1/2 cup minced dried cherries (the original recipe calls for barberries though they were tough to come by; dried unsweetened cranberries could also be a good substitute)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 cup pistachios, toasted and chopped
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/2 teaspoon saffron, ground and steeped in hot water
1 tablespoon dried rose petals 
Pomegranate seeds (from about 1/2 pomegranate) for garnish

Also hard to come by in a traditional grocery store are dried rose petals; if there are no specialty Mediterranean or Middle Eastern markets nearby (and why not, I have to ask?), you could always take to the Internet, where you can find just about anything. Unfortunately, I didn't consider this option soon enough, so we weren't able to include the rose petals in this take. Note: It's super important to specify that you need edible rose petals, not just any old rose petals. Most flower shops sell plants that have been sprayed and treated, which would definitely taste the opposite of good. 

Whew. Okay, first thing to mention: depending on the rice and quinoa you've got, you may not need to soak the grains for quite so long. Though I've only taken one stab at this recipe so far, I do admit that the rice mixture came out a little sticker than I would have liked, which I believe had something to do with the quinoa getting a tad overcooked (with the soaking, plus the boiling water, you get it). To each their own, however, and I would recommend trying it the directed way first and adjusting from there.

After your grains have soaked, drain and rinse using cold water. In a medium pot, bring about 4 cups of water to a boil. In the meantime, heat another medium stockpot over low heat and at your soaked (but drained) rice and quinoa with about 2 tablespoons of your grapeseed oil and a bit of salt. Using the pot to toast your grains; stir often to prevent burning or sticking. In about 5 minutes, the rice will get super nutty and fragrant. At this point, add your boiling water; allow to return to a full, roiling boil, then reduce the heat and cover, cooking for about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop up your dried fruits, soak your saffron (watch those fingers if you don't want them to turn a pretty shade of yellow) and toast your nuts. Then chop your onion and sauté in a large skillet over medium heat using the rest of your grapeseed oil. Cook for about 15 minutes or until slightly caramelized. At this time, add your dried fruits, spices and rose petals, if you've got them. Cook together for 5 minutes more or until thoroughly heated. Reserving half of your pistachios and almonds, toss the other half in your onions, spices and fruits until coated. Season with a bit more salt and remove from heat.

After all that, your rice should be just about through cooking. At this stage in the game, you could attempt to make tahdig (tah-DEEG) with some of your rice, which literally translates to "the bottom of the pot." Tahdig is "the panfried layer of crust at the bottom of the rice pot." Crunchy, golden, beautiful stuff. We went with what Shafia called "faux tahdig." I can deal with a little faux for my first attempt, since the idea of creating tahdig traditional-style was just a tad daunting: next time! For a little faux in your life, reserve about 2 cups of your fully cooked rice-ua. Preheat a deep skillet or paella pan (or if you own neither, a wok). It's super important to let the pan get thoroughly hot, so says Shafia, in order to ensure the crispy outer layer for which tahdig is known. Add about 3 tablespoons of your oil of choice (I went with coconut) then add your rice. Spread the rice evenly on the bottom of the pan, tamping it down tightly with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle with salt. Spread a clean dish towel over the top of the pan (to catch excess moisture) and cover the pan tightly. Cook for about 10 minutes on the medium-high heat setting. Turn the heat down to low and cook for another 10 minutes. Try to resist taking a peek, since you could risk running the trapped moisture back into the rice. After 20 minutes, loosen the tahdig with a spatula or butter knife. Most likely with the assistance of another person (or your Valentine!), flip your tahdig onto a plate. Cross your fingers that it comes out whole! But no sweat if it does not: perfect tahdig takes practice!

Alright, back to the rest of the story. For the rest of your rice, add your coconut oil or butter and fluff with a fork. Mix in your sautéd onions, dried fruits and nuts. Sprinkle with additional sea salt, if you're so inclined and drizzle saffron over the top. Mix together until combined enough. Transfer to your serving dish of choice and sprinkle with reserved nuts and pomegranate arils for a crazy pop of color. AND antioxidants. Zing.

I don't know what to tell you guys. This is definitely a dish for the books. I hesitated over the fruit and cinnamon factor, wondering if it would be too sweet. Not a chance. Perfectly mixed with the basmati rice and nuts, this dish was anything but dessert. (Mostly because dessert was vegan peanut butter cups and vegan coconut truffles, but you know what I mean.) We paired this deliciousness with a fennel blood orange salad: way good. I myself also included a bit of yogurt on the side. How very Persian of me! My (basically vegan) sweetie, however, did no such thing.

