Posts tagged ‘healthy’

Southwestern Black Bean Burgers

I’ve always been a fan of veggie burgers since I discovered them.

I do love my hamburgers (homemade, not fast food burgers. Bleh), but sometimes I just want a veggie burger.

When I was a college student, one of the restaurants on campus had these really good veggie burgers and curly fries. *sigh* I used to get those all the time as a student. They were great. At least in my memory they are, lol.

I’ve tried various veggie burger/black bean burger recipes in the past, and they were okay, but not fabulous.

I found this recipe for black bean burgers on Annie’s Eats, and I was impressed with the result! These were really good southwestern style black bean burgers. They hold together well, have great flavor, and will please even the meat eaters of one’s family I believe.

They’re easy to make to. You just mash your beans up, and the rest of the ingredients, form them into patties, refrigerate them for awhile (to help them firm up and absorb the flavors), and then cook them on a skillet. I recommend making these in the morning or the night before you want to serve them. Then all you have to do is pop them out of the fridge, and cook them. Fast

I served these with baked sweet potato fried, but they’d go great with normal french fries, cole slaw, potato salad, tossed salad, etc.

recipe adapted from Annie’s Eats

Southwestern Black Bean Burgers

(makes 8 – 9 burgers)

  • 2 (15 oz.) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne powder
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 c. fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 green onion, diced
  • 3/4 c. panko bread crumbs

To serve:

  • Hamburger buns
  • lettuce
  • sliced tomato
  • sliced onion
  • pickles
  • sliced cheese
  1. Pour beans into a large bowl. Mash until somewhat smooth, but some whole beans still remain.
  2. Add remaining ingredients, and mix well.
  3. Form mixture into patties of desired size, and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 24 hours (optional).
  4. Heat 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil in a skillet over med-high heat. Cook burgers until browned on one side (about 5 – 8 min), then flip and cook on remaining side until browned (5 – 8 min).
  5. Serve with toasted hamburger buns, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, sliced cheese, etc.

April 26, 2012 at 9:29 am Leave a comment

Vegetarian Lentil Loaf

Now, I’m not a vegetarian.

I like my meat.
I’m not much of a steak person, but more of a hamburger and meatloaf person…

However, that being said, I don’t like red meat every day.
Maybe once a week or so.

I’m more of a fish/seafood kinda girl, really.
Sadly, being so far from the ocean, here in Oklahoma good seafood is quite expensive.

I love love love fresh vegetables though, and as my dad is a vegetarian, I’ve been making two or three vegetarian meals for dinner a week recently.

My vegetarian lentil loaf is good for those times when I want something meat-loafy, but I’m not really in a meat eating mood (does that even make sense?). It tastes similar to meatloaf, but it has its own flavors as well. It doesn’t have the same texture as real meatloaf, naturally, but it’s still really good. It pleases the vegetarians and the meat eaters in my family, and anything that does that is a winner in my book! Oh, and it’s healthy too!


First, cook your lentils. I always like to cook them in broth of some sort, but water works fine too.
It’s hard to make a picture of boiling lentils looks exciting, isn’t it?


Next saute one diced onion, one diced green bell pepper, 4 cloves minced garlic, and 1 diced carrot in a skillet with some olive oil until tender. I usually just throw everything in a food processor and whiz it up to save time.


In a large bowl, add the cooked veggies, the cooked lentils, 2 cups of cooked rice, 1/2 tsp. salt and pepper, 2 tablespoons tomato paste, 2 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, and 1 tsp. onion powder. Mix everything well.


Taste test it and adjust the seasoning to taste. Once you’re happy with the seasoning, add 1 – 2 eggs, and mix everything up again.


Smoosh it all into a greased 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. It should just fit. Like so. At this point, I like to refrigerate it for an hour or more so that it can firm up a little before baking. It also allows the lentils and rice to absorb the flavors more. You can make this in the morning and refrigerate it all day if you want. Of course, if you’re in a hurry, you can skip this step.

Bake the loaf for 1 hour at 350° F (175° C). When it’s done, take it out of the oven and let it cool for a good 20 minutes or so. This is important, because it allows the loaf to firm up more, so it won’t all fall apart as soon as you take it out of the pan. Again, if you’re in a hurry and don’t care if it looks pretty or not, feel free to skip this step. It’ll taste just as good. 🙂


When it’s ready to serve, place a serving plate on top of the loaf pan, flip it over, and tap the pan until the loaf comes out onto the plate. Cut into slices, and serve.


