Happy 4th of July!

American Flag

Image credit: American flag 2 by Lindsay Shaver, on Flickr. CC by 2.0.

OK, technically it’s July 3rd, but we like to start the celebration early here on Emmet Street. We’re taking a long weekend to celebrate the birth of American Independence, watch fireworks and grill up some tasty vegan beet burgers.

The Emmet Street Creations family wishes you and yours a safe and happy holiday!

Butternut squash burgers (Vegan, Gluten-free)

Eating healthy... Butternut squash burgers...Delicious, vegan and gluten-free

I have a confession: I love butternut squash–but I hate prepping it–and sometimes I pick the less budget friendly option of buying it prepped for me. I’m not ashamed and it probably is actually more budget friendly, since it likely saves me the cost of a visit to the emergency room (my knife skills could use some work).

However, if you want to make this tasty burger and buy a whole butternut squash and prep it yourself, check out these tips for peeling and cutting a butternut squash (I’ve also found zapping it in the microwave for a couple of minutes before starting helps with the cutting process).

This burger recipe also features spinach and quinoa, making it a vitamin A and C powerhouse to keep your immune system humming and protein and fiber to keep your tummy satisfied, helping you stick to your resolution to eat healthier, if you’re into that sort of thing. If you pair these burgers with a small salad and some seasoned, roasted potatoes, you’ll have the perfect winter meal.

So, get your food processor out (unless you have a sharp knife and really strong biceps, it’s essential for this recipe) and make a batch of these today. They freeze well, so you can also have some on hand for a quick lunch.

Butternut Squash Burgers

Makes six, medium-sized patties

2 c. shredded butternut squash

2 c. baby spinach, loosely packed

1/2 c. chopped onion

1 c. great northern or navy beans

2 c. cooked quinoa

1/2 t. salt

1/2 t. dried rosemary

1/2 t. dried thyme

In your food processor, combine squash, beans, onion and spices and blend until smooth. Add spinach and pulse until spinach is finely chopped and blended into the mixture. Transfer mixture to a mixing bowl and blend in quinoa. Cover bowl, put in the refrigerator and allow mixture to chill for at least an hour.

After mixture has chilled, heat oven to 375 degrees. Form mixture into six patties, placing each on a non-stick cookie sheet. Bake patties for about 40 minutes, turning over once about halfway through the cooking time.

(Cooking note: These patties are very moist; if the burger will not easily release when it’s time to turn, it’s not ready to be turned over. If you force it, you will have a crumbly mess. Not that this ever happened to me during my cooking process…)

 

Meatless brown rice and lentil taco filling

vegan brown rice and lentil taco filling

Mexican food is great, but the Americanized versions are loaded with meat, cheese, sour cream and other nutrition bombs that ambush my attempts at healthier eating. But I still love tacos, so what’s a gal to do?

First, I tried the vegetarian crumbles available in my local grocer’s freezer case with some packaged taco seasoning. It works for some people but it just didn’t please my palette, so I started experimenting.

After a few failed attempts using tofu as a low-fat protein substitute, I tried another tool in the vegan’s toolbox: lentils!

To add more even protein and fiber to my creation, I added some brown rice. Some veggies, canned tomatoes and mushrooms round out the mixture (and add flavor and moisture). I’ve made this taco filling several times and I think I prefer it to the meaty versions I used to eat. Even die-hard carnivores have had to admit it’s pretty tasty. It’s great as a filling for tacos or burritos, but it’s also fantastic on a bed of greens with other healthy vegetables like raw red peppers or, if you’re being indulgent, some diced avocado.

Give it and try and let me know what you think! I’d love to hear your feedback!

Some notes before getting started:

To make this recipe, I recommend you do a little preparation to keep things quick and easy. In the past, I had many failed attempts to cook lentils (they always turned to mush); after I found this tutorial from The Kitchn, the world of lentils was wide open to me. Since cooked lentils freeze well, I make a large batch and freeze in one cup portions. You also need some cooked brown rice on hand. This grain has also been a cooking challenge for me. This method explained by Gina over at Skinnytaste.com is the best method I’ve used so far for perfectly cooked brown rice. I follow the same process as I do for the lentils to save time: make up a big ol’ batch and freeze in one cup portions.

Meatless brown rice and lentil taco filling

Makes about 12, 1/2 cup servings 

1/2 onion (yellow or sweet), diced

1 large red bell pepper, diced

8 oz. button or baby portobello mushrooms, diced

2, 10 oz. cans diced tomatoes with chilies

2 c. cooked brown rice

1 c. cooked lentils

2 t. salt-free seasoning featuring the words “fiesta” and some sort of citrus fruit (your favorite taco seasoning would work, too)

1 t. hot sauce (optional if you’re a wimp you don’t like things too spicy)

1/2 c. water

Cook onion and pepper on medium heat until soft. Add mushrooms and tomatoes and cook until mushrooms are cooked through (about five minutes). Add lentils, rice, seasonings and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for five to ten minutes.

 Use as you would any other type of taco filling. Enjoy!

Quick and easy pesto salad

Here’s a quick and easy recipe that is great for those days when you don’t have a ton of time to cook (or write blog posts).

Pesto Salad

Quick and Easy Pesto Salad

Makes 4 servings

1 large or 2 small chicken breasts, shredded or chopped into little bits
1 red bell pepper (or green or yellow or orange, it really doesn’t matter), chopped
1 16 oz. can chickpeas, drained
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed but not cooked
6 to 7 oz. of pesto, depending on your preference

Prepare your chicken. I boiled mine then shredded it. Feel free to use leftovers if you have them. Allow the chicken to cool.

Mix everything in a bowl.

Eat.

You can leave the chicken out if you are vegan or vegetarian and this will still be spectacular and filling, thanks to the chickpeas. Replace any of the vegetables with any other vegetable–the possibilities are limited only by your imagination! I think I’ll try cucumber and tomato the next time I make this salad. I used jarred pesto but this summer, when fresh basil is more readily available, I’ll make my own.

Give it a try and share your variations in the comments below!