Cajun Chickpea Cakes

For someone raised in the desert Southwest, I have an inexplicably great affinity for Cajun cuisine. Though I’ve never been to Louisiana (or anywhere in the South except Jacksonville, Florida and a brief weekend in Oxford, Mississippi) I harbor rich fantasies about eating crispy beignets in the shade of a cypress tree while jazz music floats through the air. Admittedly, most of this probably stems from visits to New Orleans Square in Disneyland…so my dreams of Cajun culture may not be the most authentic.

Still, I know there’s authenticity to my love of Cajun food. Case in point: recently, a new seafood restaurant opened in our neighborhood. I had no particular interest in trying it, but kept hearing rave reviews. Once my husband and I finally visited, I discovered it was a Cajun seafood restaurant, with some of the best Cajun catfish I’ve ever had. Now it’s our favorite spot for a lunch date. There’s something about the mix of spices with flaky breading and hot fish that is piquant perfection, if you ask me.

Though Cajun food often centers around fish or meat fried in oil, it can also easily be made vegetarian, and it doesn’t have to be a grease-fest. Take these Cajun Chickpea Cakes. They pack the sublime flavor for which Cajun food is famous in a fiber-rich, lower-fat package. After tinkering with this recipe for years, I think it’s finally ready for prime time. Served with dirty rice, these cakes are a unique, flavorful vegetarian meal!

Not only are these Chickpea Cakes quite healthy as is, full of veggies and beans, they’re easily modified for dietary restrictions. Need a gluten-free meal? Sub cornstarch for the flour. Going vegan? Replace the egg with 1 Tablespoon flax seeds + 3 Tablespoons water. You can also feel free to experiment with the spices to achieve whatever level suits your taste.

P.S. Fun trivia: did you know the word “Cajun” is a shortening of the term “Acadian”? Acadians were French immigrants who initially settled in Canada and the Northeastern U.S. (which is why Acadia National Park is in Maine) but eventually migrated south to Louisiana.

Nice of them to bless American culture with their delicious food traditions!


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Cajun Chickpea Cakes
A unique vegetarian main dish with all the flavor you expect from Cajun cuisine!
Cuisine cajun
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
Cuisine cajun
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
Instructions
  1. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium heat. Add diced celery, onion, and green pepper and saute about 5 minutes or until tender. Remove from heat and reserve skillet.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mash drained chickpeas until only some chunks remain (you don't want them super mushy). Add sautéed vegetables and all remaining ingredients. Mix until the mixture begin to hold together. Add more flour if necessary.
  3. Form mixture into 1/2 thick patties (should make about 8).
  4. Heat remaining 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium/medium-high in the same nonstick skillet you used for the veggies. Add patties and cook about 3 minutes per side or until browned and crispy. Serve immediately (especially good with dirty rice)!
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Miratel Solutions.

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Roasted Chickpea Pitas

I think if I were a chickpea, I wouldn’t be very happy. Poor chickpeas. They’re always getting mashed, pounded, and ground up for things like hummus and falafel, or playing second fiddle as a side dish to meat. It’s rare that you eat anything in which chickpeas in their whole, unadulterated form take center stage. Can’t we give these little guys their time to shine?

Why yes, we can, in the form of Roasted Chickpea Pitas!

This tasty vegetarian Mediterranean meal features whole chickpeas roasted in a piquant blend of seasonings and paired with caramelized red onions. Finished off with some spinach, tomato, and creamy tzatziki sauce in a whole wheat pita, it’s a super healthy choice for dinner or a one-dish lunch. Every time I eat it, even without adding a side, it keeps me full for hours–probably because of all the “good carbs” found in the whole wheat and beans. Plus, chickpeas contain plenty of protein and even a little unsaturated fat. Can you really go wrong by adding more of them to your diet?

So if I were a chickpea, I’d like to think I’d approve of this recipe (even though I’d have to be roasted in a 400 degree oven). Worth it.


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Roasted Chickpea Pitas
Spiced roasted chickpeas and cool tzatziki sauce make a hearty filling in these pitas.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
For the roasted chickpeas:
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
For the roasted chickpeas:
Instructions
Make the chickpea filling:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together chickpeas and sliced red onions. Pour olive oil and all spices over the mixture, stir to toss, and spread on the prepared baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes, stirring once halfway through baking.
Make the tzatziki sauce:
  1. Meanwhile, make the tzatziki sauce by combining all ingredients in a small bowl.
Assemble the pitas:
  1. Assemble the pitas by filling them with the chickpea mixture, tzatziki sauce, spinach, tomato, and/or feta.
Recipe Notes

Inspired by Live Eat Learn.

