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A Story of Cooking, Carving, and Love

I cook.

Drew carves.

I asked Drew to make some spoons for me to use in the kitchen. The end result is a story of love, craft, and the heart warming meals that come from our handmade life.

To order Drew’s spoons, spatulas, salad tossers, tasting spoons, and other beautiful wood work, head to his Etsy site, The Hearth and Spoon.

Endless thanks to Dan Socie for his beautiful video work.  xo

Spaghetti Squash Salad With Radicchio, Basil, and Shaved Romano


Ahhh…September 29.  Fall has most certainly arrived in Michigan, folks, and I couldn’t be happier about it.  How do I love thee, dear Autumn?  Let me count the ways…..

  1. The trees bursting into fiery reds, yellows, and oranges (for those of you who have not been to Michigan in the fall, and especially the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, you are really missing out–plan a trip!).
  2. I get to turn on my oven, and the longer the better….
  3. I suddenly want to eat crisps, and how could that be a bad thing?  Apple crisps, peach crisps, pear crisps…mmmmm…!
  4. I’m the kind of girl who really doesn’t like wearing shorts.  Fall eliminates that concern with no loss of comfort.
  5. The “crisp” air that only comes in the fall.
  6. Everyone getting outside to enjoy the last of the good weather.
  7. Art Prize!  The world’s largest juried art competition, and just down the hill in downtown Grand Rapids.
  8. The triumphant return of flannel.  And a warm ‘welcome back’ to down vests, knee high boots, cable sweaters, mittens, and skinny jeans.
  9. The smell of wood smoke and harvest moons when we’re heading home from walks downtown.
  10. Apples, pears, squash, plums, kale, beets, soups and stews, ‘nuf said…!

I could go on and on about why I love fall but I’ll cut to the chase and get to the tasty stuff.  I truly believe that our bodies crave what is in season.  How do I know this?  In spring, all I want is asparagus, peas, radishes, and spring greens.  In the summer it’s corn, corn, corn, and tomatoes, summer squashes, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and peaches.  Now that the air is turning cooler and the sun sets at eight (when did that happen!?), all I want is to turn the oven on and roast squash, turnips, beets, and carrots.  I’ve already gone through two delicata squash and a large spaghetti squash by myself in the last three days.  And…I want more.  As we speak, spaghetti squash number two is in the oven, two more delicata squash have been seeded, sliced, and roasted, and two sheet pans of beets, turnips, and carrots are being roasted for meals this week.  And what the heck, I think I’ll throw in some apples to roast in a bit.  I’m going whole hog today, with no animals harmed in the process.

Yesterday I walked downtown to look at more ArtPrize exhibits (in September and October our city transforms into a giant art exhibit, with about 1,500 artists displaying their work at venues all over downtown.  Everywhere you turn there is something beautiful, exciting, unique, inspiring, heart-wrenching, joyful, colorful, or thought-provoking.  And thousands of people come to view and engage with the art, turning our city alive in a way I have never seen it before.

An Art Prize exhibit...these figurines were made by melting Crayola crayons into molds.

An Art Prize exhibit…these figurines were made by melting Crayola crayons into molds.

An artist knitting away in her Art Prize Yarn House exhibit...very original and cozy to boot.

An artist knitting away in her Art Prize Yarn House exhibit…very original and cozy to boot.

Art Prize has music now, too!  Some good old time banjo on a beautiful sunny and warm fall day.

Art Prize has music now, too! Some good old time banjo on a beautiful sunny and warm fall day.

After I walked around for several hours yesterday until my poor little feet could take it no more, I headed home to the solitude of my kitchen to whip up a few autumn-inspired dishes.  This salad was one of the results.  Simple, very healthy, low calorie, vibrant, and filling.  It’s going to be a dish I turn to again and again each fall.

What are your favorite things about fall in your neck of the woods?  I’m curious what fall is like outside of Michigan…do tell!