I served it with ketchup (of course), dressed asparagus, homemade batter bread, and baked sweet potatoes. Yum.


Vegetarian Lentil Loaf

(serves 8 – 9)

  • 1 1/2 c. dried lentils
  • 3 1/2 c. water or vegetable broth
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 c. cooked brown rice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt and pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 – 2 eggs
  1. In a large pot, bring the lentils and broth to a boil. Turn down heat, cover, and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 20 – 30 minutes. Drain any remaining liquid, and mash the lentils slightly.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, and carrot, and saute gently until tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
  3. In a large bowl add the vegetable mixture, cooked lentils, cooked rice, salt and pepper, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, and onion powder. Mix well and adjust the seasoning to taste.
  4. Add the eggs, and mix well.
  5. Pour into a well greased 9 x 5 inch loaf pan, pressing it in firmly to prevent any air bubbles. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour and up to eight hours (optional).
  6. Pre-heat oven to 350° F (175° C).
  7. Bake loaf for one hour, or until top is golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool for 20 – 30 minutes before removing from pan.
  8. Place an inverted serving plate on top of the loaf pan. Holding both plate and loaf pan, flip the loaf pan upside down. Tap the pan gently until the lentil loaf comes out onto the plate. Cut into slices and serve.





April 4, 2012 at 8:11 am Leave a comment

Homemade Ketchup

Well, after almost three days of being sick, I’m finally feeling normal again today.

Enough so, that Hisa and I went lap swimming this morning. For whatever reason it was super crowded this morning. More than I’ve ever seen. It reminded me of pools in Japan. Always super crowded. Hisa and I ended up swimming right outside of the lap swim lanes were the pool becomes really shallow for kids playing. Fortunately, the pool isn’t open for normal kids swim early in the morning, so there was no one there. This week is spring break here, so I thought that might be why it was so crowded, but there were only adults there so… I dunno.

I think I’m rambling…

Can you tell I’m not awake yet?

Ah well.

Let’s talk ketchup.

America’s favorite condiment, baby!

Supposedly, the word “ketchup” derives from the Chinese amoy dialect ke-tsiap, a pickled fish brine sauce (although some have also said it has Malay/Arabic/European origins, so who knows really).

Ketchup traveled to many countries before making its way to the U.S., and had many different ingredients, but I believe it is Americans that added tomatoes to this most ancient of condiments. Unfortunately, we also added huge amounts of high-fructose corn syrup, so there you go.

Making your own ketchup at home is one way to avoid the un-healthy store versions, and return to ketchup’s healthier, more humble origins. Oh, and it’s super easy too. That’s always a big plus.

Recipe adapted from Nourishing Traditions.

Homemade Ketchup

(makes 1 quart)

  • 3 c. tomato paste
  • 1/4 c. whey (optional)
  • 2 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 c. pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  1. 1/2 c. fish sauce (available in most grocery stores in the Asian foods section)
  2. Add everything to a food processor, and process until smooth.
  3. Pour into a 1 quart glass mason jar, and screw lid on tightly.
  4. Leave at room temperature 1 – 2 days.
  5. Transfer to refrigerator.

March 20, 2012 at 9:37 am 8 comments

Lacto-fermentation and You (i.e. Why Making Your Own Sauerkraut & Sourdough Bread is Important)

Homemade sauerkraut, ready for some lacto-fermentation action!

What comes to mind when you think, “fermented”?

Hopefully it’s not “ewww”, because fermented foods can be incredibly tasty, not to mention they have a ton of health benefits!

Fermentation is the way most cultures all over the world preserved certain foods so they wouldn’t go bad long before refrigerators and freezers were invented. You can find methods of fermenting foods all over the world that have been around for thousands of years!

There are two main types of fermentation:

  • lacto fermentation 
  • alcoholic fermentation (also called ethanol fermentation)

They’re both similar in that they both convert the sugars present in foods (glucose, fructose, and sucrose) into something else via friendly bacteria.

