Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Quinoa and White Bean Veggie Burger

Do you ever have a craving for two completely unrelated foods and then figure out a way to put them together into some presentable dish? Well, that definitely happened to me last week. I was in the mood for a burger....and quinoa. Weird, right? I had been on a crazy quinoa kick a few months ago, but went into hibernation since then because it got a bit out of control.

After a much needed hiatus, my two cravings came together to produce this delicious quinoa and white bean veggie burger. This burger is loaded with a colorful mix of veggies - red bell pepper, corn and shallot - and a great source of protein from the cannellini beans and quinoa. I made a few modifications when cooking the quinoa, using oregano instead of thyme since I couldn't find any at my grocery store and using onion powder in place of garlic powder since I completely forgot that I ran out.

I combined all of the ingredients to make the patties (I used an actual egg instead of the vegan substitute since I had eggs at home), which were huuuuge! If these were beef patties, it would take a lot of effort to finish an entire one. Each patty felt like it weighed a few pounds!

I put all four in one pan together, but quickly realized they weren't going to get as crispy as I would like so I divided the patties between two pans. I got a much better crunch this way, which is a must!

My husband and I were both surprised at how delicious these burgers turned out to be! They were so moist and incredibly flavorful. The cannellini beans give the burgers a meaty texture while the quinoa gives the burger a crunch, especially where it's crisped up on the outside. The mix of veggies and combination of spices make the patties really flavorful and colorful. Served on a toasted bun with lettuce, heirloom tomatoes and some Sriracha mayo, you really can't go wrong!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Zucchini Corn Fritters

This week has shown the first signs that fall is on its way, which makes me happy beyond belief. The chill in the air as I head to work puts a huge smile on my face and makes me wish I had a hot cup of tea or hot chocolate in my hand. I have always loved fall for so many reasons - leaves changing color to the most brilliant yellows, oranges and reds you've seen, hot chocolate, apple picking (a new favorite fall activity since going for the first time last year), consuming anything pumpkin flavored (in my book, fall is officially here when Starbucks announces the pumpkin spice latte is back!), and of course, my birthday! 

Despite my excitement for the upcoming season, I was gifted with a beautiful bag of corn (11 ears - ahh, what to do with all of this corn?) and a few zucchini, a great showing for the last month of summer. I came across a recipe for zucchini corn fritters, which was a perfect use for both of these fresh ingredients.

It took no time to whip up the "batter" for the fritters - thank goodness for the grating attachment on my food processor! Other than the two star ingredients of the dish, only a few additional items were needed to season and bind the fritters.

I was worried they wouldn't hold once I formed them and tried to flip them in the pan, but luckily after they crisped up on one side, I was able to nudge them onto my spatula and get 
the other side cooking. 

These fritters were a good reminder of how tasty fresh summer ingredients can be. The freshness from the zucchini, the sweet pop from the corn kernels, and the slight saltiness from the Parmesan cheese really worked together to make a refreshing and light summer dish. I served the fritters with a really simple tomato salad - tomato wedges with some salt, pepper and olive oil. Yum!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Carolina Lovin'

I had such a great week in North Carolina, getting in some great mother-daughter bonding time. We packed in as much as we could - wedding dress shopping with my sister, going to the movies (yes, I did see Monsters University for the second time and am in no way ashamed of it), shopping, many thrift stores (I love buying 25 cent books and brand new workout tops for $3.50), reading and drinking coffee at Barnes and Noble, a full day in Boone and Blowing Rock, and of course, lots of eating out.

Beautiful day in Blowing Rock - felt like fall

One of my favorite places to eat when I'm home is Amos Howards on Wednesday evenings - wing night! They have about 10 wing flavors and local beer on tap. My mom and I ordered 17 wings between the two of us and I had a beer for only $15 - including tip! While the restaurant itself is unassuming from the outside, the best part by far is that you can sit inside an actual giant barrel. It's amazing and so unique and I wish I was eating wings in a barrel every Wednesday. I'll just have to live vicariously through my mom until I'm home next time.