Spaghetti Squash Salad with Radicchio, Basil, and Shaved Romano Cheese

Serves 4

  • 1 medium-large spaghetti squash
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons basil, sliced into thin strips
  • 1 small head of radicchio, sliced into thin strips
  • 2 tablespoons chopped hazelnuts
  • 1 more tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons homemade balsamic honey glaze, or store-bought if you have it on hand
  • 1 ounce Romano or Parmesan cheese, shaved
  1. Heat oven to 375°.
  2. Prepare the squash.  Carefully cut the squash in half lengthwise.  I like to cut a bit off the bottom so it stand upright without wobbling before I cut it.
  3. Next, scoop the seeds out of the squash halves.  Place the squash halves, cut side up, on a baking sheet and brush with the olive oil.  Poke a each half a few times with a fork, concentrating on the ends.  Cover with tin foil and bake until you can pierce the squash with a fork.  Note that it won’t feel as soft as some squash does when baked.  There will be a little resistance but you will be able to push the fork through.  Let squash cool on the pan.
  4. Once squash is cool enough to tough, take a fork and drag it along the middle of the squash.  The squash will start to come up in strings that look like spaghetti noodles.  Continue to scrape the squash into a bowl until you are left with the outside skin of the squash.  Discard the skin.
  5. Toss the squash in the bowl with basil, radicchio, hazelnuts, olive oil, and balsamic honey glaze.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Dish into smaller bowls and sprinkle with shaved Romano or Parmesan before serving.


Three Beet Salad With Feta and Honey-Balsamic Glaze


“The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion…the beet is the ancient ancestor of the autumn moon, bearded, buried, all but fossilized; the dark green sails of the grounded moon-boat stitched with veins of primordial plasma; the kit string that once connected the moon to the Earth now a muddy whisker drilling desperately for rubies…..” Tom Robbins


It’s Sunday at seven. The shadows are getting long and we have food on our minds with no options left in the cooler beyond some crackers and dried apricots. We are heading south toward Grand Rapids enjoying the two lane portion of 131 south and all it’s eccentricities…the concrete statuary, the tree filled with shoes…and feeling that feeling that comes when a weekend is drawing to a close and the next week lies ahead.

August in Michigan is heavenly. It is deep summer, the fields are dusted with flowers, vegetable stands overflowing with corn crop up in front of farm homes, the hay is being baled in the fields. The days are hot, the nights are cool, and you begin to see the random tree already starting to turn colors, an unwelcome reminder that this won’t last forever.


This summer has been full of music, friends, and food. I’ve been so fortunate to be able to travel around with Drew on some weekends for his festival concerts and house concerts. It’s been an exciting journey and I’m so lucky to be able to hear some of Michigan’s finest musicians on a regular basis. We are heading home from FarmFest, where Drew played two tight concerts with his band. We didn’t spend much time there but the setting was beautiful and the stage was one of the coolest I have seen. The festival is held on the grounds of an organic farm east of Gaylord, MI. It is a quaint festival with two stages and tents and various vendors dotting the woods that surround the main fields. After walking past a booth full of tie dye for sale, chioga beets popped into my head. Chioga beets (a.k.a. candycane beets) are the tie dye of the vegetable world. Visually, it is one of my favorite vegetables and the taste is hard to beat too. A milder beet, they fall in between yellow beets and red beets in flavor and look gorgeous mixed with their other-colored siblings, some dill, and goat cheese.


A couple of weeks ago I had a photo shoot with the Grand Rapids Magazine. They plan to have an article about Dinner With Aura in their October issue. I was asked to have a dish photo-ready so created this vibrant and flavorful salad (thanks for the suggestion, honey!), experimenting with the beets to find the best way to showcase their color and flavor. Some of the beets in this recipe are whole-roasted and some are shaved raw. To capture the brilliant color of the chioga beets as shown in the photos, you must shave them raw with a mandoline slicer (never, ever use a banjo, says my ever-wisecracking banjo-picking boyfriend….haha) or with a sharp vegetable peeler so you can see the beautiful patterns and can eat the beets with no trouble despite them being uncooked. Beets are also marvelous grated raw into a green salad and tossed with a vinaigrette. Experiment as you wish with the basic elements of this salad: beets, mild feta, fresh dill, honey-balsamic glaze, and raw pumpkin seeds. You can’t go wrong.