Lacto-fermentation gives us delicious goodies like yogurt and sourdough bread!
picture credit

Lacto-fermentation is the process by which sugars are converted into lactic acid via friendly bacteria (actually, if you want to get scientific, the sugars are converted into cellular energy, and lactic acid is the byproduct, but close enough). Lactic acid is what gives lacto-fermented foods their tangy, delicious flavor, and what preserves the foods so they can be stored without refrigeration for weeks to come.
This type of fermentation is seen in the creation of things like yogurt, sourdough bread, sauerkraut, kimchi, and a wide range of fermented vegetables and fruits. Even some condiments like ketchup and chutney are traditionally lacto-fermented foods!

Without alcoholic fermentation, there would be no wine or beer! OR yeast bread! *gasp* Terrifying thought, I know.

Alcoholic fermentation is the process by which sugars are converted into alcohol and carbon dioxide via friendly bacteria, in this case, yeasts.
This type of fermentation is used to create wine, beer, and yeast bread (in case you’re wondering why your yeast bread isn’t alcoholic, the alcohol is burned off when the bread is baked. Tragic, I know).

Lacto-fermented fruits and vegetables are very easy to make.
You simply add salt (and sometimes whey and/or spices) to vegetables and fruits, pound them a bit so they release their juices (this is more common with vegetables than fruit I believe), and store them in airtight containers. Then you wait for them to ferment before eating them. Easy.

So why is all this important?
Besides keeping foods preserved without the use of a refrigerator, freezer, or canning; lacto-fermented foods have many health benefits as well.

Health Benefits of Lacto-fermented foods:

Those friendly little bacteria in lacto-fermented foods that create the lactic acid, known as lactobacilli, help us not only to digest those fermented foods better, but they also increase the vitamin content of those foods.
In human intestines, we have a wide range of friendly bacteria all the time, known as intestinal flora. These flora are extremely important in helping our bodies digest foods better, absorb nutrients better, fight off dangerous bacteria and pathogens, , get rid of dangerous carcinogens, develop our immunity, and help prevent allergies.

Although we already have some lactobacilli in our intestines, when we eat lacto-fermented foods we get more of these helpful bacteria, and they, in turn, help produce other useful bacteria in our intestines (in addition to helping with the things I mentioned above). It’s a win win situation!

Unfortunately, when food began being mass produced in factories, they started pasteurizing (heating at high temperatures for a specific length of time) traditionally fermented foods, which kills all of those helpful lactobacilli.

Some people believe that it is the pasteurization of so many of our foods that has led to a severe decrease in the helpful bacteria present in our intestinal flora, which has, in turn, led to an increase in things like allergies and dangerous deseases in our society.

Disclaimer: I do not have a scientific background or published studies to list as references for all this. I’m sorry. I wish I did. This is just what I’ve read over a long time in a wide range of well documented books and websites, particularly, Nourishing Traditions and The Weston A. Price Foundation. Their information is very well referenced, and I recommend reading their information on the topic if you want more in depth information.

If you want a bit more scientific info about fermentation and intestinal flora (and who wouldn’t, right? Afternoon coffee reading right there), here are some links to the handy dandy site we know and love, Wikipedia.

Next week, I’m going to be introducing you to some easy homemade lacto-fermented foods (that are not scary. I promise) that you can make and enjoy.
Here are some of the recipes I’ll be introducing you to:

  • sauerkraut
  • ketchup
  • Making a Rye sourdough starter (and making bread with it)
  • ginger ale

I’m hoping to also try my hand at making homemade yogurt next week, so I’ll let you know how that goes. 🙂

March 16, 2012 at 9:42 am 2 comments

Cauliflower Crust Pizza

My brother sent me a link to this recipe for cauliflower crust pizza, suggesting I try it out, a couple of weeks ago. I’d never heard of such a thing, but I was intrigued. Cauliflower as a substitute for bread. Who’d ever heard of such a thing? Would it hold together? Would it taste weird? I decided I should try it out.

I didn’t tell my family what was in it, and instead, made them guess. My dad and my husband could never guess what it was. They both thought it must have corn meal and/or potatoes in it. My mom was the only one who guessed correctly, as, she told me later, she’d made a mashed potato substitute with cauliflower before, and therefore recognized the texture.

This crust was delicious.
It held together wonderfully (although it’s something that’s easier to eat with a fork and knife rather than your hands), and tasted nothing like cauliflower. It reminded me of a crust made out of polenta with possibly some potato or flour added to it. It was really good!

If you’re gluten intolerant, trying to cut back on carbs, or just want to try something different a little bit healthier than regular pizza, you should really try this out! I was pleasantly surprised!