Here's to love at the table, or wherever you may find it.


vegan french toast


Alright, you guys: let's hear it. Valentine's Day is only ever the best or the worst and never anything in between, am I right? There are the lovers (yes, quite literally) annnd the haters, and I guess if I have to pick a side, you'll find me donned in pink and red. Maybe even Cupid-like wings, who knows. Simply stated, I believe love is worth celebrating, no matter where you find it.

Since this could easily turn into a debate for the ages, let's move on to something we can all agree on: breakfast, of the French toast variety. YUM. Now, French toast has been a bit of a challenge in our household as of late. Seeing is how cute Colin has abandoned all dairy (which really just involves me cooking a dairy-free meal for both of us, serving his plate and then topping my own with, say, cheese), that removes the two traditional ingredients needed in order to prepare French toast: eggs and milk. Bummer. What to do? Giving up this particular breakfast item clearly not being an option and having had one tried-but-failed attempt to recreate the magic using only non-dairy milk as the custard base that resulted in a sad, soggy mess, I took to the trusty internet to find my answer.

The internet hardly ever fails us. It's true. Say what you will, but I have been able to Google almost anything and at least, even if I don't happen upon an answer, I am able to discover that someone else was wondering the same exact weird thing. And as it turns out, lots of people were on the hunt for a vegan French toast recipe that was sneakily vegan. You know what I mean; no weird flavors, no obvious missing notes. Vegan French toast that will make people say, "Wait, there's no egg in this? Seriously?" Seriously.

The inspiration I decided to draw from comes from Love & Lemons, another food blog I find myself frequenting on the regular. For this adapted recipe, you will need:

Some stale or day old bread (we went with a crusty whole wheat round)
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup almond milk
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 tablespoons rice flour (though any other flour can also work)
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (I've been wary of this stuff, I admit it. It definitely has a funky smell, but if you can get past that part, trust me, for this it's worth it.)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Some freshly grated nutmeg
Coconut oil for the pan

In a medium bowl, whisk together your coconut and almond milk, maple syrup, rice flour, yeast and spices. As I mentioned above, the nutritional yeast (most easily found in the dry bulk goods at your local grocery store) smells ... odd. But it's the key ingredient here to creating that faux-eggy (exactly) texture that French toast is all about. So stick with me here. It will be amazingly worth it in the end. 

If your bread isn't quite stale enough, giving it a quick toast to create some crustiness will do the trick. AND, if it is Valentine's Day or your are feeling particularly lovey-dovey, you might take this moment to cookie-cutter some of said bread into heart shapes. You know, for additional cuteness. 

Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium heat (any skillet will work, but the cast iron lends a nice crisp edge to your toast). Coat evenly with coconut oil, which is also great for creating crispness. Dip your bread in your mixture as you would for an ordinary French toast recipe and cook for 2-3 minutes per side or until golden and crunchy on the outside. (While you repeat these steps with your remaining bread, a great way to add a little additional flavor to traditional maple syrup: add about 1/4 cup fresh or frozen berries to a microwave safe bowl. Add 1/4 cup pure maple syrup and heat for 1-2 minute or until berries are thawed or broken down. Stir to combine.)

Once all of your bread has been fully French-toast-transformed, serve with berry syrup or topping of your choice. I admit, I was seriously surprised by the outcome. I thought it would be good, but surely had no shot of tasting like the real deal. Well, consider me humbled and completely incorrect: it did. I mean, who knows what else we can do by omitting the eggs? If we can still pull off things like magical French toast and chocolate chip cookies, will this become a dairy-free household in the end? 

No way: Cheese, people. Cheese.


vegan peanut butter cups


This post should begin with a warning: I'm not kidding. For the life of you, do not continue on reading OR make these if you are at all worried about becoming addicted to peanut butter. And if you already are? Well, it may be too late for you, so you might as well go on and add this recipe to your repertoire.

These are INSANE. And I am generally picky about my peanut butter cups. Why? There's the ideal ratio at stake, that crucial chocolate-to-peanut-butter element, plus there is always the chance that the peanut butter filling can go awry. Too sugary? Too salty? Not enough peanut flavor? Too creamy? Too gritty? Trust me, it can all happen. I've been there. I've ventured into specialty chocolate shops, tried their chocolate-peanut-butter concoctions and often though, meh: Reese's does it better. Blasphemy? Maybe so, but I've had few other varieties that step up to the plate.