Another great new restaurant that has popped up in Hickory is Hatch, a sandwich bar using local produce and succulent ingredients, like pork belly and avocado. The food was so delicious that we managed to go there twice during the week. On our first visit, my mom and I shared the pulled pork banh mi and pork belly BLT, which were both fantastic. The banh mi had all of the classic flavors - cilantro, carrots, sriracha - with a slight Southern twist. The pork belly just melted in your mouth with a nice crunch and crispness from the lettuce. My mom couldn't resist getting the banh mi again on our second visit, but I decided to try the turkey, bacon and avocado sandwich. The turkey was piled high with several strips of crunchy bacon and a generous amount of smashed avocado. If only I was there for a few more weeks to try more of their creations. I really hope they succeed since Hickory is your more typical Southern town that doesn't venture far out of the culinary box. There were a lot of customers coming in and out while we were there so I have high hopes!

My lovely mom :)
Turkey, bacon and avocado sandwich
Pulled pork banh mi
On my last day, we went to the local farmers market and there was a fantastic selection of produce. If only I was staying longer, I would have bought so many fresh fruits and veggies. The heirloom tomatoes were only $1.75 a pound! They are at least twice that price in NYC. If only I could have brought home a few pounds with me. We did get a pint of blackberries that were plump, juicy and tart - I hope my mom makes a delicious dessert with them!

It was hard to leave my mom, but I was happy to come back to the place I call home now and to my hubby. We haven't been apart for an entire week in years so I was definitely missing him a ton. At least I know I'll be back to North Carolina for Thanksgiving - only a few months away!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Carolina In My Mind

I'm so excited that I can hardly contain it...I'm going home tomorrow morning! I cannot wait to see my family once I get back to my true home state, North Carolina. I'll be sans blogging for the next week so try not to miss me too much!

Happy vacation to me!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Lemon Ricotta Muffins

I recently finished reading Under the Tuscan Sun, a memoir by Frances Mayes about her decision to buy and restore a villa in the Tuscan countryside. The descriptions of the breathtaking Italian landscape, the town of Cortona in which she purchased the house, and the delicious meals she cooked throughout the book made me want to move to Italy immediately. At the very least, I want to visit and have my own Italian adventure!

Somewhat unrelated (but don't worry, this will come full circle shortly), I had the urge to bake something on this rainy night so I thought I would use up some ingredients in my fridge before they went to waste. I knew I had some ricotta left over from a pasta dish I made last week (lamb ragu - we'll definitely be coming back to that recipe soon) and a lemon I had already zested so I thought, why not make a baked good that combines these two lovely ingredients? I have made lemon ricotta cookies in the past so I decided to try a new recipe - muffins! The recipe that I found was for Tuscan lemon muffins so I couldn't turn it down after reading the book - see, we've made it all the way back around!

All I had to buy at the grocery store was another lemon to zest so this was a no brainer. The batter was easy to whip up and I used my ice cream scoop for the first time to ration out equal parts batter into my muffin tin. It made the process so much faster and produces uniformly shaped muffins - what more could a girl ask for? I couldn't get over how wonderfully lemon-y my kitchen smelled. If I closed my eyes, I could at least pretend I was standing in an open air kitchen overlooking an Italian valley!

As the muffins were nearing the end of their baking time, they weren't really browning at all. I was wondering what was going on (I didn't add the turbinado sugar on top), but my handy toothpick told me they were done so I decided to take them out so I wouldn't risk drying them out.

I'm so glad I did! I love the intense lemon flavor and the fluffiness from the use of ricotta. They are delicious piping hot, right out of the oven, and once they've cooled down with a cup of tea, chai tea for me tonight.

It had been awhile since I last baked so this was a perfect rainy summer evening baked good to make on a whim. If you love lemon and you like your muffins fluffy, this recipe is a winner. Enjoy!