First, wash off a head of cauliflower and take off the leaves. Chop it up, and pulse it in your food processor in batches until it turns all crumbly. You should end up with about 6 cups of riced cauliflower (if it’s a large head. If your supermarket only has small heads, you might buy two).

This is the texture you want. Don’t pulse it too much or it’ll get watery. Dump it all in a microwave safe bowl, and microwave it, uncovered, for 8 minutes.

Add 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese, 1/2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese, 1 tsp. garlic powder, 1 tsp. onion powder, 2 tsp. dried oregano, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Mix everything well, and then adjust the seasoning to taste.

Add three eggs, and mix everything up well.

Pour out onto a sprayed baking sheet. Spread the cauliflower mixture around evenly so it fills up almost the entire pan. Bake in a 450° F oven for 15 minutes.

It’ll get slightly browned on top and around the edges, and it’ll smell fantastic!

Add pizza sauce (I just use my homemade marinara sauce), shredded cheese, and the cooked toppings of your choice. I used onion, bell pepper, mushrooms, olives, and cooked turkey sausage. I also sprinkled on a little extra cheese on top after taking this picture. Because you can never really have too much cheese.
Pop it back in the oven for about 5 minutes (until the cheese melts), cut it into slices, and serve!


Cauliflower Crust Pizza

(serves 4 – 5)

  • 6 – 7 c. riced cauliflower (one large head)
  • 1/2 c. shredded parmesan
  • 1/2 c. shredded mozzarella
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 eggs
  • pizza sauce
  • shredded cheese
  • cooked pizza toppings of your choice
  1. Pre-heat oven to 450° F.
  2. Wash cauliflower head, remove leaves and stem, and chop up. Add to food processor and pulse until it ressembles coarse crumbs (don’t over pulse so that it becomes watery).
  3. Add riced cauliflower to a microwave safe bowl. Microwave, uncovered, for 8 minutes.
  4. Add cheese, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, and salt. Mix well. Adjust seasoning to taste.
  5. Add eggs, and mix well.
  6. Pour out onto a greased baking sheet. Spread out evenly. Bake for 15 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven. Add pizza sauce, shredded cheese, and toppings.
  8. Bake for about 5 minutes, or until the cheese melts.
  9. Remove from oven, cut into slices, and serve.

Recipe adapted from Eat. Drink. Smile.

March 15, 2012 at 9:36 am 11 comments

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Muffins

I know early spring seems an odd time of year to be baking pumpkin muffins, but early March is generally still cold enough in many places (Not you Hawaii. Curse your continuously warm weather, white beaches, and delicious Mai Tais) that one can still enjoy the tastes and smells of winter (cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and pumpkin? Yes, please).

The great thing about these muffins is that they’re made with 100% whole wheat flour, yet are still moist and delicious as muffins should be. Don’t tell your kids they’re healthy muffins, and they’ll think they’re getting a real treat for breakfast.

I added raisins and chopped walnuts, as that’s my personal preference, but feel free to add whatever you want to them (chocolate chips anyone?), of leave the add-ins out all together for you purists.

These are great by themselves, with butter and honey, or with my new favorite, yogurt cheese (i.e. yogurt that’s been drained of all its whey, the liquid part, until you’re left with a soft creamy cheese tasting similar to cream cheese, but with a yogurt-y tang). These would also be great with apple butter now that I think about it.

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Muffins

(makes about 24 regular size muffins)

  • 1 2/3 c. whole wheat flour (I like to use white whole wheat flour)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 2/3 c. sucanat, honey, or sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon powder
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/8 tsp. ground clove
  • 1 c. pumpkin
  • 2/3 c. buttermilk
  • 1/2 c. melted butter or coconut oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 c. raisins (optional)
  • 1/2 c. chopped walnuts (optional)
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350° F. Spray or grease 2, 12 muffin tins.
  2. In a large bowl, combine, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sucanat (if using honey combine with wet ingredients), cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and clove. Mix well.
  3. In a smaller bowl, combine pumpkin, buttermilk, melted butter, and eggs. Mix well.
  4. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Mix until batter is smooth. Add raisins and nuts if using.
  5. Spoon batter into greased muffin tins, filling muffin cups 3/4 of the way full.
  6. Baking 35 minutes, or until tops have browned, and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

March 9, 2012 at 10:04 am Leave a comment

Teriyaki Tofu Burgers


This one word can arouse all sorts of feelings in different people. Delight, hunger, indifference, curiosity, and for some, disgust and revulsion.