Which, I admit, is partly why I decided to make these. I thought, "These won't be my favorite. I'll try one or two, and then offer them to a friend." Uhhhhhhh: yeah, right. Sorry, friends, I love you, but these are totally all mine. The fact that we have any left since Friday is quite frankly a miracle. These are AMAZING. And again, insanely easy, much like the other chocolate dessert we crafted. But if you lack even a little in the willpower department, beware: these little cups are merciless.

For this recipe, you'll need:

1/2 cup natural peanut butter (You might assume that a peanut butter cup would insist upon a creamy texture, but I'd have to disagree. Chunky was an excellent choice.)
2 tablespoons vegan butter (Earth Balance makes a good organic option, which is the same price as the non-organic; in the not-sorry world, we call that a no-brainer.)
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (IF your peanut butter is already salted, skip this for sure.)
16 ounces dark chocolate (Lindt 70% is a good option for a completely dairy-free chocolate)

Break or chop your chocolate into smaller pieces. In my opinion, breaking is easier and creates fewer shards, which can be tough to scoop into the bowl. No chocolate left behind! Melt in the microwave in 20 second increments to avoid burning, stirring after each round. In a smaller separate bowl, combine your peanut butter, vegan butter and sugars (and salt, if your peanut butter is salt-free, to which I must ask: why?). Little tip, it helps if your peanut butter is just so slightly warm (think about 10-15 seconds in the microwave) in order to incorporate the sugar a little easier.

At this point, you're pretty much ready to go. Chances are the kitchen is smelling heavenly; soak it in. Arrange candy cup wrappers on a baking sheet. Transferring your melted chocolate into a pourable container, if you haven't melted it in one in the first place, carefully pour a little chocolate into the bottom of each wrapper. Once you've gotten to every wrapper, it's time to turn your attention back to the star of the show: the peanut butter filling. Using a half teaspoon measurement (ish), scoop out peanut butter filling, flattening slightly, and place one in each mold. Now it's time to go back to your chocolate, pouring just enough in each cup to cover the peanut butter. Transfer your tray to the fridge for about thirty minutes to allow the candy to set.

Though I usually don't advocate restraint when it comes to digging in, trust me on this: these ones are worth waiting for. In thirty minutes you will be the ecstatic owner of about two-ish dozen peanut butter cups with ingredients that you know and can pronounce. I don't know about you, but I think that makes eating candy just a little bit sweeter. (Come on, I had to.)

Want to make vegan dark chocolate truffles, too? Of course you do. Find the recipe here.

vegan dark chocolate truffles


Everyone knows that Valentine's Day definitely means candy. Even if it's not all about candy (which, of course, it's not; for me, it's all about this cutie pie), candy definitely plays a vital part in this celebration. And not just any candy: chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate.

Even though I will enjoy a Reese's Heart with the best of them, since we decided to go with a homemade celebration this year, I thought it was only fair that the homemade aspect extend to dessert, too. The thing about planning a meal right, though, is that everything has to fit together time-wise, which can be kind of hard to execute in the moment. So an easy dessert? That can be made in advance? Check and check. This truffle recipe is exceptionally simple, and can definitely be made the day before or the morning of and refrigerated until it's time to serve.

For this recipe, you'll need:

12 ounces of vegan dark chocolate (This is harder to find than you might think, since a lot of dark varieties still contain milkfat, so check your ingredients list. Equal Exchange is a good brand. If you don't give a hoot about that sort of thing, any variety of your favorite chocolate chips or bar will work.)
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup pistachios, toasted and chopped
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

Put your chocolate chips (or, if you went with a bar, break it up into pieces) into a microwave-safe bowl. Heat in 15-20 second increments, stirring each time, in order to avoid burning the chocolate. Heating it for too long will result in a very distinct burnt-popcorn flavor, which of course nobody wants.

Once your chocolate is completely melted, stir to ensure smoothness. Whisk in your coconut milk and vanilla. Cover tightly and refrigerate for four hours, or until the mixture solidifies but is still malleable. In the meantime, you can prep your pistachios by toasting in a 350 degree oven for about ten minutes. Roughly chop and set aside for later use. In a separate bowl, add your shredded coconut and set aside.

Once the chocolate is ready, use a teaspoon (or any spoon, depending on the size of truffles you'd prefer. Ice cream scoop, anyone?) to scoop out enough for each truffle. You can roll them slightly in your palm (warning, this will be hugely messy, but fun, and you should work semi-quickly to avoid letting the chocolate get too melty) to create a slightly rounded shape, then roll in either pistachios or coconut. Or hey, if you're feeling crazy: both.