Three Beet Salad with Cow’s Milk Feta, Fresh Dill, and a Honey Balsamic Glaze

  • 3-4 large beets; 1 yellow, 1 red, and 2 chioga if you can find them
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Flaky sea salt
  • 1 small clump fresh dill, roughly chopped and some left whole for garnish
  • 3 oz cow’s milk feta, crumbled (or sub sheep’s milk feta or goat cheese)
  • 1 tablespoon pepitas (raw pumpkin seeds)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  1. Heat oven to 400. Remove beet greens and scrub beets but do not peel. Put one of each color beet in a small to medium covered baking dish (or use tin foil to cover if you do not have a covered dish). Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle generously with sea salt. Roast until you can pierce the beets with a fork, about 1 hour. Let beets rest in the baking dish until cool enough to handle.
  2. In the meantime, heat honey and vinegar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and quickly reduce heat to low. Let simmer until the mixture reduces into a glaze, about 15-20 minutes. After what is called for in this recipe, you will have plenty left over for other dishes–this will keep for weeks in the fridge.
  3. At this point, if your beets are cool you can remove the skins. The beets will slip right out of their skins if you pinch them! Once all of the beets have been skinned, stand each beet on its head and cut into wedges, about 1/2 inch thick on the outside. Keep the yellow and pink beets separate from the red beets to avoid staining.
  4. Toss the yellow and pink beets with the dill and feta. Arrange red beets amongst the others. Shave several slices of chioga beets and arrange around the plate. Sprinkle with pepitas and drizzle lightly with honey-balsamic glaze. This can be served at room temperature or cold. Will keep for a few days in the fridge.

Mulberry (or any fruit) Cobbler

DSC_0265 It’s been five and a half weeks since I started my new job.  Time has flown by.  I’m getting just about up to speed with my questionnaire and report writing.  I’m used to waking up at 6:15 now.  I even kind of like getting dressed up for work.  The other day I wondered what my co-workers would think of me if they saw me out in the “real world” or bumped into me grocery shopping.  In the summer I’m usually in cutoffs and a tank top–it would be funny for them to see “Aura in the wild,” dressed like I normally did while working at home.  Last week my coworkers challenged me–they hear me talking about food so much and said I was all talk, no action (as if!) so I brought in a pan of blueberry banana baked oatmeal.  That showed them!  It was great to stand amidst the cubicles eating breakfast with my new colleagues, especially because it has been a while since I made baked oatmeal.  It was a dish that was welcomed back in this house, no problem, and probably the recipe I have cooked most often from my blog.  You can find the recipe here if you are interested!


Warning:  if you plan to make baked oatmeal for a function, for work colleagues, or for anything that requires you to take the whole pan, please, please promise me you will make a pan for your family.  Let’s just say that filling the house with the aroma of baked oatmeal early in the morning and then whisking it away did not go over well!  I ended up making another pan that same evening to avoid further pouting (and I’m talking about adult pouting).

Life has been busy, busy, busy.  And a little frustrating at times.  I spent about 6 hours looking at refrigerators online this week, was ready to click the “buy” button, and then realized that the width of the refrigerator wouldn’t work in my kitchen….and then realized that the width of most side by side refrigerators wouldn’t work in my kitchen….and then stayed up really late until I found one (one!!!) that would fit, though it may require removing the baseboard to the left of the fridge.  Spending hours this week fridge shopping has made me feel like my life is a little less than exciting of late.  So I’ve decided (this evening) that I need to start focusing on adding more enjoyment and me time back in so I don’t feel shackled to the grown up parts of my life.

Cobbler before going in the oven.

Cobbler before going in the oven.

That thought (and a late evening walk downtown with the pup) made me recall a few weeks ago when Drew and I took a leisurely walk downtown on a gorgeous Saturday morning.  We stopped to get coffee, met up with a friend that brought a special treat from the Upper Peninsula, walked across the river, ran with Poppy (the pup) up and down one of the big mounds in Ah-Nab-Awen park, and finally (and best of all!) picked and ate as many mulberries as we could stand until our fingers were black.  Turns out, the pup is crazy for mulberries and ran in circles everytime we gave one to her.  It was pretty wild to see my little mulberry junky flipping out over the berries (I do have to say though, that Poppy is a very healthy dog–she loves quinoa and steamed veggies and the occasional sprinkling of blueberries in her dish).  It was about as perfect a morning as anyone could ask for.  And in my moments of frustration, I’ll try to remember that simple and beautiful morning and recreate it on as many Saturday mornings as possible this summer.


We were invited to dinner that week and we were tasked with dessert.  Drew went back to the mulberry trees downtown to pick several cups of berries and we whipped up this cobbler.  The biscuits are rich but not nearly as unhealthy as some can be and the mulberries were beautiful in the skillet and a unique taste and texture for us compared with other berries in cobblers.  Keep in mind that you can make this dish with blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, peaches, plums……you name it.  Just choose your fruit and mound the biscuits on top, bake, and voila–a simple and well-loved summer dessert.  Mulberries are about to be out of season (and the sidewalks are stained black with fermented and trampled mulberries) but now that blueberries are in season in Michigan (woooohoooo!) you’ll want to make this dish pronto.