I love tofu. I’ve been eating it ever since I was a kid (thanks Dad), so it’s nothing new to me.

Due to its very mild flavor, tofu is rarely ever eaten plain. But because of it’s almost nonexistent flavor, it’s extremely versatile. You can add it to just about anything.

In case you don’t know, tofu is made from soy milk (which is made from soy beans). The soy milk is coagulated so that curds form (much like when you make cheese from milk), and the curds are then pressed into cakes.

It originated in Ancient China (although exactly when and where in China is a bit fuzzy), and then spread to Japan and Korea.

In Japan, tofu is an extremely common food. It’s also very cheap, unlike its American counterpart. I’ve noticed that in the U.S., people usually eat tofu as an alternative to meat. This, however, is not the case in Japan. More often than not, tofu is used together with meat in a dish. It’s also usually added to miso soup, served as a side dish cold with some sort of topping in the summer, etc. But it’s not considered a meat substitute by most.

Enter the tofu burger. Many Americans will automatically consider this a vegetarian alternative to hamburgers made with beef. Tofu burgers (and tofu hamburger steaks) in Japan, however, almost always contain ground chicken. While most Japanese people think of tofu burgers as a healthier alternative to hamburgers, they don’t consider it a vegetarian alternative.

Honestly, unless your a Buddhist monk living in a monastery, Vegetarianism is not common in Japan (compared with the U.S.), and it’s very difficult to find real vegetarian food (even dishes that appear to be vegetarian dishes are often made with fish stock, fish flakes, small amounts of meat/fish, etc.).

My tofu burgers also have ground chicken in them. I think this not only improves the flavor, but it also helps them stay together a lot better. Feel free to leave out the chicken if you want a real vegetarian tofu burger.

Also, I find it’s easier to use two skillets when making these. That way I can cook all the burgers at once (rather than in batches), so it goes much more quickly, and everything is hot when it’s done.

Teriyaki Tofu Burgers

(makes 9 – 10 patties)

  • olive oil
  • 1 package firm tofu (drained)
  • 1/2 lb. ground chicken
  • 1/3 onion, diced
  • 1/2 carrot, diced
  • 2 – 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. grated ginger or ginger paste
  • 2 tsp. soy sauce
  • good dash of salt and pepper
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 c. bread crumbs
  • hamburger buns

for the teriyaki sauce:

  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 4 Tbsp. mirin
  • 3 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. cooking sake
  1. Heat a little olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Saute the onion, carrot, and garlic until tender, about 4 -5 minutes. Turn of heat and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine tofu, chicken, onion mixture, ginger paste, soy sauce, salt and pepper, egg, and bread crumbs. Mix well.
  3. Using your hands, form tofu mixture into patties, and place on a lined baking sheet. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (this will help the patties stay together when you cook them).
  4. Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the tofu burgers and cook until browned on one side (about 5 – 6 minutes), then flip and cook until browned on the other side (another 5 – 6 minutes). Place burgers on a paper-towel lined plate, and then cook the remaining burgers in the skillet, adding more oil if necessary. After cooking the remaining burgers on both sides, remove burgers to the plate. Use a paper towel to quickly wipe off the excess oil in the skillet (being careful not to burn yourself; use a spatula or wooden spoon to move the paper towel around the skillet if necessary).
  5. In a small bowl, combine the ingredients for the teriyaki sauce.
  6. Return skillet to stove over medium heat. Add half the burgers to the skillet. Pour half the teriyaki mixture over the burgers. Bring the sauce to a simmer, and move the burgers around in it. Flip them once so both sides of the burgers are well coated with the sauce. When the sauce is almost completely gone (it will reduce, thicken, and stick to the burgers until there’s almost no sauce left in the skillet), remove the burgers to a serving plate. Repeat with the remaining burgers and the remaining teriyaki sauce.
  7. Serve with toasted hamburger buns, mayonnaise, and any condiments you want.

November 11, 2011 at 12:52 pm Leave a comment

About Me

My name is Rachel. I'm a small-town girl born and raised in Oklahoma, currently living in Japan, who likes cooking, baking, reading, working out, and traveling. Join me in my culinary adventures, my domestic doings, and the story of my life, one day at a time.

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