Repeat until all the chocolate has been rolled and coated and then store in the refrigerator in a sealed container until ready to serve. Seriously? That's it. It has to be the easiest dessert on earth. Super simple, really good, and surprisingly not so bad for you, either. Dark chocolate, nuts, coconut, minimal sugar. Great to keep in mind for when you're hosting friends or need something quick to bring to a gathering or a house-warming.

Want to make vegan peanut butter cups, too? Of course you do. Find the recipe here.


Gathering at the table: finding connection through food


You know that you've got it pretty good when you get to spend your day job doing two things you love: writing and talking about food. Each month in 2014, Holstee has planned to explore a new theme through our content, our products and our conversations. February's theme is Connection, and I was lucky enough to consider this topic in one of my favorite ways: how we find connection from the table outward. See below for my post, originally written for the Holstee Blog.

It’s no secret that the Holstee team is really into food. From its preparation to discussing new ingredients and techniques, we’re a food-friendly family (and office!) from the first meal of the day to the last. And most likely a few snacks in between.

So what is it about food that brings us closer? From cultures and communities large and small, food is often a catalyst for togetherness, whether through foraging, hours spent in the kitchen or the important moments we share lingering at the table in reflection and personal exchange. As a team, we’ve found food to be an obvious connector through its power to deepen relationships and generate real conversation. At our weekly team lunches and bi-monthly dinners at our Work/Shop, shared meals equal some of our best shared experiences (a valuable tool in creating lasting connections) and our fondest memories.

My personal affinity for food has grown tremendously over the last few years of my life. While I have always been a fan of its consumption, I have more recently nurtured an appreciation for its preparation, for the hands-on experience that comes with creating a meal, so much so that I started this blog back in 2012. Cooking puts me in state of total awareness, of dedication and of purpose, which is another exercise in what it means to be deeply connected: to nourish, to show affection, to try new things, to care for those for whom you cook. From the super simple to the all day baking experiments, cooking can connect us to anything from special occasions to our best evenings spent at home.

What are some of your best connections that have happened over food? Join the conversation.
Roasted Tomato Risotto
Perfect for entertaining guests or an extra special meal for two, risotto is a simple but elegant way to connect with cooking. 
Ingredients: 4 cups of vegetable stock (heated), 1 cup of arborio rice, 1 small onion (finely chopped), 1 medium carrot (finely chopped), 1 stalk of celery (finely chopped), 2 cloves garlic (minced), 1 teaspoon oregano, 2/3 cup fresh tomato sauce, 2 tablespoons butter, 2-4 tablespoons grated Parmesan (plus more for garnish), 2 cups cherry tomatoes (halved), olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. For the full recipe plus instructions, go here.


mint chip gelato


Well, now that I went full-force vegan with my ice cream maker attachment, I decided that it was high time to make a super classic recipe in both flavor and form: mint chip gelato. I know, you're probably thinking that sticking to a standard ice cream would be the truer version of going classic. Maybe so. But gelato just feels a little more exotic. More fancy.

But is it? Well, I don't really know. While I've only had gelato a handful of times in my life and had ice cream more times that I could possibly count, the real difference between the two seems to escape me. Curious to finally have the answer, I did a quick Google search: it turns out I'm not the only one who's been wondering. The Huffington Post has a pretty simplified outline of the main differences, including fat content (I guess, score?), churning method (noted) and serving temperature, which affects the texture of gelato, which is meant to be more "elastic." Got it.

Now that that was settled, I was craving gelato more than ever. Though mint chocolate chip tends to be an ice cream shop standby, it's still one of my favorites. I can't help it. All the fancy flavors the new world of ice cream has to offer (although: Philly soft pretzel? WHAT?) couldn't sway me from it. On one super crucial condition, of course: the chips have to actually be chips. None of this chocolate chunks or shards nonsense; if it says "chips" it had damn well better have chips.


So for this version of what I consider the best, you will need:

2 cups of organic whole milk
1/3 cup of sugar
2 tablespoons organic corn starch (hard to find, yes, but Whole Foods does it again)
A pinch of salt
1 bunch of fresh mint, washed, dried and stems removed
1/2 to 3/4 cup of mini chocolate chips

Is that the shortest ingredients list Green Girl Eats has ever seen? Possibly. Must prove that the best things in life are also the most simple.