I based my recipe off of a Cooking Light recipe from July 2002–for the original blueberry cobbler recipe, click here.

Mulberry Cobbler

Filling Ingredients:

  • 6 cups fresh mulberries (or blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, peaches, plums,etc.)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch (I buy non GMO)
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind or 2 tsp lemon juice

Topping Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder (non-aluminum)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup fat-free plain greek yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons 2% reduced-fat milk
  • 1 teaspoon Demerara sugar (or course sanding sugar)
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. To prepare filling, combine first 4 ingredients in a cast iron skillet or an 11 x 7 baking dish if you don’t have a cast iron skillet.
  3. To prepare topping, lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 4 ingredients (flour through baking soda) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in yogurt to form a soft dough.
  4. Drop dough by spoonfuls onto blueberry filling to form 8 dumplings. Brush dumplings with milk; sprinkle with 1 teaspoon sugar. Bake at 350° for 50 minutes or until filling is bubbly and dumplings are lightly browned.  Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Serves 8:  288 delicious calories, 8.3 grams of fat, 4.9 grams of saturated fat.

How to Make Homemade Almond Butter: Roasted or Raw

When I was a kid, my mom would occasionally try to trick me into eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I loathed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  I used to sneak outside and feed them to Popcorn, one of our geriatric Shetland ponies. Lest you think of me as a picky eater, let me share that I much preferred alfalfa sprout, cheddar, and mustard sandwiches or pan-fried tofu and ketchup sandwiches.  Yes, an odd child with adventurous tastes indeed.  There was just something about a classic PBJ that turned me off.  Especially if it had sat in a Snow White lunchbox getting warm and soggy until noon.  Yuck.  I guess I was a foodie before I even knew it.

Fast forward.  I still don’t like PBJ. Probably never will.  And I’m still not too into peanut butter.  But other nut butters can definitely spark my interest.  Cashew and almond butters can be amazing!  They also tend to be expensive and take me a long time to eat a whole jar so I typically skip buying them.  But I recently discovered how easy it is to make your own super-smooth and creamy nut butters at home.  And the beauty is that you can make small batches and customize it to your preference by roasting, not roasting, or mixing some roasted nuts with raw nuts.

I’m pretty excited about this revelation.  So this week I’d like to show everyone how to make almond butter two ways:  roasted and raw.  This is one of the easiest things I’ve ever made (though decidedly not the easiest to clean up…but well worth it).  This week was the first time I have made almond butter and I just couldn’t wait to share the how-to!  Almond butter is (in my opinion, for what it’s worth) much tastier than peanut butter and has the added benefit of providing a hefty dose of Vitamin E.  Not only that, it is cheaper than store bought and you can make it to your liking, depending on if you prefer the taste of raw almonds or roasted.  All you need are some almonds, some salt, a food processor, a spatula, and some patience.  That’s it!  Let’s begin:

First, add about 3 cups of almonds to a food processor with the “S” blade.  The photos I have for this post are for a smaller batch (the larger batch was made under the cover of darkness…no good for photos) but the consistency is the same, whether you are making a batch with 1 cup or 3 cups.

Raw Almonds in Food Processor

Raw Almonds in Food Processor

Turn the food processor on and let it run for a minute.  At first, you will see the almonds grind down into an almond meal.  If you like using almond meal in your recipes (great for baking!), this is a great way to save money–grind your own!  If you are making almond butter, continue processing the almonds.

Phase One:  Almonds Become Almond Meal

Phase One: Almonds Become Almond Meal

The ground almonds will start to build up on the sides of the food processor.  You’ll want to stop the processor every 2-3 minutes and push the almonds down before continuing.

Phase Two:  Almonds Start to Build Up on Side of Processor

Phase Two: Almonds Start to Build Up on Side of Processor

After a while, the almonds will start to get a little clumpy:

Phase Three:  Almonds Start to Clump

Phase Three: Almonds Start to Clump

And will continue to get clumpier and stickier:

Phase 4:  Almonds Get Clumpier and Stickier

Phase 4: Almonds Get Clumpier and Stickier

At around the 10-12 minute mark, depending on how dry your almonds are, the almonds will finally start to release more oil and begin to resemble almond butter.  But don’t stop there!  It’s not quite done.