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The Best Black Bean Burritos

After this post, I swear I’ll stop talking about our summer in Germany so much…but since we returned just two days ago, I do have one more thing to say, and that is:

Mexican food is the greatest.

Wait, how is this about Germany? Well, when you’re from Arizona, enchiladas, burritos, tostadas, guacamole, and salsa are like mother’s milk. They’re a part of the fabric of “normal” food in our part of the world. In kindergarten, my class learned the Mexican hat dance in P.E. and sang “Feliz Navidad” at our Christmas recital, if that tells you anything about how Mexican culture (and therefore food) are a major part of the Arizona lifestyle.

When you live in Germany, on the other hand, Mexican food might as well be Martian food. Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration. There was one Mexican restaurant in our neighborhood in Cologne, but it definitely did not serve the Sonoran cuisine I’m used to. And although German grocery stores often technically sell some Mexican foods, it’s something akin to if someone told you they had an Italian marinara and sold you tomato sauce. There’s a difference.

So essentially, I’ve gone without my regular dose of life-giving Mexican food for almost three months. And ¡ay, caramba!, I have missed it.

Therefore, when we returned home a couple of days ago, eating Mexican was FIRST ORDER OF BUSINESS. Like, unpack, shower off the grody-ness of spending a total of almost 20 hours on airplanes, and get me some Mexican food. These amazing black bean burritos are one of my go-to Mexican faves, and since they’re also vegetarian, they sounded especially wonderful after what may become known in our family as our Summer of Sausage. (Don’t get me wrong, I love brats, but I was reaching my personal point of Meat Overload by the end of three months.)

The Best Black Bean Burritos did not disappoint! With grilled corn and a side of chips and guac, these are my Mexican happy place. Our family had such a valuable, meaningful time in Europe, but it sure is good to be home for many reasons, but especially because…


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The Best Black Bean Burritos
Eating is believing! These delicious black bean burritos are packed with veggies, have amazing flavor, and are a snap to make!
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
burritos
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
burritos
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Wrap tortillas in aluminum foil and place them in the oven to warm for 15 minutes.
  2. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic, red onion, red pepper, and jalapeño and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in black beans and cook another 3 minutes.
  3. Add cubed cream cheese and salt and cook until the mixture becomes creamy and heated through. Stir in cilantro.
  4. Serve mixture in tortillas, with any additional toppings desired.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Allrecipes.com.

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Barbecue Tofu Sandwiches with Veggie Slaw

Barbecue Tofu Sandwich

At the children’s museum where I work, there’s an exhibit called Marketplace, which is essentially a mini grocery store engineered just for play. When I give tours to field trip groups, this exhibit is where I educate kids about the various food groups as outlined on MyPlate. I explain to them that MyPlate not only shows the five food groups, but also what portions of them we should fill our plates with (as in, 50% fruits and vegetables).

Part of my spiel in this exhibit is asking kids to tell me examples of their favorite foods in each group. They usually do pretty well on fruits, vegetables, and dairy (except for the occasional kid who tells me that pigs give us dairy products or that oranges are their favorite vegetable), but they are often stumped when I ask them to name foods that contain protein. I can’t tell you how many times kids’ ideas of protein-rich foods are protein bars or protein shakes, rather than natural food sources. Granted, these kids are often second graders, so I have to give them a pass, but as a nutritionist, it’s surprising to me that the school curriculum covers so little about food and nutrition.

Once we get through the idea that protein is found in animal products and some non-animal products, I ask the students again: which protein-containing foods are your favorites?

Steak. Steak is the answer about 80% of the time.

I then ask kids about plant-based protein sources. Have they ever, for example, tried tofu?

“Ewwwwwwww, no!”

Come on! I want to say. You’re eight years old and your parents have already ruined you for tofu? But it’s true–ever since Americans first started experimenting with tofu in the ’70s and ’80s, it’s been saddled with a reputation as the flavorless poster child of the Health Food Movement.

It doesn’t have to be that way. As a meatless protein source, I find tofu easy to prepare, cheap to purchase, and a flavor chameleon that can adapt to anything you throw at it. Case in point: these delicious barbecue tofu sandwiches with veggie slaw. I’ve had tofu in many forms over the years, but the idea of slicing it and putting it in a sandwich was new to me when I first saw this recipe. Now that I’ve been making it for awhile, I can see how the shape and texture of pan-fried tofu sliced off the block is perfect sandwich material! Slathered with barbecue sauce and topped with a cool slaw, these barbecue tofu sandwiches are a super tasty (and totally think-outside-the-box) weeknight dinner.