To begin, take 3-4 tablespoons of your milk and whisk together with your corn starch in a small bowl. Set aside. Pour the rest of your milk into a small saucepan with the mint, salt and sugar. Place on the stovetop on medium heat. When the mixture starts to bubble around the edges, which will happen pretty quickly, remove from heat and allow to steep for 1 hour. This will let all that fantastic mint flavor get sucked up into the dairy, which is exactly what you want. For an even stronger flavor, you can steep for thirty minutes more.

After an hour is up, strain the mixture and discard the mint leaves. Cool completely. (If you want to speed this process up, aka make the ice cream tonight, you can swap it from the fridge to the freezer for a bit. So?)

Once the mixture is completely cooled, add to your ice cream maker and follow the standard churning instructions. Because this is a relatively small amount of gelato when all is said and done, it will firm up in about 10-15 minutes. About 4-5 minutes into the process, slowly add your chocolate chips to be incorporated into the gelato. Once frozen, but still scoopable, transfer your gelato to the container you plan on storing it in. Sprinkle the top with more chocolate chips and put back in the freezer for another hour. Tip: putting it closer to the back of the freezer will allow it to firm up faster, which is in fact the whole point if you meant to ask me. 

After an hour, during which it's probably best to get out of the house so you can avoid checking your gelato too often for the correct texture (After all, a watched gelato never freezes, right? Right.), you are now permitted to scoop this heavenly stuff into bowls and be amazed at your culinary skills and expert patience. Who will ever need to buy this stuff from the stores again? Perfectly minty and not too sweet, this was pretty much a slam dunk, home run. Even enough so to merit a combined sports reference that I don't even understand.


vegan quinoa cakes with cucumber-mango salsa


I like quinoa. I do. I didn't use to, though: at all. In fact, if you Google "quinoa tastes like ..." you will come across a plethora of fill-in-the-blanks (my all time favorite being this) that make me snicker knowingly. For my PAST, people, for my past. Because quinoa and I are like this now (you know, crossed fingers) and this super-grain has worked its way into our meal plan at least once a week. Why? Well, for one thing it's super-convenient. It's ready in about 10-15 minutes, which is perfect for a busy day where mustering the energy to cook seems tough. (I'm not there yet, though winter brings me painfully close to it.) It is also a pretty blank canvas as far as flavor profile, despite accusations of it being like soap or grass, leaving it open to pretty much endless possibilities for adaptation. You can make it sweet, savory, spicy. Quinoa is pretty chill. It will adjust.

So imagine my delight when I came across this version of eating quinoa in such an unexpected way: a griddle cake. Sure, I'm totally down with the quinoa bowl, any variety of beans, rice, roasted veggies, herbs. But this was entirely new, which is of course why you try anything, right?

For this recipe, with a few adjustments, you will need:

1 cup quinoa, cooked and cooled
1/4 cup rice flour
2 flax eggs (I KNOW: WHAT? Don't worry, it's not that weird. A flax egg isn't really an egg at all, but rather a vegan egg substitute that has the same binding properties as an actual egg. You mix 1 tablespoon of ground flaxmeal with 2 tablespoons of water. That mixture equals one egg, so repeat for the second. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes, or until its achieved a congealed, egg-like texture. Pretty crazy, but it totally works. If you don't care about these being vegan and you aren't about to buy a bag of flax meal, just use two regular eggs.)
3 tablespoons water or vegetable broth
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

For the salsa:

1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1 medium mango, cubed
1 medium tomato, diced
1 medium avocado, diced
2 green onions, thinly sliced
Juice of half a lemon
Olive oil
1-2 tablespoons of Greek yogurt for topping (optional)
Dash of Sriacha chile sauce or other hot sauce (optional)

To begin, chop your salsa fruits and veggies and combine in a small bowl, excluding the green onion. Mix together with lemon juice and olive oil (a little salt and pepper is good here, too) and set aside.

For your quinoa, you can cook this as you would normally up to a day or two before. Just seal and refrigerate until you're ready to use. In a medium bowl, combine your quinoa, rice flour, spices, water/broth and flax eggs. Allow to sit for a minute or two so that the quinoa and rice flour soak up the liquid. The mixture should be pretty sticky, but that's what you want in order for it to hold together.

Preheat a large skillet over medium heat. Coat evenly with canola or another oil. Using a medium-large spoon, scoop your quinoa mixture onto your pan. Using a spatula or other flipping utensil, press each scoop down until it resembles a flat, pancake shape. Cook for 4-5 minutes on each side, or until golden and crisp.

Serve immediately topped with your fresh salsa, green onions, a bit of Greek yogurt or chile sauce. You may never go back to quinoa bowls again.