Phase Five:  Almost There!  About Another Minute or Two to Go.

Phase Five: Almost There! About Another Minute or Two to Go.

After another couple of minutes of processing, the almond butter will suddenly, magically, release more of its oils and become smooth and creamy.  If you taste it, it will be warm from the processing.  Now, add a pinch of high quality sea salt if you like and give it another whir.

Almond Butter Finished!  Smooth, creamy, and ready to eat.

Almond Butter Finished! Smooth, creamy, and ready to eat.

I had some of mine with some sliced apples.  Delicious!  You can use the almond butter in a recipe (try almond butter cookies–just like peanut butter cookies but better) or store in a glass jar in the fridge.  When you want to use the almond butter, take it out for a bit to warm it to room temperature for easier spreading.

Raw Almond Butter With Apples

Raw Almond Butter With Apples

Okay, so how about making roasted almond butter, you ask?  It is *almost* as easy.  There is only one added step:  roasting your almonds.  You will l want to roast your almonds in the oven on a dry sheet pan at 350° for 10 minutes.

Almonds Ready to Roast

Almonds Ready to Roast

When the almonds are roasted, they will turn a nice deep brown color:

Roasted Almonds

Roasted Almonds

Process the nuts in the same way that you would raw almonds.  When you are done, the result will be deeper in color and flavor.

Roasted Almond Butter With Apples

Roasted Almond Butter With Apples

Roasted almond butter tastes amazing on toast with some honey!  One thing to note:  if you want to add honey or any other liquid to your almond butter, wait until you serve it.  Adding liquid to your almond butter will reduce its shelf life.


Toast with Roasted Almond Butter

Toast with Roasted Almond Butter


What Lies Ahead…Goodies Ready for Posting!

Hi friends!  It’s been a busy little while for me but I have still been cooking up some goodies to share with you.  I’ll be working on writing up the recipes and posting these over the next few weeks but I wanted to give you a preview of what lies ahead…

Parmesan Polenta With Roasted Root Vegetables and Pistachio Goat Cheese:

Parmesan Polenta with Roasted Root Veggies and Pistachio Goat Cheese

Triple Ginger Cookies:

Triple Ginger Cookies

Homemade Marmalade:


Pureed Pumpkin and Caramelized Onion Soup With a Hot Honey Drizzle:

Pumpkin and Caramelized Onion Soup with a Hot Honey Drizzle

Homemade Low-Fat Yogurt (Plain or Lightly Sweetened Vanilla)

A while back I posted a recipe for homemade vanilla yogurt with cherries, pistachio, and a balsamic-honey glaze, a recipe I hijacked from Kate over at Cookie + Kate.  I believe at that time I promised to show you all how to make homemade yogurt.  Whoops!  How time flies!  Well, better late than never, right?  Here goes…

First, I wanted to point out a few benefits of making your own yogurt because y’all might need some convincing.  I bet you are thinking only hippies make their own yogurt…not true!  If I, Aura, who wears Uggs and has a Coach purse (they were unrequested gifts, okay?!?) makes her own yogurt then it is decidedly a non-hippie thing to do.  Maybe more like a foodie thing to do.  Okay…I digress…on to the benefits…!  First, making your own yogurt is easy.  All you need to do is heat up some milk, stir in some store bought yogurt (once you make your own you will use your own to culture the next batch, not store bought), and let it sit.  That’s it!  Second, making your own yogurt is about half the price of buying it when you compare the cost of a half gallon of organic milk to a half gallon of organic yogurt.  I spent $3.79 for a half gallon of organic milk, the same amount I would spend on one quart of organic yogurt.  Third, you get to determine the level of flavor/sweetener you add to the yogurt if you plan to sweeten it.  I like to add some vanilla extract and a little touch of maple syrup to mine so that it is lightly sweetened vanilla yogurt.

Convinced?  Good.  Now, here’s how you do it.