So if someone asks MY favorite protein-containing food? Well, I won’t say they beat a juicy steak, but I will say these barbecue tofu sandwiches rank pretty high.

Barbecue Tofu Sandwich

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Barbecue Tofu Sandwiches with Veggie Slaw
A tasty vegetarian sandwich of pan-fried barbecue tofu and a cool, creamy slaw.
Instructions
  1. Drain tofu and squeeze as much liquid out of it as possible. If time allows, remove even more moisture by pressing tofu. (Place on a paper towel-lined plate and weigh it down with something heavy, like cans or books.) Slice tofu lengthwise into 4 equal slabs.
  2. Prepare the slaw: in a medium bowl, combine mayonnaise, red wine vinegar, garlic powder, and pepper. Add shredded broccoli/carrot mix and stir to coat. Set aside.
  3. Heat canola oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add tofu slabs and cook about 4 minutes per side, or until lightly browned. Reduce heat to low, add barbecue sauce, and cook for another 3 minutes or so, carefully turning tofu to coat both sides.
  4. Assemble sandwiches with toasted sandwich thins, barbecue tofu, slaw and pickles (if you like).
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Eating Well.

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Veggie Pot Pie Skillet with Cheddar Biscuits

Veggie Pot Pie Skillet

I’ve already got a pot pie recipe on this site, and it’s kind of my pride and joy, since it’s one I came up with myself, and (can I brag a little?) it’s to die for. Savory chicken, a velvety cream sauce, and pan-roasted veggies….mmmm….it’s like my wee chickeny baby I just love to dote upon.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other awesome pot pies out there, each with their own spin on the classic. My own recipe certainly isn’t the final word on pot pies, as far as I’m concerned. Especially when I see a new pot pie recipe that involves cheese.

That’s right, I said POT PIE WITH CHEESE.

If you’re a purist, you might think this sounds about as appealing as cheese on your breakfast cereal.(Aside: can I just note how long it took to think of something, anything, for that sentence that would be gross to put cheese on? But cereal and cheese does sound pretty wrong. Give me a minute, though–I may warm up to the idea…) When I saw this veggie pot pie skillet with cheddar biscuit topping over on Budget Bytes, I was smitten. If Beth, the author of that blog, tracks her visitor stats, she may have noticed a giant spike in the number of visits to that particular post in the last few weeks.

They’re all me. I have now made this recipe four times since Christmas, with no signs of slowing down.

Veggie Pot Pie Skillet

Here’s why. This recipe is:

  • Meatless
  • Easy
  • Cheap
  • One-dish meal
  • Uses very common ingredients, making it a virtually no-shop meal if you keep things like frozen vegetables, chicken broth, and flour on hand
  • Totally cozy-comfort-food delicious!

Even my kids go crazy over this meal, which I normally would not think possible for something so obviously based on vegetables. The filling is herb-y and creamy and the biscuit topping always comes out light with just the right texture–a real feat for something as notoriously tough to nail as biscuits.

All that being said, I do have to confess that while it may be vegetarian, this recipe is definitely not low calorie or low fat, since it has quite a lot of butter and no small amount of cheese. Still, we’re talking pot pie here, so nobody’s expecting it to be super healthy, right? In moderation, it’s a yummy, easy one-dish meal that won’t break the bank. Try it out for an alternative to the usual pot pie!

Veggie Pot Pie Skillet

 

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Veggie Pot Pie Skillet with Cheddar Biscuits
A creamy veggie filling gets topped with tender cheddar biscuits in this vegetarian comfort food!
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
For the filling:
For the cheddar biscuits:
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
For the filling:
For the cheddar biscuits:
Instructions
For the filling:
  1. In a 12-inch oven-safe skillet (very important that it's oven-safe!), melt butter over medium heat. Add diced onion and saute until transparent, about 5 minutes. Add flour and continue to saute another minute. Pour in milk and vegetable broth and whisk until smooth. Add salt, thyme, sage, and some black pepper.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil and let simmer for a couple of minutes until it thickens to to the point where a utensil dragged through it leaves a trail. Add frozen vegetables and stir to combine. Continue to cook until veggies are heated through. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees while you make the biscuits.
For the biscuits:
  1. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in cold butter in small pieces and mix with your hands, the back of a fork, or a pastry cutter until the mixture looks like damp sand. Add cheddar and chives, then milk. Stir just until a dough comes together.
  2. Take the veggie filling off the heat and dollop the biscuit mixture evenly across the top of it.
  3. Bake 18-20 minutes or until biscuits are cooked through. Serve immediately, being very careful not to burn yourself as you serve from the skillet! (Lesson learned from experience.)
Recipe Notes

Somewhat adapted from Budget Bytes.

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