  • 1/2 gallon of 2% organic milk
  • 1/2 cup plain commercial yogurt (with live/active cultures)
  1. Heat the milk:  In a heavy saucepan (I use an enameled cast iron dutch oven/soup pot), heat the milk until just before it boils.  As it heats, stir gently to make sure the bottom doesn’t scorch.  I use a candy thermometer to check the temperature but really you just need to heat it until just before boiling and you will be fine.
  2. Cool the milk.  Let the milk cool until it is 115 degrees or so, just hot to the touch.  If you want the milk to cool faster, stir it or set it over an ice water bath.  I just let it sit for a bit while I do other stuff in the kitchen.
  3. Inoculate the milk.  Ladle about one cup of the warm milk into a bowl and whisk it with your store bought yogurt (once you have made your own yogurt, you will use 1/2 cup of your homemade yogurt to incubate the next batch).  Once you have a smooth consistency, pour it back into your pot of milk.
  4. Incubate.  You can do this a number of ways.  All I do is cover the pot with the lid and set it into an oven that has been heated to about 115 degrees.  I shut the oven off and let the yogurt sit overnight (7-8 hours) in the oven with the oven light on.
  5. When you get up, put the pot of yogurt into the refrigerator and let cool for a couple of hours.  Once it has chilled, transfer the yogurt to air tight containers (jars or Pyrex containers with rubber lids work well).
  6. If you want lightly sweetened vanilla yogurt, stir in a few drops of vanilla extract and maple syrup to sweeten.  Taste and add more of either if you want a stronger vanilla flavor or more sweetness.
  7. Your yogurt will last up to 2 weeks in the fridge.

Edamame Cakes With Red Pepper and Chili Aoli and Soy Dipping Sauce

Kathleen and Tom from Life With The Lushers (self-described as two twenty something newlyweds who love food, wine, microbrews, and all things that are good) chose this week’s Food Matters Project Recipe.  If you get a minute, check out their blog–they are adorable!  For the original recipe from Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Cookbook, head to Life With The Lushers.  To see what everyone else from The Food Matters Project came up with, head here!

So these were supposed to be more like bean pancakes but I wanted to shape them into little rounds so didn’t add extra cooking liquid and they were more patty than pancake.  I love edamame (say it:  ed-a-MAH-may) and often add it to stir fries so this was a fun way to try it in a different format.  Edamame is high in protein and has a great smooth texture.  Dipped into this soy dipping sauce, it made for a yummy appetizer.

The only drawback is that they are a little funny looking…I felt like I was making a special St. Patty’s Day meal (will shelve that idea!) and brought me back to a memory of green eggs and ham in preschool (I was very wigged out, as I recall).  I wanted to add something to the top to make them look a little prettier so devised a roasted bell pepper and chili aoli.  If you make these, definitely try the aoli–I thought it added A LOT to the cakes.  Enjoy!

Edamame Cakes With Red Pepper and Chili Aoli and a Soy Dipping Sauce; Adapted from Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Cookbook

Makes 4 servings and takes 1/2 hour

Ingredients for Soy Dipping Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp minced ginger

Ingredients for Roasted Red Pepper and Chili Aoli:

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 roasted red bell pepper (you can do it yourself or use one from a jar)
  • 3 Tbsp sweet chili sauce (find it in the Asian section of the grocery store or in any Asian grocery)

Ingredients for Cakes:

  • 2 cups frozen or fresh edamame (make sure you buy them shelled)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup sliced scallions or finely diced onion
  • 1/2 tsp garlic, minced finely
  • 1/2 tsp ginger, minced finely
  • All purpose flour if needed (to thicken)
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Vegetable oil to pan-fry
  1.  Heat the oven to 200 degrees F.  Bring a pot of water to a boil.  Combine the soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, garlic, and ginger in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Blend the roasted bell pepper, mayo, and chili.  Keep in the refrigerator until ready to plate.
  3. Add the edamame to the boiling water and cook until tender, 5 to 10 minutes.  Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
  4. Transfer the beans to a food processor (or use your immersion blender like I did!) and pulse a couple of times to break them down, then add egg, scallions or onions, garlic and ginger.  Process until combined but not finely pureed; you want a thick batter with some texture that drops from a spoon or can be balled up in your hands then flattened, which is what I did.  If the mixture is too stiff, stir in a little cooking liquid; if too wet, add a little flour.  Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine.
  5. Put a large skillet or griddle over medium heat.  When a few drops of water dance on its surface, add a thin film of oil.  Take a small handful of dough, roll into a ball, and flatten, placing into skilled gently.  Cook until browned on the bottom, about 4 minutes.  Turn and cook the other side for a couple of minutes more.  Keep the finished cakes in the warm oven while you finish the others.  Serve hot or at room temperature with the soy drizzling sauce.

Chickpea Burgers

With so many variations on homemade veggie burgers, I wonder how I ever used to make a place for processed Morningstar veggie burgers in my diet!  This chickpea burger recipe is something I whipped up to tackle an overabundance of chickpeas that I had cooked up.  Glad I did–not only was this recipe incredibly easy, but it was tasty and healthy to boot.  Feel free to add spices, change up the veggies based on what you have in the fridge, and top with whatever you want!  Make it easy and have fun introducing a real veggie burger into your rotation.

Chickpea Burgers

  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 carrot, diced finely
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced finely
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed or the same amount of cooked chickpeas
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 4 whole wheat buns
  • Mixed greens or lettuce
  • 4 slices tomato
  • Thinly sliced onion
  • Avocado, thinly sliced
  • Whole grain mustard
  • Barbecue sauce
  1. Heat oil in frying pan and add cumin.  Toast for 30 seconds or so, until cumin is fragrant.  Add garlic, onion, bell pepper, and carrot and cook 5-6 minutes until beginning to soften.
  2. Place 3/4 of the chickpeas in a food processor with 1/2 of the vegetable mixture, 1 egg, and panko bread crumbs.  Blend until smooth.  Smash remaining chickpeas in a bowl.  Add remaining chickpeas and sauteed vegetables to the puree and mix.
  3. Heat oil in a pan over medium heat.  Form patties from the chickpea mix and place on pan.  Cook for about 4 minutes on each side until browned and cooked through.
  4. Place on whole wheat buns and top with onion, lettuce, tomato, avocado, mustard, and barbecue sauce.  Mmmmm!

Quinoa Tabbouleh

Ah, Labor Day, you have fooled me!  It occurred to me that today is Monday, not Sunday and that I have a recipe to post for the Food Matters Project!  Well, better late than never…

This week, the lovely Sara from Simply Whole Kitchen chose Quinoa Tabbouleh and once again, I’m so happy to be part of this project because over the last six months I have tried a couple of dozen new recipes that I may not have tried otherwise.  Funny thing is, I have had bulgar wheat in my pantry for months and have thought about making tabbouleh several times but bulgar wheat doesn’t end up in my rotation too often so the idea kept getting shelved.  Along comes Mark Bittman…who once again reminds me that I don’t need to “play by the rules” and that tabbouleh can be made as many different ways as it can be spelled (Tabbouleh, tabouleh or tabbouli, tabouli…blah!  my tongue is tied!).  This particular recipe taught me that there are no hard and fast rules to cooking and that we can let creativity be our guide.  In this case, tabbouleh is made with quinoa and in Bittman’s recipe, even adds radishes, beans, and celery to the dish.  I love this guy and his easy-does-it attitude.

And I love quinoa.  I mean really, really love it.  Like Love with a capital T and a cherry on top.  I go through tons of the stuff and if you have been to my house, chances are you have left it at one point or another with a little baggie of quinoa with directions on how to cook it because I am always spreading my quinoa gospel.  I was overjoyed to see quinoa have a starring role in my Cooking Light magazine last month and I’d like to imagine that I have had a small role in spreading the word about this great seed.  In a nutshell, it is a nutritional powerhouse (a stand-alone complete protein), cooks faster than rice, and is a great and much healthier stand-in for carbs like rice or couscous.  If you want to know more about it, click here or shoot me a comment/question and I would be happy to answer!

I adapted Bittman’s recipe based on what I was in the mood for so if you want the original recipe, head on over to Sara’s blog, Simply Whole Kitchen.  And remember, you don’t need to have everything exact to make a great tabbouleh!

Quinoa Tabbouleh

adapted from Mark Bittman’s Food Matters Cookbook

  • 1/2 c quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • salt
  • 1/3 c olive oil, more as needed
  • 1/4 c lemon juice, or more as needed
  • black pepper
  • 1 c roughly chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 c roughly chopped fresh mint
  • 6 or 7 radishes, chopped or sliced thinly
  • 1/2 c finely diced scallions or red onion
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, chopped

Put the quinoa in a small saucepan with 3/4 c water and a pinch of salt.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low.  Cover and bubble gently until the quinoa as absorbed all of the water, 15 minutes or so. Remove from the heat and let rest, covered for 5 minutes.  Toss the warm quinoa with the oil and lemon juice and sprinkle with pepper.

Just before you’re ready to eat, add the remaining ingredients and toss gently.  Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more oil or lemon juice as needed, then serve.